Alarmed over possible budget cuts, more than 100 people turned out for an enthusiastic rally on May 27 in support of Dallas Animal Services, the city's animal shelter. The rally was quickly organized in response to a recent Dallas city council meeting, during which city manager A.C. Gonzalez presented a 2014-15 proposal that slashed the shelter's budget in basic areas such as vaccinations, dog food and staff.
The rally took place on the notoriously animal-friendly patio at Lee Harvey's and featured not only Lee Harvey's burgers and trademark onion rings, but also remarks from city officials, including council member Sheffie Kadane and Dallas code compliance director Jimmy Martin, under whose department the shelter resides.
Describing the budget process as "always a struggle," Martin urged attendees to communicate their support for the shelter to the city council. Kadane said he was impressed with the shelter's progress in the past few years.
"I'm one of the members of the city council that is a total animal lover," Kadane said. "I'm glad to see us get closer and closer to a non-kill shelter. That's what I want to see in Dallas."
The budget is in the early stages of development, but as it stands, the number of contract workers at the shelter would be cut by half, from 35 to 17. Although some cuts are expected to be overruled, supporters are concerned that the shelter will not get the funds it needs.
The shelter has seen big improvements since the appointments of manager Jody Jones and director Dr. Cate McManus. The duo has increased the number of adoptions and also formed beneficial relationships with dozens of rescue groups across Dallas-Fort Worth.
The rally was not just a yes vote to more money for the shelter; it showed how successful those relationships have become.
Representatives from Dallas Pets Alive, Duck Team 6, Animal Rescue of Texas, DFW Rescue Me, Angie's Friends, Rockwall Pets and Feral Friends Community Cat Alliance all warned of the negative effects a budget cut would have.
Suleika Bloom from Dallas Pets Alive, which works with the shelter to find adoptees, asked why the dollars-per-citizen in Dallas were so low compared to other cities in Texas. Austin gets $10 per person, and San Antonio gets $8 per person; in Dallas that number is only $5.
Paige Anderson from Animal Rescue of Texas said cutting staffers would ultimately cost the shelter more money. "It seems like it's punishing manager Jody Jones and veterinarian Cate McManus for having already turned the shelter around on a low budget," she said.
Emcee Chris Watts said it was important to appeal to non-animal lovers too. "Even those people who are afraid of strays would agree that cutting the budget is a bad idea," he said.