Clear the Shelter

A dog waits in its kennel during Clear the Shelter at Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World

The city of Tulsa is making gradual, significant progress in reforming its approach to animal welfare.

Through the decades, Tulsa allowed its animal shelter to fall into disrepair as operating hours were scaled back and policies weren’t updated to encourage adoption. We all know the results. Neighborhoods suffered because of roaming animals. Homeless pets suffered without homes.

In late 2018, Mayor G.T. Bynum promised to turn the problem around with a multipart plan backed with voter support of $5 million from Improve Our Tulsa tax packages.

The centerpiece is a new five-member Tulsa Animal Welfare Commission. Last year, the shelter made a small, important move: Shifting hours so that it would be open on Sundays, a potentially big day for adoptions by working families. The shelter also added new employees to focus on outreach and pet diversion.

Last week, the city announced that animal welfare officers — who had been working a Monday to Friday workweek — would be taking calls seven days a week.

At the same time, shelter policy was changed so that people bringing in a stray animal could start the adoption process immediately. That’s smart marketing: A potential customer who has already met the animal gets to be first in line if an owner doesn’t claim the animal in a timely fashion.

This is incremental progress, and we encourage the city to continue the effort.

Bigger steps will come with an animal welfare city ordinance, a fully implemented staff, greater access to spay and neuter services, better public outreach and education, and renovations to the shelter, 3030 N. Erie Ave. Ideally, Tulsa could become a no-kill community.

Meanwhile, the city announced Wednesday that it is considering a plan to privatize animal shelter operation in similar fashion to the Tulsa Zoo and Gilcrease Museum.

We’re a bit wary about the idea but think it should be considered closely. The standard for making a choice should be: Will it improve the lives of the animals; can someone else do the job measurably better?

Animal welfare is about setting expectations for how our community cares for our pets. Our ability to meet those standards is a measure of our social maturity: Are we sufficiently evolved to recognize our obligations to all of God’s creatures?


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