San Antonio council members blast ACS for slow improvement after 33% budget hike

ACS has until September to meet its self-imposed goals, but Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda said she's worried they don't go far enough.

click to enlarge San Antonio Animal Care Services headquarters on the city's the far West Side. - Michael Karlis
Michael Karlis
San Antonio Animal Care Services headquarters on the city's the far West Side.
San Antonio City Council members on Tuesday leveled criticism at Animal Care Services, saying that while the embattled city department has shown improvement it needs to step up efforts to battle a dangerous stray dog problem.

“Right now, I see a lot of hope and planning, but it has to be in practice, and we have yet to see that happening,” District 6 City Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda said at a Tuesday meeting of council's Public Safety Committee, which she chairs.

San Antonio City Council last fall gave ACS a 33% annual budget increase as the department struggled to respond to a string of high-profile dog attacks around the city, at least two of which were fatal. As part of ACS's new $28.5 million budget, the department was charged with carrying out a strategic improvement plan.

Many of the goals in that plan, which some on council said should have been attainable, have yet to be met.

According to a presentation by Shannon Oster-Gabrielson, assistant to ACS Director Shannon Sims, who was out due to a family emergency, the department hasn't reached its 80% dangerous dog compliance goal despite hiring six new bite officers.

What's more,  ACS is far from its goal of 5,000 pet adoptions annually and still hasn’t met its objective of responding to 64% of “critical calls.”

One issue that ACS does appear to be making headway on is the number of wellness clinics — events where residents can get pets microchipped and vaccinated. Oster-Gabrielson told the committee that ACS plans to serve 5,000 pets at these clinics by the end of the year, 200 more than its initial goal.

However, Havrda called bullshit.

“My team and I have been trying to work on a wellness clinic with you guys for probably a year, and it’s been very difficult to get cooperation,” Havrda said. "We’ve had to postpone the clinic four times because of the lack of cooperation from ACS, and it was a vaccination and microchipping clinic.”

District 2’s Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, who was among ACS's most vocal critics and a top advocates for getting the department additional funding, reiterated that its officials need to self-advocate for necessary funds and resources so they can make enough hires.

ACS has until September to meet its self-imposed goals. Still, Havrda expressed concerns that the goals, even if reached, aren't acceptable for a city the size of San Antonio.

“I think all the wins we’ve had up to now are getting us to a mediocre space, and we really neeed to start to excel,” she said.

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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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