Sunday, December 26, 2021

SAPD Needs More Help from Animal Services

Two large dogs wandered away from home Christmas morning.  One was friendly, the other seemed aggressive.  A Santa Rita family found them and tried to do the right thing before going to a family Christmas celebration.  They called the veterinary clinic listed on their collars and tried to track down the dogs' owner.  

A friend looked on the website.  There was no listing for the dogs.  They called San Angelo Police Department non-emergency number as one dog's aggressiveness concerned them..  

The officer drove to the address given by the vet clinic and learned the people living there did not own the two dogs.  The police officer called the on-call Animal Control Officer (ACO).  The ACO refused to assist.  

One reason for mandatory micro-chipping given to City Council was ACO officers would be able to scan a lost pet and take the animal home without a trip to the Animal Shelter.  That was before the city adopted Pets Alive, an initiative that chokes off shelter intake.

The family needed to leave their home and go to their Christmas gathering.  The police officer said he could do nothing more for them (or the dogs) and commented about the lack of service from Animal Services.  

Later that day a colleague found one of the dogs on the HelpMeGetHome Facebook page.  The information had not gone from the Facebook page to the website when they'd accessed earlier in the day.  

How is a member of the public to know the mechanics of HelpMeGetHome's new lost listings or if a missing pet has a microchip?  Those fall within the bailiwick of unavailable Animal Services. 

Recently, City Council learned of San Angelo's loose dog problem from citizens providing public comment.  I don't know if this family will offer public comment at an upcoming Council meeting.  Both parents work so they may not be able to attend to share their experience.

They do not have a City Council representative due to Lane Carter's resignation to run for Tom Green County Judge.  No service, no voice.  That applies to the dogs and this conscientious family.

Most people don't have an area to contain two large dogs, yet the City of San Angelo expects citizens to deal with the loose pet problem under Pets Alive.  When residents can't hold onto loose dogs, one potentially aggressive, the cycle continues.  

SAPD animal related calls are up over 35% since the shelter adopted Pets Alive.   Potential dog adopters find a shelter full of pit bull mixes.  That's a narrow niche from a product offering perspective. 

The way to "no-kill" is to spay/neuter and microchip everything, scan loose dogs and reunite them with their owners and trap dangerous dogs for the safety of the community.  That can take time and resources.  Choking off intake and shifting the burden to citizens is not a winning strategy.  It may look good to paper pushers, but citizens and loose pets are not being served.  

Update 11-4-22:   The Animal Shelter cut off dog intake for the month of November and is asking citizens who've found a stray dog:

"If staying out of traffic, leave pet in home neighborhood"

And how is a citizen to know the pet is in their home neighborhood?  That would require city staff to scan for a microchip.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Abilene Gives Warm West Texas Welcome to Lancium

The City of Abilene posted a news flash on a $2.4 billion energy project that involves bitcoin mining.  The flash stated:

Taylor County and the City of Abilene have approved a project with Lancium, a Houston-based energy technology and infrastructure company, to build a large scale, renewable energy powered data center campus in Abilene and Taylor County. This significant milestone, the largest project in Abilene and Taylor County history, is pending final negotiations with Taylor County, the City of Abilene, and the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA). The project will begin at 200 megawatts with an expansion capacity to over a 1 gigawatt.

Lancium is in rapid growth mode, having just raised $150 million.

Lancium Technologies Corporation ("Lancium"), a technology company focused on the energy transition, today announced that it closed $150 million in financing from leading energy companies and investors. Hanwha Solutions, one of the world's prominent providers of clean energy solutions and owner and operator of Q CELLS, leads this financing round.  

Hanwha Solutions website indicated it provided $100 million of the $150 million financing round.  Hanwha is a South Korean firm with multiple divisions.  Hanwha Solutions has "established local production and R&D centers in North America, Europe, China, and Korea."

The investment allows the Company (Hanwha Solutions) to secure a seat at Lancium’s board of directors, paving the way for close cooperation on future businesses.

Hanwha's 11-24-21 press release on the $100 million investment mentions the Abilene project:

Lancium has been constructing a “Clean Campus” at Abilene, TexasHaving purchased 2,350 acres of land in Texas, Lancium will complete the campus construction next year and expand the number of tenants. They can increase their profits by switching off load-heavy equipment when the electricity price is high – and selling reductant power to the grid.

Other items from the $150 million press release or from Lancium's website state:

Lancium Clean Campuses are built at critical points on the transmission system that are often overwhelmed with renewable energy.

... Lancium Clean Compute Centers™ that absorb excess renewable energy.

Remote data center locations: Work locations may include data centers with both climate-controlled and non-climate-controlled conditions. There may be exposure to extreme temperatures, noise and vibration, and mechanical or electrical hazards.  

Lancium plans to profit from bitcoin mining and situations where the demand for power exceeds supply.  Recall Texas citizens are paying for the February 2021 Texas grid failure through charges on our power bills.  

Lancium's major investor Hanwhat Solutions said the Abilene project is underway.  What remains to be negotiated is how much Abilene residents will pay to subsidize the project.   

A warm West Texas welcome to Lancium, but they know that already from their Fort Stockton Bitcoin mining project.   If Bitcoin goes cold for a long period of time this thing could implode like the Texas power grid.  Abilene residents may hope Bitcoin remains hot.    

Update 12-22-21:  Lancium sounds like a boil removal product.   It may not fare well if the Bitcoin bubble pops. 

