A recently released audit of KC Animal Health and Public Safety, a division of the Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department, highlighted areas for improvement in the city’s animal services. The 50-page report includes 17 specific recommendations related to five topics:
- Improving the working relationship between Animal Health and Public Safety (AHPS) and the KC Pet Project (KCPP)
- Establishing a process for stakeholders to develop the city’s vision for animal care and control
- Remediating animal code violations and documenting investigations consistently
- Analyzing performance data to provide accountability and assist in managing resources
- Providing consistent and ongoing training [for Animal Control Officers]
A key focus of the report is the relationship between AHPS and KCPP, the organization that manages the city’s animal shelters. This public-private relationship is described as strained in the report, which cites a high level of tension and non-productive communication between the organizations. The report concludes that “AHPS and KCPP are partners in delivering the city’s animal care and control but a tense relationship, poor communication, and a lack of trust interfere with their ability to collaborate.”
The report also criticizes the focus of AHPS on enforcement and citations, and recommends an approach that is centered on educating owners about responsible pet ownership and providing access to resources, where possible. The current focus on impoundment of animals may not always meet the goals of animal health and welfare and public safety, according to the report summary. About 2/3 of animals impounded for cruelty/neglect are never reclaimed by their owners, and these owners are not educated on responsible pet ownership. This may allow the cycle of abuse and neglect to continue when these owners obtain new pets.
During a September 27 meeting of the Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee, representatives from AHPS were on hand to comment (see the full discussion here). Patrick Egberuare, Manager, AHPS, pointed out that many of the problems cited in the audit, such as lack of follow-up and poor documentation of cases, are related to the high volume of calls received and insufficient staffing. The department receives about 16,000 calls per year, and currently has only 10 Animal Control Officers in the field. He gave examples of the ways that these officers have made significant, positive contributions to animal welfare and public safety in Kansas City, and stated that these contributions most often go unremarked. He pointed out the high volume of calls from underserved areas of the community, where animals may well be the sole source of companionship and protection for the elderly, and where families may not have the resources to adequately care for their pets. In these areas, AHPS works with Spay and Neuter Kansas City to provide food and other necessities for pets, in the interest of keeping pets with their owners.
AHPS acknowledged the poor relationship with KCPP and committed to improving communication with the group, in addition to working towards meeting the remaining recommendations of the audit. A follow-up presentation will be made to the committee in six months. KCPP was not at the meeting, and did not respond to a request for comment.