On February 2, Steve Rockey, the Animal Shelter Council Representative, announced at the Friendswood City Council meeting, “Our animal shelter is one of the best all around. Through the efforts of the staff, the volunteer groups, the police, and everyone’s effort we have created an environment that’s nice for the animals and safe for the residents.”
One of the many achievements the facility could boast this year was a 90 percent adoption rate. This is a 10 percent increase over last year, and a 15 percent increase since moving to the new shelter. Less than two weeks after the announcement the Friendswood Animal Advocates, a group that has worked closely with the shelter, posted on Facebook that they were halting their support.
In 2011, the Friendswood Animal Shelter moved from the old 1,000 square foot building to a new, million dollar, 6,300 square foot facility, where five times as many animals could be held. New amenities included adoption kennels, larger dog runs, a separate front office, and a location with higher visibility. According to the rules, animals that are first brought to the shelter have to be held for three days to be checked for illnesses and behavior. If they are deemed safe, they are considered adoptable and may be handled by the volunteers. This year, over 70 people volunteered 5,033 hours towards helping Friendswood Animal Control. The new location has allowed the facility to stay open six days a week, increasing animals’ chances for adoption. According to shelter expert Nathan Winogared, the Friendswood shelter meets the criteria of a “no kill” shelter, which requires less than 10 percent of the animals impounded are euthanized. Animal Control attributes these numbers to a variety of reasons including work from volunteers and staff, and the new facility.
From its formation in 2009, the Animal Advocates of Friendswood have worked closely with the shelter. This year alone they invested over $10,000 in the shelter’s funds and $5,000 in animal adoption fees. In their decision to pull support from the shelter they specifically cited new policies including a maximum 60-day hold on animals and a restriction on Pit Bull adoptions. Police Chief Bob Weiners, states that if an animal has not been adopted within 60 days, the animal is not immediately euthanized, but its case gets reevaluated to see if there is potential for adoption. The new Pit Bull policy states that families with children under the age of 10 cannot adopt Pit Bull breeds. According to Weiners, this decision was based on safety. There have been a number of reported attacks by this breed in the past few years, including several incidents in the past year.
Tina Woods, the representative of the Animal Advocates on the Animal Advisory Committee, said that currently the police have made policies without consulting the board first. The group has described their last year working with Animal Control as “strained”, which they have attributed to a change of personnel. In February, the Animal Advocates voted unanimously to cease support of the facility.
“There are two sides to every story,” said Weiners, in response to some of the community reaction. “There are public safety concerns which are a higher priority than the wants of the FAA. There are liability concerns that we have in place that are a higher priority than the wants of FAA. There are public funds that are in place that are a higher priority than the needs of FAA.”
“I’m not real happy with the way the Animal Advocates have been handling things. I think they’ve blown things way out of proportion,” said Rebecca Weisell. She and her husband have volunteered at the shelter for the last four years. She describes her work at the facility as “a very positive experience.”
When asked how work with the shelter could continue, the president of Animal Advocates, Melanie Reyes, stated, “There would have to be a written agreement amongst both parties, that is in writing, not just verbally told to us.”
To help minimize the impound rate, Weiners advised pet owners to microchip their animals and register them with the shelter. Animal Control has recently had two successful internship programs with Alvin Community College and the Ag students at Friendswood High School. This year there will be additional training for old and new volunteers and an official training manual published. Friendswood Animal Control hopes to maintain its numbers from this year. The 2014 statistics point towards a promising new year.
The FAA will concentrate its efforts in other avenues. The group will host a “Bets for Pets” bingo event on March 7 at Casey Hall in Pearland.
Upon the group’s departure, Rockey stated, “I am saddened to see the FAA go. I have been a huge admirer of the FAA and I thought the work they did was outstanding. If they chose to re-approach talks with the city, I would spend my own time to help them resolve the issues. I certainly understand the issues the FAA have brought up, and I understand the responsibilities the city is taking in running the shelter.”
Friendswood Animal Control is located on 3000 W. Parkwood. For more information on the facility call 281-996-3390.
To learn more about the Friendswood Animal Advocates go to www.friendswoodanimaladvocates.info or find them on Facebook.