Friday, March 29, 2024

Depleted ASAC Limps into April Meeting

San Angelo's City Council meets April 2nd and will consider board nominations, however none of the candidates are for the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee, which currently has three open slots.  

In January Council reappointed PAWS employee Jen Murphy to a third term expiring January 2026.  The three open positions have been empty from anywhere between 2 and 14 months. 

The current ASAC Chair, Caitlin Wylie, is the latest resignation due to her term expiring.  There is time for Council to appoint new members in its April 16th meeting, two days before the ASAC's scheduled session on April 18th. 

A recent Facebook post stated the Shelter is "full of puppies."  That was also the case in August 2022 when horrific hoarding conditions combined with a roach infestation.

Consider this flashback from February 2017 when the city contracted out adoptions to Concho Valley PAWS:
Right now, (PAWS Director Jenie) Wilson said, the city doesn’t have the resources to enforce the (mandatory spay/neuter) ordinance because it is also working on reducing euthanasia rates.

“By bringing our resources together, maybe we can free up time for animal control so they can go out and enforce the ordinances, which may answer some of the problems of how animals get here in the beginning,” she said.
In addition to enforcing the ordinance, high-volume spay/neuter clinics and adoption events help achieve the no-kill goals.
It's seven years later and despite contracting out adoptions, the city still doesn't have the resources to enforce mandatory/spay neuter.  It took a special effort to follow up on nearly a thousand unaltered shelter pets released to owners in FY 2022.  
Owners claimed 956 cats and dogs from us, 674 of which have yet to prove spay/neuter. 
44 pet owners have since provided proof of spay/neuter. 
24 provided proof of an exemption, such as moved outside city limits, pet is medically fragile, pet has died, etc. 
This leaves 606 pets still reporting as unaltered. We’ve cited or filed a complaint with municipal court for almost 400 animals and are moving through the remaining backlog.
This special effort was remarkably unimpactful spay/neuter wise.  It got only 10%, 68 out of the 674 unaltered pets released to owners.  It did generate 400 citations and that money should be used for low cost spay/neuter for intact shelter pets.

In the words of City Councilman Harry Thomas, "there are more dogs on the street than ever."  That is the product of the numerous changes in shelter operations, managed intake and releasing thousands of unaltered dogs while claiming otherwise.

We'll see if Council beefs up its wounded advisory body in the animal arena.  They may be too busy with the Rodeo and finding the money to expand the City Coliseum and facilities for rodeo animals.

Update 4-2-24:  Council held a proclamation dominated meeting that lasted 45 minutes.  There were no future agenda items identified at the close of the meeting.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Sales Tax Proceeds Fell for February

The Development Corporation background packet showed February sales tax dropping nearly 6.4% from last year.

Sales tax proceeds declined in two of the last three months.  FY 2023 saw sales tax proceeds rise every month relative to the same month in FY 2022.  

The meeting ended with no discussion of this development.

Saturday, March 09, 2024

"Breaking Point" for Dog Crisis

Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden wrote City Council members in response to a letter from a concerned citizen about San Angelo's loose dog crisis  Her e-mail included:

San Angeloans are in fact at their breaking point. Previously well-intentioned citizens are documented letting their dogs loose behind restaurants, at homeless encampments, and in residences they’ve moved out of.

Citizens are dumping their dogs because the shelter choked off intake for the last five years.  Neither death nor moving to assisted living are reasons for the shelter to accept a pet.  

Add that the shelter released at least 2,000 unaltered dogs to their owners over the same period.  

FY ended 2023 - 358 unaltered dogs
FY ended 2022 - 674 
FY ended 2021 - 708 
FY ended 2019 - 730
Puppies overran the shelter in September 2022 and are doing so again.  
We’ve previously stated the City has no contracts with American Pets Alive! or Best Friends Animal Society, and that remains true.
Morgan can parse language. The 2020 RFP for Adoption Services specified the shelter's Pets Alive initiatives and vision under scope of services:

The city's adoption of Pets Alive and Best Friends Animal Society "community sheltering" policies sent pets into the streets that formerly went to the shelter.   Responsible citizens lost their ability to surrender their pet.  Streets in San Angelo and nearby communities have become dumping grounds.  

The shelter hasn't done its part to ensure dogs in its care are spayed/neutered in accordance with city ordinances.  A recent enforcement action had marginal results.  The latest data shared with City Council showed a mere 44 owners spayed/neutered their pet out of 650 unaltered dogs released from the shelter in FY 22.  That's a 6.7% effectiveness rate.  It did result in over 400 citations.

Morgan's stated solutions to the loose dog crisis at the end of her e-mail:
Animal Services must be a resource to residents before they’re in crisis by offering free microchips to residents of target neighborhoods, the fence inspection and repair program, and additional Animal Services Officers for enforcement and outreach
There's nothing about using the income from over 400 failure to spay/neuter citations to fund low cost spay/neuter services.  The shelter is not loosening its clampdown on intake to actually serve taxpayers. 

