The Million Dollar Dog House

By Amanda Smith

“We don’t need to build a million dollar dog house.”

This statement gets thrown around a lot in connection with the proposed animal shelter; the implication being that we are building something to benefit pets and not people. However, a municipal animal shelter doesn’t serve animals. It serves humans. In addition to reuniting people with lost pets and getting dangerous dogs off the streets, there are many things animal control officers do that some of us may never see. They capture snakes and other wildlife in people’s homes, remove dead animals from the roads, rescue animals trapped under houses or in wells, send decapitated heads to the state lab for rabies testing, and much more. Their job is dirty, dangerous, and thankless.

Over thirty years ago, through a combination of research and trial and error, it had already been learned that by building and operating animal shelters differently, better results were achieved. The results included better working conditions for employees, better outcomes for the animals, and better services for the public. This led to a revolution in the design and operation of new shelters and the demolition of the old-style “dog pounds” that were the norm when the Marshall Shelter was built 50 years ago.

Experience showed that it was not only more humane to save animal lives than to end them, it was actually less expensive. This is part of the reason that the average U. S. shelter is now about 15 years old. Some states are still behind the curve on this, with Texas being one of the worst in terms of euthanasia rates. Think of that for a moment. Texas is one of the states with the highest kill rates to begin with, and we have the oldest and one of the highest kill rate shelters in this state. It doesn’t speak well of Marshall.

Another of the drivers of change came from recognition of the toll that shelter work was taking on employees, including depression and PTSD, and this issue is even more urgent than the stain on our city’s image. We have animal control officers – police department employees – whose job it is to protect and to serve us, and we are not giving them the work environment they deserve. 

Ironically, one part of the job is responsible for both the greatest emotional rewards and the deepest despair for shelter workers – dealing with homeless pets, including the constant requirement to kill healthy companion animals. We should, at the very least, try to lessen the burden they must bear for slaughtering healthy animals.   

Some argue that the cost of a low-kill shelter is too high. By comparison, the police department and fire station facilities cost $2.5 million each, over 10 years ago. Like them, the animal shelter is a municipal facility that is responsible for a core function of city government. A low-kill shelter can be built today for half the cost of just one of those. It isn’t a fancy dog house. It is a special-purpose government building that is intended to serve our community for decades to come. 

We need to build with the future in mind, and to place the welfare of the people who will be working there at the forefront of our thoughts. Could you do their job? Most of us couldn’t. Why would we expect them to live with the cheapest and least effective thing that can be built? Why not follow the example of other cities and do it right? To do it right, we must build what is needed. 

Most cities the size of Marshall are spending $2 to $3 million (or more) to build low-kill animal shelters. They have tight budgets too, but they realize that it’s important build what experts know they need to succeed. If Marshall builds a low-kill shelter for $1.2 million dollars it will be the least expensive facility of its kind built in a decade in this state.

So, when people say we don’t need to build a million dollar dog house, the answer is that we are not. We are building an effective and modern animal control facility. Our animal control officers would much rather be saving animals than killing them, and with the right facility that can be the normal outcome.

Another outcome of building the right facility lies in the ability to attract volunteers and donors, and to qualify for grants. A high-kill shelter won’t offer those benefits. It’s cheaper to build a slaughterhouse than a place of salvation but which one will make Marshall proud? And in the end which makes the most economic sense – save some money in building costs up front, but lose millions in grant and donor revenue over the life of the building? 

The answer is obvious, and that’s why for most of the last three decades cities across the country have embraced the low-kill paradigm and built shelters where lives are saved more than they are taken. It’s the ethically and economically sensible thing to do.

Sometimes making the responsible choice requires looking ahead. It’s time to look ahead, Marshall. We are not building a shelter for today. We are building an animal control facility that will serve our community for decades to come. Let’s get it right.

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Importance of a Community Animal Shelter

This is the full text of the Guest Column published on Wednesday in the Marshall News Messenger  

By Katie Jarl (Dec 26, 2018)

For more than six years, Marshall has been trying to determine what to do about its antiquated, 50-year-old animal shelter. Several years ago, I visited the shelter in Marshall myself. In my position as the Texas Senior State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, I have visited many shelters, and Marshall’s is one of the saddest and most outdated facilities I’ve encountered. It really is a relic from the past that is incapable of functioning to today’s standards. It should have been replaced decades ago. Unfortunately, it’s still in use because of arguments over money. Specifically, how much to invest.


I would like to make a point that many may not have considered but relates to the financial welfare of your community for years to come.
If you build the cheapest facility you can, you may end up losing huge amounts of money over the lifetime of the new shelter.

Why is that?


Most shelters rely heavily on grant funding.
National and local organizations are on the lookout for innovative programs and offer grants to shelters that are succeeding on various metrics or are capable of meeting the needs of the communities that they serve.


A while back, I saw two of the plans being considered; Scheme P and Scheme U.


The smaller plan (P) would struggle to meet these standards because it would be inadequate from the day it opened its doors.


It was only 1,000 square feet larger than your current 1,475 square foot shelter.


