Animal Advocates Say Their Offer of Free Beds to Huntsville Shelter is Refused

I received this letter yesterday from no kill advocate Brie Kavanaugh in Alabama regarding a Kuranda bed drive offered to Huntsville Animal Services. I edited the letter for space and clarity:

The shelter dogs are on concrete floors with some towels and blankets. The public is asked to help with laundry, leading to what must be incredibly high utility bills. The shelter has a 2 million dollar annual budget with a line item for “food and care of animals” which is less than 3 percent of the overall budget. The shelter was recently offered donated dog beds by my no kill advocacy group through the Kuranda Shelter Bed Program. This is a public service program sponsored by Kuranda to help private citizens and welfare groups facilitate donations of beds to shelters at a reduced cost. A web page is set up on the Kuranda site and people are directed to that page to buy a bed which is then shipped directly to the shelter. The beds in the program are considered the gold standard for shelters nationally.

In our case, the shelter need do nothing at all for the drive other than to assemble donated beds once they arrive, perhaps hosting a “slumber party” event to bring people to the shelter to help put beds together. Media was told about our plans in hopes of getting some positive news coverage. A local business leader said that not only will she buy some beds, she’ll go to the shelter to help assemble them. A flyer was readied, the public was primed on social media and we waited for the “okay” to launch the drive.

Common sense would dictate that upon being offered free beds, to be purchased by private citizens, the shelter director would enthusiastically say, “Yes! Please.” She did not. She first said she wanted plastic beds made by a company in Italy. She then said she wanted mesh beds because “the dogs like them better.” Never mind that a mesh bed is incredibly difficult to clean, will quickly be destroyed by dogs in a shelter environment and simply will not last. Because in the end, it is apparently more important to be in control and act like you care about the dogs than it is to be gracious about support from the community you serve and get the dogs up off of the floor.

The representative at Kuranda told me she had seen this type of resistance only once from a shelter in Arizona and even that shelter was honest enough to simply say, “The dogs don’t need beds.” Kuranda went above and beyond here, spending hours on phone calls and in email messages, ultimately unable to persuade the shelter to simply accept donated and durable beds.

Shame on Dr. Karen Hill Sheppard, the shelter director. Shame on Karen Buchan, the Animal Care Supervisor. Shame on city officials in Huntsville, Alabama, who have been alerted to this situation and have done nothing to intervene, while applauding the shelter director for doing such a wonderful job with taxpayer dollars.

Who refuses free, donated dog beds which are considered the gold standard for animal shelters? People who just don’t give a damn.

We have since turned our attention to another shelter which, when the offer of free beds was made said, “Yes! Please!”

Aubrie Kavanaugh

Henry sleeping on a Kuranda bed at the National Mill Dog Rescue Kennel in Peyton, Colorado.  (Photo submitted by Brie Kavanaugh)
Henry sleeping on a Kuranda bed at the National Mill Dog Rescue Kennel in Peyton, Colorado. (Photo submitted by Brie Kavanaugh)

While it’s sad to know that the Huntsville shelter dogs are still needlessly languishing on concrete, Brie says that the group’s drive to benefit The Ark has been very successful – meeting its goal to get a bed for every dog kennel in the first week.  Any additional donated beds will now be used in the shelter’s outside dog areas.  Awesome.

41 thoughts on “Animal Advocates Say Their Offer of Free Beds to Huntsville Shelter is Refused

  1. Do you honestly consider this a worthwhile story? A shelter and their choice of beds?

    There is absolutely no way to confirm the story. Obviously the writer disagrees with the shelter on many issues, and she decided to write this letter in order to bash the shelter, which she whole heartedly dislikes.

    Read between the lines, people. This person hates the people at the shelter and is writing this as a reason to state her feelings, accurate or inaccurate.


    1. Jackie – Absolutely it’s a worthy story! Are the dogs still on concrete floors? If so, that should answer your question. I was part of an effort 10 years ago in my city to provide Kuranda dog beds because the dogs at the time only were on a wet concrete floor was well. At the time, our city shelter was in an awful dilapidated building with no volunteers and little effort to market the animals (this has changed). However, the shelter graciously accepted the beds and the dogs benefited. Huntsville should too – anything less is inhumane, unacceptable and incomprehensible. Virtually every shelter in America uses Kuranda type beds – there is no reason why Huntsville shouldn’t.


