Aug 10, 2023 - News

San Antonio to boost Animal Care Services' budget following rise in euthanasia rate

Illustration of a pet carrier overflowing with money.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

San Antonio is looking to bolster its Animal Care Services budget next year, aiming to better control the local animal population and get more pets adopted.

Why it matters: The city-run shelter has struggled recently to keep up with the demand for its services and has faced scrutiny following what some saw as a preventable fatal dog attack this year.

  • Last year, ACS's live release rate fell below the "no-kill" standard for the first time in five years as it euthanized more animals.

Driving the news: In the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget released Thursday, the Animal Care Services budget would increase 26% to $26.9 million, the largest increase of any department in the $1.6 billion general fund, deputy city manager María Villagómez said.

Flashback: A dog attack in February killed a man and injured three others. In the nearly three years before that attack, neighbors called 911 on the owner's address 114 times. They also called 311, the city's nonemergency customer service line, 42 times.

By the numbers: The department plans to hire 15 animal officers: seven to respond to bite calls and eight to respond to "critical" calls about cruelty, neglect and aggressive dogs.

Threat level: At current staffing levels, the city can answer only about 44% of critical animal calls, city manager Erik Walsh said. The goal is to get that to 100%.

  • "It's the only city service that you call and you're not gonna get a response a majority of the time," Walsh said.

Plus: The money will add more adoption staff and an additional veterinary team to ensure animals receive a medical check within 24 hours of entering city care — something that doesn't always happen now, he said.

  • $1.8 million will go toward nearly doubling spay and neuter surgeries from about 25,000 this year to a goal of 44,000 next year.

Zoom out: Citizens ranked ACS fourth on a city survey of priority areas for investment, after homeless outreach and encampments, streets and affordable housing.

What's next: The budget will be formally presented to the City Council on Thursday, and a series of work sessions and town halls will be held next week.

  • Council will vote on the budget in September. The budget takes effect on Oct. 1.
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