Irvine Animal Shelter Undergoes Policy Changes

The city animal shelter in Irvine is undergoing major policy changes after its director resigned.

The Irvine Animal Care Center director Michelle Quigley in January resigned after months of complaints about mismanagement and improper animal care at the shelter.

The 3.73-acre facility houses thousands of neglected and abused animals every year. However controversy has casted suspicion on the shelter’s mission of low-kill methods and high quality animal care.

At least nine people spoke during the Irvine City Council on Nov. 25, explaining that the shelter is embracing euthanasia more than adoption.

More than 12 staff members and volunteers resigned their positions at the shelter because of the growing controversy.

Due to numerous allegations of inhumane treatment of animals, improper medical procedures and general mismanagement at the shelter, officials from the Irvine City Council met with numerous animal advocates to create new practices.

“It is incredibly sad,” said Irvine Students Against Animal Cruelty President Cristina Tangreti. “I see the many contradictions in society where we feel empathy for dogs and cats, but not for other animals that suffer the same abuse and they’re just being slaughtered.”

The shelter will be reopened to make the sweeping changes in order to address the numerous allegations by city officials and members of the community regarding mismanagement of the animals.

In its initial steps of resolving discord at the shelter, the City Council appointed Jeff Lalloway and Councilwoman Lynn Schott to lead a committee in order to set new policies on the shelter.

In January, the City Council temporarily halted euthanasia for 60 days, unless certain animals were suffering extreme pain through injury or illness.

The shelter has begun to reinstate the volunteer program, which was halted after Quigley was hired in November 2013 and retained over 400 members who walked, groomed and cared for the various animals in the shelter. The city will also train newly selected volunteers.

Donations to the animal shelter, ranging from money to toys, will be assessed to ensure they are used and allocated appropriately.

12 new part-time positions will also be created in order to bring consistent animal healthcare.

The city has hired a shelter veterinary consultant, Joythi Robertson to conduct a shelter study in order to pinpoint specific components that need require attention.

The shelter will also hire behaviorists to assess and evaluate animal temperaments in order to make them adoptable.

The animal center is also following recommendations from JVR Shelter Strategies. These recommendations range from modifications to cat housing to euthanasia freezer modifications.

The city’s budget for the $2.52 million shelter can accommodate added expenses.

The shelter’s Third Chance Adoption program, a system in which animals are transferred from other crowded Southern California shelters to the Irvine Animal Center, will be reassessed to ensure it remains on track with its mission.

Veterinarian Bradley Brunskill replaced Lawrence Kosmin the shelter’s chief veterinarian, who was also at the center of numerous allegations of improper animal care practices.

In the latest step of bringing organization back to the once nationally recognized shelter, the City Council appointed James “Rick” Greenwood as the interim director of the shelter while the city continues to search for a permanent director, a position that may be split in two.

Greenwood, an adjunct professor at the UCLA School of Public Health, is in charge with directing staff and volunteers towards new policies of animal care. Animal advocates claimed that the shelter strayed from its mission of adoption by conducting unnecessary euthanasia of animals that were not extremely ill or suffering. The city offered to pay Greenwood $99,000 for three months of work, helping to establish new policies in the hopes of rebuilding the reputation of the shelter.

The implementation of new policies among many other changes could take four to six months according to Lalloway.