Police chief bans volunteer from Florence animal shelter - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Police chief bans volunteer from Florence animal shelter

Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler explained why he banned a volunteer from the Florence-Lauderdale Animal Shelter. Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler explained why he banned a volunteer from the Florence-Lauderdale Animal Shelter.
FLORENCE, AL (WAFF) -

At a news conference Monday afternoon, Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler explained why he banned the head volunteer from the Florence-Lauderdale Animal Shelter.

Tyler said he took the action because of several cases in which the volunteer, Debbie Raphun, was insubordinate to shelter employees. After 30 days, the volunteer's status will be reviewed.

"Nothing else at the shelter has changed," he said. "Volunteers are welcome, fosters are welcome, and rescues are welcome."

Volunteers have spent the last five years working to change the culture at the animal shelter, and he gave them credit for helping bring the operation from a high-kill to low-kill facility. Tyler said the shelter needs structure and better management to save as many animals as they can and be certain that tens of thousands of dollars in donations are closely accounted for.

"It's important for volunteers to understand the structure," Tyler said. "They are not the ones who drive the ship. The employees are the ones who drive the ship, and they're there to support us. You can't have a volunteer that goes around and challenges everything that the paid, employed supervisor does. It's not acceptable."

He said it would be irresponsible for him to hand the operations of a city department over to a group of volunteers.  

"No volunteer anywhere is going to be allowed to undermined or challenge the leader of the organization. It's not going to happen at the Florence Animal Control either. They just have to buy into it. We're on board with them. They just have to buy into it," he said.

Tyler defended an employee, Sgt. Melissa Beasley, who he said has received "many crude, harassing, and angry comments" despite merely following his instructions.

The shelter was investigated by the Alabama Board of Veterinary Medicine in response to a formal complaint. Tyler said no violations were discovered, but he met with a group of local veterinarians to hear their concerns about the daily management and operation of the shelter.

Raphun said she just returned from a family trip and was surprised when told of the ban on Jan. 10 because no one had approached her about any issues.

"I was completely shocked," she said. "I'm not really sure why the city and the county are against me. I thought this would make them look better, make them proud."

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