Changes on the Way to Odessa Animal Control Shelter 1/14/14
CBS 7 News
January 14, 2014
Aired January 10, 2014
ODESSA-The Odessa Animal Control Shelter has been criticized by some animal lovers over the past few months, who raise questions about conditions at the shelter and how it is managed.
CBS 7’s Matt Rist has been looking into the issue for weeks and has found the city is making changes.
Tonight's vigil is the latest incident in what has been a string of public complaints made against the shelter, but we wanted to start from the beginning, to show you what's really happening at the shelter.
Dog after dog after dog. The shelter picks up more than 7,000 animals each year.
Odessa Animal Shelter Officer Ken Vogel stars his day by checking his truck.
“You always want to check your lights your cages and just get everything ready for the day,” Vogel said.
Then he hits the road.
"Is there an element of danger to your job? Oh yes, definitely. Nobody wants to We're out here to protect the people from strays because no one wants to walk down the street with their child and have a dog come after them,” Vogel said.
Hours later and Vogel is on the hunt for a stray dog, which quickly turns into as many as six stray pooches. It’s a sign of just how high the stray animal population is in Odessa. Since animal control stopped answering county calls, they average more than 400 calls per month.
"The biggest thing is two things, number one, spay and neuter your pets that way we don't have the overpopulation and take responsibility, come get your animal when its that sentiment is also shared by those criticizing the shelter,” Vogel said.
A sentiment shared by those criticizing the shelter.
" People have to spay and neuter their dogs, they have to,” said Animal Rescuer Holly Dool.
Dool is one of nearly 1,000 Odessans who signed a petition, demanding changes at the shelter, focusing on poor conditions and a lack of a staff vet.
"I think there are obviously some issues with cleanliness, a deep clean needs to be done on the floors,” Dool said.
Cleanliness is an issue the shelter says it takes very seriously, with technicians cleaning the cages a few times each day.
According to police records, the shelter has in fact passed its state inspection in 2012 and 2013. It also received a satisfactory rating in its veterinarian report for both years.
“It’s very clean, it’s orderly and it’s run well,” said Odessa Police Chief Timothy Burton.
Many mornings, Dool stands outside the shelter, waiting for it to open. She comes almost daily on behalf of a rescue group to take dogs out of the shelter and into homes.
This morning she meets a woman dropping off a puppy.
“What do I do with it, do we have a foster?”
After a few phone calls, she finds him a home before the shelter even opens. Unfortunately this dog was put down because of illness before it could be rescued.
Dool says she tries to keep as many dogs out of the shelter as possible, many she has taken out of the shelter have come down with distemper, a deadly neurological disease easily spread by contact.
“They said there are some changes being made, yeah I understand all that but dogs and cats are dying because they are moving too slow,” Dool said.
According to two separate local veterinarian letters dated November 5th and sent to Odessa Police, the vets noted a “significant increase” in the number of Parvo and Distemper cases in animals coming from the shelter.
But again, it was not noted in recent veterinarian reports. While inspection records show no issues at the shelter, the Chief of Police—ultimately responsible for the shelter, says changes are on the way.
" As of October first, we became solely responsible for the confines of city limits. That meant that we could now focus more of our energies on how we ran sort of the other half of our business, which is shelter services,” OPD Chief Timothy Burton said.
An advisory committee required by state code that hasn't met since 2006 might help deal with some of these problems.
"There's really no excuse for why the committee hasn't met, it sort of became something that fell out of sight in terms of management here at the police station,” said Burton.
According to a 2012 list of advisory committee members, City Council member Roger McNeil, County Commissioner Freddie Gardner, Police Chief Burton and Humane Society Manager Del Nesmith are among its members.
"I didn't figure I was on that committee, due to the length of time,” said Humane Society Manager Del Nesmith.
"Do you think if the committee were meeting regularly, do you think we’d still be having the problems these citizens are coming to you with?"
“Yes, I think the same thing would have occurred because prior to recently the expectation of shelter services was that we provide a safe, clean sanitary environment where animals were treated humanely and lawfully and there was not a great emphasis or demand on adoption services or those kinds of things. The expectations of the public have changed,” Burton said.
Del Nesmith, who operates the Odessa Humane Society's shelter, disagrees. Nesmith says the public outcry is for more than just a change in expectation of services.
“I think the changes are made because people are getting tired of the procedures up there,” Nesmith said.
There is no enforcement authority written into the code, so there is no way to ensure the committee meets.
The chief says the committee is slated to meet this year.
Back at the shelter, Dool makes the rounds, taking pictures of some animals in hopes of finding them homes. She and others network dogs across Texas to keep strays from being put down. the rate of euthanization is a key point of Dool's online petition.
“For the people that love animals, We need to make it eaier for animals to be adopted,” Dool said.
According to records, 5,976 animals were euthanized in 2013. The city says just 391 were adoptable.
“Ideally, would we love to find a home for every single animal that came into the shelter? Sure we would, as a practical matter are we able to do that? No we're not,” Burton said.
There are some of the changes on the way, the shelter says it just recently started scanning for microchips on all of its animals, will soon place chips in dogs adopted out, is considering hiring an adoption liaison and a vet technician.