The City of San Antonio's Animal Care Services operates a dog shelter facility on the Southside at Brooks City-Base. In its three year history, it hasn't attracted much attention. It was used for overflow from the main campus located off Hwy 151 near the San Antonio Food Bank.
Several weeks ago the Brooks facility transitioned from an overflow shelter to quarantine. It is now responsible for holding animals for bite or cruelty cases.
But anger grew throughout the community from those who knew about the Brooks center because they believed animals were not getting the chance they deserved to be adopted. Public access was not granted, but ACS director Kathy Davis said the animals were transported between Brooks and the main ACS grounds.
Davis disputed the rumors that people took the Brooks shelter for a dead end road, literally, for the animals.
"I disagree a little bit. We did use it for an overflow facility," she said. "Those pets were shuttled back and forth between our main facility and our Brooks facility, obviously to free up space here, and to obviously give us an opportunity to give them more time so they could be adopted."
When asked if any dogs had ever been euthanized at Brooks, Davis answered, "No," and she repeated that answer when asked if any dogs will be euthanized there in the future.
On Monday, the ACS advisory board voted to recommend extending the lease at Brooks for another 10 months. It would have expired in January. The extension will allow the facility to be in operation until November 2014, at which time more kennel space will be available at the Animal Defense League. In addition, the Paul Jolly pet adoption center just opened at Brackenridge Park. It is operated by San Antonio Pets Alive!
The board also voted to recommend reducing the number of days ACS holds strays by one day, from three to two. The items will be voted on by the full city council on Dec. 19.
Regardless of what function the Brooks facility has played or will play, it didn't stop Kelly Plessala from taking action to help the animals she thought were being looked over.
Last year, she said, she found out about the Brooks shelter when she went to the main ACS campus and couldn't find the dog she saw on the internet. It turned out the dog she was looking for was at the Brooks shelter.
"People didn't know that one-third of the dogs that came into ACS' care were housed at a facility no one knew about," she said.
Plessala didn't find any signs or directions to Brooks, which is why she dedicated the next year and a half to taking pictures of the dogs at the Brooks building every week. She got to know them and put their profiles up on Facebook and her own website, Brooks Babies Arf.
She estimates that she saved about 1,000 dogs, including one of her own, Maddie.
"She's spoiled rotten, and she's my girl, and she's very sweet," Plessala said.
Davis said ACS did advertise the Brooks shelter with signs at ACS and on its website. But despite her best efforts, Davis knew people were growing angrier with ACS.
"We understand that. It was frustrating to us as well to not have enough space on our main campus to house all of our pets," she said. "So we did put in place a plan that's actually been, was started back in 2011 to find additional ways to house our pets in better circumstances."
Many people, including Plessala, say they're happy with the new direction ACS is going with the Brooks shelter, but they want proof that leaders will follow through on their promise.
"My preference would be to have a third party independent organization to be able to randomly inspect the facility in order to ensure that ACS doesn't have any adoptable animals housed at Brooks," she said. "Since it is closed and remote, how are you going to know that they're not backing out on their word?"
Davis said the ACS board, and the state, will provide those checks.
On a recent inspection -- a copy of which was obtained by TPR through an open records request -- the Brooks shelter passed initial state benchmarks for running a quarantine facility like sanitation and proper documentation.
State follow-up inspections will happen without notice.
"They just show up and obviously go through our kennels, ensure that they're still well maintained, that we're conducting business in a manner that we should, both in the care of the pets as well as the manner in which we're housing them," Davis said.
Although there are people in the city who still don't take care of their animals properly, Davis said, the tide is turning. While she pushes for education initiatives and programs to help animals receive a better outcome, she told the advisory board that San Antonio's live-release rate is nearing 80 percent.
She believes it's what's making the city already a better place for pets.