Thursday, June 11, 2015
Last week I was called into the Asst. City Manager's office and asked to resign my position on the Arlington Animal Advisory Board for being "disruptive". I declined to resign as I feel I have not been disruptive in the least and have actually worked really hard within the system. When I first saw the state of our city's shelter back in 2012, instead of calling the news stations and picketing city hall, I joined FAAS and became a shelter volunteer so that I could help hands on. Any issues brought to us, we brought directly to shelter staff and did our best to work within the "system". It has been hard to keep our volunteers motivated and Marnie and I acted as buffers for most of them when they had issues. Below is a letter I sent today to Mayor and Council as they will be voting next week on a resolution at the City Council Meeting (ironically the meeting where they are honoring volunteer board members) to remove me for my final year. I wasn't going to post publicly, but since my removal will be in a public meeting felt that my side should also be heard. It is funny, I have never been described as disruptive in my life. The new Board Chair stated she got on the Board to support the Staff and not push a personal agenda. I don't believe asking for changes that will save lives is a personal agenda, it should be the priority of all who support or work for our shelter.
Dear Mayor Williams and Council,
I have served on the Animal Advisory board for three years. In our first two years, many great things were accomplished such as the Trap-Neuter-Return Resolution which has saved thousands of lives, drastically decreased intake into Arlington Animal Services, and saved our city a lot of money. Arlington led the way for this program in DFW and it has become standard for most of the other shelters in the area, after our success. Our volunteer group, Friends of Arlington Animal Services, rescued over 1,800 cats from AAS in the first 18 months. We raised over $150,000 to spay/neuter, rabies vaccinate, and return over 2,500 cats to their communities and opened the only low cost spay/neuter clinic in Arlington.
We were asked by staff to wait a year to see what needed to be tweaked in the current Resolution, so after the first year we came to staff with our recommendations. We were told this was an issue for the Board to discuss and make a recommendation. So as a Board member, I have made multiple presentations and I have attached them to this e-mail.
• The stray hold for “feral” cats. Only 1.3% of cats brought to the shelter are reclaimed by owners. It is a waste of tax payer money to hold these cats, in addition they are more likely to become sick as they are highly stressed. The goal of the stray hold is to help the cat find his owner, but with a Shelter-Neuter-Return program the cat is immediately returned to his home, but sterilized and vaccinated.
• Reducing intake of cats into the shelter by redefining a nuisance as a measurable behavior rather than the simple presence of a cat, which would give ACOs more authority in the field.
• Fearful Dogs, I was told this issue was out of staff’s hands and not a Board issue so I did not pursue. We will be approaching the COA Legal department to discuss. 11 dogs in May were EUed for being scared.
Video of Fearful Dog Presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mhXw8m8rJU
• In the last meeting under future business I asked that we look into why the Canine Live Release Rate is still dropping and if it and the decrease in volunteer hours has anything to do with the new socialization protocols which limits how many pets volunteers can socialize. I was told this was not a board issue.
I was recently asked by Dr. Bowman to resign my position on the ASCAB due to my being “disruptive”. I have declined resigning as I feel that is not true. All the items I have brought to the Board I have discussed with staff prior to presenting, asked to be on the agenda and provided any information that was requested. At no time were there raised voices or even disagreements, so I am confused by this request. I was born in Arlington and bought my first home here to raise my son, I have volunteered thousands of hours at Arlington Animal Services as a Lead volunteer and with FAAS. I don’t feel that introducing topics of discussion, after first discussing with staff and being told to introduce, is disruptive. Dr. Bowman and I discussed that persistent might be a better word, but little action has been taken by the board this year and no votes on any issue so I have had to be persistent. After each presentation I was asked to provide more information, or less information, which I complied with every time and often given time limits. We have had a good working relationship with Staff to discuss issues pertaining to the animals at AAS which is why we do not create disturbances by going to the media, encouraging protests or petitions, or even coming to you as Council for issues that can be handled on a Staff level. I have worked through “the system” for years in Arlington because my dream for Arlington is for us to be the safest city in America for our pets and a lot of our citizens want that too. I and FAAS have kept all marketing and media about the shelter positive, whether on social media or with the press. We have been a buffer between citizens and volunteers and Staff and Council by addressing issues directly with Staff in a professional manner.
I have never understood why the Shelter Manager has a voting position on the Animal Shelter Advisory Board and now another city employee is the Chair person who controls what can be discussed. There are important issues that should be handled by staff, but they asked me to bring to the Board and with my removal none of these items will be addressed. How are we to proceed? I only missed one meeting in three years, despite feeling very disrespected this year. This Citizen Advisory Board, I believe, should be focused on the pets of Arlington and their welfare as well as representing our citizen’s concerns about how the pets of our city are treated and the efficiency of our shelter. I got on the Board initially to help with the 5 year plan that Council requested be written 8 years ago. We were told a year ago, that Staff would be writing the plan instead but have not seen anything. I would also suggest that a public comment section be added to these meetings, citizens are not allowed to speak at any time unless on the agenda. I am attaching the current statistics from AAS to show how much improvement has happened in the last few years, and areas that have the most potential to improve - 80% (176) of the cats euthanized in May were unweaned kittens. TNR is already making a huge impact on intake, but in the mean time, foster programs and good relationships with rescues are needed. Thank you for your time, please give me a call to discuss or I would be happy to meet with you.
Friends of Arlington Animal Services
Posted by The Star-Telegraph at Thursday, June 11, 2015