Dallas Animal Services Still Overheated and Understaffed

Categories: City Hall

cat paw resized.jpg
Mark Graham

Good news first: the kittens have their own room now. Bad news: most of those kittens are still going to die.

Every few months, the Animal Shelter Commission gets together for a progress report from shelter manager Jody Jones and director of Code Compliance Jimmy Martin. It's always a mixture of adorable (pictures of kittens) and depressing (more than 70 percent of all the animals who enter the shelter are euthanized due to lack of space, behavioral concerns, or disease).

The meetings are also a reminder of the limitations of the commission itself. As an advisory board, they can't do much except make suggestions. Those suggestions sometimes escalate into exasperated complaints, as the same issues seem to come up at every meeting without resolution: under-staffing, poorly trained temporary employees, and an air-conditioning system that's gone five summers without really working.

Jones did have a few pieces of good news yesterday: the euthanasia rate at the shelter has dropped every year, a trend that's picked up speed the past few years. (In 2002, for example, only 16 percent of all animals made it out of the shelter alive.) And 18 of the more than 30 "urgent" vacancies at the shelter have been filled, including the position of lead veterinarian.They've also reorganized the space where the cats live, keeping kittens with vulnerable immune systems away from sick adult cats and those sick adult cats away from each other, the better to prevent cross-contamination.

In the field division, eight out of the ten vacant animal services officer positions have been filled. But there's still a huge backlog of cases of animal cruelty and neglect: DAS gets around 55,000 calls for service each year, and there are still only 31 animal services officers in the field, down from 55 in September of last year. Until recently, only two of those officers were trained to handle cruelty investigations. Jones said yesterday that "all animal services officers are doing cruelty investigations now," while supervisors handle "escalated" incidents. Those field officers are now also getting rabies vaccinations for the first time (possibly because a representative from the public employee's union demanded to know at the last meeting why they weren't being done already).

Meanwhile, a long-standing proposal to outsource some of those cruelty complaints to the SPCA is still stalled, and it's unclear when or if it will happen. Jones told the commission that animal services officers will "partner with the Dallas Police Department's community outreach officers" to handle some 311 calls relating to stray and dangerous dogs. (But in this morning's Dallas Morning News , Assistant Chief Michael Genovesi said the plan is "on hold.")

Commission members continue to express concerns about two long-standing problems at the shelter: the training of the shelter's temporary employees and the HVAC system, which hasn't worked properly for about five years.

The temporary workers have been at the shelter since October, when a RIF process laid off 53 permanent workers and replaced them with the temps. Commission members and volunteers at the shelter continue to complain that they're seeing incidents of rough handling of the animals by the temps. An audience member said during her volunteer shift recently, she watched a temporary worker drag a terrified dog down a hallway by its leash.

"How much emphasis do you put on training?" she asked Jones. "I've seen several instances of completely inappropriate behavior, and other staffers did nothing."

"Training is not what we want it to be," Jones said apologetically. "Nor will it be" until staffing levels are addressed, she added.

As for the air-conditioning system, "I don't know how many more summers we have to go through this," said commission member Jonnie England. She called temperatures in the building "absolutely unbearable." Temperatures have reached above 80 degrees inside the building. Jones said they've had to move some employees out of their work-spaces when they got too hot.

Martin acknowledged that there were "hot spots" in the building. He said that they would soon be outsourcing the maintenance of the HVAC unit, which he promised would help fix the problem.

England had a different idea. "My solution is to have the city council meet there."



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20 comments
Joanie Hammond
Joanie Hammond

How about placing an ad in your paper for volunteers.

MrBlue
MrBlue

I would make the motion to spay and neuter the cats, and release them back into the community. (as i've seen previously done).... I have encountered a handful of feral cats in old (historical) east dallas, and can see no negative effects of their existence... their left ears are clipped (visually denoting that they have been spayed/vaccinated at one time), and i am aware of neighborhood residents that have no problem taking turns purchasing the occasional bag of cat food for the cats that pass through.

 

It seems in-humane to imprison and euthanize an animal in the first place. But to subject that same animal to an environment that is unacceptable enough to produce the validation for this article?  The cats are wild animals that i have seen flourish without being completely dependent on the DAS.  Not to mention, How can it be certain that the behavioral problems seen in some of these animals are not directly caused by their incarceration?

