Thursday, May 18, 2017

City Staff Go Small for Huge Community Problem

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee met today.  It spent two thirds of the meeting on Community Cat Colony Registration.  Cat Colony registration took over twice the time the Committee spent on the Shelter's deadly distemper outbreak.

City Council approved a community cat ordinance in March 2015.  This ordinance was crafted in conjunction with local cat colony managers and animal service nonprofits working to implement trap, spay/neuter, return and maintain.  Current ordinance has a sponsorship model where the animal service organization provides resources and education, as well as cat colony registration.  Only one nonprofit stepped up for this role, Critter Shack.

Critter Shack found cat colony managers leery of registration given the city's heavy handed history in this arena.  Yet, local citizens have done the hard work of spreading TNRM with no support from the city.  Critter Shack volunteers and cat colony managers helped the 70 and 80 year old ladies whose yards became overrun with unaltered cats.  The city did not help. 

Some citizens practicing TNRM opted to register their cat colony with Critter Shack.   The form is below:

Others practice TNRM but have not registered.  If colony caretakers don't want to register with Critter Shack they surely won't register with the City. 

For two years individual members of the Animal Services Advisory Committee wanted to know colony locations, which is expressly not in the ordinance.   Time and time again Critter Shack chose to honor their confidentiality commitment to colony caretakers.  City staff and ASAC leadership did not view this as an appropriate response.  They escalated their position to recommending cat colony registration with the city.  

This is the city's solution to San Angelo's community cat problem?  Did they really recommend the registration of the people donating time, money, energy and skills to deal with the city's #1 animal problem, unaltered pets?  Unfortunately, they did just that.

The City of San Angelo has Cat Colony Registration today.  It's free through Critter Shack.  It will be interesting to watch the ASAC workshop on Cat Colony Registration.

The Animal Services Advisory Committee has a list of goals and objectives and community cats are nowhere to be found. 

Shelter leadership focused on cat colony location in their communications with Critter Shack.  Not once did they work on their side of this public-private partnership.  Shelter management never asked to meet to focus on how the ordinance was working from Critter Shack's perspective.  In reality it has been a private effort legally enabled by city ordinance.

Animal Services Director James Flores last contacted Critter Shack in April 2016 about a community cat in the shelter.  He had no problem reaching Critter Shack to demand the location of cat colonies, as recently as last week.   So it was odd to hear him say the city needs colony registration because of a "non-working phone number."  That statement did not ring true.

I don't know how ASAC will convince City Council to change a public-private partnership that costs citizens no money.  I can't see a new Mayor who wants government out of the way supporting a new cat colony registration fee for completing a form.

It's odd watching the Animal Services Advisory Committee and Shelter management continue to mix up managed cat colonies and people feeding groups of unaltered cats.  People feeding and not fixing are the white space in the blue circle above and that's the real opportunity.

City staff and ASAC leadership ignore the potential gold from addressing the actual problem.  The band of cat colony caretakers (in the red box) continues on their dedicated their mission for now.  How long they keep playing remains to be seen. 

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