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Embattled Charlottesville SPCA holds 'Empty the Shelters' event

The Charlottesville Albemarle Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is holding its “Empty the Shelters” event once again, during a year of controversy over employee and animal treatment.

As part of the adoption event sponsored by the BISSELL Pet Foundation, the Charlottesville Albemarle Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has dropped its adoption fees down to $25 or less for cats and dogs over the age of one. The shelter held the same event last May alongside approximately 200 other shelters and rescue centers.

So far, CASPCA has helped 44 pets find forever homes since launching the campaign on May 1, Director of Development and Communications Emily Swecker told The Daily Progress. As of Sunday afternoon, CASPCA had about 140 dogs and 230 cats at the shelter and in foster care, said Swecker.

This year’s campaign occurs after current and former shelter employees and volunteers made accusations of an understaffed and poor work environment that also resulted in unsafe living conditions for animals.

An independent review by the Richmond-based international law firm McGuireWoods determined that the “unfavorable” environment resulted in “significant and unsustainable high rates of employee and volunteer turnover in recent years” and negatively impacted “retention of employees with specialized knowledge and experience in animal care.”

Due to the event being a scheduled campaign, McGuireWoods “has nothing to do with” Empty the Shelter, CASPCA Board of Directors President Jenn Corbey told The Daily Progress on Sunday.

“We do understand the concerns raised regarding the number of animals we take in and making sure we have the facilities and staff to accept them,” Corbey told The Daily Progress in a statement. “This fundamental issue is something reviewed carefully in terms of changes to be implemented.”

Last month, McGuireWoods advised the organization’s Board of Directors to immediately stabilize its human resources department by appointing an interim HR director, assessing personal policies, reviewing the employee and volunteer handbook and creating a streamlined process for employee and volunteer grievances.

The CASPCA has since hired Darcy Furr as the organization’s interim HR director, Corbey told The Daily Progress.

The shelter’s CEO Angie Gunter was also put on administrative leave in April.

A Virginia Department of Agriculture investigation earlier this year found that CASPCA’s animal records did not include required information including animal breed description, according to a copy of the inspection report obtained by The Daily Progress.

The investigation also revealed that the CASPCA received at least six dogs from out-of-state animal shelters even though the CASPCA’s January 2022 records show that no animals were transferred from out-of-state agencies to the local shelter in the previous year.

“Behind every intake decision is the goal of saving lives,” Corbey told The Daily Progress last month. “We went to treat our staff and volunteers with respect and compassion. We want to care for our animals. We know, as a board, we could have done a better job in recent years, so it’s something that we’re going to accomplish and move toward equipping ourselves with stronger training. We’re going to implement the recommendations made and continue to move forward.”

The Empty the Shelter event will end on May 15, according to the SPCA website.


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