Animal shelter employees raised concerns years ago

Animal Welfare Department

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – KRQE News 13 has obtained a report that shows Albuquerque Animal Welfare employees had concerns about how animals were handled at city shelters nearly three years ago. City leaders knew about it, but nothing was done until similar allegations surfaced this week.

The Inspector General’s Office is now investigating the Animal Welfare Department, after two employees came forward with complaints. As it turns out, this isn’t the first time that’s happened.

A dozen former and current Animal Welfare employees expressed concerns about the city’s shelters back in 2012. A 15-page Inspector General report looked into complaints about a “hostile work environment, care for animals, and policy violations.”

Many complaints pointed to the Animal Welfare Department Director, Barbara Bruin. In an interview with News 13 on Tuesday, she said, “There’s always disagreements, between staff and volunteers, and staff and staff, and volunteers and volunteers.”

“It’s a very emotional environment, and people do love the animals,” she added.

Bruin and the department are now the subject of a new investigation. Two high ranking employees complained last week that the city was releasing dangerous dogs to the public.

The department’s second-in-command, Jim Ludwick, alleged more than 200 dogs that failed a national standard behavioral test which reveals dangerous tendencies, were let go from the city shelters just last year. He cited some of those cases in which the dogs had attacked people and killed pets.

Employees claim Bruin and volunteers would remove a dog from the euthanasia list, regardless of behavior issues, or whether the dog failed the national behavior test, known as SAFER.

That same complaint shows up in the 2012 report, stating the “Director would routinely remove animals from the list or negate the EL altogether.”

The mayor and top city officials were sent the 2012 report.

KRQE News 13 asked Mayor R.J. Berry whether he was aware of the allegations back then.

“We’re always trying to listen, we’re always trying to do better, the fact is we brought Director Bruin in to be disruptive, to take the department to the next level, she has certainly done that,” Mayor Berry replied.

“Any time you’re disruptive, any time you bring new things into an organization, there are going to be people who have been doing things the same way for a long time that don’t care for that,” said Mayor Berry. “We respect those opinions…so we try and strike a balance.”

The mayor praised Bruin for the large drop in euthanasia rates, and increase in adoptions. However, some staffers argue that’s partly because they’ve been keeping dogs they shouldn’t be.

“They have some concerns, we take those incredibly seriously,” Mayor Berry told News 13.

“The way I read the most current report that got sent in, out of the 40 or 50,000 animals we’ve adopted, there’s 100 in question, and so that’s not a big number, but we don’t want there to be any,” he added.

The inspector general made recommendations after the 2012 investigation. However, the mayor said the report was never made official.

“For some reason it wasn’t adopted, therefore it’s just not a report that we use to manage the city,” Mayor Berry said.

News 13 was told the 2012 inspector general report was not adopted by the accountability and government oversight committee, therefore is not used as an official document by city officials.

The reason the committee didn’t sign off on the report is unclear at this point. Those meetings are not public.

Since the new investigation was launched, city shelters put a stop to adopting out any questionable dogs who may have failed a portion of the behavior test. Bruin said those dogs will be re-tested by an outside party before the shelter decides if they should be put down.

Bruin said earlier this week, she doesn’t believe the behavior tests should dictate whether a dog should live or die. News 13 tried to reach Bruin for comment on this story, but were directed to the mayor’s office.

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