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.