Animal advocates and city officials reached agreement on issues and possible solutions for the city’s animal shelter in a town hall meeting on Tuesday night, but the two sides also said there was still a lot left. of work to do.
Nearly 100 people, including rescue group volunteers, residents, seven councilmen, the mayor and several city administrators attended the meeting at the Roswell Convention Center to address concerns about the treatment of animals and operations in the city’s shelter raised in large part by a citizen group, Support Animals of Roswell.
The group wrote and made public two letters outlining their concerns about animal welfare at the shelter and the lack of record keeping by animal control officers.
During the nearly two-and-a-half-hour meeting, three members of Support Roswell Animals raised concerns about Roswell Animal Services, and the city manager and shelter manager discussed the group’s proposals and changes. which were brought. Several people shared their concerns and also offered solutions.
City Manager Joe Neeb has promised another meeting before the end of September where interested groups can begin to wade through possible solutions.
Neeb said he agrees with several points raised by Support Roswell Animals, including that the city has not followed the state’s recommended standard of care by providing a minimum of 15 minutes of care per animal per person. day, which he said was due to a shortage of staff. .
He also agreed that a dog who was brought to the shelter over the 4th of July holiday and died did not receive proper care, and he agreed that the shelter’s hours of operation are not suitable for people and rescue groups wishing to observe the animals.
Neeb also took responsibility for any problems at the shelter.
“All City of Roswell employees report to me. If this shelter does not function properly, it is my fault and I will accept this responsibility. I have the utmost confidence in Nicole Rogers as manager, and all of our employees are doing the best they can,” he said.
Neeb said he agreed that additional training for shelter staff was needed, but stressed repeatedly throughout the evening that no staff wanted the animals to suffer, nor they don’t want to euthanize them.
The city’s goal, he said, is to get the animals out of the shelter quickly so that none stay there very long. According to Roswell Animal Services‘ listing on 24Petconnect.com, a website he started using in June, there are 140 dogs and cats available for adoption. Ten dogs and 22 cats have been at the shelter for 30 days or more.
“We try to get the animals out as quickly as possible. We want these animals out. We don’t want these animals to stay with us. We want them in their forever homes as soon as possible,” Neeb said.
But simply moving dogs and cats as quickly as possible isn’t necessarily beneficial, Sammye Leflar, president of Friends of Roswell Animals, told the Roswell Daily Record on Wednesday.
“They don’t understand how rescue works,” she said. “Dogs are not interchangeable. They have different personalities and there are some that people want and some that they don’t,” she said.
“We need to have full information about them. We still received all this information until last week,” she said.
Due to the decline in communication, she said, dogs that several foreign rescue groups had taken an interest in ended up being euthanized.
“I’m not saying they want to kill the dogs on purpose, I don’t believe they do,” Leflar said, adding that she has often defended the city shelter on social media against such accusations.
“But they want the rescues to leave them alone and be self-sufficient, and we don’t have time to be self-sufficient. They have to share information for us to do so because we are volunteers,” she said.
She took issue with 24Petconnect.com providing enough information, as Rogers said during a presentation of the website at Tuesday’s meeting. The site is connected to the shelter’s new admissions software system and is updated about every hour, Rogers said. If an animal is no longer listed on the site, it is not available for adoption, she said.
But Leflar said rescue groups want to know why an animal disappears from the site, whether it’s because it was returned to its owner, adopted or euthanized. The city also provided that information, she said, but no longer does. She said relief groups have become frustrated with the lack of information and are starting to work with other communities who provide this information.
Support Roswell Animals board member Nicole East said the Roswell City shelter has had a bad reputation for so long that some rescue groups call the city “Ros-Hell”.
“We don’t want it to be called ‘Ros-Hell.’ We have a vision to overhaul this broken and hopeless system and replace it with a thriving organization,” East said in his prepared comments outlining the concerns of Support Roswell Animals.
Among the solutions proposed by the group was a restructuring of the city’s animal services. Megen Telles, former acting director of Roswell Animal Services, said the shelters studied by the group in Artesia, Ruidoso and Las Cruces have separated their animal control services from the shelter, with the shelter being run by a nonprofit organization. such as a humanitarian society. Their animal control officers are part of the police department.
Telles also suggested separating the animal foster area from the adoption area to reduce the spread of disease and increase the number of shelter staff. She also said the shelter needs to be renovated so that the kennels are safe for the animals and the drainage systems meet state veterinary board standards.
Telles said after the meeting that she hopes the city and Support Roswell Animals and others can start moving forward, but she said the city needs to be more realistic about what changes to make, especially in the renovations to be made for the disease. control.
“And I feel like the city is maybe a little more hung up on deadlines for the animals instead of more productive ways to get them out,” she said.
But another point Neeb insisted on is the cost of improvements to the shelter.
“We believe that if we were to meet for 15 minutes a day (of care per animal) for our overcrowded facility, we would need three additional people to do it, which is an additional $150,000-180,000 to invest in this service. “, did he declare.
Animal Services operates on a budget of $700,000 a year, he said.
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