Clear the air

Jackson County officials from Administrator Danny Jordan on down took great pains to stress that a pending review of county animal shelter operations is "not an investigation." If they have to insist so strenuously, perhaps an investigation is precisely what's needed.

The shelter came under fire recently when staff members mistakenly euthanized Max, a pet cat who was brought in a trap along with feral cats. A microchip embedded under in Max's skin would have identified him and his owners, but staff members did not scan for it.

Jordan has asked Sharon Harmon, executive director of the Oregon Humane Society, to visit the Jackson County shelter and recommend ways to make it more efficient and effective.

Jordan said the invitation is not an indictment of shelter policies or of shelter director Colleen Macuk. Barbara Talbert, board president of Friends of the Animal Shelter, said, "this is not an investigation."

After Max was euthanized, a local television station aired a story about a year-old lawsuit filed by two terminated employees and a former volunteer that made a number of allegations against shelter staff in general and Macuk in particular.

Shelter suppporters and county officials dispute those allegations. And yet questions persist about the shelter and about its policies.

After the incident involving Max, the shelter purchased new microchip scanners and began holding non-feral cats longer. A Facebook page now displays photos of strays brought to the shelter.

Running the county's animal shelter is a thankless job in many ways. As the only government-operated animal control center in the area, the shelter must euthanize stray animals that are not adopted.

It cannot afford the luxury of a no-kill policy such as some private shelters maintain.

Funding is tight. Eight paid staff members and a small army of volunteers operate the shelter.

If county officials have no concerns about how the shelter is run, then a visit by an outside consultant should not be necessary.

An advisory visit is a halfway measure that is unlikely to satisfy critics of the shelter or reassure the public. A full investigation of shelter procedures and policies would clear the air and restore public confidence.

If the shelter is functioning well, as Jordan and shelter officials insist, an investigation will confirm that and put to rest any lingering doubts.

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