Question 1 is a $600 million bond that designates money for roads, bridges and sidewalks. In addition to the much needed infrastructure repair, this bond shifts the financial burden of sidewalk repair from the city's residents back to the city.
Question 2 is a $150 million bond that designates money for flood control. This money is needed to match for $550 million in federal funds that would create substantial upgrades to flood control in the city.
Question 3 is a $50 million bond that would designate approximately $14 million to the much-needed building of a new city animal shelter as well as necessary upgrades to many city buildings to get them up to ADA compliance.
I support all three bond initiatives for these needed infrastructure upgrades. While we can all bicker about why we are so behind in infrastructure repair, the reality is that these are needed and necessary improvements and the only way they will be addressed in a timely manner is through passing a large bond package.
But I most particularly want to talk about why you should support Question 3.
The Kansas City animal shelter is at 4400 Raytown Road and is operated by Kansas City Pet Project (in full disclosure, I am a co-founder of KC Pet Project). While other Kansas City area communities have upgraded their shelter facilities in recent years, most notably in Independence and Lee's Summit, Kansas City has not upgraded its facility. And while newer facilities exist throughout the metro, the KC Pet Project-run facility is the only one in the area that serves Kansas City Missouri's homeless pets.
And while there are newer shelters around the metro, it is a ridiculous notion that any of them has the capacity to take in 10,000 animals from Kansas City, MO residents instead of building a new shelter.
The current facility was built in 1972. It originally served as a maintenance and storage building for the workers building the Truman Sports Complex. When the sports complex was complete, the city decided to convert the building into a "temporary" animal shelter. It has served as the city shelter for 45 years in a "temporary" capacity.
Prior to 2009, the city operated the shelter -- and at that time, the shelter maintained a roughly 35% live release rate at the shelter. In 2009, the city opted to privatize the shelter and under the direction of Half-Way Home Pet Adoptions the live release rate increased. However, the city decided to issue another RFP in 2011 for operations. KC Pet Project won the bid at the time and has been saving more than 90% of the pets since July 2012, and finished 2016 with a greater than 94% live release rate.
The area where the shelter sits is far from ideal. It is far from the road and barely visible -- especially during summer. It sits behind a large empty lot that is an uncapped, former city landfill. The shelter building sits high on a hill because the shelter is on a flood plain. And the hill behind the building used to house a state penitentiary and a tuberculosis hospital.
So when the animal shelter was first established, taking animals to the shelter was seen as something between disposing of the trash, and locking up felons. Fortunately our view of animals in society has improved a great deal over the past four and a half decades, but the shelter location does not reflect that.
The current facility
The current shelter facility is approximately 14,000 square feet. It's capacity was very much reflective of historic "Catch & kill philosophy where animals would be kept for a minimum amount of time and then killed for space. This is not indicative of the current progressive mindset of animal sheltering in the U.S., or that of KC Pet Project and current city leadership. Because everyone now agrees that pets should be given the opportunity to be rehomed to start a new life, the shelter is roughly 1/4 the size that is needed.
In addition to the small size, there are other inadequacies.
All of the dog kennels are in one large room. The high concentration of the dogs in one space makes for a very noisy and stressful housing situation for the dogs at the shelter. Also, due to the size of the shelter, for each kennel generally designed to house 1 dog, usually contains 2 dogs, with a guillotine door separating the two dogs, leaving each dog with about 1/2 the space as would be recommended in a typical shelter.
The original cat kennels for the shelter were actually in the same room with all the dogs. This would obviously be a horrifying situation for cats. Thus, since KC Pet Project took over shelter operations in 2012, several former offices have been converted into cat housing areas. While this is a huge improvement for the cats, most are still contained in cages. Most modern shelters have "free-roaming cat rooms" that provide a much more enriching environment for the cats. Free-roaming cats space isn't something the current shelter has room for.
Also, because many of the former offices have been turned into animal housing areas, many of the KC Pet Project staffers now office in hallways or in the basement of the old building -- which is definitely not ideal for the employees.
The shelter's HVAC system is also not up to modern recommendations. Most newer shelters are equipped with HVAC systems that bring in entirely fresh air many time each hour. The fresh air helps control odor, and prevents spread of air-born diseases in the animals. The current shelter HVAC does not do this as often as it should, which allows for odors to linger and for the spread of disease.
