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King County Auditor presents new findings on leadership, organization and operation of County animal shelter

Summary

Performance audit finds issues with tracking of animals and management of shelter’s data system

Story

King County Auditor Cheryle Broom today released a performance audit of the King County Animal Care and Control program that found that despite some improvements at the County’s primary animal shelter in Kent, several problems still exist in its leadership, organization, and operation.

“Today’s audit is another in a string of troubling reports over the last few years regarding the state of our shelters,” said Council Vice Chair Bob Ferguson. “Despite the best efforts of dedicated KCACC employees to improve shelter operations, it is time for a change.”

“I am sorry to say this audit underscores the problems that continue to plague the King County animal shelter,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “There are animals coming to the shelter that become lost within the system, and rampant health issues that are harmful to both animals and humans and serious management problems still exist. It is time for the County to get out of the animal shelter business and turn our animals over to an agency that can provide quality care at every level.”

The audit, which was requested by the King County Council, was presented at today’s Committee of the Whole. It cites improvements made to kennel space for cats, off-site adoption and volunteer programs, but makes findings in three areas where King County Animal Care and Control (KCACC) lacks the critical programs and activities needed for effective management and monitoring of the animals in the shelter:

Population Management and Monitoring Animal Flow

Despite a number of KCACC’s efforts to improve animal care and lower euthanasia rates, the audit identifies gaps between the agency’s tracking of animals and recommended practices that can result in delays in getting specialized care for animals with behavior or health problems. The audit finds sporadic management support for routine review of the status of animals, identification of issues for action, and follow-up. In the absence of management control systems and supervisory support, the audit finds that Animal Control Officers must continually adjust their activities and improvise practices that are prone to incomplete and inaccurate communication and documentation.

Data System Management

The audit finds that KCACC’s data system, known as Chameleon, was implemented without sufficient technical support or security controls over user access. As a result, technical resources are not being used to their full capability and Chameleon is not adequately safeguarded against the risk of misuse, abuse or data manipulation. The audit calls for improved controls and system oversight to improve data consistency, accuracy, and completeness, and to ensure that the Chameleon data is reliable as a precise measure of shelter performance.

Organizational Success and Performance Metrics

The audit cites inconsistent leadership, shifts in management direction, and sustained organizational uncertainty as factors that have limited KCACC’s ability to make needed improvements in population monitoring and management and to use technology effectively to improve shelter operations. These factors have also contributed to delays in completing significant projects as well as some confusion among the staff about priorities and practices among KCACC staff, according to the audit.

The audit provides 13 recommendations for improvements, and the County Executive has concurred with the findings and recommendations in the audit.

While the Executive has announced his proposal to discontinue providing animal sheltering services in King County and to close the Kent Shelter on November 1 due to the threat of flooding in the Green River Valley, the audit recommendations are focused on improving and aligning KCACC activities and resources regardless of what model of animal care and control is ultimately adopted by the County Council.

Today’s performance audit is the first of two reports being prepared by the Auditor. A second area of review, principally conducted by a veterinarian from Tufts University, will evaluate KCACC’s euthanasia procedures and controls. That report is scheduled to be published in November.


Read the King County Auditor’s performance audit of the County animal shelter
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