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.