Today and tomorrow you can catch the last of the public meetings
arranged by Animal Care Services. These meetings
give citizens an opportunity to speak their mind on spay/neuter options,
pet licensing, tethering and animal sales before revisions to the
Chapter 5 ordinance covering animal issues are proposed to the City. We
attended a meeting last week for District 2 residents and found Animal
Care Services Director Gary Hendel's honesty refreshing, and disturbing.
As with most other departments, the City slashed Animal Care Services'
budget last year, removing $750,000 and 14 positions from Animal Care
Services' annual budget. The bulk of the removed funding would have gone
to the City's Spay and Neuter budget, a crucial component of the No
Kill roadmap. The loss of trained Animal Care Services officers meant a
damaging blow to an already feeble force. Currently, Hendel says the
City of Dallas, population 1,232,940 (in 2007), has 60 officers in the
field. San Antonio, population 1,328,984, has 28. Think on that next
time you call repeatedly to report stray animals in your 'hood. To help
manage the 88,000 calls for service in the past year alone, Hendel said
311 and Animal Care Services developed a system to quantify calls. A
Priority 1 call means an animal is currently attacking. Priority 2 is an
animal chasing a human or acting in a seriously aggressive manner.
Priority 5 (3 and 4 don't exist, yet) are calls about any other sort of
stray animal. If your call is a Priority 5, "we don't care," said Hendel
bluntly. "I care. My officers care. But we don't have time." Moreover, Current
staff hopes to get more information on faulty communications
between 311 operators and Animal Care Services that Hendel said resulted
in a number of higher priority calls getting classified as Priority 5.
Hendel, who came to San Antonio from Portland's Animal Control Division
10 months ago, says that another reason so many strays don't meet the
dog/cat catcher in a timely manner is the swanky $12 million Animal Care
Services campus opened in 2007, which, despite covering 38,000 square
feet managed to reduce the number of kennels from 334 to 193. "We've
handcuffed [our officers]," said Handel. "We've said, 'stop doing what
you're good at, we don't have space.'"
Those are internal problems, and the QueQue reckons they won't truly be resolved without additional big bucks for more kennels, subsidized spay/neuter procedures and more officers dedicated to enforcement. What you, the average SA animal lover (or hater), can do is give your two cents on some specific areas of the ordinance Hendel and his staff are revising and hoping to present to City Council come mid-May.
1) Spay/neuter. For whatever reason, San Antonians seem to like their pets intact, meaning balls swinging and bitches in heat. Animal Care Services still hasn't figured out the best way to STRONGLY encourage pet owners to spay and neuter their animals. Up for discussion is a mandatory spay/neuter policy, excluding police dogs, purebred breeders and show animals.
2) Tethering. It might seem like an easy option for owners without a fence in their yard, but not only can tethering dogs outside expose them to harsh elements, it can leave unspayed females open to gang bangs by unneutered male dogs, with no means of escape. Hendel notes these females act as bait luring packs of the City's most aggressive animals right to the tetherer's doorstep.
3)Puppy sales. QueQue's favorite pun of the evening was "impounding puppies," a term Hendel came up with to address the fact that when slapped with a fine, illegal puppy sellers pay it, then turn around and sell another puppy to make up the debt. Hendel proposed "confiscating" illegal puppy litters for sale and imposing steep fines.
4) Female pets in heat. Keep them inside, 'nuff said.
5) Fowl/livestock. New marketing slogan: Keep your cocks out of COSA. Laying hens are acceptable, but Animal Care Services is deliberating on whether a restriction should be placed on how many one owner can house within city limits and whether their coops should be subject to regulation.
QueQue hopes concerned citizens involve themselves in the No Kill initiative and not leave it up to the City to do all the hard work. It's no secret that San Antonio won't make their No Kill 2012 goal. "There's no way on God's green earth," said Hendel. Not with the current budget and department size at least. "I believe San Antonio could be No Kill in 10 years," he said. Assistant City Manager T.C. Broadnax, Hendel's boss, has a rosier outlook. "We're not ready to say 'uncle' so to speak" he said regarding the feasibility of meeting the 2012 No Kill Goal. The City's definition of No Kill means that 70 percent of healthy, adoptable animals that come into the shelter are adopted out. Right now, Hendel says San Antonio is at 35 percent, a commendable increase from 12.5 percent four years ago, but nowhere near the city's goal, just one and a half years away.
If you're interested in hearing firsthand what Hendel and his Animal Care Services team have to say, hustle down to Igo Branch Library today from 6-7:30 p.m. or OLLU's Library Communications room tomorrow between 6-8 p.m. Those who can't attend in person can still provide input to Animal Care Services' Chapter 5 ordinance revisions via this handy-dandy survey.
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