By BRIAN SMITH
While there is still admittedly work to be done, Weatherford Parker County Animal Shelter officials are making headway in improvements in many aspects of the facility.
A report that came out in September made wide-reaching recommendations on how to improve the shelter from the organization of employees to the intake procedures to the way forms are being filled out. Interim shelter director Dustin Deel said since the report came out in September, about 44 percent of the recommendations have been carried out.
“We’re hoping to have about 70 percent of the recommendations carried out by the end of the current fiscal year in September,” Deel said. “Within the next year or two we hope to have about 90 percent of the recommendations implemented.”
Shelter Evaluator Susan Feingold with Lifeline Animal Services spent six days at the facility back in August. Her 135-page report was presented recently to the animal shelter board along with Deel discussing many of the improvements that have already been put in place. Deel said volunteers, the board and the public have been positive about what is going on.
Much of the improvements have come in the way of hiring which has improved efficiency in other areas. Two new kennel technicians have been hired four days a week as well as a new outreach coordinator. Animal control officers have also been reassigned to work in the intake system.
A part-time veterinarian has also been hired to work five days a week for such things as routine animal heath issues. In the past, veterinarians would rotate in once a week for such things as neutering and vaccinations. Those primary health issues are now taken care of as soon as the animal arrives, part of an entire overhaul of the animal intake system.
“Having the vet here five days a week has really worked out well,” Deel said. “We are now vaccinating every animal upon entry to the shelter and not waiting. The overall health of all the animals has improved drastically since we hired the part-time vet.”
Two people are now working the animal intake center at all times. All animals are evaluated upon entry with sick animals placed in a room in the intake facility before being placed in with the general population.
The shelter has a facility for sick animals separate from healthy animals instead of separate cages.
All kennels are now numbered thanks to a new system. A donation from Jerry’s Chevrolet has gone toward cleaning chemicals along with the purchase of new cleaning equipment which has helped to improve animal health.
Deel said new cleaning tools have been purchased and are now disinfected and never leave their individual dog or cat area. All cleaning tools are color coded to insure dog tools are not cleaning cat areas and vice versa. New step by step procedures on cleaning have also made the facility cleaner and healthier, Deel said.
“We’ve gone to some new spot cleanings of the cat cages which has helped to reduce the stress on the animal,” Deel said.
Staff members are also being trained to better recognize problems with animal health. The shelter is also investing in doing heartworm testing and having quicker vaccinations for puppies. Daily walk throughs of the kennels by staff members is ensuring that animal health continues to be a top priority.
Inmates, who are used to clean the kennels, will only be working half days to assist in employee control. Inmates were being rotated in and out on a daily basis, making it very difficult to know who was doing what.
Many of the complaints of the facility came from the way these were handled. Deel said new procedures are helping with that.
All euthanasias are done in a separate room away from other animals. New documentation done on intake will determine where animals are placed. A detailed form on the euthanasia performed will help make sure the procedure is done properly.
“We have a new step-by-step procedure with all euthanasias with multiple supervisors approving the procedure before it is done,” Deel said.
“We’re also making sure the proper amount of fluid is used in the procedure based on animal weight.”
Refresher courses will also be done to make sure the procedure is done properly and as humanely as possible, Deel said.
Deel insists there is still work needed to be done here, but some improvements are being made to help this process as well.
New animal control equipment has been purchased to ensure animals don’t escape from their cages while on their way to the shelter. Animal control officers will have forms for surrenders and stray animals that will be filled out correctly before an animal is picked up, either by the owner or the caller.
Deel says he is trying to make sure things happen in real time out in the public, including better quality photos of the animals at the shelter.
“We are looking at some financial issues, including hiring an outreach coordinator and restarting the volunteer program, but we’re getting there,” Deel said. “We obviously want to be good stewards with the public’s tax dollars, so we’re doing our best.”
Deel said that he plans on applying for more grant monies to assist with the improvements.
The shelter has also purchased two way radios for easier communication around the expansive facility.
“We’re definitely trying to build up field services,” Deel said. “We are struggling with our staff resources and I promise we will do better.”
Getting out in the public eye is an important part as the shelter works to better itself and establish ties within the community at large.
Shelter staff were at a pair of community events in early December to help increase the shelter’s adoption rate. The shelter is offering a $40 adoption rate for all animals through the end of December, Deel said. A “12 Dogs of Christmas” promotion has been started on the shelter’s website to get more animals out in the public eye.
Deel said he has been very pleased with the work the staff has put in on implementing the recommendations but says the work isn’t complete.
“I’ve been pleased with what we’ve done and how far we’ve come,” Deel said. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on the improvements and we will continue to work.”