City Auditor points to additional steps needed to improve adoption rate and population control.
City Auditor Matthew Grady has completed his independent examination of the Killeen Animal Services Unit and published his findings for public review.
Grady’s overall findings showed marked improvement in the past 10 months under interim management but advises that long-term success will require a strategic approach to shelter operations to ultimately reduce intakes and increase positive outcomes.
“I decided to do the audit, in part, due to the negative publicity garnered by Animal Services during the previous manager’s tenure,” said Grady. “I think they’ve clearly turned the corner, and PD’s Staff Service’s interim leadership has been instrumental in helping them to do so. Much remains to be done, but there is a sense of forward momentum, which is good.”
The audit aimed to assess certain Animal Services policies and procedures for comparison to industry best practices. Review primarily focused on fiscal years 2014 through 2018.
The Animal Services Unit is generally responsible for enforcement of animal ordinances and animal shelter operations. It has been a section of Killeen Police Department since 2005; however, City Manager Ron Olson has recently stated his intention to realign it under the Community Services Department.
Management of Animal Services was transferred to the Police Department’s Staff Services Division following the removal of the animal services manager in February. Since that time, live-release rates have remained above a 90 percent average. This represents a nearly 10 percent increase over previous years in the number of animals returned to their owners or placed in permanent homes.
Grady points to the live-release rate as a key indicator of success because it measures positive outcomes against euthanizations. Shelters maintaining a 90 percent or higher live-release rate can be considered “No Kill.”
During the four-year audit period, another positive trend identified is a reduction in shelter intake of animals. The data indicates that a 2015 City ordinance requiring dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered and microchipped has helped control the animal population and helped lost animals be returned to their owners reducing the number arriving at the shelter.
Grady noted a number of recent operational improvements in his report. Shelter equipment upgrades include the purchase of commercial grade appliances, a new kennel cleaning system and the planned purchase of multi-compartment cat cages. He also lauded increases in promotional activities and outreach to local non-profit groups.
The audit found a number of impediments and inefficiencies that hinder the ultimate effectiveness of Animal Services. Current methods of enforcing spay and neuter laws, lack of a viable trap/neuter/release program and no coordinated marketing strategy are all areas in which Grady recommends improvement.
When an animal is adopted from Killeen Animal Shelter, adopters must sign an adoption contract requiring the new owner to provide proof of sterilization within a specified timeframe. The audit found that a significant amount of staff time and resources are being spent on enforcing compliance with these contracts. Animal control officers are spending hundreds of hours writing citations for these violations each year causing Municipal Court to deal with hundreds of cases. Grady recommends pursuing a pre-sterilization policy whereby animals are spayed or neutered prior to adoption. This practice would increase sterilizations, remove the enforcement burden on resources and make a considerable impact on population control.
Trap/neuter/release (TNR) programs can be an effective tool in controlling the feral cat population. The City of Killeen has had an ordinance making this a lawful practice since 2009, but Grady found little evidence of its success. His report states that while the ordinance allows TNR, onerous reporting requirements discourage participation. His recommendations are to increase public education, create partnerships with local non-profits and veterinarians and eliminate reporting requirements from the ordinance.
Finally, Grady cited the need for a comprehensive marketing strategy to increase public awareness across multiple audiences through a variety of mediums. He recommends utilizing the Communications Department for development and delivery of messaging that will inspire adoptions, create community partnerships and support and encourage responsible pet ownership. Proactive rather than reactive marketing can create positive shelter outcomes and sustainable results.
“I hope that the biggest takeaway from the audit is the need to ensure that all adoptable animals are spayed or neutered before being released to their new owners,” Grady said. “This will help to further reduce intake so the shelter doesn’t get so overwhelmed, and it will get City staff off the hamster wheel of adoption contract compliance.”
The entire Killeen Animal Services Unit Audit is available at killeentexas.gov/auditor.