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The City Journals

In-house pet surgeries proven successful at West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Shelter

Mar 06, 2019 12:13PM ● By Carl Fauver

Veterinarian Dr. Daniel Sims has been performing surgeries at the West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Shelter for about a year. (David Moss)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Control officials are pleased with a pair of experiments they launched last spring and are planning to continue them through 2019.

A year ago, the agency began patrolling area parks on bicycles, keeping an eye out for unleashed and unattended animals. About the same time, they also chose to bring their animal surgeries in-house, to their shelter at 4522 West 3500 South.

“The bike patrols proved very successful, as our staff members were able to get to know pet owners in a less confrontational way,” said Animal Services Director David Moss. “The feedback we got from people was that they found the interactions to be more positive. Our people didn’t write many tickets; it was mostly a public relations thing. We plan to start those up again soon, now that the weather is improving.”

As for the animal surgeries, Moss said things got off to a bit of a rocky start but have since improved.

“We had more animal deaths during surgery during the first several months of the contract, which was creating morale problems for our staff.” Moss continued. “Our people care for these animals, and deaths upset them. Our rate of deaths for those first months was higher than when we transported the animals for surgery. But I have seen improvement since then.”

A year ago, semi-retired Bountiful veterinarian Dr. Daniel Sims won the contract to perform the surgeries.  Sims, 75, became a veterinarian in 1967 and will reach 52 years in practice this summer. His contract with animal services pays him $70 per hour.

“I particularly like performing surgeries, especially spays and neuters, so this has been a good fit for me,” Sims said. “I also set a few broken bones. And occasionally, I have to treat something we call ‘happy tail.’ This occurs when a dog wags its tail so much it hits things and injures it. In these surgeries, I amputate a part of the tail and simply make them short-tailed dogs.”

As a part of his contract, Sims also supervises the West Valley City-Taylorsville rabies vaccination program. State law does not require a licensed veterinarian to perform all of the vaccinations, but a vet must train those administering the shots and supervise the program.

Taylorsville City is a one-third partner in West Valley City Animal Control and a one-third owner in the agency’s relatively new animal shelter.

“It is a good partnership with West Valley City, and I see no reason why it won’t continue into the future,” Mayor Kristie Overson said. “We meet with David Moss often to understand and clarify policies and procedures. We have a really good relationship with West Valley City.”

Before veterinary surgical procedures could be taken in-house a year ago, Moss requested and received $20,000 from the West Valley City Council to purchase necessary equipment. He remains convinced the change will save taxpayers money over the long haul, while also being better for the animals.

But at this one-year anniversary of the change, Moss has also decided to reevaluate who is performing the work.

“I spoke with Dr. Sims in late January and gave him a 90-day termination notice, meaning a new contract will need to be in place by April 30,” Moss continued. “Certainly, Dr. Sims will remain in the running to continue his work for us. But we also want to consider other candidates.”

“I will work there as long as I am capable and they want me,” Sims said. “I like what I do. We did have some fatalities during our first few months but have made improvements since then. I don’t like losing animals — period.”

Sims said seven surgery-related animal fatalities during his first six months on the job prompted a change in animal anesthesia and some procedures. Since September, Sims says there has been only one animal fatality.

Sims also conducts the shelter’s popular pet vaccine clinics on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, from 3 to 6 p.m.

“We are committed to having an on-site vet,” Moss said. “There is a great benefit in not having to transport the animals. And the vet is also able to conduct wellness checks on animals that don’t need surgery. It’s a huge advantage.”

Animal control officials say the change has also saved taxpayers money, though the exact amount is still being calculated.