Daily News, Thursday, April 30, 1998
Signs of animal shelter's overhaul
By LISA REIN
Daily News Stall Writer
The accidental death of a beloved dog at a city animal shelter has prompted a sweeping overhaul of management at the troubled facility -- and may even result in a plaque honoring the slain pet.
The head of the city's Center for Animal Care and Control yesterday said two top administrators at the E. 110th St. shelter will be demoted and replaced -- and four new bosses hired -- after a 14-month-old German shepherd-Rottweiler mix named Cujo was put to sleep.
"I think we'll have increased and improved supervision of all the staff, with more people providing the supervision," said Marilyn Haggerty-Blohm, acting executive director of the agency.
"This is part of the problem -- why we've changed the management in the shelter," she added, noting that the changes will result in better supervision of clerical workers -- four of whom have been disciplined over the April 7 incident.
But the announcement did little to ease the lingering grief for Cujo's owner, Teshan Baker, who tearfully addressed the center's directors.
"I'm emotionally hurt, and I still cannot understand how a place that has a sign that says 'Save a Life' can take so many," said Baker, 23.
Cujo, who was placed at the shelter after running away March 23, died because workers failed to note on an index card that he was to be held and not put to sleep.
Shelter workers destroyed Cujo after agreeing to lower hefty fines they were charging Baker to retrieve him.
Baker said the horror began for her pet even before he was put to sleep.
He was dirty. he had no water in his food dish," Baker said, describing conditions in the dog's cage at the shelter.
One board member said Cujo should be remembered with a plaque to remind workers daily that their error was inexcusable.
"We ought to have a gesture that serves as an outward acknowledgment of the loss of Cujo." Todd Davis said. "I would also like this to serve as a reminder to everybody on staff that seemingly small errors can have big consequences."
"I'm emotionally hurt, and I still
cannot understand how a place
that has a sign that says 'Save a
Life' can take so many. "
Haggerty-Blohm said the shelter's director and assistant director are being replaced. A new foreman, medical clerk, adoption supervisor and coordinator of the spay-neuter program are being hired, she added.
Haggerty-Blohm wrote Baker a formal letter of apology, offering to waive adoption fees if she wants a new dog.
The center blamed the death on a clerical error, saying workers failed to indicate on the index card in Cujo's cage that he should be held -- not killed.
Other workers spoke with Baker and then wrote information about Cujo's status on the index card, causing more confusion.
Haggerty-Blohm said it would not happen again.
Still, it will be months before the shelter gets a computer system to replace the handwritten paper work used to track tens of thousands of animals.
Baker said dozens of well-wishers have called her since the dog's death was publicized in the Daily News, and many have offered to donate replacement dogs.
But she said she and her 4-year-old son still are grieving over Cujo.
"But I won't be getting my dog from the CACC," she said.