Friday, October 28, 2022

Animal Shelter Update to Council Next Week

Animal Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden will update City Council on the myriad of issues raised before Labor Day weekend.  

Roach infestation -- "Our pest control vendor has completed three treatments to the impacted area and continues to spot treat assessing progress."

Horrific hoarding conditions -- "Standards of care have improved greatly and will continue as we invest in staff training, maintenance and outreach."

Overcrowding due to puppies and strays-- "Management recently adapted the shelter capacity, further defining the maximum animals housed.

  • No more than 180 dogs*
    • Opportunity to house 20 additional dogs in exigent circumstances with an expiration of one week
  • No more than 120 cats*
  • Maximum length of stay will be determined by routine assessments of each animals' needs based on individual pets' temperament and demeanor

*Cats (kittens) and dogs (puppies) under four weeks of age are excluded from capacity as their mother cares for them. No additional staff time is needed to clean the kennel.

Statistics on puppies and kittens taken into the shelter for the last seven years is below.  This does not show how many puppies or kittens were born in shelter care or the age of those infant pets.

Spay/Neuter Enforcement and Compliance -- "Our prior practice was to educate citizens on the requirement to spay/neuter and refer families to low-cost options, such as Concho Valley PAWS' SNIP voucher program.... After a 10 days’ grace period, we’d follow up with the citizen to collect proof of
compliance and write a citation if no progress was made."

"Pet owners may visit today to avoid costly fines and invest in the long term health of your pet. City Council may consider funding $10,000 annually for spay/neuter assistance for families in need."

Veterinary service provider PAWS and the shelter released nearly 1,500 unaltered pets in the last two years.  That is over 62 unaltered animals per month.  Most of those were returned to owner/guardian. 

Monthly citations for failure to spay/neuter since Morgan was promoted to Shelter Chief show minimal ticket issuance (only an average of 2.9 citations per month over a five year period).

The average for the last two years was 3.76 citations per month.  Shelter data does not support Morgan's assertion that citations were written for failure to spay/neuter those 62 unaltered pets released per month over the same period.  

How does a city staffer get to characterize an unfilled responsibility as an operational practice?  Five city leaders approved the content of the memo to Council.

There is at least one oddity in the update.  It includes a recommended monthly amnesty day where citizens can claim their pet(s) at no expense.  It lists an $86 revenue loss but does not detail the components of that revenue, boarding charges, citation/court fees...   Staff recommend Council approve funding for three amnesty days but does not indicate the funding source for the other nine amnesty days in a calendar year.

The City continues its exclusive alliance with adoption coordinator/veterinary service provider Concho Valley PAWS.  Morgan told SALive the shelter is "on fire" for spay/neuter, yet shelter statistics provided to the public and Animal Services Advisory Committee do not include shelter animal spay/neuter status.  

Veterinary service provider PAWS had two months to address a pregnant Husky in the shelter.  They did not and it gave birth to seven puppies in June.  

City Council has ignored the city shutting off shelter services to taxpaying citizens facing a life event, illness, moving into assisted living/nursing home or death of pet owner.  

Shelter overcrowding is not due to citizens surrendering their pet or returning an adoption.  It remains at a fraction of prior year numbers.

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela asked Assistant City Manager Michael Dane to address the roach infestation/horrific hoarding conditions crisis.  Neither of those gentleman are on the approval list or slated to speak to Council in the update.

The update does not directly address Valenzuela's statement about record numbers of stray pets in our community.  It fails to respond to Concho Valley PAWS assertion that shelter workers are underpaid and overworked.  Hopefully, those issues will be explored in City Council next week.

Update:  The day after informing the public that the shelter is full and posting a PAWS image of large, long stay dogs the City announced  the Animal Shelter will be closed Monday, October 31 for staff training.  Concho Valley PAWS will also be closed.  The closure announcement came at 2:14 pm on a Friday afternoon.

Update 11-1-22:  Morgan informed City Council of changes to shelter worker pay.  Changes in pay were not included under the financial impact section of the memo to Council in the background packet.

Council chose to restrict the number of animals taken into the Shelter. When the dog population hits 170 the shelter will not take in new dogs from San Angelo citizens who find a lost dog.  Councilman Larry Miller asked what his options would be if he found a dog in his front yard in that situation.  Morgan said he would need to knock on doors in his neighborhood.  He said he would be put in a difficult situation with no service from the shelter and release the animal.  That has been the case for many citizens since the shelter went to managed intake.  

For years shelter staff regularly told citizens that they will not take their owner surrender.  The practical impact of restricting intake means shelter staff will leave strays on the streets or good-hearted citizens will be forced to decide to release the stray they found.

