Animal programs

Waco Animal Shelter policy proposals take shape as capacity issues drag on | Local government and politics

The overcrowding issues that have plagued the Waco Animal Shelter since late last year are the target of a Waco Animal Welfare Board subcommittee that is drafting a series of recommendations for policy change.

One of the changes being considered could relax requirements for euthanasia, which is now only performed for health or behavioral reasons, but officials said they are working to ensure this is not necessary. Subcommittee members said they believe addressing admissions, capacity and sterilization issues would preclude the need to act on a less stringent policy on euthanasia, which is considered a last resort. and only necessary if all other ways to reduce admission and release capacity fail. .

The board formed its subcommittee in May, and it is led by Sarah Moran, clinical director at Animal Birth Control Clinic. The recommendations are likely weeks away from being finalized and sent to the Waco City Council for consideration.

Humane Society of Central Texas executive director Kandi Hillyer said the overcrowding issues began in November and slowly became more urgent. In the past six to eight weeks, it’s been rare for the shelter to drop below 95% capacity, Hillyer said.

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The shelter has waived adoption fees to reduce overcrowding and will continue to offer free adoptions at least until the end of the month through a partnership with the Bissell Pet Foundation.

Hillyer said the shelter and its partners are doing everything in their power to reduce the number of admissions, but community support in the form of adoptions and donations is also needed to free up the shelter’s capacity.

The subcommittee’s recommendations are intended to address several specific issues related to overcrowding at the shelter: the high number of dogs entering the shelter, the capacity of the shelter to perform neutering and neutering operations, the capacity of the kennel and the shelter in general, and the criteria of the refuge for human euthanasia.

Welfare Board members have said they want to support programs, such as the Human Animal Support Services program, that provide services to keep animals out of the shelter. Moran said the program provides resources for owners who might otherwise abandon their pets due to cost.

“The idea is that you help the family with whatever resources they need to keep the animals out of the shelter,” Moran said.

“Sometimes it’s supply needs like food,” said board and subcommittee member Michelle Nemec. “Sometimes people need a crate for their dog. Sometimes their pet has an easily treatable type of medical problem like mange.

Board members also said they want to provide more information to the public about alternatives to the shelter, such as taking found animals to local fire stations to look for microchips or using lost animal Facebook groups to find the owner of a stray animal.

Waco Animal Services director Trey Buzbee said the Waco shelter is considered a regional shelter and has contracts with cities, including Bellmead and Hewitt, to provide shelter services. Subcommittee members said they want Waco to consider renegotiating contracts to encourage partner cities to look at neutering and neutering and microchipping programs to reduce dog intake.

Sterilization and spaying surgeries have become difficult to perform at the shelter. Shelter veterinarian Dr Michael Vallon said his staff have fallen behind with neutering and neutering surgeries as limited tables and vets mean the shelter has to juggle emergency surgeries with sterilization and sterilization surgeries.

Subcommittee members suggested bringing in more contract vets, expanding the vet suite with more operating tables at the animal shelter, and building better relationships with local clinics so they can help. the shelter to perform more surgeries.

Members also suggested providing more services directly to neighborhoods where a higher share of dogs end up at the shelter. The idea would be to offer microchips and other services within walking distance for people who face barriers to accessing services otherwise, Moran said.

Subcommittee members suggested the city “investigate a general expansion of accommodation facilities” to increase the number of kennels, as well as create strategies to recruit more staff. Buzbee said the city would likely seek more cost-effective solutions, including hospitality or outreach programs, before considering expanding accommodation facilities, but would expand if deemed necessary.

The subcommittee also discussed a humane euthanasia checklist to ensure that all options for finding even a temporary home are considered before euthanizing an animal for non-medical or non-behavioral reasons. . Since shortly after the animal shelter was reorganized into a city-run operation in 2012, it has not euthanized animals for space, solely for medical or behavioral reasons.

Animal Welfare Council Chairman Aubrey Robertson said that if issues of admission, neutering and neutering and capacity are resolved, changing euthanasia criteria becomes a “moot point”. However, the city must have a procedural checklist in place in case euthanasia should be considered, Robertson said.

The proposed checklist requires that before an animal is euthanized, workers verify that there is no kennel or cage available for the animal in the shelter and ensure that the shelter contacts the animal welfare organizations, the registered owner and local foster homes to explore all possible alternatives.

The subcommittee is expected to finalize the recommendations at its next meeting, tentatively scheduled for August 2, and present them to the full Animal Welfare Council for consideration. Meetings are open to the public. The Animal Welfare Council will approve or reject the recommendations before submitting them to the Waco City Council for consideration.