Update 3-18-22:  An Appalachian town is sorry they brought in bitcoin miners.  They got noise pollution, an eyesore and no economic boom 

Update 6-14-22:  The cryptocurrency rout impacted Bitcoin miners which may impact the viability of Abilene's project.  

Update 6-25-22:  Energy costs are soaring as bitcoin's price has plummeted, harming the Lanciums of the world.  Will the project need greater public subsidy?

Update 10-27-22:  Bitcoin miner Core Scientific warns it cannot pay its debt.

Update 11-10-22:  Lancium broke ground last week on its planned energy complex in Abilene.

Update 12-6-22:  Bloomberg reported that Texas' crypto boom is starting to look like a bust.  The story mentions Lancium. 

Update 12-9-22:  Fortune reported:

And there is the state of Texas, whose bold experiment to welcome Bitcoin miners to help balance the power grid risks turned into a Lone Star State-sized disaster. In the wake of rising energy prices and debt burdens among miners, one state executive bemoaned a situation where “transformers, switch gears, and mobile data centers and containers for mining...are just sitting there.”

Update 12-21-22:  Crypto Miner Core Scientific declared bankruptcy

Update 3-18-24:  Government subsidies are keeping many bitcoin miners afloat.

...many Bitcoin miners are profitable because the government pays them not to mine Bitcoin. These so-called “load balancing” or “grid stabilization” payments incentivize miners to turn off their machines during heavy electrical usage elsewhere in nearby cities.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

City's Deal with PAWS Shifted Adoption Revenue

Concho Valley PAWS bid submission to the City of San Angelo reflected a number of changes.  The City shifted the cost of spay/neuter and rabies vaccination of adopted animals to PAWS.  In return PAWS got the ability to set and collect adoption fees and the right to set its hours of operations.  

A public information request produced the revenue the city received from animal adoptions prior to shifting responsibility to Concho Valley PAWS.

City staff did not include the loss of adoption revenue in its evaluation for City Council on August 18, 2020.  It only included the contract fee, which rises over the five year period from $60,000 to $76,006.  

City leaders signed the expanded contract with PAWS on November 30, 2020.  Documents show a total maximum amount of $350,997, the sum of the five years of negotiated contract fees.  The signed contract does not reveal any amount for the adoption fee franchise given to PAWS.

PAWS served as the city's adoption coordinator for the last three years.    Adoption fees for 2019 and 2020 averaged $41,000.  If PAWS collects $40,000 per year the organization would garner an additional $200,000 over the life of the contract, courtesy of the City's generosity.  That would bring total proceeds to $550,997.

One can argue the appropriate amount of adoption fees but some estimation should have been made and given to City Council when it considered the arrangement.  That would've shown a more accurate financial impact.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Animal Cruelty Complaint filed 11-19-21 by Shelter Leadership


Animal Shelter leadership reported criminal "cruelty to animals: torture" to the desk duty officer at San Angelo Police Department on Friday, November 19th at 4:31 pm.

The public was made aware of a mystery illness at the shelter the day before, November 18th.  The City and Concho Valley PAWS used Facebook and Twitter to share this news.  The public had numerous questions.  

Shelter veterinary service provider PAWS stated "we will share more as we know more" and "stay tuned for more information."

Twelve days after filing a police complaint on the matter the city informed the public that shelter dogs had been "exposed to an unknown substance."  That must be PR spin for "cruelty to animals:  torture", i.e. poisoning, that occurred on the city's watch.    

Update 1-10-22:  I spoke with the detective on the case today and learned no one has been charged with a crime to date for the November dog poisoning..

Thursday, December 09, 2021

City's Contract with PAWS Includes Veterinary Services for Shelter Animals

Concho Valley Homepage reported:

Adoptions will resume at the San Angelo Animal Shelter following an illness that affected multiple dogs. They became seriously ill after they were exposed to an ‘unknown substance’ on November 13th.  Three dogs died as a result of the exposure and over 200 dogs were given immediate medical attention by the Concho Valley Paws staff.

Dogs died and were sickened as a result of an intentional poisoning while under the care of the City Animal Shelter.  That is why the case is being investigated by San Angelo Police.

“We do think its isolated to the shelter and that citizens at large shouldn’t have a concern for their canines in their home but it is something that is quite alarming,” said Morgan Chegwidden, assistant director of the Neighborhood & Family Services Department at the San Angelo Animal Shelter. “They were getting lifesaving medication in their kennels for the last 28 days as we’ve tried to work through this and identify it and stop the spread of it.”

The City signed a new contract with Concho Valley PAWS in November 2020.  The RFP issued by the city requested the following under scope of services:

Offer emergency medical treatment for animals in residence

PAWS submission stated:

PAWS has sought for years to employ an on staff veterinarian.  PAWS vet "will be able to provide more cost-effective, in-house treatment."   City staff recommended the new contract with PAWS and Council's background packet on the item stated:

Changes include:

  • Assigning the spay/neuter and rabies vaccine expense of adopted pets to the selected vendor;
  • Allowing the selected vendor to set and collect their own adoption fees.
  • Opening the hours of operation to be set by the selected vendor; and
  • Hosting counseling appointments for owned pets jointly by both the selected vendor and city staff.

Other services such as large scale transports, foster programs and emergency medical support will continue unchanged from prior contracts.

City Council approved the change in scope of services in August 2020 by a vote of 7-0.  

The treatment cost Concho Valley paws $13,000, an additional expenditure they say they will have to work to make up for.

