San Antonio Animal Care Services declines to hire permanent director after national search

Civil engineer and longtime city employee Michael Shannon will serve as ACS's interim director while staff figures out its next steps.

click to enlarge Animal Care Services has been under intense scrutiny since a series of grisly dog attacks rocked San Antonio. - Michael Karlis
Michael Karlis
Animal Care Services has been under intense scrutiny since a series of grisly dog attacks rocked San Antonio.
Well, back to the drawing board.

San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh has opted not to hire any of the 74 candidates who applied via a national search to take over as permanent director of the city's troubled Animal Care Services department, officials said Monday.

Instead, Walsh appointed Michael Shannon, director of San Antonio's Development Services Department, as interim ACS director. Staff will continue working to land a permanent leader for the department, city officials said.

Word of the Shannon's selection comes after animal advocates demanded the city hire an outsider following a string of high-profile dog attacks that grabbed headlines and drew scrutiny to the department's lack of staffing.

"I appreciate and want to thank the ACS Board and a multitude of stakeholders who were involved in the process," Walsh said in a statement. "Their engagement will continue as we move forward."

City officials were unavailable for immediate comment on why Walsh opted not to hire one of the dozens of applicants who submitted resumes during the search.

Shannon served on the ACS Board of Directors for four years but otherwise had no experience working with the department during his 22-year career with the city. Instead, the interim director is a civil engineer whose current role includes overseeing land development, zoning, permitting, building inspections, code enforcement and graffiti abatement, the city said in a press release.

Shannon takes over after the departure of longtime ACS Director Shannon Sims, who retired earlier than expected. Sims' reign was marred by the string of dog attacks and public scrutiny over the department's understaffing and inability to respond to residents' calls.

Sims vacated his post last month after giving an acerbic speech in which he described his critics as "social media terrorists."

Among the candidates Walsh opted not to hire to replace Sims were ACS Assistant to the Director Shannon Oster-Gabrielson and ACS Chief Operations Officer Bethany Colonnese. Animal advocates were critical of both potential hires after an investigation by the Current revealed they were up for consideration.

Oster-Gabrielson had been critical of City Council members in text messages and made what some considered dismissive remarks after the city wrongfully euthanized three canines last summer, records show.

Meanwhile, emails obtained by the Current found that disagreements between Colonnese and an outside consultant preceded a falling out between the department and nonprofit Petco Love.

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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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