Carson City Animal Shelter volunteers have been put on notice that as of Thursday, the volunteer program has been suspended.
Health and Human Services Director Marena Works, who oversees the Animal Services Division, said putting the program on hold is necessary in order to reorganize.
"There are so many necessary changes that have been made. We're really trying to improve the conditions for our employees as well as all the animals," Works said.
The city has been making a number of changes at the shelter since receiving recommendations based on a study conducted by the Humane Society of the United States.
Works explained that the volunteer program had not been administered properly and that there were a lot of new staff members.
"There hasn't really been a schedule so it's been kind of haphazard so far. We're going to build a base and do some staff training so we can run it on a good level, and then get someone to run the (volunteer) program," she said.
Sheila Bridges, who has several friends who volunteer at the shelter, was upset to learn that her friends received letters Saturday stating that the volunteer/foster program was ending. She said the only explanation given for the decision was because of legal matters.
"They got their letters Saturday that the volunteers were being banned, but nobody knows why. They all signed liability waivers and they're willing to give their own time. It's so good for the doggies who get to be walked and get a little attention," Bridges said.
"I like to go in and see the dogs and visit with the cats. I've always tried to support the shelter in any way that I could, and I've adopted five pets from there. To do away with that program is just horrible," she said.
Works agrees that the animals need the attention. In lieu of volunteers, who spend countless hours walking and playing with the dogs, staff will be spending more time with the animals, she said.
"We know our animals need socializing, and they need to get out, so we're asking the staff to be a lot more interactive and use the yard that was fixed up by the Chamber (of Commerce 2010 Leadership Class). We're asking them to take a dog out with them when they go on their breaks," she said.
The notice to volunteers from Animal Services reads in part:
"Your dedicated time and all of your help has been very much appreciated and cherished by our staff and all of our animals. Due to legal matters and changes in our policies, we are no longer sponsoring a Volunteer/Foster program. These changes will take effect January 13, 2011.
"We are terribly sorry and sad to lose such quality people willing to devote their time and talents to our animal shelter, and thank you for all you have done."
The letter goes on to invite the volunteers to a free appreciation dinner at Casino Fandango's Rum Jungle Buffet.
It will be at least three months, possibly longer, before the program is reinstated, Works said. She was uncertain whether a staff member or a volunteer would be trained to run it.
"It's a formal program, so all volunteers will go through some training," she said.
Works said there are about 20 volunteers, but three who are consistently involved.
Animal Services Manager Gail Radtke said one of those is Mary Kranz.
"Mary has several hundred hours of documented volunteer work with this shelter. We will miss her so much," Radtke said.
Works said that the bottom line is always to improve the shelter and its operation.
"We all want to have a better facility. We're seeking an architect right now to build a new shelter, but there are no funds available. We just want people to know we're very serious about it," she said.