BARC's Problems Still Far Beyond the Scope of the City's Resources

A faulty anesthesia machine, a dog that nearly escaped during euthanasia, poor lighting, and a busted air conditioning system were among BARC's surgery room problems highlighted in an intra-office e-mail, according to newly released public records.

"One of the [anesthesia] machines has a 02 reader that gets stuck," Management Analyst Rami Arafat wrote Chief Vet Eunice Ohashiegbula-Iwunze and Interim Director Barbara McGill in a February 5 e-mail. "Not sure if it can be repaired. Problem is that the technicians cannot monitor the inflow of 02 and therefore can't see how much anesthesia the animal is actually getting."

The e-mail also states that "only one table currently has a surgery light. It needs to be repaired, and we need to get another one and have it installed above the other table." Also, the e-mail asks how to address the "AC machine unit that's in the surgery room...The one that is there just doesn't blow cold air, just recycled air."

But there were also human errors as well, according to an October 2008 statement from Administrative Supervisor Dorian Strickland that discusses problems with a vet tech who had extreme difficulties euthanizing two dogs.

"The euthanasia process on the first dog began at 10:43 a.m., but the dog was not pronounced dead until 11:04 a.m., a full 21 minutes from start to finish," Strickland wrote, summarizing her review of the videotaped procedure. "Typically, the process takes at most 7-8 minutes (which would be on rare occasions)....The second dog was pronounced dead at the same time as the first one...after the process began at 10:48 a.m. This again is not a standard operating procedure. The process of euthanasia involves one pet; once the process has begun, it is generally accepted practice that you not move to the second animal until the first one has finished and been placed in the freezer. This is done to prevent animals entering the room to not see another pet which [has] just completed the procedure."

Strickland continued: "It is believed that [the vet tech] attempted to inject this [dog] with sodium pentobarbital (euthanasia) solution on at least five (maybe six) occasions. This is a basic task for any veterinary technician and it is fully expected that she can consistently accomplish this task. During the course of this process, [the tech] at one point is seen looking directly at the first animal, which is clearly still alive and acting in a way that is not normal for a pet who has received any [dose] of euthanasia solution, and still continues to euthanize another dog. The first dog even tries to escape by running through an open door only to be caught by [the tech] herself."

(Now might be an opportune time to question the efficacy of BARC's employee screening process, which has resulted in the hiring of folks like animal control officer Jesse Clay, whose 1993 and 1994 arrest records for manufactory/delivery of a controlled substance, terroristic threat, forgery and larceny included his alias "Jack the Ripper" Clay. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison. Then he got a public job where he gets to carry ketamine.)

The records also include a December 2007 letter from Ohashiegbula-Iwunze to then-Bureau Chief Kent Robertson, outlining concerns she had about staff and procedures - as well as her own responsibilities.

"Kennel staff sneaks off from assigned job tasks most afternoons, but also need to feed the animals on their rows before close of business," she wrote.

"It would help if I could look at the division manager's job description, so I am not flailing most times as I currently am. I need to know what my responsibilities are toward the kennel supervisors as stated in my job description. Often I am advised by field and administrative personnel regarding a kennel attendant and I am at a loss about what my power of authority is especially if their direct bosses do not follow through with disciplinary action."

Ohashiegbula-Iwunze also pointed out apparent problems with the handling of cats: "Cats are left in transport carriers mostly all day long [until the] end of the work day, at which time the kennel attendants place them in bay dock cages or otherwise, and feed them. Sometimes dead kittens are not noticed [until] the next day, due to lack of time, and in the meantime they are cohabitating a cage with a live one. Most cats are still not booked in for days and just sit in the bay dock area."

Hair Balls will keep you posted. But the important thing to remember here is what Mayor Bill White has said about BARC's problems, as addressed in a 2005 community task force report: They're "beyond the scope of the city's resources." If that's the case, that's one fucked-up city.

Update: Responding to an e-mail we sent this morning about a faulty anesthesia machine, BARC spokeswoman Kathy Barton has just told Hair Balls: "We have two new and functional anesthesia machines. We have not done any surgery for a while, SNAP was doing it for us. Our plan is to resume surgery when our surgical staff is complete."

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