Sunday, February 18, 2018

Money Used to Hire PAWS Needed to Hire PAWS Again

Former Shelter Director James Flores sold contracting shelter adoptions to Concho Valley PAWS for $60,000 per year.  A year ago Flores justified the expenditure:

“Majority is coming from chemical medical …We no longer have a veterinarian. We no longer perform surgeries. Majority of money is coming from that line, chemical-medical.” 
Council members Lane Carter, Lucy Gonzales and Harry Thomas heard the above rationale given by staff January 17, 2017.

Unfortunately more changed than Flores represented.  Changes resulted in numerous shelter pets going without rabies vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery when adopters missed veterinary appointments.

City Council will hear a proposal for the city to pay PAWS $50 per pet for veterinary services.  The memo from Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden indicated veterinary services would be for adopted pets.

It does not say if the fee applies to all adoptions or just unaltered pets.  If the $50 fee is only for unaltered pets the projected amount paid to PAWS is nearly $66,000.  If it applies to all adoptions PAWS would get roughly $88,000.  The difference amounts to $22,000.  Why would the city pay PAWS $50 if the pet only needs a rabies shot?  (Projections are based on 2017 Animal Shelter statistics)

Morgan's memo is silent on which organization pays for anesthesia, medical instruments, medical supplies, sterilization of equipment and post surgery pain medicine/antibiotics and IV fluids.  If these are the city's responsibility then chemical-medical costs return..

It is ironic the cost savings used to hire PAWS will return as expenditures under a different PAWS arrangement.

City staff needs to be clear regarding details of the proposed arrangement.  The memo is not a contract and the background packet does not contain contract language for City Council to review and approve.  The memo to Council lacks important details regarding the arrangement.

It is missing historical and projected expenditures for restoring in-shelter spay/neuter services, as well as historical and projected volumes.  This is odd given Morgan's background as Budget Manager for the City of San Angelo.

On 12-19-17 the city stated in response to a public information request:

100% of dogs adopted have had their rabies vaccination.
This statement came under question after area veterinarians cited a high rate of missed appointments for shelter pets.  Those appointments included vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery.

In December friends found two unaltered dogs whose microchips cited the City Animal Shelter.  One dog was no longer with their adopter.  He'd given the dog away, making followup problematic if not impossible for city staff.  No spay/neuter meant no rabies vaccination for these two dogs.  Area rescues received other unaltered, unvaccinated shelter pets in the last few months.

City ordinance states (per the 2-20-18 background packet):

All animals adopted from the animal shelter shall be spayed or neutered and microchipped prior to release.  No animal shall be eligible for adoption unless spayed or neutered and microchipped.
As I sought to confirm the city's assertion of 100% rabies vaccinations I learned staff had not held PAWS accountable.  The city does not have in its possession information on rabies vaccination compliance (Texas law) or spay/neuter compliance (local ordinance).  Nor has the city compelled contractor PAWS to produce such documents.

Animal Services has provided an update that this (rabies certificate) is not a document of the city – an external vendor provides these services.
The City has been unable to produce documentation supporting Morgan's statement to City Council on 1-23-18 regarding a "trusted reconciliation process that ensures all shelter pets are spayed/neutered."  The city said the reconciliation is "done digitally" and therefore "no documents exist."

Morgan's memo for the upcoming Council meeting shows the changes became standard practice for the city:

We currently contract with PAWS to provide adoption services which includes coordinating off-site rabies vaccinations, spaying and neutering of adoptable animals.
This is not what the city required in its initial RFP for Adoption Services.  It specified rabies vaccinations be given before the pet leaves the shelter.   Had the rabies shot been given in the shelter the certificate should be in the city's hands, not the contractor's.

The bottom line:  Morgan's memo confirms changes which result in no rabies vaccination when a spay/neuter appointment is missed.  The unresolved question remains how many shelter adoptions remain unaltered and unvaccinated?

I find it interesting the PAWS veterinary contract came before council so quickly after the issue of unvaccinated and unaltered pets came to the fore.  Damage control involves denying problems while working a rapid fix.  It feels like a rush to patch/repair in the midst of an obfuscation campaign intended to diminish legitimate compliance concerns.

Update 10-17-19:  San Angelo Live did a shelter story yesterday.  It came as City staff prepare for PAWS contract with the shelter to expand in size and scope.  Local rescues and area citizens filled in what Live reporters missed.

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