NewsChannel 11 Investigates Unnecessary Euthanasia at Lubbock Animal Shelter - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/27/08

NewsChannel 11 Investigates Unnecessary Euthanasia at Lubbock Animal Shelter

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A woman and her daughter say they tried everything they could to rescue a dog at the Lubbock Animal Shelter - but it was too late. The dog was euthanized even though they made several attempts to save it. 

So why would this happen? Our NewsChannel 11 Investigation uncovered hundreds of unchecked phone messages at the shelter and now the jobs of two shelter employees are on the line.

It was the phone call that could have saved a dog's life. "You have reached the Lubbock Animal Shelter's adoption center," said the greeting on the voicemail.  Priscilla Keifer left a message on the answering machine asking to adopt a dog.  "I will get back to you as soon as I can," the greeting goes on to say.

But she says the adoption coordinator never called her back. Two days later, she called again. Keifer says no one returned her phone calls and the dog was euthanized.  Keifer complained to the City of Lubbock, and then called us to investigate.  After we dug a little deeper, NewsChannel 11 discovered this employee, who we're not naming because of a city investigation, had 306 unchecked messages on her voicemail. 

Those messages date back to July, two of which were from Keifer who made the phone calls last month.  "This is a city employee paid by taxpayers.  She openly admitted to my daughter she never returns phone calls," said Keifer. 

Keifer's daughter turned over a lost dog to the shelter, thinking the owner may go looking for it there. And after a day, she went back for the dog, but had problems getting it back.  She was told by the adoption technician she had to wait three days to see if the owner would claim the dog.  Keifer says she and her daughter made nine phone calls, and three face-to-face visits to save the dog.  "She is feeling guilt that she had a part of this dog's death," she said.

So we went directly to the Executive Director of the City Health Department, Nancy Haney. She's overseeing an internal investigation on two animal shelter employees.  We asked Haney to explain the 300 unchecked messages. "Is this the kind of conduct that is OK for city employees especially when you're in position to help find new homes for dogs?" asked NewsChannel 11.  "No, it's not OK. It is the exact opposite of what we want employees to do," Haney replied. 

Haney says the outcome to their investigation will be some type of disciplinary action. But we learned as we were talking to Haney, it is not the first time this employee had issues with checking her voicemail.   "If this has happened before with this employee, why wasn't she terminated then?" we asked.  "At that point, we knew we had excessive amounts of voicemails. We did not know she was not listening to them," said Haney.

Haney says they adjusted the phone system to where some employees can only have up to 20 messages on their phone. Otherwise, the public can expect a live person on the other end of the phone. She says if there are messages on the phone, employees are required to check them every 30 minutes and call people back.

Both employees have been on paid administrative leave since September 29th. The one in trouble for not checking her messages didn't return our phone calls.  The other employee is in trouble for telling the daughter he could not put a hold on the dog so it wouldn't be euthanized.  We talked to that employee on the phone Monday.  He told us he doesn't have the authority to place holds on animals.  But when we asked him why he did not go to his supervisor since this family was persistent, he told me he could have done that, but didn't.

Officials with the shelter say they have made changes to where this should not happen again.

NewsChannel 11 Investigates
NewsChannel 11 is digging deeper than just the news of the day, bringing you stories that no one else will do.  We have discovered some things in Lubbock you should know about.

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