WCRAS Facility and Operations Assessment Report

Washoe County Regional Animal Services (WCRAS) and Nevada Humane Society (NHS) partner within our co-located facility in accordance with our Professional Service Agreement.  As part of that agreement, each respective organization is required to have an operation / facility assessment to ensure that each organization is efficiently utilizing best industry practices while maximizing their efficient and professional service delivery to our community. 

The following is an overview of the findings of the WCRAS operation/facility assessment as well our response and / or update as they relate to those specific areas.  Read the full report here.

Code 3 Evaluator Comments regarding external public areas:
If unfamiliar with the area, the main sign off Longley Road is easily missed as both the lettering and the sign itself are too small.  The signage on the building is also too small, and is confusing as to where one should go for what service or organization they are looking for.  The building and grounds are aesthetically pleasing and professional.  Having a secure place for employees to park is an added benefit, greatly reducing the safety risks and liability concerns as employees come and go, especially during non-business hours.  The main entrance is easily identified, one has to look a little harder for the stray animal entrance and night drop.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Replace the sign off Longley Road with a larger, more conspicuous sign that motorists cannot miss.  Replace/update the signage on the building to give visitors clear direction as to what service and organization is where (this could include stand-alone sign(s) – they do not have to been on the building). 

WCRAS Response
WCRAS recognizes the importance of identifying where the public is directed to go based on service needs.  This is a large scale project that will require design, budget and planning process.  WCRAS will evaluate the recommendation based on the recommendation and opportunity to upgrade.

Code 3 Evaluator Comments regarding internal public areas:
The loop of pictures on the monitors is a great tool in assisting people finding their pets.  The front counter is open and welcoming, as long as there is staff there that sees or acknowledges everyone that comes through the door.  If the same person is staffing both public intake and the front, it is impossible to efficiently serve people in both areas at the same time.  This creates not only a customer service issue, but also a safety issue.  It is easy for someone to slip by that person if they are helping another visitor, or just dump an animal in intake and leave.  If there are restricted access doors that are unlocked during business hours, that increases liability as visitors can gain access to places staff does not expect them to be, and where they should not be.  Any unlocked doors during non-business hours that can be accessed by a visitor is even more of a liability, as the facility is not prepared for visitors and thus floors are wet, staffing is less, hoses are out, etc., not to mention the safety of the staff.  The directional locking doors are a concern as they could impede any evacuation in the case of an emergency.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Install a camera system for the lobby, front counter, and public intake with monitors at the front counter and public intake so staff working in one area can see the other, decreasing the opportunity for visitors to slip past unnoticed, or get upset and/or leave because they were not acknowledged.  Increase staffing so there is not one person staffing both areas that visitors come in to the facility.  Re-evaluate which doors are locked, when, and why.  Then ensure staff locks doors as specified.  Request a visit from the Fire Marshal to evaluate the directional locking doors, as well as number and placement of fire extinguishers throughout the building.  Additional conspicuous signage may be needed for directing staff and visitors in an emergency, and to identify fire extinguisher locations.  Periodic fire and evacuation drills should be conducted, as well as practicing designated procedures in the case of animals needing to be evacuated.  Emergency routes should be conspicuously posted as well.

WCRAS Response
Animal Services is in the process of updating the security systems throughout the facilities. We are working closely with the County’s security personnel to insure all areas of the facility are monitored. Staffing levels at the front desk area are under evaluation and management will make the appropriate adjustments.

Management will request an evaluation from the County’s Risk Manager to determine the appropriate emergency signage requirements.  Additionally, we have recently undergone a revision of signage to assist the public and provide service guidance throughout all of the public areas of our facility.  

Code 3 Evaluator Comments Regarding Public Kennel Areas:
Staff seems diligent in making sure the kennels and cages are clean, as well as keeping public areas as hazard free as possible.  Unlocked doors provide un-escorted access to the kennels and provide opportunity for injury, litigation, and potential maliciously intended action against the animals.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Take steps to ensure doors that are to remain locked, do.

WCRAS Response
Doors leading into kennels where direct contact can be made with animals are kept locked per protocol.  WCRAS had a few door locks recently repaired that were keyed incorrectly and possibly resulted in un-secured areas during the time of this evaluation.  Staff will be more diligent in ensuring that the doors are locked after each pass through.

