Port Arthur working to have a no kill animal shelter; local leaders ask for patience

Published 12:36 am Thursday, May 11, 2023

After several weeks of speakers addressing City Council regarding the animal shelter, councilmembers this week said they are working to move Port Arthur to a no kill city.

Councilman Donald Frank Sr. said he, Councilman Thomas Kinlaw III and Councilwoman Ingrid Holmes wanted an agenda item addressing the issue to offer residents transparency. Frank said he and Mayor Thurman Bartie recently visited the animal shelter on 4th Street.

“Having gone to our facility, I think it’s important for you all to understand what we’re up against,” he said. “Our shelter takes cats, where other shelters don’t take cats. We only have 16 cages at our animal control center. Only 16 cages. It’s literally a garage with 16 cages in it, and it’s filled to capacity as I’m speaking to you. I would have brought three or four dogs home, but I don’t think my wife would appreciate it at this time without consultation.”

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Discussion regarding the animal shelter began following a February video taken from inside the Port Arthur facility showing one kitten that appeared to be dead but died at a later time. It was sharing a kennel with another kitten.

City leaders said an internal investigation was launched following the release of the video, noting an inspection Nov. 8 by the Department of State Health Services reported no negative findings.

On March 14, veterinarian Kelly Kays addressed council and proposed the idea of becoming a no kill city. Kays said she helped the City of Beaumont obtain that goal after becoming their veterinarian in 2016.

“There were 18 animals that were transported from our shelter, so we’re not trying to go through the euthanasia of these animals. But it’s a process, and we’re trying to get there,” Frank said. “There’s more to it than just putting a no-kill sign on Port Arthur or on the facility. There’s so much that goes into it.”

The current shelter was built in 1978 to house 30 animals and has approximately four employees, according to information from City Manager Ron Burton.

Kinlaw reminded residents a new animal shelter will soon be under construction.

“When we started to get this process into play, we thought about some of those things that we wanted to do to enhance our animal control center, our shelter,” he said. “I wrote some things down. We talked about the need. We knew that it was antiquated, it was small, (and) we needed a new facility. This present council decided to do that.

“We took a proactive approach into finding funding, getting with our city manager and his staff to show that we are critical, and we were definitely positive about this action.”

Kinlaw said he’s also visited the shelter, and the space isn’t adequate for equipment and employees.

“Getting with our city manager, he’s open minded about this growth opportunity for Port Arthur,” he said. “We are on the move, and please give us a little bit more time and you’re going to see the fruit of our labors in the near future.”

After contracting with PGAL, Inc. in May 2022, plans are in the design phase to develop a new shelter on Gates Boulevard, where St. Mary Hospital once stood.

Burton said they expect to go out for construction bids in October.

“We are in compliance with any and all state regulations,” Burton said. “In terms of transferring or upgrading to a no-kill city, we’ve got to work very closely with the legal department to make sure that we meet that 90 percent that is required. We’ve got to make sure also that we’ve got the volunteers in order to not only begin it but to sustain it for the future and to make sure we have all of the arrangements in place for adoptions as we move along.”

Kays was in attendance again Tuesday and offered to begin a vaccination process that would allow some animals to be moved to rescue organizations for foster care until they’re adopted.