City management to consider cutting 50% of Animal Services contract workforce

Posted in Now or Never, Take action! on May 20, 2014 by Blog Administrator

The Dallas City Council will be briefed tomorrow on the budget outlook for 2014-2015.  DAS has requested an additional $ 1.6 million to continue doing the good work that they do.  Adoptions are up, live release rates are skyrocketing, community outreach efforts and spay/neuter are paying off in South Dallas, public support for DAS is at an all time high, and thousands more pets are being saved every year.  The reward for all the hard work Animal Services has done to turn things around since 2010?   According to the presentation posted on the City Hall website, City management will recommend a reduction of the temporary laborers who have made up such a large part of the staff at DAS since so many full-timers were laid off in 2011.  All the full time animal keepers are gone, and now instead of the 35 contract laborers who care for the animals, the budget team is recommending the City cut that in half – and only budget for 50% of those workers.  17 people to feed and care for 650 animals every day!?!?  That’s absurd.

The budget team is recommending to the City Council…

  • No money to keep the PetSmart Charities Adoption Center open and running,
  • No money for vaccination on intake, which keeps the shelter pets healthier and the environment safer for the staff and visitors
  • No money for cleaning supplies to minimize cross contamination;
  • No money for canned pet food – just dry food for the tiniest orphans, the seniors, and those that are ill,
  • No money for basic lawn maintenance to keep the grounds in compliance with City ordinance,
  • No money to repair or replace broken, outdated equipment like exam tables, scales, autoclave, appliances, desks/chairs, anesthesia machines, etc.
  • No money for an emergency generator.  Should the AC fail in the heat of the summer, the consequences could be deadly for the animals housed at DAS;
  • No money for additional staffing. DAS is already unable to respond timely to public safety calls and emergency situations,
  • No money for staffing to provide the additional services City leaders expect as part of the Mayor’s Grow South plan.

Instead, they City recommends cutting out HALF of the workers who care for the animals.
Want to take a look for yourself?  Page 75 of 122, Budget Workshop #2, 05/21/14 presentation.

What can you do?  Easy – call, or send a letter or email to your City Council representative (see the list in the sidebar), and be sure to copy the City Manager, AC Gonzales and the Mayor as well.   Be polite please, but it’s OK to show how passionate you are about Dallas’ pets.

You can also let your voice be heard by posting on the City’s new feedback website, TalkDallas.com.

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Quality of Life isn’t just about schools. It’s about pets, too.

Posted in Now or Never, Take action! with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2014 by Blog Administrator

This past week there has been a lot of talk in the media lately about corporate relocation, after Toyota chose to relocate in Plano rather than Dallas. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings blamed Dallas public schools. DISD countered that Dallas has some of the best schools in the country.  Either way, Dallas residents lost out on significant future tax revenue that could have provided much-needed City services, or even offset future property taxes.

But isn’t there more to the story?  Quality of life for employees is always high on the list of considerations when corporations look to relocate, but quality of life is more than just schools. Corporations looking at quality of life issues often look at homelessness as a significant contributing factor – not just homeless people, but homeless pets as well.  That’s why Dallas Animal Services is under the prevue of the City of Dallas’ own Quality of Life Committee – because animal issues go directly to quality of life our residents.

Dallas Animal Services takes in 25,000+ homeless pets every year.  Much improvement has occurred in the last few years, with live release rates rising significantly for the first time in the City’s history. But loose, owned and stray dogs are still the number one complaint in many parts of the city.  Private funders, both locally and nationally have begun to come to our rescue – with programs like the $5 million dollar commitment to the Big Fix for Big D, with Pets For Life, in technology and in program support. But where is the commitment from the City?  Hiring Jody Jones was a great beginning, but much more is needed. We need permanent solutions that raise our quality of life, once and for all.

Permanent solutions are not free, not quick, and not easy. Permanent solutions require resources, time, and most importantly – money. But DAS budget hasn’t changed significantly in over a decade.  Year after year, the basic budget remains the same.  Enhancements are requested. Most are denied.  City managers contend there is no money. Not a dime to be had anywhere.  The money budgeted today – for a department whose recent successes have been recognized for recent achievements by the City itself, that now saves more lives than ever before – struggles day in and day out with basically the same budget the department had in 2010 when Dallas became known across the country as the City that let the cat die in the shelter wall rather than spend the money to cut a hole to free it.

There has to be some way to right the wrong done by decades of fiscal mismanagement. There has to be a new beginning, a provision for rectifying the situation, a reallocation of some sort. Somewhere, somehow there has to be funding to do what needs to be done.

It does seem likely there was more that played into Toyota’s decision than just schools, and Dallas’ track record when it comes to homeless pets still leaves a lot of room for improvement .  We need to invest money now – in issues that affect our quality of life now, and in creating an attractive corporate environment for the future.  How many more Toyota’s do we miss out before we find a way to finance animal services properly and make Dallas more attractive to corporate America?

Agree or disagree? Leave us a note in the comments, or better yet, take action by letting your City Council representative know how you feel and what your budget priorities are.

Dateline Dallas: The Budget Battle Begins

Posted in Take action! on April 29, 2014 by Blog Administrator

The City of Dallas has begun the process of determining the budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2014.  Sources tell us that the Dallas Companion Animal Project, along with the City of Dallas Animal Shelter Commission, will once again be advocating for more money for Dallas Animal Services.

Why? According to sources on the Animal Shelter Commission, DAS budget is not sufficient to continue the successes the department has enjoyed these last few years.

