Missouri City has investigations going on at animal shelter
There was a time when an injured animal entering the Missouri City Animal Shelter received pain medicine.
That was before authorities confiscated the medicines and took over control of the shelter from longtime volunteers.
It was also before a 4-year-old dog named Princeton entered the shelter with a noticeable limp.
Not only was Princeton not medicated for pain when he arrived in mid January, he stayed at the shelter crying and limping for five days before anyone checked his dog tags and microchip to find and contact his owner.
“This just makes me sad,” said his owner, Patsy Moon, who spoke to the Star from her California home where she is temporarily living with her mother following Hurricane Harvey flood damage to her Missouri City home. Her adult son and boyfriend were taking care of the dog.
Princeton escaped once before last month when the city knocked down fences making sewer repairs, she said. At that time the shelter immediately called the family and they got him back. Since they were notified previously when Princeton disappeared, and because he was micro-chipped, the family did not think to contact the shelter as they looked for him, she said.
Moon, the sister of former Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon, recently got Princeton as a present from her boyfriend. She had her other pit bull, Prince, for eight years. She said fighting pit bulls owned by a neighbor, attacked and killed Prince on Dec. 16. Her boyfriend brought her Princeton to ease her grief. Then this happened.
“Here I am worrying I lost my child,” Moon said.
After hearing two messages, her son picked up Princeton from the shelter.
“He was still limping and the shelter said you don’t have to pay the $40 fee because he is injured. It makes me sick to think he didn’t get any pain medicine. And why wouldn’t they say in the message he was injured and not getting medicine?” Moon asked.
Stacie Walker, Missouri City director of communications, said in a prepared statement,
“The City is aware of this serious matter and a staff review is under way. In alignment with Missouri City’s policies and values, the animal shelter professionals are committed to providing the best shelter to pets housed in the facility.”
Volunteers claim that once they publicly challenged city officials for 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. Among the volunteer complaints: all medicine, including flea, tick and heartworm treatments and pain medicines were confiscated.
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.
Moon said she received a message on the weekend but there was no one there to call back and ask questions.
Upon learning that volunteers administered pain medications to sick or injured animals, the mayor called for a state investigation into the shelter and the dispensing of medicine stopped. City Manager Anthony Snipes at one point said three entities were investigating the shelter but declined to identify the agencies.
Eventually, the city loosened its reins and maneuvered personnel to ensure that the doors were always open at the shelter. Volunteers were given specific times to be at the shelter.
Last week, Walker identified one of the investigative agencies as the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TBVME).
In a five-page letter dated Jan. 22 to the Missouri City Police Department, the lead investigator of the TBVME said there were “several areas of concern” that were discovered during their investigation into the shelter practices, including the possession and distribution of prescription drugs, including Xanax and Tramadol and antibiotics.
Matthew West, enforcement director of the TBVME, wrote that there were concerns that volunteers were soliciting donations for the medicine.
“Since the drugs are not prescribed to the animal this could put the volunteers in violation of specific health and safety codes. Merely possessing these drugs would be a violation of state law and if these drugs are given to adoptive clients, this could be construed as the delivery of controlled substance,” wrote West.
He concluded in his letter that his organization did not have the jurisdiction and volunteers would be considered designated caretakers.
“However, this does not exempt them from potential criminal investigations from law enforcement,” he wrote.
Walker said city staff members, “are also still in the process of creating new policies and procedures for both the Municipal Volunteer Program and Animal Services. As part of that process, managers are visiting area municipal shelters to learn about best practices and new technology is being installed in the shelter for efficiencies. Given the facets of the overall review, at this time, the City can only note that multiple entities are involved.”
As the shelter works out its kinks, Princeton’s owner is left with multiple questions. Once home, her son gave Princeton a bath and a pain pill. Her boyfriend took the dog to Pet Economy where they did not have an x-ray machine but the worker said it appeared he had a broken leg. He planned to get a second opinion Tuesday.
“It all sounds so wrong on so many levels. Why didn’t someone say the dog is injured? Why not tell so they can really run and get them. And now I’m hearing they have issues. I just hope this can help somebody else’s dog who is hurt and at the dog pound,” Moon said.