UPDATE: Reward Offered — If You Own a Pet in Texarkana, Texas — Read This [Opinion]
Government red tape and an underfunded Texarkana animal shelter has caused a lot of grief for my family, our 10 year-old daughter and our young pet cat, Pepsi.
Our beloved Pepsi was caught in an animal trap in a yard on the street right behind us in our quiet Pleasant Grove neighborhood. My daughter and I set out last Saturday morning to distribute missing posters around the immediate area of our home.
It did not take us long before we found someone outside and asked him if he had seen our cat. He said he was pretty sure he saw a cat like that being picked up by Animal Control the day before.
So, with checkbook in hand, I took my daughter with me down to the Animal Care and Adoption Center, our local animal shelter, which is located in Texarkana, Ark. Texarkana, Texas does not operate its own shelter but contracts with the Arkansas-side shelter.
When we arrived, it only took a few minutes to find Pepsi, who was housed in an outdoor section of the shelter in a rusty, rickety cage just like this one.
So, with payment ready, we went back to the front desk of the shelter and that's when we were relayed some very bad news. I was told if I lived in Texarkana, Ark., I could pay the fee and retrieve my pet right then since the shelter is on the Arkansas side of town. However, since I happen to live on the Texas side of Texarkana, I must first go down to City Hall, pay them, and only then could I return to the shelter to retrieve my pet who was being housed not far from where my daughter and I were standing.
As completely inconvenient as running from the animal shelter over to City Hall and back to the animal shelter again is for all Texarkana, Texas residents, I still would do that in a heartbeat to get my daughter's pet back. But I don't think I should have to. Besides, the problem is that it was Saturday. And, of course, there was no one at City Hall to pay since it was closed. So, since we apparently live on the "wrong side of town" it was impossible to get our pet back that very day -- simply because we lived on the Texas-side of Texarkana and the Animal Care and Adoption Center is on the Arkansas side of Texarkana.
It was bureaucratic nonsense at its finest.
I was informed that Pepsi would have to stay in the shelter (costing me more money for the longer stay of course) for another 48 hours until I could go to City Hall on Monday. Needless to say, my daughter and I were both quite unhappy but had no choice but to leave the animal shelter, and our poor Pepsi behind, for what would be a very long weekend. My daughter and I were very saddened at being able to see our cat but not being able to take him home. The entire situation seemed so ridiculous.
But that unhappiness spiraled toward anger come Monday.
When I returned to the shelter two days later to finally retrieve Pepsi, I quickly discovered my cat was gone from the animal shelter. G-O-N-E. Pepsi's cage was empty and the door to his crate was not even closed shut. The shelter staff had no explanation other than "he must have just escaped over the weekend."
Take a look at this brief video and witness how easily any cat can "escape" from these rusty, dilapidated crates, especially since the latches barely work.
So here I sit a week later without Pepsi. I've been all over town putting up flyers and I've asked my friends all over Facebook to share Pepsi's photo in hopes that someone will see him and let me know. So far, no dice.
But none of this had to happen if I had just been allowed to take my cat home that Saturday when I went to retrieve him.
So I called Texarkana, Texas City Manager John Whitson.
"There is a recovery cost of $90 that the shelter charges the City for each Texas side animal that comes into the shelter," he said. That is the reason the money is paid to the City of Texarkana, Texas, he explained.
I told the City Manager that I had no problem paying the recovery fee. And yes, if someone lived on the Texas side, it would be highly inconvenient to go to the shelter, then be told to go to City Hall, then back to the shelter. But that was not even my primary complaint, I said. The biggest problem is that on Saturdays -- a day that would be the easiest and sometimes the only time people are off work to retrieve their pets -- has been made impossible by the process that has been put in place if one lives on the Texas side of Texarkana.
That's the crux of this whole fiasco.
If someone comes to the shelter and is ready with payment in hand to get their pet back and off the shelter's hands, especially since crowding is such an issue there, releasing pets should be made possible any day the animal shelter is open. Period.
City Manager Whitson did recognize this as a problem and said that he would be willing to sit down and talk with the Arkansas Side City Manager and the Director of Animal Control to try and find a way to make it possible to recover pets on the weekend and hopefully make the process easier.
But I'm not done yet. I still intend to talk to the Arkansas side City Manager, the shelter director, both mayors and my councilmember to make sure that something is accomplished.
I sure hope Pepsi will be found. Please share this story on Facebook and help bring him home. My 10-year-old daughter misses him terribly. And frankly, so do I.
A financial reward is now being offered for the safe return of Pepsi.