A new city animal shelter on the north side, a full-time veterinarian and vet techs to staff it, and more animal control officers are all on the wish list for the city of St. Louis in the second phase of its new animal control strategy.
The administration of Mayor Francis Slay sent a document outlining the latest part of the "Animal Control Transformation Implementation Plan" to aldermen today. The goals are exactly the same as ones outlined in a controversial resolution introduced last Friday, but the document includes details for implementing them.
The plan calls for the city to retrofit and lease a building on West Florissant. The work to turn it into an animal control facility will cost about $300,000, which health director Pamela Rice Walker wants to take from the city capital fund. Funds for the lease ($50,000 a year), a full-time vet ($80,000 a year), supplies for the new kennel ($30,000 a year) and a shelter in place program that gives low-income families the supplies they need to keep a pet ($30,000 a year) will come from within the health department budget.
But Walker says about $220,000 will have to come from other budget sources. That includes the funds for the two new animal control officers ($84,000 a year), vet technicians to staff the new facility ($88,000 a year) and a public information officer to manage a new lost pet registry, assist with adoptions, and promote educational programs ($55,000 a year).
Walker says the current system - a partnership with the non-profits Stray Rescue and Animal House Fund - is an okay solution if the money doesn't come through.
"But in an sincere attempt to address some of the concerns that have been raised, we need to expand our holding capacity, we need to expand our visibility in the field, and we need to do some public education," she said.
And Walker says she knows that the $712,000 effort won't be enough for some people.
"It's not going to be something that we fix tomorrow to everyone's ideal," Walker said. "We don't have the money. St. Louis County spent $4.9 million opening a new shelter, and they added another $1.2 million to their operating budget. The city of St. Louis just does not have the capacity right now."
Walker says she hopes to present her budget requests to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment this month. She'd like to get the new shelter open by February, as the old one on Gasconade will not meet the new animal care standards set to take in January.
The always hot-button issue of animal control has gotten tangled in the likely politics of the 2013 mayoral election. Walker says she's doing her best to stay above that fray.
"An emotionally charged issue in an election year gets a lot of attention," Walker said. "I really try to stay out of those, and I don't question people's motives and I don't question their sincerity. I sincerely try to hear their concerns and address them when I get them. The political stuff? They're going to have to resolve on their own."