Katy City Council hears animal control update, authorizes contracts

By R. Hans Miller, News Editor
Posted 8/10/21

Katy City Council members authorized the purchase of a stage and contracts for sludge hauling, fuel and landscape maintenance janitorial services during its Aug. 9 meeting. Council also heard an …

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Katy City Council hears animal control update, authorizes contracts

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Katy City Council members authorized the purchase of a stage and contracts for sludge hauling, fuel and landscape maintenance janitorial services during its Aug. 9 meeting. Council also heard an update from Katy Police Chief Noe Diaz regarding ongoing efforts to improve Katy Animal Control and the implementation of the City of Katy Animal Advisory Group’s recommendations.

“The advisory group did a phenomenal job,” Diaz said. “They volunteered and I just can’t thank them enough and we plan to meet again in September.”

Diaz said the advisory group had recommended eight actions be taken at Katy Animal Control to improve operations there. The group’s recommendations include reinstating the 72-hour stray hold policy established before its tenure began, establishing a written euthanasia policy, purchasing a cat cage, requiring vaccinations for all animals taken into the shelter, modernizing the shelter, finding a coordinator to manage relationships with animal rescue organizations, establishing a pet wellness program and improving public outreach.

Katy Animal Control has already reinstated the 72-hour hold time which allows staff to move animals to rescues more quickly, Diaz said. Weekends do not count toward that time, he said. The shelter has also adopted Harris County’s euthanasia policy as its own. Two cat cages have been purchased for a total of $5,000 which allows staff to ensure animals are separated and prevents the spread of illnesses. Vaccinations have been standardized for animals taken into the shelter following policies sourced from the Houston Humane Society, Diaz said.

Processes at the shelter have been modernized with animals being posted promptly to the shelter’s website, Diaz said. Only self-surrendered animals are not posted to the website out of consideration for the privacy of the pet owners who found it necessary to give up their pets, he said.

Council Member Dan Smith said he feels the practice of not posting self-surrendered animals should be reconsidered in the best interest of the animals.

A new dog run has also been added to the shelter, Diaz said. The Rotary Club of Katy and other local organizations donated funds and materials to improve the shelter, he said. Additional improvements have been added to the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, he said.

The recruitment of a coordinator to manage relationships with nonprofit rescues has been passed to city staff for review, Diaz said. The pet wellness program has also been referred to city staff to determine budgeting and a plan to implement such a recommendation, if approved.

Public outreach has already begun with visits to homeowners associations, pet registration events and adding an option for residents to donate to the shelter to forms used when registering pets in the city.

Per the city’s website, all pets in the city must be registered and the cost for registration is $2.

Animal control officers are also now using body-worn cameras so their behavior while on duty can be monitored, Diaz said. Calls for service are also being documented in a standardized manner, which had been an issue in the past according to a recent investigation

Practices at the city’s shelter came under question early this year when part-time Animal Control Officer Chelsea Gerber released videos and other documents which appeared to show inappropriate conduct on the part of Animal Control Officers David Brown and Spencer Antinoro at the facility. A Katy Police Department Internal Affairs investigation later cleared them of most of the accusations, though all staff, including Gerber, were determined not to have followed policies, especially regarding record keeping.

At least one resident, Cara Bonin, expressed frustration that the two full-time employees had been cleared given the amount of evidence and accused KPD investigators of intentionally mishandling the case.

“And we have reviewed over 720 pages that Detective Lee Hernandez fabricated for, I would say, just appearances,” Bonin said. “Once I reviewed the videotape and audiotapes of his questioning of those who are accused, I find that (Brown and Antinoro) did do or was guilty of the things they were accused of, yet somehow, y’all pass it off with the 720-page document, and then are now punishing the whistleblower.”

However, another resident, James Carranza, also commented on the situation at Katy Animal Control and said he feels officers there are doing a great job. Carranza said he has called officers to assist with animals 16 times and has received good service every time, especially with cats that have forced him to sell his home recently because of the amount of fecal material on the property keeping him from enjoying his home. He placed the blame for Katy’s stray animal issues at the feet of the city’s residents who feed strays or don’t take care of their pets.

“I don’t hate cats,” Carranza said. “It’s not the cats that are the problem. It’s the people feeding the cats that are the problem. … My son can’t even play in his own yard, because it’s covered in cat feces, and possum feces, and it’s become a health hazard so much that I have sold my house this (past) weekend.”

Council approved an agreement with Wastewater Transport Services, LLC. out of Houston to haul sludge for the city. The contract has an estimated value of about $199,000. The fuel contract was authorized with Colorado County Oil out of Columbus, Texas for fuel for city vehicles. The city’s landscaping will now be taken care of by EarthFirst Landscapes, LLC. of Katy. Ambassador Services, LLC. of Houston will now be performing janitorial services for the city. About $6.57 million in bond sales by the Fort Bend-Waller Counties MUD 2 were authorized for improvements in the West 10 Business Park.

Council also authorized the purchase of a stage for the Katy Downtown Plaza adjacent to City Hall. The stage will cost about $24,000 with electrical infrastructure to support it coming in at just more than $21,000. Council Member Janet Corte of Ward A said she was excited about the ongoing improvements to the plaza.

“I cannot wait to have the first concert in the plaza,” Corte said. “This is a great step forward to trying to get our downtown going and drawing people into it.”

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