Animal 'control' gets a new name, mission

Posted by John Kanelis on

Admit it. When you see a story about an abused pet -- a dog or a cat -- your heart beats a little faster and your temperature rises in anger. How about when you read about an abandoned pet, or pooch or kitty that is surrendered to the city to, well, dispose of in whatever manner deemed necessary.

Disposition could come in the form of adoption or, in the worst case, when the animal is euthanized.

Amarillo's animal management operation came under scrutiny in 2014 when it was revealed that abandoned or lost pets were being euthanized in a less-than-humane manner. Residents became incensed at what they learned. The outcry was intense. Two top animal control officials eventually "retired" from the city.

Then came the changing of the name of the city's animal operations department. "Animal Control" became "Animal Management and Welfare." The new animal management director, Richard Havens, was brought in to reshape the operation into one that puts the pets' care and welfare first.

The next segment of "Live Here" looks at the Amarillo Animal Management and Welfare Department and examines the changes that have occurred since the blowup of nearly a year ago.

One of the drivers behind the change, Sunny Hodge-Campbell, who serves on the city's animal management advisory board, said that "We all are responsible, even if we aren't pet owners." She notes that all taxpayers fund the department, thus every taxpaying resident of Amarillo has a stake in the care and welfare of the animals.

"Live Here" is broadcast Thursday at 7 p.m. on Panhandle PBS.

The segment walks viewers through the operation and shows how the city is seeking to provide better care for the animals.

Havens noted the city has extended its holding time from three to five days, meaning the animals have an extra two days in the city's care while animal management personnel look for the owners; state law requires only a three-day waiting period for the animals.

Havens and Scott McDonald, who ran the department on an interim basis prior to Havens' arrival, say that many residents give their pets up to the city. Not all of them are abandoned or lost.

Of course, the message throughout the program is a simple, straightforward plea: Spay or neuter your pets and be sure to have them vaccinated against rabies and other diseases that afflict domestic house pets.

All the animals that are adopted or reclaimed by their owners are fitted with microchips, which give the city a permanent record of the animals' identity and whereabouts when they are adopted.

The city's Animal and Welfare Department shelter -- which also is used by the Panhandle Humane Society -- is, sadly, a "kill facility," which means the city must dispose of those pets that do not find homes or those pets whose owners have abandoned.

Amarillo, though, seeks to keep its animal shelter out of the news by ensuring safe, secure and humane management of these pets that looks after their welfare.


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