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City’s Animal Control dept. flooded with neglect and abuse calls, but ten officers stretched thin

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new audit finds serious flaws with Kansas City’s animal control department. It comes two years after a FOX-4 Problem Solver investigation into concerns over the city’s response to animal abuse and neglect cases, and outcry from animal rights groups.

From the moment Kansas City animal control officer Virginia Fleming starts her day, the calls don’t stop coming. Residents in one neighborhood she visited Thursday complained about two dogs getting loose through a fence. One of the dogs had clear health issues needing attention.

“This is a list of all the things they’ll do at low or no cost for you,” Fleming said to the dog’s owner.

A city audit into animal control operations found officers focus too much on issuing violations and not enough on education. This interaction is a good example of how the department is trying to get better.

“I like it when things end in a good way,” Fleming said.

But despite the good happening to save little guy like a group of kittens Fleming found, the audit’s findings are still troubling.

And it’s no surprise to animal rescue groups like Chain of Hope, which has been angry about animal control’s response to abuse cases for years. The most recent incident happened just this past week, when the group says it called about a neglected dog nine times in eleven days, before the dog ultimately ended up at KC Pet Project with ringworm.

“He’s sick. He sat in that back yard sick. And nobody with the city gave a damn. Oh it just makes me so mad,” sat Kate Quigley with Chain of Hope.

The city admits animal control needs work, but says the biggest issue is that for the 1500 calls it’s getting a month, there are just 10 officers to respond.

“We’re stretching the rubber band about as far as we can stretch before it’s going to snap and none of us want that to happen,” said John Baccala, spokesperson for KC Animal Control.

Chain of Hope just wants the audit report to end any excuses and push the city to take action.

“You are paying with your tax dollars, these people’s salaries. They are not doing their job. City hall needs to figure this out. We’ve gotten the proof…So you can’t defend this. You have to fix it,” Quigley said.

Just for comparison, the city of St. Louis has just seven animal control officers.

In Kansas City, the city’s neighborhood committee is set to review the audit report into animal control operations next week, and the city council may ultimately decided what happens from there.

You can view the entire report for yourself here: http://webfusion.kcmo.org/coldfusionapps/auditor/reports/Animal%20Control.pdf?CFID=2528313&CFTOKEN=96833926