DAS management is asking for:

  • money to simply continue to operate 7 days a week.  Any reduction in budget would likely mean a reduction in shelter hours and in a reduction in field services;
  • money to keep the PetSmart Charities Adoption Center open and running (more than 1,000 lives saved in just 7 months!);
  • money for vaccination on intake, which keeps the shelter population healthier and the environment safer for the staff and visitors;
  • more money for cleaning supplies to minimize cross contamination;
  • more money for pet food.  Currently the DAS budget provides only for dry food – no canned food for kittens or puppies, seniors, or those recovering from illness;
  • money for basic lawn maintenance to keep the grounds in compliance with City ordinance (managers now buy gas out of their own pockets and borrow mowers from Code Compliance to avoid citations);
  • money to repair or replace broken, outdated equipment like exam tables, scales, autoclave, appliances, desks/chairs, anesthesia machines, etc. The main shelter is now 7 years old and no money was ever budgeted to repair or replace equipment;
  • money for an emergency generator.  Should the AC fail in the heat of the summer, the consequences could be deadly for the animals housed at DAS;
  • more money for staffing.  DAS is also notoriously understaffed – to the point they are unable to respond timely to public safety calls and emergency situations;
  • more money for staffing to provide the additional services City leaders expect as part of the Mayor’s Grow South plan.

Dallas’ pet lovers need to be sure City leaders know that they’re serious and they care  about the welfare of animals in Dallas, and ask City leaders to commit more money to make Dallas a more humane community.

The City of Dallas budgets approximately $ 5.34 per person on animal welfare.  Fort Worth spends about $ 8.18.  San Antonio $ 8.22, and Austin $ 10.09. Asking Dallas City leaders to spend more is not unreasonable.

Private, non-profit organizations are spending hundreds of thousands in private dollars to address the City’s animal issues. It’s time the City did their part and at least provided funding for basic services that affect public safety, staff safety, and the welfare of the animals – in the shelter and in our community.

Should DAS Even Be Part of Code?

Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2014 by Lisa Roberson

Reposting from 2010:

 

An expert’s take on Animal Services as part of Code Compliance

Posted in Now or Never on October 11, 2010 by Blog Administrator

 

We asked American Humane’s Phil Arkow what he thought about Animal Services Departments being part of Code Compliance.

 

“Code compliance is a fairly common model, but usually in much smaller communities where only one or two officers can handle the entire municipal code enforcement function: in a major metropolitan area such as Dallas, animal services can easily get lost within the morass of other code enforcement concerns. In addition to the usual lack of animal sheltering expertise within code compliance, another downside of this approach is that it denigrates animal control and animal cruelty to the level of weeds, noise, junk cars and other urban nuisances instead of recognizing them as public health, public safety and animal welfare functions.”

 

He goes on to suggest that “Another model is to recognize that animal services is truly an independent “odd duck” that crosses many lines and to establish it as a free-standing department reporting directly to the Mayor or City Manager. This improves the stature of the department and places it on equal footing with other municipal services, which increases public and interdepartmental regard for the program. It allows the program to cross-fertilize with other departments and not have a particular bias that being housed within any one department usually involves.”

 

We think it might be time for DAS to be its own department.

 

#themorethingschange

The Problem Is Code

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2014 by Lisa Roberson

So what’s the problem?  A long line of actions, or inactions, on the part of Code Compliance and the City Manager’s office, are beginning to deteriorate the positive, working relationship the Animal Shelter Commission and City Hall have enjoyed these last few years. Where did the $200,000 the Council earmarked for DAS go?  The money to hire staff to fill the many vacant full time positions at DAS – positions the Commission was told were funded positions – is apparently not available.  To make matters worse, the City Council continues to get truly inaccurate information from Code Compliance and the City manager’s office in regard to DAS.

“We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.” -George Bernard Shaw

 

#themorethingschange

Scooping Poop

Posted in Updates on March 26, 2014 by Lisa Roberson

As if the Riffs in August of 2011, weren’t enough, the City seemed bound and determined to run Jody Jones off.  Morale was low at the shelter (and the temperature inside soaring!) but the folks at Code Compliance insisted the AC was fixed. Supplies weren’t being ordered by Code.  Bills weren’t being paid by Code.  Orders were getting held up by Code.  And our well-respected new Program Manager was scooping poop because someone in Code Compliance didn’t think to send temps over to feed, water, and clean the kennels when all 53 of the Riffed staffers were forced to spend the day at City Hall going through the process -whatever that is.  Why were we surprised?

 

#themorethingschange

 

Right Back Where We Started From

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2014 by Lisa Roberson

Despite the riffs and everything else Code threw at her, by September of 2011, Jones had an improved intake process in place, had redirected donations made for the shelter to the shelter (not as simple as it sounds), ensured vets were in-house even on the weekends, started working to find a permanent solution for the AC issues, began the process of installing a new PA system and security cameras, enhanced staff training, restocked critical supplies and equipment, revised the call structure, instituted a new way to deal with wildlife, and set a goal of 0% euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals (which they met and continue to sustain).

 

In 2012, the improvements continued.  Jody Jones recruited Dr. Catherine McManus, a Maddie’s Shelter Program graduate with a Master’s in Public Health to serve as Operations Manager, secured over $400,000 of resources for the City of Dallas to support shelter operations, technology and much-needed staff training; implemented all but 7 of the 250 recommendations in the 2010 Humane Society of the United States report (the final 7 aren’t in the budget); found a way to coordinate activities between DPS, DA and DAS; secured a donation from Clear channel resulting in production of a monthly billboard and countless hours of free ad space for DAS; and played a key roll in the creation of a No Kill plan for Dallas.

 

In 2013, DAS hit the highest ever one month live release record – 54.4% in March; the Dallas Observer picked DAS the best place in the City to adopt a dog; Culture Map declared Jody Jones one of 2013’s Most Influential People; support among the general public is higher than ever; and DAS is becoming nationally recognized as a leader in the municipal sheltering field.

 

#themorethingschange