The city of Hesperia took a lot of heat for the condition of its animal shelter after a February 2015 video showed a dog being dragged by an employee and a photo in May 2015 showed a bloody dog in a kennel. The release of those disturbing images attracted national attention and drew the ire of animal lovers both locally and nationally.
City leaders immediately recognized they had a problem and, after a San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department investigation and a report by an Arizona consulting group, began taking steps to correct it.
The Sheriff's Department probe was turned over to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, which didn't find any criminal wrongdoing. However, the investigation and the consultant's report that pinpointed shortcomings did prompt the city to remove two employees and work to add manpower, improve morale and change the culture at the facility.
As a recent Daily Press story by Staff Writer Rene Ray De La Cruz revealed, there is now good news to report on the shelter's turnaround. The city has poured financial resources into the aging shelter, but more importantly has brought in new leadership.
It has paid off handsomely. Animal Service Manager Don Riser told De La Cruz that the shelter's passionate and caring staff has helped increase the facility's live release rate from 44 to 77 percent. Another employee said the shelter is now working with more than 50 animal groups to help find loving homes for shelter animals.
Mayor Paul Russ said the shelter's euthanasia rate has been cut in half, to about 20 percent, and the goal is to reduce that to single digits.
Meanwhile, a remodeling program is in the works that could be paid for by development impact fees. Down the road, a new building could be in the offing.
All that would be great, but city officials deserve kudos for the work they've already done. It's not always easy to admit there's a problem, but Hesperia did so and went to work correcting it.
Residents and animal lovers should be grateful to the City Council, city staff and above all the shelter manager and his staff for turning things around and doing their best to care for and place the thousands of animals that come through the facility each year.