“Donations is what goes directly into the animal care so if it wasn’t for our donors and the grants that we get we would not have been in a position to help,” said Jeanie Wilson, executive director Concho Valley Paws.

PAWS was legally contracted to provide veterinary services to shelter animals.   The amount paid to PAWS for the current fiscal year rose nearly $10,000 to $69,556.

There is an issue of liability as the poisoning occurred on a widespread basis on city property.  How did the poison get to the dogs, as cats were not impacted?  Who had access to over 200 dogs and the ability to put a toxic substance in their food or water?  We know city staff and PAWS staff/volunteers had access.  How many members of the public responded to PAWS solicitation for help at the shelter after it closed for all but emergency services on November 4th due to staff shortages?  Who vetted any persons responding to PAWS plea?  Surely, the city wouldn't let someone who walked in off the street feed or water shelter dogs.  

Whoever is liable is a source of funding for the $13,000 in veterinary care.  The additional $9,556 in payments to PAWS this fiscal year is available to go toward the veterinary bill.  And PAWS has the right to collect adoption fees for shelter animals and retain those fees.  

PAWS and the city agreed to the scope of services, however one can expect the shelter to prevent toxic substances from reaching the dog population.  There is more to explore in the city's ever changing contract with PAWS and to learn about the investigation into widespread dog poisoning under city care.

Update 1-10-22:  I spoke with the detective on the case today and learned no one has been charged with a crime to date for the November dog poisoning..

Friday, December 03, 2021

Avenue P Returns to Council Agenda Yet Again

City Council will entertain approving $2.6 million for a project it last addressed as a $1.79 million total project cost (November 2020).   City Engineer Lance Overstreet presented the additional funds needed to address the concerns found.  Overstreet highlighted how they'd worked to reduce costs from an original $2.1 to $2.5 million project.  Using the remaining contingency funds staff requested an additional $106,700.  That was approved.

Staff now say this was an error, even though top city leaders presented or commented on the project last November.  How did that many leaders miss the incorrect total?

In November 2019 staff included these amounts for Avenue P in the City Council background packet:

Street: $ 207,771.40
Stormwater: $ 1,479,295.78
Water: $ 127,834.05
Wastewater: $ 536,216.77
Total: $ 2,351,118.00

The $2.35 million included a 10% contingency fee of $213,738.  Calling the miss an understandable error would have the prior total increase by the additional funding amount of $106,700.  That's $2,457,818, not $2,610,557.  

The original project had drainage installed underneath the street.  By 2013 Council approved $2.44 million for that solution.  Obviously, some of that funding remained to be used for the retention pond strategy.  City leaders may not have wanted Council to see the total picture as significant funds were wasted when the prior project did not move forward as planned.

The 2019 and 2020 Avenue P project presentations by staff were light on total project costs and available funding from prior approvals and current budgets.  That leads to Council having to clean up again after city management.

City Engineer Lance Overstreet gave both presentations and a long list of city staffers approved the information in City Council's packet.  

One year ago Mayor Gunter expressed her concern about total project costs growing.  It appears they grew another $150,000 beyond what Council approved last year.  Staff should answer for that.

Update 12-6-21:  Former City Engineer Lance Overstreet remains the Municipality representative for the Region 9 Flood Plan Board.  He is the board secretary and his name is listed as:

R. Lance Overstreet (Secretary), Municipalities, U.S. Air Force

The City of San Angelo is the web host for the Region 9 Flood Planning effort.  It's not clear if he is receiving any city funds for this work.

Update 12-7-21:   Neither Mayor Brenda Gunter nor Councilperson Harry Thomas had any concern regarding the total cost of the Avenue P project exceeding prior Council budget approvals by $150,000.  No leader rose to explain the "error" to Council or the public.  Under the Redistricting agenda item a Hispanic citizen informed Councilman Thomas that they did not feel represented by him due to their raising issues and never hearing anything back.  

Update 7-5-22:  The city finally finished a project designed to reduce flooding on Avenue P.  The detention pond is complete and ready for Chamber of Commerce blessing.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Dogs Poisoned at Animal Shelter

The City of San Angelo updated citizens on the mystery illness that killed three dogs and sickened others at the Animal Shelter.

Around Saturday, Nov. 13, there was an exposure of an unknown substance to the City’s canine population, resulting in three dogs losing their lives and widespread canine illness throughout the shelter.

Melamine tainted pet food killed thousands of dogs and cats in 2007.  While tainted food from the manufacturer could be the cause that would normally not result in a local criminal investigation. 

The city restricted shelter services on November 4th due to staff shortages.  Their Facebook and Twitter posts did not seek help from the public to make up for low staffing.  Concho Valley PAWS issued an urgent plea for volunteers issued on November 4th in its post on short staffing at the City Shelter.

The Animal Shelter has video cameras throughout the facility.  That footage could be useful to the police as they conduct their investigation.

People with widespread access to shelter dogs are City staff and PAWS paid staff/volunteers.  That should be a relatively small group to investigate.  

Many dogs were poisoned under the care of the City of San Angelo.  Three were killed.  The public deserves to know what happened and why.  This is not the Texas Standard for pet care.

Update 12-8-21:   PAWS Facebook page indicated "over 200 dogs became seriously ill after exposure to an unknown substance at the San Angelo Animal Shelter in November."  Accessing over 200 dogs meant the poisoner was either a City of San Angelo employee, PAWS staff/volunteer or a member of the public that responded to PAWS solicitation for help after the Shelter closed for normal operations on Nov. 4th due to a staffing shortage.  It's not clear who vetted any members of the public for access to shelter animals. 

