Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Chokehold on Shelter Intake Remains as Capacity Reduced

The City announced shelter changes.  It appears the same group that brought the Animal Shelter to its recent horrific conditions is navigating the way out of its numerous dysfunctions.   Overcrowding and incapable operations turned the shelter into a roach infested, bad hoarding situation.  Pictures of San Angelo's shelter went viral in the worst way.

City leaders failed to accept responsibility for the disaster caused by Pets Alive's misplaced priorities.  Choking off shelter intake meant citizens could only surrender their pet for two reasons,  aggression towards people in the home or natural disaster.   The shelter refused to take pets from San Angelo residents moving overseas or going into a nursing home.  The death of a pet owner is not a reason for the shelter to accept an animal.  

Intake from owner surrenders went from almost 3,000 pets in 2016 to a mere 77 in 2021.  The City recently further tightened its chokehold by "asking" citizens to hold onto found pets for two days before bringing a lost animal to the shelter. 

Three years of severely limiting intake resulted in large numbers of unaltered dogs roaming city streets.  Recent overcrowding at the shelter was caused in part by pets having litters in shelter care.  One Husky had been in the shelter twice before and delivered seven puppies two months into her third shelter stay. 

Pets Alive does not prioritize spay/neuter as a means to prevent unwanted pets.  Concho Valley PAWS contracted with the city for spay/neuter services multiple times.  PAWS and shelter leadership assured Council that shelter pets were spayed/neutered through a "trusted reconciliation" process.  This "trusted" process allowed that Husky three unaltered stays in the Animal Shelter.

San Angelo's version of Pets Alive resulted in overfilling the shelter with large, unaltered, difficult to adopt dogs that resided in the shelter for years.  City Council had a months long strategic planning/budgeting process to consider the impact of Pets Alive strategies.  I saw no evidence of Council deliberations in this arena.  The roach infestation occurred as budgets were being finalized.

Last week at City Council Mayor Pro Tem Tom Thompson assured the public changes were underway.  The crisis included spending over $23,500 on temporary dog cages.  It also paid a professional contractor for roach treatment and another for deep cleaning the shelter.

Four business days after hearing from the public at Council the city announced the result of that work. 

As usual, city leaders missed the opportunity for wider citizen input, the opportunity to leverage area rescues knowledge/energy and a deeper discussion on institutionalizing spay/neuter of shelter animals making it "bad citizen" proof.   

Choking down shelter capacity is layered on top of years of choking off animal intake.  Less service for more money.  That may as well be the City's motto.

Update 9-23-22:  San Angelo Live reported the impact of Pets Alive choking off shelter intake and not prioritizing spay/neuter services:

Valenzuela said the number of pets abandoned inside the city limits has greatly increased over the past year.

Update 10-23-22:   A journalist examined the deterioration of Pets Alive into its current form.  Pets Alive encourages:

...policies that result in friendly kittens and other needy animals being left on streets. In Austin, this included a proposed vision of “not accepting strays at the shelter” as a way to limit intakes and to reduce shelter budgets accordingly.

...shelters embracing this APA model have also stopped taking in healthy strays, including kittens, telling people to handle it themselves, to turn them loose, or to simply leave them on the sidewalk. 

Four years of leaving pets in the streets and releasing unaltered dogs to owners has the Animal Shelter in crisis.

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