The current drainage and sewer system is also not adequate and the city and KC Pet Project just spent substantial sums of money to get the kennel drains up to a minimum standard.
The shelter lobby is also very small and can get quickly congested on busy days.
The shelter was also designed with a very small veterinary clinic (roughly 400 square feet). This was not sufficient to treat the more than 10,000 animals that come into the shelter each year, as well as provide animals vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries. To offset this, KC Pet Project raised more than $350,000 (thanks in large part to a grant by the Petco Foundation) to put a double-wide trailer in the staff parking lot that created a veterinary clinic that is 4x the size of the one in the shelter. While this is a much-needed upgrade for now, the trailers are only a temporary solution to this problem.
Additionally, the current facility does not have any space for public education. Modern shelters in other communities have become community centers for pet-lovers. And educational rooms can provide inviting places for public meetings, volunteer training, dog training classes and youth education classes. Kansas City has fallen woefully behind in public education opportunities, and we all benefit from having a public educated about good pet ownership. No one wants to live in a neighborhood with a chained up dog barking all night long, or with loose dogs chasing kids on their way to school. Good pet ownership education improves neighborhood livability -- for pet owners and non-pet owners alike.
In 2008, the Missouri Department of Agriculture (which inspects the shelter each year) strongly recommended the city build a new animal shelter. In its 2008 inspection report (and several subsequent reports), the state noted:
"The city should seriously consider improving or replacing the current animal shelter. This particular facility falls behind municipal shelters within communities of similar size. Most of the problems that are being encountered, and that will continue to be encountered, are simply due to an aging facility. At the least, there should be some community discussion on this issue. Statistics files each year within our office show a regular increase in the number of animals handled by animal control each year. Without some type of community involvement, including a plan to improve or replace the current animal shelter, dogs & cats impounded under the authority of Kansas City will see a decline in standards of animal welfare."
Folks, that was nearly a decade ago. And while there have been other attempts to build a new shelter, this is the first time the public has had the opportunity to vote on the issue -- and it is way past time to make this happen.
The Petco Foundation agrees on the need for a new shelter. "I've been telling them for years they need a new shelter," said Susanne Kogut, executive director of the Petco Foundation. "It's not only the age, but is the space for the animals. It's very unusual to see large dogs in small cages and not having their own kennels. They're doing amazing work with what they have to work with, but they need more to work with."
The Kansas City Star recently called it an "embarrassment of a structure."
KC Pet Project has earned national recognition for its life-saving efforts on behalf of Kansas City's pets. They have a fantastic base of donors, volunteers and supporters that help KCPP provide services far beyond the scope of the city's contract. However, a new shelter will allow them to build on those services, and
provide something that Kansas City could be proud of for generations. It would also put Kansas City on par with the types of modern shelters other communities are building (some non-KC Pictures appear in this section).
Kansas City is in the heart of the Animal Health Corridor. Animal Health companies make up a substantial part of our city's economy. Having a modern shelter facility will continue to improve the city's image as an animal health hub and overall livable city. And this city loves their pets, and the shelter will reflect this passion.
The vision is to build an approximately 60,000 square foot building on 7 acres in Swope Park -- near both the Kansas City Zoo and Lakeside Nature Center. The location will be inviting to the public and centrally located so that the shelter may continue to serve the needs of Kansas City residents.
It will include proper plumbing and drainage, as well as modern HVAC to maintain adequate air flow. It will have a modern veterinary clinic so that sick & injured animals can get the treatments they need. It will have special isolation areas for treating contagious diseases.
It will also contain a public education space that will allow KC Pet Project to increase the services it provides to the public -- including providing vaccinations, training and educational programs, reuniting lost pets with owners, and remaining the most popular adoption center in the metro.
And the cost is only $14 million to the taxpayers -- while the private community is raising an additional $10 million to cover extra expenses.
This is a much-needed improvement for our city. The timing is right. The opportunity is right.
Vote Yes on Question 3 on April 4th.
The last three are images of new shelters from around the country, including:
Lobby of the Lynchburg Humane Society, Lynchburg, VA
Modern dog kennels, Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter, LA
Exterior, Miami Dade Animal Shelter, FL
For more information check out:
The Northeast News: Why the KCMO animal shelter seeks new digs
Support for Question 3: