Roanoke Pound Volunteers Locked Out by Management

Volunteers at the Regional Center for Animal Care and Protection in Roanoke, Virginia were heartbroken when they found out two of their favorite dogs at the pound, Murray and Smokey, were suddenly killed on management’s order earlier this month. Smokey had a volunteer willing to take him if he was ever put on the kill list and although she had reportedly communicated that to staff, she was never called.  The killings represented a tipping point for volunteers, as they wrote in an opinion piece on

The concerns of volunteers go far beyond the deaths of the two dogs mentioned, as sad and unnecessary as they were. There is systemic mismanagement, high turnover with constant firings and people quitting because of the negative environment, hostility toward volunteers that emanates from RCACP executive director Dave Flagler himself, an atmosphere of distrust because employees are asked whether they are “with” the staff or the volunteers, poor customer service with regular complaints from the public that fall on deaf ears, outdated sheltering practices and an unwillingness to do anything different or beyond what has always been done.

Volunteers and local citizens regularly attend the quarterly meetings of RCACP’s executive committee […] to voice our concerns. They too fall on deaf ears.

Frustrated volunteers planned a peaceful protest after Murray and Smokey were killed.  When management found out about the planned protest, the volunteers were locked out of the pound.  The protest was canceled and management let the vols come back after a few days.

Flagler told WDBJ that volunteers must accept the fact that the facility kills animals:

“If they cannot accept that, then it’s quite possible that this isn’t the right place for them,” said Flagler.


The facility director says the volunteers are overreacting to something that is in the day of a life of an animal shelter.

If killing animals has become so ingrained for Flagler that he literally locks out anyone who doesn’t agree that shelter pet killing is standard fare, he needs to find a new line of work.  Wanting to do better is supposed to be a laudable objective, not a contemptible machination.

Vols recently addressed the shelter’s board to call for Flagler’s ouster.  Instead, the board unanimously voted to have an advisory board conduct a study of animal killing at the pound and report back in 30 days. Flagler said he will only change if forced:

If the review […] finds his approach is out of step of modern practices, he said, then it will be time for him to change.

I’m less concerned about the degree to which this shelter director is out of step with modern practices and more concerned that he doesn’t seem to realize that killing a dog who has an adopter is wrong.  As is punishing those who disagree with you when they attempt to exercise their 1st Amendment rights and by extension, punishing the animals by locking out the people who meet their primary socialization needs.  This is basic human stuff.  You can be taught modern practices.  Compassion and humility, not so much.

(Thanks Lisa and Clarice.)


15 thoughts on “Roanoke Pound Volunteers Locked Out by Management

  1. Ah yes, the old, you’re either with us or you’re locked out.

    And a tone deaf shelter board. Yay.

    Look, you’re going to have to come to accept that we kill animals. Sometimes we kill animals that have people who want to adopt them, but that’s just how it is, okay?

  2. A “family was waiting to adopt” a Rottweiler surrendered for having bitten a child. Guess I’m alone in seeing something terribly wrong with a shelter willing to adopt a known biter out to a “family”?!

    Even though the shelter was not willing to release the dog to a member (or members) of the public at large, it was willing to release the dog to a rescue agency. None came forward. It looks very much to me like the shelter did the most responsible thing possible.

    As far as euthanasia being “standard operating procedure” at Roanoke Regional, I looked up their numbers. The euthanasia rate for dogs in 2015 was ~8%. What? Upset because you can’t force it to be 0% yesterday? It is probably one of the lower, if not lowest, rates for public shelters in southwest VA –

    1. “It looks very much to me like the shelter did the most responsible thing possible.”

      Got to disagree. All bites MUST be taken in context. The child was three years old. The dog is a Rottie. The dog bit the child’s finger… I’m assuming that the child still has his finger, though. Which tells me it was not a bite, it was a nip (because an adult Rottie can inflict a LOT of damage on a kid that size in a very short time if there’s any aggression at all involved). I’m also going to say that this nip was most likely a warning or startle response to something happening with the child (who is not a regular in the household) at that moment.

      I would put money on the chance that this Rottie was not only NOT aggressive, but likely had very good bite inhibition. I think that chances are also good that the owner allowed a child to either interact with the dog inappropriately or in a poorly supervised fashion. The fact that he surrendered the dog for “biting a child” when that clearly is NOT what happened (assuming that the kid still has his finger), tells me that he’s either inexperienced with dogs or a poor judge of dog behavior.