      1. Not true about every shelter using these beds. I have seen and been to plenty here in the Bay Area alone and Northern California that don’t use them. Their size just isn’t accommodating many run sizes, and the ability to clean them properly is another issue that gets brought up. There are other types of beds that are easier to clean and maintain than the Kuranda beds. The Kuranda beds have too many pieces and they don’t stand up to constant and daily use, and they can’t be properly cleaned in areas with high probability of distemper and parvo and rabies like urban and suburban areas. I have talked to many staff members and manager and supervisors who won’t use them and don’t accept the offers.


      2. I have a really hard time with the defense of the dogs are better on the floor than on a Kuranda bed and it’s okay to expend taxpayer money doing tons of laundry instead (and even asking people to remove towels and blankets from the building to do laundry in their homes).

        I challenge anyone to provide me with evidence that:

        1) Kurandas are difficult to clean
        2) there are other beds that are easier to clean and maintain which come with a warranty and are weight rated for 125 lbs.
        3) Kurandas don’t stand up to daily use

        Municipal shelters belong to the public they serve and they are staffed with public servants paid with tax dollars. It is indefensible for any municipal shelter to refuse free donations of beds which are easy to clean and come with a warranty. Period. All this whining and defending of shelters which behave this way really is illogical and in some ways is tragically comical.


      3. Let’s get a show of hands here for anyone, and I do mean anyone, on any of these posts to this blog, who has actually worked as a paid employee at any government animal shelter anywhere in the United States. I know about the one person who was fired as the director, and I have been trying to be kind to her and not mention that she was fired from the organization where she was working and later bashing (Gee, a former employee bashing their own former employer. That is a new one.).

        I don’t believe that volunteers qualify as people able to accurately access the organization since they have very limited hours and limited duties. In other words, they are not required to do the difficult duties that exists in day to day shelter work, and that includes answering phones from the people wanting to know how to surrender their newborn puppies, eight month old out of control puppies and the 15 year old dog that they can’t take with them on the move, but who they have had since he was eight weeks old. Volunteers get to do the fun work like walk dogs and play with cats and talk to people at parking lot fundraisers.


    2. There’s no way to confirm most stories, if you want to look at it that way. But this is a trusted source so I decided to post. If it turns out to be some sort of hoax (which I very seriously doubt), that’s on me. I’ll take responsibility for making the decision to publish it.

      As far as shelter dogs being left on concrete when they could be sleeping on free Kuranda pets, yeah fuck them, I guess.


      1. I don’t even know why you would question the worthiness of this. To me it sounds like an apologist cheerleader for the facility (I hardly would call it a true shelter) that has refused the help to get their dogs off of concrete floors. I am curious what the kill rate is, too.


      2. Thousand of animals get adopted every day into great homes by great groups doing heroic feats to save animals. Groups fly animals all over the country to save them. Volunteers give count hours to savw animals every day. Just this past weekend at a large adootion fair one group here in the Bay Area called Rocket Dog Rescue adopted over 40 animals in a single weekend, all animals saved from death. That is a much bigger story than a single shelter’s choice of beds.


    3. What is your issue? You are one strange (and not in an amusing, eccentric way) chick. Just being a contrarian apologist for shelters doesn’t help animals either, yet you persist in doing it. Please go away, as you aren’t adding anything useful to discussions.


    4. “Do you honestly consider this a worthwhile story? A shelter and their choice of beds?” Your question is ludicrous; the story is not about the shelter’s choice of beds, as you well know. The shelter’s refusal of this donation makes this a very worthwhile story. If you find it so meritless, why are you still here?


  2. I suppose if you think the safety and comfort of dogs matters it’s a worthwhile story.

    I can’t verify that Coffee County that aren’t using their beds – but I see photos posted from multiple rescues and they aren’t visible in any of them.


