Thursday, June 27, 2024

Rapidly Growing Pet Population within San Angelo

Concho Valley PAWS announced a special fundraising opportunity where donations would be matched up to $25,000.  The story by Concho Valley Homepage referred to a "rapidly growing pet population within San Angelo."

The City of San Angelo and Concho Valley PAWS teamed up in 2017.  This was several years after City Council passed mandatory spay/neuter for pets and a microchip requirement.  Director of Neighborhood and Family Services Bob Salas suggested these moves would mean fewer strays in the streets and reduce litters of unwanted puppies and kittens.  Citizens wanting to breed their pet needed to obtain a breeder's permit.  Staff stated they'd give citizens a year to comply with the new ordinances and then begin enforcement.  PAWS suggested their work as shelter adoption coordinator would free up staff time for ordinance enforcement.

San Angelo's street animal population grew with each shelter intake restriction (2019).  Owner surrenders went from nearly 3,000 in 2016 to 77 in 2021.  That same year Fox West Texas reported:

San Angelo has been known for having an influx of stray cats and dogs roaming the streets. 
Western Veterinary Hospital owner Dr. Gary Hodges said he gets about 30 calls at his animal hospital about stray dogs walking through the streets. He says it has been worse than ever over the last few years.
In that news report Animal Services recommended citizens not approach a stray dog  and for people to call Animal Control Officer to handle the situation.  Carlos Carillo instructed citizens, saying "We'll go out there and try to get the animal off their property."  

The stray problem got much worse after Council capped the dog population at 180 dogs (2022).  Getting the shelter to make a stray pet visit went from difficult to nearly impossible.  The shelter became a long stay hotel for large, unaltered dogs.

Owners continued to retrieve their unaltered dog(s) from the shelter.  A city effort to track and fine pet owners for failing to spay/neuter their shelter stray went mostly nowhere (less than 10% impact).  Of 674 unaltered pets released from the shelter in FY 2022, 606 remained still reported as unaltered as of June 2023.  

Puppies became a major cause of shelter overcrowding (rising from 507 in FY 2016 to 883 in FY 2022, an increase of 75%).  Only a handful of owners bothered with the required breeder's permit and the city was sparse in issuing citations to offenders.

The rapidly growing street pet population in San Angelo came from years of partnership between the City, PAWS, Pets Alive and Best Friends Animal Society.    Spay/neuter is not a Pets Alive measure and Best Friends was fine with Petsmart allowing unaltered animals    The New Yorker reported:

... Best Friends opposes laws requiring that pets be sterilized, on the ground that such laws are costly to poor people and difficult to enforce, and it did not object to a recent decision by PetSmart Charities, which has been a funder of Best Friends, to suspend its requirement that young animals be fixed before being adopted from a PetSmart store.

Many members of the public are tired of city leaders foisting falsehoods and City Council's "get along-go along" approach to Animal Services not serving the public.  The rapidly growing pet population within San Angelo has no end in sight.  That's a bad path to be on.

Update 6-29-24:   Citizens of Danville. Virginia are in the early stages of dealing with Best Friends.  The Humane Society leader there stated:

“Point A is where we are now with too many animals, too few good homes, and so much neglect and cruelty.  Point C is what every animal welfare organization wants: To not euthanize healthy animals because of space. No-kill proponents want to go from Point A to Point C now. The only immediate way to do that is to close shelter doors.
We have to go through Point B which is to spay/neuter and make sure animals are not neglected or abused. We do not believe animals should be warehoused in shelters for years. Adoption partners, and we have very good ones, do not take animals they believe they won’t be able to find homes for.”

Regarding her dealings with Best Friends Animal Society:

“The misinformation and outright lies astound me.”

Welcome to our world.  City Council should revisit Animal Services in their strategic planning sessions.  

Update 6-30-24:  Concho Valley Homepage reported on a PAWS adoption event at Petco.  The story stated:

Concho Valley Paws is dedicated to saving as many pets as possible from the San Angelo Animal Shelter by facilitating adoptions and running various volunteer and foster programs. 

The lines between the city shelter and PAWS can be difficult to discern.  I imagine there is some fatigue regarding the shelter's frequent publication of dog euthanasia lists.  That may have rubbed off on local donors. 

