Cheyenne Animal Shelter Board Votes to Suspend Leader
The shelter board made the decision to suspend Fecht for 60 days without pay during an emergency meeting Monday night.
The board also unanimously adopted a policy that doesn't support the use of animals in pepper spray training exercises.
"After reviewing all of the facts of both incidents, the board feels confident that the decision to use an animal for pepper spray training was not made with the intent to cause harm or inflict punishment on the animal," the board said in a release issued Tuesday afternoon. "However, it also feels that the decision was rash and made without proper consideration of alternative training methods."
"There was never any intent to cause injury or damage to the animal involved, nor was there any intent to tarnish the reputation of the organization," Fecht said in a statement Tuesday.
"While my primary goal was driven by an intense desire to protect our employees who are subjected to animals of questionable character every single day, upon reflection I realize that the decision I made was a personal and emotional reaction on my part and I sincerely regret not having considered alternatives before acting," Fecht added.
As a condition of his return to full employment, Fecht must provide an acceptable plan of action to restore the trust of the shelter community in his abilities as the president and CEO to the board within 30 days.
Board Statement Regarding Incident:
We cannot adequately express the gratitude we have for a community that shares a love for animals and their generous support in providing for the homeless and abandoned animals.
The Cheyenne Animal Shelter is a haven for thousands of dogs and cats every year giving them another chance at finding their forever home. Every person serving this mission brings their heart and soul to the table to make this happen. The failures are heartbreaking. Any stone left unturned to offer that new beginning to one of these precious animals is a tragedy. It is our collective goal to succeed every day.
We’ve heard some say the facts don’t matter, yet we believe you deserve to know. We believe it is the Board’s duty to know and share the facts.
The Cheyenne Animal Shelter (CAS) Board owes a professional and fiduciary responsibility to the organization. It is the responsibility of shelter leadership to make decisions that are in the best interest of the organization. The Shelter Board takes employee injuries and claims of animal abuse very seriously. Both the dog attack and pepper spray training were unprecedented and extremely serious personnel matters that required strict adherence to procedures. The Shelter Board has appreciated the opportunity to complete its due diligence. The Shelter Board conducted a thorough investigation to fully understand all the events that surrounded both incidents. The Shelter Board’s Administrative Committee interviewed the employees and Animal Control Officers who had personal knowledge of the events. They also interviewed the employees and former employees who made the allegations. Committee members also conducted research on various issues relevant to the incident. The Administrative Committee provided a comprehensive overview of the facts learned, to date, and what was still left to discover, to the Animal Shelter Board and Animal Shelter Foundation Board at an emergency executive session board meeting, held on Wednesday, September 12th. At the meeting individual Board members and invited guests asked questions and suggested additional areas of inquiry. The Administrative Committee continued its investigation into those areas that required further review. After completing the internal investigation the Administrative Committee presented a summary of findings report and recommendations at an emergency executive session board meeting, held on Monday, September 17th. The Shelter Board unanimously adopted a policy that does not support the use of animals in pepper spray training exercises.
With that said, the Shelter Board owes a responsibility to the organization to address and correct misinformation relevant to both incidents. With regard to the dog attack on a Shelter employee that occurred on September 4th, the incident was a dog attack, evaluated using Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale as a Level 4. A Level 4 describes the dog as having insufficient bite inhibition and is very dangerous. Five additional CAS staff worked together to get the employee being attacked safely away from the attacking dog. All six employees, including the victim of the attack, should be recognized for following protocol that safely returned the dog to his kennel, removing the employee from further harm and prevented any other employee from being injured. Mr. Fecht was out of the office the day of the attack. The dog, named Tanner, was a 80 lb, unaltered, male, pit bull that was abandoned at a local vet clinic that called CAS to come get the dog. The dog was picked up and came to CAS on August 31st. The Shelter Animal Control Officer (ACO) that picked up the dog reported concern about handling the dog after speaking with the staff of the organization. The pepper spray training, although not condoned by the Shelter Board, was conducted in a professional manner by a trained ACO. The pepper spray was sprayed into the air and moved across the dog’s nose once. It was reported that the dog, who was agitated from being on the catch pole, immediately redirected and began pawing it’s nose. The dog was immediately washed for several minutes with water, which is standard procedure following pepper spaying of humans or animals, and closely monitored after being returned to the kennel. The pepper spray did not cause the dog to cough up blood. According to an ACO, in all of his experience with pepper spray it has never caused a dog or human to bleed. Once inside, the dog evacuated mucus and water (light pink in color) from his sinuses, one time, one. Pepper spray is thick in viscosity, which allows near pin-point accurate aim and is dark pink/red/orange in color. All procedures were followed following the pepper spray training to ensure the dog was not suffering ill effects.
The decision to use an animal, aggressive or not, in pepper spray training as a way to simulate a realistic scenario and demonstrate its effectiveness for employee safety is one that the Shelter Board feels was not justified and cannot support. After reviewing all of the facts of both incidents, the Board feels confident that the decision to use an animal for pepper spray training was not made with the intent to cause harm or inflict punishment on the animal. However, it also feels that the decision was rash and made without proper consideration of alternative training methods. Mr. Fecht, as the CAS CEO, is expected to demonstrate and ensure that all decisions he makes with regard to the organization uphold and protect the organization’s mission.
Last night during an Emergency Board Meeting the Shelter Board voted to suspend Mr. Fecht for 60 days without pay and as a condition of his return to full employment he must provide to the Board, within 30 days, an acceptable plan of action to restore the trust of the Shelter community in his abilities as the President and CEO at the sole discretion of the board.
These terrible incidents have brought awareness to several policies and procedures that are lacking and do not currently provide the appropriate level of employee and animal safety. The Shelter Board, beginning immediately, will be closely involved with reviewing and implementing corrective action. The Shelter Board understands that loss of trust has resulted from these incidents and will work tirelessly to do better by the organization and the community beginning with requesting a best practices audit and improving community input. The Shelter is already working to review and improve measures to ensure employee safety. The Board recognizes that transparency and communication with the community are vital and will be improved.
The mission of the Cheyenne Animal Shelter is to enhance the quality of life for animals and people through compassion, respect and education. The Board shares in the community’s compassion for the animals, takes its responsibility to the organization very seriously and has an immense amount of respect for the hard, underpaid and unpaid work of Shelter employees and volunteers. Cheyenne Animal Shelter employees and volunteers pull together as group to do more with less, all with the goal of providing as many abandoned or surrendered animals as possible with new forever homes. They make tough decisions on a daily basis and do amazing work. The Shelter Board promises to do better.
The work of the Cheyenne Animal Shelter is never ending. We appreciate your support and comments. Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statement from Bob Fecht, CEO and President:
The Cheyenne Community and the Cheyenne Animal Shelter have recently been embroiled in a controversy over actions that I and I alone undertook. Many of the shelter staff and members of the Board of Directors have felt the repercussions of the controversy both professionally and personally. I wish to apologize to our entire staff, Board members and the community as a whole for creating this situation and embarrassing our organization in the process.
The Cheyenne Animal Shelter has for years been considered one of the premier shelters in the United States, and it has been my privilege to work with our outstanding staff. There was never any intent to cause injury or damage to the animal involved, nor was there any intent to tarnish the reputation of the organization. While my primary goal was driven by an intense desire to protect our employees who are subjected to animals of questionable character every single day, upon reflection I realize that the decision I made was a personal and emotional reaction on my part and I sincerely regret not having considered alternatives before acting.