  3. For Jackie Phillips or anyone else who doubts the accuracy of my input to Shirley:

    I do not hate the people at the shelter. I find their behavior to be both irresponsible and arrogant. It is not difficult to simply accept donated items graciously. If you think I have misstated facts, you are free to visit the shelter yourself and see how the dogs are housed. You are also free to contact the shelter staff and ask if they agreed to accept donated beds or not. I could have shared the letter I got from Kuranda about the many hours spent trying to persuade the shelter to get on board but I did not because that doesn’t add to the story of what transpired.

    This particular shelter has been patting itself on the back for progress made, has made inaccurate statements about programs and services to make things look better than they are and is on the receiving end of much praise from people who don’t live or work in this area. It is important to me in my role as an advocate to speak the truth and to let people know that all is not as it seems.

    Why anyone would defend a shelter which refuses items which would contribute to the welfare of the animals living there is simply beyond my comprehension. Shame on anyone who thinks that it’s okay to refuse free beds which can help dogs be comfortable and better rested.

    If this shelter would show concern for the comfort of animals and would stop destroying savable animals using tax dollars, no one would applaud that more loudly than me.

    Read between the lines, people. I care more about the welfare of the dogs than the people who are paid with my tax dollars to care for them.


    1. I can’t speak on whether they refused the beds & if so why. I definitely agree that there is no logical reason to turn away free dog beds. However, I do live and work in rescue here in Huntsville, AL and the Huntsvile Animal Shelter kill rate has dropped DRAMATICALLY this year. They are working very hard with the local rescue groups to become a no-kill shelter. So while I can’t speak to this specific situation I do know that their overall intent is to become a no-kill shelter and help all the animals that they can. This summer the whole shelter had to be emptied and cleaned due to some sickness and they were able to save every single animal that was there with the group efforts of local rescue groups and volunteers. There is always more than one side to a story. I have personally witnessed the awesome team of rescue groups and volunteers in this City and am very proud to be a part of the effort to save as many animals as possible.


  4. As Director at Montgomery County AC in Clarksville, TN – I was outraged when I discovered that there were 60 Kuranda beds locked in the AC storage for over 3 years because the previous Director said the same asinine things when this same program was a success by Animal Advocates. I immediately took the beds out and had staff and volunteers and myself put them together. I explained WHY they were important for the animals and how we would clean them. THREE of my AC Officers went directly to Mayor Bowers complaining about the work, and that the dogs didn’t need them and they were unsanitary and we were going to have disease. I reported to the Mayor – and she and her head of Admin Phil Harpel leaned hard on me to STOP using these beds. We didn’t and I explained why. It was one of many things I was reprimanded for BEFORE they fired me for lifting the 9 Breed Adoption Ban and starting a Vaccination program….etc etc etc. Mostly these asshats only care about what they can control. The paranoia about using beds and disease spreading is ridiculous…etc etc etc Huntsville, AL has a budget of TWO MILLION for animal control????? My God- Nashville Metro only has a Budget of 1.5 Million….what do they DO with all of that money?????


    1. Huntsville Animal Shelter has been working tirelessly with local rescue groups to become a no -kill shelter. I would say there are always 2 sides to a story so don’t believe everything you read.


      1. Huntsville Animal Services continues to refuse to embrace the proven no kill programs to become a no kill community while the local rescue groups do most of the hard work. Ask yourself why we have been having this same conversation for 7 years and savable animals continue to die. The city has known for years how to stop destroying savable animals, yet it continues to do just that.

        If you think it’s okay for them to refuse free beds and keep dogs on the concrete floor, I really have no response to that at all.


  5. Jackie Phillips, all your posts are apologia for shelters, as though they do no wrong and we, the vengeful public, sit around and make this shit up in an effort to discredit the poor, beleaguered shelter administrators who have only the well-being of the animals in mind. I have no doubt that it is mighty cozy under your troll rock. Feel free to return there.


  6. The bottom line is – being treated as we would treat our own pets – are tax dollars wisely spent – this sure seems like a control issue from animal control – don’t forget it is TAXPAYER $$’s. Shame on you!


    1. No. The Greater Huntsville Humane Society is a limited admission no kill shelter. This information relates to Huntsville Animal Services which is the municipal shelter serving the City of Huntsville and Madison County, Alabama.


