GSHS shelter's euthanasia policy to be decided by board alone

Thursday, March 23, 2006

EUREKA SPRINGS -- With the resignation Friday of Good Shepherd Humane Society (GSHS) Manager Mariellen McFadden, the society is continuing to struggle with shelter staffing and financial issues as it prepares to hold its annual membership meeting in May.

President John Reeve said McFadden was not fired but had quit "for personal reasons." He also later said another staff member was "let go." This was McFadden's nephew, who left the same day.

Shelter committee chairman Ken Bates said in the absence of a manager, committee members are "taking turns" as acting manager.

The board held a special meeting Friday evening to go over proposed changes to the by-laws and shelter policies.

After three hours of deliberation on the bylaws changes, the board decided not to go over the shelter policies page by page but to accept the draft as is.

Although the board will present the bylaws changes to be voted upon by the membership, they reached a consensus that the membership will have no vote on the shelter policy document. They said this document is likely to change at various times.

The section titled "Animal Retention Policy" specifies returning to the practice of euthanizing animals for reasons other than terminal illness or serious injury, after an evaluation period by the staff. Other reasons include "temperament" such as aggression, shelter capacity, length of stay, "adoptability," and "severe distress."

"Severe distress" can be defined as "unwillingness to eat, self-mutilation, constant vocalization, crouched posture, increased aggression, high arousal and reactivity with no periods of calmness, pacing or cage spinning, elimination problems, depression, etc."

Of the consensus not to allow the membership to vote on this issue, board member and attorney G. Kent Crowe started out the evening acknowledging, "My take on the mood of the membership is that they want us to adopt a policy of not euthanizing unless the animal is sick or injured."

"I agree it's a hugely significant issue," said board member Doug Brashears. "I don't know that's the position we'd all take about euthanasia."

Crowe and Tracellen Kelly suggested putting the euthanasia policy up to a vote of the membership, but Bates objected.

"If we put it up for a vote, I'm afraid those against euthanasia would get out there and turn it into a no-kill, which is no shelter."

"No matter what we do, it will be controversial," Reeve said.

"That's why there's a board of directors," said Brashears, with other members agreeing. "The members make their decision by electing the board members. That's their vote. If you agree with us, elect us, if you don't, don't."

Major changes or additions to the bylaws include the following:

* Number of board members to be from three to 11 (currently 12).

* Board members to be compensated for special training up to $500 (currently no compensation).

* Board members can be removed without cause.

* Membership classes and dues will be individual ($20), family ($40), business ($100) and life ($500).

* Special meetings may be called by at least 15 percent of membership signatures on a petition. A quorum at such meetings will consist of 20 percent of the membership.

* Comment at special meetings will be restricted to members only and the press.

* Members can request copies of records but must give a reason for the request.

* Members may vote by proxy but not with absentee ballots.

The proposed bylaws and new shelter policy drafts are available at the shelter for members to look at, and members may obtain copies.

The next regular meeting of the board is scheduled for Friday, April 14. The annual meeting is scheduled for May 9 at 7 p.m. at the Inn of the Ozarks.

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