Welcome to Friday. We’ll start with the Dallas Animal Shelter meeting and such positive things as a plan to spay or neuter 59,000 animals at low- or no-cost, mention a crawfish boil and segue into other things.
THE ANIMAL SHELTER COMMISSION MEETING: Thursday’s meeting of the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission was a distinctly optimistic session. In fact, it was such a sweet meeting that, after nearly 3 ½ hours I thought I might slip into a sugar coma from all the happiness.
Heck, even Room 6E South at Dallas Hall, usually the coldest room in town, was positively comfortable. Nobody had to put on a coat or chop up furniture to make a fire.
Yes, it was a different kind of city hall meeting. Warm and darned near fuzzy.
There were so many positive presentations that we can’t possibly fit them all in today so we’ll string them out over the next several editions – that’ll help your ol’ newshound avoid another sugar rush.
In no particular order as I look as pages and pages of notes from yesterday – oh, wait, let me quickly get to this: The issue of temporary employees. A few weeks ago some commissioners had publicly expressed dismay and disgust over the way some of the “contract laborers” were handling animals – kicking doors on cages, dragging animals, etc. Some declared the topic would be brought up at the next meeting. Word was the lack of training and experience was showing through and also some of these temps confessed that they didn’t like animals.
(Background: You may recall that last October the city unloaded a bunch of veteran shelter employees and their benefits to hire contract labor. The city maintains the shelter lost no positions – however, there are positions not yet filled and there is a lingering absence of experience in handling live animals in a shelter situation. And, according to comments from Shelter Director Jody Jones at the meeting, the lack of complete staffing does affect the way some business is done. The issue of using untrained contract labor to fill key animal handling positions in the vast shelter was never actually a direct topic of conversation in the nearly 4 hour meeting. Of course, such negativity would have been in contrast to the tone of the session.)
Now, though there were indications for a while that this “temp situation” would be discussed at this meeting, it really didn’t come up.
We’ll try to be brief on each topic though each topic is worthy of a separate long story (In keeping with the optimistic positive theme, though, we can’t just focus on one aspect of the meeting).
-- “The Big Fix in Big D” is a plan involving grants, assorted spay/neuter organization and public promotions. SPCA of Texas President James Bias told the Commission that the organizations (including SPCA, Dallas Animal Services and others) hope to perform 59,000 surgeries over a 3-year period in 17 Zip Codes south of I-30 in Dallas beginning sometime this summer. The aim is to reduce the number of unwanted puppies and kittens, thus reducing the euthanasia numbers in Dallas.
-- President Bias told the commission about a “Matrix” several area rescue groups have adopted to evaluate animals’ health and demeanor upon arrival in their custody – among the benefits is all the groups use the same terms and methods of judging the adoptability of an animal. (More on this in later editions – but standardized assessments are supposed to help animals survive and find homes)
-- Rebecca Poling, the shelter commission member who also is chair of the Dallas Companion Animal Project (the no-kill task force) outlined the project’s efforts. There are many areas where volunteers are needed. Getting the word out seems to be the biggest challenge – also there’s no budget for such things as printing announcements, etc. DCAP is also looking for sponsors for projects and for donations. Read about it HERE. More on this later, too. (More on this in later editions.)
--During a discussion of shelter operations, Commissioner Bonnie Mathias, .touching on a topic akin to untrained contract laborers handling shelter animals, was visibly upset when she asked how a pregnant dog – in the shelter for weeks -- could have been “missed” by workers until she was (a) about to deliver and (b) only hours away from being euthanized. (Larry aside: Foose, pictured here, was a VSP – Very Special Pet, meaning she’d been in the shelter at least 45 days with no takers, so she had been scheduled for euthanasia. She was saved by East Lake Pet Orphanage after an alert was distributed throughout the animal community. So the system works, sort of. And the other photos in this segment today are of animals currently available at DAS.)
