Dallas' Animal Shelter Could See Budget Cuts, Just Like Every Other City Department

Categories: Animal Welfare

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Animals Abused & Abandoned
Dallas has thousands of orphaned animals stuck in the shelter system, and a big corporation promised to help save some of them. Beginning last September, a PetSmart store in north Dallas opened up its doors to the Dallas Animal Services department, housing some of its "adoptable" dogs and cats. Every official involved says that the project, a partnership between PetSmart Charities and Dallas Animal Services, has been great so far.

Except it is taxpayer dollars that are funding much of that charity work, and the money wasn't actually available to Dallas Animal Services yet when they agreed to the project last year.

"The funding for that project never was given to us," by the city, says Jody Jones, the manager of Dallas Animal Services. "So we had a choice to make." Seeing the off-site adoption center as good opportunity, she chose to sign on.

Under the program, there are now four full-time Dallas Animal Services employees that staff the PetSmart adoption center, plus day laborers who are also employed by the city. In total, the off-site adoption center has saved 1300 animals' lives, Jones estimates, and she's asking for $365,300 extra from the city's general fund next year to keep it going.

It's the newer or yet-to-be-funded projects like the PetSmart one that could fall under the axe amid a projected $30 million budget shortfall in the city next year, sparking a public outcry from a vocal group of animal rescue workers who say that more of the city's budget needs to go to animals.

But all departments are facing cuts, not just animal services.

"It is absolute theater," says Councilman Philip Kingston of the public focus on individual departments, as opposed to the bigger picture that the city has been spending too much all over the place.

As budgeting talks progress, all city departments have been asked to submit a proposal of ways they could cut three percent of their costs, a process Kingston says is fairly standard. For animal services, Jones decided to make those potential cuts with the contract workers. There are currently 93 full-time employees at the main Dallas Animal Services shelter, plus an additional 35 part-time independent contractors. Under the savings proposal Jones' department submitted, her shelter could save three percent by cutting its contract employees from 35 down to 17.

The proposal sparked an angry blog post from members of the Dallas Animal Commission. "17 people to feed and care for 650 animals every day!?!? That's absurd," they write, blaming higher-up city officials for the proposed cut.

After that blog post was up, Carol Brewer, an animal rescue worker whose been involved with various charities, launched the "No Budget Cuts to Dallas Animal Services" petition last week, gaining nearly 4,000 signatures so far. She also co-hosted a rally Tuesday night at Lee Harvey's in support of Animal Services.

Other than the three percent cut, however, Animal Services has actually asked for a budget in 2015 that's bigger than this year's budget of just under $8 million. Next year, the department wants $9.6 million, or an additional $1.6 million to cover stuff like the PetSmart project. That additional money has so far been deemed by the city as an "enhancement," a.k.a money that won't be seen as a priority as the Dallas City Council decides what to fund.

Jones argues that the enhancements have always been necessary, there just haven't been funds for them. Another enhancement, for example, would go to a program that in part funds vaccination for animals as soon as they're brought to the shelter. Jones says that her shelter had already been vaccinating the animals on intake, even though it's not budgeted. Instead, she's been turning to another city agency, the Department of Code Compliance, for financial support.

"We do have to rely heavily," on code, Jones says. "The challenge is we are running such a lean operation here."

As for PetSmart, even though the project wasn't in last year's budget, Chris Watts, a board member on the city's Animal Shelter Commission, says that city staff had promised to include it. "Now, no one from the city seems to remember they agreed to it and [it] is not in the budget," Watts writes via email.

If the city decides to skimp on that money next year, it's not clear what will happen to all of those PetSmart orphans. "We haven't even thought that far ahead," says Steve Pawlowski, a spokesman for PetSmart Charities. "We're just moving forward."