Shelter leaders provided no update to City Council on the two crises facing the Animal Shelter, dog poisoning and staff shortages.  Council's meeting yesterday was their only one for December.   

Update 12-9-21:  The city issued a news story on shelter adoptions restarting Saturday, December 11th.  It did not include the hours of PAWS adoption event.  The city allows its adoption contractor to set its own hours and keep any adoption fees.

Update 12-10-21:  A rescue in Colorado City had dogs poisoned by an unidentified trespasser.  The rescue was able to identify the toxic substance.  That cruel act killed eight dogs.

San Angelo Animal Shelter leadership reported the criminal act to SAPD on Friday, November 19th at 4:31 pm.  The City waited twelve days before informing the public.

Update 12-30-21:  City Council is yet to take up the poisoning of dogs in the City Animal Shelter.  It is not on their 1-4-22 meeting agenda.

Update 1-10-22:  I spoke with the detective on the case today and learned no one has been charged with a crime to date for the November dog poisoning..

Monday, November 29, 2021

Promise to Inform Public on Shelter Crises Remains Unfulfilled


The public remains unaware of the mystery illness impacting City of San Angelo Animal Shelter dogs.  The illness began November 10th.  Adoption contractor Concho Valley PAWS informed the public via Facebook eleven days ago.    PAWS ignored a question regarding the symptoms of the mystery disease.

I asked the city for the following information on November 19th, the day after the mystery illness was revealed.

Please provide a copy of the city's public information policy for contractor Concho Valley PAWS communicating with the media regarding the status of Animal Shelter operations. Please send any press releases the city issued to the media on shelter operations from November 1. 2021 to the present. 

The city said there were no documents pertinent/responsive to my request.  Recall on November 4th the Animal Shelter reduced services to emergency only due to a staff shortage. 

Both PAWS and the City said they would provide further information on these challenges.  Neither the city or PAWS provided an update today.  The public remains uniformed.

Update 12-8-21:  The City issued a press release on the mystery illness on 12-1.  It was an intentional poisoning and the police have opened an investigation.  Today, Concho Valley PAWS indicated over 200 dogs had been poisoned.   The toxin killed three shelter dogs.  This occurred while these dogs were under the care of the city Animal Shelter.

Update 12-10-21:  San Angelo Animal Shelter leadership reported the criminal act to SAPD on Friday, November 19th at 4:31 pm.  The City waited twelve days before informing the public.

Friday, November 19, 2021

City of San Angelo Animal Shelter Situation Deteriorates

The City of San Angelo Animal Shelter remains closed to the public.  The City reduced services to emergency only on November 4th due to staff shortages, doing so until further notice.  The situation deteriorated due to a widespread, mystery illness amongst the dog population.   The public learned of this development yesterday.

Concho Valley PAWS is the adoption coordinator and veterinary service provider for the city Animal Shelter.  

The initial notice on November 4th was issued by the city (Facebook, Twitter) and Concho Valley PAWS. Since that time all communications have arisen from contractor PAWS. 

PAWS began asking for a specific food donation on Tuesday, November 16th at 5:17 am.  

We are in real need of dog food. Please consider helping with a donation of Pedigree dog food. This is what we are currently feeding and it helps prevent GI issues if we can keep our pets on the same food.

PAWS announced it would be closed on Wednesday, November 17th for staff training. 

News of the mystery illness involving dogs at the City of San Angelo Animal Shelter broke Thursday, November 18th at 9:53 am.  

PAWS stated:

We are currently unable to facilitate adoptions for pets residing at the shelter due to an unknown and widespread illness

Today PAWS reiterated its dog food appeal:

We are still in need of dog food as we are committed to providing the shelter with food for the next 10 days as we try to identify what has caused several dogs to fall ill. Our veterinary team suggested pulling the shelter's food until testing is complete.  

The uniform food appeal to investigate possible sources of widespread dog illness arose on Tuesday.  It took two more days for contractor PAWS to share the outbreak with the public.  The City of San Angelo's juggernaut Public Information Office remained on the sidelines.  It's website news page has nothing on the staff shortage or illness outbreak.

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee will meet next February 17, 2022.  

It last met in June. Two meetings scheduled for August and October were cancelled or failed to meet the quorum requirement.  

There is little expectation of oversight by this body as it is dominated by city staff and representatives from Concho Valley PAWS.

Update 11-23-21:  PAWS has no information on its Facebook or Twitter page and the City has issued no press releases thus far in November on Animal Shelter issues (staff shortages and disease outbreak).  PAWS assured citizens on 11-18 it would "share more as it knew more."   Nothing, thus far. 

Update 11-24-21:  Silence remains the primary means of informing the public on the shelter's twin problems of low staffing and the mystery disease outbreak.  The city did share it is hiring and three of the positions are in Animal Services.  Concho Valley PAWS promised update is yet to come.  Distemper tests take 1-4 days to complete.  It's been nearly a week since the disease outbreak was announced by PAWS.

Facebook comments from PAWS on November 19th said:

Our veterinary team feels that this situation is isolated to shelter residents with exposure sometime around Wednesday of last week. However, until testing comes back we won't have answers so we are acting out of an abundance of caution.   11-19-21 at 8:20 am

We are working with our veterinary team to determine when we can move forward with surgeries and releasing pets but I expect those decisions won't be made until after test results come back and unfortunately testing takes 7 business days which will put us after the holiday.  11-19-21 at 8:25 am

We are answering calls between 1pm-7pm Wednesday- Saturday. We are simply closed for adoptions.  11-18-21 at 3:36 pm

This is where the lines between PAWS and the Animal Shelter need to be clearer.  The Shelter announced on 11-4-21 it would be closed for all but emergency services until further notice.

