OGDEN, UT (ABC4 News) – Animal advocates are sounding an alarm after photos showing a temperature reading of 89 degrees inside the Weber County Animal Shelter were posted on social media Monday.
In an exclusive interview with ABC4 News, Shelly Rovira said she took the photos after returning to the shelter a second time in one week with a thermometer.
She said she originally visited the shelter last week with the intention of adopting a dog.
“It was hot and humid. I walked around all the kennels and probably within five minutes, I was sweating and got almost nauseous. It was that hot,” said Rovira. “I felt horrible. I wanted to adopt all of them and take them home.”
She said she called the shelter’s director, Ashley Haslam to address her concern about the hot temperatures.
“Ashley said there’s a problem with the swamp cooler because they’re not working properly and it doesn’t cool the building down that much. She said there’s not enough in the budget to buy new ones,” said Rovira. “She encouraged me to contact the county commissioners, which I did. But I never heard back from anyone.”
Rovira said she returned to the shelter on Monday when temperatures hit triple digits with a new digital thermometer.
“I set the thermometer down. When I went back, it was 89 degrees. So I picked it up, moved it to another kennel. I went to the far back side of the kennel to look at all the animals and it was still 89 degrees,” she said.
County commissioners’ response to online post
Rovira’s friend, Marti Russell posted the photos she took online Monday evening, where it was shared more than one thousand times in 24 hours and caught the attention of Weber County commissioners. They addressed the post in their meeting Tuesday morning.
“This morning, we’ve been running that down. We’ve had some heating and air conditioning folks out there. We’ve been checking…and I’m not saying our heating and air conditioning’s perfect, but it is not dysfunctional,” said Commissioner Scott Jenkins said in the meeting. “It is functional right now. It’s working just fine.”
Jenkins proceeded to discredit the validity of the post.
“The best that we can come up with is that this a bogus post. It is not true,” he said. “It appears someone is just trying to whip up a bunch of people to come protest.”
Commissioner Gage Froerer said they have not been made aware of any issues related to the shelter’s cooling system.
“I’ve received no information that would show there’s been any requests from the shelter or other departments that that system needed to be repaired or replaced over the last two years that I was able to research,” said Froerer.
But in an interview with media later that Tuesday afternoon, Weber County Chief Deputy Brandon Roundy said temperature regulation has been a concern for the shelter.
“This has actually been an ongoing complaint from last year because the temperatures got a little high at the animal shelter. Since then, we’ve been addressing it with some budget approved to be able to address it. Our initial strategy was to replace the media or the panels of the air conditioners, the way our air-conditioners are set up is they are swamp type coolers,” said Roundy.
Jenkins also disputed claims made by animal advocate Michelle Holbrook that inquiries made to the commission were not returned.
“We checked this morning and we have had no calls that we can identify to her. Each one of us individually have verified that there were no calls. So this appears to be a hoax,” he said.
When asked about the comments made about her during the commissioners’ meeting, Holbrook sent this statement to ABC4 News:
“I am shocked and appalled that I was called out in a meeting that I had not even attended. What came out of their mouth was blatant lies. To imply that anyone in our community that is trying to bring light to a situation that needs to be changed…is either lying or creating a hoax is defamation of character. They lied saying they had never been contacted by anyone this time, but we have proof that they were.”– MICHELLE HOLBROOK
Shelter officials’ response
Chief Deputy Roundy told media Tuesday that the shelter’s swamp coolers are working and their maintenance team comes in one to two times a week to monitor the cooling system. Since they began investigating Monday, he said they haven’t been able to find any outstanding temperature readings in their facility.
“But that 89 degrees, there’s a lot of questions and concerns when you can post something like that on social media,” he said. “I’m not trying to say that somebody’s trying to put false information out there, but we would like to find out where was the monitor was placed to get that 89 degrees? Did they allow it to come in and actually get climatized to the actual temperature of the room?”
As shelter officials continue to look into the effectiveness of their cooling system, Roundy said they may bring in fans and ‘porta-coolers’ if the weather becomes too hot for the swamp coolers to maintain a cool temperature indoors.
“We’re doing a lot. We just don’t want to go throwing money at it. Let’s identify really what the problem is. Maybe it’s a specific area that needs to have an AC unit put in versus replacing all of the units on the roof and just try to be efficient stewards of the county taxpayer dollars,” he said.
Rovira said she thinks the shelter should get rid of the swamp coolers altogether.
“They’re not effective when it gets this hot anyway. They should put in Central Air. You can’t tell me that with all the tax money we pay as citizens, Weber County cannot afford to put air conditioners in their shelter,” she said. “Bottom line is we just want it taken care of.”
Possible inaccurate thermostat readings
One of the concerns addressed in Rovira’s photos were differences in between her thermometer’s temperature reading and the shelter’s thermostat reading.
“When I took my thermometer and put it on top of their thermostat to take a picture, their thermostat said it was 80 degrees. There was no way it was 80 in there. It was hot,” she said.
During a media tour of the shelter Tuesday, a thermostat was spotted in the control room that displayed 88 degrees for the Dog Adoption room. Staff said the reading was likely inaccurate because they didn’t pick up the same temperature with their handheld thermometers during the tour.
“We do have some concerns on those digital monitors. We’re going to investigate this complaint. All complaints are valid until proven otherwise. We do care about these animals,” said Chief Roundy.