Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Council Supports Restricting Current Shelter Operations

San Angelo City Council endorsed the current operation of the Animal Shelter and gave permission for those services to be restricted further when shelter occupancy reaches 170 dogs and 110 cats.

City Council person Lucy Gonzales said "there are packs of dogs running around and cats everywhere" during the Animal Shelter update.   Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden did not respond to her statement.

City Council heard staff's plan to track down and fine pet owners for not getting their pet spayed/neutered per a 2015 city ordinance.  City Attorney Theresa James said she needed to hire a part time person in her office to just handle spay/neuter citations for Municipal Court.  

Staff did not share the expected fine or court fees associated with a misdemeanor charge.  There also was no explanation for changing the time frame for citations from an August 16, 2022 date (as stated in a city press release) to the last two years (as shared by Morgan at the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee).  

Council endorsed a fixed maximum population for the Animal Shelter.  After this population is reached the shelter will no longer take in animals.  Morgan said the shelter gets 70% of its intake from citizens finding lost dogs in the community and 30% come from Animal Control Officers doing their job.  

Owners surrendering their pet to the shelter is restricted to two conditions, a local disaster and an aggressive pet that is a danger to persons in home.  Morgan said there is a wait list for owner surrenders.  The practical impact of completely restricting shelter intake means not taking lost pets found in city limits by residents or Animal Control Officers.

Council did not address the multi-year stays for numerous large dogs in the shelter in giving permission for a hard intake stop.   It did not consider the shelter released nearly 1,500 unaltered animals in the last two years or how those releases contributed to pet overpopulation.  

It will be up to staff to balance the needs of animals in the shelter against the needs of taxpaying citizens with loose strays in their yard or neighborhood.  Councilman Larry Miller arrived at the correct conclusion that he would forced to decide "to keep or let go a stray pet" when the shelter reaches its hard stop.  

That dilemma is not new to citizens trying to do the right thing by animals.  It occurs daily under the city's "keep the stray for two days" program.  Citizens regularly hear the shelter is full and not to bring in the stray dog.

Council asked about volunteers.  Morgan said the only volunteers used at the Shelter come through PAWS.   Council learned PAWS volunteers do not clean animal cages in the shelter.  

Last November 4, 2021 Concho Valley PAWS issued an urgent plea for volunteers to clean Animal Shelter cages.  Shortly thereafter, the shelter experienced widespread dog poisoning.  Morgan reported the incident to the police on November 19, 2021.

Staff proposed two items to council, monthly amnesty days for citizens to retrieve their shelter pet with no fees and funding spay/neuter surgeries for low income residents.  Council took no action on either item. 

Shelter pets could go unclaimed due to costly fees as the owner could just adopt a new "free" pet through PAWS.  Releasing an unaltered Husky twice from the shelter resulted in a third stay where the dog gave birth to seven puppies.  Veterinary service contractor PAWS had two months to fix this dog before it gave birth in the shelter.

Council learned that pay had been increased for shelter workers, however the cost was not listed under financial impact.  The roach infestation/horrific hoarding conditions cost the city well over $25,000 and that also was not shown in the update. 

A hard stop on intake and issuing citations does not help conscientious citizens and certainly doesn't make the shelter "bad citizen" proof. 

The same leadership that misrepresented citation writing misrepresented the support of area rescues going forward.  Most rescues have washed their hands of the Animal Shelter.  Concho Valley PAWS quit playing nice with other rescues after it changed its name from Humane Society of Tom Green County.  It's an exclusive Shelter/PAWS partnership, seen almost daily in City communications.  

Council doubled down on Shelter strategy, leadership and operations.  So, expect lots more of the same.

Update:  It took the city less than 24 hours to stop shelter intake.  No service for you....

As for those area rescues here's the response from Critter Shack's founder:

The answer is not to close a city-run, taxpayer financed shelter. The answer is to EDUCATE pet owners about spay/neuter, to offer city-sponsored LOW-COST or FREE spay/neuter, actually ENFORCE existing spay/neuter ordinance, issuing citations, with option to dismiss fines when proof of spay/neuter is provided. The city needs to address the root of the overpopulation problem, not just close down when limits are reached.

Sharon also wrote:

No mention of spay/neuter.  Let’s not try to begin to solve the problem at root of overpopulation. Let’s ask all of the overfull rescues who receive no help from the city (unlike paws) for assistance. They can’t admit that the “no kill” movement will not currently work here - how can they close to stray intake, found animals by concerned citizens?

A founder of Cassie's Place wrote:

They want the public to “reach out to local rescues” THAT ARE FULL and Damn tired of cleaning up their damn mess. paws is. A RESCUE- REACH OUT TO THEM .
The city is taking the same approach to Animal Services as it took for public health, endless cutting of services.  

Update 12-13-22:   A dog attacked a neighbor on Oxford Avenue and the dog was shot with a gun during the attack.  Someone in local rescue posted:. 

Please let’s do something to open the city shelter back up at least for aggressive dogs. Citizens of this city should not have to deal with this

....this is what happens when animal control doesn’t take action for stray dogs.

Update 1-17-23:  It appears the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee will not meet as scheduled for Thursday, January 19, 2023 given city staff are yet to post an agenda.  The Texas Open Meetings Act requires the agenda to be posted 72 hours in advance.  That deadline has passed with no agenda posted for the scheduled meeting.

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