Update 11-27-21:  One week ago a citizen asked "What are the symptoms of the dogs who are affected?" on PAWS Facebook page.  No reply to date.

Update 12-1-21:   The city reported shelter dogs had been "given an unknown substance", i.e. poisoned and the matter had been referred to SAPD for investigation.

Update 12-10-21:  Animal Shelter leadership reported the criminal act to SAPD on Friday, November 19th at 4:31 pm.  The City waited twelve days before informing the public.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Pfluger Votes Against Bill Designating Interstate 14: Midland to San Angelo to Brady

Congressman August Pfluger serves District #11 which runs from Midland-Odessa to San Angelo to Brady.   That happens to be the planned route for Interstate 14, the designation of which recently passed in the House of Representatives.  

Three local officials spoke about the need for I-14 and expressed excitement over the project designation.  San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter, Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd and San Angelo Development Corporation Executive Director Guy Andrews shared the impact I-14 could have on our community.

In early 2018 Pfuger's predecessor Rep. Mike Conaway introduced a bill titled “Connecting the Rest to the West,” which would see the western end of the congressionally approved Interstate 14 project run from Brady through San Angelo and up to the Midland-Odessa area. 

The Standard Times reported in early 2016:

The I-14 corridor designation amendment was sponsored in the U.S. Senate by Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

The House passed bipartisan infrastructure bill added I-14 via an amendment sponsored by Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock. 

Despite the large amount of local and Texas support Congressman Pfluger voted against the bill.

Pfluger was not alone.  Congressman Brian Babin, water carrier for the project for the last six years, did likewise.

Pfluger is not on record on Interstate 14, likely the largest transportation project in his district.  He has declared his desire to be re-elected and for your Social Security Number to be on your voting ballot.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Animal Related Calls Up for San Angelo Police

Two citizens gave public comment on Animal Services at yesterday's City Council meeting.  A mother with young children shared how loose dogs attacked their family cat, mortally wounding their pet.  She viewed this as a public safety issue as her children play in that same front yard.  Animal Services informed her there was nothing they could do as no person witnessed the incident.  As the attack was on video from two different cameras, the city's response made no sense to her.  

A gentleman who lives at Lake Nasworthy shared his experience with loose dogs, courtesy of a neighbor.  That person's dogs run unattended and have attacked other dogs in the neighborhood.  Mayor Brenda Gunter said these situations would be addressed.

That may work for the two people who had the time and energy to show up at City Council but their experiences of obstruction and inattention from Animal Services are by no means rare.  

The Animal Shelter announced it would respond to emergency calls only on November 4th and would do so until further notice.  The city has produced no information on the shelter's return to normal services.  No City Council member asked when the public could expect full service availability.

Even at full service Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden admitted the city does not spay/neuter or microchip dogs it picks up on city streets.  Roughly 40% are reunited with their owner.  Recall the city has a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance and requirement for pets to be micro-chipped. 

Leveraging spay/neuter and microchip identification could be critical strategies to reduce the number of unwanted animals in our community.  That might mean no animal leaves shelter without spay/neuter or a microchip.  That is not current shelter practice.

The shelter reduced intake since 2019 by virtually eliminating owner surrenders and adoption returns. 

What happened to those thousands of animals the shelter once took from those two categories?  Citizens know how things have changed in their neighborhood regarding loose animals.  

A proxy for this question is animal related calls to San Angelo Police Department.   They are up on a monthly average basis and changes over time can be seen below (data is for calendar year).   

Animal-related calls to SAPD are up on an annual basis as well.  

The 2021 figure is ten months of actual calls projected for twelve months.  

City Council has local citizens, area rescues and police officers as sources to inform them on our city's animal concerns.  Choking off intake for the last two years had unintended consequences.  Facing them will be critical to making real progress.

Update 1-5-23:  There were 1,478 animal related calls for SAPD in calendar year 2021.  That rose to 1,725 for 2022.  That's a 46% increase in animal related police calls over the last two years.

Update 9-5-23:  Mayor Gunter shared her concern in a budget meeting about SAPD not writing enough citations.  SAPD officers are now scanning loose pets in the community and calling the microchip company for owner information.  This process was so time consuming a local veterinary clinic stopped offering that service. 

Monday, November 08, 2021

San Angelo's Animal Shelter: Seven Years of Changes

The City of San Angelo instituted many changes over the last eight years.  In 2015 City Council approved ordinances requiring pets to be spayed/neutered and micro-chipped.  The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee adopted a "No Kill" goal in July 2016.  Council contracted shelter adoptions to Concho Valley PAWS in January 2017.  It broadened PAWS contract to include veterinary services in 2018 but PAWS performed only 87 spay/neuter surgeries over three months before stopping.  In the last year the city added veterinary care for shelter animals back into PAWS contract.  

The Shelter adopted Pets Alive's data driven model for achieving its "No Kill" goal.  Pets Alive admits it shifts responsibility for housing unwanted animals from a shelter environment to citizens' homes. 

Neither the ASAC or City Council informed the public that thousands of owner surrendered animals would no longer be allowed.  Neither serious illness nor death of a pet owner are valid reasons for the shelter to accept an owner surrender.  

