Well, I've been hearing a lot of buzz about this -- but without knowing if it was public info or not I've decided to hold off on saying anything -- but if it's in the Star, it's pretty public at this point.
Kansas City, MO is making moves to privatize the city's shelter facility. About a year ago, the city sent out a request for bids on taking over the shelter facility. They received 2 bids back.
Today, Councilwoman Cindy Circo plans to introduce a bill that would turn the shelter over to Dr. R. Wayne Steckelberg -- a 50 year veterinarian who most recently has been working at a local rescue shelter.
I've never met Dr. Steckelberg -- but the people who know him seem to think pretty highly of him. And if you watch the video of him talking about the shelter, it's not hard to realize that his heart is in the right place. Even without knowing him, I am thrilled about the posible (Likely) transition. There are really appear to be no drawbacks.
According to the article, Steckelberg will get about $600,000 from the city for staff, utilities, etc to run the shelter. This will save the city about $200,000 for the costs of doing it themselves. Meanwhile, the move will free up quite a bit of staff that will then add to the number of animal control officers out on the streets -- which will be a huge plus for the under-staffed department. This savings comes at a time when KCMO is facing a projected $85 million budget shortfall for 2009 -- so the savings will be well needed.
Meanwhile, the shelter, which is a remote location, has had almost no access for adoptions. The shelter is open for adoptions Monday - Saturday, Noon-4pm, and to 7 on Thursdays. To the best I can tell, the average person in KC would have about 5 hours a week that the shelter would be open when they could actually get to it. Steckelberg has already pledged to improve the shelter hours -- and the accessibility will no doubt improve the traffic and adoption rate at the shelter.
Steckelberg has also pledged to work with local rescue group Wayside Waifs to help get more dogs and cats out of the city facility and into a better adoption facility. At the same time, he has some ideas for improving the city shelter to make it more adopter-friendly -- including getting rid of some of the offices to create more room for animals so they can be housed longer (most are there the minimum of 5 days now) to give them a greater chance of being adopted or their homes found.
The city shelter has not been able to get many volunteers to work there -- primarily because volunteers got tired of the management's lack of response to ideas that would save animal lives. I would expect that Steckelberg would be able to attract a healthy crop of volunteers that could significantly help the facility.
In 2007, the KCMO shelter euthanized 6,769 animals -- about 62% of the animals that came into the shelter. In 2008, the shelter euthanized 4,912 animals.
In fairness to a couple of people I know that have worked at the shelter, there are a couple of people there that honestly care about animals -- however, have never had the support of the managment to make the changes necessary to improve the overall situation down there. I am very excited about this change in shelter management and hope the rest of the animal welfare community steps up to help them in every way possible.
I have a couple of small suggestions, that if they aren't on the plan, I would love to see them added to the proposal:
1) Make sure contract states that all shelter records will be public record subject to the state's Sunshine Laws. I don't think it will be a problem with this particular managment, but I do think it is good policy to make these records public, even if they are a non-profit group.
2) They may want to do year 1 as a trial year -- but I really hope they look at making this a long term contract (with some clauses if things somehow go terribly wrong). The shelter facility needs a LOT of work to make it friendly for adopters, and I think this group could raise a lot of money to make the improvements if they know they are going to be there for the long-haul. But making the necessary shelter improvements may be difficult if we string them along with a series of 1-year contracts.
Meanwhile, I'd like to make a note on this about Councilwoman Cindy Circo. I spoke with Cindy a lot during her campaign about animal welfare issues - -and she has made it one of her missions to improve this situation - -not only because she is an animal lover, but also because the shelter resides in her district. I've been really pleased with her continued presence in this area and want to give a shout-out to her for working to make this a better situation. Kansas City is in the middle of the Animal Health Corridor -- which has garnered us mention among some of the world's most innovative cities. What a great way to show off the benefit of being in the Animal Health Corridor by becoming one of the most animal-friendly cities in the country.
I believe this will be a good step toward making that a reality.