City asks for suggestions to improve animal welfare operation
BY P.J. LASSEK World Staff Writer
Monday, June 20, 2011
6/20/11 at 4:50 AM
Read the KPMG
report and continuing
on the issue.
Tulsa's Animal Welfare facility is one of the areas targeted by Mayor Dewey Bartlett for either privatization or a public-private partnership.
"At the end of the day, we have to ask whether government is the best entity to operate an animal shelter," Bartlett said.
Chief of Staff Terry Simonson said there are some cities across the nation that have successfully established public-private partnerships or privatized their animal shelter operations.
"What we don't know is whether it can be accomplished here and, if so, how do we do it," he said. "We have to find an alternative method to operating the facility."
The issue behind maintaining the facility is funding, as it is for many areas of the city.
There needs to be some other strategies to address the "underfunded, understaffed and over abundance of capitals needs," Simonson said. "Just continuing to put the animals down isn't a good policy."
The city began last week soliciting for best practices, innovative ideas, and strategies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Animal Welfare facility.
The city sent out 58 request packets to local and national nonprofit animal organizations, local veterinarians and animal clinics, academic institutions, several cities that have privatized their animal welfare operations and even pet stores like Petsmart.
"We want as much information as we can get. We're trying not to limit ourselves with any kind of preconceived outcome," said Vickie Beyer, director of the Management Review Office, which is in charge of vetting and implementing KPMG recommendations.
The KPMG efficiency study has suggested several areas that might better be operated if outsourced to the private sector or through a public-private effort.
The deadline to receive the information for the shelter is July 1. The city will use the information it receives to help draft bid proposals it will use to seek an operator for the Animal Welfare facility.
Simonson said the city is hoping to take the same successful approach it has with the management of Gilcrease Museum and the Tulsa Zoo.
The animal welfare budget looks much like the zoo's in the sense that it is capital intensive with no capital money, he said.
"It's about the clinic, where the vet works, where to keep the animals, the trucks, the grounds and the medicine," Simonson said. "It you don't keep up the capital needs, you're not going to have a quality facility."
In the case of the zoo, a group of residents with fundraising capabilities came together, formed a nonprofit and took over the operations in a partnership with the city.
A year ago, Kansas City, Mo., contracted with a group of local veterinarians to operate the city shelter.
While the city saved money and reduced the euthanasia rate, there have been some issues resulting in the city canceling the contract and looking for a new operator, news reports state.
Beyer said Tulsa may not find one organization to take over the entire facility, but several to address the various components of animal welfare - animal care, operations, animal control, adoption and enforcement, she said.
The major issue Tulsa's animal welfare operation faces is overcrowding, Simonson said.
The city ordinance forces Animal Welfare to accept all animals regardless of space available, he said.
When the shelter is full, staff and the on-site veterinarian determine which animals will be euthanized to make room for incoming animals, he said.
The city doesn't have the funding to sustain the needs, he said.
In recent years, the city hired a full-time veterinarian to manage the new veterinary clinic area and went to lethal injection from a gas chamber for euthanasia, which increased the budget by $25,000 for materials, causing other services to be decreased or cut.
While fees have increased at the shelter, they don't cover the cost of services, Simonson said.
The shelter has seen nearly $500,000 in capital improvements that were funded by the 2006 third-penny sales tax. The improvements include a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, and a re-configuration of the clinic area to provide a new surgery room and surgery preparation, outdoor dog runs and a handful of smaller items.
Issues facing Tulsa's animal welfare effort
Seeking strategy ideas for the following areas:
- Increase in animal adoptions
- Efficient and effective operations
- Greater private sector involvement
- Compensation models for private sector involvement
- Potential technology investments
- Fee structures
- Dealing with problem breeds
Original Print Headline: Looking for a better way
P.J. Lassek 918-581-8382
A dog looks out from its cage at the Tulsa Animal Shelter last week. The city has asked for suggestions on ways to operate the shelter. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Veterinary technician Shari Hedges and animal control officer Tracy Heape take a blood sample from a kitten in a new clinic room at the Tulsa Animal Welfare shelter earlier this month. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
A mother dog and her litter are pictured in their cage at the Tulsa Animal Shelter recently. The city is considering an alternative method to run the shelter. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World