As these animals don't come into the shelter there is no data on refused animals.  What happened/happens to them?  When citizens complained about nuisance collections of cats to Council member Lucy Gonzales the public learned the city had dumped nearly 50 unaltered cats in San Angelo neighborhoods from October 2020 to February 2021.  

Stray dogs are on the next Council agenda after a citizen complained about dog packs hurting people in PaulAnn.  Local NBC News refused to show a video of stray dogs killing a pet cat on the family's front doorstep in their report on loose pets.  Recent accidents on Houston Harte Expressway were caused by a dog that had broken away from its tether.  

Shelter adoptions decreased since Concho Valley PAWS became the city's adoption coordinator as have fees paid by citizens for animal adoptions.  

However, the annual budget for the shelter went in the other direction.

The Animal Shelter received increased funding as it choked off intake via a series of changes.  Despite its growing budget the shelter could no longer afford for four months to spay/neuter community cats, a top four strategy under Pets Alive.  Releasing unaltered cats into city neighborhoods is dumping and a violation of the city's spay.neuter ordinance.  Pets Alive should have a problem with this practice.

Council gave the shelter tools to reduce the number of unwanted pets via mandatory spay/neuter ordinance and requirement for micro-chipping.  Those are the levers to reduce the number of unwanted or lost pets.  

Shutting off access to the shelter for owner surrenders kept many unwanted pets out of city hands.  The question is what happened to these pets?  Neither the shelter nor Pets Alive knows.  The picture must be discovered by interacting with citizens and other local rescue organizations.  

Update 11-15-21:  City staff will propose adding two additional animal control officer to serve the public.  Staffing grew from 12 in 2014 to 17 in 2019.  The latest budget indicates 16 staffers in Animal Services.

Update 11-16-21:  Two citizens spoke on the dog issue at this morning's City Council meeting.  A woman from PaulAnn shared her experience with Animal Services after two dogs killed their family cat and the act was captured on video.  She said Animal Services wouldn't help her unless a person witnessed the mauling.  A gentleman from Lake Nasworthy shared how a neighbor lets his dogs run loose and one attacked another neighbor's pet causing significant harm.  He and his neighbors have called Animal Services multiple times on this issue and it is yet to be addressed.

Update 12-5-21:  Animals 24-7 reported:
 "Shelters desperate to lower their euthanasia totals and increase their “live release” rates are making themselves increasingly inaccessible to people who for whatever reason want or need to surrender animals who may not be easily adopted out."

Update 12-10-12: The city closed the shelter for all but emergency services on November 4th due to staffing issues.  Adoption contractor Concho Valley PAWS put out a plea to the public for volunteers to help clean kennels.  Someone poisoned over 200 shelter dogs on or around November 13.  The case has been referred for criminal investigation.  

A New Mexico shelter experienced a rise in aggressive and anxious dogs due to lack of staffing, which meant the dogs got less time outside their cage.  

Update 12-14-21:  The City gave Adoption Fees to Concho Valley PAWS as of November 2020.  That's roughly $35,000.  Staff did not include the revenue loss in their financial impact to City Council.  

Thursday, November 04, 2021

City Closes Shelter Due to Lack of Staff

The City of San Angelo closed Animal Shelter operations to the public other than emergencies. The news came two days after a PaulAnn resident informed City Council of dog packs in his neighborhood. Yesterday, NBCNews3 ran a story on strays and could not show footage of dogs killing a family's cat due to the graphic nature of the images.

The City informed the public of reduced shelter services via Facebook.  

There is no press release/news item on its website to date.

San Angelo Live reported:

In recent years San Angelo has seen an uptick in stray cats and dogs which has put a strain not only on the Animal Shelter but Concho Valley Paws as well.

The news piece does not mention the shelter's move to managed intake, which allows citizens to surrender their animal to the shelter for two reasons, aggression in the home and natural disaster.  

From 2014 to 2017 the shelter averaged 2,300 owner surrenders/returns per year.  The last three years with PAWS as adoption coordinator it averaged 350.  For the twelve months just ended the shelter accepted only 77 owner surrenders/returns. 

How did shutting down owner surrenders impact the number of stray pets in our community? 

City Council members stated people are the problem when hearing of loose dogs.  Concho Valley PAWS Executive Director frequently talks about irresponsible pet owners.  

Pets Alive admits it shifts the place for pets needing a new home from a shelter environment to the home.  However, San Angelo citizens did not hear they would need to accept thousands more pets per year as part of the Shelter's pursuit of "No Kill."  

Did our legions of bad pet owners abandon their unwanted pets into city streets? That would be truly sad.

 Update 11-5-21:  Still no news of the shelter's closure other than emergencies on the city's website. 

Update 11-24-21:  The City announced is is hiring.  Three of the positions are in Animal Services:

May be an image of outdoors and text that says '325-657-4221 COSATX.US/JOBS HIRING NOW AVAILABLE POSITIONS Administrative Assistant (Animal Services) Airport Maintenance Technician Backflow Inspector (Water Quality) Building Maintenance Worker (Fort) City Engineer Civic Events Extra Help Claims Technician (Risk) •Deputy Court Clerk Fort Concho Museum Guide Heavy Equip. Operator (Streets) Light Equip. Operator (Stormwater) .Maintenance Worker (Code, Parks, Lake, Streets) .Mechanic (Fleet) •Meter Service Rep. (Water) •Real Estate Manager Recreation Assistant, Extra Help .School Crossing Guard •Senior Maintenance Worker (Parks) Shelter Worker Shelter Assistant| •Survey Technician, Sr. •Utility Maintenance Mechanic •Wastewater Plant Operator Water Plant Operator •Welder or Welder Sr. (Utility Maintenance)'

City's "No Kill" Press Release Cited Wrong Year

A recent press release cited 2015 as the year the City of San Angelo set its "No Kill" goal for the Animal Shelter.  That didn't seem right so I submitted a public information request.

