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Site divides Longview animal shelter panel

By Glenn Evans
Dec. 5, 2012 at 10 p.m.

A Longview panel is on track to recommend its solution to the city's stray pet overpopulation next week after reviewing a draft letter Wednesday to the City Council.

The recommendation from the Animal Shelter Task Force is not likely to be unanimous - at least not on the proposed location for a new shelter.

"There's good and bad about both locations," committee Chairman Kenneth Glaze said during informal discussion after the meeting agenda had been exhausted. "If the city wants to decide which way it wants to go, fine."

Glaze was reacting to member Alicia Nolte, who opposes a site offered by the Humane Society of Northeast Texas. The nonprofit organization, which has operated the Longview animal shelter on Enterprise Street for about 30 years, is offering 4.3 acres near the Lear Park soccer fields that had been donated to the shelter.

Nolte voted against the site at a Nov. 28 meeting, preferring city owned acreage in the bustling shopping district near where Hawkins Parkway meets North Eastman Road.

That land was given to the city by the Cargill family to use as a park. The transfer is reversible if it is used for something else.

Siblings Bob Cargill and Paula Kaplan wrote a letter to the Longview News-Journal, published Nov. 27, saying they doubt the wisdom of approving a land-use change while the parties involved continue to disagree within their own ranks.

Cargill said after Wednesday's meeting that doesn't rule out the family donation being used for an animal center, but he repeated his and his sister's skepticism about the ongoing disputes.

"We're not going to approve anything until all the parties get together and, as you say, play nicely with each other," Cargill said.

Nolte is the founder of Fete for Pets, a nonprofit fundraising group she formed to establish a new animal center.

"Even if my group has to do a separate proposal (to the City Council), then that's what we'll do," she said. "I can't sleep at night knowing we're only going to add two days to these animals' lives."

Her last statement referred to the five-day stay an animal can expect in a 28,000-square-foot shelter such as is proposed in the committee's draft to the council.

Asked about Nolte's indication that Fete for Pets could go it alone, Cargill replied, "I haven't thought about that. I don't see any point in having two (shelters)."

The shelter on Enterprise keeps dogs and cats three days before they are put down. Interim shelter director Stuart Russell, a committee member, also reported Wednesday that 58 percent of the animals brought there are saved, up from a 23 percent save rate when she arrived there in July.

The draft letter also recommends devising a plan to achieve and maintain a high save rate.

The draft recommends beginning the process to hire a shelter manager immediately and that the facility be built with an eye toward expansion.

The shelter run by the Humane Society serves five counties, but the one proposed in the draft letter would serve only Gregg County and its cities. Committee member Kristen Ishihara, an attorney who will prepare the letter the committee will vote on next week, said after Wednesday's meeting that the consensus was to recommend the Lear Park site.

Committee members did not reach consensus on who the panel might recommend to operate the new shelter. Options range from the city to a nonprofit group to a contractor, though there was some skepticism that a private contractor could be found through the open bidding process the city must undertake.

The letter also will leave the cost of the facility up to the council.

The draft letter does recommend that each participating city contribute financially to the enterprise and appoint a representative to join its governing board.

The letter also recommends the new shelter establish a so-called trap-neuter-release program to help address the feral cat population. Neutering feral cats also is believed to lower those animals' aggressive natures.



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