Sunday, October 27, 2019

City's Community Cat Initiative: Shelter-Neuter-Release

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee background packet for 10-17-19 had the following initiative to address community cats, a top four strategy for the city in its Pets Alive! initiative:

"Although we've launched a shelter-neuter-release pilot program with one-time seed money, a long-term sustainable funding source as well as robust participation by veterinary partners is necessary to address the euthanasia of adult feral cats."
At the last ASAC meeting I asked Shelter Manager Morgan Chegwidden to share information about the new shelter-neuter-release program for community cats.  Morgan said trapped cats are brought into the shelter.  If determined to be feral they are taken to an area veterinarian and neutered before being returned to their area of origin.

I asked who traps and brings the cat into the shelter.  Morgan said San Angelo residents, adding the city is not allowed to trap community cats under the ordinance.  I said that is not true.  The Community Cat ordinance provides legal space for citizens to practice trap-neuter-return-maintain under specific conditions.  It does not prevent city staff from trapping a community cat if those conditions are no longer met or if a cat were a nuisance.  The city is also free to address the vast real estate occupied by cats that are not under official colony management.

Morgan then said the shelter does not offer that service (cat trapping).  Under the pilot program shelter staff pick up the neutered cat from the area veterinarian and return it to its area of origin.

I found it odd that community cats needed to be neutered by area veterinarians given the city contracted with Concho Valley PAWS for veterinary medicine services.  City Council approved the scope of services in February 2018.

Under city ordinance Community Cat colony managers register with a sponsoring local animal rescue. 

Critter Shack is the only local rescue to step up and serve as a sponsor.  Below is the City of San Angelo's webpage on community cats:

Communities that have made significant inroads in reducing unnecessary pet deaths have conducted outreach and devoted resources to address community cats.  That includes education, loaning of traps, assistance with neuter surgery and vaccinations.  The City of Waco's webpage states:

Community Cats (outdoor or outdoor/indoor) qualify for free Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). TNR includes spay/neuter, Rabies and a left “eartip” performed by a vet during spay/neuter surgery. Loaner TNR traps available with refundable deposit. 
Austin Pets Alive website states:

Community cats, the free roaming outdoor cats who populate nearly every community in the country, are well managed in the city of Austin thanks to a robust Trap-Neuter-Return program and dedicated feline caretakers who look after the cats and ensure they are vaccinated and sterilized.

In the case that a community cat is injured Austin Pets Alive program treats the injured cat rather than euthanize it.

Once treated, a volunteer team reaches out to the caregiver to discuss returning the cat to its outdoor home. The area is assessed for suitability, the caretaker is advised on ongoing care, and Austin Pets Alive! remains a lifelong resource and safety net for the cat.
Morgan never mentioned a cat colony manger or caretaker in the city's Shelter-Neuter-Release pilot program.  Critter Shack has not been contacted by the San Angelo Animal Shelter regarding its community cat effort, a top four strategy adopted six months ago.

However, Animal Shelter contractor Concho Valley PAWS is conducting a community cat survey while working as adoption/veterinary services contractor and member of the Animal Services Advisory Committee.

How can PAWS provide oversight on its contracted operations for the city animal shelter?  Those duties will expand in the proposed RFP for Animal Adoption Services, a motion which PAWS Executive Director seconded on 10-17-19, before withdrawing her second.

That's not on tape as the City stopped taping certain board meetings earlier this year.  One has to show up now to hear deliberations.  Next ASAC meeting is 11-21-19 at noon and the topic will be revised city animal ordinances.  Interested parties may wish to make plans now to attend.

Update 3-13-21:  PAWS is still conducting its Community Cat survey on its website: 


The following must be completed to receive a voucher. Incomplete submissions will not be processed. This program is feral cats only. The information collected here will be used to create a pilot program to provide free or reduced cost spay and neuter services to community cat caregivers in an effort to provide a targeted spay and neuter approach to reduce the population of cats. Approximately 65% of the animals euthanized at the shelter last year were feral cats and orphaned kittens. We want to change this! You can help.

If you are feeding a colony, we want to help you sterilize the cats in that colony. Once we secure additional funding we will be contacting you to sterilized the female cats in your colony first. We also hope to provide additional services to community caregivers such as access to free or low-cost cat food, free or low-cost microchipping and free or low-cost feeding stations. But it all starts here with gathering data. Thank you for participating in our Community Cat survey.

Update 1-15-22:  PAWS Community Cat survey remains on its website.  Still gathering data.  PAWS has had a completed spay-neuter clinic since mid-2020 but is yet to employ a veterinarian to put that clinic space to use.  PAWS latest RFP submission to the city stated "Concho Valley PAWS is currently seeking to employ a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  The contract was signed in November 2020.

Friday, October 18, 2019

ASAC Plans to Give More Power to PAWS

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee approved an expanded scope of services in a Request for Proposal for Adoption Services.

