Innovation Breeds Success in Animal Care Services

ARTICLE | Oct 17, 2013

In 2004, the story for shelter animals in San Antonio was heartrending: the city was euthanizing between 40,000 and 50,000 dogs and cats annually in the gas chamber. The San Antonio Express News declared: “San Antonio faces a grim reality: It kills more animals per capita than any other major city in the country.” 

Public outcry called for reform. By 2006, the city developed a strategic plan that stipulated a 70 percent “no kill” goal by 2012. In 2008, they opened a new facility. The department, however, did not stay on course. By 2011, the department was on its fifth director and had only realized a 30 percent no kill rate – a far cry from the 70 percent it was to achieve by 2012.

Enter: the city of San Antonio Office of Budget and Management Innovations. This group’s main goal is to improve the way San Antonio does business by looking at a department’s business processes and making recommendations to improve service delivery. The team looked at best practices of industry leaders and developed a plan that balanced three elements: code enforcement, stray population control, and increased live release. The team’s recommendations also included staffing changes designed to match process experts with subject matter experts.

In a recent webinar, ICMA invited San Antonio’s Erik Walsh, deputy city manager, and Kathy Davis, director of Animal Care Services, to share the innovations that transformed the department into an industry success story. Walsh and Davis detailed a smart program that is comprised of community partnerships, an enhanced field operation, spay and neuter programs, and community education and outreach, to name a few.

Today, 2013 San Antonio’s Animal Care Services reports a 77 percent live release rate three years ahead of schedule. For more information on the best practices of San Antonio, download this ICMA webinar on demand.

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