Thursday, September 15, 2022

PAWS "Shelter Horror" Defense is Offense

What happens when the public face of the San Angelo Animal Shelter turns on the hand that feeds it?  Adoption contractor Concho Valley PAWS has done just that in a number of Facebook posts on the recent crisis.  Many were picked up by local media.

PAWS acknowledged the shelter's horrific hoarding conditions and defended its work internally to get attention to the problems.  PAWS "stayed in its lane."  The lack of cleanliness and overcrowding brought significant public outrage.  

PAWS publicly lamented its lack of audience with city leadership, the city's not taking PAWS up on its many offers to help mitigate the disgusting conditions animals endured and the city's poor pay/working conditions for shelter staff.  

PAWS is also the city's veterinary service provider.  Widespread unsanitary conditions impact animal health.  Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden told the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee on August 18th that litters of puppies and kittens were mainly responsible for the overcrowding conditions.  The roach explosion occurred the following week.

Saturday, September 3rd Critter Shack's Sharon Halfmann wrote (as the shelter received roach treatment):

It is, above all, true that the failure of pet owners to spay/neuter/vaccinate/microchip/provide proper care is the primary reason for the large numbers of unwanted/abandoned animals that we see here every day. 
It is also true that San Angelo has a ”mandatory spay/neuter/microchip ordinance” requiring animals to be spayed/neutered at six months, with some exceptions. The ”quotes” signify that this ordinance is rarely enforced; we would ask why the CIty is so hesitant to enforce this important ordinance? Obviously, it would not be easy, but wouldn’t the fines generated pay for an enforcement officer -or two, or more? Does the City place less importance on the lives and well-being of dogs and cats than they do on the length of our grass or of overhanging branches in alleyways? 
It is true that many of the people and rescues in our area stepped up to help foster, adopt, give supplies for, or offer support for many of the dogs and cats that were housed in the Shelter during this recent closure - that is extremely heartening to see and shows how animal lovers can come together and work for a common goal. 
While it is true that the dog/cat overpopulation problem is due to irresponsible pet ownership, once an animal is accepted into a shelter or rescue, that animal becomes the responsibility of that entity and proper treatment/housing of those animals is part of that commitment. When a shelter or rescue reaches maximum capacity, they have an obligation to the animals in their care to NOT overextend and fail to provide reasonable care to the animals they are responsible for. For rescues, that decision is usually to limit or stop intake - a City Shelter faces a more difficult choice. If capacity is reached, if many more animals are coming in than are being adopted, fostered, transported, then choices are limited and harsh. However, warehousing dogs/cats for weeks, months or years in crates, cages or small pens is not a humane answer. Continuing to house more animals than can be properly cared for by insufficient numbers of caretakers/workers is not a humane answer. 
So, what can we do? Can citizens, rescues, veterinarians, city officials, shelter administrators work together to better the lives of our animals? Can we figure out a way to offer as much low cost spay/neuter as possible? Can we help educate pet owners and offer help with proper pet ownership? Can we enforce a spay/neuter ordinance aimed at reducing the overbreeding of pets? Can we put our agendas aside to help animals? Critter Shack is ready to work with groups or individuals to find some reasonable, workable solutions to address the plight of animals in our area. Let us know what positive ideas/possible solutions or steps in the right direction you have. 

Yes, city leaders could have said "The bugs have been treated and the shelter is clean.  We'd like to listen to citizens and area rescues and find a better way forward."  They didn't do that.

PAWS could have said "What role did we play in overcrowding by not spaying pregnant pets in shelter care as the city's veterinary provider and releasing unaltered shelter pets back into the community?  How can we change those practices?"  They did not.

The two parties that created the mess are at odds.  PAWS has gone on offense by repeatedly reaching out to the public with its case.  I expect next week's City Council meeting to have lots of public comment.  Mayor Brenda Gunter will have a challenge if she is back from her bout with the flu.

The public deserves to know how we got here and why we should trust the people who created the horrific conditions to make lasting improvements.  

One local rescue is "ready to work with groups or individuals to find some reasonable, workable solutions to address the plight of animals in our area."  The way forward will reveal if there is more than one.

No comments: