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Animal Services Reform Plan Moves Forward; Will Become City Department

During Tuesday’s City Council Meeting, the El Paso City Council unanimously approved an amendment that would identify a community cats program in the city code. The implementation of a community cat program, also known as TNR or Trap-Neuter-Return, is a major component in Animal Services’ plan to move the City’s animal shelter to a live release rate of 90% by end of fiscal year 2020.

TNR has proven to be a humane and effective method in controlling the growth of a feral cat population in a community. The practice works by humanely trapping feral cats and transporting them to a veterinary clinic or animal shelter where they are spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies, and then returned back to their habitat.

Since the cats are no longer reproducing, the cat population will gradually diminish in size. By reducing or eliminating mating, fighting and wandering, TNR stabilizes the cat population, affecting the influx of newcomers, and improving the health of the cats already roaming in neighborhoods.

In addition to the community cats program, the El Paso City Council also approved an amendment which will designate the Animal Services division as its own City department.

This change will allow Animal Services to have more control and flexibility of its own operations and policies which is essential in implementing animal shelter best practices that are focused on increasing the live release rate of shelter animals.

Funding for the department will be transferred over from the Environmental Services Department (ESD), which previously oversaw Animal Services as a division of ESD.

In an effort to address the high euthanasia rate at the Animal Services Shelter, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez created a task force with the purpose of identifying animal shelter best practices that result in an increased live release rate. In their effort to identify best practices, this task force visited several successful animal shelters that once suffered from low live release rates but are now seeing their live release rate increase.

In addition, the task force also sought input from residents through various community meetings, and also met with animal rescue groups throughout the region. Through this research, the task force identified key characteristics and best practices that were common among “no-kill” shelters. This information was recently presented to council as part of a five year plan that aims at reaching a live release rate of 90% or greater by the end of fiscal year 2016.

Last month, City Council approved the initial funding needed to begin implementing this plan.

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