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  • Kimberly Parsons

Paddling Along - Advocacy

Ever watch a bunch of ducks on a pond? They look so placid and serene, gliding along, often in formation. So peaceful, so calm. Just sailing along. But underneath the water? Their feet are going a mile a minute!


FOJA is run entirely by volunteers and just like those ducks, we've been paddling like mad to get where we need to be.



One of our many projects has been participating in the City of Jefferson's efforts to deal with the stray animal issue. The City announced they would be discussing this issue at their Council meeting this past month and every member of our board was present to hear what folks had to say. Sharon Goolsby, our secretary-treasurer, was our designated spokesperson that night and was allowed to address the Council, attendees, and at-home viewers. She shared a bit about what we have managed to accomplish and also offered FOJA's assistance as they work on finding a solution.


The meeting adjourned without any decisions being made - this was on the agenda as a discussion item only. A further meeting is in the works, but with council members traveling, that date has not been set.


Primarily, FOJA was at this meeting to listen. Like a good little student, I took copious notes.


Following the meeting, I crafted a letter in response in my capacity as president of FOJA. With the board's blessing, I paddled my way around town to every member of the council and to our mayor. I was able to speak individually with several of our council members, all of whom were positive and welcoming. One took a break from yard work to speak with me, one invited me to their home where they were busy working on family projects. One took time between parent taxi duties to meet and discuss, and one invited me to their place of business during their work day. I sincerely appreciated their willingness to chat with me, their candor and honest questions, and the ability to share our experiences, knowledge, and the chance to clear up any misunderstandings.


Even before talking with these folks, I was confident that every person wants a good outcome for the animals and my conversations only confirmed that. I am optimistic that, going forward, workable solutions will be found. They may be interim solutions, but we are headed in the right direction.


Now, I'd like to share the text of that letter with you. Just like ducks, you can't always see every single thing we are doing - but, we are busy - paddling away, and doing what we can to make things better for the animals and people in our area. Thank you for your support in our endeavors and please, stay tuned for more updates and consider donating today if you can. We can do nothing without your contributions.


*****

July 17, 2019


Via Electronic and/or Hand Delivery


Charles "Bubba" Haggard

David Westbrook

Jim Finstrom

Shawn Humphrey

Tyrani Braddock

Kay McKinnon

Victor Perot


A Brief In Re: Animal Control Proposal


Dear Mayor, Alderwomen, and Aldermen:


I am the president of Friends of Jefferson Animals and I attended last night's meeting along with Jimmy Moore and Steve Woodson. Together with Sharon Goolsby, we are the board of directors for FOJA. Thank you for listening to Sharon's remarks and for all you do for our city. It is a stressful and often thankless task and I appreciate your willingness to serve us all. My goal is to provide you with some additional information as well as respond to some of the ideas presented to you last night. Please know that I understand and believe that no one wants animals to suffer and I am confident that you support their humane treatment. I also appreciate that you have to work with the resources you have available.


I. Regarding Friends of Jefferson Animals (FOJA)

A. We are a 501(c)3 properly registered with all applicable authorities.

B. We hold regular board meetings, keep proper minutes, and follow best practices for non-profit organizations including an annual audit. No cash transactions are allowed and two signatures are required on every check.

C. We ensured the balance of the initial veterinary bill for the rescued dogs was paid in full - $13,000.00-plus. All accounts with area veterinary services are in good standing.

D. Just 5 of 51 animals remain in our care. We are paying for the treatment of 3 heart worm positive dogs in foster care as well as the ongoing needs of those 5 animals that foster families are not able to pay themselves.

E. We field almost daily calls and messages about lost and stray pets, including calls from the Jefferson Police Department. In most cases involving animals found in the city limits, owners or temporary fosters have been found.

F. We have a robust social media presence. Nearly 700 people watched our live video about low-cost services at Animal Protection League this Monday. Social media has proven a very effective way to find owners, fosters, and adopters.

G. We have plans to help alleviate the feral cat problem in the city. We hosted an informational meeting about Trap Neuter Return programs and are working to begin the first group in the fall. (For the safety of the animals, this program is best begun in cooler weather.) This program will reduce the number of cats over time in as humane a way as possible.