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Animal Shelter Communications with City Council

The first four months of 2024 saw frequent communication between members of City Council and Animal Services leadership.  Mayor Brenda Gunter contacted city leaders regarding a "dangerous dog situation" the afternoon of Friday, January 19th.  It contained the message below:

On 1/15/24, 3:00p we were in our front yard. Suddenly, a light brown male pit bull weighing between 75-100lbs approached. It was wearing a large black handler’s collar, had cropped ears, and a groomed/clean appearance. 

The dog was aggressive and began growling at my 8yr old son. I grabbed the dog by the collar and told my kids to run into the house. The dog was barking at them and trying to get out of my grasp. 

I released the dog once they were safely inside. He then turned to me aggressively barking, growling, and jumping as I retreated into my vehicle parked on the street. The dog circled my yard defecating and urinating, pawed at my front door, and occupied my garage for 5-10 minutes before leaving. I called Animal Control and followed the voicemail instructions to call police dispatch and they said an officer would investigate

This dog was not a stray and posed a serious threat to me and my children. I have also been pursued by an aggressive collared/tagged Rottweiler while walking down our street. I see loose dogs in our neighborhood multiple times each week. Just this morning as I went to work, there was a stray female pit mix on my front porch seeking shelter. 

This stems from poor animal control and terrible dog owners. We no longer feel safe in our front yard without being legally armed and prepared to use defensive force. 

Irresponsible pet owners should be held more accountable, massive pit bulls roaming freely should induce a stiff penalty. This city has a severe stray animal problem. Our Animal Control Department can be improved so that citizens feel safe. SAPD doesn't have time to respond to every threatening dog report. 
City response by Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden the afternoon of Monday, January 22nd.:
Thank you for bringing this incident to our attention, I apologize that this happened. No family should live in fear of enjoying their neighborhood. You did all the right things in following the voicemail prompt for police support when animal services was closed for the holiday and only responding to emergency calls. The on-call animal services officer wasn’t dispatched because the request was mistakenly communicated as a friendly loose dog so he stayed on scene at a different case. We’re following up with police to understand the miscommunication and prevent this from happening in the future. We’ll provide additional patrol in the area to prevent loose dogs, enforce secure enclosure requirements, and cite owners in violation. Please feel free to reach out to me for additional concerns.
Morgan's response sought no additional information, pictures or additional experiences with that dog since their initial unfulfilled request for help.   Morgan heard a variation of "no family should live in fear of enjoying their neighborhood" over a year prior.   A PAWS volunteer did so at the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee Meeting.  She said it was no longer safe to walk a dog in any city neighborhood.  

Three days before the Mayor's e-mail Morgan presented the loose dog situation to City Council.  Council took no action on 1-16-24.  City staff started weekly Animal Shelter Open Houses.  Morgan's 2-2-24 memo to Council stated:

Public commenters and City Council expressed concerns about the number of loose pets and worrisome incidents of aggressive dogs. Council discussed an incident where a dog pack attacked more than one pet in their August 2023 Strategic Planning Session.  The fear was that a child would be injured or killed in such an attack.

On March 8th an eleven year old boy was attacked by a 72 pound pit bull after getting off the bus.  The child screamed for help and was assisted by two men, one of whom also sustained injuries from dog bites.  

The child sustained injuries to their left arm, while the fifty seven year old adult was bitten in the arms and leg.  The Animal Control officer described the wounds to both the child and adult as "severe", "painful deep cuts and gashes."

Both victims were transferred to Shannon ER for treatment.

Councilman Harry Thomas followed up on the incident.  Morgan's March 14th e-mail warned Mr. Thomas that the "photos are graphic".  They reveal the damage a dangerous dog can do to a child, one quickly aided by nearby adults.  Morgan informed the Councilman the aggressive dog (quarantined at Animal Services) would be euthanized on March 22nd.

That same March 22nd a citizen wrote Councilman Harry Thomas:
I am writing to express my concern about the aggressive dog problem in the alley (between two East San Angelo streets). I have contacted animal control on multiple occasions, as well as contacted the police regarding a specific aggressive dog that consistently escapes its owner's property and initiates fights with other dogs. This dog has also attempted to attack my dogs through my fence. 

Despite my repeated reports, animal control has failed to take any action to address this situation. I understand that shelters are often full, but I believe that fines and penalties would be an effective way to encourage the irresponsible owner of this dog to take responsibility for their pet. 

