KCBD Investigates: Changes underway at Lubbock animal shelter as city searches for new director

KCBD Investigates: Changes underway at Lubbock animal shelter as city searches for new director
Lubbock Animal Services reduces kill-rate by 40% (Source: KCBD)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Changes are underway at Lubbock Animal Services.

In February 2018, the KCBD Investigates Team discovered that Lubbock Animal Services had one of the highest kill rates in the state, euthanizing more than 16,000 animals over a two-year period.

The shelter's director has since retired, and the city is now on the hunt to fill that position. The city selected its internal audit director to be the interim director of the shelter.

Jennifer Harvell stepped into the role on March 6 with no experience working at an animal shelter, but her recent progress report to city council showed major improvements.

Harvell said when she came on board, the live release rate at the municipal shelter was 30 percent. She reported a 71.75 percent release rate in April.

"We had to get together, change our mindset. We had to take ownership on everything that we are doing," Harvell said.

Harvell said her skills are transferable.

"Part of internal audit is learning what people do and operations and so it's been fun," Harvell said.

In February, the KCBD Investigates Team reported owner surrenders contributed to the high intake number, something Harvell has changed.

"We do intake, owner surrenders, Mondays and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.," Harvell said.

She said limiting the days they accept animals helps control the inflow.

She added that many families end up re-homing the animals on their own when they learn the shelter only accepts them two days a week.

Harvell and her team have also created the Return To Owner Program.

"Basically if an animal is found at large in the community, our officer makes every effort to locate the owner then and there," Harvell said.

The city is also taking on the cost of micro-chipping animals in the field.

She said providing microchips is much less expensive than taking an animal into the shelter and caring for it until the owner comes to claim it.

The animals who do come to the shelter also go through a much more in-depth intake process.

"We do triage them to an appropriate area," Harvell said.

Harvell said that means assessing the animal to see if the it needs to see a veterinarian immediately or if it can wait.

She also makes sure sick dogs and cats are kept in a separate area.

"We do interventions up front. We go ahead with vaccinations, flea/tick and de-worming," Harvell said.

The intake process now also includes photos, which staff is working to post to social media.

They have also increased their adoption and micro-chipping events.

Last month, Harvell said the average adoption rate was 74. This month, more than 180 animals have found forever homes.

The volunteer numbers are up as well.

"I would probably say we had 20 solid volunteers when I got there, and we are well over 200 right now," Harvell said.

Harvell's team has also created a program called Weekend Warriors where people can sign up to foster an animal for the weekend, which she said helps socialize dogs and cats, making them more adoptable.

The shelter itself has changed.

The Lubbock community helped donate dog beds and we are told more are on the way.

Harvell has also moved a handful of crates with small dogs and puppies to the lobby of the facility.

"I like to put our puppies, our small dogs in there. Even for our older dogs, our smaller dogs. Some of them are more challenging to adopt. They adopt a lot faster right there in that area because that is what you see when you come in," Harvell said.

Lubbock City Manager Jarrett Atkinson said they have narrowed the list of director candidates down to about three dozen and are working to shorten that list.

This is a national search and Atkinson told council members they are not putting a time frame on the hiring process because they do not want to rush it.

Click here to learn more about the Lubbock Animal Shelter Adoption Center.

Copyright 2018 KCBD. All rights reserved.