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Mayor tells Longview animal shelter task force to stay focused on 'long-term solution'

By Sherry Koonce
Sept. 19, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Longview Mayor Jay Dean reminded members of the city's animal shelter task force on Wednesday to stay on task during the newly-appointed group's third weekly meeting.

"The committee has to stay focused on developing a long-term solution," Dean said. "I want this committee to move forward with a recommendation sooner than later."

The mayor's comments came after the city signed a one-year contract with the Humane Society of Northeast Texas this past Thursday.

"The Humane Society contract is now in place," Dean said. "It is not perfect, but we did not have a lot of options."

Moving forward, Dean said the group should remember the focus at hand is ultimately to provide better care to the animals.

Dean has said he would like to see the task force make a recommendation to the City Council about how best to solve the city's animal over-population issue.

The Northeast Texas Humane Society takes in about 1,000 unwanted animals a month from eight entities, including Longview and Gregg County.

Of those animals either dropped off at the shelter by residents or taken there by animal control officers, about 700 are euthanized each month.

At Wednesday's meeting, representatives of the Humane Society shared the nonprofit organization's efforts to construct a new building.

Humane Society board member Jearl Morris, a retired engineer, said the board had spent considerable time researching other animal shelters, including those in Colorado Springs, Colo., Irving and Arlington, among others.

Morris cautioned task force members to look at more than construction costs associated with a new building.

"Operational costs are a continuing thing that never goes away," Morris said. "Just building a building does not fix the problem."

Stuart Russell, director of the Humane Society, said the facility's operational budget does not cover payroll and taxes for the facility's 12 employee, or expenses associated with animals, such as pet food or vaccinations.

Morris said the group would be amenable to working with the city in a public/private partnership.

Another task force member, Alicia Nolte, founder of the nonprofit group Fete For Pets, said her group would like to operate a new facility and hire an executive director and staff.

Fete for Pets has raised $150,000 toward a new animal shelter building. Nolte said the group would be willing to contribute those funds.

Task force member Kristen Ishihara, a Longview attorney, suggested it would be advantageous for two nonprofit organizations to run a new shelter facility.

The Humane Society's role as intake officers should be replaced, likely by the city, Ishihara said.

"The intake facility should be separate from where the animals are available for adoption," Ishihara said.

The task force next week plans to form committees that will research costs of the various recommendations.



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