Shared from the 12/27/2017 Houston Community Newspapers eEdition

HELP NEEDED FOR FUTURE PETS

Missouri City mayor calls for state to investigate animal shelter volunteers

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Courtesy photo

Protesters who support volunteers at the local animal shelter present their views outside the Missouri City City Hall.

Missouri City Mayor Allen Owens recently called for state officials to investigate a group of animal shelter volunteers after donated medicines were found to contain “alleged controlled substances” and expired over-the-counter medications, according to a city news release. Volunteers allege they are being targeted for lobbying elected officials for more resources for the shelter.

After the announcement, tensions were high as protesters gathered outside city hall holding signs that read “Let our volunteers volunteer” and “The animals need their medicines” ahead of the city council meeting. Inside, elected officials then faced a standing-room-only crowd that included dozens of angry animal shelter volunteers on Monday, Dec. 18.

“I don’t understand the city’s end game,” volunteer Valerie Tollman said during public comments. “Do you want to go back to four years ago when animals with treatable illnesses were euthanized? Do you really want to see animals killed because your ego is bruised?”

Tollman reminded Mayor Owens and the council the volunteers were previously praised for their work and last year she was honored as the “Volunteer of the Year”.

The conflict between city officials and shelter volunteers reportedly started after volunteers launched an email campaign a few weeks ago to lobby Mayor Owens and the city council to hire a part time staffer to answer phones and greet people who came to the shelter to adopt a homeless pet. Currently, the shelter is open by appointment only. Volunteers say phone calls to the shelter often go unanswered.

City officials say the city’s budget is strained by Hurricane Harvey repairs and other expenditures.

“At some point, we may need to do that but right now we don’t have the money,” Owens said at a council workshop on Dec. 4. But, conflict escalated after a December 13 confrontation between a volunteer and an animal control officer and then an already tense situation was further strained when city officials seized medicines donated by volunteers. In a statement posted on the city website, city officials said they had asked a local vet for help and had discovered some of the medicines were expired. The medicines also contained “alleged controlled substances” and police were asked to evaluate the situation. Ultimately, Mayor Owens contacted the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to request state officials launch an investigation.

“The City’s intent in requesting a state investigation is not punitive but an opportunity to educate both staff and volunteers for the betterment of animals throughout our community,” city manager Anthony Snipes said in a news release posted on the city website.

In addition, city officials allocated $3,000 for additional security cameras at the shelter and animal control officers were outfitted with body cameras,

Several who spoke at Monday’s council meeting alleged Owens and other city officials seized the medicine in an act of retaliation against those who have spoken out against elected officials on social media and in the community. Others criticized city officials’ unwillingness to increase funding the city’s animal shelter.

“The city wastes so much money on other silly nonsense,” resident Bruce Saborowski said and accused city officials of “bullying” the volunteers.

“I am disappointed in this council. When you take away medicine and let animals suffer, that’s not right,” said Brigitte Turner, former director of the Rosenberg Animal Shelter. “You’re hurting the animals. You’re not hurting the volunteers. The volunteers just want to help.”

When contacted for further details as to the nature of the alleged controlled substances, city officials declined to comment, citing the investigation was still ongoing.

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