Task Force starts work without the Animal Shelter Commission

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.



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