The idea of spending more on spay/neuter was not addressed in the meeting. 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Shelter Owner Surrenders Remain Low

Overcrowding at the City of San Angelo Animal Shelter was not the result of pet owners surrendering their pet or returning an adopted pet.  Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden blamed the situation on litters of puppies.  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said the problem of stray pets in our community had gotten out of control.  

The question is how the shelter's intake diversion for the last four years impacted the number of dumped, unaltered animals in our community.  To that answer add the nearly 1,500 unaltered pets the shelter released to owners in the last two years.

PAWS cited overworked and underpaid shelter staff in its public relations efforts around the horrific hoarding conditions.  Hopefully, Council's shelter update on Nov. 1 will hear back from staff on these issues, puppies, strays and shelter worker pay.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

City Council to Tackle Service of Longstanding COSADC Board Member

The City of San Angelo is close to closing the chapter opened in the September Development Corporation Board meeting by former Economic Development Director Guy Andrews, Economic Development staffer Nolan Sosa and Development Board First Vice President John Bariou.  

Andrews had already retired but shared the reasons he left city employment.  Guy cited bullying by Assistant City Manager Michael Dane and avoidance of important issues by City Manager Daniel Valenzuela.

Nolan Sosa switched employers after raising leadership concerns and the ire of interim boss Michael Dane.  That leaves one person for City leadership to address.  City Council will discuss in Executive Session on 11-1-22.

Section 551.074 - Personnel matters regarding the evaluation, discipline, or dismissal of John Bariou from the COSADC Board.

John Bariou has served on the Development Corporation Board for a number of terms and over the years shown his knowledge and dedication.  Will Council discipline or dismiss Bariou for taking what appeared to be an ethical stand in the September COSADC board meeting?  It's on Council's closed agenda. 

Update 11-1-22:  City Council dropped the Executive Session agenda item regarding "evaluation, discipline, or dismissal of John Bariou from the COSADC board."  Mr. Bariou asked Council to move the item from closed to open session and referenced state officials in his point of order to City Council.  City Attorney Theresa James suggested training for Council and the COSADC board on state laws/regulations as she believes Council and members of COSADC are talking past one another on this issue.

Update 11-2-22:  John Bariou gave public comment at City Council and informed Council members of the many public authorities watching the meeting and concerned about the recent developments between the city and the Development Corporation.  

Bariou spoke with SALive the evening before the Council meeting and shared his concerns.

Update 1-17-23:  City Council did not slap down Bariou directly but Mayor Gunter scuttled a number of proposed bylaw changes that would have given the Development Corporation Board more power in COSADC leadership and officer selection.  Councilman Harry Thomas said he was surprised the City Attorney allowed the document to be brought forward.  This is the second item from COSADC that Council rejected since former Economic Development Director Guy Andrews spoke out against City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and Assistant City Manager Michael Dane.  

Update 3-7-23:  City Council approved the minor bylaws change.  After Executive Session Council approved a number of Development Corporation Board members.  John Bariou's name was not among the nominees approved.  City Council enacted their desired discipline on behalf of Dane and Valenzuela.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Shelter Released Nearly 1,500 Unaltered Pets

The City of San Angelo Animal Shelter released almost 1,500 unaltered pets over the last two fiscal years.  The vast majority of intact dogs and cats (nearly 1,400) were in the return to owner/guardian category.  Adoptions accounted for 100 unaltered pets.

Shelter management and adoption/veterinary services contractor Concho Valley PAWS have long complained about irresponsible pet owners allowing their pets to reproduce and run free.  In some cases the shelter has facilitated reuniting shelter animals with those irresponsible owners.

This two year time frame is important because City leadership changed the time period for giving citations for failure to spay/neuter per city ordinance.  It informed the public in a press release:

Effective Aug. 16, 2022, citizens who have failed to prove compliance for spaying or neutering their pets have received citations through a newly approved process that allows violations to be issued by mail rather than in person. This has replaced the shelter’s practice of allowing a 10-day grace period to collect proof of compliance for those in violation. 
Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden said citations would be written going back a "two year period" in the 10-20-22 Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting.  

When asked why the switch from a two month to a two year citation period the city's public information officer found no responsive documents. 

Hopefully, the Animal Shelter update for City Council will shed some light on this decision, as well as the myriad of issues raised during the roach infestation/horrific hoarding conditions crisis.

Update 10-26-22:  The City issued a press release on the plan to reduce shelter capacity,the very information it was unable to share with the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee last Thursday.  The press release did not address the large number of unaltered animals that enter and leave the Animal Shelter.  Animal Shelter staff will provide an update to the City Council at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Her Shelter Remains Overcrowded

Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden frequently states "My shelter..." in media interviews and Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meetings.  

