PUEBLO, Colo. - The Pueblo City Council held a private executive session Thursday night and decided to start negotiations to rehire the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, based in Colorado Springs, to operate the troubled Community Animal Services of Pueblo.
The session started at 7 p.m. and ended by 8:15 p.m.
"I have my opinion about what to do but I can't decide myself," said City Council President Dennis Flores. "I need direction from the rest of the council. Even if we decided to choose them, we'd still have to negotiate a contract with them. We're looking for a 90-day contract in the short term, but we'll also explore the possibility of a long-term arrangement. There's still a lot of work to do because we have to work with the county."
Earlier Thursday, the HSPPR released a statement saying, "We have not been contracted to provide temporary services."
On Jan. 1, the HSPPR was replaced as CASP operator by PAWS for Life in an effort to save $500,000 in operating costs. But public complaints and several negative state inspections earlier this month forced the PAWS board to relinquish its license to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
The state has been overseeing the transfer of the shelter's animals to other shelters in Colorado. On Thursday, the Denver-based Max Fund Animal Adoption Agency took possession of more than 60 dogs and cats.
"They're ours now," said Max Fund manager Cheryl Stapleton. "They'll get medical care, they'll be spayed and neutered, and they'll be put up for adoption as soon as possible."
Stapleton said the animals are in surprisingly good condition, given what she heard about conditions at CASP.
"I feared the worst," she said. "We're a big help by taking pit bulls and other breeds that other shelters don't want."
Max Fund's involvement left only a few animals at CASP and Stapleton said they'll be claimed by other shelters by the end of the week.
Flores said earlier this week, he asked Pueblo County Commissioner Garrison Ortiz to begin talks with HSPPR about returning to CASP.
"I thought (HSPPR) did a good job and many people in Pueblo thought so, too," Flores said. "I think they're the best short-term solution and the best permanent solution. If they cost more, we'll find the money for it. It's not just about the money. It's also about how professional you are and if you can do the job you're contracted to do."
Flores said PAWS for Life continues to provide animal control services, such as picking up stray dogs or rabid animals.
"We have some local veterinarians handling some emergency situations for us," he said. "If there is a dog bite situation, people can call Pueblo police or the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office. But no veterinary services or adoptions are available at the shelter."
Another factor is that CASP intended to have at least an animal "no-kill" rate of 90 percent, slightly above HSPPR's 80 percent. But Flores said that won't be an issue if HSPPR takes over.
HSPPR will eventually be required to pass a state inspection if it operates CASP, Flores said, but will initially receive a temporary license because of its prior history.
Flores said the city and council have 90 days to decide on an operator for the shelter, but he hopes to restore services on at least a limited basis sooner than that.
"I'd like to do it within two weeks," he said. "I hope to have a decision by next week."
Finally, Flores said if HSPRR is chosen to run the shelter, a contract will be negotiated differently.
"We would expect to have more city and county oversight," he said. "We know they do a good job, but we also hear that they don't always provide all of their records," he said. "So we will insist on having more of a say in what happens there."