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.

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