If you were a public official and were faced with the prospect of spending $2 million or $3 million to expand an animal shelter, would you consider using the money to sterilize just about every animal in the county instead?
That’s the kind of question that occurs to Tim Holifield, a retired constable who runs animal shelters for Montgomery County and the city of Conroe.
He’s good with numbers and measurements — and he’s fond of an old country saying: It’s better to fix the leak rather than buy a bigger bucket to catch the drip. What he means is that it’s better to reduce the number of animals coming into a shelter rather than building bigger shelters and adding more staff.
One of the best ideas floating around these days is a proposal to ask Holifield to come to take a look at the Galveston County Animal Resource Center. That’s an excellent suggestion.
Public officials across much of Galveston County have been discussing the center’s proposed budget. The shelter in Texas City is funded by the county and several cities within the county. Some cities — such as Galveston and League City — operate their own shelters. The Galveston County Health District has oversight of the Animal Resource Center.
The budget discussions have not been promising. The organization of the county’s shelter is such that one of the cities can effectively block any budget increase. The county’s population is growing. More animals are coming into the shelter. Some shelter officials are concerned that they won’t be able to keep employees without a raise. Doing things as they’ve always been done just isn’t going to work.
That’s why it would be good to get a fresh perspective.
When he was constable, Holifield was asked to take over Montgomery County’s animal shelter twice. When he retired in 2012, he formed a private company and was awarded the contract for operating the shelter. This year, the city of Conroe contracted with his company to operate its shelter.
When Holifield took over Montgomery County’s shelter, the euthanization rate was 86 percent. Today, about two-thirds of the animals leave the shelter alive.
The cost per animal is $56 at the Montgomery County shelter. Many other shelters report numbers between $100 and $150.
What those figures suggest is that Holifield and his company have figured out how to do a lot with relatively little.
Rather than competing with local veterinarians, Holifield worked out contracts with them for low-cost sterilizations. The shelter in Montgomery County puts out daily reports on the animals it takes in. As a result, rescue groups work with the shelter to claim suitable animals, to take temporary custody of injured animals and to help find the owners of lost pets.
Galveston County ought to take advantage of his advice. It almost certainly would save lives.