Schenectady will work with animal welfare groups to improve the city shelter, Schenectady City Council members said Monday.
They said they would “embrace” offers of help, including volunteers who said they would sign waivers and then walk the dogs, some of which are being held due to incidents of biting humans or animals.
Volunteers also said they could donate electricians’ time to install air conditioning units in the shelter, which the city built quickly last year after years of difficulty finding other shelters for stray city dogs.
City officials said they have ordered a microchip scanner, to help reunite stray dogs with their owners.
But council members also said that they had toured the facility themselves and could not quite believe some of the allegations being made by some activists.
Some accused the city of leaving the dogs without food or water on weekends and holidays, and not cleaning their kennels for days at a time. They said the council members should hold unannounced inspections to discover the truth.
But the kennels can be seen by the public through windows, even when no one is there to unlock the door and provide a tour. When three members of the press looked at the facility unannounced after Sean McKearn’s “dangerous” dogs were surrendered last week, the kennels were clean.
Councilman Ed Kosiur also toured the facility on only 45 minutes’ notice Monday afternoon, and said it was very clean.
“Could they have cleaned it in 45 minutes? I don’t know,” he said. “The place was spotless. You can literally eat off the floor. I was very, very impressed.”
Councilman Vince Riggi, who toured the shelter Friday night, said the same thing.
“I didn’t see anything that was alarming to me whatsoever,” he said, before adding, “I think we can certainly do better.”
He said the council should be pleased that so many activists want to volunteer at the shelter.
“We have people waiting, willing to jump in and help. We have to embrace that,” he said.
Volunteers from Rotti Empire Rescue came to the council meeting Monday to offer their help — and criticize the shelter.
“I have witnessed kennels with six or seven piles of feces,” said volunteer Stefan Krueger, who said he could not believe the city’s claim that kennels are cleaned daily.
Penny Ross of Rotti Empire Rescue added that she’s there regularly to pick up strays and try to find homes for them. She and other groups are called when a stray is held for the week the city requires and is facing euthanasia.
“It is not clean,” she said, adding that she sees “urine and feces all over the place” and “dishes dumped” by the dogs.
“I always have to bring it to the attention” of the animal control officers, she said.
Another volunteer said she tried to adopt a dog from the shelter but was turned away by the animal control officers.
The officers said they didn’t have the dog, she said, adding that she was sure the dog had been surrendered two days earlier to the city.
She worried the dog was euthanized.
“It seemed like more of a trap and kill than a shelter,” she said.
After more than an hour of public comment, Kosiur thanked all the volunteers who spoke.
“I took numerous notes. There’s several issues I want to follow up on,” he said.
He wants to add wall-hung food and water dispensers, so that the dogs can’t knock over the dishes, he added.
Riggi said he wanted the shelter staffed, at least from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“That would be the ideal situation, if we could work that out,” he said.
The worker could interact with the dogs, clean up after them and answer phones, helping to find lost pets or set up adoptions, he said.
“No matter what the dog’s been accused of, they do deserve to be treated humanely,” he said.