Sunday, August 18, 2019

City of San Angelo No Longer

The City of San Angelo no longer records the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee for the public to view on Channel 17 or the City's YouTube channel.

As a result I attended the 8-15-19 ASAC meeting at the new Fire Training Station behind the Animal Shelter.  Although the committee met in a new training room the audiovisual computer system was not operational.  In public comment I shared my desire to watch the committee's 4-18-19 discussion on American Pets Alive and was disappointed to learn the meeting had not been recorded.  

In late June I asked the City to:

Please provide all available documents, e-mails and other forms of written communication on the decisions: 1) to hold the 4-18-19 Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting in a different location than the Convention Center 2) to not record the meeting for the public to view
The City chose to not share substantive information regarding these two questions.  They appealed to  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton requesting an Attorney-Client privilege withhold which was granted. 

Mayor Brenda Gunter was unaware of the city's decision to stop recording ASAC meetings, as well as a number of other boards/commissions.  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela has to answer to City Council.  Decisions impacting openness of government fit under Council purview.  Many elected officials included openness in their election platform.  

After the April ASAC meeting the City engaged American Pets Alive  to reduce the number of exterminated animals coming into the shelter.  The Pets Alive model has twelve strategies of which the shelter chose to address four.  Community Cats is one of the four.

This is a welcome change for citizens practicing Trap, Neuter, Return and Maintain for community cats.  At times the Animal Shelter has taken an antagonistic stance toward TNRM under two shelter directors. Citizens received legal protection to practice TNRM in February 2015.  CritterShack gave City Council an update during a February 2017 meeting.

Former Shelter Director James Flores offered false information to the ASAC on Texas cities and their community cat efforts.   Flores distorted survey results toward his preferred end, a regulatory control community cat approach.  

Pets Alive's community cat model is aligned with TNRM and a huge change for the city.  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden informed the ASAC on 8-15 that the city was already returning community cats to the field.  One would expect the Shelter to reach out to CritterShack Rescue, the only rescue doing TNRM under City ordinance and make them aware of changes. 

Pets Alive visited the shelter in late May.  The City has not contacted Critter Shack regarding community cats changes, however shelter contractor PAWS positioned the organization for community cat grants by fishing for cat colonies.  

The City no longer takes owner surrendered pets due to things like owner illness or death.  (ASAC approved 4-19-19)

The City no longer will euthanize a pet for a resident of San Angelo. (ASAC approved 8-15-19)

Pets Alive is a data driven model intended to reduce annual intake to 1,400 pets a year.  Aggressive spay/neuter strategies are the lever to reach this goal over time.  That takes time, energy and money, things the City of San Angelo generally lacks when it comes to animals.

One can solve problems or push them off on others.  I am aware of one citizen who is being dumped on by a "friend" moving to the East Coast.  My guess is the new mandatory owner surrender policy is a factor.  Moving out of town is not one of the approved reasons for animal surrender at City shelter. 

The City reduced Animal Services such that former Mayor Dwain Morrison listed the things the city no longer did for citizens in one Council meeting.  We have three new "no longers" for the former Mayor's list.  My guess is there will many more as the city imposes more bureaucratic means to constrain shelter intake (mandatory owner surrender process, optional stray surrender program). 

Update 8-19-19:  American Pets Alive emphasizes No Kill Shelters have an organizational culture of transparency.  

Update 8-19-19:  A public information request produced the following answer:  "The City of San Angelo does not have a policy relating to recording board meetings." 

Update 8-20-19:  City Council reviewed ordinance changes for boards and commissions.  The proposal changed expectations but was silent on recording meetings for the public to view.

Update 8-31-19:  The Animal Shelter reopened dog intake from the public.

Update 10-17-19:   American Pets Alive encourages collaboration with area rescues. One might expect Pets Alive to facilitate a meeting with rescues on issues/barriers and strategies to resolve them.  That hasn't happened and City contractor PAWS went public with the deteriorating relationship with local rescues.  Good leaders ask multiple why questions.  The obvious question is why is the shelter being overun with infants in a town with mandatory-spay neuter ordinance?   How many of those infants came from former shelter animals?

Update 12-4-19:  A friend visited the Animal Shelter and overheard a citizen needing to surrender their pets as they were going into Assisted Living.   This person was told that is not a valid reason for the shelter to accept this person's pets.  I hope that person shows up at City Council to share their customer experience with the City Animal Shelter.  Shelter contractor PAWS has their Helping PAW  program which assists citizens in times of crisis.  Shelter staff referred this person to other area rescues for help.  They did not offer PAWS as a possible resource.

Update 3-9-21:   The City refused to share documents and communications regarding its Community Cat Program in response to a public information request.  The ASAC postponed its February 2021 meeting, but on the agenda is reducing the intake of Community Cats due to lack of funding.  

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