- The Quarterly
- Audit Excellence
|Quarterly: Fall 2018 - Terry Bray|
Animal Health and Public Safety: Community Vision and Improved Management Oversight Needed
Kansas City uses a public private partnership to handle the city’s animal control and care services. The city’s Animal Health and Public Safety division (AHPS) is charged with performing and managing animal care and control services for the city. AHPS enforces the city’s animal care and control ordinances. The city contracts with a not-for-profit partner, Kansas City Pet Project (KCPP) that operates the city animal shelter.
DIFFERING VIEWS OF ANIMAL CARE AND CONTROL
Balancing the need for protecting the public’s health and the safety of humans and animals requires great compassion and care. AHPS and KCPP, however, have differing views on how to achieve that balance. AHPS’s focus is on public safety and animal health through enforcement of city ordinances. KC Pet Project focuses on animal welfare, saving lives of healthy and treatable pets. These differing views created tension between the two organizations. This conflict has negatively affected the partners’ communication, trust, and ability to collaborate.
ENFORCEMENT VERSUS EDUCATION
AHPS has made writing citations a priority in how it carries out its mission of improving the overall delivery of animal health through the enforcement of ordinances. Impounding animals for cruelty-neglect violations and writing citations for lack of pet licenses does not always have the intended outcome of resolving a code violation. Less than a third of the animals impounded by AHPS for cruelty-neglect were reclaimed by their owners. Not all owners can afford to pay the impound fees or citations. Educating owners may be more effective in some of these cases. If an owner cited cruelty-neglect simply were to replace the impounded animal with another animal or owns other animals, the cruelty-neglect behaviors may never be addressed or corrected.
ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS NOT CONSISTENTLY IMPLEMENTED
Cruelty-neglect cases are not always receiving needed follow-up by the division and follow-up is not always required to ensure violations are fixed. AHPS practice does not require animal control officers to make a follow-up visit to investigate a cruelty-neglect complaint if the officer is not able to view the animal and talk to the owner on the first visit. AHPS policy states if the owner is not at home and the animal has not been observed, an officer will post a notice to the door of the residence informing the owner to contact the office within 24 hours. Management stated that officers do not follow up on these cases if they do not hear back from the owner after 24 hours until they receive another complaint.
DANGEROUS DOGS AND BITE QUARANTINES
The AHPS division is not enforcing the city’s dangerous dog registration and licensing requirement and is not consistently following up on some confirmed bite cases to ensure animals are quarantined. The city has ordinances to address dangerous dogs in an effort to protect the community; however, the AHPS division is not enforcing the dangerous dog registration and licensing requirements. Our review of AHPS’s documentation of potentially dangerous and dangerous dog declarations show that since 2011, 16 of 19 owners of potentially dangerous or dangerous dogs who kept their dogs never obtained the license or certification required by the city code. Three owners met the licensing and certification requirements the first year of the declaration, but have not maintained their certification and license in subsequent years. As far as the AHPS knows, the dogs are still in the city. Dangerous dogs that are not adequately supervised and controlled may pose a threat to people and other animals. The registration and licensing requirements on dangerous dog owners imposed by the city help ensure public safety.
ONGOING ANALYSIS OF DATA CAN INFORM MANAGEMENT DECISIONS
Analysis of AHPS data can help evaluate timeliness of Animal Control Officer’s (ACOs) response to calls for service, assess staff scheduling in relation to call volumes, and identify enforcement patterns.
ANALYSIS OF CITATION DATA IDENTIFIES PATTERNS IN ENFORCEMENT
AHPS management does not analyze citation data to identify patterns in enforcement activity. Differences in the enforcement rate by violation and ACO can help management determine where to focus education, how each officer is choosing to apply policies, and where AHPS might need policy changes and/or training. Our citation analysis found significant differences in the frequency of citations by ACO. The differences might help identify areas where ACOs are overlooking violations or found more effective ways to address violations. We also found significant differences in the types of violations written by ACOs. Management could determine whether the ACO who is writing many more inadequate animal care citations could use a lower level of enforcement like education that would be just as effective. (See Exhibit 1.)
We concluded that AHPS, KCPP, and other stakeholders need to create a shared vision for animal care and control in Kansas City, as the current focus on enforcement strategies is not necessarily achieving desired outcomes. Stakeholders should consider incorporating the use of education and field resolution, as other cities have, as an alternative to some enforcement strategies that have not proved successful.
RESPONSE TO THE AUDIT
AHPS has conducted several public meetings to discuss proposed changes to their ordinances. The city is considering outsourcing animal care and control services. The audit generated a lot of media coverage once it was released to the public.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terry Bray is Senior Auditor with the City of Kansas City, Missouri, where he has worked since 2014. He brings 19 years of Public Health experience to the auditor’s office managing the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, the Food Protection program, and as the Quality Services Manager for the HIV Services division. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Central Missouri and a Master of Health Services Administration from the University of Central Michigan.
1 Stephen Aronson, Animal Control Management, A New Look at Public Responsibility, Purdue University Press, 2010