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News : King of beasts — for now 

Craig Bestrup fills in, but Animal Care Services needs a permanent director

The City Manager has yet to appoint a new director for Animal Care Services after the retirement of former director Sam Sanchez became official at the beginning of this month. City Manager Sheryl Sculley hired Craig Brestrup to fill in as an interim for the position while city managers continue to search for a permanent replacement.

‘Hey, mister!’ Hope and her roommates at Animal Care Services are currently under the watch of interim director Craig Brestrup, but await the appointment of a full-time “top dog.”

Brestrup began work Monday, May 8, and will work full-time until a new director is hired, which may take two months or longer. He says he brings a fresh perspective to Animal Care Services following reports of animal maltreatment and unsanitary conditions and criticism of the shelter’s euthanasia methods. Brestrup says he will improve the problems facing Animal Care Services by encouraging community involvement and by assessing the facility’s current conditions.

“I felt that there was something we could do right now to improve the conditions rather than waiting to begin improvement four of five months from now,” says Brestrup. “The first thing that can be done is to look within the Animal Care Services department with a critical eye and think, How can we do better? The second thing is for Animal Care Services to participate with community groups in developing a long-term plan for solving the homeless-animal problem.”

“The great news about Brestrup is that he does have experience with animal-care facilities,” says Assistant City Manager Frances Gonzalez. “He brings the perspective of knowing and caring about the animals and understands the challenges that we have here in San Antonio.”

Brestrup holds a doctorate in medical humanities, with a concentration in medical and environmental ethics, and has worked in animal-care services for the past 12 years. He has served as the Executive Director of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, Executive Director of the Association of Sanctuaries, and as the Chief Operations Officer and Executive Director for the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. With this experience under his belt, Brestrup says he feels ready to take on the problems facing San Antonio’s Animal Care Services.

The Animal Care Services advisory board recently hosted a two-day strategic planning meeting to develop a community-wide plan to deal with the homeless-animal problem. Brestrup attributes many of the problems that the shelter is facing to the number of homeless animals roaming the city.

“The key issue for this organization and the community is to reduce the number of animals that are being born but have no homes to go to,” says Brestrup. “It is really a numbers problem; there are way too many animals being born.”

He says that community involvement will be vital in implementing a new strategy and advises anyone with dogs and cats to have them spayed or neutered to help reduce the number of strays.

Speaking on conditions of anonymity, ACS workers say that morale has been low amid the current problems. Shelter workers and volunteers do not want their animals to suffer, they say, and hope that new developments will bring positive changes to the shelter. In addition to greater interaction with the community, Brestrup says Animal Care Services will also work to improve its organization.

“Animal Care Services is going to be doing a self-assessment, looking very carefully at what we are doing to make sure they are being the best they can be,” says Brestrup. “Morale has definitely been affected. Another issue is how to get the staff involved in the self-assessment part of it so that we can make this place the kind of place that they are proud to be working with.”

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