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Proposed ordinance change would ban unrestrained animals from back of pickup trucks

The interim director of the El Paso Animal Services Center Tuesday updated city council on renovations taking place at the shelter and two proposed ordinances.

Back in January, city council approved adding $1.1 million to the center’s budget. That was the beginning of a major overhaul of the shelter on Fred Wilson in the Northeast.

Proposed ordinance changes include a ban on unrestrained animals in the back of pick-up trucks and including dog-on-dog attacks when determining whether an animal is deemed dangerous. Owners of dog designated dangerous would have to provide insurance, register with the city and keep the animal safely confined.

City officials say 50 percent of the animals who arrive at the shelter currently leave alive.

While that number is heartbreaking for animal lovers, it is lower than past years. The goal is to increase the figure to 90 percent by 2020.

The center is now focusing on holding more adoption events and using social media to introduce the public to the animals waiting for forever homes. Just recently the shelter held a “No Kill, No Fee” adoption special and 200 animals were adopted at no cost. As a result, the center may be in the unusual position of having space this week.

Overall, the restructuring includes the hiring of 27 additional personnel over three years. There are now four full-time vets working at the center and the number of runs and play areas has also increased, giving more animals access to outdoor “play time” every day.

“Now we have this Astro turf (artificial grass) with some pet amenities that have been added to it. We have some tunnels, some play settings for animals to train on, some fire hydrants that squirt water when you press on them,” Kurt Fenstermacher, the El Paso Animal Services interim director, said.

The new Rufftail Runners program allows volunteers to take a dog for an off-site run. Workers are installing sound barriers to lessen loud noise that can stress the animals and employees and they are even playing calming music to help frightened animals.

Blankets are given to each cat and dog. People can help out by visiting the center’s website and donating a Kuranda bed. The shelter is also working on providing a puppy or kitten video feed to the public.

The city plans to hire a marketing officer and increase educational efforts surrounding pet adoption and pet over-population. The center also plans to change software that handles lost pet information to a more modern, robust type of software that provides more detailed and helpful information.

Other improvements include providing a more user-friendly adoption center. Industrial appliances have also been purchased to help keep the hundreds of animal bowls and towels clean.

The Animal Services Center is now open seven days a week and afundraising foundation has been started to apply for grants.

Eight people spoke to city council during the public comment section of the meeting. While a few were critical of the 50 percent kill rate, others commended the city for moving in the right direction to save more lives.

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