The other plan (U) had the capacity to serve your region and potentially achieve low-kill status.


At just over a million dollars, it was still quite inexpensive but would likely attract grant funding and would be seen by those on the outside as a sign of serious commitment by the local community.


If Marshall had built an adequate new shelter years ago, the town could have had several years of grant funding already in the shelter’s coffers.

This amount is lost forever now due to the delays, but if you spend enough to build the right kind of shelter, Marshall’s people and animals will benefit from this.


If you do not build a facility that meets your needs and is up to today’s standards, that money, and more importantly the lives of so many animals, will be lost to you forever.


Attempting to save money by under-building will cost you untold sums in the future.


I’ve seen communities make this mistake before and regret it.
Don’t be one of them. Build your shelter with the future in mind.
You aren’t building something for the next five years.


If history is any gauge you may be building it for the next fifty. Choose wisely.

————

Katie Jarl


Katie Jarl is the Texas Senior State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.

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80 Dogs Face Crisis Weekend; Humane Society Calls For Emergency Assistance From Community

By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute Editor

Newly minted vice president of the local humane society, Missy DeLong, issued a plea late Friday for help to rescue the 80 dogs at the organization’s shelter from the wet winter weather conditions expected this weekend.

Former President Caroline Wedding is no longer associated with what is known as the Dixie Humane Society, both Wedding and members of the Society’s board say.

“This is an emergency situation,” DeLong said in a telephone interview.

Dogs at the Humane Society’s shelter east of Jefferson were seen Friday with up to an inch of rain water in pens with excrement and wet blankets on the floors. In several cases tarps over the tops of pens were filled with water and appeared about ready to collapse on dogs underneath.

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OPINION: TICK TOCK

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By Ron Munden – November 21, 2018

On November 15, 2018, I wrote an article titled: OPINION: THE GANG THAT CAN’T SHOOT STRAIGHT HAS NOT IMPROVED THEIR AIM. The “gang” is the Marshall City Commissioners and the “can’t shoot straight” refers to their inability to hire a city manager.

Sadly, I must report that things are not improving. They are getting worse if that is possible. The Commissioners have been working on this for eight months. Their first attempt failed completely, and they started over. Based on what I have been finding out, their second attempt may be headed for another failure. If this happens it will be completely the fault of these Commissioners.

Of course, the City Commission has chosen to not keep the public informed on their progress. Why let the citizens know what is happening?

I have learned that the Commission met on November 14 and narrowed the list of candidates and agreed to hold interviews. It is all good but now the bad part. They agreed to hold interviews on December 3. This is still good, BUT the Commissioners decided not to interview all the candidates the same day. I can only assume that they did this because some of the Commissioners don’t have the endurance to work a full day.

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OPINION: MEMORIAL CITY HALL IS BEHIND SCHEDULE AND THERE WILL BE A COST OVERRUN

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By Ron Munden – October 29, 2018

Its almost official. For years City Staff has painted a rosy picture of the status of the MCH renovation project and the current City Commissioners along with other commissioners have been eating it up like peach ice cream – never taking the time to ask any hard questions. The current City Commissioners have spent most of their time patting themselves on the back and telling people how great a job the City is doing managing the project. It’s been a good run for bowing and hand waving, but it looks like the chickens are about to come home to roost.

Last Thursday night Acting City Manager Jack Redman came very close to saying, “The MCH project is behind schedule and there is going to be a cost overrun.”

Commissioner Calhoun said something to the effect, ” If there is a cost overrun, who will pay for the cost over-run?”

Mr. Redmon said, “The City.” I assume he means the City’s general fund.

The current City Commissioners have already cut the street maintenance budget to give the city employees a big pay raise and include money in the 2019 budget for a bike trail and a splash pool. Where will the money come from to cover the MCH cost overrun? Will the street maintenance budget take another hit? Will water bills go up again?

How bad are the problems?

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OPINION: THE ROBOTS ARE COMING

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By Ron Munden – October 22, 2018

Today there is lots of talk about 7000 immigrants from Central America walking through Mexico and headed to the U.S. border. People are afraid these people are coming to take our jobs. Fortunately, the President has promised to protect our jobs from these invaders.

I am confident that this nation will get through this event and it will have no significant impact on the citizens of this country.

These are not the invaders that concern me. The invaders that concern me will be coming by the millions and will have a major impact on American jobs. They will change society from what we have today.

The invaders that concerns me are ROBOTS. I fear that we are a nation that is not preparing for impact of the robot invasion.

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OPINION: MARSHALL CAN’T – HIRE A CITY MANAGER

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By Ron Munden — ron@easttexasexposed.com — October 16, 2018

On August 27, 20i8 I wrote an article titled “Marshall Can’t”. In the article I listed items that Marshall continually failed to accomplish. Today I add another item to the list of things that Marshall just can’t seem to do – HIRE A CITY MANAGER.

Of course, this problem is entirely the responsibility of the current City Commission. The City Commission’s work on this task has been done in the dark and to my knowledge the City Commission has not provided periodic updates to the public on their progress. I think I know why. There has been very little progress.

 
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