Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough will oversee the operations of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter following a unanimous decision by county commissioners at a Sept. 13 meeting.

Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack, who introduced the item to court, said the move would bring “clarity” to animal shelter operations. Commissioners did not discuss any action regarding county Animal Services Director Aaron Johnson, who is the county’s longest-serving animal services director.

“It is concerning to me that when the court gives directives [to the shelter] they don’t seem to be followed up on,” Noack said.

Noack—who previously worked with the animal shelter—said he was concerned after “not seeing action taken” following citizen complaints at Commissioners Court and to his office. Noack’s office directed Community Impact Newspaper to Keough’s Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps following a request for comments.

Several residents spoke at the Sept. 13 meeting, saying they had issues with the shelter’s refusal to take in animals. One speaker, Tara Tennant, told commissioners that the shelter not picking up animals was leading to “public safety issues.”

“Taxpayers are turned away in person, over the phone or through canceled appointments,” Tennant said.

Johnson also referred Community Impact Newspaper to Keough’s office for comment following the commissioners’ decision. He previously spoke about stresses on the county’s intake caused by a combination of distemper—a virus that affects dogs and cats—and pandemic-related factors. In 2021, the shelter closed services due to distemper and mandated its currently running appointment system to manage intake.

Johnson told commissioners at a Feb. 8 court session that stretched shelter capacity had led shelter staff to ask callers with stray animals if they could hold on to them for two weeks. Noack branded those actions as “unacceptable” at the time.

In the county’s fiscal year 2022-23 budget, adopted Aug. 26, the shelter received $5.5 million, an increase from the FY 2021-22 allotment of $5 million. The department also received 2 additional full-time employee positions to take its total to 57, its first increase in full-time employees in three fiscal years.