Please provide documents showing the city adopted its "No Kill" shelter goal in 2015.

The city's response was one document:

Minutes from ASAC meeting July 21, 2016

The minutes for the agenda item stated:

Discussion and possible action related to ASAC Goals & Objectives: 

Mr. Salas read the goals & objectives set by the committee during two work sessions. Ms. Wilson gave additional details on the “no kill” shelter goal providing clarifying language as to what a “no kill” shelter means, and also clarified that shelter manning levels would be set by comparison cities who have shown to be successful. Ms. Bennett moved to approve G&O. Seconded by Ms. Doepp. Motion carried.

The two work sessions mentioned occurred in June 2016.

2015 was an active year for Animal Services as the city adopted mandatory spay-neuter and micro-chipping ordinances.  

Not one Animal Services Advisory Committee meeting during 2015 had "No Kill" on its agenda.   The City set its "No Kill" goal in July 2016.  A public information document confirmed the City of San Angelo's public information error.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Road to San Angelo's "No Kill"

The Animal Shelter Advisory Board set their goal of becoming a "No Kill" shelter in 2016.  City Council provided the tools via a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance and micro-chipping requirement for pet owners.  Spay/neuter would reduce the number of unwanted pets and rapid identification of pet ownership could quickly reunite lost pets without a trip to the shelter.  

Nearly 8.000 animals entered the shelter in 2016.  The shelter restricted animal intake to Tom Green County residents in 2015. Previously, it accepted animals from the Concho Valley.

I assumed the shelter would fix and microchip every animal in sight as a way to achieve their no kill goals. That didn't happen.  City Council contracted with PAWS for veterinary services in 2018.  PAWS vet conducted 87 spay/neuter surgeries over four months.  It then stopped

The City Shelter implemented "managed intake" for pet owners and for those finding lost pets in 2019.  In 2021 it restricted services to San Angelo residents only.  All those changes dropped intake to 4,264.  

Serious illness and death were no longer reasons for the shelter to accept a pet needing a new home.  To date nearly 300 people died from COVID-19 within Tom Green County.  It's not clear how many of the  almost 25,000 COVID positives have long hauler syndrome and face lingering health limitations that impact their ability to care for their pet(s).

Now that the City of San Angelo Animal Shelter achieved its 2016 goal of releasing 90% of pets alive what's next?  Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden wrote in 2020:

Once we’ve achieved and maintained 90%, we hope to become a community resource to families in need.

You mean they weren't doing that all along? 

Update 10-21-21:  The City issued a press release on their accomplishment.  It included:  

New intake procedures, a robust community cat program and new protocols to prevent spread of disease inside the shelter and a focus on returning pets to their owners have been some of the most successful areas of improvement.

The city dumped 48 cats, 47 of which were unaltered into San Angelo neighborhoods during the last twelve months.  It did so because it had no funding for a Top Four Pets Alive strategy.  The 48 cats spent an average of 12 days in the shelter prior to release.  A robust community cat program would have no overnight stays in the shelter and would never dump intact cats onto city streets..

City Council appropriated $5,000 to deal with nuisance cat collections in the community after a Councilperson raised questions about problem cats.  A robust community cat program would eat that up pretty quickly.  

Other than the 90% live release rate the city press release is light on shelter volumes, adoptions ((918 and down from last year), owner surrenders (a mere 76) and returns (1 out of 4,264 taken in during the year).  

The city has no information on its website regarding its robust community cat program.  Mayor Brenda Gunter shared her expectation that a significant public relations campaign was to go along with the $5,000 City Council appropriated for "problem" cat collections.

The City removed the sparse information it had on its only community cat sponsoring organization, Critter Shack.  A web search once produced:

 No more.    Here's what comes up now:


The deck is cleared for PAWS to charge the city more money for services previously provided to cat colony managers at no charge to city coffers.  Critter Shack will continue to support colony caregivers.  

Since the passing of the ordinance that offers some protection to the caretakers, Critter Shack's programs have focused on providing help to these colony caretakers and a large part of our annual budget is aimed at helping colony caretakers and cat owners in education, financial assistance and low-cost spay/neuter programs. If you or Council members have any questions about our caretaker registrations or programs, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss our efforts in these areas. The ordinance has been a step forward in protecting caretakers who are actively working with TNR and the cats in their care. (sent to Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden on 6-11-21)

To date PAWS has expressed no interest in meeting the expectations of the city's community cat ordinance. It's had a community cat survey on its website for years.  Fishing for colony caregivers is not a robust community cat program.  It does not qualify one for a community cat sponsoring organization designation.  PAWS has been free to become one for six years.  It is yet to do so.

Today's Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting failed to achieve a quorum and will be rescheduled.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Celebrating Shelter Not Taking Pets Except in Rare Circumstance

Neither death, illness nor moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home are acceptable reasons to surrender a pet to the City of San Angelo Animal Shelter.  The move to managed intake occurred in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic hit our community.  

Since then nearly 25,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 according to the City of San Angelo Health Department.  Almost 300 people died from COVID-19 in Tom Green County.   September 2021 was San Angelo's deadliest month under the pandemic as the coronavirus claimed 65 lives.