I have witnessed numerous instances of neighbors having to chase this dog away from their homes and families. It is only a matter of time before someone is injured or property damage occurs. 

I am frustrated by the lack of proactive action from animal control. Why do we wait for a situation to escalate before taking action? I am at a loss for what else I can do to protect my dogs and my community from this dangerous animal. 

If animal control is unable or unwilling to assist me, I would appreciate any advice or guidance you can provide on how to address this issue.
Councilman Thomas again followed up with Animal Services.  This case involved two frequently loose dogs, one unaltered.  One month after the initial visit the dogs had continued escaping their enclosure and the unaltered one had not been fixed.
Who knows what the next six months will bring?  Will weekly open houses continue to vector concerned citizens away from Council?  Will City Council continue complimenting Animal Services leadership that is attached to Pets Alive, Best Friends Animal Society philosophy and programs?  
Will citizens continue sharing their concerns about loose pets left to fend for themselves in neighborhoods, aka "community sheltering"?   How many of those loose dogs will have puppies?  How many will attack or harm other pets?  How many will attack people?  And how much of any of that will be made public?
The city's "let them roam unaltered" policy requires endurance for man and beast alike.

Update 6-14-24:  The April Animal Shelter Advisory Committee did not have any dangerous dog information regarding "dog bites boy and man."  One might expect the dog's rabies status to be shared with the committee.  That was known as the dog was euthanized on March 22nd.

Update 6-28-24:  San Angelo Live reported:
On Thursday, June 27, 2024, the Snyder Police Department issued a statement and identified a man who was attacked and killed by two dogs.

The article had no information on the two dogs other than they were in custody and the owner has been identified. 

The City of Andrews Animal Shelter is a partner with Best Friends Animal Society, just like the City of San Angelo. The City of Snyder does not have a relationship with Best Friends.

Monday, June 10, 2024

PAWS Received Nearly $50,000 from BFAS

Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden was less than forthcoming last August at City Council when asked about her relationship with Best Friends Animal Society.  

Council person Karen Hesse-Smith:  Good morning. I’m curious whether or not the animal shelter has contracts with Best Friends, American pets Alive! or the HASS model - which is Human Animal Support Services, and I’m curious because a number of these organizations are being pointed to as culprits in other communities that have been sued for their policies. I can name them if it matters – El Paso is one, there’s been an issue in Abilene, at New York, but these are nationwide organizations. 

Morgan:   The city doesn’t have contracts with any of those organizations. As we set policy to offer life first and then the math is the math, right? It’s not that were trying to hit this magic number of 90%. We are looking at a number of peer cities, other organizations, what they’re pursuing, but there is no contracts with any animal welfare groups – the ones you’ve listed or others. 
Morgan attended Best Friends Executive Leadership Certification tuition free.  Morgan read the BFAS Manifesto during the graduation ceremony, an honor as she was chosen by her fellow participants.  

Best Friends guided Morgan through multiple shelter crises, the roach infestation/horrific hoarding conditions, the shelter cat colony panleukopenia outbreak, and even the City Council meeting mentioned in this post. Continuing with that meeting:

Karen:  What about PAWS, your contracted partner, do they have contracts with any of these contracted organizations? 

Morgan:  Not that I’m aware of but I really couldn’t speak to their legal status. 

Karen: I think we would like to know the answer to that because there have been social media posts that indicate that they’ve received grant monies or donations from some of these organizations and it’s worth our scrutiny. We don’t have enough information at this point to address it further but I think it’s worth knowing. 

Mayor Brenda Gunter:  Meaning that PAWS received grant monies and you’re asking how those grant monies were utilized 

Karen:  Yes. For example, here is a post made by Concho Valley PAWS and it says “A big Thank You to our friends at Best Friends Animal Society for a generous financial gift” of so many thousand, a certain number of thousands of dollars, so PAWS is not really under discussion here but we do have a contractual agreement with them so hence my question. 

Councilmember:  Isn’t PAWS a non-profit? 

Karen:  It is, and they are entitled to collect money. The concern is that some of these organizations are very much under fire across the nation and they are under fire because they promote programs and policies that have basically failed, multi-million-dollar lawsuits in some of these communities.
Concho Valley PAWS is the dba for the Humane Society of Tom Green County which received over $48,000 from Best Friends Animal Society for the fiscal year ended 2022.  
It's worth knowing.  Time will reveal if it's worth addressing.