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City Manager Anthony J. Snipes, in collaboration with key staff members, convened a meeting with Animal Services municipal volunteers on Tuesday, Feb. 20 to provide an opportunity for staff to directly receive input and feedback from the citizen partners.
“This is another step in the proactive review under way, and as part of that process, my team and I planned to make sure that we listened to comments from our residents who devote their time and talent to assisting with the pets housed in the Animal Shelter,” Snipes said. The listening session took place one day after Snipes again updated City Council Members on Animal Services operations at their Feb. 19 Regular Meeting. In his staff report, Snipes informed elected officials that “every week, our volunteers – with leadership from staff – make invaluable contributions to operations by helping with the exercise of animals, cleaning of the facility and finding rescues and families looking to welcome a dog or a cat into their homes.”
The City currently has about nine active shelter volunteers, and Snipes engaged the attendance of eight at last night’s 6 p.m. meeting. The information shared by the volunteers, in conjunction with assessments of the review agencies and benchmark cities, will be integral to the ongoing update of standard operating procedures and “will help to enhance operations,” Snipes said.
Volunteers participating in the collaborative discussion outlined a range of observations verbally, and in writing, to Snipes, Assistant City Manager Scott Elmer, Public Works Director Shashi Kumar and Animal Services Supervisor Juan Acevedo. Here are some areas the group asked the City to consider:
Staff also asked the volunteers for their ideas on the development of a new mission for Animal Services as operations and priorities have evolved over time. Valerie Tolman, who was one of the volunteers in attendance, said the revised objective needs to incorporate standards of care such as helping citizens find animal companions, assuring all animals in the City’s care are treated with compassion, reduction of the euthanasia rate, vaccinations, placements, adoptions and the reuniting of animals with owners. Ms. Tolman also provided staff with some suggested written feedback that has been utilized during her service in the shelter.
Other comments from the volunteers were as follows:
City Manager Snipes thanked each volunteer for attending the session and said “our intent is and will continue to be having a collaborative discussion. We need to listen to our volunteers for perspective; this will allow the City to move forward with an improved process.”
As part of updating operations guidelines, Snipes, Elmer and Kumar shared with volunteers that staff is reviewing the fee structure (intake, adoption, impoundment, boarding), and a request for proposals has been issued for a shelter veterinarian to further improve and enhance care of animals housed at the shelter.
The MVP-Staff meeting comes a few weeks after City Manager Snipes initiated additional measures for service improvements that were outlined for City Council Members at their Monday, Feb. 5 Regular Meeting.
In the presentation on the 5th and in yesterday’s dialogue, Snipes reiterated that newly installed cameras have improved security overall for the shelter, and that staff is integrating a new software solution into daily operations.
Snipes, Elmer and Kumar, during last night’s meeting, reviewed ongoing measures with the citizen partners, including:
In addition to these proposed changes, the City has reinforced staffing in the Shelter with other team members to ensure it is open to the public during business hours. In the listening session, Kumar highlighted that “moving forward there needs to be a cordial relationship between staff and volunteers. It’s a two-way street!” Kumar also requested that volunteers be patient and work with the staff while the new enhancements are implemented.
The positive changes include the following details that Kumar shared with City Council on Feb. 5:
In closing, Snipes asked each volunteer and staff member to share final comments and perspectives. He shared the following quote from renowned Playwright June Jordan: “I was looking at the ceiling, but then I saw the sky,” noting that “we must not be confined and stop our progress at the ceiling but rather embrace the tremendous blue sky of opportunity on the other side.” He encouraged the volunteers and staff to “rally behind each other so we can move forward in a positive way, showing what we can all do to make things better. It’s important to address challenges, likewise, it’s also important for us to identify solutions and opportunities to find ways to solve issues for the benefit of the animals, volunteers and staff.”
To further address current resident and media inquiries about Animal Services and the City’s volunteer program, staff has updated the list of frequently asked questions in relation to these topics:
Is there an Animal Shelter wish list or Amazon list?
The Shelter has an ongoing need for feeding bowls, cat and dog food, pet blankets, and cleaning supplies.
The City is grateful for the generous donations the Shelter has received throughout the years including cleaning supplies, pet food, animal toys, and facility decorations such as animal stencils.
What is the City’s euthanasia rate for the past five years?
Total Shelter Intake
I have been told that a city employee, one that works at the animal shelter, took medication from the shelter to Councilman Jerry Wyatt’s house to euthanize one of his animals. Is that true?
This allegation is not true.
Are dogs and cats housed in the shelter receiving any kind of medication, and if not, why?
When an animal enters the shelter, the pet is placed on a 72-hour hold. After that three-day period, dogs are administered the Bordetella vaccine by Animal Services Officers. Afterward, heartworm testing is performed by a licensed veterinarian prior to any adoption (After the start of the current review, City staff began taking animals to the veterinarian for heartworm testing on or about Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018.) Animals that require care are being treated by veterinarians or veterinary technicians.
What is the City’s long-term plan to have staff at the Shelter to accommodate public and volunteer access?
The issue will be discussed in detail at upcoming City Council planning sessions and budget workshops.
Why is the City updating the volunteer program’s policies and procedures?
As part of staff’s Fiscal Year 2018 Business Plans, a review of the current volunteer program’s policies and procedures was launched. Staff have identified several updates to the program, including an annual recertification process, new training processes and rules and regulations related to volunteer supervision. Outside legal counsel has also been secured to review and provide essential feedback to this process to ensure that the needs of all City staff and volunteers are met across all departments and programs. MVPs will receive further details on policy and procedure updates at the start of calendar year 2018 at the City’s second MVP Input Forum.
What Animal Services are provided by the City?
The mission of Animal Services is to:
The division, in collaboration with community partners, cares for and attempts to find suitable homes for stray, abandoned and orphaned cats and dogs found in the community. If residents wish to adopt a pet, they may email the Animal Services Divisionor call 281.403.8707. Animal Services Officers will offer availability information to individuals and make an appointment for them to come to the shelter for viewing. Residents may also complete an Adoption Form to bring home a new friend.
Please call 281.403.8707 for more information.
How can residents become involved with Animal Services?
Missouri City’s dedication to citizen partnerships is one of the many ways that the “Show Me City” has been recognized as one of “America’s Best Places to Live” by CNN Money Magazine. In keeping with the City’s goal of community collaboration, staff launched a comprehensive and unified City-wide Municipal Volunteer Program (MVP) in 2014 that incorporates all departments and staff, including Animal Services. From special one-time event volunteers to ongoing partners, community partnerships have thrived under the umbrella of the citywide initiative.
The mission of the MVP is to facilitate collaborations between departments and talented volunteers within the community. The program is a way for staff to continue to follow the values and missions set in place by the City Charter and City Council through the assistance of a wide variety of volunteer activities and projects.
Residents may learn more about the program and complete a volunteer application on the City's website.
For updates, please watch the City website: www.missouricitytx.gov, like us on Facebook—fb/MissouriCityTX, follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat—@MissouriCityTX, and watch Missouri City Television (Ch. 16 on Comcast and Ch. 99 on AT&T U-verse).