Michael Bricker has an admirable goal for the Abilene Animal Shelter, and it’s one that everyone can help him meet.
On July 1, 2020, Bricker took over as interim animal services director for the city of Abilene. He is employed by Best Friends Animal Society, a national rescue organization with an animal sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Bricker was named interim director of the local shelter for one year through July 1, 2021.
By then, Bricker wants Abilene certified as a “no-kill” shelter, which means that ninety percent of the animals brought in leave the shelter alive. When Bricker came on board July 1, 2020, the percentage stood at fifty-five. By September, it had leaped to eighty-seven percent – a remarkable turnaround.
“We’re right there,” Bricker said. “We’re really close.”
That speedy transition to no-kill status came as the result of a new foster program, grants, specials, more adoption events, a transport system to send pets to shelters that need them, and hiring a staff veterinarian, a first for the shelter.
The foster program, which started in July 2020, has proven to be extremely popular. It is designed for either full-time fostering or for people who may be interested in adopting a pet to take one home to see how things work out. Potential pet owners also can take a pet home for a day, overnight, or for a week.
“It’s kind of like a test drive,” Bricker said.
Bricker gives much of the credit for the fostering program and for obtaining grants to Jacqueline “Jackie” Hernandez, shelter supervisor. Hernandez will celebrate four years with the shelter in March. She did the paper work for obtaining grants and to set up the foster program. She also created a manual for the foster program. There is no fee to take a pet home to foster. Sometimes, the new foster parents will have to buy supplies, but many times they leave the shelter with the pet and a “starter kit” for fostering.
“We give as much as we have at the time,” Bricker said.
Last year Hernandez applied for, and was awarded, a $55,000 grant from Petco to assist with emergency medical care. She can apply for the grant again once that money is spent. Hernandez also was successful in getting fifty Kuranda raised pet beds donated to the shelter.
Working at an animal shelter is a natural fit for Hernandez because her dad ran an animal rescue from the family home.
“This is something I definitely knew from a young age that I wanted to do,” Hernandez said.
This year, the shelter had several challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited visits to the shelter, and the resignation of the full-time Animal Services director, Tammy Roberts, after less than a year on the job. In May 2020, the city partnered with Best Friends Animal Society to provide a one-year interim director.
Bricker came from Edinburg, Texas, where he had successfully increased the live rate for the Palm Valley Animal Society. Within five months of his arrival at the Palm Valley shelter, Bricker increased the live rate from thirty-four to fifty-four percent, according to a news release from the city of Abilene when Bricker was hired. By 2020, two years after Bricker was hired in Edinburg, the rate rose to over ninety percent.
That is the goal that Bricker brought with him to the Abilene Animal Shelter. Bricker is especially pleased with the foster program the shelter instituted and credits that program with helping the shelter make the big jump in live releases between July and September of 2020.
The shelter is constantly recruiting potential foster parents through social media. An application form can be found on the shelter’s website, https://www. abilenetx.gov/179/Animal-Services Click on “Foster Program” on the homepage.
Bricker’s arrival in July 2020 added to the good outlook for Abilene’s stray animal population. In February 2020, Abilene architect Tim Rice McClarty presented the City Council with a drawing of a proposed new $9 million shelter. The council took no action and City Manager Robert Hanna emphasized that a new shelter, which would replace the current fifty-year-old facility, is only being considered.
Because of the virus, the shelter limited its hours and fewer people came out to look at the animals. When the pandemic eventually ends, the shelter will get more visitors interested in taking home a pet. Even though adoption numbers are up since Bricker arrived, he believes those numbers could be higher.
by Loretta Fulton