• Tue. Sep 20th, 2022

Shelter chief gets vote of no confidence from commission

ByChad J. Johnson

Jun 14, 2022

Tuesday, June 14, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

The city’s Animal Advisory Board voted a vote of no confidence in Don Bland, director of animal services and director of the Austin Animal Center.

At Monday’s meeting, the committee voted 8-1, with two abstentions, to approve a 17-point resolution outlining how they believe Bland has underperformed in his role since taking office in 2019. According to resolution, Bland consistently failed to provide the Commission with accurate and complete data on shelter operations, mishandled actions related to the city’s stray catch ordinance, monthly reports delivered “confusing, misleading, incomplete and lacking transparency” and alienated partner organizations that help care for animals with special behaviors. Needs.

The original resolution did not mention Bland alone, calling out the actions of the AAC leadership team, but the commissioners chose to modify the resolution and limit its focus to Bland’s role as head of the agency.

Ahead of the vote, a series of volunteers and former staff shared their comments on how their engagement and satisfaction with working at the shelter has dropped dramatically in recent years, with some pointing to how the reduction in weekend hours -end made it difficult to provide needed services to prospective adopters.

Several commissioners expressed reluctance to go public with their concerns about Bland and AAC, while others said the issues had been well known for a year or more.

“It’s not the kind of thing that makes everyone happy, but I was on the board when Dorinda (Pulliam) ran the shelter and I don’t want to see us go back to that,” Commissioner Lisa said. Mitchell. “I’m sorry if anyone is surprised by this kind of suggested resolution, but looking at an email I sent to my Council member’s office in August last year, I talked about the issues that we had, and it wasn’t the first time we had to discuss it. I’m sorry if anyone feels caught off guard or surprised, but this has been a long time coming and this failure to get data and the information we need to make crucial budget decisions, I don’t know what the way forward is at this point.”

A motion to table the resolution and conduct more research into the refuge and Bland’s role failed, with Commissioner Paige Nilson arguing that some of the criticism’s points may be inaccurate and could damage the credibility of the commission.

“Even if we want to tell the city council that we have a big problem, we had better be extremely careful in what we say. We want to be believed and we want to be accurate, and this resolution should have the opportunity to be much more thoroughly scrutinized and discussed with major up-and-comers,” she said. “I can see there are a lot of inaccuracies in it, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tell the council there’s a big problem, but we have to be specific when we do.”

Asked about the commission’s role and its ability to make serious claims against shelter officials, Chairman Craig Nazor said the council must be aware that policies such as converting the city to a no-kill city risk ‘fail.

“I talked to some members of the city council about it, and the way I understand the big issue in Austin was not to kill, and that was a council-mandated policy. As a commission, we are the eyes and ears of our mandataries and we report to the city council on how their policy is carried out,” he said. “If we start to worry about no-kill possibly going away…we don’t tell the council what to do, but if you vote for it, you tell the council we have a big problem and that’s what that we’re concerned about.

Update: Following the meeting, the city released a statement on the resolution noting that the shelter had maintained its no-kill status while staying within its budget, with an overall savings rate of 97% in 2021. The city has also defended the practice of transporting animals for rescue purposes. in the northern states as a “key element” of no-kill. In this statement, Bland commented:

“We are committed to making Austin a kill-free city and have implemented several programs over the past few years to keep the killing free…Right now, shelters across the United States are grappling with medium/large size dogs, fewer adoptions and fewer adoptions. /volunteer numbers. Austin Animal Center’s leadership team has a combined 124 years in the animal welfare field and has helped the shelter weather a global pandemic and national hiring shortage while staying well above the savings rate of 95%. We are focused on continuing this important work in the months and years to come. »

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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