  7. Are you planning on posting any of my comments? Just because you won’t post my comments won’t make me not continue to voice my concerns about what you post and the propaganda you attempt to sell to the public. The lies you spread will come out in other ways.


    1. Jackie Phillips – your comments are held in the moderation queue so that you don’t blow up the place while I am offline. They get published after I get back online. You are treading on a thin patch of ice between moderated and banned because of your trollish behavior. Straighten up and fly right.


  8. Shirley — report on, girlfriend! I (and soooooo many others) have complete faith in your reporting. We trust your insight and responsible research. All naysayers . . . go piss on somebody else’s post.


  9. Of course they can be cleaned and sanitized Jackie and much easier in a shelter setting than blankets on a hard floor (our state veterinarian’s office says so). I think we all see who you really are and what you represent.


    1. When was the last time your state veterinarian actually worked at the shelter and worked to clean all the beds day after day after day, week after week, month after month, and had to disinfect the shelter when there was a parvo, distemper or rabies breakout? I bet the state vet was sitting in their cozy corner office reading about their pension and health benefits and having their Porsche detailed in the parking garage, while the shelter employees tried to figure out how to pay their rent on $8 an hour and the manager was trying to figure out how to house the new 50 animals that came in that day, both owner surrender and strays, and the director was trying to figure out out to fit all the needs of the shelter into a measly budget that is constantly cut and cut, while he sees the Mayor getting a pay raise and a new Mercedes. Where was your state vet when all this was going on? Out to lunch?


      1. “When was the last time your state veterinarian actually worked at the shelter and worked to clean all the beds day after day after day, week after week, month after month, and had to disinfect the shelter when there was a parvo, distemper or rabies breakout?”

        I’m curious as to how the dogs would get rabies from improperly cleaned Kuranda beds? I’ll be kind here and assume you misspoke on that last one.

        Use of correct sanitation procedures and products (like accelerated hydrogen peroxide) make the cleaning of Kuranda beds not only faster and easier than washing towels and blankets, but also more effective.

        And I don’t know about your shelter, but in mine, volunteers do grunt work, too – every cat volunteer knows how to clean a cat cage, every dog volunteer knows how to clean the kennels. Ringworm, lice, calicivirus, and parvo – all need to be dealt with in an effective and efficient way. That’s why all cat litter boxes are disposable and all animals have Kuranda beds (donated by the community) for their comfort and cleanliness.

        For a shelter to openly shun a community’s goodwill – even if it were misplaced (which is it clearly not, here, given the number of shelters who use and swear by Kuranda beds both for sanitation and durability) – is appalling. The shelter exists to serve the community. Shelter directors who intentionally segregate themselves from the community serve no one but themselves.

        A young pup or an old dog left on concrete is offensive. When it’s completely unnecessary (as in this case), it’s galling. And completely illustrative of the nature of the shelter director.

        So yes, it’s a story. A story that needs to be told. Because change doesn’t happen until people know it needs to happen.


      2. “The shelter exists to serve the community.”

        This is the same community who keeps the shelter in business by not containing their pets and allowing them to breed recklessly, by not vaccinating and spreading disease, by not spay/neuter and surrendering and abandoning litter after litter after litter of underage and sick puppies and kittens, by not following the laws and rules of the area, by not claiming their lost pets, by not volunteering and fostering and adopting, by not licensing and by not treating employees with respect on the phone and at the counter.

        Do you mean that community?


      3. Yes, actually, I do.

        The fact that these things continue to happen makes me wonder exactly what the shelter is doing to end the cycle? Do they have education and outreach programs? Low cost s/n? Accessibility to services? Vaccination clinics? Pet retention programs?

        A shelter is no longer an island unto itself – the ones who are will continue to be overwhelmed and fail at lifesaving.

        Shelters must now embrace the communities they serve. They must act a part of it and take a leadership role in responsible pet ownership and lifesaving.

        So what is this shelter doing to improve the community they serve?


