Sunday, February 25, 2024

Council Endorses "Let Them Roam Unaltered"

One year ago San Angelo's City Council approved nearly $2 million in short term financing for urgent Animal Shelter renovations.  It's been seven months since the city paid back the $2 million and renovation plans are not completed.  Borrowing costs totaled $93,827 in Council approved tax money.

One month ago Council discussed our community's loose dog crisis and asked staff to bring back prioritized recommendations with associated costs for each strategy.  

Last week Council heard about Concho Valley PAWS programming.  PAWS is contracted to provide adoption and veterinary services for shelter pets.  PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson made a number of recommendations, most outside her areas of responsibility as a Shelter contractor.  

The Mayor said the city had no money for spay/neuter despite the city releasing thousands of unaltered pets to owners over a two year period.  

San Angelo's third world loose pet problem took years to develop.  At it's base are irresponsible pet owners who refuse to spay/neuter and properly restrain their dog.  Add to that people who'd sought support with surrendering an animal due to life changes.  The shelter stopped assisting this group when it enacted managed intake in 2019.  

The next group shut out were "good Samaritans" who'd found a lost dog and sought the shelter's help.  The Animal Shelter pushed responsibility for found dogs onto the "community."  It mattered not if a frail elderly lady found an 80 pound dog in her yard.  They were asked to keep it for a few days or turn it back out.  Frustrated citizens have been threatened with arrest for trespassing if they show up at the shelter with the loose dog in question.

San Angelo is five years into choking off shelter intake and the impact can be seen on city streets.  

"There are more dogs on the streets than there's ever been"--City Councilman Harry Thomas 

Two years ago I encouraged City Council to consider Animal Services in their strategic planning undertakings.  It seemed an opportune time to review the impact of shelter service reductions and I provided a number of charts showing changes over time.  Council had no appetite to explore shelter changes until roaches overwhelmed the facility.

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela conducted a review of shelter operations and implemented a hard cap on dog capacity after Councilman Tom Thompson provided the green light.  Citizen access to the shelter did not change.  It got worse and the shelter continued taking in fewer animals.  That left more on the streets.

Irresponsible citizens who don't spay/neuter or restrain their pets don't complain to City Council.  Other groups do.  That's people needing to surrender their pet and good Samaritans wanting to do right by a lost pet.  Council will continue to get an earful from these folks until the city stops prioritizing large, long stay shelter dogs over serving citizens.  

Mayor Brenda Gunter essentially said:

We can't keep throwing more dollars and more people after the problem.  

We keep doing this and the problem isn't solved.

We'll spend nearly $2 million on the shelter in the next year and a half

The Mayor did press staff to communicate the responsibilities of pet ownerships to citizens.  

Public Information dropped a new video, Concho Critter Show EP1.

Citizens can "access" Animal Services via phone or an online form.  The graphic is confusing in several ways.  Morgan asked citizens to call the shelter for "time sensitive" issues.  

Her list of "call worthy" issues included many of the items physically listed underneath the online form.  

Having issues considered "time sensitive" not under the online form may help citizens going forward.

I found it interesting that animal bite wasn't listed as those are up 56% according to city statistics.  Morgan stated in the video there were over 260 "animal to person" bite cases in 2023, up from 150 in 2022.  She said more dogs at large in the community is contributing to more bite cases.

Residents and San Angelo Police Department know that calls to Animal Services may not be answered, during the day or after hours.  They know a "dog at large" may or may not get a physical visit from Animal Control Officer, especially if the shelter is at maximum capacity.  

So it was surprising to hear the interviewer state "in every response Animal Services sends out an Animal Services Officer."  Citizens have heard frequently that Animal Services is not coming for the very situations listed.

At the 12:10 mark of the video the issue of understaffing comes up.  Animal Services Supervisor Carlos Carrillo said he believes Animal Control is understaffed.

Multiple times this council turned down setting aside funds for spay/neuter.  The city likely earned interest on the $2 million borrowed for shelter renovations as it just sat in the bank.  If the account paid 3% interest over six months, that's $30,000 that could be designated for spay/neuter support.  It's not new money.

City Council could decide to dedicate interest earned on shelter renovation funds for spay/neuter.  If so, the city should seek bids or approve qualified vendors, similar to its use of outside engineering firms.

The City of San Angelo gave citizens "let them (loose dogs) roam unaltered."  Council's lack of response to this long building crisis is concerning.  I hope it's not here to stay.

Update 3-1-24:  Minutes from the City Council meeting on 2-20-24 state for this agenda item:

No action taken.

Council effectively endorsed "Let them roam unaltered."

Update 3-7-24:  The latest shelter renovation schedule information is:
....the bid phase is delayed to May 2024 with estimated construction completion in November 2024.

Update 3-19-24:  The City could have shared the following document.


It did not share this with the public which might find fault with "deceased animal pickup" being a higher priority than "caught stray dog."  That does not sound like life-saving programming.

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