Despite RIF Process, Dallas Animal Services Still Has 30 "Urgent" Vacancies It Needs to Fill

Categories: City Hall

JodyJones2012.jpg
Jody Jones
"It's mid-January," Dallas Animal Services Commission member Bonnie Matthias said emphatically. "And we're caught with our pants down again."

As usual, there's good news and there's bad news at Dallas Animal Services. This week, shelter manager Jody Jones and head of Code Compliance Jimmy Martin put in two appearances at City Hall: Monday at the city council's Quality of Life Committee meeting, then at yesterday's Animal Shelter Commission get-together, where they were joined by Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata. Both presentations were intended to showcase what's shiny and exciting at DAS these days, both in the shelter and in field operations.

Still. despite progress -- adoption and rescue rates are up, euthanasia rates are slightly down, and absolutely no one is on trial for felony animal cruelty anymore -- the Animal Shelter Commission still had some concerns. Chief among them: Why are there still 30 vacant, need-to-be-filled-right-now kind of jobs, despite the highly publicized recent layoffs of 53 workers, and their subsequent replacement with temporary workers? And why has no progress been made on outsourcing cruelty investigations, despite the fact that only one qualified agency, SPCA of Texas, bid for the job?

The audience found out yesterday that because half of the city's two-person cruelty team is on medical leave, there's currently just one animal cruelty investigator for all of Dallas. Jones also acknowledged that even though animals are currently vaccinated upon intake, the city of Dallas still doesn't provide rabies or tetanus vaccinations for animal services officers working in the field.

The situation with the unfilled jobs led Matthias, the commission member for District 4, to express some frustration. "I'm real concerned about 50-some temps in the shelter, and we've got all these vacancies," she told Zapata. "I just don't like temporary workers in a civil service environment. I think it's dead wrong. ... In my opinion, this has gone on entirely too long."

But first, courtesy of the briefing from Animal Services that was provided to the city council members, let's hang out in Good News Land for a moment longer. Live releases from the shelter are up (although they dropped slightly from last year, and Jones confirmed to us earlier this week that the shelter still has to euthanize nearly 75 percent of the animals who come through its doors).

Animal Services is working hard to fulfill all of the requirements in this voluminous, often-blistering HSUS report from last year, including updating its mission statement and plans to "improve equipment training and maintenance procedures," as Jones told the QOL Committee. The shelter has begun examining and vaccinating all animals upon intake, and they're working on "team-building" at the shelter, Jones said, as well as a series of public service announcements to encourage more people to adopt. The Animal Shelter Commission also gave approval for the Dallas Companion Animal Project task force to move forward with its goal of reducing euthanasia rates for adoptable animals.

"This is one of the first times I've been truly excited" about Animal Services, council member Dwaine Caraway said Monday. (Although he immediately followed up by reminding Jones that there are still packs of stray dogs running loose in his neighborhood, adding, "I know they're all over town.")

But Delia Jasso was more focused on the temporary workers at the shelter. "I really do have a concern about some of the temps," she told Jones on Monday. "I want to talk to you offline about them, and what we can do better." Angela Hunt agreed, telling Jones, "Many of us have gotten complaints about the temporary workers."

Yesterday Zapata reassured the Animal Shelter Commission about the vacant positions, saying they are "our highest priority," but that they wanted to make sure they got the right people in those spots. Those vacancies include a lead veterinarian, 13 animal services officers, nine customer service reps, and two shelter and field assistant managers. "We'll keep moving forward and we'll keep you informed," he told them.

"We've talked in October, November, December and now we're talking in January," said Jonnie England, a commissioner member and the director of animal advocacy and communications over at Metroplex Animal Coalition. "We're very frustrated that it just goes on and on."

"I hear you," Zapata replied. "I share your frustration." He also told the commission not to "confuse the RIFs with the new positions," adding that the people who were laid off during the RIF process "had the opportunity to apply for the vacancies" back in October.

Jones and Zapata also reassured the commission that they were "in discussions" on the outsourcing of cruelty calls (though neither of them wanted to say that it was SPCA of Texas that they're talking to). In the meantime, Jones said the cruelty investigations were still ongoing, with current city staff.

"You have two guys," England said pleasantly enough. "One of them has been on leave for two weeks. How are you possibly handling this?"

Jones replied that some regular animal services officers are being trained to investigate cruelty cases. "Is it perfect? No. Are we doing the best we can in making sure critical issues don't fall through the cracks? Yes."

England was also concerned about the rate of animals "disappearing from their cages" at the shelter, i.e. being stolen. She asked if the temporary workers had something to do with that. Nope, Jones said, it's everybody else.

"Citizens continue to be our number one challenge," where animal theft is concerned, she told the commission.

The Animal Shelter Commission is due to meet next on February 23. Animal Services will give an update on their response to the HSUS report to the commission in March.


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14 comments
Training Leash
Training Leash

Why a lot of vacancies .? Good news brightened my day . :)

Frustrated Adopter
Frustrated Adopter

I was just at DAS twice last weekend to adopt an dog.  My interaction with their employees and my experience with the adoption process was hands down one of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had.  It's right up there with my experiences at the DMV, post office and other incompetent organizations.  The sad thing is, they're responsible for a living thing and how they do their jobs impacts how many of these animals live or die, every day.

