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Group debates cap on animals at Longview shelter

By Richard Yeakley
June 17, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Members of the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee questioned Monday if there should be a cap on the number of animals held in the Humane Society of Northeast Texas' animal shelter.

The committee, which met with representatives from the shelter, discussed a <a href="">scathing state inspection</a> of the shelter completed in April and steps taken since then to address areas of non-compliance.

Committee chairwoman, Kristen Ishihara, who also served on the Mayor's Animal Shelter Task Force, raised concern there currently is no maximum number of animals the shelter will hold.

"Why is there not that number?" Ishihara questioned the shelter's new executive director, Scott Holloway.

Holloway responded that creating a number would be arbitrary and not solve deeper concerns.

"I can get it down there, but you know what? We would be full up in two days," Holloway responded.

The shelter population was kept low during previous years by a more liberal approach to euthanasia.

In 2012, as intake numbers reached nearly 1,000 animals a month, shelter personnel put down up to 70 percent of the population monthly.

"I understand the intake side of the problem, but I mean, what are you as a facility able to house and maintain with your current staff, such that they are cleaned appropriately, fed appropriately? It seems to me there should be the capacity to reach that number," Ishihara replied.

The conversation came at the end of the meeting where the committee discussed a Texas Department of State Health Services inspection that found the shelter failed to meet minimum standards on 17 of 45 areas.

Those gathered agreed the problem was primarily an issue of intake. In recent months Holloway reached out to Longview residents for help as <a href="">burgeoning numbers of animals</a> brought to the shelter have caused Holloway to operate the shelter at up to 200 percent capacity.

Holloway told the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee the shelter had 242 animals as of Monday, including more than 100 kittens and many puppies.

The facility has 45 cat cages and 45 dog cages, so more than one animal is being kept per cage.

Holloway said capacity was relative as long as animals were being well treated.

"They are fed everyday ... Everything is cleaned on a daily basis. Yes, it puts a burden on my staff; I work the daylights out of them," he said.

Committee member and Animal Control Officer Chris Kemper said that while the shelter used to put down many animals he felt a pendulum may have swung and the shelter may be keeping too many animals.

"The issues we have dealt with in the shelter is that there are so many animals," Kemper said as he showed photos taken of the shelter. "And we keep bringing them in; it's a problem all the way around, for everybody. What do we do about that? What do we do on our end? There are some months we bring in almost 300 hundred animals? They are everywhere, and it has caused all kinds of problems from the shelter caused by the sheer number of animals."

Ishihara voiced praise for what she said may have been a change in mentality at the shelter, but questioned the conclusions - indicating the inspection report that showed unsanitary conditions including a puppy diagnosed with parvo but left with other "otherwise healthy" animals.

Holloway defended the shelter, saying that while "unadoptable animals" were euthanized, if adoptable animals could be fed, kept healthy and sheltered he would keep them. The call to choose between two kittens in a litter of 11 is not a choice anyone wants to make when they are all healthy, he said.

"There are times when we have to go through and we have to make the hard decision. I pray to God every Sunday at church and many times throughout the week asking God to give me the strength," Holloway said.

Holloway also explained new cleaning protocols issued since he was hired and said that while the shelter is full to capacity, the overload of puppies and kittens, which take less room than full-grown animals, made the numbers less of an issue than they appeared on paper.

His final plea was for volunteers saying questions of sanitation and socialization of the animals would be answered if more people volunteered with the shelter.

The city committee exists to advise the shelter, with which the city of Longview contracts to handle the animal population.



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