Results of RHSPCA study show areas of success, strain and improvement for shelter

Published: Mar. 30, 2016 at 4:37 AM EDT
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After leaders in Rockingham County and the City of Harrisonburg requested an independent study on the Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA, WHSV has obtained the full report detailing where the shelter could improve.

The study was completed by Animal Welfare Management Services, an animal welfare, consulting and management group.

The group did interviews with stakeholders within Rockingham County and Harrisonburg along with a community meeting and visiting the shelter itself. The results show that the RHSPCA is fulfilling it's contractual and legal obligations, but the study also suggests it could be doing more.

The report found that the RHSPCA was "a high functioning organization, and it stated that animals were cared for humanely and compassionately. The facilities were considered to be well-kept and inviting with only minor issues, one being a review of the RHSPCA's crematory services because of sight and smell. Staff morale was described as "generally good" and it was noted that they worked hard. AWMS concluded that the RHSPCA achieves a great deal with the limited resources it operates under.

However, the report detailed that there are processes within the organization that are outdated. This included their website and outreach services.

"The assessment team noted an unwillingness, both implicit and expressed, on the part of senior management to alter operations approaches which might bring it more in line with current industry trends, specifically in the areas of partnership with other organizations and liberalization of adoption policies," read the report.

Adoption policies were a key point throughout the study with AWMS noting that there were some barriers to adoption that the shelter could improve upon.

A divide between the shelter and other animal welfare groups was also described, along with a negative perception of the shelter, based on the group's public forum that they held in January.

"There is a clear “siege mentality” among staff and management, who expressed the feeling that they were under attack unfairly from elements of the community," the report reads.

The reports notes that there is a "us against them" mentality on both sides.

"The assessment team strongly encourages a serious effort by all parties to set aside past differences and make a concerted and proactive effort to identify areas of cooperation," notes the AWMS report. "It is equally clear from many of the loudest complainants at the public meeting that there are many who will not accept anything less than complete surrender and contrition from RHSPCA on every topic of disagreement. As long as this is the case on both sides, there

will be no improvement in the relationship between RHSPCA and those with a different vision in the greater Rockingham and Harrisonburg community."

According to AWMS, changing the dynamic between the RHSCPA and these community groups falls "somewhat unfairly" in the hands of the SPCA.

Euthanasia rates were a large part of the AWMS report. The shelters' current euthanasia rates exceeded statewide euthanasia rates from 2004, when shelter intake and euthanasia rates were nearly double the 2015 statewide numbers.

RHSPCA's euthanasia rates ranged from 34 percent in 2015 to 27 percent in 2012 for dogs. For cats, 65 percent in 2014 and 76 percent in 2012.

By the time WHSV received the report and went through it completely, we did not have adequate time to reach out to the RHSPCA for comment. We hope to hear from them soon.