Tyler and other East Texas cities are taking back control of their animal control duties, following accusations of animal abuse and unsanitary conditions at Richard D. Klein Animal Shelter in Jacksonville.
The nonprofit shelter provided contract animal control services to several East Texas cities, including Tyler, Jacksonville and Bullard, among others.
The shelter's Executive Director Angela Wallace, 35, was arrested on three warrants Friday morning, including bodily assault, illegal euthanasia and cruelty to animals.
A second employee, a 29-year-old former staff member with euthanasia certifications, was arrested Tuesday and charged with a class A misdemeanor of cruelty to animals, according to Jacksonville Police Chief Reece Daniel. Another employee is expected to be arrested Wednesday morning, he said.
The investigation is ongoing.
"I would urge anyone who is a former employee who has personal knowledge of any crime being committed there to come forward and talk to us at the police station and give us a statement," Daniel said. "It's all over Facebook, but we are not seeing them come in to the station like they should be."
Daniel could not confirm if the shelter has closed, but he did confirm the facility no longer is accepting animals and that all cats have been evacuated.
Deborah Dobbs, executive director of SPCA of East Texas, said area animal rescue groups have been trying to remove animals since Sunday.
"They are not communicating with us at all right now," she said. "We have been asking since Sunday. We have offered to take animals."
Ms. Dobbs said a local veterinarian was allowed to enter the facility. Although he wasn't able to fully inspect all animals, she said he didn't report seeing any major sickness.
The SPCA estimated there were about 150 animals at Klein on Sunday. About 80 cats and 70 to 80 dogs were released to rescue groups, but as of Tuesday, some dogs remained at the shelter.
In the meantime, cities have held emergency meetings to figure out what to do with their animals.
Tyler Mayor Martin Heines said more cages would be added to the city's temporary animal holding facility on Grande Avenue to house animals it receives while a new shelter is being designed and constructed.
Interim City Manager Susan Guthrie has said the city expects to have its new 20,000-square-foot animal control facility at 4218 Chandler Highway renovated and open by this time next year. The city purchased the property in 2014.
In the meantime, the city will continue using its existing 4,000-square-foot facility to house animals, which will be managed by the newly-hired shelter manager, who was brought on to help guide the city's animal control efforts.
In addition to bringing in more cages, the city is hoping to lean on local animal rescue groups to help adopt out its strays. The city also is developing euthanasia guidelines to manage populations long term.
The city held a meeting Tuesday with five groups, including the SPCA, Pets Fur People, For Giving Hearts, Nicholas Pet Heaven, O'Malley's Alley Cats and Smith County's Pet Alliance (SAFE).
"(We wanted) to make sure that we interacted immediately with nonprofits that do … animal adoption that …. we get them to partner with us in order to best serve to the citizens, ‘Heines said. "We (will not) be sending animals to Klein anymore."
Heines said more details about the plan will be released Wednesday but noted the plan will not require budget changes. Funds are expected to come from money already allocated to Klein and for the shelter project, he said.
The city of Jacksonville, which contracted with Klein, also is developing an animal control plan. City Manager Mo Raissi said local rescue groups are helping pick up the slack until a permanent solution is in place, but she declined to comment on details of that plan.
Chief Daniel, whose department is investigating the accusations against Klein, emphasized that the shelter is not a public facility and, although it is located in the city, is not under the city's management control.
"This is not a city facility," Chief Daniel said. "We have no more control over them than we do Walmart or any other place, other than investigating criminal offenses."
In Bullard, strays will be housed in two large outdoor cages near city hall, but the city isn't expecting to house many animals.
The cages are about 4-foot wide, 6-foot long and about 5-foot tall. The city plans to put blankets inside for cold weather and cover them to protect them from the wind.
"We are in a unique situation, because we are small enough that if we see a stray or someone turns in a stay … if it has a collar, we will call the vet and usually locate to the owner," Bullard City Manager Larry Morgan said. "We return probably 50 or 60 percent of what we pickup to the owners."
Morgan said the city contracted with Klein on a per-animal basis and has sent four animals to the shelter since August.
Bullard also is looking to work with local animal groups to adopt out its animals.