 

I understand this doesn't apply to all of the animals that DAS captures,(and of course i'm not suggesting they release mentally unstable dangerous animals) but the cats i've seen  are non-lethal and tame. Perhaps if the DAS wanted to revert back to releasing the harmless animals, they could then boost their revenues enough to make their buildings more habitable for animals that require adoption.  To catch it, evaluate the animal's demeanor, then spay it, vaccinate it, and release it. At least in the case of animals that are capable of being feral without threat.  I could agree with the push to euthanize (after an evaluation period) If the animal is diseased or dangerous, but there is no efficiency in storing and feeding an animal for a prolonged period of time if they pass the evaluation.  Regulate then Liberate....

savethem
savethem

Thank you Anna for attending the boring meeting yesterday and for writing this synopsis.  I have been closely watching the total ineptitude of the city of Dallas when it comes to handling animals since the last century - through several managers of DAS.  Because of abject ignorance or possibly something more sinister that begins with the letter "C" they will not/cannot get it right - they are incapable of doing the right thing for animals.  No air conditioning for five years?  Jesus Christ.

 

Yes, some things inside the shelter itself may have improved a bit (depending on whom you ask), but the animals "in the field" suffer even more abuse and neglect than they were enduring 15-20 years ago AND NOTHING IS DONE TO STOP IT!!!!!!.  Make all the phone calls and reports of cruelty you have the energy for - but rest assured, the animals will be suffering just as badly or worse the next time you see them - if they have not mercifully expired in complete misery.  Jody Jones seems to want to do the right thing but she is totally restrained by the powers that be at city hall.  DAS is down from 55 officers, a wholly inadequate number of officers from a few years ago - to 31 officers currently.  Thanks Joey Zapata, Mary Suhm, Forest Turner et al.  Great job guys.

 

 

Storm_71
Storm_71

At least they are not letting cats sufer slow deaths within the walls anymore. I thought a guy from DPD came in there and was getting the place back into shape? It sucks for the poor animals that's for sure.

Lorlee
Lorlee

It always just amazes me that the City can screw up so badly.  Fire everyone, hire only 1/2 the number of temporaries who aren't trained.  What do we expect.    I still have not seen a good reason that all of the employees were to be replaced by temps. I assume so we don't have to pay benefits.  We already contracted out the garbage services.  What's good for the goose should be good for the Gander --  How about we make some of the Assistant City Managers temps with no benefits.  ,

engmofo
engmofo

Perhaps our beloved benefactors could do something about this instead of building another fucking bridge

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

BREAKING NEWS:  Ron Washington just told Bob and Dan that the D mag article on him and his house was not true and in fact the writer never talked to him.  ron said the story is totally embellished

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

I rank this 5 Vaginas.  nicely done.  i love animals

MrBlue
MrBlue

 kirkunit.  MrBlue.  But that's the point... It's nature. Who do are we to impose? they also contribute to lower rat/mouse populations...

kirkunit
kirkunit

@MrBlue Outdoor cats have a devastating effect upon song bird populations.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @savethem no body had A/C until the mid 50s.  A modicum of perspective might make these services more affordable.

Storm_71
Storm_71

I give it two strong fallopian tubes and a half cervix.

savethem
savethem

They also had shorter life spans.  There were very few swimming pools to add to the ungodly humidity.  Now there are thousands of pools that lend moisture to the oppressive summer air that is so heavy in North Texas that it is hard for people to breathe.  Chained dogs die of heat stroke every single day in this area - and while they bake to death in the Texas summer sun, they at least have fresh air to breathe even if it is hot.  At DAS, the caged animals in close quarters with hundreds of other hot animals inside closed walls do not even have that. 

 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @anna.merlan speaking of vagina, that cat paw looks a lot like something else that you might stick through glory hole

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Anna,

That photo really is NSFW.  Great article.  It is a serious issue that demands the coverage you are giving it.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @Anna_Merlan yeah it was real fucking, now the jokes on me!!!!  Love you have a great weekend

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

sorry you dont want to laugh today.  Ill return to my serious self on this thread

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