Fort Worth’s crowded animal shelter is making several changes designed to relieve pressure, including no longer accepting surrender of healthy animals by their owners; partnering with a nonprofit that will take over the city’s low-cost vaccination clinics; reviewing what it’s paid to take animals from other cities; and changing hours.
The city also is planning to change its quarantine policies, to allow an owner of a pet that bites someone to be quarantined for a certain time at home if it has an up-to-date rabies vaccine, or quarantined at a veterinarian if it doesn’t have a vaccine.
And it’s planning to reduce the minimum 72-hour hold currently in place on stray animals it brings in to allow quicker processing of animals for adoption or rescue or, if sick or ill-tempered, possible euthanasia.
The moves don’t “reduce the budget, but it keeps us from having to increase the budget,” Brandon Bennett, Fort Worth’s code compliance director, said in an interview.
Here’s a breakdown of the changes:
The city has long accepted owners’ surrender of animals for any reason.
Under the change, which the shelter has already put into place, “we’d say to people, unless there was some welfare or safety risk, or some pain and suffering, you need to go out and find somebody to take this pet,” Bennett said.
“We’ve made it too easy for people to just give up on their pets,” he said. “They’re not taking ownership and responsiblity for their pet.”
The city has vaccinated animals for owners, but is now partnering with the Texas Coalition for Animal Protection, which on Tuesday ran the second of what will be regular weekly low-cost vaccine clinics at the 4900 Martin St. animal shelter on Tuesday nights.
“We never had any staff to do it,” Bennett said of the city-provided vaccinations. “We started with a few hundred a year, then a few thousand, now it’s 4,000. We’ve been using a storage closet to do this in the afternoon. We don’t have the staff.”
TCAP will retain the revenue it receives from the vaccinations, but also takes over the operation and costs, Bennett said.
“This was a good partnership for them,” he said.
OUTSIDE AGENCY SERVICES
The city, for the Oct. 1, 2011-July 31, 2012 period, took in 1,012 animals from other entities, including Kennedale, Forest Hill, Dalworthington Gardens, Edgecliff Village, Pantego, Tarrant County, Blue Mound, and Benbrook.
Over the next year, the city will review what those cities pay Fort Worth and probably make changes to reflect inflation and true market value of the services, Bennett said.
“If we can’t get all of our own animals into our own shelter, then the policy question is why are we taking animals from other cities,” Bennett said. “So that’s where we look at our fees. Once we raise fees to a more marketable rate, then they may elect to do something different.”
CHANGES TO OPERATING HOURS
The shelter currently is open six days a week, and closed Sunday. Starting the first weekend in November, the shelter will open part of the day on Sundays and reduce Monday hours. It will be open on those days only for owners’ reclaims, and for rescues on Mondays.
At the same time, the city will launch a telephone hotline, where veterinarian assistants will be available to answer questions phoned in, particularly by new owners of adopted animals.
“We’re going to play with some different hours,” Bennett said. “We’ll start with a 1 to 3, but we’ll play with a 2 to 5. We’ll see how our customers respond to it.”
Reducing the shelter’s Monday hours is made easier by the city’s partnership with PetSmart Charities Adoption Centers at 4800 Southwest Loop 820 and 2901 Texas Sage Trail.
“Whenever PetSmart’s open those two adoption centers are open,” Bennett said.
The city is changing its quarantine policy for owners’ animals that bite someone.
“When we built the shelter, there was capacity,” Bennett said. “We allowed people if they owned a dog with rabies vaccine, we’d do the quarantine at the shelter,” which is typically cheaper than a veterinarian.
The ordinance change would allow quarantine at home for a certain period for animals that have rabies vaccines, and quarantine at a vet for animals that don’t have vaccines.
The city is already allowing private quarantine ahead of the ordinance change.
For stray animals, the city has a 72-hour hold policy, before animals can be adopted out, assigned to rescue organizations, or in worst cases, euthanized.
Under the proposed change, which also would require an ordinance change and vote of the City Council, for animals that come in with no ID, license, chip or rabies tag, the hold would be 24 hours for a medical release to rescue groups; 48 hours for other animals when the shelter is within 10 percent of capacity; and 72 hours when capacity is available.
For animals with ID, license, chip or rabies tag, the hold would be 24 hours for conditional release to rescue groups; and 72 hours otherwise.
“The idea is, some of these would go to rescue a day early, some of these would go to adoptions a day early, some of these would be euthanized a day early,” if sick or ill-tempered and unadoptable, Bennett said.
The animal shelter says it hasn’t euthanized a healthy adoptable animal since April 2010.
Bennett said Code will bring the ordinance changes to the City Council later this year, or as late as the first of next year.
- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram Fort Worth City Hall reporter