Friends group pleased with changes at Missouri City Animal Shelter

Changes are coming to the Missouri City Animal Shelter and volunteers are so happy the Friends group said it would resume saving the city money by paying for the animals needs.

After weeks of negative publicity about the care and safety of the animals and the city’s own actions getting input from outside sources, city officials announced last week that the shelter should have a manager and a vet tech to give vaccinations.

“The state vet board and the health and human services made suggestions of changes. They (Missouri City Animal Shelter) were not doing some of those things aligned with best practices,” said City Manager Anthony Snipes.

“Whatever we do, we have to benefit the animals, and protect staff and volunteers and they were not where they should be. Our staff went to shelters in Friendswood and Sugar Land and those (agencies) expressed things we need to do,” he said.

This all started last year after volunteer leader Valerie Tolman urged the city to hire a part-time staffer for $17,000 after years of trying to get the city to put more resources into the shelter. Tolman was named Volunteer of the Year in 2017 for her work at the shelter.

Volunteers claim that once they publicly challenged city officials for what they called underfunding the shelter and encouraged the public to complain by writing letters and emails to city council members and newspapers, the animal shelter made a rapid decline.

The shelter falls under the jurisdiction of the Public Works Department. Shashi Kumar, Public Works Director, said he takes seriously the concerns about the shelter.

“Over the years we promoted adoptions and lower euthanasia rates. But recent events tainted the success,” Kumar said.

As a result, the shelter made some immediate changes including adding better software to track the animals and training the staff.

“It was clear from the review that we had to put enhanced policies for underlying issues. We are working on a manual to be ready by the months end on procedures and roles. We’ve established a contract with a vet,” he said.

He told the City Council that with the current budget in place, and the possibility that they may not receive help from the nonprofit friends group, which raises money to pay for animal care, they may have to make budget amendments.

“We looked at staff levels to operate the shelter. We are looking potentially at two new positions,” said Kumar. “Our intent is to work in collaboration with volunteers moving forward and keep operations low.”

After attending the city council meeting, Tolman was ecstatic.

“This is a better outcome than anything we could have hoped for back when we asked for $17,000 for front desk person. The animals will be so much better off with a fully-staffed animal shelter, especially if the added employee’s sole mission is the welfare of the animals,” she stated in a Facebook post.

“I am cautious because of course the City Council still needs to vote and approve this approach, but it is a huge leap in the right direction. Let’s send our prayers and thoughts flying towards the shelter animals and the city council that the best decision will be made for all the future furry creatures that will come into the care of the city’s animal services,” she said.

The city manager said he is not going to focus on the past.

“We are not twiddling our thumbs. We are looking to go forward. We do care. Our city cares,” Snipes said.

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