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Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter / Fingo looks out from his cage at McKamey Animal Center in an August 2020 file photo.

McKamey Animal Center is continuing its partnership with Best Friends Animal Society's shelter outreach program as the shelter implements national best practices in animal welfare, according to a statement from McKamey Executive Director Inga Fricke.

The statement accompanied a report based on a shelter operations and field assessment conducted by Best Friends' shelter outreach team May 3 and 4.

Best Friends' shelter outreach program provides free, customized assessments to municipal shelters and other animal welfare organizations. The assessments highlight areas in need of improvement and provide recommendations to address those issues, and the shelter outreach team also provides guidance in implementing the recommendations to help ensure the sustainability of new programs put in place, according to the Best Friends website.

McKamey requested the assessment in April after former employee Adriane Gutillo brought attention to several incidents she alleged occurred at the shelter, including a dog left overnight in a truck and what Gutillo felt was inhumane treatment of a dog about to be euthanized.

In its assessment, Best Friends commends the shelter for its 23% reduction in cat and dog intake in 2020, as well as for its 82.7% save rate for cats and dogs in 2020.

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Read the field assessment of McKamey by the Best Friends Animal Society here:

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Best Friends stated in the report that based on available data, its top recommendations involve stray dog intake. The assessment suggests that McKamey develop standard operating procedures for field officers that include additional steps beyond checking ID tags and scanning for microchips while still in the field in order to improve rates of returns animals to their owners.

The report also recommends that the shelter write standard operating procedures for all of its departments "with a sense of urgency."

Other recommendations include expanding the foster program for underage kittens, whose care is time-consuming for shelter care staff. It suggests improving communication between the shelter's various departments, and reallocating the staff assigned to its behavior program to tasks such as providing animal enrichment, consulting with families at risk of surrendering pets due to behavioral issues, and "focusing on pets staff has identified as having behavioral issues."

It is unclear from the report what the responsibilities of the behavior program staff were at the time of the assessment. Best Friends requested that questions regarding the assessment be directed to McKamey.

Fricke did not respond to specific questions from the Times Free Press regarding the assessment or the shelter's plan to act on the recommendations.

"[McKamey Animal Center] is committed to address the recommendations made in the recent Best Friends Shelter Operations and Field Assessment Report," Fricke wrote in a statement sent to the Times Free Press in response to all questions about the assessment. "Many of these steps will take time to fully implement, as we continue serving animals and the Chattanooga community each day. We look forward to continuing to make positive and strategic improvements for the animals we serve and our facility over the next fiscal year."

Infrastructure improvements to the shelter including fencing repairs are underway, according to Fricke.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508.

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