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Animal shelter in turmoil

The shelter also hired veterinarian Dr. Roger Blankfien to take the place of Coger until that position can be filled as well.

Over the past several months, the shelter has been refocusing its mission and management strategies in the face of decreased funding and a need for increased services. After Friedman came on board, the shelter hired consultant Barbara Carr, director of the Erie County SPCA. Carr did not recommend cutting Friedman, said Blanch. She only called for greater public communication and more efficient management.

"We have a vision for the shelter and want to get the right people in place to realize that vision," said MHRHS board president and acting executive director, Kathleen Thiel in a written statement she made at a recent board meeting. Attempts to reach Thiel were unsuccessful.

The shelter came under fire in September, after shelter staff made the decision to euthanize nearly 300 dogs and cats. The decision didn't sit well with shelter volunteers, some of whom left.

The decision to go with euthanasia was regretful, said Cox, from Colorado. Cox, 71, said he has "flunked retirement" since leaving his SPCA post in Texas. He has been traveling throughout the country helping shelters like Mohawk Hudson get back on their feet. He has yet to visit the facility and is scheduled to arrive Dec. 7.

"It's (euthanasia) unusual, but they have a vet on staff, and I'd imagine it was a vet's call," he said. "It's truly regretful, but you can't comment on something unless you were in the middle of it."

The call to euthanize the animals was made by a team of veterinarians, said Friedman, who has no veterinarian background. She called in a number of them when news of the outbreak broke, she said. The then medical director consulted with the outside veterinarians and made the call to go with mass euthanasia and move on from there with a follow up protocol. That protocol included the closure to contain any disease incubation and the cleaning of the facility, she said.

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