Pet advocates decry lack of shelter progress

Steve Reagan
Staff Writer

The city of Big Spring is working toward establishing a no-kill animal shelter.
A group of animal-rescue advocates wants the city to work harder.
Concerned over what they see as the city’s lack of progress in establishing a no-kill shelter, those advocates held a silent protest at Tuesday’s city council meeting. Although they never said a word, they continually held up signs protesting the city’s continuing policy of euthanizing unclaimed animals at its shelter.
They chose as their symbol “Lucy,” a yellow Labrador Retriever that was recently euthanized after spending 11 days at the shelter despite advocates’ efforts to find new owners for the dog. Photos of Lucy adorned several placards protestors held up during the council meeting.
“We were there to be heard and to be a voice for the voice-less,” said Kristen Partee, a director at Happy Day Humane Society.
In January, the city council approved a resolution calling for the establishment of a no-kill shelter by the start of 2017, but that goal appears unlikely to be met for a variety of reasons, mostly financial in nature. Thanks to increased efforts by volunteer animal rescue groups who have used social media to bring attention to the issue, the city has achieved an 87 percent “no-kill rate” at its shelter, a much higher figure than previous years.
A no-kill shelter designation means the faculty kills 10 percent or less of the animals it takes in, Big Spring Mayor Larry McLellan said during the city council meeting in January. This leeway allows for animals who are too sick or have such serious issues they can not be adopted safely.
In addition, the city earlier this year announced an agreement with Relocation Rescue, an animal rescue organization, to renovate a city-owned building near the landfill to serve as an overflow shelter to keep more of the animals at the main shelter from being euthanized and allow more time for the pets to be adopted.
While acknowledging those steps, Partee and her fellow protestors say more needs to be done.
“If they have some sort of plan in place (for establishing a no-kill shelter), we want to hear it,” she said. “Right now, the shelter does nothing to network with rescue groups, they’re not educating the public on the importance of spaying and neutering pets … and they’re not keeping their sanitation standards up, which is why so many animals at the shelter get sick.”
Since January, however, city officials have stressed that if the no-kill goal is to be reached, volunteer rescue groups will have to do the majority of the work.
“Our job will not change in animal control,” City Manager Todd Darden said in January. “For these programs to be successful you got to have volunteers that are out there looking for a place for these unwanted pets or misplaced pets. It will be the volunteers responsibility to take care of that need.”
Darden added the city will continue to place photos of the animals on Big Spring Police website but will not request more money in the budget for the shelter or increase staff for the purpose of finding places for these animals.
“It’s all we can do just to take care of the daily job.” Darden said. “It is our desire to work with these agencies to make it work.”
Partee added the group will continue to be a presence at council meetings until their concerns are placed on the council agenda.