Last year the Friends of the Missouri City Animal Shelter donated $42,000 toward healthcare for the animals at the shelter.
But the friends’ board of directors recently put an immediate halt to that generosity.
“This is to inform you that starting immediately, the Friends of the Missouri City Animal Shelter will no longer be paying for any spay/neuter surgeries, vet bills or rabies vaccinations for any dogs or cats from the animal shelter,” according to an email notice sent Feb. 1 to city officials including the City Council.
“The friends board of directors feel that it is foolish to continue financially supporting the organization that has been publically besmirching the reputation of the very citizens who have been working to help the animals these past four years. The city’s current policy of dismantling the highly successful public/private partnership and attacking the volunteers will lead to the unnecessary killing of shelter animals,” wrote Valerie Tolman, treasurer of the Friends of the Missouri City Animal Shelter and the woman was named the 2017 Missouri City Volunteer of the Year for her work with the shelter before she challenged the city on the funding and care of animals.
“We will re-evaluate our support once the City Council has voted and gone on record about what kind of animal shelter they envision for Missouri City. We feel that the city should take a stand and adopt policies that reflect the values of its citizens. At the very least we expect the city to offer the same level of service that the animals received under the care of the shelter volunteers. This includes:
– Doing everything in its power to reunite lost pets with their owners;
– An emphasis on placement over killing;
– Medical treatment for sick and injured animals;
– Vaccinating as soon as the animal is off stray hold;
– Appropriate health testing such as heartworm testing, as soon as off stray hold;
– Treatment for all animals for worms and fleas as soon as they are off stray hold;
– Socializing and exercise time for all animals;
– Clean caging, bedding and other comforts to reduce the stress of living in the shelter; and
– Keeping accurate records of the shelter intake and outcomes, because if you are not measuring this, there is no way to tell if you are progressing towards meeting their goals.”
The city responded that, “the funds from the ‘friends of the shelter’ were generally used toward adoption-related activities, such as spaying/neutering, heartworm testing, etc. The city may have to absorb these costs, or seek other sources of funding moving forward,” said spokesperson Stacie Walker.
Volunteers claim that once they publicly challenged city officials for what they called underfunding the shelter and encouraged the public to complain by writing letters and emails to city council members and newspapers, the animal shelter has made a rapid decline.
They also said they were locked out of the facility and denied the ability to photograph the animals for online marketing purposes. With limited hours to care for and socialize with the animals, and no ability to dispense heartworm medicines making the dogs viable for adoption, volunteers worried that the city’s actions would lead to its previous history as a shelter with an 80 percent kill rate for animals.
Missouri City removed the hours of operation sign from the door and shelter visits were by appointment only, leading to complaints that no one could drop off found animals and owners could not just drop in to search for a missing pet.
“The city is in the process of creating new policies and procedures for both the Municipal Volunteer Program and Animal Services,” the city responded in a prepared statement.
As part of staff’s fiscal year 2018 business plan, a review of the current volunteer program’s policies and procedures was launched. Staff 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 the process to ensure that the needs of all city staff and volunteers are met across all departments and programs.
“MVPs (Municipal Volunteer Program) will receive further details on policy and procedure updates at the start of the calendar year 2018 at the city’s second MVP Input Forum,” the city stated in a prepared statement.
At the Dec. 4 special City Council meeting, elected officials and staff provided an overview of the fiscal year 2018 operations, including animal services, and acknowledged the importance of the Municipal Volunteer Program and other citizen collaborations to all departments.
After years of trying to get more financial support from the city for the shelter, Tolman requested the city spend $17,000 for a part-time person to work in the office and assist the animal shelter officers. That request was rejected, along with multiple other requests.
The city explained that more than 45 percent of the city budget s spent on public safety. For the fiscal year 2018, 47 positions were requested from departments while only nine were approved.
“Of the 38 not approved were: 23 police, two fire, two human resources, one parks, two IT, one development services, four city secretary and city attorney, one public works, one financial services, and one communications.”