AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo Animal Management and Welfare faced plenty of well-publicized turmoil over the past few years. Now, it is working to revamp not only its image but also the way it operates—while working with the Amarillo-Panhandle Humane Society for positive outcomes.
“The focus really is, is just a cultural change. We want to really kind of get away from that 70-80s vibe…and make it more accessible to the public,” said AAMW Director, Victoria Medley. “To where this isn’t a bad place, these employees are not bad people, they’re doing their best and taking care of the animals in our community, to their best ability and so, really trying to change the narrative on that.”
According to Medley, changing the narrative means more transparency.
“There’s this, this almost like urban myth about what we do at the shelter. We are really trying to pull the curtain back and say, ‘This is realistically what we do here. This is the service that we provide the community,'” Medley continued. “It’s not the easiest service. I mean, we are tasked with the welfare of animals, but we’re also tasked with, you know, the safety of the community and the quality of life in our community.”
“When you have people in the community, yelling at them, or saying things about people who work here, that’s just tough, because they’re doing it day-by-day, and on that report card, you see it,” she said.
Part of changing their processes includes updated data entry and their spaces for animals. AAMW recently completed and opened a new building with more kennel space using taxpayer-approved funds from Proposition 2 in November 2016.
Medley said, “We don’t euthanize animals for space. We work really hard with our partners and with the Humane Society to get a positive outcome and sometimes there’s just situations where animals are in such dire need, it’s the most compassionate thing to do.”
The Director of Operations for the Amarillo-Panhandle Humane Society (APHS), Cynthia Clark, shared how their working relationship has changed with AAMW.
“I’ve been with the Humane Society for five years,” Clark said. “I think it’s a lot better. Relationships within both organizations are stronger than I think they’ve ever been, which is important.”
Clark said they all have the same goal in mind, as AAMW handles intake and adoptions and the Humane Society focuses on finding fosters and lining up rescues.
Clark said the APHS is transporting about 300 animals to out-of-state rescues each month.
According to Brandi Bullock, the City of Amarillo’s shelter manager at AAMW, said those transports are a large reason euthanizations are down.
“I feel the leadership has improved. I feel that everybody that has been in the leadership position has proposed to do their best and sometimes you just kind of get handed something that’s already chaos,” Bullock said. “But I think our new leaders, I think everything is going to improve way better, and I have total confidence in them.”
“Animal management’s got a new director and a new assistant director, both of which have been very welcoming and supportive of the Humane Society’s mission here,” Clark said.
Bullock, who worked her way up from cleaning kennels, said she is excited about AAMW’s new direction.
“I believe we are moving in a good direction in Amarillo. Historically, nothing’s been fantastic. Everything’s looking better. Our relationship with the Panhandle Humane Society is getting better each day,” Bullock said.
But both AAMW and APHS said it is still important for the community to be responsible with their pets, spaying and neutering, especially as kitten and puppy season is underway.
According to Bullock, the live release rate at the shelter always decreases during this time of year. She said it is because of illness in litters of puppies and kittens.
“Just the other day we had 15 kittens brought in,” Bullock said, noting the kittens were from three separate litters. “Things like that could improve. The community kind of help us, you know.”
“Spay and neuter your one cat. It’ll help. Vaccinate your puppies, vaccinate your mama dogs, if you are breeding them, it’ll help,” Bullock continued. “Because a lot of our numbers are because of the illness of Parvo puppies. I mean, there’s been so many, and it’s big litters, like 12 puppies, and it’s awful.”
Clark drove home the importance of spaying and neutering to curb our animal populations.
“Amarillo just has more than enough. We have more animals than we have homes wanting them,” Clark said. “So I think spaying and neutering is the answer there.”
Clark also addressed criticisms about the shelter.
“I think the biggest misconception is that it doesn’t affect shelter workers on both organizations, the city and the Humane Society,” Clark said. “We all care deeply about these animals and it affects us deeply. When the blame is put out on any one person or organization, and I think spaying and neutering and getting the animal population under control in our community is what’s most important for everybody to end up having successful numbers here.”
Medley said while they focus on her three goals: animal welfare, community safety, and quality of life in the community, AAMW workers are faced with a tough reality.
“If you were here, just for one shift, you would see the care that goes into these animals. It’s hard on them, because some of these are tough situations,” Medley said.
Bullock said Medley is further improving the shelter as the new director.
“She has really good ideas and our new assistant director has really good ideas. We need to get out there. We need to reach out to the community. We need to change their perception of animal management, and we need to change it in a positive way,” Bullock added. “I think that’s what we’re seeing is a good start.”
Before serving as director, Medley said she had previous knowledge and experience working alongside AAMW.
“With my role as director of court services, I’ve definitely been very involved with animal management as they would file their violations with our court and dangerous animals,” Medley said. “And the court had worked closely with them, with their field officers, or I had worked closely with them on some of their hardware that they use out in the trucks. So, I’ve had a relationship with them, with all the directors in the last 25 years.”
Medley said that experience informs her work as the director.
“I’ve seen the struggles, I’ve seen what they’ve gone through,” Medley continued. “We’ve had all those discussions. I’ve been one of their partners within the city and so really, it gives me an idea, and I do have that historical knowledge of where they’ve been and where they absolutely could go.”
According to Medley, AAMW’s role in the community has been made harder by our growing population, which brings new challenges for animal welfare.
“It’s not that anyone, one director did anything bad or wasn’t following through. But the reality is, we’re a bigger city. Things change, our dynamics change, our community changes,” Medley said.
“As we were talking about past directors, there’s just a natural progression. When you’re talking about a city 25 years ago, that was under 150,000, or 100,000. So obviously, things are changed,” Medley said. “And so to compare, what is going on right now, to what was compared to going on 10 years ago isn’t necessarily fair.”
Medley said she is excited for the next 12 months as they make a big push for more community outreach and education on pet ownership.
“As we get bigger, and we have different types of communities, socio-economic, it is our role as Animal Management and Welfare and as public servants is to educate our public and help with more accountability,” Medley said.
However, she said they do not want to be punitive, but helpful in relating to the community about pet ownership and responsibility.
“We want to educate so that we can kind of stop that flow and those behaviors that we’ve historically had,” Medley added. “I just think it’s really important for the community to understand that we are taking care of those animals, that they’re compassionate staff, and please spay neuter your animals.”
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