Kansas City’s Animal Health and Public Safety Division needs better training and more oversight, according to an audit of the department.
The audit was conducted at the direction of the city council.
The report concluded that the focus on enforcement of code violations, rather than education or problem-resolution in the field, doesn’t result in improved animal welfare or public safety.
Impounding animals for code violations, for example, often led to owner abandoning the animals, rather than the owners learning how to better care for a pet.
The audit said owners sometimes pay for citations without fixing the issue.
"There's an emerging practice of moving away from enforcement and towards educating folks about pet ownership, remediating issues in the field, trying to connect people with resources," city auditor Douglas Jones says.
Still, Jones says enforcement is still important. And his team also found inconsistencies in enforcement efforts.
“The city’s dangerous dog and bite quarantine ordinances were not being consistently enforced, fault inspections for cruelty and neglect complaints and violations were not always conducted and the investigations were not adequately being documented,” Jones says.
He recommends that animal control staff receive annual, consistent training.
Jones also found that the division had a strained relationship with KC Pet Project, which partners with the city to shelter animals. The report said communication was poor and that a lack of trust between the partners interferes with their ability to collaborate.
His office recommended that the two organizations work together to establish shared goals for the program, and set specific benchmarks to measure success on those goals.
The director of neighborhoods and public services, which oversees the Animal Heal and Public Safety division, agreed with the audit’s recommendations.
Lisa Rodriguez is the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. She's on Twitter @larodrig.