H. We are planning a series of free-to-the-community educational meetings to encourage spay/neuter, parasite prevention, micro-chipping and proper containment of pets, general pet wellness and more.


II. Regarding how FOJA would like to help with the temporary fix proposed last night.

A. Purchase a chip-scanning device and scan animals impounded by city personnel.

B. Photograph/videograph impounded animals and share via our social media and rescue contacts in hopes of finding the owner or a willing foster/adopter or rescue.

C. Help provide the best accommodations and care possible for impounded pets. I have a general contractor friend who has done numerous commercial facilities, both new construction and retro-fitted, who is willing to look at sites and structures to help the city make the best decision possible using available resources.

D. Provide information and support to you during your decision-making process and beyond regarding animal care, pet overpopulation, stray animals, and other issues related to companion animals in the city.

III. Regarding support for ideas presented last night.

A. The animals do need to be cared for twice daily. Thank you, Kay, for addressing that. We support the idea that this must be a city employee. Relying entirely on volunteers creates the possibility for another situation like the collapse of HSMC/DHS.

B. We also support the hiring or training of a current officer to serve as an animal control officer as mentioned by Chief Amburn. That is a very specific skill-set and for the safety of the public, the animal, and the officer such training is essential.

C. We also support the general idea of using whatever can be safely salvaged from the Humane Society of Marion County site as suggested by Shawn. Using limited resources wisely is a must.

D. We also support the idea that adoptable animals should be marketed as widely as possible to spare them from euthanasia if at all possible.

E. We support the suggestion that owners pay a fee to reclaim their animal and it is true that they are required by law to show proof of rabies vaccination or pay for rabies vaccination at the time of reclaim.


However, some of the ideas presented to you last night need clarification.


IV. Regarding the site for the temporary impound.

The use of the Humane Society of Marion County/Dixie Humane Society is problematic in several ways.

A. It does not belong to the city. Leasing or renting the property may create issues regarding access, use, liability, and ownership of improvements.

B. It is likely a health and environmental hazard due to years of improper sanitation as well as the likely burial of dead animals, cause and manner of death unknown. There are numerous disease-causing organisms that thrive for years in soil and concrete including the Parvo virus which is highly contagious and often deadly to dogs. Most, if not all, of the animals recovered from that site were suffering from intestinal parasites and at least one had liver flukes which are blood-borne. Without an environmental assessment and, possibly, depending on the findings, removal of sources of pathogens or toxins from any chemicals used to euthanize animals, that site is likely unfit for animals or humans.

C. If you have a large space, you will likely fill a large space. As they say, "If you build it, they will come." It also costs more to heat and cool and more time to clean properly.

D. The optics are terrible. What happened there was tragic and sending animals there once more is a bit like building a daycare center at Alcatraz or a senior center at Auschwitz.

We suggest the city move forward with plans to use the land near the water treatment plant as proposed by Mayor Haggard or other tracts that may be available. Whatever property is chosen, we agree that it must be owned by the city, have water and electric, be convenient to personnel, and at a reasonable distance from residents. Again, we have people ready and willing to help you research and assess properties.


V. Regarding the construction of an impound.

I urge you to visit the website below created by the Texas Department of Health and Health Services It clearly and succinctly states legal requirements for counties based on size and includes links to information about best practices for animal shelters in the State of Texas.

https://www.dshs.texas.gov/idcu/health/zoonosis/animal/control/shelters/information/requirements/


In a perfect world, someone would write a check to fund a full-fledged, proper shelter and its annual maintenance. We understand that Daingerfield's 20-kennel shelter cost $250K and that annual expenses are around $90K. We know there are individuals who can write such checks, including charitable foundations, and we could possibly help in researching available funding sources. If the county would cooperate and provide funding commensurate with the number of animals that come from outside the city limits, that would also be helpful. But something must be done in the interim. We suggest the following.


A. Have a new slab poured, wired, and plumbed of appropriate slope for drainage and seal it to help prevent the spread of disease.