  10. It takes less than 5 minutes to assemble a Kuranda bed. It takes less than one minute to clean a Kuranda bed. It takes much more time to do loads of laundry at the shelter and to solicit volunteers to take soiled linens into their own homes to do the laundry. The whole “it’s too much work” argument does not wash when most of the hands on labor in this particular shelter is done by volunteers and not by paid employees. And I’m not sure how anyone justifies the daily utility costs to do load after load of laundry, only to have machines break and require maintenance.

    I do not have to work in a government run shelter to know the challenges present in any shelter. I know plenty of people who manage nonprofit shelters nationally, some of which are private nonprofits and some of which hold county contracts. The dogs are better off when they are not on the floor and have a sanitary and comfortable place to sleep.

    There is no defense to providing inadequate care for animals in shelters, particularly those funded by tax dollars. The apologist from San Leandro can type and rant and defend all she wants and that won’t change facts. There is no way to have a true conversation with someone who defends substandard performance with the Oh Poor Pitiful Me Defense. Surely we all have better ways to spend our time and should go do those things. Don’t waste your time on Jackie Phillips anymore folks. You only give her more to think about and more to type. When she could be doing a bed drive of her own for dogs in her own area.


    1. “When she could be doing a bed drive of her own for dogs in her own area.”

      FYI. My own immediate area/county contains seven government shelters all spread out from one end of the county to the other and back. Every single one is stuff to the gills with animals with a high euthanasia rate every day. Outside that single county is a wide range of shelters, all government run, with an occasional over stuffed private shelter to help either their immediate government shelter or to help far flung shelters that have absolutely no help at all from their citizens who can’t figure out how to contain their pets or spay/neuter. The majority of work is done to save animals by private rescues in their own foster homes, and they use crates and blankets and washing machines. The turn over is so high in these government shelters with little staff and little resources.


  11. Maybe the shelter director should spend a good month sleeping overnight in the shelter, on the cold hard floor & see if she straightens up and flies right then. What a heartless individual.


    1. She is not a “heartless individual.” Dr. Sheppard is a very hardworking and kind lady. I’ve worked alongside her at adoption events and she works so hard and knew of (more than just the name) every dog from HAS that was there. I’m sure there is more to the story than what we are seeing here. Don’t be so quick to judge.


      1. There really is not, Caroline. She was offered free beds and said no. Kuranda tried to persuade her to accept beds and she said no. If you doubt the accuracy of those statements, please do ask Dr. Karen or Karen Buchan why there are no dog beds in the shelter. Perhaps they can explain to you why the offer of free beds is one they would not accept. I am as dumbfounded by this as anyone in our community. It makes no sense at all. The drive done for The Ark after the city shelter refused beds netted 50 donated beds in a week. The volunteers love them and the dogs are up off the floor. There is no reason why this could not have happened at 4950 Triana Boulevard.


  12. For being such a “non-worthy” article, someone sure has her panties in a bunch over it. You sleep on a concrete floor for one night and see if you don’t find any kind of bed let alone a FREE bed worthy


  13. I’m concerned with all the judging going on. Don’t be so quick to judge based on one blog story or on a letter. Dr. Sheppard is a VERY hardworking woman and cares about all the animals in her shelter and beyond. We worked together at an adoption event, and she knew every dog and cat and was aware of their needs (then met those needs). She was open to help and ideas. I really like and respect Dr. Sheppard. And I’m under the understanding that there wasn’t anyone to buy the beds. They just wanted to do a drive.
    She also needs help at the shelter! Let’s (the commenters) volunteer! There are no empty cat kennels and two empty dog kennels left. Foster some pets! Make a difference!


    1. Caroline, you are mistaken. My advocacy group offered to do a drive, had the media lined up, had Cathy Anderson (of Woody Anderson Ford) ready to help and all we needed was a “yes.” We would have launched the drive and the city would have had to do nothing but put the beds together. Cathy Anderson was prepared to bring assembly line help from the Ford dealership to help. People were ready to donate. The whole project was stopped due to the city’s refusal to simply say, “yes, please.”

      Think what you will about Dr. Sheppard but all is not as it seems. She has known about the programs and services to stop destroying healthy and treatable animals for years and has continued to do just that.



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