PASCO — Pasco officials are asking the public’s help in getting animal control services for the Tri-Cities back in better order after ousting its contractor.
Neo’s Nation Animal Foundation was forced out two weeks ago as the operator of the animal shelter for lost and abandoned pets, as well as the contractor responding to animal complaints in Pasco, Richland and Kennewick.
The nonprofit is facing a host of legal troubles and allegations of financial mismanagement and animal mistreatment, according to court records and police reports.
Top leaders of Neo’s Nation paid themselves bonuses and bought a home for their now-married adult children after a more than half-million-dollar donation earlier this year.
A surprise tour by city officials led to a search by police and veterinary staff to remove animals that needed medical treatment, though the nature of their illnesses was not made public.
About 30 cats and four dogs needed immediate treatment after being taken from the crowded Pasco shelter on Nov. 11.
The city elicited the help of the Benton-Franklin Humane Society, which has taken over animal services in the cities for the time being.
“The care of these animals and the cleanliness of the facility is our top priority,” the Humane Society posted on its Facebook page. “Please be patient with us as we continue to move through this process. We are navigating through it as quickly as possible to ensure the animals and the public feel as little turbulence as possible.”
The nonprofit arranged for care and treatment for the animals that were removed and is caring for the more than 200 cats and dogs still at the shelter.
But some of its employees have been facing harassment as they take over animal control.
City officials have heard that employees have been cussed at and insulted when they respond to animal complaints in the community, said Zach Ratkai, Pasco’s administrator and community services director.
“We are asking people to give them a little bit of grace and a little bit of patience,” he said. “The Animal Control Authority has confidence in the Benton-Franklin Humane Society, so we have confidence that the staff … are here for the community good.”
While the city of Pasco handles the contracts with the shelter, it is run by the authority, which is made up of representatives from each of the three cities.
They normally meet quarterly, but have increased the frequency of their meetings after the problems with the shelter came to light earlier this month.
Neo’s Nation had the contract for less than a year when the city received tips alleging poor conditions at the shelter.
No charges have been filed related to the condition of the animals.
Humane Society officials could not be reached by the Herald but an update posted on Facebook says the aging Pasco facility has been deep cleaned and all of the animals were examined by a vet.
The sick animals were isolated, taken in by other pet rescues or are were treated at VCA Animal Hospital facilities in Tri-Cities.
Incoming animals were separated from those that were already at the facilities, either by being kept away physically, or being sent to rescues.
“Ensuring the health, safety and mental well-being of all animals is why we are here,” the organization posted.
One animal rescue they are working with is Mikey’s Chance Canine Rescue.
Andrea Moreno, Mikey’s Chance executive director, told the Herald they took medically needy dogs to begin with, but are still looking for some foster homes.
If anyone is concerned about a pet they received recently from the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter, they should watch for signs of circular patterns of missing hair, runny nose or eye discharge, and take the animal to their veterinarian.
Animal control calls and other questions related to the shelter can still be directed to the usual shelter number.
Ratkai said all of the people working at the shelter now were brought there by the Humane Society. A number of employees who had worked for Neo’s Nation have quit.
Many volunteers continue to be needed, too.
“There is a great community of animal lovers out there,” Ratkai said. “I want to make it worth their while to (continue to help.)”
The Animal Control Authority is considering what its next steps will be, but it hasn’t stopped plans for a new animal shelter that is to be built at the site of the current one.
Donations can be made to the Humane Society to help with efforts at the Tri-Cities shelter and the Humane Society’s shelter on Seventh Avenue in Kennewick can go to www.bfhs.com.
You also can contact these pet rescues to offer help: Tumbleweed Cat Rescue at email@example.com, Silver Cloud Cat Sanctuary at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Mikey’s Chance Canine Rescue at email@example.com.