The dogs at the city’s animal shelter are only fed once a day, Assistant Police Chief John Falvo told the City Council Monday.
Council members expressed concern, but Falvo said two sources told him it was OK.
And, he said, they don’t need to clean up after the dogs as often if they are only fed once a day.
Councilwoman Marion Porterfield pressed Falvo on the point, asking whether he could feed the dogs more if he had more staff.
“That’s now because you don’t have staff? So there’s no one to clean up?” she asked.
But Falvo said he had been assured once a day was fine.
After the meeting, he stressed that he didn’t see the practice as abusive.
“A lot of these dogs, they were probably eating garbage,” he said. “This is a nice meal for them.”
And he said there’s also a bucket of treats from which the dogs are fed by all visitors.
“I go over there and give them treats,” he added.
But some council members were worried. Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said she was willing to believe the city was in the right — but she wanted to do more research to make sure.
Porterfield said she was concerned and Councilman Vince Riggi said the practice should stop.
“I don’t find that acceptable, myself,” he said. “It may be clean enough, but we’re not feeding the dogs enough.”
Falvo agreed to research it and report back in two weeks.
But there may be a workaround: Council members suggested that Falvo install automatic food and water dispensers, which could hang on the wall. That way, dogs couldn’t knock them over and they would always have enough food and water, even if staff was unavailable most of the day.
Council members also focused on short-staffing at the facility. Falvo said one of his part-timers resigned recently, leaving him with just one. He has enough money in the budget to hire a total of three part-timers, whose job is to feed, water and clean up after the dogs, he said.
The full-time animal control officers walk the dogs twice daily, if they are “manageable,” he said. But he wants them to spend most of their time responding to animal-related calls, not cleaning the facility.
“I want them to go on the road,” he said.
Volunteers have said they want to help walk the dogs and care for them, but council members said they know all too well the limits of using volunteers for police jobs. The union often fights the city against volunteers who take jobs that would otherwise go to police through additional staffing or overtime.
The law department will review the contract for the animal control officers and determine what duties are not specified and could be done by volunteers.
Perazzo said she also wants the city to designate backup employees, in the Police Department or other departments, who would take care of the dogs if the animal control officers couldn’t make it to the facility one day.
“What if, God forbid, you get hit by a truck?” she said.
She wants to get volunteers involved.
“We have passionate people who love animals. I would love to see them able to help the animals,” she said.
By Labor Day, the city also plans to have photos taken of each dog upon intake, and posted on the city website with details regarding where and when it was found, Mayor Gary McCarthy said.
The goal is to help reunite owners with lost pets, although McCarthy said he doubted many of the dogs at the facility were truly beloved pets. He said they were often the result of irresponsible dog owners.
“The dogs are really the victims,” he said.