Animal Shelter drop-off kennels raise controversy

Published: Oct. 26, 2023 at 10:38 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - If you walk around the back of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Animal Shelter, you will see a door leading to the drop-off cages. These indoor kennels are available for people to surrender animals to the shelter outside of the normal hours of operation.

While these kennels have been the norm in animal shelters across the country, drop-off cages were condemned last December in the Guidelines for Standards of Animal Care published by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. For this reason, and because of issues the local animal shelter has been experiencing with the drop-off cage system, plans were being made to close down the drop-off cages.

“We had hoped to close the drop-off cages because they are considered unacceptable practices by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians,” said Kimberly Imbert, the Shelter Operations Supervisor. “Because drop-off cages are unmonitored, a lot of people are under the impression that, when they bring animals to the shelter for help, they will get immediate care, and that’s not the case with unmonitored cages. We have had the experience of people leaving animals in the drop-off cages that need urgent veterinary care and animals do suffer because of that confusion.”

Imbert also explained that it is “incredibly stressful” for animals to be left in the drop-off cages in close quarters with their natural predators, which she said happens often. Animals left in the drop-off cages are more likely to act out because of stress, in ways that could endanger them or the shelter employees.

After receiving a large amount of community feedback, however, the shelter operators cancelled their plans to close the drop-off cages.

Luke Butcher, the Animal Shelter’s Emergency Operations Director, said they are trying to listen to the community’s opinions and desires, and to combine these with the safest shelter practices.

“We are also aware that we live in Fairbanks, Alaska, so there’s temperature concerns as well, which is why the drop-off cages have been inside the facility this entire time,” Butcher added. “The plan currently is that we have the drop-off cages open seven days per week in the evenings and when staff are not in the facility.”

The best way to surrender an animal is to call ahead and make an intake appointment during the shelter’s open hours, between 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on weekdays. This check-in process allows the shelter to give the animal immediate care, to document any health or behavioral concerns, and to process the animal toward adoption as quickly as possible.

“Drop-off cages ideally would only be used in emergencies, true emergencies, when the animal has nowhere to be housed,” Imbert said.

Next month the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will consider an ordinance concerning the use of drop-off cages in animal shelters. If the assembly decides in favor of the ordinance, the Animal Shelter may end up closing its drop-off cages for good.