Heard About Dallas’ New Reduced Hold Period For Microchipped Owned Dogs? It’s here.
BCG and the City both agree that one of the most effective and efficient way to manage the shelter population is to quickly get lost dogs back to their owners. In pursuit of the shelter being able to handle more animals with the same amount of space, the city recently changed the hold time for microchipped dogs from 10 days to 5 days. The rationale was that after 5 days, the number of owned, chipped dogs that are redeemed drops exponentially. They city made the case that after 5 days, most dog owners of chipped dogs were not coming to pick up their dogs. If these dogs could be moved out more quickly, the space could be used for other dogs. While on the surface, this is a fact-based, compelling statistic, it is only part of the story. We believe more research and more work on standard operating procedures needs to be done to ensure that dog owners, especially underserved dog owners in the southern sector, are not being disenfranchised by these policies.
While we support the new management at DAS and support their direction, our concerns include inadequate staff for timely notifications, underdeveloped standard operating procedures to properly notify owners, concerns regarding methods to support underserved communities in responsible pet ownership, inadequate shelter hours for pet redemption, and incomplete searchable databases for lost pets.
We believe the WHY is just important as the How or What.
One of the biggest reason DAS exists is to pick up lost owned dogs and hold them safely in the shelter so that they can be reunited with their owners. In order to understand WHY redemption numbers drop substantially after 5 days, we must ask several questions:
- Of the percentage of people that did not pick up their dogs after 5 days, what were the reasons given for surrendering, or abandoning, their dog at the shelter?
- Was their actual contact with these owners?
- How many messages were left?
- How many days after intake where the messages left?
- Was there a language barrier?
- Were messages and letters sent in English and in Spanish?
- Where redemption fees a barrier?
- Was transportation an issue?
- Were shelter hours an issue?
- When a chipped dog was not redeemed after 5 days, what zip codes were most commonly seen?
- What percentage of the dogs that were not redeemed after 5 days were lacking valid contact information?
- What intake day has the lowest redemption rate?
- Was their actual contact with these owners?
Civil Rights Issues: Are DAS impoundment notification policies currently disenfranchising the poor and underserved?
Here is what we know about the procedure to contact microchipped dogs’ owners looks like:
- Field: Contact chip company for owner info. Attempt to contact owner. Return To Owners (RTO) in the field if possible. If unable, impound the dog in the system and bring it to the shelter. . .and then?
- Over The Counter or Field Intake Resulting in Physical Impoundment:
- (Insert a blank here, there is no updated /published WKI or SOP)
Here are some KNOWN roadblocks to redemption:
- HOURS of Operation for Redemption. Shelter hours do not allow for early morning pick up of lost and found. Some people can not they take off work during the workweek to pick up their dog. What if they cannot retrieve their dog until the weekend or do not have transportation during the week? A five day window may cause them to be unable to pick up their pet.
- The CLOCK: We have been told that the clock starts from the first attempt to contact the owners. Our experience has been that the clock starts at intake. Understaffing the task of contacting owners can cause significant time gaps in notifying owners.
- STAFFING: Even with 2.3 FTE for the job, the shelter does not currently have dedicated staff, 7 days a week, to contact owners of microchipped dogs.
- No one is on dedicated call duty over the weekends to contact owners, so two days or more can pass before an owner is contacted, leaving only three days for redemption
- As microchipping has become mandatory, what is the projected growth for impounded microchipped dogs over then next two years? Is that growth being budgeted for?
Additional Areas of Concern:
- PetHarbor Searches
- Pets are NOT SEARCHABLE: If an animal is on stray hold outside of the shelter building, while registered, the pet will not show up on PetHarbor when an owner searches the system for their pet.
