‘No-kill’ status for shelter on hold
The volunteer group that helps the city-run shelter, Animal Friends of Port Aransas Inc., is holding off on efforts to make the facility a no-kill facility. And Port Aransas Police Chief Scott Burroughs, whose department supervises the shelter, has recommended against enacting a no-kill policy.
The Port Aransas City Council, at its Oct. 15 meeting, discussed the possibility of making the shelter a no-kill facility, but council members took no action.
Taking on a “no-kill” policy doesn’t mean that absolutely no animals ever would be euthanized at the shelter, according to Animal Friends and the group’s consultant, Cheryl Martinez, of the Texas Humane Legislation Network.
A no-kill shelter wouldn’t euthanize animals simply to make more space in the facility, Martinez said. No-kill shelters do euthanize animals sometimes if they are vicious or if an animal’s health is very bad, she said.
In 2008, animal control impounded or trapped about 462 wild and domesticated animals, Burroughs said. Of those, 149 animals were euthanized, he said. Fortyfive were adopted out. The remaining animals were returned to their owners or, if they were wild, were returned to the wild.
Two Port Aransas businesses regularly sponsor an ad in the South Jetty showcasing specific animals that are available for adoption at the shelter. The ads have resulted in adoptions.
Healthy domesticated animals are kept at the shelter for at least 72 hours, Burroughs said. When animals are euthanized, it is done using state-mandated methods, he said. Most are given a lethal injection, but those that are too vicious to handle are given a lethal dose of carbon monoxide, the chief said.
In a report to City Manager Michael Kovacs, Burroughs wrote that he recommended against a policy change to make the shelter a no-kill facility.
“The city of Port Aransas currently makes a reasonable attempt to find homes for domesticated animals that are impounded,” Burroughs wrote. “Most all of the animals that are euthanized are done so because they are wild animals, feral, sick, injured, old, vicious or otherwise not adoptable.”
As a matter of practice, Burroughs wrote, the shelter is already a “limited kill” facility.
No dogs, and only a few feral cats have been euthanized so far this year, he wrote.
“If, as a matter of policy, the council were to make the shelter a no kill facility, there will be an undetermined, and potentially an unpredictable budgetary impact,” Burroughs wrote. “If necessary, the city currently has the ability to control operational expenses at the shelter by controlling the population of the shelter through humane euthanasia. Logic suggests that if the city was unable to control the population at the shelter, it would also lose, at least some, control of the operational expenses.”
Also, Burroughs said, people from outside town might abandon their unwanted pets at the Port Aransas animal shelter if it becomes generally known that it is a no-kill facility.
“This practice would potentially create an additional burden on the city’s budget,” Burroughs wrote.
JoAnn Page, chairman of Animal Friends, commended Animal Control Officer Jim Williams at the council meeting, saying that he has placed many animals in good homes.
Animal Friends wants the shelter facility eventually to be a no-kill facility, but the organization won’t push for it, for now, according to Page.
Page said she wants to see the shelter get a new roof and air conditioning before no-kill status is sought. In addition, she said, the city and Animal Friends would have to work out some agreements before the shelter could become an effective no-kill facility.
Martinez said Animal Friends and the city would have make decisions about what responsibilities lie with the city and what responsibilities lie with Animal Friends. Among other things, they would have to settle on someone to be designated as having the duty to “temperament test” animals to see how adoptable they would be.
They also would need to work out who would make the final decision on whether certain animals are to be euthanized.
It also would likely be a good idea to create a program in which the animal shelter would allow volunteer foster homes to keep some shelter animals. Fostering could be good for the socialization of a chronically frightened animal or for rehabilitation of a sick or injured animal or simply to make the animal a better house pet, Martinez said. The whole goal, she said, would be to make the animal more adoptable.
Animal Friends is working on creating a fostering program, said Connie Beane, co-chair of the organization.
Animal Friends also would need to bolster its volunteer program so it could bring in plenty of volunteers who would help out at the shelter, in case the shelter ends up getting more animals as a result of becoming a no-kill facility, Page said.
“A no-kill shelter sounds wonderful,” Page said. “But it’s not as simple as it sounds. … We need to take baby steps.”
Councilman Charles Bujan, who had the no-kill matter put on the council’s agenda, encouraged city staff to keep looking into how the shelter could attain no-kill status.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to kill innocent animals,” Bujan said.
While researching the no-kill issue, Burroughs said he discovered that the shelter is not in compliance with a few state regulations, including one that requires animal shelters to adopt out only pets that have been spayed or neutered.
Currently, the Port Aransas shelter takes a $25 deposit when a person adopts an animal. The deposit is given back after the animal is fixed.
Burroughs said he is working on ways to bring the city into compliance.