By Taylor Short
The Cove Herald
Animal advocates showed the Copperas Cove Animal Shelter Advisory Committee their claws Tuesday night, hoping to improve the tense relationship between the city and rescue organizations.
Rescue groups and individuals argued that city animal shelter policies prevent them from being able to take on many animals before the animals are euthanized, while committee representatives said the shelter is just following the language of a city ordinance on adoption, transfer and euthanization at the shelter.
Mike Heintzelman, deputy police chief and committee chair, began the meeting by addressing what he called rumors that the city and the animal shelter have consciously blocked animal rescue groups from adopting animals. He presented the city ordinance that says shelters can only waive the adoption fee for rescue groups if the city council approves.
"If (the council) wants to waive the fee for adoption to humane groups, that's their business and we don't care about it. We just don't want to violate any ordinance," he said.
The ordinance states that after the three-day waiting period for owners to pick up an impounded animal expires, "the animal control officer shall, without further notice and without advertising in any manner, place the animal for adoption, transfer, or give the animal to a nonprofit humane organization as authorized by city council."
Heintzelman said the committee attempted to clean up the language of the ordinance at the Dec. 1 city council meeting, but no action was taken on the item.
The dozens of animal rescuers in attendance - some associated with non-profits, some as individuals - took issue with the $15 adoption fee, saying that is money they could put towards grooming and health care bills for the animals.
Attendees Ruth Wedergren, Lynn Gilliard and Michaela Ramos also expressed frustration with the outdated photos and information about adoptable animals on the city Web site.
The committee said that the ordinance prohibits the shelter from advertising pets for adoption in any way after the three-day period,
Committee member and veterinarian Dr. Kevin Kruse said in his experience, many rescue groups do not get animals vaccinated in the required time frame.
Killeen animal control supervisor Stacie Sherva attended the meeting and said she disagreed with half of what the committee said in the meeting.
Sherva said the Pflugerville animal control went through massive changes and that Copperas Cove should model its department after them.
She also said rescue groups can be helpful in getting animals adopted that would otherwise be put down.
"Rescue groups on more than one occasion in my 22 years have saved my butt," Sherva said. "If I've needed them to come out and help me because I just picked up a hoarding incident and I've got to house 50 animals, I call rescue groups and they take them to their homes."
Sherva said it costs her $37.50 to euthanize a dog in Killeen, but costs nothing if the dog can be transferred to a group or individual that can provide sufficient references from other shelters, organizations or veterinarians.
George Fox with the Assisi Animal Refuge in Killeen mirrored Sherva and the attendee's comments, suggesting that the language be taken out requiring the city council to approve organizations before allowing them to adopt animals.
"There's no reason why the animal control supervisor can't decide, based on established, reasonable standards, who we're going to do business with," he said.
As people filtered out of the meeting, some thanked the committee for hearing their complaints and Heintzelman said the committee would relay the concerns to City Manager Andrea Gardner for further action with the city council.