June 14, 2022

Upping Our Game at the Bellaire Pound

An aging facility pushing the limits of its useful service life, our animal pound has been limping along for years.  We’ve all known it, but admittedly haven’t given it the attention it deserves, until recently.  It’s not that we haven’t cared about it; it’s just that it’s one among many needs competing for priority, such as a new library, public works building and Evergreen Park renovations, not to mention streets and drainage.  Improving or replacing the pound has long been somewhere in that mix but simply hadn’t made it to the top.  Significant public interest and input over the past year or so has certainly helped change that, and we’re pleased by all the progress we’ve made.

Support for the pound featured prominently in the development of this year’s budget, which includes increased funding for operational expenses and maintains replacement of the facility as an identified project in the Capital Improvement Plan.  At the City Council’s direction, staff are currently researching options and developing proposals for a new pound to be considered sooner than originally contemplated.  We could potentially be ready to move forward with something in the fairly near future.

Aside from the facility itself, the City has also made great strides in correcting acknowledged deficiencies and upgrading our pound operations overall.  Starting with our having brought on a full-time, dedicated Animal Control Officer able to devote her undivided attention and years of experience to the job.  In only her first few months with us she’s already made some meaningful changes and is really turning things around.

We’ve also formalized our relationship with the nonprofit Friends of the Bellaire Pound, whose volunteers have been instrumental in finding foster and permanent homes for impounded dogs, and pursuant to an operational agreement with the City also help in caring for them while at the pound.  Numerous Bellaire residents and others have stepped up to support FOBP with monetary and in-kind donations, all of which have made a difference in the level of service we’re able to provide.  In just a short time this arrangement has blossomed into quite a successful and impactful community partnership.

Most recently, the City Council appointed an animal shelter advisory committee on which FOBP is represented as well as a licensed veterinarian, as required by state law.  This was one of the deficiencies brought to our attention as the City did not previously have such a committee, at least not formally, due to a good-faith but mistaken interpretation that the requirement did not apply.  Keep in mind its statutory function is advisory, not oversight, and it’s not one of our regular citizen boards and commissions.  But that’s by no means to suggest we’re unreceptive to ongoing citizen input, for which such a board isn’t necessary anyway.

In that regard, our only ask is that members of the public who wish to give their comments on the pound take the time to get the facts.  There are lots of well-intentioned people out there, which we very much appreciate, but there’s also lots of misinformation going around, too.  If one were to follow certain threads on social media, notorious for its lack of fact-checking, they might come away with a wholly inaccurate impression of the pound.  As being chronically overcrowded, with multiple dogs in each kennel for days on end, disease ridden and suffering from extreme heat and egregious neglect.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Far from being overcrowded, the pound is actually never even at full capacity.  We typically have maybe five dogs in a given month, each for no more than seven days and usually much less, individually housed in their own kennels.  At intake they’re administered the Bordetella vaccine and immunized against canine distemper, adenovirus types 1 and 2 (hepatitis and respiratory disease), parainfluenza and parvovirus.  They’re given a broad-spectrum dewormer as well.  The dogs are let out into the grass and exercised for a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour, twice a day, by both the Animal Control Officer and FOBP volunteers.

The notion that these dogs are left to bake in the hot sun is flat-out false, when in fact all of the kennels are shaded indoor/outdoor spaces and ambient temperatures have been measured and confirmed safe.  The enclosures are well ventilated and cool air is circulated by electric fans.  Note that consistent with applicable regulations and guidelines we do not use misting fans, to keep down the level of moisture that can harbor bacteria and yeast.  For the same reason, and to prevent the obvious choking hazard, the pound does not have flooring or bedding made of foam or similar absorbent materials.  Each kennel is furnished inside with a raised cot about seven and a half inches off the ground.

Again, we appreciate such concerns that have been expressed are well intentioned, and by sharing some of the details of our operations hope to help interested parties avoid being misled by outdated information or outright bogus claims.  The quality of public discourse and the effectiveness of citizen input depends on participants having all the facts.  We invite you to check out our animal control page on the City website, and to contact the Police Department with any questions you may have.  We’ve come a long way in upping our game at the Bellaire Pound, and will continue striving for further improvement.