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Activists call for changes at Port Lavaca Animal Control

By Sara Sneath
Dec. 9, 2013 at 6:09 a.m.
Updated Dec. 10, 2013 at 6:10 a.m.

Shaggy, a dog under the care of the Humane Society, sits in its pen at the animal control shelter in Port Lavaca on a chilly morning with the temperature hovering around 48 degrees. Dogs and cats under the care of the humane society have crates and blankets provided to them by volunteers.

DID YOU KNOW ... ?

Dr. Bill McClellan of the Port Lavaca Veterinary Clinic said if you adopt a dog, you want shelter, bedding and possibly a heat source.

Frostbite can set in any time there are freezing temperatures, he said.

PORT LAVACA - Carley Stringo, 22, of Port Lavaca, became alarmed Saturday when she learned via Facebook that the Port Lavaca Animal Control was not planning to give the dogs their blankets for the night.

Stringo said she called the humane society, which is housed in the same building as animal control, to confirm what she read on Facebook.

"I cried when they said it was true," Stringo said Monday.

The dogs eventually received blankets.

"The animals there have better protection than animals in someone's back yard," Port Lavaca Police Chief James Martinez said Monday.

All of the dogs live in a covered outdoor facility. Each kennel has three short cement walls with a metal fence at the front.

The dogs at the humane society are on the south side of the facility. The animal control dogs are one row behind them to the north.

Their kennels face the opposite direction.

The dogs housed by the humane society have plastic crates with bedding. The animal control dogs did not before Saturday night.

Stringo called two friends, and together, the three women drove to the facility to demand animal control give the dogs blankets, she said.

She told fellow protester Rose Farmer, 20, of Port Lavaca, "If I have to stand out there all night long, I will."

The women stood outside the facility from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., she said. During that time, they recruited friends to call the Port Lavaca Police Department, city manager and mayor.

At 8 p.m., two police officers arrived with Port Lavaca Animal Control Officer Donnie McGrew, Stringo said.

Martinez confirmed Monday that officers responded to reports that protesters were at the animal control facility.

Martinez said tarps on the north side of the facility - put up by the humane society - block the wind.

"The dogs in the inside portion are provided adequate protection from the elements," Martinez said.

Under the general guidelines of the Texas Administrative Code for facilities quarantining or impounding animals, facilities are required to protect animals from inclement weather.

The code states: "Auxiliary heat or clean, dry bedding material shall be provided any time the ambient temperature falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit when animals are present."

Saturday's high temperature in Port Lavaca was 35 degrees, and the low was 32 degrees, said a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi.

Martinez said the animal control dogs were given blankets before police officers left Saturday evening.

He said animal control does not have any policies regarding when a dog should be given a blanket. It is up to the discretion of the animal control officer.

McGrew declined to comment Monday.

Martinez said he went to animal control facilities Monday to see the living conditions for himself. About eight to 10 dogs were housed in the animal control side.

He said the need for blankets will remain at the discretion of the animal control officer.

"For someone to say he is cruel or treats the dogs inhumanely is baseless," Martinez said. "I've seen every one of those dogs come up to him and show him affection."

Martinez said he welcomes input from the community.

"We're not perfect," he said. "If we need to develop a policy that says during inclement level we need to do A, B and C, we will make those adjustments."

Protesters left the animal control facility Saturday night after the dogs were given blankets, Stringo said. That night, protesters formed the group Calhoun Citizens Against Animal Cruelty. The group plans to take its grievances against Port Lavaca Animal Control to the City Council during the January meeting.

Stringo said the group is trying to get placed on the meeting agenda.

"We're pushing that they enforce the laws that are already set," Stringo said. "The laws are there. From what I'm getting, nobody is enforcing them."

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