Requirements on Animal Shelters

Requirements on Animal Shelters
Source: KLTV Staff. Gayle Helms, director of Pets Fur People.
Source: KLTV Staff. Gayle Helms, director of Pets Fur People.
Source: KLTV Staff. Kelly Heitkamp, Animal Welfare attorney
Source: KLTV Staff. Kelly Heitkamp, Animal Welfare attorney

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Many of the animals that were taken from alleged abusive conditions at an East Texas shelter have new places to stay. Officials shut down the Klein Animal Shelter in Jacksonville and the director, Angela Wallace, faces charges of animal cruelty and illegal euthanasia.

The city of Tyler contracted the Klein Animal Shelter to handle the city's unwanted, lost, stray and sick animals in 2007.

The contract provided Klein with “exclusive control and custody over” the delivered animals and required a 73-hour holding period before the animal could be “humanely euthanized.”

Invoices on record with the city of Tyler indicate that Klein Animal Shelter was paid between $43.00 and $72.00 for each domestic animal. Over the past five months, the charges totaled $57,341.50 paid to the shelter for 557 cats, 626 dogs, and one ferret.

With charges against shelter employees mounting on the heels of a six-month investigation by police, the scrutiny now turns to whether any entity was required to monitor the shelter.

Animal welfare attorney in Longview, Kelly Heitkamp, said that the checks and balances on animal shelters is minimal.

"The laws are basically minimal at best. They are so basic that they serve little if any purpose." said Heitkamp. “There is really no legislation that specifically addresses shelters that has any value.”

According to Heitkamp, the Texas Health and Safety Code, Section 823, provides some basic guidelines for animal shelters.

The code requires that the shelter separate animals by species, sex, and size; comply with housing and sanitation laws; and that the governing city or municipality appoint an advisory committee to assist with compliance.

Gayle Helms is executive director of

, a local “no-kill” shelter in Tyler. Helms recalled the challenges she faced years ago when her shelter did euthanize animals under contract with the city.

“Overpopulation is such a big issue.” said Helms. “There are not enough homes for all of the animals coming into the shelters.”

The Texas Health and Safety Code also requires that the shelter hire a veterinarian to come inspect their facilities. The veterinarian's report is then filed with the Texas Department of Health.

Heitkamp said the requirement is not strict enough and allows a facility the opportunity to hide any violations before the inspection.

"Generally, they give advance notice to the shelter that they are going to appear,” said Heitkamp. “It's kind of futile if you're trying to investigate and you tell them that you're on your way.”

According to Heitkamp, other Texas laws do cover animal cruelty and what drug to use when euthanize an animal.

Helms said most shelters use sodium pentobarbital which is the euthanasia solution.

“To make it as painless and as peaceful as possible.” said Helms.

Heitkamp has assisted in drafting state and federal legislation that will protect animals. One change she would recommend to current legislation is the addition of a requirement on animal shelters to keep a licensed veterinarian on staff around the clock.

"A vet should be looking out for the animal's best interests," said Heitkamp.

Both Heitkamp and Helms agree that personal responsibility is on the pet owners.

"Make sure your pet has proper identification," said Helms. "And have it spayed or neutered."

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