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West Valley City Journal

Outside-the-box thinking helps boost success at WVC-Taylorsville Animal Services

Aug 24, 2018 01:09PM ● By Jana Klopsch

West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Services is trying something new to keep an eye out for stray or violent dogs. (WVC-Taylorsville Animal Services)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected] 

They say you “can’t teach an old dog, new tricks.” 

But certainly, the agency responsible for rounding up stray dogs (and cats) in Taylorsville has recently deployed a number of “new tricks” in an effort to keep the public safe and to better ensure wayward animals are returned to their owners or paired up with new ones. 

“The people who work here are innovative thinkers who have a passion for what they do,” said West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Services Director David Moss. “We have made some big changes recently — many of them suggested by our employees — that seem to be working out very well.” 

Moss joined the agency’s Field Supervisor Nathan Beckstead and Shelter Supervisor Kathy Schuster to update the Taylorsville City Council on some of their changes.

For starters, their six animal services officers are rediscovering how to ride bicycles — this time with a purpose. 

“It’s always been a challenge to patrol places like Millrace Park or the Jordan River Parkway — when we receive complaints about dogs being off-leash or aggressive — because you can’t easily get vehicles into those areas,” Beckstead said. “But then a couple of my officers suggested we try bike patrols. I’m not aware of any other animal services agencies that do that, but it sounded like a good idea, so I took it to David.”

As a retired, 20-year law enforcement veteran, Moss instantly liked the idea. 

“When I served on a police vice squad, I saw a huge difference in the way people react to officers whether they were in a patrol car or out on a bike,” he said. “For whatever reason, getting rid of that door between the officer and the public makes a big difference in how positive the exchange can be.” 

It all proved to be good news for Taylor’s Bike Shop (3269 West 5400 South) in Taylorsville, when animal services personnel showed up to buy two patrol bikes, for $650 each. 

“Our total budget for the new patrol — including the bikes, helmets, air pumps, repair kits and other things — is less than $2,000,” Beckstead said. “And it’s not adding any staff cost because the officers are volunteering to ride the parks, after hours and on weekends.” 

“I think it’s a great idea, very innovative,” Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson said of the new bike patrols. “Every summer in particular, we have dog issues at our parks. I think the bikes are a great tool to help give animal services more of a presence there. I think the public will appreciate it too.” 

Back at the WVC-Taylorsville Animal Services office and shelter (4522 West 3500 South), another innovation has been introduced to better care for dogs and cats. 

“This spring, we negotiated our first contract ever with a local veterinarian to provide care — including animal surgeries — at our facility,” Moss said. “It required an upfront investment; but we have already begun to see the cost savings come back because we don’t have to transport animals for care nearly as often. Plus it gets them treated more quickly, which is more humane.” 

Before they could contract with a vet to come in, animal services had to invest in the necessary equipment. 

“The West Valley City Council approved a one-time increase in our budget of $20,000 to purchase an anesthesia machine and other equipment,” Moss added.  

The final significant change at animal services dates back a bit further. Schuster said it is also proving to be effective. 

“Every animal we adopt out first has a tiny microchip imbedded under its skin,” she said. “The chip is the size of a grain of rice, which is enough to help reunite lost pets with their owners. The chips are automatically included in the pets we adopt out. But previously, we were charging pet owners $10 to insert the chips into their animals when they came to claim them. Less than half of those owners agreed to do it.” 

So, starting last year, animal services found a way to absorb the cost and began offering free chip implants. 

“That boosted our implant numbers from under 50 percent to over 90 percent,” Schuster added. “And as long as pet owners follow through by updating information about their animals when they move, this will be a big help in getting animals back to their homes.” 

West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Services continues to strive to be a no-kill facility. Moss, Beckstead and Schuster say innovations such as these are helping drive their euthanasia number as low as possible. Only six animals were put down at the facility in all of April, May and June this year (the agency’s fourth fiscal quarter) compared to more than double that number, 13, during the same period last year.