I attempted to contact DAS about a dog on their "put to sleep" list and never heard back from employees.

I attempted to adopt a dog and was told the exact opposite thing to do each step of the adoption process.  The dog was then adopted to another woman who had been behind me in line and she was pointed out to me.  After 4 hours at the shelter, I left angry and empty handed, vowing to never return again.  Two others who had been waiting to adopt in the lobby tore their applications and walked out after a frustrating experience, as well.

I sent upset emails to the director or rescue and director of adoptions, plus my city council woman.  The director of rescue was prompt and apologetic with his reply.  He encouraged me to return to adopt.  After visiting a few other shelters, I returned to DAS.  The Sunday employees were more pleasant and helpful than the Saturday crew, but after waiting 45 min to process paperwork for adoption, I was told the dog I wanted had already been adopted two days prior and they had forgotten to post the paperwork indicating his adoption status.  Back to square one.

I ended up adopting a puppy for DAS, but no thanks to their process or customer service.  It's no wonder so many dogs are put to sleep each day when you consider all the obstacles in place to adopt a dog.  Shame.

Juxtapose1
Juxtapose1

I think it is interesting that the civilian employee association representative who brought several legitimate complaints to light was swept under the rug.  This is not accurate reporting...either that or the Dallas Observer and/or it's editors have something against unions fighting for workers rights.

Reference this quote:

"Jones also acknowledged that even though animals are currently vaccinated upon intake, the city of Dallas still doesn't provide rabies or tetanus vaccinations for animal services officers working in the field."

The acknowledgement was in response to the United Steelworkers Local 9479 Public Employee Advisor's questions regarding this and several other personnel issues.

The RIF did not good, and now pets, wildlife, AND, workers are suffering....

Cynthia
Cynthia

Get rid of the ASC and appoint people who UNDERSTAND ANIMALS not spout BS for animal RIGHTS...people who UNDERSTAND ANIMALS will be able to get the RIGHT JOB DONE!

Pleasant Grove Activist
Pleasant Grove Activist

Thank you for an honest look at the situation at DAS.  Hopefully education of our citizens on the necissity to sterilize their pets with help bring the euthanasia rate down and help to make Dallas a "no-kill" city.  

james
james

during the summer 100+ heatwave, i called city of dallas about the next door neighbors dog. they had a small puppy on a short leash beside the outdoor a/c unit(heater!!) with no water much of the time. animal control never showed up for a case of obvious animal cruelty.

Feline Provocateur
Feline Provocateur

Considering that the Dallas Companion Animal Project has an Advisory Board chock full of folks with NO experience in transforming kill shelters into no-kill shelters, I am mystified as to why the Animal Shelter Commission didn't bring this up.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

It was F**Ked up Before .Lets fire everyone who Might have a clue There by *uc*ing up some more .Then bring in some Temps who have no F*C* ing clue .

Six months from now we can all breath a sigh of relief because its as ***KED as it was six months ago.

Feline Provocateur
Feline Provocateur

Wouldn't it be nice if some of those committee-sitters on the Advisory Board spent a few hours a month doing some hands-on volunteering at DAS? Talk is cheap and it doesn't save animals' lives.

anonymous
anonymous

More than a shame.  It is fricking ridiculous.  Councilperson Jasso has coined the PR phrase "Dallas Loves Animals" - - what a disgusting piece of hypocrisy. The newly formed group, DCAP, whatever that stands for, is supposedly working toward making Dallas a no kill city of adoptable animals.  They might start at ground zero - DAS. Maybe Jimmy Martin and Joey "I'll-have-to-get-back-to-you-with-that" Zapata should be the first ones at the shelter working to make things better since the ill considered "RIF" reportedly was their bright idea. They did not realize the RIF'd employees would not be too anxious to jump through the hoops Martin and Zapata set in place for rehire - and as usual, innocent, helpless animals are paying the price for the stupidity and arrogance of humans.   

anonymous
anonymous

They never do.  A citizen can call 311 and report a case of severe animal abuse over and over and over and you might as well be beating your head against a brick wall. I have done it for years in Oak Cliff and West Dallas areas.  Nuthin' but continued suffering for a helpless animal - unless my friends and I were able on rare occasions to "liberate" the animal. High hopes that something might change with Ms. Jones' arrival.  Time will tell. 

Cynthia
Cynthia

The HSUS has no animal "EXPERIENCE"...hellloooooo..

Feline Provocateur
Feline Provocateur

Cynthia, please surf over to the Dallas Companion Animal Project's Web site (dallascompanionanimalproject DOT org) and check out the Advisory Board. The HSUS is NOT on it. 

Furthermore, the HSUS is not interested in saving animals; they're interested in political lobbying. When those HSUS TV commercials beg us to send them $20 a month to help shelter animals, they neglect to mention that less than a dollar of that $20 will go to a REAL animal shelter. 

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