      Would I adopt a Rottie who nipped a child, knowing nothing more than that? Absolutely, I would. The fact that the Rottie was so delicate tells me a lot about that animal, even without any context.

      As for denying his adoption to a “family”, well, not all families have children. For all we know, this particular family would have been an excellent match for this dog. But we’ll never know, now.

      As for a rescue “not coming forward” – how many rescues did the shelter contact about this dog before they killed him? How much networking did they do to save his life? Did they even tell the potential adopter that she should contact a local rescue to help her obtain this dog and then give her the names of local rescues they trust? Or did they just look at their watches, say, “Well, time’s up” and kill the dog?

      A good shelter will take a bite in context. A good shelter will work with local rescue groups to increase life saving. A good rescue will try everything they can think of before they kill a healthy, sane animal.

      1. You need to go to the shelter and see for your self. Become a volunteer. Until you do, you have no idea the frustration of having someone out front waiting to adopt a dog and Dave Flagler is in the back euthanize get the very dog they are there to pick up and adopt.

    2. “As far as euthanasia being “standard operating procedure” at Roanoke Regional, I looked up their numbers. The euthanasia rate for dogs in 2015 was ~8%. What? Upset because you can’t force it to be 0% yesterday? ”

      That’s not actually what the post says. It says that killing dogs *who have adopters waiting* is something that the volunteers are just supposed to swallow with a smile on their faces or be locked out. Killing animals who have adopters waiting should not ever be standard fare.

      And I see a lot of transfers in their numbers. Without a breakdown of that, I don’t know how many are going to rescues and how many are going to other shelters (and if displacement killings are happening there because of it). If those are all legit rescue transfers, then good for them. I mean, it’s placing a heavy burden on local rescues, which is easier than marketing your animals yourself, but it’s better than killing them.

      I see cat euth rates are about 36%. Wonder how much marketing they’re doing for their cats?

  3. As a volunteer at RCACP….I can offer a few truths, and not assumptions.
    Yes, the live release rate has increased in recent years; not due to the efforts of shelter staff or leadership from the director, but as a result of the many volunteers, socializing, working with and training the animals in simple commands, taking great photos, and networking these animals on a daily basis, for many hours.
    Mr. Flagler is quick to claim these statistics as his claim to fame with NO effort on his part.
    To also dispel the myth concerning Boss, the Rottweiler. He was surrendered by his owner for “biting a child”, but there are people who have experience in dealing with these types of behavior issues, that are not so quick to jump to conclusions and condemn a dog to die for one mistake. The person wanting Boss, is a long time, multiple Rottweiler owner who made her own judgement, and expressed interest in this animal. As was the other family that expressed an interest in Boss.
    Another myth would be the bald faced lie, Mr. Flagler, has spouted forth, and that would be that ” no rescue came forward”. A rescue did come forth, and was willing to pull this animal for either person.
    All concerned parties were told by Mr. Flagler that Boss would not be available until July 8, 2016. Ms. Simmons called the shelter on July 7, to proceed with acquiring Boss, and was informed that Boss had been euthanized.
    So….with all of this being said….David Flagler’s resignation as the director of RCACP will be cause for celebration here in Southwest Virginia.
    Thank you very much.
    Please….before agreeing with actions you know nothing about…know the facts.

    1. Thank you for your insight, Delores.

      It seems to me then, that the director simply wanted Boss dead and that was that.

      Kudos to the volunteers who get animals out alive, despite the crappy leadership in place.

      It’s a damn shame you have to fight so hard just to get rid of someone who is so bad at what they do.

    2. Thank you for all you and the other volunteers are doing. I so hope you get some leadership in a position of authority who can support you and turn things around. I agree with mikken that it really does sound as if Flagler wanted Boss dead and made sure it happened. Don’t give up. The animals are depending on you!

  4. Killing animals who have people who said they will take them is cold hearted MURDER !

  5. This SORRY piece of CRAP of a so called man NEEDS to GO. There is something going on with him and its not in the best interest of the SPCA You have my vote to give him the boot.I personally will not give and help support this cause as long as he is there and I know a lot of people that support with donations that will follow as long as he is in charge, He did this to himself

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