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39 comments
Hulon_Pate
Hulon_Pate

There is a Pitt bull dog epidemic in Dallas. That being said it is because of dog fighting. More resources are needed to fight and prosecute this violent criminal enterprise. Dog theft is also a serious issue in Dallas and is often a side line of dog fighting organizations.                                                                                                 We need our city council to empower code compliance officers to be able to enforce city codes and ordinances pertaining to the proper fencing of large dogs. 

lumpyowl
lumpyowl

Not sure where the numbers came from, but there isn't that much staffing at the Petsmart Adoption Center.  There are only 2 full-time CIty of Dallas employees (who were employed at the main shelter prior to the Petsmart opening) and 3 day laborers.  Petsmart Charities actually donates money for every single adoption that is done at the center.

jonnieengland1
jonnieengland1

Thanks for this very informative and in-depth article. It's important to know the story behind the alarming headline. No other medium has bothered to report that. And it's interesting to learn that "The City" didn't arbitrarily decide to slash the budget for Animal Services. I think the impression we were given was that the powers that be at City Hall were literally taking food out of puppies' mouths! 

mcdietsch
mcdietsch

Listen instead of beating the system, if you care, let's together find a solution to this problem, at least for this year and then you can have 365 days to change, vote, plead or punish whoever you want. But for now, let's solve the problem! Again, what can we (the who care) do? Any ideas or suggestions will be highly appreciated!

- because every living being deserves a chance!

Just-Sharon
Just-Sharon

I think that each major corporation that wants to do business in our city should be required to help with the upkeep of our local animal shelters. I think most would agree to do so at some level and would help them be more rapidly accepted into the community.   Each company could adopt a shelter and keep pics of dogs/cats needing homes up on their bulletin boards etc. 


Vonciel HIll should be required to give up 2/3rd's of her salary because more people love the most vile pit bull more than her.  Plus a simple cut in her food allowance could help feed 30 canines a day. 


Something has to be done because more and more they are become  part of our family thus we want to see them all cared for properly. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Dump the euthanized carcasses on the front lawns of the mayor, city manager, and council members.

mcdietsch
mcdietsch

Instead of giving a senseless opinion i would like to know WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP? Is there anything that we can do? How can we raise the funds without relying on the government?

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

The City of Dallas animal shelter is already UNDER-FUNDED.  Cutting its budget would do even more harm to citizens, pets, and stray animals. 


I think there is a solution through a combination of better management, more Council interaction, and volunteerism on the part of organizations. 


This isn't rocket science.  In fact, the City should hire East Lake Vet Hospital to study the pound and staffing, and become a permanent adviser to the Shelter.  They are a first class operation from vet services to fund raising to adoptions.


Cutting the Shelter's budget hurts too many creatures who can't help themselves.

lftay
lftay

In general, the city's problem is that it tries to do too much.  There are some really nice savings, even revenues, from cutting back to the core missions of city government, which includes Animal Services.  Cut out some of the extraneous items like WRR, and there will be enough money to take care of the truly important things.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

I think I read not too long ago that Dwaine Caraway's number one complaint he received was about stray dogs...yet District 4 does not have anyone on the Animal Shelter's commission



MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

The real answer is for people to stop abandoning pets.  If you cannot afford the animal, do not get an animal.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

But what the hey, we have a string thingy bridge, a deck park, a horsey park, a trolley being built to nowhere and soon to come the Floodway Tollway.


Oh; and, lots and lots of potholes.

roo_ster
roo_ster

Triage time.


Those cats & dogs not claimed and with serious issues or unlikely to be adopted will have to be put down sooner.



noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@mcdietsch The City needs to stop funding so many social programs.  Those have become the responsibility of the federal government and counties.  Things like animal shelters and street lights are municipal concerns. 


We need a task force of vets, contractors, animal control experts and citizens to evaluate the animal shelter, make suggestions, TRIAGE the problems and then fund the solutions. 


