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City Introduces Comprehensive Animal Welfare Reform Plan

This article was archived on 12/8/2018

Mayor G.T. Bynum presented a plan to the City Council today to bring efficiencies and further improvements to the City of Tulsa’s Animal Welfare operations and shelter.

Bynum introduced an eight-step guide that would help increase staffing, extend shelter hours, improve conditions and operational efficiency at the shelter, and update the city’s animal ordinances and licensing program, among other items.

“At the City of Tulsa, we’ve made continuous improvement a part of our culture. On any given area, we are always asking ourselves: ‘How can we be better serving the citizens of Tulsa?’”, Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “The reality is that we have a lot of room for improvement in how we handle animal welfare in Tulsa, and the proposals presented today will bring us closer to be the kind of city we aim to be. These improvements to animal welfare will impact not just Tulsa’s animal population, but public safety and quality of life for all Tulsans as well.”

In 2008, the City of Tulsa adopted an ordinance to decrease regional animal intake and euthanasia at the shelter. Since 2009, live release rates, which consist of adoption, returning an animal to the original owner or transferring an animal to another facility, have increased by more than 30 percent. Similarly, euthanasia rates have decreased dramatically for both cats and dogs since 2009. For kittens alone, the euthanasia rate has decreased by 43 percent and the rate decreased by 36 percent for puppies. With additional resources, Animal Welfare will be able to extend programming and implement efficiencies to continue this trend.

Animal Welfare Plan

  1. Staffing – Add five animal control officers, two kennel workers, one supervisory investigator, one veterinary technician and three dispatchers, which will increase field coverage hours by 73 percent and shelter hours by 59 percent. With additional staffing, the primary goals are to lower euthanasia rates and improve higher rates of adoption. Animal Welfare will also focus on increasing rates of spaying and neutering and vaccinations.
  2. Hours of Service – Under the new plan, field services, which handles stray animals, would be extended to 10-hour days, seven days a week. Hours would also be adjusted in winter and summer months to maximize responsiveness. Shelter hours will be expanded and open seven days a week as well. Currently, the shelter is open Monday - Friday, Noon – 6 p.m. and Saturday Noon – 4 p.m.
  3. Animal Shelter Facilities and Operations – The City will engage a consultant to maximize the current shelter space for efficient use and hire supplemental crews for sanitizing and cleaning the facility. The City will also evaluate the opportunity to move up the Phase I shelter expansion project funded by Improve Our Tulsa that was slated for fall 2021 and support Phase II expansion in a renewal of the Improve Our Tulsa program.
  4. Data and Innovation – The City has entered into a partnership with the Bloomberg Philanthropies and Harvard City Leadership Initiative to guide the City through a nine-month innovation track program to create and design innovative technical approaches to build a stronger animal welfare system. Through this partnership, national experts and technical assistance will be provided to focus exclusively on animal welfare. Staff will also create a mechanism to update, maintain, and publish current data on the scope of challenges, opportunities, and outcomes for Tulsa Animal Welfare.
  5. Online Licensing – All pet owners are required to pay a pet license fee within the city limits. Currently, the licensing fee must be paid via mail or in-person at City Hall. By the end of the fiscal year (June 30), the City plans to offer pet licensing online to improve compliance rates.
  6. Comprehensive Animal Ordinance Overhaul – For the past year, City legal staff and animal advocates have been reviewing outdated ordinances as it relates to animals. The City will introduce best practices and adjust dated ordinances as it relates to ownership in the coming months.
  7. Education and Outreach – Develop and implement a full-scale outreach and education campaign to improve compliance with animal welfare adoptions, regulations, spaying and neutering, vaccinations, and other aspects of responsible pet ownership.
  8. Accountability – A five-member advisory board will be formed to provide oversight, advice, and advocacy to improve the care of all animals at Tulsa Animal Welfare. The Animal Welfare Commission will be led by former Mayor Susan Savage and will help develop policy and focus on educational support and opportunities for responsible pet ownership as well as help with pet overpopulation and animal control efforts. The board will have to be adopted by the Tulsa City Council.

Mayor Bynum plans to present a budget amendment in the following weeks to begin implementing the animal welfare plan. The City intends to extend the shelter hours and have more staffing in place by the first quarter of 2019.