Staffing Shortages Strain Dallas Animal Services

Staffing Shortages Strain Dallas Animal Services
Dallas Animal Services officer Reid Koenig pulls a street dog using a catch pole after removing it from under a porch at a house in South Dallas on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. | Image by Shafkat Anowar, The Dallas Morning News

Staffing shortages are making life more difficult for Dallas Animal Services (DAS), which reportedly only has eight officers who can work in the field at any one moment. On occasion, the DAS has just three officers covering the entire city.

Reid Koenig, a lead officer with Dallas Animal Services, says he responds to a large portion of DAS’s call traffic. Unfortunately, in many cases, when Koenig arrives, the situation is nothing like what he was told. “It’s something you just gotta roll with,” he said.

The staffing shortage at DAS has made it challenging for the few officers on call to respond swiftly; regardless, Koenig is required to follow procedure. It’s not ideal to let all these calls last this long, but he said there isn’t much he can do about it. “If we’re down five officers, that’s 50 calls on the shift we can’t get to.” When he feels like he has caught up on everything, “It’s like boom, boom, boom,” he told The Dallas Morning News.

As a former paralegal, Koenig knows he is not limited to working for DAS. A hatred for sitting behind desks draws him to the animal-focused job. Koenig recently accepted a position in the city attorney’s office with a $20,000 pay increase. Within five months, he was back with animal services, where his current salary is roughly $44,000 per year.

Not only does DAS have trouble finding the proper officers for the job, but they also have trouble keeping them. One of the few available colleagues to assist Koenig in the field is actually his wife, whom he met at DAS.

Koenig says he has trained several new hires over the last year, but none of them ultimately became officers. His most recent trainee accepted a lower-paying job, citing a shorter commute from home and another reason. “Less dangerous,” the trainee said.

One of Koenig’s first actions before entering the field is donning his city-issued body armor and mentally preparing for the potential of a dangerous scenario. His daily protective gear includes pepper spray, a bite stick, a baton, and a tourniquet, most of which he bought himself.

“The government will only issue what they say you need to get the job done,” he said. Those essentials include body armor, catch poles and nets, radios, and body cams.

DAS’s limited staff are unlikely to arrive and help in an emergency situation requiring backup. “Three officers, everyone’s out on a call; you need help,” he said. “They can’t just drop everything and come.”

According to Koenig, one of DAS’s more difficult job duties is having to euthanize animals, which he says can be emotionally traumatizing.

Finding reliable colleagues to join animal services remains challenging, but a recent pay raise has Koenig feeling slightly better about the difficult situation. “That’s something. Maybe that’ll help,” he said.

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