Code 3 Evaluator Comments Regarding Restricted Indoor Areas:
The procedure for receiving stray animals appears time consuming and disruptive.  When an animal comes in the staff at the public intake counter has to call for assistance immediately because there is no place to safely secure the animal – the chipping room has no capacity for holding animals until they can be processed, it has to be done right then.  If more than one animal comes in at a time, this problem is expounded.  Staff has to come from the back of the facility to get the animal(s) and then take them back to the exam room.  To add to the mix, the same hallway is used for those animals who have be reclaimed to leave the facility which could easily cause issues between animals, and creates opportunity for injury to both animal and human.  The animal exams were very thorough and efficiently done.  What happens to animals that come in when the LVT is off?  The automated dispensing system takes the guesswork out of cleaning solutions, and ensures the right amounts are used each and every time.  The numerous separate kennel rooms are helpful for isolation, quarantines, and biohazard concerns.  Cage/kennel size appeared to be appropriate for the animals being housed.  There were several kennels that had rusty latches, and many of them were hard to open – this is unsafe and inefficient, and creates opportunity for injury of animals and humans.  Written protocols/procedures are needed, and are addressed later in this report.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Install temporary holding cages/kennels in the chipping room so that the public intake staff can secure the animal and then safely take care of the customer, then notify kennel staff of the new arrival(s).  Re-evaluate having that narrow hallway used for both incoming and outgoing animals – re-route outgoing if possible.  Hire an additional LVT for coverage when the current LVT is off so that all animals are processed the same.  Inspect all latches and hinges on cages / kennels and replace or fix as appropriate.  Work routine inspections of such items into written protocols. 

WCRAS Response
In 2009 staff level were reduced due to economic impacts and the temporary holding cages were removed to create the microchip exam room and create efficiencies. When an animal is brought into the intake lobby, a kennel staff member is contacted to retrieve the animal. The front desk staff then enters the animal information as the animal is taken to processing.

It is not feasible to reroute the movement of animals in the facility. A current procedure on releasing of animals keeps the close quarter’s contact of animals to a minimum.  The additional of a licensed veterinary technician has been evaluated and determined not to be financially responsible at this time. All kennel staff are cross-trained in the animal intake procedure.

All facility repairs are reviewed regularly and processed in accordance with the County’s facility management procedures.

Code 3 Evaluator Veterinary/Medical Area Observations:
The AVMA (American Veterinary Medicine Association) has sixteen guidelines regarding the development and operation of veterinary facilities and initial animal care.  WCRAS was assessed in this area on those guidelines.

  1. Overall cleanliness and neatness of personnel and facilities.
    • The facilities are clean and neat, the appropriate chemicals are used, well labeled and stored.
    • The personnel are neat and professional.
  2. Adequate protection against dissemination of disease.
    • There are separate wards for holding animals suspected of having infectious diseases.
    • There are hand sanitizing stations available.
    • The cage cleaning protocol in the treatment wards appears adequate.
    • The head staff is excellent in her memory of animal treatment protocols and which individuals are to be treated but written protocols and master treatment sheets for each ward, as well as cage signalment, are needed.
  3. Proper disposal of all waste material.
    • This appears to meet state guidelines.
  4. Access to adequate equipment for generation of quality diagnostic images.  Provide proper procedures and equipment to protect staff members from radiation exposure.
    • A fully qualified and equipped veterinary clinic is available and does not seem to be fully utilized.
  5. Adequate ventilation and freedom from noxious odors.
    • This does not appear to be an issue in this facility.
  6. Freedom from noise pollution.
    • The individual wards can become noisy but it can be remediated by rearrangement of animals.
    • Overall the facility is not overly noisy.
  7. Adequate restraint facilities that are humane in providing proper care to patients during all aspects of their visit.
    • There are proper control methods available.
    • When trainees are there it is very important that they not be allowed to handle unknown animals alone at any time.
  8. Availability of proper refrigeration and sterilization equipment.
    • The veterinary clinic is fully accredited by the State of Nevada.
  9. Facilities and equipment provided and properly maintained that are suitable for currently acceptable veterinary practice.
    • The veterinary clinic is fully accredited by the State of Nevada.
  10. Adequate and complete patient, personnel and financial records.
    • The computer records are complete for animal intakes.
    • Matching animals and their meds seem to occasionally be an issue, which can be fixed by written medicine sheets for each ward and animal.
  11. Adequate personnel to provide proper veterinary care.
    • Hiring a full time Veterinarian, rather than part time, would be a better use of the facility and would ensure rapid, quality care for all animals that are in the custody of WCRAS.
  12. Appropriate facilities and records for the proper storage and dispensing of drugs and supplies in compliance with federal and state laws.
    • The controlled substance cabinets and notebooks seem adequate for all DEA requirements.
    • The drug and equipment inventory practices are excellent.
  13. Proper equipment for anesthesia management and monitoring of patients under anesthesia.
    • Anesthesia equipment appears adequate and well maintained.
    • Monitoring was not witnessed.
  14. Provide laboratory services to assist with accurate diagnosis.
    • In-house services are adequate.
  15. Provide surgery in an aseptic environment with appropriate pre- and post-operative considerations.
    • The excellent facilities appear to be underutilized.
  16. Provide a safe and healthy environment for clients, patients and staff that are in compliance with governmental jurisdictional entities such as but not limited to FDA, USDA, OSHA and EPA.
    • The comments made above should not be taken as a condemnation of the facility but rather a way to provide even better service and better utilization of the facilities.  When you have a well-trained and diligent staff as you do now it is easy to rely on them totally and written protocols and medicine sheets and ward sheets are often felt to be not needed.  However this makes it difficult to provide continuation of care when those people are absent or when animals are accidentally mistaken or moved.

