Just last month, Mayor G.T. Bynum unveiled an ambitious plan to improve the city’s animal welfare services.
He did so knowing full well that the city could not do it alone. On Tuesday, help arrived in the form of the Coalition for Tulsa Pets.
The partnership includes Tulsa Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of Tulsa, and the Tulsa Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“We want Tulsa to be a no-kill shelter, and for us to accomplish that, we recognize that one entity can’t do that all by itself,” Bynum said during a news conference to announce the partnership.
“It is going to require a number of different groups in our city bringing their expertise to the table.”
Gina Gardner, president of the board of directors of the Humane Society of Tulsa, said a primary goal of the coalition is to raise the live-release rate at the city shelter to more than 90 percent. The shelter’s live-release rate is currently 65 percent.
To help accomplish that goal, the coalition plans to increase drastically the number of animals sent to good homes in other communities, Gardner said.
“We are going to be looking at an immediate increase of over 3,000 animals transported out of Tulsa next year,” she said. “That will alleviate a lot of the burden … so that animals are not having to be euthanized for the space.”
Another focus of the coalition will be to create comprehensive and sustainable pet services for the community.
Gardner said the coalition is also looking to provide a free, mobile spay/neuter unit and more low-cost spay/neuter clinics so it will be “very accessible for all Tulsans to get their pets altered.”
Jean Letcher, Tulsa Animal Welfare manager, said the coalition brings together a public entity — the city shelter — and the two largest nonprofit animal welfare organizations in the community to care for animals and make them available for adoption.
Coalition members have committed to sharing data and working together to identify problems in the city’s animal welfare system and to address them together, Letcher said.
“The biggest benefit (of the coalition) is that we know, even with the mayor’s additional resources that the city is putting into animal welfare, there are components of a successful program for no-kill that are best handled by the strengths inherent in nonprofit organizations,” she said.
Those strengths, according to Letcher, include fundraising and the ability to provide free and low-cost animal welfare services.
For example, the Tulsa SPCA is already building a new clinic and can expand its spay/neuter effort, and the Humane Society of Tulsa has local clinic capacity and vehicles to provide mobile care, Letcher said.
“We can tell them where those needs exist as far as the data that we have,” she said.
The coalition will be funded with private and public dollars. WaterShed Animal Fund is the first funding partner to join the effort, though officials could not say Tuesday how much the organization has committed to the coalition.
Bynum’s eight-part plan to improve the city’s animal welfare services would add 12 animal control and care employees.
A key component of the reform package is the extension of animal welfare services, both at the shelter and by shelter staff responding to calls.
As currently proposed, the city’s shelter will be open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. In addition, animal welfare workers will respond to calls 10 hours a day, seven days a week.
The shelter currently does not respond to calls on weekends and responds only eight hours a day on weekdays.
A five-member Tulsa Animal Welfare Commission led by former Mayor Susan Savage will provide recommendations on policy, best practices and capital needs.
“We are so excited at Animal Welfare about the initiative that the mayor announced about a month ago, but many of those changes are internal to our organization,” Letcher said Tuesday. “This coalition is going to address those external (issues), right on the front lines with the citizens of our community to help keep animals in their homes (and) be able to find new homes if that is an absolute necessity.
“So you will be seeing changes on so many fronts that will really help us accomplish that 90 percent live-release rate from our municipal shelter.”
For more information about the Coalition for Tulsa Pets or to donate to the partnership, go to www.coalitionfortulsapets.org.