City Council has no appetite to address this issue.  It happily spent nearly $100,000 in financing fees/interest on "fast track borrowings" for a snail's pace shelter renovation project.  The nearly $2 million in borrowings ran from April to August 2023.  The renovation will be bid in May 2024 and projected completion is November 2024.

As that $2 million went unused the city had the opportunity to earn interest.  If the unused funds earned 3% interest over six months, that's $30,000 for low cost spay/neuter support and it's not new money.   That amount would buy far more than 44 spay/neuters, the impact of a concentrated "after the fact" spay/neuter enforcement effort.

Morgan made another change in response to the crisis.  The shelter now reports transfers and adoptions under one title "transfers."  The Animal Services Division Monthly Report for January 2024 states:
113 animals were transferred to rescue, including adoptions coordinated by to Concho Valley PAWS
The two statistics formerly were reported separately.  

Animal Services has taken a "Let them roam unaltered" approach, while City Council sticks to their "No new money" stance toward the Animal Shelter.  

I expect City Council to hear again and again from citizens concerned over the deterioration of services and dogs thrown into the streets under the guise of "community sheltering."  

The crisis grew over five years and will require long term strategies and funding to reverse.  I find it hard to believe the people who led us into this crisis are the ones to lead San Angelo out.  I'd love to be proven wrong by this City Council and city leadership.  That said, I am not holding my breath.

Friday, March 08, 2024

Shelter Owner Redemptions: Most Unaltered

Over 61% of dogs released to owners from the San Angelo Animal Shelter in fiscal year 2023 were not spayed/neutered.  This occurred in the midst of a focused effort to cite pet owners for failure to spay/neuter their pet after an Animal Shelter stay.   Here's the data for FY 2023:

Of 583 dogs stays, 358 left the shelter unaltered.  That's 61.4%

It's not clear how many of these owners received citations for failure to spay/neuter.  That responsibility shifted from a special effort by the City Attorney's office to Animal Services.

Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden promised to provide this information to City Council in a November 2023 memo.  I'd hoped to get that one page memo via a public information request.  Instead I received a 79 page document.  Had staff provided volumes of raw data to Council they likely would have gotten an earful.

Releasing unaltered dogs from the shelter is not a new practice. The numbers are below: 
FY ended 2022 - 674 unaltered dogs
FY ended 2021 - 708 
FY ended 2019 - 730 
Eight month period in 2017 - 500
Director of Neighborhood and Family Services Bob Salas warned of the consequences of failure to spay/neuter pets.  

Council gave Salas the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance tool in 2015.

An overcrowded and disgusting shelter in September 2022 was blamed on "puppies."  That prompted the focused citation effort for unaltered animals with a shelter stay.  The "after the fact" effort has been slow going.   Staff informed Council:
June 2023:  Owners claimed 956 cats and dogs in FY22, 282 of which were already spayed/neutered. 44 pet owners have since provided proof of spay/neuter. 24 provided proof of an exemption, such as moved outside city limits, pet is medically fragile, pet has died, etc. This leaves 606 pets still reporting as unaltered. We’ve cited or filed a complaint with municipal court for almost 400 animals and are moving through the remaining backlog.
Our community has experienced a purposeful combination of strategies that increased the number of loose dogs. 
1.  Releasing unaltered shelter dogs under return to owner, a longstanding practice.

2.  Failure to enforce mandatory/spay neuter ordinance as promised by Shelter Chief James Flores when Council passed the requirement in 2015.  A focused effort by the City Attorney's office had over 600 unaltered animals outstanding from FY 2022.

3.  Adoption of Pets Alive programming which does not include spay/neuter in their performance measures.  Pets Alive programming is specified under "scope of services" in the latest RFP for Adoption Services.  The shelter first implemented managed intake for owned pets, then added "found" pets.  Owner surrenders fell from the thousands to less than one hundred under managed intake.

4.  Completely stopping loose animal intake when the dog census hits 180.  This hard maximum capacity has been used as a reason for Animal Control officers to not respond to a caught stray dog call.  When Council endorsed this strategy the shelter was mostly occupied by large, long stay dogs that are more difficult to adopt.

5.  Ignoring area dog breeders.  Puppies contributed to horrific conditions at the Animal Shelter in September 2022.  Recent pictures on the city's Facebook page show puppy after puppy.  

City Council took no action on the loose dog crisis in February after discussing the problem in January.  "Let them roam unaltered" remains firmly in place.

Credit:  The image of the local unaltered dog is from San Angelo Live's story on dogs in the homeless camp.  I cropped the image to highlight the dog.