Animal shelter workers demand better conditions after vote of no confidence

Thursday July 21st, 2022 by Veronica Apodaca

The Animal Advisory Board discussed needed improvements at the Austin Animal Center at its July 11 meeting. The discussion came after the committee voted no confidence in AAC director Don Bland on June 13.

The meeting began with comments from AAFC staff and volunteers that the vote was not enough to resolve ongoing issues at the shelter.

“It has now been two months since concerns about the entire AAFC leadership team, the toxic work environment they created and encouraged, and the overall state of the shelter were explicitly brought to your attention, former AAFC volunteer Emily Wells said in her statement. to the commission. “This management team has yet to be held accountable, and they have done nothing to help improve the situation at the shelter and the relationship with stakeholders.”

Wells and Kayla Murray, who have also previously volunteered with AAC, used their time before the committee to read comments from AAC staff from the 2021 survey listening to the workforce . Among the concerns expressed were an insufficient number of staff for the shelter, as well as burnout and high staff turnover.

Current AAC volunteer Gina Destaffany said understaffing meant volunteers found themselves with a heavy workload and not enough time to give all the shelter dogs the care they needed, setting the example of dogs in unmanned crates. Sundays.

“Volunteers were basically told that these dogs were their sole responsibility. What this actually means is that these dogs, which have been in the care of Don Bland and the AAC, could most likely be fasted, without water, and left in their own feces in a small crate for 24 to 48 years old. hours,” she said.

Commissioner Luis Herrera, who has worked at the shelter for 11 years, also expressed concern about the staff shortage. In addition to the lack of staff, the shelter lacks space. Although it is not recommended that dogs share kennel spaces, it has become necessary due to the large number of dogs entering the shelter.

Bland, who also attended the meeting, said the AAC is currently working to fill vacancies. Bland said 12 of 17 full-time positions and seven of 11 temporary positions are currently being filled as the AAC moves forward with interviews and background checks of potential employees.

“Every month they’re making great progress, but…it takes a long time to get someone through the whole process,” he said. Bland also said the AAC is still experiencing absent staff members due to Covid-19.

Given that the resolution approving the vote of no confidence was forwarded to city council after the June 13 meeting, speakers urged the commission to continue to communicate their concerns about the state of CAA to their council members.

In addition to working with the city council, Herrera hopes staffing and space issues can be resolved through community outreach, including increased use of social media.

“We as a shelter are not the answer,” he told the austin monitor. “If we’re not…with the community, we get nothing,”

Photo by SteelMaster Buildings made available via a Creative Commons license.

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