Humane Society of North Texas chosen to handle pet adoptions

A new regional animal services center that opens next spring will be one of the largest pet adoption sites in Tarrant County.

The cities of Colleyville, Keller, Southlake and Westlake joined together a year ago to build the center as part of an $8.6 million project that also includes a regional jail at the Keller Police Department headquarters.

The Keller City Council approved a three-year agreement in October with the Fort Worth-based Humane Society of North Texas to manage adoptions.

"This will be a win-win for everyone, and especially the animals," said Martha York, president of the board of the nonprofit Humane Society of North Texas in Fort Worth. "We are very excited to be part of this."

The four cities teamed up a year ago on regional animal control and pet adoption, a move that required more space, officials said.

The Fort Worth-based Humane Society will staff the center for at least 40 hours a week, manage adoptions and records and oversee volunteers, among its duties.

The three current regional animal control officers will continue to pick up loose animals. They also will continue to be responsible for education and enforcement of city codes, said Capt. Mike Wilson of the Keller Police Department.

"We already have an aggressive adoption program, including strong relationships with animal rescue groups," Wilson said "But this will make our adoption efforts even stronger."

Fort Worth pets included

The center will shelter animals picked up as strays in the partner cities as well as animals brought from the Humane Society's Fort Worth shelter, officials said. The number of Humane Society animals will vary, depending upon space availability, York said.

The Humane Society of Fort Worth has faced space issues, prompting public pleas for adoption. The humane society also runs the Welcome Home Adoption Center in Keller and other satellite adoption sites in Tarrant County. The Keller center, 363 Keller Parkway, Ste. A, will continue to operate after the new regional center opens, officials said.

The new center will have about 9,000 square feet of space, up from 1,000 in the current facility. It will have 57 dog runs and 40 cat runs, Wilson said.

Other parts of the shelter include a 1,700-square-foot dog courtyard, a medical area for minor surgical procedures and a larger adoption area.

"We feel confident that the regional partnership that we entered into a year ago has helped to improve citizen satisfaction in this important community service," said Southlake Assistant City Manager Ben Thatcher. "The Keller-based shelter takes great effort to help families find lost family pets and it is more convenient for our citizens than the city's (Southlake) shelter location, which was in North Richland Hills."

Partnerships save money

Construction of the 21,000-square-foot regional center began in March and is expected to be complete this spring. The new jail will be 12,000 square feet compared to the current 3,500.

It will include more cells, additional security for employees and short-term detainees, increased technology and a kiosk for bonding out arrestees.

Northeast Tarrant County cities have been using regional partnerships for more than 10 years. The first was in 2002 when Westlake contracted with Keller to provide police services.

Keller and Colleyville merged their municipal courts in October 2012 to create regional municipal court in Texas, Wilson said. The partnership between the four cities for animal services also began then.

The agreements have saved each city operating costs, officials said.

Southlake and Keller partnered on jail and emergency dispatch services in 2007. Colleyville joined the arrangement in 2010.

The Keller-based regional dispatch center, known as the Northeast Tarrant Communications Center, serves an area of more than 60 square miles.

"Cities are no longer limited by our own city limits," said Colleyville City Manager Jennifer Fadden. "Reaching across our borders to form partnerships with other cities maximizes the benefits our citizens receive for their tax dollars."

Not always popular

In 2011, the Legislature passed a bill to expand the ability of cities and counties to contract with each other for longer periods of time and jointly undertake bigger capital projects, such as the regional jail and animal services center.

Lawmakers also learned that some joint operations are unpopular despite the savings. A bill in the past session to consolidate operations of San Antonio and Bexar County died in committee. A similar move to consolidate the city of El Paso and El Paso County also failed to gain traction.

"We have seen that interlocal agreements work well for things like animal control, law enforcement and garbage collection," said Scott Houston, general counsel for the Texas Municipal League.. "But it usually won't work if an individual city's identity would be lost through consolidation."