WCRAS Response
WCRAS partners with TMCC Veterinary Technician program to provide an interactive classroom setting for students within our surgical suite.  The students work under the supervision of the veterinarian in charge of the program.  This mutually beneficial partnership allows for both entities to work together toward common ends.  We are currently working on a comprehensive SOP project that will include procedures for the medical team as well to formalize our current practices.  At this time, WCRAS is operating sufficiently with the current contract veterinarians however, will be looking into the feasibility of having a full-time veterinarian in the future. 

Code 3 Evaluator Comments Regarding Restricted Outdoor Areas Observations:
The clutter in the barn is unsafe for both staff and animals in their care.  Having part of the aisle blocked impedes moving animals to the exercise area safely.  Staff walk horses in the parking lot, and although fenced, an asphalt surface is not a safe place to walk a horse.  They can slip and lose traction causing them to fall and likely injure themselves, especially if they spook (which they easily can do).  If shod, the risk is even greater.  The exercise area is a little small, especially so the longer the animal is housed at the facility.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Remove contents in the barn that do not belong there, and do not allow storage of items unrelated to the barn in the barn.  Move the squeeze chute to an area in which it could be used if needed.  Create a safer path to and from the exercise area for the horses.  Explore avenues in which to increase the space for livestock housed at the facility to get exercise. 

WCRAS Response
Staff have organized and cleared the barn of hazards and also created a protocol for safely handling the animals in the barn to protect both themselves as well as the animals.  WCRAS worked with NHS to gain access to an open area that allows for the long term livestock to exercise, which alleviates the need to walk the horses across the asphalt. 

Code 3 Evaluator Kennel Staff Comments:
The kennel staff expressed a desire for more formalized training and opportunities for cross training with office and field staff.  There are no detailed training guidelines for kennel staff, although they do receive limited training by other staff members.  What limited animal handling skills we saw from the kennel staff appeared adequate.  Written protocols/procedures and training guidelines are needed, and are addressed later in this report.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Provide a variety of training options and opportunities more frequently.  There are several basic sheltering training courses available, ACT for Shelters (shelter.4act.com) has a good basic course that covers all aspects of shelter duties that would be beneficial.  Include training for care and maintenance of livestock, as well as any non-traditional animals that may be housed at the facility.  Refresher training on breed identification, understanding animal body language (and how the animal views yours), animal handling and use of common equipment (catch pole, leashes, carriers, gloves, nets, etc.) would also be beneficial.  Consider offering a rabies vaccine if the animal is not current when being reclaimed.

WCRAS Response
Kennel staff provides humane and professional care to the animals seven days per week.  They are relied upon to be multi-taskers who are not only caring for the animals in WCRAS’ care but also to facilitate the needs of the public as well.   WCRAS kennel staff as well as all office staff are currently working through assigned ACT online courses.  Additionally, kennel staff are being provided cross-training opportunities when available. 

