Rows of kennels

Rows of kennels house dogs waiting for adoption at Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter on October 19, 2018. JOSEPH RUSHMORE for Tulsa World

Deteriorating and deplorable conditions at the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter prompted Mayor G.T. Bynum to announce an eight-point reform plan last year.

It comes from decades of failing to make significant structural changes to the facility and to update its operation using best practices in animal welfare.

Progress is being made. The city added 14 new employees, established an Animal Welfare Commission, forged partnerships with nonprofit animal advocacy groups, extended shelter hours and developed a public engagement plan.

This is just a beginning. This is a city problem demanding a community-wide fix.

The $639 million Improve Our Tulsa renewal package before the voters on Nov. 12 includes $2 million to continue advancing these improvements at the shelter.

Improve Our Tulsa will not raise taxes. About two-thirds of the total funding rightly goes toward streets, bridges and related priorities; but important projects such as the animal shelter are in the remaining portion.

The shelter received $3.5 million in the first Improve Our Tulsa package, and about $800,000 has been spent on emergency air handling and circulation upgrades.

If approved, the new funds would be coupled with the remaining amount from the original package.

There is still plenty left in the mayor’s animal welfare reform plan to accomplish.

This includes strengthening the spay and neuter program, adopting an online pet licensing program, increasing outreach and education, establishing consistent protocols for intake and starting a foster program for pets that are in care from long-term cruelty investigations.

An analysis is being done to better organize and expand the shelter. Adopting a new animal welfare ordinance is being crafted.

All of these factors will lead to better treatment of lost, abandoned and abused pets. Eventually, the Tulsa shelter could become a no-kill facility, a worthy and attainable goal.

To get there, it will take changes and investment by Tulsa residents. We support the inclusion of animal welfare in the Improve Our Tulsa renewal.

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