Her shelter released 671 unaltered dogs to their owner/guardian in FY 21-22.  It received "100ish" formal complaints/provided written citations for failure to spay/neuter their pet over the same period.  That means city practice is to not write citations 85% of the time and only cite 15% of pet owners for failure to have their pet spayed/neutered.  Note these numbers are only for pets in shelter care and not for the wider San Angelo population.

Shelter adoption contractor/veterinary service provider Concho Valley PAWS patched up their relationship with the city after mounting a vigorous "It's not PAWS fault" public relations campaign.  

PAWS remains the voice of the shelter.

Executive Director Jenie Wilson had to miss yesterday evening's interview with San Angelo Live but will return for the next update. 

Three members of the public asked questions at yesterday's Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting and most went unanswered.  

One asked about the dog poisoning in November of last year, saying it had been swept under the rug.  Another asked how many pregnant pets delivered puppies or kittens in our shelter with its deadly endemic viruses (parvo and panleukopenia)?  Another pointed out a pet owner might not pick up their animal from the shelter for financial reasons (boarding costs plus citation/court fees) and just adopt a free pet via PAWS at their next event.

In the ASAC meeting Morgan could not answer the question about where the shelter stands relative to its capacity target and what plans are in place to reach the target as it was not on the agenda.  She did answer Yantis Green from San Angelo Live when he asked "Where do we stand today and where do we go from here?"

Morgan responded to Yantis' question about euthanasia and the November 30th deadline from city management.  She said the shelter needed to be down to 186 dogs by the end of October.  That information seems timely and pertinent to members of the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee, yet it could not be shared with them yesterday.

She did promote PAWS PetCo adoption event stressing the need for twenty shelter dogs to be adopted and said the shelter is "on fire" for spay/neuter.  "On fire" means not reporting spay/neuter status of shelter pets in monthly reports and no new money.

Chegwidden promoted Concho Valley PAWS SNIP spay/neuter voucher (while neglecting other low cost spay/neuter options in our community).  Morgan told Yantis "there are so many puppies."  Backyard breeding was mentioned but not the need for citizens to get a breeders permit should they desire to have that one litter.  

It's sad that a local media personality can get their questions answered but citizens attending an Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting are held off by staff not putting pertinent items on the agenda. 

Update 10-26-22:  The City issued a press release on the plan to reduce shelter capacity,the very information it was unable to share with the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee last Thursday.  The press release did not address the large number of unaltered animals that enter and leave the Animal Shelter.  Animal Shelter staff will provide an update to the City Council at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.

SALive wrote the city reached an agreement with Concho Valley PAWS and other area rescues on the shelter capacity.   The city reached an agreement with itself and stuck to its over reliance on adoption/veterinary services contractor PAWS as the city's sole Animal Services partner.  Expect more of the same.  SALive serves as the mouthpiece for the City/PAWS Animal Service exclusive partnership.  

Update 10-27-22:  The City issued a press release with "A message from our adopting agency Concho Valley PAWS."  It's on the shelter being full of long stay, large dogs.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

ASAC to Hear New Plan for Spay/Neuter Citations

Animal Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden included the following spay/neuter information in the ASAC meeting packet for 10-20-22:

Our prior practice was to educate citizens on the requirement to spay/neuter and refer families to low-cost options, such as Concho Valley PAWS' SNIP voucher program. We’d prefer pet owners avoid court fees and instead invest in their pet. After a 10 days’ grace period, we’d follow up with the citizen to collect proof of compliance and write a citation if no progress was made. With FY22’s large influx of canines under 6 months of age entering the shelter, we had to make a change. 

Morgan is a former budget manager and knows numbers.  In the just ended fiscal year the shelter released 760 unaltered animals, 688 returns to owner/guardian and 72 adoptions.  

That's 63 unaltered pets per month or more than two unaltered pets per calendar day released to the public.

Citations for failure to spay/neuter averaged four per month since the ordinance passed.  It is hard to believe 59 of those 63 pet owners in San Angelo actually got their unaltered pet fixed within the ten day grace period, given the characterization that many are irresponsible. 

Shelter records show a Husky with two former shelter stays giving birth in June, two months into its third stay.  That owner got slated for a citation only after their third violation which resulted in seven puppies.

City documents from 7-27-22 state writing citations for failure to spay/neuter pets would be "kicking an anthill."  That doesn't jive with the city's stated practice of issuing citations for citizen noncompliance.

Just after the last ASAC meeting the shelter was closed for days due to a roach infestation.  The public saw pictures showing shelter animals under horrific hoarding conditions.  

