Tag Archives: Amarillo Animal Control

'Dog pound' gets a new name

Remember when we used to refer animal control shelters as the “dog pound”?

It’s an unflattering nickname for what’s supposed to be a place where unwanted pets — dogs, cats and whatever else — are housed until fate comes calling.

Well, the Amarillo animal control department has a new name. It’s now called Animal Management & Welfare.

The “welfare” name perhaps is most important given the controversy that has enveloped the department in recent weeks.

A Randall County grand jury investigation looked into whether animals were being subjected to cruel treatment as they were being euthanized. The grand jury declined to indict anyone over the allegations of mistreatment. The two top animal control staffers — Mike McGee and Shannon Barlow — “retired” as a consequence of the investigation.

What is known is that staffers violated state law by failing to weigh the animals prior to administering the lethal drugs. The result reportedly was that animals indeed did suffer needlessly as they died.

The city has enacted several new policies as a result. They include: promoting transparency and compassion; using an online service to report lost and impounded animals; a new identification system for animals; improvements in customer service; improvements to the physical surroundings at the shelter.

The media reports about the manner in which the animals were being treated hit many Amarillo residents hard. That happens when animals are involved. Human beings have this inherent soft spot as it regards domestic pets.

The city also ought to be much more proactive as well in promoting spaying, neutering and vaccinating of pets. That, too, would help stem the problem of euthanizing so many animals every year.

For now the name has changed at what’s now called Amarillo’s Animal Management & Welfare Department. Let’s hope what happens inside those walls is in keeping with the new name on the building.

More to come on Animal Shelter?

My gut’s been rumbling a bit the past few days.

I’m wondering if there’s another shoe about to drop at Amarillo City Hall regarding changes in the way it runs the Animal Control Shelter, you know, the one that’s been in the news of late.

The top two hands at Animal Control — Mike McGee and Shannon Barlow — have “retired” from public service. A Randall County grand jury heard evidence of alleged animal abuse at the shelter but then declined to indict anyone for criminal wrongdoing — a decision that caught many of us by surprise.

Is this the end of the story?

Something tells me “no.”

A lengthy newspaper article published this past Sunday told of how the city was a tad slow reacting to reports of abuse involving the euthanizing of animals at the shelter. Shelter staff had failed to weigh the animals prior to administering the lethal drugs, which is required by state law. Thus, they didn’t know how much of the drug to administer and it reportedly produced suffering by the animals as they died.

Still, the grand jury reported no “abuse” of the animals occurred? Someone will have to explain that one to me.

The city has a new interim director. Assistant City Manager Vicki Covey — who was charged with overseeing the animal control operations from her office — has been taken off that task. The city manager, Jarrett Atkinson, has been hit with yet another troubling case of lack of oversight on his watch.

I’ve spoken with a couple of former city council members about this matter. One of them thinks McGee and Barlow should have been canned on the spot when the allegations came to light; he disagreed with their being placed on “administrative leave.” The other ex-council member thinks the story has been overplayed in the media; I disagree quite vehemently with that assessment.

The care of animals means a lot to people, for better or worse. It’s part of many humans’ DNA to carry a soft spot in their hearts for defenseless animals who’ve been tossed aside by their caretakers.

If nothing else, the city ought to embark on a concentrated, proactive and aggressive campaign to educate pet owners about the need to neuter their animals. I know full well the message will be lost on many folks, but given the embarrassment caused by this scandal it’s worth the time, the effort — and the expense.

As for whether any more heads should roll at City Hall, well, I wouldn’t bet against it.

Retirement in name only

Let’s call Mike McGee’s departure as head of the Amarillo Animal Control operation what it is: a “retirement” in name only.

McGee didn’t “retire” the way most of us understand the term. He was shoved out, asked to leave, perhaps told to hit the road.

By my way of seeing things, he should have gotten the boot when allegations erupted over mistreatment of animals that were being euthanized at the shelter.

City Manager Jarrett Atkinson put McGee and his chief deputy, Shannon Barlow, on “administrative leave,” meaning they were getting paid while letting someone else do their job — and while a Randall County grand jury investigated whether to indict anyone for criminal wrongdoing.

Well, McGee is gone. His “retirement,” announced Thursday, is effective today. Interesting, eh?

The fact that the city implemented serious changes in the euthanasia methods for unwanted animals carries the implication that the former way was wrong, if not illegal. Who was responsible for that? The guy in charge … McGee. Let’s throw Barlow into that category as well.

And when the guy in charge is running a publicly funded operation in a way that cries out for change, that suggests he isn’t doing his job. Isn’t that correct? Thus, he and his top assistant both should have been canned.

Now he’s “retired.” McGee’s troubles might not be over. The grand jury is supposed to decide perhaps by June 11 whether to indict anyone for crimes involving the Animal Control Department. McGee and Barlow appear to be the individuals on the hot seat.

This story appears to be far from over.

Grand jury has much to ponder in animal abuse case

Randall County grand jurors have met this week.

They won’t meet again for another two weeks. They have a big case on their plate. It involves allegations of abuse of animals kept at the Amarillo Animal Control Shelter and whether they were euthanized properly.

Two senior animal control officials — director Mike McGee and deputy Shannon Barlow — are on “administrative leave.” The city has enacted changes in its euthanasia policy to correct what it acknowledges went wrong at the shelter. My own view is that McGee and Barlow already are deemed culpable in this matter and should be terminated.

Someone — maybe more — might be facing criminal charges if he grand jury decides to issue indictments.

I had thought there might be a decision this week. It won’t happen for at least another two weeks, given that the grand jury meets every other Wednesday.

That’s all right. The panel needs to consider lots of evidence. The district attorney’s office is presenting witnesses, documents and is trotting at least one prosecutor who will talk to the grand jury about the case.

I’m prepared to wait for as long as it takes for the grand jury to make its decision.

Having once served on a Randall County grand jury, I understand fully the stakes. Our grand jury didn’t get a case that has drawn this much attention, but we had our share of heartbreaking cases to ponder.

This one, though, has everyone watching.

Take your time, grand jurors, and be sure you get it done correctly.

City probe hits serious hot button

Can there be a more sensitive issue for many human beings than allegations that animals are being “improperly” euthanized?

So it is with Amarillo Animal Control officials who are under investigation by the police department.


I believe there needs to be some serious questions asked here.

Allegations have been flying about the way Animal Control personnel are disposing of unwanted pets. The use of the term “improper euthanizing” sends chills up my spine and I’m sure the spines of others. Such supposedly improper activities cover a wide — and frightening — array of methods.

There allegedly is an absence of scales at the animal shelter that enable employees to weigh animals to ensure they administer the proper amount of drugs to put the animal down. What else is going on out there?

Scott McDonald is the acting animal control director. He isn’t talking much about what’s being investigated, nor is he discussing the administrative leaves ordered for two employees caught in the middle of the allegations.

Let’s hope the city releases the clamps on what it so far isn’t saying about this matter. Human beings, sensitive creatures that we are when it comes to the treatment of animals, need some answers as to what’s going on at the city-financed animal shelter.

What’s more, we human residents of Amarillo need to know what’s being done to correct what allegedly has gone wrong.

We’re all ears, City Hall.