Code 3 Evaluator Field Staff Comments:
It appears that there is a generally positive attitude and good morale with field operations staff, as well as support for the administration.  At times officers (both seasoned and newer) appeared tentative in approaching and handling an animal, seemingly lacking knowledge in reading the animal’s body language and unsure of how to proceed.  Vehicle cages should be cleaned and disinfected after every animal transport, whether it looks dirty or not, without exception.  With the number of Hispanic residents, more attention to bilingual communication would assist relations and efficiency from both the field staff’s and the public’s point of view.  Written protocols/procedures are needed, and are addressed later in this report.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Provide opportunities for officers to refresh and refocus their knowledge and skillset in reading animal body language and animal handling.  Provide opportunities to learn effective Spanish, explore the use of translator applications on phones and possibly make them a requirement, and expand written information to include Spanish translation. 

WCRAS Response
Animal Services has increased training funds to address the need for continuing education within the department. Additionally, the County’s education reimbursement program is another option for approved courses are identified as beneficial to the department. Animal Services had previously identified the need for written material to be translated into Spanish and is in the process of producing those materials.

Code 3 Evaluator Dispatch Center Comments:
There are discrepancies in how and when calls are entered into the system, which will affect any statistical data gathered for analysis purposes as well as public relations as citizens receive different answers/outcomes depending on which staff member answers the phone.  Having field supervisors handle the dispatch duties hampers their ability to effectively supervise their officers and assist with calls.  There is an inherent safety issue when officers do not use the radio to arrive and clear a location.  Broadcasting that information over the air ensures dispatch realizes the officer is on site and also enables fellow officers to hear the same, increasing awareness should something go wrong and allowing other officers to alert that officer to pertinent information if necessary.  Written protocols/procedures are needed, and are addressed later in this report.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Create a hard copy manual for handling calls so that no matter who is working dispatch the call will be handled the same on the dispatch end.  Follow through with plans to hire persons specifically for dispatch.  Follow through with plans to revise how officers arrive and clear calls, and enact policy for dispatch to contact officers who have been silent and vehicles stationary for over a set period of time for a status check via the radio.

WCRAS Response
WCRAS is focused on creating SOP’s for all program areas.  Staff are involved in the development of the SOP’s from various levels of management.  Feedback from all staff on specific procedures are being solicited and taken into consideration in the development of procedures.  New positions have been added and filled to facilitate the support necessary to improve continuity of service and are currently undergoing training.  Supervisors will be free to provide field and shelter support as well as training to their subordinate staff when this transition is complete.

Code 3 Evaluator Field Staff Training Comments:
The field training program is appropriate and covers the necessary aspects of the job, adequately preparing the new officer for their job.  The additional training reinforces the initial training, provides valuable certifications recognized by the courts, and mitigates liability.  The shotgun firearms training is done by certified in-house instructors, which could be a liability risk as there is no independent review or oversight.  Firearms, chemical immobilization, OC spray, and expandable baton training should be done annually.  Volunteers on the ART team do not put in enough hours to keep their skill level adequate if they were needed in an emergency.  Written protocols/procedures are needed, and are addressed later in this report.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Continue to provide quality training to officers and implement annual training for firearms and chemical immobilization.  Expand volunteer ART training to a quarterly schedule for both skill test and practical exercise, and expand the animal interaction hours required to ensure the volunteers feel comfortable dealing with animals in stressful situations.  Implement personal protective equipment policies.  Consult with Washoe County Human Resources and Council on whether personal liability insurance is needed for ART volunteers or if the county assumes all responsibility when the team trains or responds.

WCRAS Response
Animal Services has and continues to hold firearms training two times per year or more, as determined necessary by management. The department’s procedures on firearms are reviewed annually to ensure all safety protocols are in place and meet national standards for safety. Additionally, the department’s instructors have taken the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office range training.

The volunteer program has been reorganized and new program procedures will be implemented in fall 2016.  All volunteers are covered under Washoe County insurances during any sanctioned activity.

