OGDEN — Concerns that emerged over the summer about excessive temperatures at the Weber County Animal Shelter have spurred a series of measures to make sure the dogs and cats inside don’t face excessive heat.
Last July, a viral Facebook post indicating the temperature inside the facility had reached 89 degrees prompted alarm among local animal advocates and spurred county officials to look into the matter. At a press conference Wednesday, officials announced that 11 new independently functioning temperature and humidity gauges had been placed at scattered locations at the shelter to keep better tabs on temperatures inside the facility. Moreover, consultants are evaluating the cooling system at the shelter and upgrades should be implemented by next spring, ahead of summer.
The cooling system is old and needs improvements, said Brandon Roundy, chief deputy with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office. But given the demands of keeping the animals in the county-run shelter cool and properly circulating air to prevent the spread of disease among the critters, more time is need to come up with a solution.
“It’s been a lot more complex than I ever expected,” Roundy said.
Also Wednesday, TreeUtah, a nonprofit group, planted six trees around the shelter that, when fully grown, will help shade the facility and also aid in climate control.
Last July’s Facebook post prompted a quick response from Weber County officials, concerned about the uproar by animal advocates worried about overheated dogs and cats. They held a press briefing soon after the post started circulating to assure the public they were looking into the matter.
Subsequent testing at the shelter, though, showed that temperatures hadn’t exceeded 80 degrees in any animal holding areas. They stayed at or under that threshold through the rest of the summer, Roundy said. The Facebook post had shown a portable digital thermometer with an 89-degree reading placed in front of a dog sprawled on the floor inside a cage at the shelter.
“No, we didn’t have any problems throughout the summer with high temperatures,” Roundy said. Higher temperatures in hallways and common areas, where animals aren’t held, can create “a perception that the temperatures are increased throughout the shelter and that’s not necessarily the case.”
Similarly, County Commissioner Scott Jenkins, who had said last July that reports of excessive temperatures inside the shelter were “bogus,” defended operations at the facility. He, Commissioners Jim Harvey and Gage Froerer and Sheriff Ryan Arbon also attended Wednesday’s press briefing.
Testing over the summer showed that shelter thermostats “were within range and everything was fine here. We’ve had no major issues,” Jenkins said. “Now, we are trying to get the temperatures even lower than they were, just to make sure that we don’t ever get to this point again.”
Still, Roundy said that he took the concerns seriously and, after the July post came to county officials’ attention, portable coolers were placed in hallways to deal with the situation. Similarly, Wednesday’s press conference aimed to assuage any public concerns.
“I’m going to validate that (July Facebook) post. I’m going to say there was an issue, because whether it’s perceived or not by the public, if there’s an issue, they think there’s an issue, there is an issue,” Roundy said. “I do appreciate those kind of complaints coming in because it’s about recognizing a problem and addressing it.”
The new temperature and humidity gauges are placed in animal holding areas, visible from hallways. The aim, Roundy said, is to be transparent about conditions at the shelter with the public and others who visit the facility and to tip off shelter staffers to climate issues as quickly as possible so they can be addressed.
Numerous volunteers, including Weber County Jail inmates, aided in planting the six TreeUtah trees. That effort was funded via a donation from Ivory Homes, a Utah homebuilder.