State inspectors paid a surprise visit to the Warren Animal Shelter Tuesday afternoon after receiving anonymous tips about conditions at the cramped shelter at the end of Wood Street.
Special agent Joseph Warzycha from the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and veterinary paramedic Marisa Coates from the state Department of Environmental Management, arrived at the shelter shortly after 1 p.m. and spent about an hour looking over the facility.
Main Animal Control Officer Heidi Garrity, who was injured in an accident in the town animal control van earlier this month, was not there. However, animal control officer Kathi Krause was, along with Warren Deputy Police Chief Joseph Loiselle, who left shortly after their arrival.
Dr. Finocchio said Monday that RISPCA and DEM officials planned to visit the shelter after the RISPCA received several recent complaints about conditions there. The complaints dealt mainly with cleanliness concerns and other problems, he said:
“They’re about the conditions there under which the animals are living, and the care they’re being given,” Dr. Finocchio said. “These are allegations; so to be on the side of caution we’re going to go in with an olive branch.”
Over the course of the hour-long visit the visitors moved their way from the front office throughout the cramped facility. One of animal officers’ concerns was the number of animals in the cramped facility, and veterinarians noted that as they toured the facility.
They found other issues, too — five guinea pigs being housed in the main cat room since there was nowhere else to put them — and cleanliness issues outside the facility. Out back, they found old stacks of cages and a closed off area where one animal suffering from parvo had been kept some time back.
However, shelter workers told inspectors that no animals currently housed at the shelter have the disease.
Dr. Finocchio said prior to the site visit that the town will be informed of the deficiencies found, and given a chance to correct them. The authority for overseeing the findings would fall to DEM, which oversees all municipal animal shelters.
“Our concern is whether the animals are being properly cared for,” he said. “I would assume they would have a certain period of time to correct those deficiencies, and then if they do not, the state would move from there.”