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Charlottesville SPCA passes surprise state inspection

The Charlottesville area’s embattled animal shelter passed a surprise state inspection of its facilities last Tuesday.

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has faced a variety of accusations of mismanagement and misconduct since the start of the year, said the inspection was the result of an anonymous complaint lodged with the state claiming two violations of animal welfare policies.

Specifically, the anonymous complaint claimed dogs were living in unsanitary conditions in the basement of the SPCA’s Berkmar Drive facility and cats were living in rusty cages.

“The two items in the anonymous complaint were completely false,” interim Executive Director Sue Friedman told The Daily Progress on Monday. “The complaints are coming from people who don’t believe in accuracy and don’t appear to have our animals at the center of their heart.”

During a surprise inspection state authorities show up at a facility with no prior warning.

“They showed up at our door at 2:30 p.m. and said we are here to inspect,” Friedman said.

Finding no evidence, the state Division of Animal & Food Industry Services’ Office of Veterinary Services-Animal Care apologized to shelter staff and headed back to Richmond, Friedman said.

“The complaint had no merit and NO violation were found,” a statement from the Charlottesville SPCA said. “CASPCA continues to provide quality animal care and community services as we remain committed to best practices and recognized operating standards aligned with our vision and mission.”

The recent anonymous complaint appears to be an escalation of the ongoing battle between former and current SPCA staff and shelter leadership.

Earlier this year, a group of past and present shelter workers, calling itself CASPCA Concerns, claimed that former Charlottesville SPCA CEO Angie Gunter’s leadership resulted in poor conditions and care for the animals, overcapacity and understaffing, lack of transparency and collaboration, and low morale and high turnover among staff and volunteers.

A letter calling for Gunter’s resignation garnered more than 100 signatures, protests were held in front of the SPCA shelter on Berkmar Drive and a social media campaign attracted widespread attention.

Not long after the protests began, a state Department of Agriculture inspection on Feb. 14 found multiple documents at the shelter were missing information required by law.

The shelter’s board of directors eventually hired international law firm McGuireWoods to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. At the conclusion of that investigation, Gunter was placed on leave.

Friedman took over the reins of the SPCA operation in May.

Since joining the SPCA team, Friedman has instituted a number of changes, hiring more top brass, reviewing and adopting best standards and practices, and limiting hours at the center in order to allow for staff training, development and facility cleaning.

Friedman said the organization is working diligently to better serve the community and the animals it shelters. She emphasized that she welcomes an open dialogue with members of the community who still have concerns.

“If the people making anonymous complaints would like to move forward with us we invite them to come forward and talk with us,” she said. “I’m perplexed by people making anonymous tips with unfounded information. We are working to move forward in a positive way because our community and our animals deserve that.”


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