The City of Lufkin is evaluating additional changes at Kurth Memorial Animal Services (KMAS) after receiving recommendations from a consultant this week.
Earlier this year, the City hired Susan Feingold, a private animal services consultant with more than 15 years of director-level experience, to evaluate KMAS operations. In February, Feingold performed a three-day, on-site visit after reviewing KMAS records and interviewing staff and volunteers. Yesterday the City received Feingold’s report.
“We were made aware of the community’s concern and desire to see improvements at Kurth Memorial Animal Services, which is why we hired Ms. Feingold,” Mayor Mark Hicks said. “Though proactive changes are already happening, the receipt of this report marks a new chapter in our efforts to improve the lives of our homeless animal population.”
The 153-page report identified challenges faced by KMAS including the “extremely high rate of intake relative to the low population” which equates to an average of 50 animals impounded per 1,000 Angelina County residents. For comparison, Houston has an average of 8.4 animals impounded per 1,000 residents, while Burke County, North Carolina, with a population like Angelina County, saw 19 animals per 1,000 residents.
“The extremely high rate of intake at (KMAS) relative to the low population illustrates a dire need for low cost and free spay/neuter programs in the community,” Feingold wrote. “It also displays the extreme financial burden on the small City of Lufkin since it must support a shelter operation that in other areas of the country might be serving a population of 400,000 – 500,000 residents. In addition, the City is currently providing sheltering services for the residents of the County and other contracted cities without anywhere near adequate financial compensation from those jurisdictions.”
Feingold went on to make recommendations in the following areas:
- Revised cleaning method and best practices to allow the use of more holding areas equating to fewer animals euthanized due to space concerns
- Additional staff and re-evaluation of current staff duties and schedules
- Updated standard operating procedures
- Improved staff training on KMAS software for more accurate record keeping
- Better intake process to limit disease potential and ensure a calmer intake atmosphere
- Revised feeding schedule for puppies, kittens, and underweight animals
- Updated euthanasia procedures including pre-sedation for aggressive animals
- Veterinary assessment for animals on a three-day stray hold (previously only performed for animals with life-threatening injury or illness)
- Enhanced marketing efforts of adoptable animals by the staff
- Improvements in KMAS facility layout and design
With council approval, the City plans to dedicate more than $680,000 of capital improvement funds to a facility renovation which will likely enter an initial planning phase later this year. Using Feingold’s recommendations, the City can ensure the renovation will serve KMAS for years to come, according to City Manager Kevin Gee.
“While the safety and welfare of our citizens is our primary concern, we are also committed to providing the best outcome for animals at our center,” Gee said. “As you are aware, both must be balanced by responsible expenditures. Based on Ms. Feingold’s report, it is evident we need expert help to get the most benefit from our use of public funds.”
With a commitment to refocus KMAS’s mission from “animal control” to “animal services,” the City began implementing changes prior to receiving Feingold’s report starting with the hiring of Interim Director Morgan Williams and Program and Rescue Coordinator Leslie Anders.
“We believe that Morgan and Leslie have complimentary skill sets and upon combining their knowledge and experience, they will bring fresh ideas that better address the challenges unique to our community,” Asst. City Manager Gerald Williamson said.
How to Help
In the coming months, the City will be rolling out several new ways to make a difference in the lives of animals awaiting their forever homes. One such improvement will include a revised volunteer program ensuring best practices and more effective communication between KMAS staff and volunteers.
Williams said she will soon start an Amazon wish list as well so the community can stay apprised of KMAS needs. The community can keep up with changes and ways to get involved through Facebook and Instagram so like and follow Kurth Memorial Animal Services.
KMAS also welcomes donations whether they be monetary, items like pet food, toys, and bedding, or even free or discounted veterinary services. Any local veterinarian who is looking to impact the high population of homeless pets can contact Williams at 936-633-0218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Report available here.