City, Animal Shelter Commission Differ On "Disaster" Year at Dallas Animal Services

Categories: City Hall
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From our slideshow here
On Friday, Assistant City Manager Forest Turner -- to whom I spoke for last week's cover story about cruelty, cronyism and incompetence at Dallas Animal Services -- sent out a memo to city council members updating them on progress made at DAS with regard to the Humane Society of the United States' audit of the shelter. Of course, "progress" rather depends on who you ask when it comes to DAS, seeing as how a number of folks on and off the city's Animal Shelter Commission think the city continues to hide its head in the sand when it comes to the shelter's biggest issue: more than a decade of bad -- sometimes criminally bad -- management. I'm starting to agree. Real hard.

But nice things first: The memo is, in part, encouraging. Turner notes that adoptions and rescues are on the rise, loose dog complaints and impoundments have decreased, and Delia Jasso's "Dallas Loves Animals" initiative is set to launch on February 12 at the Westmoreland Road shelter. And then, well, there's Turner's summary of the HSUS report, which I suspected animal welfare workers and Animal Shelter Commission members might find a tad disingenuous in the way it highlights "an obvious dichotomy" between ASC goals and city council and community goals and ignores repeated HSUS calls for a management overhaul.

Writes Turner:
"Key findings in the report included the need for additional written standard operating procedures, the need to reconcile an obvious dichotomy between the City Council's goals and the goals of the Animal Shelter Commission as well as the animal welfare community, and recommendations for improvements in the use of equipment and maintenance of the shelter facility."
Clearly DAS has had a number of problems over the years, and leadership there and at Dallas City Hall has often conflicted with an ASC that has sometimes felt ignored and marginalized by memos just like these. But to say that there's an "obvious dichotomy" paints the ASC as some kind of nutty super-PETA, instead of a group of rescue workers and activists who don't think "catch, cage, kill" is a good solution to animal overpopulation, which has been the M.O. of some council members over the years. If the ASC's beliefs about animal treatment are a problem -- and I am hardly convinced they are -- then city management needs to reexamine its definition of "problem."

Any "obvious dichotomy" between the ASC and the city that exists oughta be way, way down on the totem pole considering the fact that, ten years ago, the HSUS cited poor management as a top problem at DAS. Then, they said practically the same thing again last year during their second audit. Somehow, Turner makes no reference to "ineffective leadership in the management ranks" and staffers "repeatedly" expressing alienation from "managers and supervisors who used retaliatory disciplinary actions."

That sounds like a little bit more of an urgent issue than a political squabble with an advisory commission, no?

Dallas animal rights activist and communications director at the Metroplex Animal Coalition, Jonnie England, who I also interviewed for the cover story, also finds Turner's omission curious. I e-mailed her the memo -- it wasn't copied to ASC members or even ASC Chairman Skip Trimble -- to get her thoughts. She wrote back to me:

It's unbelievable that Mr. Turner continues to tout what he believes were the three "key findings" in the HSUS report, one of which is his personal opinion that there is a "dichotomy between the City Council's goals and the goals of the Animal Shelter Commission ...." It's just mind boggling that he steadfastly ignores the 251 serious issues and problems facing Dallas and Dallas Animal Services.  Those were spelled out so clearly in the Commission's Annual Report to the Council.
Interested parties can check out the Animal Shelter Commission's Annual Report below. In it, the ASC calls a year in which a cat was allowed to starve to death within shelter walls and three workers were put on paid leave for animal cruelty or mistreatment a "disaster." Forest Turner refused to use that word when I interviewed him a few weeks ago. But this memo indicates that there seem to be a lot of words Turner refuses to use. Like, say, "bad management." Jan 28 DAS memo to Dallas City Council Animal Shelter Commission Report 09-10

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3 comments
Jill
Jill

Forest Turner is an idiot. Plain and simple.....

Gracie
Gracie

Ok. I'm confused. In the top picture is the dog being adopted or returned? Inquiring minds want to know...

Pissed-Off Dallasite
Pissed-Off Dallasite

Is it any wonder Turner is spinning this so crazily? His incompetent and unqualified golf buddy is the one who let the cat starve inside the wall and forbade any efforts to extricate it. Forest Turner and Mary Suhm are responsible for this disaster. In this instance, the rot starts at the top.

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