Animal Care Groups Discuss Common Goals During Special Meeting

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The Rock Springs City Council hosted a special meeting Wednesday evening to discuss animal care in the City. Mayor Kaumo began the meeting by saying, “Everyone’s goal here is to improve the lives of the animals.”

He welcomed the many attendees who showed up to represent the different facets of animal care, adoption, transport and more in the audience. He mentioned that there were at least 3 groups that he knew of, but there could be more.

The goal of the evening was to hear from each group on what they do and then any another information so they could begin discussion on how the groups can work together going forward.

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Kaumo has stated that he’s had more calls and visits about animal care than any other topic since being re-elected.

Rock Springs Animal Control

Kaumo welcomed Rock Springs Animal Control Supervisor Mike Kiggins and praised the department and said it’s come a long way.

Mr. Kiggins has been at RS Animal Control for 29 years. Animal Control is a department of two, Kiggins works alongside Officer Kimberly Pickrell. He thanked the volunteers who put in countless hours to help at their facility.

In 2012, Kiggins got rid of “time limits” on how long animals could be at the facility by working to get an ordinance change. Kiggins stated that in 2012 they had a euthanasia rate of 32% at the animal control facility.

In 2014 and 2015 they began a spay & neuter program for adoptions where each animal is licensed for free, vaccinated, and spay/neutered.

In 2018 the euthanasia rate was down to 11%.

Mayor Kaumo mentioned that many “No-Kill” facilities have a euthanasia rate of 10% or lower. They are not 100% no-kill due to circumstances involving aggressive or dangerous animals, injured animals, or feral animals.

Mr. Kiggins said that his goal is to be 10% or less as a Supervisor before his retirement. He proudly mentioned that, “Rock Springs has had the best success of any city in Wyoming with our spay/neuter program,” and has been recognized as such.

Red Desert Humane Society

Steven Shea, President of the Board for the Red Desert Humane Society (RDHS), spoke next about their facility.

Shea mentioned that he is the newly-elected President, but the RDHS has been around for about 40 years in the area. They primarily focus on spay/neuter and adoption.

Mayor Kaumo stopped him to address a concern that he’s heard about RDHS not working well with RS Animal Control on some adoptions, primarily some cases including dogs that he has heard about.

Shea acknowledged that there had been some issues. Later in the conversation he stated that the shelter manager “Can be a little fussy sometimes” about which animals are accepted. Kaumo asked where she was and if she was in attendance and was told no. It was stated that she had a busy day and did not attend the meeting.

Kaumo mentioned that he was hoping that she was in attendance since many of the concerns and questions had revolved around some certain issues. Shea responded and said for now that was a personnel issue and they were working with the shelter manager and counseling her and it was a work in progress. “We commit to working on this issue.”

Councilwoman Glennise Wendorf followed up by asking if the Board was now reviewing decisions and policies that one person had made. Shea answered in the affirmative.

Companion Animal Committee

The Companion Animal Committee was started by former Mayor Carl Demshar to foster responsible pet ownership.

Dorothy Savage, a representative for the group, stated that they have held 6 vaccine & license clinics, started a spay/neuter voucher program, a foster-based program, were a part of designating the Wetlands Park dog-friendly, installing pet waste disposal containers on Dewar and Elk, have worked on the homeless cat issue, and more.

They work with both entities, Rock Springs Animal Control and the Red Desert Humane Society.

Second Chance to Dance Dachsund Rescue

Teresa Shively got up to speak and said that she is a 4th animal care group in the area, based out of the Farson/Eden area. She serves Sweetwater County with Second Chance to Dance.

In the last 4 years they have helped over 300 companion animals.

She works with Dachsunds and also Chihuahuas and works with adoption, foster, as well as spay/neuter, micro-chipping, and vaccinations.

Ms. Shively has also worked on some grant funding. In one case someone traveled over 2000 miles to bring a truckload of food to Sweetwater County.

In 2018, they helped with providing over 2000 lbs. of animal food to the local food bank.

Councilman Keaton West asked Shively how she was funded. She answered, “private donations and my paycheck.”

Councilman David Halter recognized Shively and said he had worked through her to adopt a pet and relayed that she does “a great job.”

Working Together

After hearing from each group, Kaumo mentioned that it seemed all of the groups have the same goals, but still questioned why there seemed to be some issues working together.

“This is a meeting where we’re going to get into these issues.” – Kaumo

Kaumo said the point of the meeting was to get on the same page for some goals related to accountability, spay/neuter programs, adoption, and more.

When it came to the adoption issue, Kiggins said one of the problems they all run in to is that large breed dogs are hard to adopt. He mentioned he had one at the facility now and that it’s taken a while since it needs a transport.

He also mentioned that nobody has been coming for animals from RDHS for some time and that there has been some problems there in the past and they are hopefully moving forward from that.

Councilwoman Wendorf asked each facility about their estimated occupancy. RS Animal Control has an estimated 19 dog kennels and 30 cat kennels. RDHS has 15 dog kennels, 6 puppy kennels, and around 20 cat kennels.

When asked what the major issue is with animal control in Rock Springs, Mr. Kiggins, visibly frustrated, said “Irresponsible pet owners. They think cats are disposable pets. If you want to get to the root of the problem, that’s the problem.”

Councilman Savage, a well-known animal lover, gave Mayor Kaumo kudos by saying, “One thing I really like about you, your Honor. You have a lot of energy and you jump in and do things.”

Savage said that he believes, according to his estimates, around $1 Million each year is spent maintaining homeless pets in Sweetwater County. He thinks there may be overlap and gaps that the many groups are trying to cover and that by working together they could spread those resources.

Savage then mentioned that he has learned that Rock Springs is only one of 3 communities in Wyoming with a gas chamber to euthanize animals. “They have found a way.”

Mr. Kiggins got back up and said that it is very emotional to think about. That he has had to euthanize tens of thousand of animals in his career and that it’s him “who has to deal with the emotion” of putting these animals down when many times their owners abandon them and are not responsible.

“I put an animal to sleep in the most humane way possible for that animal” and also the safest possible way for him and his staff, said Kiggins.

Other audience members got up to speak against the gas chamber and Kiggins multiple times discussed the certain instances when that might be used rather than lethal injection. It comes down to the safety of the officers and also the aggressive nature of the animal, primarily feral cats.

Public Comments

As the meeting went towards public comment, many residents stepped to the mic to describe their situations and ideas involving trap, spay/neuter and release programs for feral cats, as well as discussing the law about having 4 pets in Rock Springs (you can have +1 temporary pet for 30 days if you’re fostering or animal-sitting).

Kaumo steered the meeting towards a close around 9:30pm by discussing some action items that he wanted to work towards. He said there might need to be some ordinance changes they would all discuss. He also mentioned discussing funding for these needs during the next budget session.

He once again thanked everyone for coming out and staying late and asked each group to “fix your problems internally” and “communicate amongst one another.”

Kaumo said he was going to leave it in their hands, but thought a quarterly meeting among the groups would be a wonderful idea to move forward.