Animal lovers voice concerns to county commissioners

Sonny Long

June 7, 2010 at 1:07 a.m.

Animal lovers filled the Victoria County Commissioners Court Monday, offering their opinions on issues affecting the stray animal population.

The nearly two-hour discussion included the hours of operation of the animal shelter, methods of euthanising animals and a spay and neuter program.

Commissioners listened and took some action, instructing the Victoria City-County Animal Shelter, 122 Perimeter Road, to be open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, beginning this week. These hours will be on a one-month trial basis.

The jointly-funded shelter is under the operational control of the Victoria County Health Department.

The county has been studying the issue for several weeks, and County Judge Don Pozzi said three options had been looked at, including adding additional staff and extending hours during the week. But for now, he proposed opening on Saturday mornings.

The shelter is now open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Animal control officers are on call 24 hours a day.

"Let's see what happens during this trial period," Pozzi said. "Keep accurate records of the number of people that come in and the number of animals involved. If we don't try, we don't know."

Michael Welton was one of the animal lovers making a plea to have the shelter open on Saturday.

"Saturday is a very big marketing day for people to come and adopt pets," Welton said. "For the other agencies involved in adoption, Saturdays are big days for them."

The director of one of those agencies, Sally Kuecker of the Dorothy O'Connor Adoption Center, spoke against the shelter being open on Saturday.

"I disagree with the shelter being open on Saturdays," she said. "I average pulling seven to 10 dogs a week from animal control. All people want to do at animal control is drop off an animal. By opening on Saturday, you're giving them another drop-off day and that's all it will be."

Kuecker cited statistics that the animal shelter only adopted 87 dogs last year, while the pet adoption center adopted more than 700.

"This is what Adopt-A-Pet and the Dorothy O'Connor Pet Adoption Center do, we take in these animals from animal control. We pick and choose what we can," she said.

Kuecker suggested instead to extend the shelter's hours during the week.

Jeannie Welton, a self-described animal lover, also in attendance, took exception to Kuecker's remarks.

"I felt blind sided," Welton said after the meeting. "I can't even comprehend an animal lover being against having the shelter open on Saturdays except that it's in direct competition with her for adoptions. We're trying to save animals' lives, not make money off them."

Cindy Schneider, president of Pets Are Worth Saving, also addressed the commissioners.

"We are the voice of the voiceless," she said. "These animal-control dogs and cats are loving animals, too, whose only fault might be that they don't have a permanent home. My fervent hope and goal is that someday soon, Victoria County will be a no-kill county."

Schneider suggested the shelter be open on Saturdays, but close on Mondays.


The topic of the method of disposing of animals at the animal shelter was also discussed.

Both Carbon monoxide gas and lethal injections are used.

Commissioner Gary Burns asked for input from the audience.

"Just to reiterate what we talked about last time," Micahael Welton said, referring to a discussion with commissioners in April. "What we are asking is the number of gassings be minimized whenever possible. We want to see a more concerted effort to do this as humanely as possible. That means less gassings and more lethal injections.""We'll continue to look at this," Pozzi said. "I don't expect this issue will go away. We'll deal with it the best we can and continue to study it."

The court took no action on the issue.


Several speakers urged the county to help fund a spay and neuter program.

Pam Anderson said, "I think the answer is spaying and neutering. You're spending money to kill the animals, and we need money to help eliminate the animals."

Anderson said many people use their own money to have animals spayed and neutered.

"I have spent enough money on spaying and neutering these animals. If I could get it back, I could probably buy two Jaguars. Cold, hard cash," Anderson said. "You're spending money killing them. Help us get the money to keep them from ever being born."

Michael Welton said grant funds are available to assist with spaying and neutering programs.

A spay and neuter program is the only answer, Kuecker agreed.


"We also have a problem with people selling dogs and cats," Commissioner Wayne Dierlam said about parking lots sales of animals, mostly along Navarro Street on the weekends.

Dr. Bain Cate, health department director, said a city ordinance would have to be passed to stop the practice.

Michael Welton said he would personally go to the city council to request it consider an ordinance to regulate animal sales.



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