- Regardless of the fact that after 5 days the dog is owned by DAS and is up for adoption, owners should still be able to search for their dogs as long as they are in DAS custody. Once a pet is released from its 5 day hold, but is STILL in DAS custody, moved to foster or an offsite adoption location like PetSmart, the dog is removed from the PetHarbor system. Hypothetically, if an owner was still looking for their pet on PetHarbor, and the pet had made it to adoptions at PetSmart, the owner would never see their dog in the search system. After 5 days, the owner would have to adopt their dog to get it back, but an owner looking for their pet would most likely be happy to do so. With hold times being reduced from 10 days to 5, being able to search for your pet is important, even after 5 days.
- If DAS’ position is that RTO is the biggest bang for the buck, the shelter needs to work to reunite the pet with their owner until they leave the shelter system. Not just stop when the dog is off stray hold. That means keeping the pet on PetHarbor past the 5 day hold.
- DAS Perceived as Unsafe and Unhelpful
- ANALYZE and ADDRESS major redemption roadblocks
- Citizens need to feel safe redeeming their pets.
- Citizens in underserved areas need to have ways to put their citations and redemption fees on payment plans through the city water bill or other services.
- Language barriers need to be addressed in all areas of communication and in educational resources.
- Most of Southern Dallas does not use the Facebook and Nextdoor to communicate. Outreach must not solely rely on the internet for feedback and contact with citizens.
Let’s work smarter, not harder, to serve ALL of Dallas’ citizens.
- ANALYZE the Why questions listed above.
- ANALYZE and ADDRESS known redemption roadblocks.
- ANALYZE Redemption Fee Roadblocks:
- Can owner fees be spread out into a payment plan via a city water bill or through another vehicle?
- ADDRESS COMMUNICATION issues.
- Address Language Barriers
- ANALYZE STAFFING Issues:
- Average time needed, per animal, to call the microchip company and each owners three times and send one letter.
- How many chipped animals are entering the shelter on a daily basis.
- How many employees would be needed to make microchip phone calls 7 days a week. (using answers/ information from above two questions to calculate)
- The cost analysis of automated calls (in English and in Spanish) to let people know their pets have been impounded.
- LEVERAGE Chip Company Manpower:
- DAS should be leveraging the microchip company manpower to help contact owners.
- EXTEND LOST AND FOUND HOURS or Address SHELTER HOURS with Creative Solutions.
- Perhaps DPA volunteers or shelter volunteers can drive dogs home?
What Can YOU Do?
Be the Change, use YOUR voice.
Contact City Council Representative and the Mayor’s office and let them know you have concerns. When you contact your council office, here is a script you may start from. Addresses are below the script.
Dear City Council Representatives,
While we support the new management at DAS and support Director Jamison’s direction, I have some concerns about the changes to the hold period for owned dogs. Please follow this link for additional information regarding the concerns including: inadequate staff for timely notifications, underdeveloped standard operating procedures to properly notify owners, concerns regarding methods to support underserved communities in responsible pet ownership, inadequate shelter hours for pet redemption, and incomplete searchable databases for lost pets. [http://www.gypsydogops.com/?p=10175]
We hope that as an elected representative of the citizens of Dallas, you will compel the City Manager’s office and the Director of DAS to address these concerns in a timely manner.
Thank you for your time and attention to the city’s animal issues and to the safety and quality of life of animals and people alike.
Insert your name
City Hall Contact Information:
Email the Mayor and all of the Councilmembers at one time.
Click on any of the names below to send an individual email:
- Mayor: Mike Rawlings
- Mayor Pro Tem/District 4: Dwaine Caraway
- Deputy Mayor Pro Tem/District 2: Adam Medrano
- District 1: Scott Griggs
- District 3: Casey Thomas II
- District 5: Rickey D. Callahan
- District 6: Omar Narvaez
- District 7: Kevin Felder
- District 8: Tennell Atkins
- District 9: Mark Clayton
- District 10: B. Adam McGough
- District 11: Lee Kleinman
- District 12: Sandy Greyson
- District 13: Jennifer Staubach Gates
- District 14: Philip T. Kingston