Friday, December 02, 2022

City Reviewed PETA Letter, Took No Action

The City of San Angelo experienced a flurry of internal activity on Friday, November 4th.  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals expressed concern about the city Animal Shelter's refusal to accept dogs from tax paying citizens due to overcrowding.  PETA e-mailed their letter to Mayor Brenda Gunter and members of City Council.

Two local rescues, Cassie's Place and Critter Shack, also sent a letter after the City announced the shelter would stop taking dogs from the public for the month of November.  Their letter was sent to the Mayor, City Council and distinguished City Officials.  It was dated November 3rd.  Critter Shack and Cassie's Place expressed concern about the city once again steering citizens to local rescues for pets the shelter is unwilling to accept.  As nonprofits with limited resources the two rescues drew a clear line that they would not do the shelter's job for them. 

The afternoon of November 4th Council-member Tommy Hiebert forwarded the PETA letter to Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden, Assistant City Manager Michael Dane  Director of Neighborhood and Family Services Bob Salas, City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and City Attorney Theresa James.

Morgan replied to Public Information Director Brian Groves that afternoon

My immediate response is to ask how to enforce such a law when our already ineffective requirement to hold a breeder’s permit doesn’t deter citizens from breeding.

As to the allegations that it’s unsafe to house strange pets, we would agree and that’s why one option is to leave the pet be and call animal services officers to the scene. We’re still responding to calls for service and getting pets back home. Animal Services Officers are still impounding injured and aggressive dogs during this time period.

After the Shelter Chief admitted it's unsafe to house strange pets, the City did not adjust its guidance to the community, "hold the pet for a few days while locating owner."

Groves responded at 5:30 pm Friday, November 4th:

The city has received the letter from PETA and is reviewing all of the information that is in it.

Animal Services is still responding to calls for service and helping pets get back home. Animal Services Officers are still impounding injured and aggressive dogs during this time period as well.

Concho Valley Homepage asked if the Mayor or City Council planned to put out a statement in response. On November 7th Concho Valley Homepage reported city officials are "still reviewing all the information that was in the letter sent by PETA."  

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela informed Council on November 18th that a Public Information Request had been submitted.  I gave City leaders nearly two weeks to respond to the PETA concerns before submitting the PIR.

Two City Council members, Lucy Gonzales and Larry Miller, forwarded the PETA letter to the Assistant City Clerk on November 20th and 21st. Their e-mails had no content other than the heading.  They appear to be a response to Valenzuela's "PIR" e-mail (from the timing and attachments included).

It's been four weeks since PETA sent its letter.  After the initial flurry of activity there is no documented evidence that city officials wrestled with a further response to issues raised by PETA.   

Council did not put the item on its November 15th agenda.  They have not delegated the matter to the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee for advice.  The Mayor and Council did not generate a reply letter to PETA's Teresa Lynn Chagrin, Animal Care & Control Issues Manager, Cruelty Investigations Department.

City officials bought time and are counting on the issue fading away.  There are too many systemic problems for that to happen. 

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 1-12-23:   On November 4th KLST and Concho Valley Homepage reached out to the city on PETA's letter:

...if Mayor Brenda Gunter or members of the City Council would provide a statement on the matter.

No statement to date.  It's been more than two months.

PETA now has information for the public in communities that have shut off animal shelter access to the public, like San Angelo.

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