I expect several corporations and individuals would kick in money for a shelter sustainability fund, and clean the shelter up more so people actually like visiting there.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@bvckvs The Attorney General has nothing to do with companies who make charitable contribution or sponsorhips.  However, I do agree that companies who sell food or treats that are known to be harmful should be prosecuted and sued.

dfwanimalrescue
dfwanimalrescue

@bvckvs PetSmart Charities has been very generous in funding local animal welfare projects including being a funding partner in the Big Fix for Big D, a $5 million, 3-year program offering free s/n and vaccinations for low income pet owners.  They've also funded local s/n programs for various organizations, provided emergency funding for local organizations, and spent nearly 1/2 million on the DAS Adoption Center, which has already saved over 1,300 lives since it opened in September.  In Animal Welfare circles, PetSmart Charities is exceptionally well regarded.  And they stopped selling those treats at the same time as their competitors at Petco did.  If you've got proof they reneged on someone's funding, let's have it. 

Just-Sharon
Just-Sharon

@bvckvs  The China situation is well known among dog owners.  What is not knows is that the chicken used in most of the high end dog foods are also from China.  It is not just the treats.  We have a Diabetic pit bull who requires constant glucose monitoring. 


I didn't know about PetSmart refusing to hold up their end of the deal.  If you have a link, I will be the first on their ass.  But people should check to seen if the chicken in their dog food was made in China. 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bvckvs

That's a pretty strong charge against Pet Smart. Do you have some information that they are doing what you say they are doing?

I'm pretty sure that Pet Smart wasn't the only retailer affected by the melamine problem of a couple years back. Seems to me that quite a few major manufacturers were involved.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@bvckvs apparently you've been eating said dog treats, and the poison has affected your brain

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@lftay I'm all for the City selling WRR, and making a deal with cable operators to continue broadcasts of council meetings, and putting those same meetings on the City's web site. 


If people want quality radio classical music, look no further than WFCC in Massachusetts.  It's one of the very best.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@MikeWestEast good point, but what if you got an animal when you could afford it, then lost a job and no longer can?  What happens then

seanmahoney
seanmahoney

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul

Not to mention the promised 8 figures (reported to be 13 million dollars) they have offered the Commemorative Air Force to move to Dallas Executive Airport, or the 1 Million they offered Santander to move from the Love Field area to downtown. I guess subsidizing corporations and rich folks is more popular at city hall than actually running the city.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin  I give my cats people food treats.  It's a break from pet food, which is why they are called treats.

The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

@ScottsMerkin @MikeWestEast 

Operation Kindness is a no kill shelter in Carrollton.  As long as you're not unemployed and an inside the loop provincial prick, you could take your pet there.  There are also numerous rescue organizations that will accept pets surrendered by their owners.  

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bvckvs @Just-Sharon @dfwanimalrescue

Don't miss this folks! As rare as a blue diamond!

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin  Realize, also, that if a food is not smelly, cats will probably reject it, since they have very few taste buds and rely on the odors to enjoy the food.  Thus, sardines and other strong-smelling cat food have the most appeal.  That busts the finicky-eater myth.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz I have to make sure they dont get the cheese he tosses sometimes.  That stuff is like eating a Big Mac for an adult, and my mini dox sure doesnt need that many calories

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin That's nice to hear.  The cats love my chopped chicken liver, although I don't make it that often.  They get to nibble at a sardine every now and then, and they enjoy licking fried chicken drumsticks.


Oh, I have to keep the plate in sight or Big Kitty would scarf down the whole thing.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz my dogs get people food treats too!  Mainly from baby Merkin who really isnt a baby anymore, more so a toddler, if thats what 2 year olds are called these days.  Also the dogs are much happier with their treats now that toddler Merkin eats normal human foods.  The dogs were not too keen on liquid baby foods and oatmeal.

tjfyfe
tjfyfe

@The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley @ScottsMerkin @MikeWestEast ALL animal rescue groups in North Texas, including Operation Kindness, stay triple full all the time.  You can't just decide to take an animal there, drop it off and be assured it will have a great new home somewhere - because they rarely have room to take it in. There are thousands of dogs being born to stray mama dogs - in vacant lots, under bridges, in dirt yards. The stray dog population has exploded over the past two years.  If you drive through West Dallas, East Dallas, South Dallas - you see them roaming in packs - they are starving, injured, suffering and making more as I type.

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