Humane Society of Tulsa and city not on board with pet adoption program
BY P.J. LASSEK World Staff Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2012
3/22/12 at 7:44 AM
Read the KPMG efficiency study and recommendations.
The city will not partner with the Humane Society of Tulsa for an adoption program that officials had predicted would save the city $600,000 annually.
The decision comes after six months of failed contract negotiations designed to give the Humane Society exclusive rights to operate the city's Animal Welfare adoption program.
"Talks have broken down to a point that I don't see what could happen to make it work," said Gina Gardner, president and a founding member of the local Humane Society.
"We're still committed to pulling animals from the shelter for adoption on a regular basis as we have before like any of the other rescue groups," she said, noting she increased the amount she is taking.
Tulsa's Animal Welfare facility is one of the areas that was targeted by Mayor Dewey Bartlett for either privatization or a public-private partnership as recommended by the 2010 KPMG efficiency study.
Despite the inability to reach a contract, the city isn't giving up on finding ways to improve the Animal Welfare adoptions to decrease the need to euthanize animals, said Vickie Beyer, the director of the city's Management Review Office, which is in charge of vetting and implementing KPMG suggestions.
Beyer said the disagreement was between Gardner and the city's Animal Welfare staff.
"There was competition between what her (Gardner's) mission was going to be with adoptions and the fact that our Animal Welfare shelter doesn't want to let go of adoptions," Beyer said. "It's just a core difference on how each thought the program ought to go forward."
Gardner said the breakdown was over her having the "first right of adoption."
She said shelter staff were concerned that those animals that were not selected for adoption would be left for the city to euthanize.
Gardner said she told officials that it "was certainly up to the city if the shelter wanted to try to adopt out" those animals unwanted by the Humane Society.
Bartlett's announcement in September that he planned to give Gardner exclusive rights to run the city's adoption program drew skepticism from some animal advocates.
They questioned whether Gardner could exceed the shelter's current adoption rate and fund medical expenses, including sterilization, which was to be required. They also challenged the accuracy of a $600,000 annual savings.
Beyer said one of the issues in addressing animal welfare is that there are two types of mind-sets: "animal lovers and people who love animals."
"The animal lovers are people who think every saved animal is all for the betterment of the animal world," she said. "Then there are people who love animals but understand that certain animals are harder to treat, perhaps more aggressive, and they apply economic sense to (shelter) decisions."
Beyer said the city is studying Bartlesville's animal shelter model, whose adoption and euthanasia is handled by the Washington County SPCA, while the city does enforcement.
She said the SPCA there hasn't euthanized what they categorize as "an adoptable animal" since 2009.
But, Beyer said, Bartlesville's definition of "adoptable" differs from Tulsa's.
In Bartlesville, all pit bull breeds, no matter the health, are euthanized, Beyer said. Tulsa used to do that, but the practice ceased after the hiring of the shelter manager Jean Letcher and veterinarian Dr. Catherine Pienkos, she said.
Oklahoma law prohibits breed-specific legislation.
Bartlesville also euthanizes animals with heart worms, focusing its adoption efforts on the healthy animals, Beyer said. Tulsa treats those animals, which is costly, so they can be adopted, she said.
Beyer said the city doesn't know which direction it is going noting "this is a very sensitive subject."
"At this point, we're just comparing and contrasting what we view as benchmarks for our area," she said.
Original Print Headline: City not on board with pet program
P.J. Lassek 918-581-8382
Gina Gardner, president of the Humane Society of Tulsa, and Mayor Dewey Bartlett discuss the city's partnership with the Humane Society of Tulsa during a news conference in September at the animal shelter. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file