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.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

COVID-19 Documentary on San Angelo Coming


NBC will air a documentary revealing how little citizens in our community care for one another.  The trailer arrived after San Angelo's highest death month since the pandemic began.  The City Health Department announced 65 deaths in September, eclipsing the 64 people dying from COVID-19 in January.  

The video shows Local Health Authority Dr. James Vretis, who recently tried to reduce COVID spread in Tom Green County schools but was thrown under the yellow bus by state and local elected officials, as well as school district leaders.

I spoke with Shannon Medical Center health professionals who are disturbed by the aggressive nature of citizens unwilling to protect themselves, much less their neighbors.  

When I moved to West Texas nearly thirty years ago I learned two things that made the Concho Valley great.  One, people took care of one another when times got tough and two, not having an interstate highway kept out riff-raft.  

San Angelo is on track for not one, but two interstate highways.  COVID-19 blew a hole in neighbor caring for neighbor.  Dr. Vretis can't do public health with a bitterly divided public and a minimally staffed health department that has been reduced to making phone calls and counting cases.  The City gutted its health department over the last two decades and closed its clinics for over a year due to the pandemic.

San Angelo had 111 coronavirus deaths the last two months, 430 since the pandemic began.  The U.S. passed 700,000 COVID deaths.  This public health crisis revealed much about the fabric of our community and it is clearly torn.

Update 10-22-21:  The documentary can be viewed here.  It was odd to hear Health Director Sandra Villareal say "it is kind of hard when you can't really follow your pandemic plans." 

Update 11-10-21:  Interstate 14 is coming courtesy of a Blue administration.

"San Angelo and Tom Green County have a long history of advocacy for our area to be part of the national interstate highway system," said Steve Floyd, Tom Green County judge.

A report from the Texas Department of State Health Services examined data from Jan. 15 to Oct. 1 and found that unvaccinated people were much more likely to get infected and die of the coronavirus than those who got their shots.  In all age groups, the state's unvaccinated were 40 times more likely to die than fully vaccinated people. The study also found that the unvaccinated in all age groups were 45 times more likely to have a coronavirus infection than fully vaccinated people.  Republican leaders sharpened attacks on public health strategies throughout the pandemic.

Update 12-5-21:  Rep. Drew Darby's latest abandonment of the health and safety of his constituents involved his opposition to federal vaccine mandates.  Shannon Medical Center had to suspend its requirement for employees to be COVID-19 vaccinated as courts deal with the constitutionality of mandates.  Tom Green County's highest COVID death toll occurred just months ago.   Darby's House District shows education and health care as the biggest employer.  A Texas education official recommended COVID vaccines be mandatory in schools, like other legally required vaccinations.  Daby's former failure to citizens came in the February freeze.  We could have used his fire then. 

Update 12-31-21:  After banning mask mandates and preventing businesses from requiring employees be vaccinated, the Omicron variant punched a hole in Governor Abbott's reliance on antibody treatment for at-risk Texans.  Abbott blames the Biden administration which is like this Biblical passage.  "You can see the speck in your friend's eye, but you don't notice the log in your own eye."  Abbott did more to foster the spread of disease with his anti-public health stances.

Update 1-2-22:  America's sad state of affairs in public health is reflected by:

"Hundreds of state and local health officials across the country have retired, resigned or been forced out in partisan rancor over the pandemic."