When Missouri City officials announced upcoming changes to the animal shelter and the Municipal Volunteer Program that include the hiring of a shelter manager and $250,000 allocated for the shelter, “it showed we value our public and private partnerships. We’ve stepped up,” said City Manager Snipes.
The city’s response should have been met with glee.
Volunteers, however, said they feel like city officials demonized them when they lobbied for more funds, and are wary. Especially after the police chief announced at the special press conference that there was never an investigation into shelter operations like city officials had said.
“At this moment, I am not sure if I will reapply to be a volunteer. It saddens me that
I may not be there to help the shelter animals that I’ve come to love, but I cannot continue living such a stressful life,” said volunteer Lynn Morgan.
Morgan volunteered at least three years for the city. She worked with Valerie Tolman, who was named Missouri City’s Volunteer of the Year two years ago for her shelter work. During Tolman’s tenure, the euthanasia rates plummeted as she organized volunteers and made yearly requests for a part-time assistant so the shelter doors would be consistently open.
Volunteers claim that once they publicly challenged city officials for consistently underfunding the shelter and encouraged the public to complain in letters and emails to the council, they were locked out of the facility and denied the ability to photograph the animals for online marketing purposes.
City officials went through the shelter collecting medicines that were administered to the animals. They said they were unaware volunteers were giving donated medicine to the shelter animals. It was that kind of poor communication that caused problems.
This resulted in protestors showing up at city council meetings, complaining that personality politics were getting in the way of fully caring for the animals. Tolman publicly apologized to the council for negative comments she made to an animal control officer and there were regular public letters to the editor with concerns that the city was bullying volunteers who publicized the shelter shortcomings.
Tolman wanted the city to hire a part-time assistant for $17,500 and was told the city didn’t have the money.
As the city created the 2018 budget they made changes that affect the shelter and the volunteers.
- Increasing the shelter budget to $250,000 and hiring a shelter manager and a vet tech.
- Volunteers will have to be trained and recertified annually starting March 31.
- Volunteers will not administer medicines or solicit donations.
- Volunteers were asked for their input in developing a mission statement for animal services.
- Relaunching of the city’s “Adoptable Pet of the Week” feature to promote the adoption process available for area residents.
“Our intent is and will continue to be having collaborative discussions. We need to listen to our volunteers for perspective; this will allow the city to move forward with an improved process,” Snipes said.