In a groundbreaking motion Tuesday night, the Weatherford city council approved a first-of-its-kind partnership between the animal shelter and Weatherford College.
The partnership, which is the first in in the state of Texas, enables Weatherford College to utilize a portion of the Weatherford Parker County Animal Shelter’s new medical and surgical clinic that’s currently being constructed.
“It enables the college to be able to offer their new associate’s degree program and by doing that, it’s going to increase the availability of trained, licensed veterinary technicians here locally in our economy,” Weatherford Director of Municipal and Community Services Dustin Deel said. “The shared use of this medical center is going to be a cost-effective model, so what we’ve been in discussions with the college is that it wouldn’t be feasible for them to go and build kennels, build a medical center, hire staff to care for animals, acquire the animals, because those are things that we already do.”
Deel said the other benefits include the college providing some equipment that will be shared — X-ray equipment, a dental and cleaning station and sonography — and students will receive hands-on experience as they go through the vet tech program.
“Students will be able to rotate through all the functions of the animal shelter and animal control, so not only work in the back with all the medical staff, but the college is dedicated to making sure they know how to answer phones properly, that they know how to properly sanitize and clean, they know how to train animals, so we’ll be able to use that student labor to really help with other things around the shelter,” Deel said. “Although there’s many other benefits to this, this partnership will actually be the first of its kind in Texas, if not the United States. We haven’t been able to find another partnership just like this. I’m proud to say that we’ve really been leading the industry.”
Weatherford College’s Vice President of Instruction and Student Services Michael Endy said as of Tuesday, there were about 15 students who are qualified and ready to begin the program.
“We’re hoping to get that cohort up to 30 per year and they’ll be able to go out and get jobs in the community in a field where they not only have appropriate training, but they’ll be licensed and have passed a certification exam that will allow them to work anywhere in the state of Texas, and hopefully anywhere in the United States,” Endy said. “We provide teaching at our location of the college campus, but what we can’t provide and what no one else that we’ve found in the United States can provide is a partnership to publicly support entities that are working together to provide students hands-on activities, hands-on learning, with the real animals that they’re going to encounter out in the world. The opportunity is a tremendous value to our students, to our institution and obviously to our region and our city.”
The process of building the new medical and surgical center started back in 2014 following a needs assessment.
“At that time, one of the things that really rose to the top of the needs list was a new medical center. We’re working out of a 400-square foot space right now, so we were needing and looking to build this facility before the opportunity arose with the college,” Deel said. “In 2015, the college started partnering and really volunteering with some of the student here in our medical location.”
In 2016, the Weatherford Parker County Animal Shelter started its Giving Second Chances capital campaign to fund expansions at the facility, which included the medical center.
“While working the Giving Second Chances campaign, we discovered an awesome opportunity to further partner with Weatherford College. They had interest in turning their 11-month program for vet techs into an associates degree program that would be a two-year program, so we really wanted to lean into that opportunity,” Deel said. “We worked with some of our architects and started to draft some plans (in 2019) on what that could look like and then proceeded forward awarding the bid in 2020. Now we are currently under construction.”
The center, which will be about 3,300 square feet, will house two surgery rooms with a capacity of four surgical tables, medical preparation area, expanding animal holding spaces with separate rooms for cats and dogs, radiology area, laundry rooms, pharmacy, office space and storage.
The Weatherford city council applauded Deel for his hard work and unanimously approved the Memorandum of Understanding with Weatherford College.
“You’ve pulled at the heartstrings in the community to create a coalition of people that have made this a phenomenal facility. It’s better than anything I could have imagined, the direction it’s going,” Place 4 Councilmember Kevin Cleveland said. “Then you add the relationships you’ve built on to it with the college, and it’s a great example, in my opinion, of government done right.”
Place 2 Councilmember Jeff Robinson said anytime they can find ways to partner that benefits the city, it’s a win-win.
“I think it’s great and just more kudos to the fact that the taxpayer do spend some money on the animal shelter, but this new facility was paid for by funds that were raised and it wasn’t done by the taxpayers,” Robinson said. “I think that’s just another outstanding thing to be proud of.”
The WPCAS is still accepting donations to help with expansion projects at the facility. For more information visit weatherfordtx.gov.