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. 

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