Also, Commissioner Mathias asked how shelter employees could have missed a dog with an embedded collar. Though that generally is something that happens to neglected animals outside the shelter, in this case the dog had been given the collar when it came into the shelter, but it had matured and gained weight during its shelter stay and outgrown its collar. (A vet had to cut it out of the dog’s neck, we’re told) Shelter Director Jones agreed that such things just shouldn’t happen.
[Oh, to end this segment on a positive note, Commissioner Mathias learned yesterday that she’s the winner of The President’s Volunteer Service Award.]
--At the outset of the meeting, Commissioner Rebecca Poling, a veteran animal activist and chair of the Dallas Companion Animal Project (the no-kill task force) , announced that she had taken a position with the company that provides “temporary staffing” for the shelter and is now doing “contract labor” at the shelter with marketing and publicity issues. During the meeting she repeatedly referenced the “good news” aspects of stories on the DAS Facebook page. She also told her commission colleagues that her temporary position had been cleared by the city attorney’s office, that the office said there was no conflict of interest since her commission position is voluntary [all commissioners are appointed by city council members].
The commission does not participate in budgeting matters for the animal shelter other than trying to influence the city to make sensible additions to the animal services budget and, sometimes, questioning the way expenses may occur, such as dealing with the continually pesky custom-built, heating/air-conditioning system and its maintenance. Every now and then commissioners will pinpoint areas where spending should occur or where they wish spending would occur to benefit the animals or, in the past, have questioned the elimination of veteran employees from the shelter budget in favor of using less-expensive temporary employees..
--One of those optimistic areas mentioned at Thursday’s meeting was giving a makeover to the city shelter, a generally plain facility with a lack of visual warm that even caught the attention of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings during a tour of the place.
Commissioner Poling, whose husband Rich is a noted artist, presented a slide show with before and potentially “after” changes to the facility. Rich Poling created a computer demonstration of what the bare walls, lobbies and windows in the shelter could look like if artistic pawprints were applied to walls and windows and the ceilings were decorated with mobiles of vibrant, whimsical cutouts of dogs and cats.
The idea is to make the animal shelter more inviting. And, indeed, artist Poling’s efforts demonstrated how much difference some themed decorating could make.
Of course, there’s no money in the city budget for such a project, but, as Commissioner Skip Trimble noted, this is, after all, Dallas, and somewhere there’s a big heart who might want to help the city improve the image of its taxpayer-supported animal shelter.
-- As discussion of revamping the shelter’s appearance began, Commissioner Jennifer Roberts said the place needs a more inviting name because “Dallas Animal Services” sounds sort of like “some place you’d get your oil changed.” [FYI: Many shelters around the nation have adopted the idea of “marketing” their shelters.]
So, based on yesterday’s meeting, there are plenty of optimistic shelter-related topics to address and we’ll try to get to them as days go by. And, today we’ll close this segment with a link to a really sweet public service announcement created on behalf of Dallas Animal Services. According to the story, Commissioner Molly DeVoss was volunteering at the shelter and met a shelter visitor who works in video and that person agreed to make a free public service announcement for the shelter.
There was a brief discussion Thursday about how to get this into the hands of local TV stations. And it was noted by Commissioner Poling that is it on the DAS Facebook page.
You can’t see it right away on that page – you have to hunt for it and know that it has been archived with the March entries. At some point, no doubt, it’ll emerge into a more readily visible position, perhaps on TV or at least as a link on a website produced by a veteran newshound. Oh, look! Here’s that easier to find Youtube link now: Click HERE.
--Oh, one more thing that didn’t come up in the public discussion but is usually part of the report at commission meetings.The euthanasia totals.
After all, with the no-kill task force in full operation and no-kill a declared goal for the City of Dallas, how can you aim for a goal without knowing what you’re trying to defeat?
As you may suspect, Dallas Animal Services is not some Mom and Pop Shelter -- it's massive.
The shelter took in 2,091 unwanted animals in February and euthanized 1,183. In the longer month of March, the shelter took in 2,615 animals and euthanized 1,576.
