OGDEN (ABC4 News) – Nearly three months after animal advocates and community members expressed concerns about hot conditions inside the Weber County Animal Shelter, county officials announced Wednesday that a multi-strategy plan is being implemented to monitor and mitigate high summer temperatures.
The investigation was prompted by a viral Facebook post of photos showing a temperature reading of 89 degrees inside of the shelter back in July. Shelly Rovira, who took those photos, told ABC4 News in an exclusive interview that she originally visited the shelter with the intention of adopting a dog, but then returned a second time with a thermometer.
“It was hot and humid. I walked around all the kennels and probably within five minutes, I was sweating and got almost nauseous. It was that hot,” said Rovira in July. “I felt horrible. I wanted to adopt all of them and take them home.”
Weber County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brandon Roundy told media the building’s swamp coolers were working and since they began looking into it, they hadn’t found any outstanding temperature readings. But they would conduct an investigation.
Officials’ Response to Rovira’s Post
When asked about Rovira’s post, Chief Deputy Roundy said Wednesday in an interview with media, “I’m going to validate that post. I’m going to say there was an issue because whether it’s perceived or not by the public, if there’s an issue and they think there’s an issue, there is an issue. I do appreciate those kinds of complaints coming in because it’s about recognizing a problem and addressing it.”
He confirmed that the shelter director, Ashley Haslam no longer works there as of two weeks ago. But would not comment as to the reason why.
ABC4 News also asked Weber County Commissioners on Wednesday about their comments in their July 23rd meeting, calling the Facebook post with Rovira’s photos ‘bogus’ and the concerns brought forth by animal advocate Michelle Holbrook a ‘hoax.’
“There was a lot of misinformation being broadcasted at that point in time. A number of HVAC companies across this county were being called by folks that we didn’t know and that I was receiving calls on,” said Commissioner Gage Froerer. “The effort that they put forth was appreciated and recognized. But in my opinion, they went about it the wrong way, they should’ve come directly to us, given us their evidence, and we deal with it, which we’ve done now. But to go about behind the scenes and create issues that weren’t existent is not good government.”
Sources showed ABC4 News e-mails were sent between Commissioner Froerer and a concerned citizen regarding hot shelter temperatures on July 18th. But he said in an interview with media Wednesday that he never received any direct correspondence about the matter.
“As far as we’re concerned, no direct e-mails were presented to the three of us. Now, whether they sent those e-mails to someone else, I’m not at liberty to say. But I can say this for a fact is that we never personally received any e-mails directly from those people,” he said.
New mechanisms to monitor and mitigate shelter temperatures
On Wednesday, officials with Weber County said after listening to the concerns of their constituency, they decided to put additional mechanisms in place to monitor and mitigate high temperatures for the animals, even though temperatures ‘have always been under the national requirement.’
“After the summer, our evaluation of the temperatures within the shelter was that there were no temperatures above 80 degrees in any of the animal holding areas. Our primary problem is the corridor, which creates a perception of high temperatures throughout the animal shelter,” said Chief Deputy Roundy. “When the public comes in and it’s hot in that greeting area, it creates a perception that temperatures are increased throughout the shelter, and that’s not necessarily the case.”
The first strategy, according to county officials, was installing clocks with temperature and humidity readings near the ceilings of every animal holding room in the shelter.
“They’re positioned in a way where you can literally walk down the corridor and look into each room and see what the temperatures are. They operate independently and they’re elevated up because heat rises, so it’s a conservative approach,” said Chief Deputy Roundy. “This serves two purposes. One, citizens can actually see what the temperatures are where the animals are and employees can also see this and recognize if we have a problem so we can address it before it becomes a real big problem.”
Additionally, county officials and partnering agencies planted six trees Wednesday morning on the southwest side of the building. The trees (three flowering snow crab apple and three honey locust) were donated through a partnership with Ivory Homes and Tree Utah. Although the trees will take a few years to fully grow, Commissioner Jim Harvey said the shade provided could bring indoor temperatures down by 10 to 15 degrees.
“When we first heard about Ivory Homes’ 5000 Trees Initiative, we thought, ‘Wow! Those trees would be a great shade block for our animal shelter,” said Commissioner Harvey. “I had a conversation with them and they were gracious to say, ‘Yeah! We’ll get right on that. Today is a result of them coming to the table and being very philanthropic, not just with the people, but the animals of Weber County.”
Next, Chief Deputy Roundy said officials will evaluate their cooling system to determine what their best option is.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about partnerships. This animal shelter needs those rescue groups and volunteers to help us be successful. We have to have that kind of transparency. We all kind of have the same goal in mind and that’s to be a no-kill shelter and to find homes for all these animals,” he said.
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