Tuesday morning was another round of Commissioners’ Court. A number of volunteers were present to speak and to observe; there was also an agenda item calling for an update on the shelter situation.
The county attorney gave the update to the court. It included the information that Care Corp has decided to leave the shelter; in other words, they have chosen not to fight the court’s vote to revoke their contract. While the community was thrilled to hear this, we cannot take this announcement as an indication that the problem is now solved.
The commissioners indicated that the process will run as follows:
-They will negotiate Care Corp’s exit, which will include them staying in place until the commissioners line up new management.
-They will review all management bids placed in response to the RFP. The RFP closes at 10:00 a.m. on October 22nd. My understanding is that the bid paperwork is extremely time-consuming and detailed.
-If they do not select any of the bids submitted, then the county will hire a director and assume direct control. (To that end, the commissioners are also working to establish an appropriate budget.)
Friends, there is no denying that this is a huge step in the right direction. However, before you celebrate, consider a few things. It will be 30 to 60 days before Care Corp leaves. During that time, I believe we can expect the shelter to remain extremely short-staffed, with corresponding lapses in quality of service. I already see frequent questions from volunteers online, asking how to get vet care for their foster pets when no one will answer their calls or emails. Expect this situation to get worse before it gets better. And honestly, whoever becomes the new director has my sympathy, because they will have a very complicated mess to unravel and rebuild.
We still don’t know whether the shelter will revert to direct county management, or whether a new contract to a third party will result from the bidding process. We don’t know what the new budget will be – hopefully more! We don’t know exactly when the new management will take over, or what shape the shelter and animals will be in when they do.
Meanwhile, the Commissioners seemed overtly displeased to have our volunteers back in their court. One Commissioner, during a break, told several of the volunteers that they should stop stirring up trouble and upsetting people. After ten months, don’t the Commissioners know that will not happen?
Folks, there is only one way to stop the volunteers from speaking out. And that is to solve the problem, so that the volunteers have nothing to complain about. Those same trouble-stirring volunteers are the primary reason that the Commissioners finally chose to take action.
If I have learned nothing else through this process, I have learned that political change is effected by constant, unrelenting pressure and publicity. The volunteer community has never faltered in their determination. Volunteers have continuously bombarded the commissioners and a variety of other agencies with a steady flow of complaints and requests for remediation. And they will continue to do so until the shelter reaches the standard of care our community demands for our animals.
So what constitutes appropriate care for these animals?
-Vaccinations and dewormer immediately upon intake, or as soon as safely possible.
-Clean, safe housing.
-Clean water available all the time.
-Appropriate feeding schedule and type of food for the animal’s age, type, and condition.
-Enough staffing for every animal to receive the care he or she requires.
-Immediate access to vet care for the sick and injured, in-house when possible.
-Proper record-keeping and up to date kennel cards.
-Easy access and a welcoming atmosphere for volunteers and potential adopters.
-Extended hours to allow people to visit the shelter after work.
-Active and effective networking to rescues and fosters.
These items are by no means the only ones on my personal list of how the shelter needs to be. They are simply the most urgent needs that come to mind. The shelter also needs a highly qualified new director with excellent people skills, preferably without an emotional attachment to any of the factions lobbying for control.
Want to see the items on this list put into place? Keep stirring, folks. Silence sure didn’t get us anywhere.