So, no matter how positive the spin is on activities at the shelter, the combination of factors such as irresponsible residents, roaming animals, sick and injured animals and owner-surrendered animals still means the shelter kills them by the thousands to make room for the next load. [See our Contemplations today for more.]
MONITORING: In Kaufman County, back in March, a guy beat a dog to death with a hammer. Animal advocates are working on making sure that guy has his day in court, though, so far he’s dodged it. Stay tuned. We’re keeping up with efforts to let this guy explain the event. There's a news story HERE.
PAWS IN THE CITY NEEDS A BIT OF HELP: Our Paws In The City contact Becky Haisma reports that the rescue group pulled a momma and 10 puppies from the Fort Worth Animal Care & Control Shelter – they were ailing. Two of the puppies have die. Others are showing signs of illness. The dogs are all being treated with a vigorous distemper “protocol”. This is expensive and the non-profit organization needs to replenish its emergency medical fund – go to the website www.pawsinthecity.org to see how to donate.
BIG SALE AT COLLIN COUNTY: Yes, the marketing volunteers at Collin County Animal Services are running a special – today through Saturday the adoptions are $50. Includes all sorts of extras. Click on that artwork to make the details larger.
And, you see that dog? That’s Danny.
Why is he in the shelter? Roaming ways and a skunk.
Volunteer shelter walker Allison Roberts reports that Danny has been in quarantine at the shelter “because he was sprayed by a skunk and McKinney Animal Control wanted him quarantined for possible skunk exposure.” Skunks, as you may know, are notorious carries of rabies. But Danny’s passed the observation test and now he’s available. He’s on his second visit to the shelter. He’s neutered, knows routine commands and “won several awards at an offsite festival for his tricks and great behavior!! He came back to the shelter twice this year, and this time his owner didn't come (he was getting out of their backyard.”
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com to ask about any animal in Collin County’s shelter.
ART’S BENEFIT: Animal Rescue of Texas will benefit from a crawfish boil from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Green Elephant in Dallas.
Get tickets and raffle info at the ART site HERE www.animalrescueoftexas.org.
And, in case you wondered about the name: PBR For Pups Crawfish Boil, here was the challenge: I knew what pups, crawfish and oil were, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what PBR was though I tried every configuration of animal related letters.
I asked ART President Maggie Dahl and she solved it. The original sponsor of this event was not Pure Breed Rescue, it was Pabst Blue Ribbon.
CONTEMPLATIONS: In the earlier Animal Shelter Commission story I felt bad about bringing up, in the context of such a positive meeting, the negative aspect of the unmentioned euthanasia rates, but, as the Scripps Newspaper motto reads, “Give people the light and they will find their own way.” Maybe with a spotlight on the euthanasia numbers, more people will find their way toward stopping the senseless slaughter in Dallas and North Texas. Of course, if you taxpaying citizens are happy with killing animals by the thousands, why, then, just hire all the temps you want to operate the warehouse of death. Sorry. Got caught up in the possibility that fully informed citizens can change things for the better.
While looking up some information about the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission, I ran across the “Vision” for the commission. It’s on the City Secretary’s website HERE.
And it'll show you what these hardworking commissioners are charged with doing – it’s not an easy task and it’s not something that only requires a nice meeting every now and then. These people have to be dedicated to the mission of helping protect the animals from civilization’s shortcomings.
”The Commission’s vision is for Dallas to be a premier city for companion animals and the people who care for them, so that all residents are free from the dangers and nuisances of irresponsible pet-ownership, and so that every pet born is assured of a good home and good care all its natural life and does not suffer due to abuse, neglect or ignorance. To achieve this vision, the City must:
--Develop, implement and enforce the policies and programs that will make Dallas a no-kill city
--Encourage compassionate and responsible behavior toward animals through public outreach and education.
--Reposition Dallas Animal Services as a recognized state and national leader in this field."
There you have it, my dear Readers, a Contemplations section with both a View and a Vision.
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