Good Ol’ Boys Taking AZ Shelter Back to the Bad Old Days

The Benson Animal Shelter in Arizona reportedly transformed under the leadership of ACO Laurie Fivecoat, about whom area animal advocates had many good things to say at a recent city council meeting:

Rica Powell, founder of Smiling Dog Rescue out of Benson, said that prior to Laurie Fivecoat’s appointment as shelter manager, the rescue community of Southern Arizona was not involved with the Benson Animal Shelter “in any way, shape or form,” citing a closed door policy and lack of transparency. She described the facility as a “shelter of the past, with a 1950s attitude.”

Powell said Fivecoat changed that when she came on board. “The changes that happened are astonishing,” Powell added. “She brought your shelter from an archaic situation to a vibrant up and coming shelter which was community involved, with volunteers and social networking, low cost spay and neuters,” and more.


“Last year almost 90 percent of the animals that were taken to the Benson shelter left alive and well,” [animal advocate Geir] Hundal said. He spoke of Fivecoat’s networking efforts with outside rescue organizations and other shelters, describing those efforts as “an unshakeable commitment to save every life possible, even at the expense of extra time and effort,” adding that “Staff would spend up to a year finding the right home for the right pet. That’s a job well done.”

The city’s good ol’ boy police chief apparently longed for that “shelter of the past” and re-hired a good ol’ boy former Benson ACO, Paul Teza, near the end of January, appointing him shelter manager. Fivecoat is still employed as an ACO but is no longer manager.  Teza had managed the facility several years ago, with a live release rate of just 59%. The first things he did upon being re-hired were to cease the transfer of animals to other shelters, shut out the team of volunteers except for those he personally approved, terminate all rescue partnerships except those he personally approved (reportedly none) and kill a dog named Rusty, a shelter favorite who was described by volunteers as “goofy”.

Rusty, as shown on the Benson News-Sun website.

Two year old Rusty had been “fawned over” by the public at adoption events and was one of the few dogs an elderly volunteer was able to walk regularly. Teza reportedly noted in Rusty’s records that the dog was “aggressive, a bite risk, nervous in confined spaces and that he actively avoided direct observation.” So he ordered him killed. Teza seems to have seen in 11 minutes behavioral traits that none of the volunteers saw in Rusty in the past 11 months.  I don’t think I would like that guy staring at me either.

When the local paper asked police chief Moncada about the killing, as well as the quashed networking and volunteer programs, he provided a statement.  It doesn’t adequately explain any of these issues and ends with the following:

Prior to Paul’s hiring, conditions at the shelter were poor at best. Now, between his and Sgt. (Floyd) Graf’s efforts, the shelter is in better condition.

So the shelter saving 89% of its animals was a hellhole but things are looking up now that Mr. 59% is in charge?  Maybe we should ask Rusty’s opinion – oh, never mind.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

5 thoughts on “Good Ol’ Boys Taking AZ Shelter Back to the Bad Old Days

  1. When they start out with a spite killing you know it’s bad. I don’t understand how some people have developed such shriveled souls. Sorrow for Rusty and those who loved him.

  2. It must be so hard on the people who worked to turn things around, only to have it all backslide, again. But now that others have seen what could be done, they know that it CAN be done and there’s no excuse for running a shelter like a slaughterhouse.

    I hope their despair turns to anger and they continue to fight for change. The powers that be can be a huge obstacle that must be chipped away at…

  3. First thought is what’s the story behind the rehiring of the murdering director? Me thinks there is much more to this than what we are reading. It must be horrible for the people who care and volunteered to see this happening. RIP Rusty ~ you were a pawn in a power play and lost your life because of it.

    1. Read the article referenced. The volunteers said the if city did not hire some help the shelter director was so overworked she would quit.

  4. I am one of those volunteers that had worked with Rusty for the 11 months he was in our shelter. I can say this, Rusty was NEVER vicious, a bite risk, a flight risk, or any of the other “reasons” why, with the exception of Rustys 11 month stay at our shelter (which is listed as a reason on the actual kennel paperwork I have a picture of it), Paul Teza euthanized him. There is a lot more to this story than what there appears. More of it is coming out now that the full time ACO has resigned due to medical issues from the stress and mistreatment she suffered at the hands of this city. I can fill the author of this blog in on so much more if she would like to hear it.

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