I worked for a local hospice and encountered patients and families needing assistance finding new homes for pets due to severe illness and death.  One fall or infection could mean a resident is not able to care for a pet on an ongoing basis. 

More than half of COVID-19 patients still had symptoms up to six months after recovery, including neurological issues, lung abnormalities, and cardiovascular issues like heart palpitations and chest pain. Others suffered hair loss or skin rashes, some had digestive issues. “The burden of poor health in COVID-19 survivors is overwhelming,” Dr. Paddy Ssentongo, one of the study’s lead researchers, said in a statement. “One’s battle with COVID doesn’t end with recovery from the acute infection.”

NBC has a documentary on the COVID burden in San Angelo.  COVID-19 increased the level of illness and death in our community and likely the need for assistance with pets.  

The City Animal Shelter walled itself off from serving citizens in need with multiple managed intake programs.  It plans to celebrate choking off intake at City Council on Tuesday.    

Update 10-19-21:  Council did celebrate this morning.

The shelter took 76 owner surrenders and 1 return the last twelve months.  That's 77 out of 4,264  animals that entered the shelter (1.8%).

Update 12-3-21:  Animals 24-7 reported:

 "Shelters desperate to lower their euthanasia totals and increase their “live release” rates are making themselves increasingly inaccessible to people who for whatever reason want or need to surrender animals who may not be easily adopted out."

Friday, October 15, 2021

Council to Proclaim Animal Services

The City of San Angelo Animal Shelter recently achieved a 90% live release rate, a goal set in 2015.  City Council will honor this achievement with a proclamation in their next meeting. 

The shelter took in roughly 8,000 animals in 2014.  That went down to 4,500 in 2020, a 43% decrease. The Animal Shelter budget soared in the opposite direction from roughly $750,000 to over $1 million in 2020, a 38% increase.  Staff also increased from 12 to 17.

The proclamation fails to mention in 2019 the shelter stopped most citizens from surrendering their pet via managed intake, nixing the major reason pets went into the shelter.  Owner illness and death were no longer valid reasons for an animal to be surrendered to the shelter.  The city will not help someone needing a new home for their pets due to moving into assisted living or a nursing facility.  

The shelter has refused stray animals captured at area employers.  That may be part of added managed intake for unowned pets, adopted in fall 2019.  In addition, the shelter restricted services to city limits in March 2021.

Area rescues continue to be impacted by the shelter's choking off intake.  Rescues experience dogs and cats that have been adopted from the shelter and remain unaltered.  Shelter adoption coordinator PAWS refuses to take back pets, many given away for no charge.  Those people call areas rescues, asking them to re-home their free shelter dog.

American Pets Alive asks participating shelters to work collaboratively with area rescues.  City staff contacted the only community cat sponsoring organization three times in the last two years, all via e-mail.  The majority of euthanized animals are cats.  

The shelter released fifty unaltered cats into San Angelo neighborhoods from October 2020 to February 2021.  

They did not send these animals through PAWS SNIP program nor did they inform the public of their actions.  I would want to know if the city or PAWS was dumping unaltered cats on my block.  One Council member wanted to know what was going on with cats. 

The current Shelter Director grossly misrepresented community cat history to the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee in their June meeting.  The Director did not pass on an offer from the sponsoring organization to share their efforts and successes.  That person went even further, running down the city's only rescue helping cat colony managers.  Numerous city leaders joined in the verbal undermining.

The city does not require its adoption coordinator to share compliance with the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance, microchipping or rabies vaccination.  It has that ability via standard contract language from 2018 but refuses to provide that information in public information requests.

Cutting services to meet a target caused damage and heartache to many residents.  Citizens will judge City Council and the Animal Shelter by their deeds.  PAWS claimed the shelter euthanized 80% of animals in 2016.  City data showed the number to be half that.      

Is this lying or image polishing?  There is much to proclaim if one wants to see the whole picture.  

Update 10-16-21:  San Angelo Live shared PAWS fiction in a piece on the proclamation.  The proclamation recognizing the significant strides made in the past six years shows PAWS lying.

The death rate has decreased from over 67% to under 10% of all release outcomes.

The City of San Angelo website also shows PAWS 80% kill rate is not factual.   

"We made improvements under this plan, increasing the live-release rate from 33% in fiscal year 2015 to 47% in fiscal year 2018." 

The City is yet to share its intake and euthanasia totals for the last twelve months. How much further did they choke off intake and not serve taxpaying citizens?

Update 10-18-21:  Intake decreased to 4,264 for the last twelve months with shelter deaths at 404.  Intake was just over 8,000 animals in 2014.  Adoptions are down to 918 for the last twelve months.

For the first time since PAWS began as the Shelter adoption coordinator it will provide information on compliance with the city's spay/neuter ordinance.  City Council voted to approve PAWS as the city's adoption coordinator in February 2018.

Update 10-24-21:  PAWS presented inaccurate data in fundraising through the San Angelo Community Foundation:

PAWS committed to a shelter pet adoption program in 2015, the City of San Angelo was home to one of the highest-kill shelters in the state of Texas. Animal control euthanized over 9,000 cats and dogs each year. The annual kill rate of the shelter was 82 percent which means 82 percent of the animals that entered the shelter were killed.

The reported euthanasia rate from the City of San Angelo was 72% for FY14 and 62% for FY 15.  Neither of those are 82%.  The number of animals taken into the shelter was 8,074 in FY14 and 6,561 in FY15.  Both of those are less than 9,000.