1.  Support San Angelo Pets Alive! and become the city’s partner in such initiatives
2.  Adopt the lifesaving vision as set forth in American Pets Alive!
3.  Manage a population-based foster program
4.  Administer adoptions utilizing progressive adoption policies
5.  Coordinate large scale transfer and transport programs
6.  Host intake diversion counseling appointments for owners seeking to surrender their
pets to the shelter
7.  Support disease prevention protocols with routine medical treatment of animals in
8.  Offer emergency medical treatment for animals in residence
9.  Support the immediate make ready of adoptable pets by photographing and marketing
upon arrival
10.  Support targeted safety net programs for animals in need
11.  Offer appropriate capacity for large adult dogs with additional sheltering
12.  Support rescue transfer efforts from the city’s euthanasia list sharing
13.  Ensure compliance with state statutes governing shelter adoptions
Not mentioned is compliance with local ordinances which require mandatory spay/neuter and micro-chipping.   This was an issue a year ago in the run up to awarding PAWS its second adoption services contract.

PAWS and the City Animal Shelter have not been in compliance with city ordinances for quite some time.  Ordinances require animals to be spayed/neutered prior to being adopted. 

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.
The shelter adopts "ineligible animals" with an appointment to be fixed.

State law requires a rabies vaccination. When asked for compliance information with state law the city hid behind vendor PAWS.

Animal Services has provided an update that this (rabies certificate) is not a document of the city – an external vendor provides these services.
As a result of this past experience I asked the ASAC to add a requirement that the adoption services vendor provide information requested by the city which may include public information requests.  I shared my attempts to get basic compliance information and how staff put off some requests.

Assistant City Manager Michael Dane suggested a monthly report be generated that provides information in my example vs. adding a requirement the vendor provide information when compelled the city.  This suggestion came 22 months after I wrote:

PAWS is the current adoption services contractor for the Animal Shelter.  It should be able to provide actual data as to how it has met city specified requirements, city ordinances and state law.
Michael Dane's suggestion handles that long-lingering case.  The City and PAWS had nearly two years to produce information in this regard and it chose not to do so.  Dane's compromise does not give the city a mechanism to compel the vendor to share information with staff or the public under an expanded scope of services.

A slide indicated changes from the current PAWS contracts for adoption and veterinary services
Scope of service changes include:
 • Spay/neuter and rabies vaccine expense paid by vendor
• Adoption fee collected by vendor
• Vendor sets their hours of operation
PAWS will get the revenue and be responsible for paying expenses, i.e. the city is delegating full fiduciary responsibility for adoption services.  What kind of due diligence will the city do in this area?  There is no requirement the vendor provide a financial audit or any financial information. 

Back to the meeting yesterday.  One ASAC member turned to PAWS Executive Director/ASAC board member Jenie Wilson and said, "You are going to bid on it again."  A motion was made to approve the RFP as presented.  PAWS Wilson seconded the motion, then said "Oh, I shouldn't do that."  Assistant City Manager Michael Dane coached the committee, saying it needed to give the appearance of an arm's length handling of the process.  Public Information Director Brian Groves was also in attendance at the meeting.

PAWS is building an adoption center next to the shelter on City owned land.  Requirement #11 will be met by that new facility.  There is no arm's length, just a big bear hug.

Wilson did get a dig in on area rescues just as the ASAC considered the new Adoption RFP.  Fortunately, those rescues provided information San Angelo Live missed (read comments).

Next Shelter/PAWS hug is due November 21, 2019 when animal services ordinances will be addressed.  I expect ordinance changes to be like Adoption RFP requirements that loosened each year to meet PAWS practices, not stated shelter requirements.  Will Jenie Wilson vote on ordinances she is charged with implementing as a city contractor?  Stay tuned.

Update 11-20-19:  After not finding an agenda on the city's website for the 11-21-19 special meeting I contacted the City Clerk.  She said there would not be a meeting that day and would check as to when the ASAC would address ordinance changes as originally planned.

Update 4-29-20:  The RFP has been posted on the City's purchasing page and it contains the expanded scope of services listed above.  It does not address spay/neuter services, adoption fees or the vendor setting their hours of operation.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Hickory Expansion to Cost $65.7 Million

City Council will consider borrowing $56 million to finish expansion of the Hickory Aquifer project.   Texas Water Board approved nearly $66 million in financial assistance for the project.  City documents described the expansion:

The proposed project is the second phase of expanding the City's groundwater supply from the Hickory Aquifer. The project will involve improvements at multiple locations spanning over 60 miles. The City’s wellfield, raw water collection system, transmission line, and Groundwater Treatment Plant will be upgraded to ensure the needed production rate of the Phase II design can reliably be achieved. To accomplish this, five new wells are proposed at the wellfield, bringing the total production capacity to 10,000 gallons per minute. New interconnecting piping will tie the new wells into the existing collection system infrastructure, with several improvements recommended to improve the reliability of the collection system. Additional optimization efforts will also be evaluated to improve the service life of the equipment and minimize influent groundwater iron concentration.
Council will take up this plan without review by the Water Advisory Board, which last met in September 2018.