KGNS On Your Side: Laredo City Manager addresses concerns over Laredo Animal Care Services

Published: Oct. 16, 2023 at 11:10 AM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - It’s been a month since Austin Pets Alive! gave its 30-day notice to the City of Laredo.

APA provided veterinary services to the city shelter for roughly eight months but decided to end its contract in September 2023 due to “resistance” it felt from shelter leadership.

According to Laredo City Manager Joe Neeb, it’s his understanding that the city hired APA in an effort to increase the shelter’s live release rates.

APA has a goal of helping shelters get to no-kill through a series of practices, but it seems these practices could not be accomplished with the city’s current capabilities.

According to Neeb, while working with APA, the shelter quickly turned into a clinic for shelter pets which is something the city couldn’t afford.

“What we discovered over the eight-month window with APA was our cost for medications, our cost for running the hospital, of taking care of animals was climbing,” said Neeb. “It was significantly increasing, but we only have “x” number of dollars that are assigned to that budget.”

Neeb said tensions grew between the newly formed partners when the city didn’t immediately implement the non-profit’s recommendations.

“Within the contract, it did not say that the city would implement all of the recommendations provided. They would implement what they could,” he said. “[We said] let us walk through [APA’s] recommendations, let us discover what those recommendations – what the impact of those recommendations will be, and I think that was probably the disconnect between the communication between APA and the City of Laredo.”

APA agreed that was the problem in a statement released in September 2023:

“LACS shifted away from a lifesaving focus and back toward operating a lower capacity for care and lifesaving.”

The city’s animal shelter sees as many as 8,500 dogs and cats per year.

As of October 2023, the shelter had roughly 400 dogs and cats, which is well over its capacity of 330.

Neeb said one of the biggest struggles is the number of pets coming into the shelter.

When KGNS staff toured the shelter, there were three pet surrenders in one hour.

According to shelter staff, there could be up to 20 pet surrenders in one day and no more than a handful of pet adoptions in a week.

City of Laredo Assistant City Manager Steve Landin said if there’s limited shelter space the department will group pets that came into the shelter together or pets in a family unit.

Landin addressed concerns Laredo residents have about the conditions inside the pet kennels.

“The truth of the matter is [the kennels] are being cleaned twice a day and the animals are being fed twice a day,” said Landin. “They eat and they go to the restroom, that is why it’s [cleaned] twice a day, and so ultimately, we can’t have a cleaning person outside of every kennel the whole day.”

Since APA’s departure was announced, local animal advocates have called on the city to terminate the shelter’s director Karina Elizondo.

KGNS asked Neeb what he had to say about it.

“I believe it’s misguided. I believe it’s misplaced,” said Neeb. “I’ve never received any formal request of anything or any grievance from anybody. The conversations we even had with APA was about creating better communication between the two [entities].”

Neeb concluded that it all boiled down to a difference of opinion on how to accomplish the goal of saving animals.

In September, Neeb gave the shelter a directive to get the capacity under control within 60 days.

APA’s services officially ceased in October 2023.

The city is now in contract with the Rio Grande Veterinary Clinic for spay and neutering services.

Neeb has established a guideline of standard operations that the shelter will follow.

On Wednesday, October 18th, Neeb will host a town hall meeting to discuss the shelter’s future. The town hall will take place at the Joe A. Guerra public library multi-purpose room from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

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