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Deal with APA brings improved conditions for animals in the care of St. Louis County

Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Becky Kling, 62, of Creve Coeur, looks at Jalapeño, a 5-month-old kitten, on Tuesday at the APA Olivette Animal Shelter in Olivette. Kling said she lost four of her pets in the past year, including her 20-year-old cat, and is considering adding a pet.

A new contract between St. Louis County and the Animal Protective Association of Missouri appears to be giving the animals spending time at the county’s animal shelter a better quality of life.

The APA showed off its new space to the public on Tuesday, almost two months after it officially took over operations of the facility, located at 10521 Baur Blvd. in Olivette.

“This allows us to be able to focus on what we're great at,” said Dr. Kanika Cunningham, the county’s new director of public health. “We can rely on our community partners to be able to provide great care to the animals.”

The shelter had been the source of controversy for years. A group of activists showed up to county council meetings to complain about a lack of attention given to the dogs. Shelter officials were accused of needlessly euthanizing healthy animals. A third-party audit found several areas of concern.

The county eventually decided to outsource operations of its shelter to the APA, which signed a five-year, $16 million deal, with an option for two one-year extensions.

“I commend the county for making the decision to outsource,” said Sarah Javier, the APA’s executive director. “The expertise just isn't there. We have people who are veterinarians, animal care techs, they specialize in working with animals.”

The APA did a deep-clean of the space and implemented new cleaning protocols, Javier said. It also brought in behavioral specialists to help make sure the dogs got the evaluations and training needed.

Longtime APA volunteer Joann Stephan stopped by the building a few times before the association took over. It’s now much cleaner and brighter, she said, and the dogs now have beds and toys.

“They’re also doing things like a foster program to get dogs out of the kennel while they wait for their homes, and that helps to get information about their behaviors and things they know, things they like, and also makes them much more adoptable,” Stephan said.

Between Dec. 5, 2022, and Jan. 30, 232 animals were adopted — up from 70 over the same time period a year ago, according to the APA.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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