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Sanger eyes animal shelter options

Profile image for By John D. Harden / Staff Writer
By John D. Harden / Staff Writer

SANGER — An animal shelter owner is trying to persuade the Sanger City Council to opt out of its five-year contract with a different shelter that has been criticized for its high euthanasia rates.

City Council members had several specific questions for All-American Dogs owner Bob Matthews, who said he has expertise in helping pets find homes and avoiding high euthanasia rates.

All-American Dogs is based in Pilot Point and rescues, returns and adopts strays. The shelter also euthanizes strays when necessary.

Sanger hired Noah’s Ark, based in Gainesville, in December 2010, signing a five-year contract to control the stray animal population, but the city maintained the right to opt out at any time. In 2009, Sanger came under fire when residents learned hundreds of adoptable animals were being euthanized.

The council members are exploring possibly switching animal control services after residents brought concerns to the city’s attention about the current contracted animal shelter’s high euthanasia rates.

Matthews told the council he euthanizes about 10 percent to 15 percent of the animals at his shelter because they are either sick, disabled or aggressive. He said about 90 percent of the animals dropped off at his shelter are adopted.

“Those numbers vary month to month, but I’ve never had a month where 40 sick or aggressive dogs are dropped off,” he said.

Mayor Thomas Muir told Matthews it would be important for his company to be transparent and honest about its operations.

“The last company that we hired said everything you’re saying now,” he said. “I just want to make sure we’ll be better off making a change.”

All-American Dogs officials submitted two contract proposals to the council. According to one proposal, Sanger would pay $2,400 a month and keep its city-owned shelter open. The second contract calls for the city to close its shelter and pay $3,400 a month and a one-time $21,000 expense that would allow All-American Dogs to expand its facility.

Resident Kelli Alexander threw her support behind Matthews and his company. Alexander said Noah’s Ark isn’t transparent and hides records.

In 2010, Noah’s Ark told council members it had a low euthanasia rate, reporting almost 3 percent to 5 percent a month. But during an informal report from shelter manager Jennifer Keahey in February, rates were much higher.

The euthanasia numbers for Sanger’s animals were slightly higher than the numbers given in Keahey’s oral report, according to documents that were obtained earlier this year by the Denton Record-Chronicle, some through an open records request of Noah’s Ark.

Officials at Noah’s Ark could not be reached for comment.

Muir said feral cats are one reason euthanasia rates are high because they are difficult to find homes for and domesticate.

Of the 45 cats Sanger took to the shelter in 2011, about 73 percent were euthanized because they had medical or temperament problems, or were feral, the reports stated.

The city pays Noah’s Ark $2,400 per month for up to 15 animals per month.

The money funds the veterinary services needed to make animals adoptable, shelter officials have said.

The city also funded $40,000 in construction costs to double the shelter’s capacity for housing dogs.

Muir said the council has the option to opt out of its contract whenever it wants without violating contract agreements.

“We’re not sure if [All-American Dogs] is better,” Muir said. “That’s why we’re asking so many questions because we want to make sure. You can make numbers say anything you want.”

Mike Brice, Sanger’s city manager, said the city will continue to research All-American Dogs and another workshop session regarding animal control will be scheduled in October.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is .