CHRISTINA DELGRECO, MIKE MURRAY, HILARIE ROGERS, Guest Editorialists
This past Conroe City Council meeting on October 12, 2017 was predominantly spent awarding past and present mayors for making Conroe the fasted growing community in the U.S. Yet the state of animal welfare in our community has declined, and is getting worse every day. We were there to speak on this subject, yet cut off at the three-minute mark. We have tried many other ways of communicating our concerns to the Mayor, City Council and Police Department. Every communication has been ignored or responded to in an adversarial way.
Our community is flooded with pet overpopulation and instead of the City following its own mission statement to “Protect and serve the citizens of Conroe and exceed their expectations,” they ignore the concerns of residents when it comes to animal welfare. Conroe is in the dark ages compared to nearby communities who have adopted “getting to zero” euthanasia policies.
Our shelter, the Conroe Animal Shelter (also called Conroe Animal Adoption Center) is currently being run, under the City’s Police Department contract and budget, by a for-profit business, Care Corporation. Care Corporation was the company running Montgomery County Animal Shelter until the county terminated them because of public outcry. In fall of 2016 Care Corporation notified the City they would be terminating their contract early. At the same time Care Corporation was sold from Dr. Ross and Associates to Sharon Hopkins, who was the shelter manager. The City had planned on just handing the contract over to Sharon Hopkins, until Animal Shelter Volunteers of Texas (ASVT) had asked for the city to accept bids on the contract. That the city was not planning to issue an RFP, in itself, is worth investigating.
ASVT (501 c3 non-profit) was responsible for the shelter’s foster and volunteer programs, they made significant improvements to the shelter, as well as spending over $100,000’s on medical care This past June, ASVT was told they were no longer welcome at the shelter. That was the first of many steps Care Corporation has made to limit access to the shelter. There is no transparency whatsoever. In fact, the majority of Care Corporation’s staff is now made up of family members and their significant others who have little to no accountability. This tight knit group was formed to “cover-up” mistakes and to “keep secrets”.
Mayor Powell stated, “We are less than 9% of euthanizing all animals including Willis and Huntsville” but provided no documentation to support this statement. In fact, Mayor Powell wrote, “Care corp. has done a great job and we are pleased to have them operating our shelter.” Yet Care Corporation’s Asilomar report from January 2017 through April 2017 indicates the number of animals taken in as 1071, animals euthanized 141, and animals died or lost at 102. These numbers suggest a rate much higher than the claimed 9%.
Care Corp. has and continues to violate their contract with the City on many points:
- The shelter is to be open to the public from 9 AM until 5 PM Tuesday through Sunday. Yet, Care Corp. closes the shelter whenever they want, such as the day after Thanksgiving which is normally a great day for adoptions. The shelter was also closed during Harvey for three days. Care Corporation nor the City offered any help to our community during that tragedy. They kept the shelter closed, but Care Corporation did ask for donations as soon as they opened, even though they are a for profit company that was paid even though they weren’t open.
- Care Corporation is to provide emergency medical attention yet they do not have a full-time veterinarian.
- Care Corporation is post a daily cleaning schedule; they do not.
- Care Corporation is to provide daily animal exercise and socialization. Staff does not walk or exercise animals so this only happens when a volunteer shows up and is allowed in. Many of the animals are kept in rooms where volunteers have no access, so numerous animals do not receive any socialization or exercise.
- Care Corporation is to post accurate information and photos of animals on intake in a practicable timeframe. It often takes days for animals to get posted and more often than not important information is missing.
Conroe Police Department Chief Dupuis has been quoted saying, “our city’s animal shelter is for animal control.” In the 2016/2017 budget for animal services the Conroe Police Department lists several vague statements under accomplishments, such as “8 off site educational meetings were held,” and “working on a new website.” No locations or exact dates of the off-site meetings were provided, nor was any specific information that was covered during said meetings. As for the web site, there is no mention of the animal shelter under the City’s current web site. How can “working” on a web site be considered an accomplishment? They also claim to have educated the newly annexed areas of the City, yet there is no proof that has been done. Open record requests asking the City to support and define said accomplishments have either been ignored or dismissed.
When any concerns have been brought to the City Council’s and Police Department’s attention their response continues to be, “We are happy with the service that Care Corp. provides.” As Conroe, the fastest growing community in the United States, gets bigger the pet overpopulation problem will also grow. Our shelter should be just as progressive in animal welfare as they are growth.
Mayor and City Council members, please do your job and take ownership in what you list as an accomplishment when it comes to animal welfare. Give us definitions and proof of your accomplishments as you would any other growth topic, such as annexation. Why should the citizens of Conroe accept blanket statements of accomplishments and not be able to ask questions? Mayor and council when you say “we” are pleased with “our “shelter, you are not speaking for the citizens of Conroe. You have a long way to go to exceed our expectations. The first step is to listen to them.