Breaking News
More () »

Animal Care Services looking to bolster staff and increase pet services as part of 2023 budget request

Like shelters around the country, San Antonio Animal Care Services is experiencing higher demand due to owners surrendering pets and a lower number of adopters.

SAN ANTONIO — Like many shelters around the country, San Antonio’s Animal Care Services is dealing with staffing shortages while also trying to care for a larger number of pets in their shelter.

On Tuesday during a budget work session, ACS Director Shannon Sims said they’re also seeing a high number of owners surrendering pets and a low number of adopters. Sims hopes their staff can keep their animals healthy and adoptable with proposed improvements to the 2023 fiscal year budget.

Sims described the challenges they’re facing, which he attributes to the economic challenges pet owners are facing.

“Even when we find animals that we can get a hold of the owner, we typically find it, you know, usually somebody comes right in and [they're] getting that animal. We’re not seeing that,” Sims told reporters after the work session.

On top of that, Sims says they’ve seen a 128% increase since March in the number of pets received through evictions compared to normal years.

“Unless they can keep them with them in their car or in their alternative housing, the animal has to come with us,” Sims said.

As part of their proposed $21.4 million budget, ACS wants to add 14 new positions to increase clinic staffing, and add a new customer service team to improve the department’s response to residents and 311 escalated calls.

ACS also wants to increase the number of free pet microchip and vaccine clinics to target 2,400 pets annually.

Sims says what would make the biggest impact is increasing spay-neuter opportunities. The proposed increase in funds would maintain 12,455 spay-neuter surgeries per year, while ACS hopes to partner with private practices and non-profit groups for additional surgeries.

“Keeping that population down is going to be the solution, you know, in the future to having too many animals in San Antonio, which leads to too many animals at home, which leads to too many animals on the streets,” Sims said.

The city hopes with the proposed $17 per hour minimum starting wage, they can address some of their staffing issues. Animal Control officers are at a 57% staffing level right now while the ACS clinic is dealing with 5,600 injured pets.

Right now, there are two Animal Control Officer academies running simultaneously that will include about a dozen new officers if they all graduate. Sims says they make between $20 to $21 per hour.

"If you’re not afraid of animals, come on in…we can take you through an apprenticeship,” Sims says some of those staffing issues have led to ACS reaching an 88% live release rate, below their goal of 90% each year, although Sims says that is “an arbitrary metric” for the services ACS provides.

“We are a municipal shelter with our primary goal being public safety and rabies control. Obviously, live release rate is going to be something that’s very important to us,” Sims said.

Before You Leave, Check This Out