FORT WORTH – When Humane Society investigator Shelly Meeks arrived at a trailer home earlier this month, she found 91 cats inside, many of which were malnourished.
Poring over photos of overflowing litter boxes and floors dotted with feces on Monday, Meeks described the cats as "extremely thin" and "sick." Some suffered respiratory infections.
The investigator said the trailer was an overwhelmed cat rescue operation.
"It's hard to say no when you've got somebody on the other end of the line saying we're going to put it down," Meeks said. The operator voluntarily gave up the sickest cats and agreed to improve conditions for the rest.
Meeks, and other HSNT officials, say Fort Worth deserves much of the blame for releasing large numbers of animals to rescue organizations without frequent follow ups, including ones her organization warned about. The criticism stung animal control officials.
"This particular organization, I know we've done nine inspections in the last six months," said assistant code compliance director Scott Hanlan.
Hanlan says the city decided to stop releasing to the rescue after an inspection in August.
"It would take a lot more staff than we have right now to do monthly, quarterly, whatever checks," he adds.
Fort Worth gets national recognition for reducing the amount of animals it euthanizes by increasing adoptions. In the last three years city has raised its live release rate from 30 percent to more than 60 percent. But the shelter still takes in 20,000 animals a year.
Both sides say they want to work together for the sake of the animals. Hanlan says he's offered to meet with the society's board. He says the shelter faces tough choices every day and, to some degree, has to trust its rescue partners who save animals and try to get them adopted.
He says shelter workers face a tough question daily: "Are you going to work with this rescue group, or euthanize that animal?"
Cruelty investigator Shelly Meeks says the city needs to do a better job making sure animals are released into good conditions.
"Nobody wants to euthanize an animal," she says, again looking at the photos of the trailer shelter. "But if this is the alternative, I'll take euthanize."