Over the last several weeks, I’ve written quite a bit about the changes at MCAS. I am not pleased with many of these changes, particularly since my research shows that there have been any number of ethically questionable decisions made in this process.
*The deal to sell Care Corp was approved by the county commissioners after rewriting the contract to remove several clauses that protected the shelter and its residents. (Most notably, they removed the clause prohibiting the sale of Care Corp.)
*The new management promised that the shelter director’s job was safe. A few weeks later, they fired her for “not fitting in.” When challenged, the new head of Care Corp claimed that he was simply reorganizing the staff and eliminating her position.
*The new management has actually had the audacity to take certain volunteers to task for their comments on social media. Volunteers who have questions are told to “email the shelter,” but their emails go unanswered. The message is clear. Volunteers don’t matter, especially if they express any criticism or disapproval of Care Corp’s actions.
*Then there are the questionable decisions about animal care and placement. Just one example: several dogs were recently sent to a rescue group that had been banned from pulling dogs. That rescue is banned by shelters in its own geographic area, as well as by most shelters in the Houston area. But the “new” MCAS sent 5 small dogs off with a banned large dog rescue.
Here’s where small town politics come into play:
In this county, the animal shelter falls under the purview of the county commissioners. They are the ones who agreed to alter the contract in order to permit the sale of Care Corp without putting the county contract up for public bid. These same commissioners hold regular public meetings, and residents of this county who have concerns about an issue can have three minutes per person to address the commissioners during those meetings.
Several of our volunteers attended this week’s Commissioners’ Court. One volunteer signed up to address the commissioners. She had a prepared statement that neatly outlined her concerns, well within her allotted three minutes. Sadly, during those three little minutes, certain commissioners interrupted her repeatedly, told her they had more important business to conduct, and basically were rude and dismissive.
I wish I were surprised. I’m not. In small town politics, the good old boys don’t like to be questioned. Certainly not by a bunch of “crazy dog people.” And definitely not when those crazy dog people know more about the issue than they do.
Here’s the deal. Montgomery County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Like most rapidly developing areas, our infrastructure is struggling to keep up with our growth. The county is trying to meet the ever rising demand for roads, law enforcement, emergency services, and a host of other infrastructure components. The animal shelter is a part of that infrastructure. When the shelter was built years ago, no one ever anticipated that MCAS would eventually see annual intake numbers in excess of 23,000 souls. But it does. And those giant intake numbers mean a tremendous demand on limited resources: space, money, personnel, time, building overhead, and animal care.
My personal opinion, after 18 years in this county: I think the commissioners were delighted to hand over the giant headache that is the animal shelter to a management company. It’s so much easier to simply pay the management company and let them deal with the day to day paperwork, personnel issues, contact with the public, and animal care. I think they have pocketed their thirty pieces of silver, and now they’re hoping that the crazy dog people will wear ourselves out and go away.
I think that the commissioners listened to people with personal agendas who reassured them that it was a great deal for the county, and that everyone would be thrilled because the “new guy” is a veterinarian. I do not think that the commissioners did their homework. As the facts come out, and the commissioners begin to see the ramifications of their decision, I hope they will begin to see the enormity of their error. I hope they’ll take steps to make it right.
Dear commissioners, the animals have no voice, but we do. And as long as they need us, we will not be silent.