DALLAS –- The fight to save our four-legged residents in Dallas is heating up.
“We've said it a hundred times,” said Dallas City Councilman Rick Callahan during Wednesday’s meeting. “We have an epidemic. We have a crisis.”
He said the only way the City Council is going to solve the problems at Dallas Animal Services (DAS) is by funding the program fully.
“Not the partial program [and] not just throwing chump change at the problem,” he said. “We need to fund these improvements.”
Animals are getting a lot of attention in the strained budget battle.
Mayor Mike Rawlings is proposing trimming dollars from public safety, which makes up 60 percent of next year’s proposed $1.2 billion budget. The Council is not cutting cash from Dallas Animal Service, but right now it’s not pumping more dollars in, either.
“If we were to find some sort of additional money this year in this budget, would y'all be looking for the same amount of money in the following budget?” Councilman Dwaine Caraway asked.
Adoptions at DAS have soared nearly 360 percent over the last seven years, while the budget is up eight percent.
“The Association of Shelter Veterinarians standards require a minimum of 15 minutes of staff time to provide the most basic care for animals,” said Operation Kindness CEO Jim Hanophy during public comment. “DAS is currently understaffed to even meet that program.”
Several animal advocates are petitioning for funding “enhancements” to the shelter's services.
“I'll say it again what I've been saying for months –- these are not 'enhancements,'” said Council member Sandy Greyson. “These are necessities in our budget.”
DAS operations manager Dr. Catherine McManus explained what programs and services could fall on the chopping block.
“Funding the staffing for the everyday adoption center –- which is our off-site adoption center up in North Dallas –- and also doing some maintenance on the building, which hasn't really been put in the budget before,” she said.
Between 75 and 100 new animals arrive at the Dallas shelter daily. Officials there want to make sure the cash crunch doesn’t mean they turn any pets away.
“We're saving more lives now than we ever have,” McManus said.
The budget conversation will continue on Thursday, when the city’s Animal Shelter Commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall.
It will be August before we find out how the budget shakes out.