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Animal Shelter Task Force presents plan to move City toward “no-kill” status

On Tuesday, the El Paso City Council was presented with findings and recommendations aimed at improving the live release rate of animals at the Animal Services Shelter. The recommendations, which were made by the Animal Shelter Task Force, are focused on moving the Animal Services Shelter toward “no-kill” status.

The nationally accepted standard for a no-kill community is a community that has a live outcome rate of over 90% of its shelter animals.

The recommendations made today are a result of more than four months of work by the Animal Shelter Task Force, a task force created by City Manager Tommy Gonzalez with the purpose of identifying animal shelter best practices that result in an increased live release rate. In their effort to identify best practices, the Task Force visited several successful animal shelters that once suffered from low live release rates.

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 11 characteristics and practices that were common among “no-kill” shelters.

  • Community Cat/Feral Cat TNR Program – A Community Cat Program, also known as the Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program, is the only humane, compassionate and proven effective method of reducing a feral cat population. Successful animal shelters across the country have embraced this system as a method of drastically reducing shelter intake, resulting in lives saved.
  • High Volume, Low-Cost, or No-Cost Spay/Neuter – These programs are a key component to reducing shelter intake. The outcomes of such programs become especially effective over time. Additionally, reducing intake allows for additional resources to be allocated to other shelter necessities.
  • Rescue Groups – Rescue groups are an invaluable element of any successful shelter. Any transfer of an animal to a rescue group reduces taxpayer cost for veterinarian care and boarding (or euthanasia), in addition to freeing up a kennel for another animal.
  • Foster Care – Volunteer foster homes provide boarding, food and care for animals. Foster care is an exceptional way of drastically expanding shelter capacity.
  • Comprehensive Adoptions – Effective adoption programs offer promotions and adoption specials, while also implementing effective marketing efforts.
  • Pet Retention –By offering advice and assistance to those in need, animal shelters can reduce intake and keep pets with their families.
  • Medical and Behavior Rehabilitation – Successful shelters treat animals for medical conditions and also provide rehabilitation for behavioral issues, if needed.
  • Public Relations/Community Involvement – Increasing the public’s awareness of the important work being done by animal shelters is key to getting the community involved, which results in more donations, more volunteers, more adoptions, and more life-saving success.
  • Volunteers – Life-saving efforts cannot succeed without volunteers. They are invaluable and are part of any successful shelter operation.
  • Proactive Redemptions – In many successful animal services operations, up to 65% of roaming animals are returned to their owners in the field without ever being taken to a shelter. This drastically reduces shelter intake and euthanasia rates.
  • Dynamic Leadership – An effective and dynamic leader sets the tone for the shelter and ensures compassionate policies and procedures are in place that will lead to success.

In addition to sharing these 11 best practices with City Council, the Task Force also expressed the need for improvements in the form of additional personnel, facility enhancements, and policy changes.

Task Force Recommendations

Ø Elevate the Animal Services Division to department level status (El Paso Animal Services Department)

Ø Additional budget for personnel of approximately $1.3 million phased in over the next three years

Ø Additional operations and maintenance budget, estimated annual budget of $550,000

Ø Capital improvement investment of $1 million phased over three years to cover facility improvements

Ø Employ best-practices methodologies

Through these recommended improvements and changes, the Task Force believes the Animal Services Shelter can achieve a 90% live release rate by fiscal year 2020, achieving “no-kill” status.

Today’s presentation was listed as a discussion item, but City Council is expected to further discuss and possibly approve the Task Force’s recommendations during the January 26 City Council meeting.

To view full details on best-practices and recommendations, please visit www.EPAnimalServices.com. The Shelter Review Report can be found on the right-hand column.

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9 comments

  1. No one wants to euthanize animals, but until we stop the root of the problem—unchecked animal births—there will always be more animals than there are good homes for them. Shelters can’t hold all of the unwanted animals, and hoarding animals in cages indefinitely, shuttling them around to questionable facilities (including hoarders disguised as “rescues”—which this shelter was busted for doing just last month, see: http://www.kfoxtv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/KFOX14-Investigates-Animal-rescue-investigated-for-abuse-was-City-of-El-Paso-partner-243652.shtml#.VpZy0vkrK72), or leaving them on the streets to starve or be killed by cars aren’t humane options. They answer lies in prevention, through spaying and neutering, and that’s where we need to place our efforts if we hope to end this crisis for good. In the meantime, we should support shelters that keep their doors open to every animal in need, work hard to find them loving lifelong homes, and—yes—provide them with a painless end in loving arms when that is the most humane option.

  2. Trapping, neutering, and releasing feral cats does not result in “lives saved.” It results in animals dying lingering, painful deaths on the streets instead of being humanely euthanized at a shelter. The average lifespan of a free-roaming cat is just 2-3 years, compared to 12 years for an indoor cat. TNR isn’t saving these cats, it is simply delegating the killing to an infectious disease, parasites, a coyote or stray dog, a speeding car, or a human armed with poison or a gun, none of which are humane.

    • @Catgrrl– Say what?!? Everything you said is so untrue, it makes me wonder if you have ever actually met a community cat? As someone who has worked in shelters for years, including those with robust TNR programs, I beg of you to quit repeating these baseless claims, especially the untruth that a community cat only lives 2-3 years. I know hundreds of free roaming cats that are well over 10 years old. I know of hundreds of thousands who are living great lives outdoors, just like squirrels, birds and raccoons. http://www.feralcatproject.org/aboutthecats_myths.aspx

      • Community cats is a misnomer. Not all the community supports these ideas. Stop lumping in all the people in your community as supporters. These cats are unowned free roaming domestic animals. No one would support community pigs in the same instances.

      • Wow, that Feral Cat Project page is such an astounding collection of falsehoods I barely know where to start. The worst might be the claim that feral cats live a “natural lifestyle”. TNR colonies have delusional and obsessed people showering them with food and building them shelters. That’s not at all natural, it’s an irresponsible method of having pets that forces someone else to clean up the messes and deal with the damage they cause. It’s totally illegal to do the same for dogs or other animals. TNR might be an acceptable method if it were conducted without any feeding outside of traps, but allowing people to blithely feed free-roaming, unconfined cats after they’ve been TNR’d just guarantees that the problem will continue indefinitely and never be solved.

  3. El Paso has had legal TNR for years. It has not worked–El Paso has way too many unowned cats. I live in Las Cruces, where we legalized TNR last year, and the year before in Dona Ana County, partly because a visitor from El Paso told our county commission that TNR eliminates cat colonies. It does not–TNR perpetuates cat colonies. To eliminate unowned cats, you should neuter pet cats, so that cat owners won’t have surplus cats to abandon. Also stop feeding unowned cats. If someone wants to feed a cat, let him take ownership of that cat and keep it on his own property.

  4. “Task Force identified 11 characteristics and practices that were common among “no-kill” shelters.” If the Task Force would also look into implementing a Prison Pet Program. The rescue dogs could be sent to the prison for rehab and training, and then they are easier to adopt with skills. Inmates benefit by: the therapeutic effective of the dogs, learning dog handling skills, and by enabling the dogs to be adopted the inmates give back to society. This is a win, win, situation, overalll, more rescue dogs are saved and helped to adapt to society.

  5. Don’t forget to look at the shelter numbers in the surrounding towns before and after if this is implemented as I expect you will see a rise. Also check your local wildlife rehab centers for mire cat inflicted wounds.

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