ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) A volunteer program at a local animal shelter is temporarily shut down after tensions reached a boiling point. Some of the volunteers at the Regional Center for Animal Care and Protection are speaking up.
The shutdown came in an email on Friday. The place is commonly referred to as "the pound" in Roanoke. Volunteers WDBJ7 spoke with say they understand it's a kill shelter. However, they're upset with how many and which animals are being euthanized.
"The public needs to be aware of what's going on there," RCACP volunteer Elise DeMoss said.
DeMoss has volunteered at RCACP for the last year. During her time, she said there's been a constant divide between management and volunteers.
"I've continued to see more and more things that just break my heart," DeMoss said.
She and other volunteers have been documenting some of their frustration.
They provided reports from the shelter. Those documents show that over the last month, almost 100 animals have been euthanized. The director says the numbers are high because it's peak season, but DeMoss feels they're too high.
"Not all the management is terrible, but the majority of them do not care about the animals,” DeMoss said. “They do not care about their job."
DeMoss says the issue came to a head late last week when two dogs, Murray and Smokey, were put down. The director says the dogs were acting extremely aggressive and were a risk. Volunteers say the dogs were healthy and adoptable.
"In our eyes, this is unacceptable,” DeMoss said.
"They have very limited interaction with the animals to make that decision," Jordan Pruett, another volunteer, said.
Pruett says she asked a staff member for a "last call" to save Smokey if he was going to be put down. That call did not come.
"He had my heart,” Pruett said. “And I'm very broken by the situation."
"The volunteers loved these animals,” DeMoss said.
DeMoss says about two dozen volunteers scheduled a peaceful protest for the two dogs. Once management found out, she says the volunteer program was shut down.
"As volunteers, and taxpayers, we should be allowed to do that,” DeMoss said.
They did not end up protesting. DeMoss emailed the board about a month ago with concerns, but she feels she hasn't been heard. Now, she and other volunteers are calling for new management.
"It just keeps getting swept under the rug, it's time,” DeMoss said. “Change needs to happen."
The facility director says the volunteers are overreacting to something that is in the day of a life of an animal shelter. He also says he decided to lock out volunteers until cool heads could prevail. The director believes the program will start back up, but it needs to happen in a new way.
We looked at national statistics from the ASPCA. It appears the euthanasia rate here is lower than the national average. Regardless, volunteers still think there's more that can be done.