Seattle Animal Shelter facing allegations of failing to address safety issues

The Seattle Animal Shelter is facing allegations by former volunteers who said the organization failed to disclose biting histories and address safety issues.

Volunteers told KIRO 7 that they were called in for human resource-like meetings when they brought up these concerns. In some cases, those meetings led to their dismissal.

“The way the shelter was gaslighting me and other volunteers, I thought maybe we were just a few people. It made me question myself, but I knew deep down this was wrong,” Gauri, a former volunteer, said.

She had volunteered at the shelter for about a year and a half. She said she was trying to find a rescue, foster, or adopter for a dog named Truffles, who was set to be euthanized when she was called in for a confidential meeting.

“It’s terrifying that this is the approach they’re taking to volunteers, you know, taking initiative to save an animal,” Gauri said.

Catherine Weatbrook had volunteered for 15 years and even adopted her dog, Athena, from SAS. She said that when she brought up concerns, the same thing happened.

“I stopped getting phone calls or emails to help,” Weatbrook said. “When you don’t have access and you don’t get emails, that’s kind of being fired.”

Weatbrook said she declined attending the confidential meeting and stopped volunteering.

The Seattle Animal Shelter said it was disheartened to hear these reported experiences and said it takes culture and safety seriously.

The shelter said in a statement in part: “In over five years, shelter leadership can recall only four instances when the shelter has asked a volunteer to either temporarily pause their volunteer work with the shelter or to conclude it. This is out of 600 volunteers. Additionally, there have been only 10 times over the past five years when the shelter has asked a volunteer for a meeting to discuss performance related issues.”

The volunteers said the shelter also failed to disclose biting history and risky behaviors.

“They don’t really track the bites. They don’t. I know of bites that weren’t in the medical records,” Weatbrook said.

KIRO 7 reached out to SAS about this and they said: “Before any pet with a significant behavioral issue is released to a potential adopter or foster’s care, shelter staff are required to provide counseling on the pet’s history, circumstances and severity of bite, and ways to appropriately handle the pet. Shelter policy is that all behavioral records are given to the foster or adopter at the time they take the animal home.

Hannah Saunders recently adopted nine-year-old Lola from the shelter. She told KIRO 7 that her experience overall was positive.

“They brought out her medical records and actually walked me through some nips she had with volunteers at SAS, talked through those situations with me and came to the conclusion I wanted to still move forward with the process,” Saunders said.

However, these allegations are alarming to her.

“Those volunteers have the inside knowledge and experience so we have to take their word for it and if there are issues going unreported or unaddressed, especially if it concerns dog bites, that’s a public safety concern,” Saunders said.

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