Officials solidify ties to shelter
The Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center has been open for a little more than a month and in its first month has helped more than 550 animals from in its Gregg County service area.
The county’s discussion of its interlocal agreement with the City of Longview and the animal center did not last long, but the Gregg County Commissioners Court approved the item by a close 3-2 vote.
Commissioners Darryl Primo (Pct. 2) and Gary Boyd (Pct. 3) were the two dissenting votes.
For Boyd his concerns came from the rate the county will pay per animal it takes to the new shelter and the lack of parameters set for vet bills the county pays to care for the animal once it is in the shelter.
Boyd did not voice his concerns during the board meeting, nor were there representatives from the shelter present at the meeting to answer any questions or clarify any aspects of the agreement.
“When we got the contract I was a little surprised to see our rate be $78. We paid $2.5 million – the county did – to put that facility in, and so I thought our number would be less than that,” Boyd said.
The county’s rate is less than the rate of $87 charged to Kilgore, Gladewater and White Oak for their use of the shelter in the first year.
Both the county’s and the cities’ rates are higher than the $50 owner surrender fee applied to citizens who bring their dog or cat to the shelter.
The county received a decreased rate, Executive Director Shannon DeRosa said, to honor their request for their rate to reflect the county’s $2.5 million contribution to the construction of the building.
The only group using the facility without a per-animal rate is the City of Longview because the city operates the shelter and is subsidizing the cost of the other cities to run the center and care for the animals, she said.
“That is just absorbed,” she explained.
The rate the county and cities paid at the previous facility was “considerably lower,” but County Judge Bill Stoudt said, the services provided at the new, larger location are much different and expanded than before and come with a cost of more than $150 per animal.
The per-animal rates the cities and the county pay will incrementally increase over the years as they continue to support the facility.
DeRosa said the rates will continue to increase each year until they reach a plateau. Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck explained last month next year’s rate was expected to be $114 for the cities.
“It’s going to be on an escalating scale and every year it’ll go up until we reach that tipping point where it actually is paying for the true day-to-day operations of the shelter,” DeRosa said, noting the increase will affect the cities and the county.
The facility is a necessary service the county must offer to handle stray animals and spaying and neutering procedures within the community, Stoudt said.
“At the end of the day we have to have a place like that,” he continued. “We have a nice one and it kind of shows the type of community that it represents with the facility that has been built.”
In addition to animals county or city officials bring to the shelter, stray animals residents bring to the shelter from the different jurisdictions will be billed added to that particular bill, depending on the location the animal was found. “Good Samaritans” who bring an apparent stray animal into the shelter after trying to locate an owner will not be charged a fee.
Owners who bring their pets to the shelter because they no longer are able to or want to care for the animal or new litter will be charged a separate owner surrender fee, which varies based on the type and number of animals.
The per-animal fee charged to Gregg County, its cities and owners covers the animals’ micro-chip, basic vaccinations and spay/neuter procedure, among other basic care during an evaluation from the shelter’s veterinarian. All animals adopted from the shelter will be spayed or neutered, micro-chipped and up-to-date on their vaccinations before leaving the facility.
“We’re giving them a much better chance of turning around and being adopted because they’re being seen by a vet,” volunteer coordinator Jackie Reynolds said.
In addition to providing a shelter for stray and lost animals, DeRosa said, the shelter is also trying to spread awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering animals and to dispel the myths surrounding spaying and neutering.
“You get it with good intentions of getting it spayed or neutered, but you don’t and then there’s more unwanted litters. A big problem here in this area is the unwanted litters… It’s proven that if you have spayed and neutered animals they stay home, they’re less likely to be aggressive and fight, it prevents the unwanted litters (and) it prevents disease transmissions,” she said.
Additional veterinary fees will be applied and billed to the county or city if any additional procedures need to be done.
Specifically in the county’s interlocal agreement with the city and the shelter, it states the county, “will be billed for the reasonable costs of necessary veterinary care provided by a doctor of veterinary medicine.”
Boyd’s concern with the veterinary treatment aspect of the agreement was the lack of limits to what that would include.
“From talking to my friends who have pets and animals, that number can go crazy bonkers in a heartbeat,” he said.
Stoudt explained the only veterinary bills sent to the county will be those authorized by a county health animal officer.
