The trend line of animals being taken into the Kerr County Animal Shelter suggests that 2019 will surpass last year’s numbers, but there is good news when it comes to the fate of those impounded animals.
“Since we’ve started working so closely with the rescues and giving them priority, that’s what’s made the difference between us euthanizing for space last year and us not having euthanized for space this year,” said Nichole Golden, the adoption coordinator at Kerr County Animal Services.
The county is expected to capture or have surrendered more than 2,200 animals in 2019 — up slightly from 2018. However, the number of animals euthanized is expected to fall, while the number of adoptions is expected to rise. Those numbers are based off of a count from July of this year.
With strengthening relationships with no-kill shelters and rescues after a policy change that gives rescues first pick over animals, the county shelter has been able to pass off a few aggressive animals.
In the past, Tuesday and Thursday were grim days for the shelter, because that’s when animals were euthanized. The shelter has euthanized 360 feral cats, but no animal has died because there was a lack of space in the shelter.
If the trend continues the shelter will see a 67% decrease in euthanizing animals from 2017, when more than 1,100 were killed.
The county shelter decides to euthanize animals when the facilities run out of space or if they are feral and aggressive, since aggressive animals are not adoptable to the public, Golden said. When more space is needed, the ones who have been there the longest are at higher risk of being euthanized.
“We also try to consider who is more adoptable,” Golden said. “I know that sounds sad, but a dog that’s never been around anybody and has been in a backyard on a chain its whole life? Nobody’s going to want to take that home. It’s not really fair to give them more time, knowing they stand very little chance, while we have other dogs that have high potential for adoption.”
The rescue-favoring policy change is also leading to higher adoption rates, Golden said.
“As far as the public goes, they’re not reliable,” Golden said. “We’ll post a beautiful, gorgeous purebred dog on Facebook, and we’ll get 20 or 50 comments on it, everybody saying, ‘I want it, I want it,’ and then when he becomes available for adoption, nobody shows up. But when a rescue contacts us and tells us that they want the animal, they don’t back out. They get here regardless if they’re out of another state.”
It’s often harder to get the general public to commit to a new pet. Sometimes people will take home a friend and realize that they weren’t quite ready for the care it needs, and so the animals will come back, Golden said.
“It all depends on if somebody is willing to work with it,” said Jennie Woodland, the director of the Kathleen C. Cailloux Humane Society. “I’ve had animals that were pretty shy that we’ve worked with, people saw the potential and have adopted it. It turns out the dog, a year later, is the best dog they’ve ever had.”
But it’s also important to consider that animals sometimes need a little help in becoming more adoptable. Both the Humane Society and the county shelter have volunteers and trainers come in and work with the animals to make them more well-behaved and accustomed to people.
“Once they get outside and exercise and stuff, they’re much more mellow,” Golden said. “They don’t have all that pent-up energy. It’s like kindergarteners — after recess, they’re so much quieter.”
Golden added that sometimes the high energy dogs have while in the pens can cause animals to seem less adoptable to potential new families.
“They can move around freely for the most part, but they can’t really exercise or stretch their limbs and things,” Golden said. “That can really decrease their potential for adoption, because whenever a person comes in and these dogs haven’t had proper exercise, they’re just bouncing all around in their kennels and they’re barking and you can’t really see their normal behavior.”
Woodland added that asking to meet a dog outside of their pens is a good way to see if it’s a good match.
“If you think you might want the dog, let us take it out for you and walk it and you will see that it’s a totally different dog,” Golden said.
5 SHELTER FACTS
Kerr County Animal Shelter details, according to Nichole Golden:
1. The most common dog breeds in the shelter are chihuahuas and pit bull mixes.
2. Chihuahuas are easier to adopt out than pit mixes.
3. There are five or 10 dogs that return to the shelter frequently enough due to running away that the shelter staff know them by name. They’re called “frequent flyers.”
4. Failure to properly keep a dog on their property can result in citations for the owners, since it violates state law. Combined with impoundment fees, owners of frequent flyers often stop coming to pick up their dog.
5. Implementing a surrender fee may not affect the number of surrendered pets. It might just result in more animals released into the streets.