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The first page of the HSUS 2010 report calls for a Task Force to be formed. “Once a task force is developed to review this document and create a working plan of action, the task force should recommend priorities and action items and specify due dates. The document the task force develops then becomes DAS’s working document to implement the recommendations in this report.” That’s a pretty tall order and it’s likely this task force will shape the future of Dallas Animal Services.
So who’s on it? A couple of DAS staff members, someone from Code Compliance, at least one other City employee, and the always- professional, well-respected President 0f the SPCA of Texas, James Bias.
Who’s not on it? Not a single member of the Animal Shelter Commission, many of whom have years of experience in animal welfare and sheltering and have spent years working with the City to improve Dallas Animal Services, all within the realistic constraints of budget and manpower characteristic of most municipal shelters. Not Jonnie England, Director of Advocacy and Communications for the Metroplex Animal Coalition and former Executive Director of Operation Kindness. Not a single former Animal Shelter Commission Member. No one from Dallas Animal Advocates, the group who has made it their mission to help the animals and staff at Dallas Animal Services. They’re the ones that donated all the beds at Christmas, provided Christmas dinner and Thanksgiving dinner for the DAS employees that had to work those days, and worked with Lieutenant Walton to come up with the idea of the Compassion wristbands. They’re also the folks who so generously contribute to this blog. No one from Companions For Life is on the task force either, even though they just spent over $5,000 on equipment for DAS – the last in a long line of donations of equipment, supplies, and educational resources they’ve contributed over the years to make up for gaps in the City budget.
At the December 9th meeting of the Animal Shelter Commission, the formation of the task force was discussed. While many of the Commissioners seemed to think a task force was unnecessary when the Commission already exists (the Commission’s mission is to advise Dallas Animal Services), they made it clear to Code Compliance Director Joey Zapata that they felt a Task Force had to be formed, a member of the Commission should be on it. Mr. Zapata agreed to consider it and said he would let them know who they chose. But that didn’t happen. The Task Force was formed and held their first meeting before anyone on the Commission knew about it.
Why shut out the Commission? Why the secrecy? From the outside looking in, it would appear that the City’s upper management has begun a systematic campaign to brand everyone on the Animal Shelter Commission as some kind of “animal rights nut”. They have the ear of the City Council and it would not be a surprise if they were using it. Remember the lost dog law? It was written by Code Compliance, vetted, and presented to the City Council for a vote before the Commission ever heard about it. Some say that since Code Compliance Director Kathy Davis left and Forest Turner took over, the entire department seems to be slipping backward. While the industry as a whole moves forward and Animal Services agencies across the country move toward a dual mission of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of people and of animals in the community, Dallas Animal Services appears to be falling back into the role of “dog catcher”. And the Commission, the Lieutenant, and the many private non-profit organizations that support DAS may be powerless to stop it. Good luck Mr. Bias – you’re going to need it.
This just in – it appears that six-eight Dallas Animal Services employees may get to go the Texas Unites Conference after all. We’re told Dallas Animal Services and a couple of other area animal welfare groups participated in a Community Collaborative project sponsored by Maddie’s Fund recently. Dallas Animal Services received a $ 12,000 grant for their participation. The grant money has been earmarked for training and equipment. The more skeptical among us can’t help but notice the City isn’t spending a dime here, and so this in no way answers the question “Is the City committed to training and education for Animal Services?”
Training. It’s an essential part of any job and nowhere more so than in Animal Services. In fact, the need for more and better training is one of the things the animal shelter commission has been trying to get the City to realize for years. There’s a proper way to handle a hurt dog in the field and a proper way to handle feral cats in the shelter. There’s a proper way to disinfect a kennel and a proper way to feed a kitten. But according to the recent HSUS report, our animal services people don’t know how to do these things properly because they’ve never received proper training. Indeed, the recommendations contained in the report refer to the need for more training twenty-five times.
There’s a conference coming up in March in Austin. It’s all about animal services, and according to the website there are 36 workshops on everything from animal cruelty to bio-safety and from respiratory disease to breed recognition. The speakers are all recognizable names in animal control – Kit Jenkins from PetSmart Charities, Keane Menefee from Fort Worth Animal Control, an ADA from Houston (“Animal Control Officers Gone Wild” – really?), and vets from Texas A&M and U.C. Davis. It’s $175 for 9 classes over 3 days. You’d think the City would jump at the chance to get that kind of training for that kind of money, wouldn’t you? Nope. According to the employees, the City said no. $ 175 was too expensive. Even though some of them stand to lose their animal control certifications the end of June if they don’t get more continuing education by then.
Maybe they’re going to do what they did in July and have the animal services employees train each other to earn those CEUs. It was a joke then and it’s a joke now.
So warm up your keyboards everyone. We’ll dig into this a bit further and if we find out this is true we’ll all have some letter-writing to do.
By the way, did you see the Dallas Morning News article yesterday? The one about the $ 8,000 the City spent on new chairs for the Council briefing room? I already did the math – $ 8,000/$ 175 = 45 conference registrations. IJS.
Andrea Grimes live-blogged during the meeting. You can see her report here. It’s well worth the read – funny and enlightening.
Andrea Grimes will be live-blogging from the Animal Shelter Commission meeting today. Follow along HERE starting around 1:30 pm.
According to the agenda – http://www.ci.dallas.tx.us/cso/pdf/meetings/ASC-12-09.pdf, the City of Dallas Animal Shelter Commission will take up the issue of the HSUS report this Thursday at their meeting. It’s 114 pages and it’s not much fun to read. I am told a lot of things have changed since April 2010, but there is still a very, very long way to go.
Read it for yourself here: HSUS 2010 report