City attorney sets the record straight on animal shelter allegations
Local animal rescuer Jesus Meave made false accusations against the City of Mission and the RGV Humane Society at the Feb. 13 Mission Council meeting. Mission’s new City Attorney Victor Flores clarified the matter at the Feb. 27 meeting, in keeping with Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza’s promise of more transparency from city leadership.
Meave, the founder of the controversial Franklin All Animal Rescue Team, expressed concern over the recent partnership between the City of Mission and the RGV Humane Society.
In January, Mission entered into a contract with the RGV Humane Society to operate the Mission Animal Shelter under the supervision of the city health department. The contract is for three years, with the option to extend, at $400,000 a year. The Humane Society runs a no-kill operation and aims to make the entire region no-kill by partnering with Valley cities, the same way the organization partnered with Mission.
However, when Meave provided public comment at the Feb. 13 meeting, he claimed the contract was $1.2 million, the city did not follow the correct legal procurement process, the shelter did not live up to its no-kill name and it closed its intake. Mission’s attorney said none of that is true.
“There was a comment made that there was a lack of [request for proposals and qualifications] process. I did meet with that gentleman and I did explain that the Texas constitution does allow the city and other government entities to enter into cooperation agreements, so long as it’s serving a public purpose,” Flores said. “And in this case, the way we drafted that agreement was to fulfill a public purpose of helping to run the animal shelter. This was not an agreement for the procurement of goods or services that is required in the Texas Procurement Act.”
Also during his public comment, Meave said the shelter killed more than a dozen animals, which is true, but there is more to the story. RGV Humane Society Executive Director Luis Quintanilla said the organization has had to euthanize some animals because they are dying of distemper. But euthanasia is a last resort.
“I think the biggest misunderstanding, and it’s really, incredibly frustrating, is that people think no-kill means somehow that we have advanced medical science by 15 years,” he said. ”What ‘no-kill’ means is that we reserve euthanasia for when it’s absolutely necessary. So when an animal is beyond medical intervention, that is when we euthanize. We don’t euthanize for space — that doesn’t happen, and it hasn’t happened at our shelters for over three years now.”
Distemper is an airborne virus that can infect many animals, but in shelters with high populations, it affects mainly dogs. Quintanilla said the Humane Society has seen the illness take animals in a matter of days to weeks, but they are working on stopping the spread with their medical protocols.
“When we walked in on Feb. 8, we found that there were a few animals that were potentially sick,” the executive director said. “We started medicating all the animals that were showing symptoms and a few started declining rapidly because distemper is an incredibly dangerous and deadly disease. It is survivable in some cases but it is rare, and it requires a ton of veterinary intervention — an expense that we simply could not incur.”
Quintanilla said the animal rescue has detailed records with video and photo that documents the symptoms of those infected. Additionally, they have spoken to veterinarians and a national organization to get advice on how to proceed.
Although Meave was correct about the shelter euthanizing animals, he did not explain the nuances of the situation. He said the animals were healthy and adoptable, which Mission’s city attorney clarified was not the case at the Monday meeting.
Meave created the Franklin All Animal Rescue Team in 2014, but he and the nonprofit have been involved in legal issues in recent years. In February, Judge Marla Cuellar ordered Meave to stop operating his rescue from a house in Palmhurst — the second and identical order Cuellar issued the animal rescuer in less than a year.
Regardless of Meave’s history, the city attorney felt it necessary to set the record straight on the accusations. Flores said the community should expect more of the same in the future.
“A public comment is an opportunity for the public to come in and share what they want to share — their concerns — to the council,” he said. “I, as the city attorney, or even staff, have the right to clarify certain things. It’s not a discussion point, but if there’s any clarifications that need to be made, it can always be done.”
I commend Mission for trying to reach no kill status. Good for you!!
“No kill” is not what people think. It means communities will no longer have conventional animal control. Dogs get mislabeled so they can be euthanized and “not count”. More and more surrenders are abandoned because the shelter won’t accept them, people who find dogs are “deferred” meaning they are told to keep, rehome or give away an animal and owners never have the chance to find their beloved pets. Mission, you were a shelter that didn’t kill animals, you had achieved that already. Now, not so much. You made a deal that is going to cost our community, the animals and now there will be no transparency. A deal with an agency that has not been able to handle the 36 kennels in Harlingen without stacking animals in every corner.