Training in General
Proper training is a useful tool.  It lets new staff know how the organization wants things done, and re-emphasizes the same to tenured staff.  Field staff, veterinary medicine staff, and kennel staff should be trained on how to do the job and about the hazards of that job before they begin work. Refresher training should be conducted at regular intervals as required or as needed.  Training should include information about the following:

  • Potential workplace hazards, both biological and physical
  • Safe handling, restraint, and care of small animals
  • Safe handling, restraint, and care of large animals
  • Safe handling, restraint, and care of non-traditional animals
  • Emergency and evacuation procedures from the building or specified areas (ex: fire, loose biting dog,
  • potential rabid cat, bleach spill)
  • Proper care and use of PPE
  • Prompt reporting of all work-related injuries and illnesses
  • Effective use of controls for reducing workplace exposures and injuries
  • Veterinary standard precautions including infection control practices
  • Preventing needle stick, scalpel, and sharps injury
  • Occupational risks for pregnant and immunocompromised workers

WCRAS Response
Animal Services has established training protocols to ensure staff has the necessary tools to be successful. Management will evaluate the program and make adjustments as deemed necessary. Additionally, management will request a review from the County’s Risk Manager

Code 3 Evaluator Outreach Program Comments:
This is a newly formed department within WCRAS designed to oversee the volunteer programs and engage other community organizations with interest in animal welfare and citizen needs for their pets.  There is not a formal strategic plan developed yet for this department.

None, new department.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
In implementing the community outreach program, determine the top 2-4 programs that benefit the community and WCRAS and focus on those before trying to tackle all of the ideas at once.  Of the 2-4, one of them needs to be a volunteer program so that it can support the other programs as they develop.

WCRAS Response
In order to assist staff with creating a map for future goals and program development, WCRAS completed a department strategic plan in 2015 with the assistance of a contracted firm.  As a result, one of our four strategic objectives that we chose to focus on over the next three years is the development of proactive outreach and education programs.  WCRAS has been heavily focused on this objective in the 2015/2016 year.  Education, low cost vaccination clinics and volunteer program development have resulted from our concentrated efforts.  Many of these programs were developed concurrently, as they overlap. 

Code 3 Evaluator NHS/WCRAS Internal Communication Comments
There is an obvious disconnect between WCRAS and NHS that prevents cohesion and teamwork to achieve what is best for the animals.  The lack of dialog over selecting animals creates an issue for other placement partner organizations to receive potentially adoptable animals.  Having animals removed at random and without notification is not only discourteous, but can cause stress on the part of the staff as well as opportunity for error, not to mention time consuming wild goose chases.  Written protocols/procedures are needed, and are addressed later in this report.

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Re-evaluate the first selection process and procedures for NHS to remove animals.  Encourage open communication and cohesion between the two organizations, on the part of administration and staff alike.  Re-key doors/locks so NHS staff cannot access dogs without WCRAS staff knowledge, if no other solution can be effective. 

WCRAS Response
A referendum was passed by the citizens of Washoe County which created a partnership between Regional Animal Services and Nevada Humane Society. The partnership is managed through a Professional Services Agreement. Contained within that agreement, NHS has first right of refusal on animals available for adoption.

The communication and agreement on the procedures for animal evaluation and transfer has been long standing between the two organizations. This agreement, through a joint procedure works, well for both agencies.  Both agencies meet bi-weekly as well as communicate regularly in between on operational issues, collaborations and other issues that may arise.  WCRAS and NHS have worked collaboratively on several procedures and initiatives that impact both organizations for the benefit of our community and the animals that we serve. 

Code 3 Evaluator Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Comments:
The lack of detailed SOP’s throughout WCRAS opens the facility and Washoe County up for litigation from both citizens and employees.  It also decreases safety and efficiency, as staff interprets perceived policies differently.  It can adversely affect morale, as staff can become frustrated when what they perceive as wrong goes uncorrected, potentially causing feelings of a double standard.  The number of staff, both in kennels and field operations, that knew the existence of, contents of, had read or been given some type of policy manual varied greatly. 

Code 3 Evaluator Recommendations:
Every area of WCRAS needs to have written SOP’s, and each employee needs to have their own copy and sign for both receipt of the manual and that they have read the contents and understand it.  Hand in hand with that is ensuring that staff has been trained to do their jobs as detailed in the manual.  Review current policies and if appropriate, merge them into the complete SOP manual once finalized. 

WCRAS Response
Now that WCRAS has become a stand –alone department and undergone significant re-organization, the department is focused on streamlining processes by which we operate.  WCRAS management staff have been tasked with working on SOP’s for their respective program areas by June 2016.  The department recognizes the value of clearly defined roles, duties and expectations as well as a review and revision process on a regular basis.