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Commissioners receive animal services feasibility study update
The Hays County Commissioners Court received an update regarding its animal shelter and animal services feasibility study.
The commissioners received a presentation from Team Shelter USA and Animal Arts during a workshop at Tuesday’s regular meeting, where a new pet resource center and community veterinary and spay neuter clinic were discussed.
“These are the first steps in protecting the animals in our community and the people who love them,” Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said. “Inevitably, we will need this resource center to properly manage public and animal safety.”
Team Shelter USA Founder Dr. Sara Pizano and Heather Lewis, of Animal Arts, presented recommendations from the conducted study. Recommendations presented to the commissioners court included building a pet resource center, as part of the shelter in order to provide a healthy and functional environment for animals, staff, volunteers and visitors; addressing root causes of animal homelessness and lack of access to resources; creating a state-of-the-art social services campus serving people and pets in need; developing public-private partnerships for resource center operations; and the ability to reunite pets with their owners as quickly as possible to reduce time spent in the facility.
With the location of the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter, Lewis said the new facility could be built north of San Marcos, possibly around Kyle.
“We want to look at that area of Hays County that’s growing rapidly and is likely to grow rapidly in terms of population density,” Lewis said. “The other factors that go into choosing a location are: we want people to visit the shelter and many shelters traditionally have been located next to the wastewater treatment plant or other such facilities that are not very comfortable to visit, so we want to think about the quality of the location, the safety of the location, and the access of the location. Ideally, the shelter is near public transportation and other factors play in such as the zoning of the facility because not everybody wants an animal shelter in their backyard.” Commissioner Walt
Smith brought up concerns that the plan didn’t consider areas in his precinct, which includes Dripping Springs and areas in northwest Hays County.
“The fact is the majority of my precinct wasn’t even viewed in the report,” Smith said. “That’s a problem for me. My concern is that when we look at this, this was truly was to be a countywide evaluation of what the need was and how we can address those needs within the county. And looking at it, best case, for the majority of my precinct, it was, ‘just let them keep doing what they’re doing.’ That’s a problem for me, and maybe I’m wrong for saying that but I still have high expectations for what we should expect from this.”
Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe reminded Smith that no action regarding the plan or the shelter was set to take place during Tuesday’s workshop.
“We’re not at a point where we’re choosing a location,” Ingalsbe said. “We’re still very open to wherever that location’s gonna be. We’ve always talked about it being more centrally located. Of course, the accessibility to everyone is very important. I think we still have ample opportunity to speak with other groups, or cities, or whoever it is that needs to be spoken with. I think we can provide that opportunity for Dr. Pizano and her team to speak with them if needed.”
The cost of the potential facility is $23,361,928 in 2022 dollars, according to Pizano, who suggested a 6% escalation per year based on the project’s time frame. The facility would include 17,749 square feet for a pet resource center with a covered exterior of 5,950 square feet. Additionally, the facility would use an open-door model for community access to veterinary clinic, which would be built to include space for high-volume spay/ neuter surgeries.
Moving forward, Ingalsbe said she hopes to see the implementation of ordinance revisions by the county and its partner cities, which was also recommended by Team Shelter USA.
“By having complementary ordinances, we can more fully implement programs such as ‘Trap-Neuter-Return’, which isn’t currently allowed under some municipal codes and within Hays County’s unincorporated area,” she said.
To view the full Animal Feasibility Study report visit hayscountytx.com/ animal-shelter-advisory-committee.
“We want people to visit the shelter ... so we want to think about the quality of the location, the safety of the location, and the access of the location. Ideally, the shelter is near public transportation and other factors play in such as the zoning of the facility because not everybody wants an animal shelter in their backyard.”
— Heather Lewis, Animal Arts Principal