KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- City council members are making a dramatic change to how animal control services are operated by moving forward with plans to privatize those operations.
The council voted 9-3 on Thursday to outsource its animal control to KC Pet Project.
The city's animal control division has been under fire for years. A couple of blistering city audits have previously said changes were desperately needed to keep both animals and the public safe.
Audit reports showed the department lacked adequate enforcement of city ordinances, including the dangerous dog ordinance, and said animal control suffered from "poor communication and lack of trust."
Kansas City Pet Project previously took over city shelter operations and expressed its desire to assume animal control responsibilities in the field as well.
Animal control handles about 16,000 calls a year, so this is a big undertaking for KCPP.
KC Pet Project is hoping to make a dynamic shift to focus on educating pet owner responsibility to keep animals and community members safe, with the goal of fewer animal impounds.
This is especially urgent, as the shelter has seen record-setting intake volume all summer.
"The only way we're going to affect change, especially with those high intake numbers, is to actually leave the shelter and go out in the community and get to work figuring out what we can do to help people keep their pets," said Tori Fugate, with KC Pet Project.
Council members who voted against this proposal were most concerned about the 23 people who work for animal control and what their future holds.
An amendment to the ordinance made during Thursday's council meeting protects their employment, salaries and pensions with the city. It indicates they'll have the chance to apply with KCPP, but might end up working in different roles.
The city manager will now negotiate terms with KC Pet Project for operating animal control services. It's expected the council will vote on that plan this fall.
KC Pet Project said it hopes to fully take over animal control by the time it moves into its new shelter late this year.