Shelter adoption/veterinary service provider Concho Valley 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.  

The roach infestation, overcrowding, disgusting conditions and PAWS defense for its complicit role are not on the agenda.  One might expect an update.

That may happen at City Council as Councilperson Lucy Gonzales asked for a shelter update in today's meeting.

Update 10-20-22:  Three citizens attended today's ASAC meeting and asked questions about shelter cleanliness, spay/neuter statistics and plans to comply with the new space restrictions.  Most of their questions went unanswered as there was no corresponding agenda item.

Update 10-21-22:  Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden said 671 of shelter animals returned to owner remain unaltered, i.e. the city has no documentation showing the pets received spay/neuter surgery.  She said the city had about 100 complaints filed/citations written for failure to spay/neuter.  Those statistics show the city's practice has been not to write citations 85% of the time.  Morgan did not know the amount of fine citizens would have to pay at municipal court for the automatically generated citation.

The shelter is full again and needs help to prevent euthanizing dogs for space.  

Update 10-27-22:  The City issued a press release with "A message from our adopting agency Concho Valley PAWS."  It's on the shelter being full again and has pictures of long stay, large dogs.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Unaltered Dogs Released from Shelter

From October 2021 to September 2022 the City of San Angelo Animal Shelter released 760 unaltered pets, 688 in returns to owner/guardian and 72 through adoptions.  Of the unaltered pets returned to owner  672 or 97.6% were dogs.

Shelter leaders and adoption/veterinary service contractor PAWS have long cited "irresponsible pet owners."  Yet, over 700 unaltered pets have been the responsibility of the Animal Shelter in the last year.  A number of these had litters in the shelter.  

The Shelter facilitated the widespread return of unaltered animals in the last year.  Nearly 3 out of 4 shelter pets returned to owner/guardian were not fixed (72%).  Only 28% of pets returned to owner complied with the city's mandatory spay/neuter ordinance.

When the city passed the spay/neuter ordinance in 2015 Shelter leadership told Council the city would take unaltered pets to veterinarians and get them fixed at the owner's expense.  That turned into a multi-year hands off approach to citizen noncompliance.   

Pets Alive does not prioritize spay/neuter in its "data driven" diversion of pets away from animal shelters.  Pet owners had few options if they could no longer keep their pet due to life changes.  The shelter only accepts owner surrenders in natural disasters and if the animal is aggressive.  Many pets get dumped into the community.  Those not fixed have litters and the cycle continues. 

Leaders calling citizens to "be the change" should have their house in order.  City Council needs to ensure unaltered pets are not giving birth in the shelter, much less leaving the shelter yet again without spay/neuter surgery.  It's long past time to make the Animal Shelter bad citizen proof by providing spay/neuter resources and holding pet owners and shelter leadership accountable. 

Update 11-24-23:  San Angelo Live summed up Animal Shelter problems as "big mean dogs are eating little dogs on Jackson Street."  Why did the author compartmentalize San Angelo's widespread loose dog problem to one street?  And why use an eating analogy?

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Development Corporation Special Meeting

The City of San Angelo Development Corporation's Board met yesterday and approved a $75.000 economic development incentive for Rosenberger Site Solutions, LLC.  The company plans to move some manufacturing operations to a leased facility on Tractor Trail.

Missing from the meeting were First Vice President John Bariou and Economic Development Administrator Nolan Sosa.  They along with former Economic Development Director Guy Andrews raised a number of leadership concerns in the September meeting. 

City Council spent considerable time in executive session regarding the Development Corporation in their October 4th meeting.  Sosa is no longer employed by the city.  His name is missing from the city's economic development webpage.  Sosa's LinkedIn page indicates he now works for BEPC, the consulting company that hired former City Councilmember Johnny Silvas. 

Yesterday's meeting was a one item agenda so none of the prior issues (conflict avoidance, bullying, fairness, board independence) were raised.  If normal City of San Angelo practice is followed those issues will not be raised again.  At least not in public.

Update 10-26-22:  City Council will discuss in Executive Session on 11-1-22.

Section 551.074 - Personnel matters regarding the evaluation, discipline, or dismissal of John Bariou from the COSADC Board

Friday, October 07, 2022

Shelter Full From Puppies and Strays

The City of San Angelo released September data on Animal Shelter intake and the disposition of shelter pets.  SALive noted the problem of puppies from unaltered pets as a major contributor to shelter overpopulation.  

SALive did not report that one Husky had seven puppies in city care in early June, after two previous stays in the shelter.  Concho Valley PAWS veterinarian had two months to spay this dog but did not.

