Bastrop Co. Animal Shelter director resigns

Bastrop County animal shelter (KXAN Photo)
Bastrop County animal shelter (KXAN Photo)

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Bastrop County Animal Shelter is looking for a new director, after the previous one, Erica Thompson, resigned.

This comes after months of complaints from former volunteers and other animal advocates in the county, over leadership.

“I love where I live and I think we can do better,” said Laura Jackson, a spay-neuter specialist.

Those invested in the shelter hope new leadership will lead to positive change they say the shelter desperately needs.

“I don’t mind that our shelter has made a mistake or two, we all make mistakes. But to repeat those mistakes over and over?” said Jackson. “We have to update our staff and protocols and shelter management.”

Jackson conducts a spay/neuter outreach program in Central Texas, SpayStreet. It is one-on-one intervention in service resistant neighborhoods. She’s conducted the outreach program for Austin and surrounding rural areas.

“Prevention is key to managing a good shelter and getting a good director in, a good work ethic, protocols, accountability and transparency.”

In recent months, former volunteers spoke out to county commissioners about conditions.

“Kennels are cleaned once a day and sometimes have deplorable conditions, which have led to outbreaks of fatal diseases that can run rampant if proper cleaning procedures aren’t implemented,” Vivian Hemme, a former manager of the shelter, said to commissioners. “Dogs aren’t taken out on a regular basis, resulting in behavioral and health issues.”

County Commissioner Bubba Snowden is the shelter’s liaison.

“There’s some things we need to improve, we’re going to improve them,” said Snowden. “We’re going to make the shelter better and better and better.”

He says the shelter faces challenges with funding and retaining staff, and acknowledges the shelter needs more structure.

When asked about Thompson’s resignation, Snowden says she was not pushed out by the county.

“Just the stress of the shelter – and it is a stressful job, because you have so many people who have so much expectation out of the director. And I think Erica is just ready for a change,” said Snowden.

Another concern from people in the community is a lack of procedures.

“There is a policy manual in place, it’s always been in place. Is it always followed? Probably not. We try to follow it most times, but every day is a different day at the shelter,” said Snowden.

KXAN reached out to Thompson prior to her last day, requesting the shelter’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs); however, we did not receive them.

Thompson also declined to comment for this story.

The interim director, Ashley Hermans, says she will be reviewing the shelter’s SOPs and updating them as needed as part of her position.

In addition to hiring a permanent director, the shelter has four positions open. They also are in need of more volunteers.

Snowden says he’s confident new leadership will lead to improvements at the shelter.

“Find the right person that knows how to take the lead and direct these employees. We’re going to find that director, that director’s going to be a big key to moving the shelter forward. We have some good employees out there, some very loyal employees,” he said.

Advocates are hopeful this is true, because so many animals depend on it.

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