B. If possible, construct what is called a "vet shed" to provide locked storage, a restroom, an area for cats/exams, covered areas for 4-5 holding kennels plus a separate shaded area for recreation and for potential foster/adopters to interact with animals. I have attached photographs of one such vet shed. This structure was retrofitted on an existing slab by my general contractor friend.

C. If it is not financially feasible to build a new structure, perhaps one of the larger outbuildings from the original site can be moved, stripped down, and refinished. Again, my friend is willing to evaluate the cost of retrofitting any such structure.


VI. Regarding transports of animals out of state.

This it is not as easy as it was presented to you last night. It is indeed possible, but in the last seven months, FOJA has contacted a number of groups about transporting animals to out-of-state adoptions including groups Missy DeLong urged us to contact and to date, not a single one has had room nor interest in any of the available dogs unless we find a foster for one of their available animals. Groups that do transport adoptions often do not want large, mixed-breed, adult dogs and these are the kinds of strays we get most often in the area.


Additionally:

A. Transport typically costs between $175-$275 per animal based on weight and distance.

B. Animals must be fully vetted before transport - i.e. spayed/neutered, vaccinated, current on parasite prevention, and heart worm negative. Cost for these services is between $140-$1000+ per dog depending on heart worm status. Heart worm positive animals present some extra challenges which vary depending on treatment method. The fastest (and most expensive) method still requires months of limited activity, and the most cost-effective takes a year or longer.

C. Ten days before transport, all animals must be examined by a veterinarian and certified as healthy and fit for travel. The exam and certificate are an additional expense.


VII. Regarding incentivizing rescues to take animals with a $100 stipend.

This, too, is possible, but again, it is not easy. One hundred dollars is generally not enough to off-set a rescue's costs for taking in an animal and getting it ready for adoption. We reached out to numerous regional and breed rescues offering financial incentives over the past 7+ months - including rescues mentioned by Laura Romine and Missy DeLong last night - and only one animal was saved this way. It also cost us more than $100.


VIII. Regarding Shawn's questions: Why now? Why do we care now?

I personally did not concern myself with oversight of HSMC/DHS previously because I assumed my fellow citizens were doing their due diligence to properly oversee it. Like many of you, I don't check up on the Garden Club, the cemetery board, the baseball board, the Boy Scouts or any of the other organizations in town. No one checked up on the Friends of the Library board when I was serving. People trusted that I and the others on that board were doing things right. We all make our donations to various causes and assume that all is well. Generally, we all trust our friends and neighbors who have committed to oversee these organizations to do what they promised to do. Obviously, that trust was horribly misplaced in the case of the HSMC/DHS. My leadership of FOJA, our family's contributions of time, money, skills, and other resources, as well as our adoption of one of the dogs is our way of setting things right. This brief and continuing to show up when these matters are discussed are part of that, too.


In conclusion, the best way to deal with the lost and stray pet problem in our area is to have fewer unwanted pets and to encourage pet owners to keep their pets contained. FOJA will continue our work regarding both of those issues as well as caring for the dogs who survived HSMC/DHS and are waiting for forever homes. If we can assist the city as you move forward with this temporary fix, we would be happy to do so. We would sincerely appreciate a seat at this table. We have demonstrated our organizational and fundraising ability, our commitment and follow-through, and we have done every single thing we said we would do and more. We have and continue to put in the hard work, to learn all we can, to share our resources, and to look out for the animals' best interests. All we ask from you is to be part of your decision-making process and part of the solution.


Please feel free to get in touch with me at the number or email below if you have further questions. I am more than happy to speak with you individually or collectively. The city can't solve this problem on its own - and neither can FOJA.


Sincerely,

Kimberly Parsons

President, Friends of Jefferson Animals

[REDACTED PERSONAL INFORMATION]


cc: Sharon Goolsby, Jimmy Moore, Steve Woodson


A vet shed built on an existing slab. Two shaded areas.

Two rooms adjoin an open breezeway. One is typically a restroom/storage. The other could be a cattery/exam room.





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