The City's statistics do not show the number of unaltered animals in shelter care nor the number of puppies.

SALive also mentioned the high number of stray animals.  This came after years of choking off pet intake.  

Friends shared experiences where they tried to do the right thing by stray dogs, calling the police non-emergency line, asking Animal Control Officers to respond and being refused service.  One did so under their employment with a major San Angelo business.  In each case loose dogs remained loose dogs.  

Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden and PAWS Director Jenie Wilson spoke about the importance of spay/neuter but did not provide SALive readers with information or options on options for low cost spay/neuter surgery.  They did say PAWS would provide a spay/neuter coupon for $20 for "owner released" shelter animals.  

When asked recently which veterinarians accept PAWS spay/neuter coupons, neither the Animal Shelter or PAWS provided that information. 

The Shelter has long been aware of the need to spay/neuter pets in their care.  They could and should provide statistics on the reproductive status of shelter pets and if any animals in their care give birth in the shelter.   

Remaining intact is shelter leadership, its adoption contractor and SALive's serving as the city's voice.  Any journalist "encouraging citizens to take advantage of the low-cost spay/neuter services offered in San Angelo" would share more than PAWS contact information.  There are other rescues in town where low cost spay/neuter clinics are an operation strength (Critter Shack Rescue).  That is not the case with PAWS, despite its new building with the city's former veterinary surgical equipment.

Update:  Concho Valley Homepage ran the city press release with a few simple edits.  By following the city's exclusive pushing of PAWS Concho Valley Homepage was also unable to find other low cost spay/neuter options and inform citizens.  

PAWS spay/neuter vouchers are good for 45 days.  What is the average wait time at a PAWS participating vet for spay/neuter surgery?  How many vouchers expire unused?  

Update 10-12-22:   Texas law has long required shelter pets to be spayed/neutered before adoption and provides methods for agencies to address adopters failure to provide evidence that they spayed/neutered their pet as required..

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Shelter Update on SALive

Citizens have been waiting for a plan to improve Animal Shelter conditions from City Manager Daniel Valenzuela.   San Angelo Live's Joe Hyde quoted Valenzuela in his interview with Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden and Concho Valley PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson.  

 "Morgan is working her tale off."

Morgan reiterated "her" shelter became overcrowded due to new litters of puppies and kittens.  She didn't address the disgusting conditions for animals in "her" shelter that precipitated a roach infestation.

Wilson explained the horrific hoarding conditions seen in late August were due to a number of one time circumstances.  That's odd given PAWS statements in the wake of the outcry that city shelter staff are overworked and underpaid.  Why would the city change pay for a series of one-time circumstances?

Hyde concluded at the end of the interview.  "The dog crisis is coming under control.  Spay and neuter is long term.  Short term we need fosters and adopters."

Morgan and Jenie did not say if they will continue to allow pregnant pets to deliver their litters inside the Animal Shelter nor did they address pay for shelter workers or changes in cleaning practices.    

The chokehold on shelter intake remains in effect.  Intact animals will continue to leave the shelter as PAWS will now issue spay/neuter certificates for shelter animals "returned to owner" for $20.

Have the city and its adoption/veterinary service contractor really patched things up?  Maybe City Manager Daniel Valenzuela will officially let us know if he wants the same people who led the shelter into crisis to lead it out.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Council Meeting Dominated by Executive Session

San Angelo City Council spent more time in executive session (two hours) than it did to address its consent and regular agenda (just over one hour).  The executive agenda item was "consultation with attorney regarding COSADC." 

Council made no report of any action taken in executive session.  It could have ordered an investigation into issues raised in the September Development Corporation meeting and let the community know it kicked off a review.  

However, investigations are not a hallmark of San Angelo city government.   Council often has taken a "head down, nothing to see here, move on" stance.  Management prefers to isolate and remove those they consider troublemakers while insulating insiders for safe handling.  

The last COSADC meeting was dripping with unresolved conflict.  Former Economic Development Director Guy Andrews answered the question as to why he surprise retired.  Andrews called out the City Manager's office for avoidant and heavy handed behavior.

Assistant City Manager Michael Dane came armed with a staffing review, i.e. implied job loss threat to economic development staff.  Who does a staffing review just weeks after Council approved the 2022-23 budget?  Bullies do.

Will a Council member retract Board Vice President John Bariou's appointment?  Guy Andrews is already gone but ample staff remain.  They could be heard or intimidated.    Which route will Council take under attorney advice?  The public may never officially know.  

Update 10-26-22:  City Council will discuss in Executive Session on 11-1-22.

Section 551.074 - Personnel matters regarding the evaluation, discipline, or dismissal of John Bariou from the COSADC Board