“The only time they would be charged a vet bill or a penalty is if one of their animal control officers brings in an animal that’s gravely injured and needs emergency care,” DeRosa said, noting the shelter is not set up to be a trauma center. “They need to take that to their jurisdictional vet of record.”
In those cases, the county and each city will be responsible only for the vet bills incurred to care for animals brought in from that specific location.
“If we bring in an animal and leave it for them that is in need of extraordinary medical care, they’ll charge us back for that because we should have just taken it ourselves,” Selleck said.
In Kilgore, he said, city officials would use the shelter as more of a resource in some cases when an injured animal is picked up by an animal control officer or otherwise brought placed in the city’s care.
“What we’ve decided internally is because we know what their operating hours are, if it’s outside of operating hours, we just make sure that the animals get the care that they need,” Selleck explained. “If it’s during operating hours, then we can call them and ask them their thoughts. We’re trying to maintain it as cost effectively as possible.”
Selleck received the final copy of the first month’s invoice Thursday and said it was in line with what he was expecting. In general, he said, the city is trying to keep the number of animals taken to the shelter low to keep the expenditures low as well. Part of that will be to echo the shelter’s call for people to spay or neuter their pets.
If an animal is picked up by animal control and city officials know the owner, the city will hold the dog to give the person a chance to call and reclaim the animal before it is taken to Longview.
Once the animal is at the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center, the shelter must, by law, hold animals brought in to the shelter for at least 72 hours for the same reason: to allow owners to reclaim pets that ran away or escaped from a yard, Reynolds said. After the 72 hour “stray hold,” the shelter – and the city – assumes ownership of the animal until the animal’s future is determined and, hopefully, adopted by a family.
Shelter focuses on educating public
Although the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center is set up for save stray animals and provide new homes for them, education is the other goal of the employees.
“We take every animal in that the public brings in. We do our best to get out every healthy, adoptable animal we can, but one of our big goals here is to be a community resource for people,” volunteer coordinator for the shelter Jackie Reynolds said.
Even with the new facility and the added space, she said, pet owners need to be responsible with and for their animals, which includes spaying or neutering their pets. Until the mindset changes, though, the facility will remain at maximum capacity.
“We need people that are willing to get out in the community and do community awareness,” she said. “We’ve got this lovely building, and we’re very proud of it, but until we can get a handle on overpopulation in the area, we’re going to continue to be full… We need to change our mindset in East Texas. We can only do so much on our end.”
The animals available for adoption change every day, and people are welcome to visit the shelter from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. to look around and see if their new family member is waiting for them.
For people who want to look at what animals are available before driving to Longview, their profiles are on the shelter’s Facebook page and website (https://www.longviewtexas.gov/3157/Animal-Care-and-Adoption-Center).
Employees at the shelter are trying also to change people’s mindsets when it comes to giving up their animals. Rather than going to the shelter first, Reynolds said, they make sure to go through a list of other options with the owner before taking an owner surrendered animal. Other options include friends, family members, neighbors, rescue organizations or social media pages to find a new home for the animal.
“Shelter should be your absolute last choice with an animal surrender,” Reynolds said.
Sometimes going through the other options makes people stop and think about their choice and they leave the shelter with their animal to check other resources.
While some people are not in the position to adopt a new pet, the shelter also uses foster houses for the animals and will be starting to actively seek volunteers to be walk dogs, snuggle with kittens and accompany the animals to off-site adoption events.
For those who are not comfortable with the animals or cannot serve in that capacity, Reynolds said, volunteer opportunities also include household chores, such as washing food and water bowls and cleaning laundry.
“We have a job for everyone, regardless of age, physical limitations,” she said. “We can find something for you to do.”
Even people who do not want to work in the new shelter for some reason, Reynolds said, there are volunteers who she hopes to have focused on fundraising and social media.
“We’ve got a need for all walks of life. The root of it is just being an animal lover,”
The first step to becoming a volunteer is to fill out a form, which is available in the lobby of the shelter located at 303 H.G. Mosley Parkway in Longview. The other way is to contact Reynolds at 903-291-5262 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reynolds plans to host volunteer orientations twice a month beginning in September.
Sept. 24 will be the official grand opening for the new shelter with activities for children and adoption specials.