SAN ANGELO, APRIL 19, 2021 - Concho Valley PAWS and the City of San Angelo set local records in February & March releasing over 90% of animals entering the shelter through progressive adoption placement and return to owner programs.
San Angelo had long been home to a high-kill shelter that processed thousands of pets each year killing 80% of the animals that entered the facility as a means of animal population control. Over 9,000 animals were destroyed each year. That breaks down to 750 cats and dogs killed each month; 187 per week or 37 per day. Capture and kill was an inhumane and ineffective approach to animal control from which much of the country had already moved away.
In 2016, after a change in shelter management, Concho Valley PAWS challenged the City of San Angelo to embrace a no-kill initiative with the goal of transforming San Angelo into a "no-kill" community by the year 2020. The city was receptive to the idea and began working in partnership with PAWS to achieve the goal.
"One of the most important changes was attitude among the city shelter staff." Wilson said. "Immediately, the shelter stopped considering euthanasia as an acceptable option for creating space. If an animal was healthy, of good temperament and ready for adoption, they did not consider euthanasia which allowed PAWS to get aggressive with marketing and placement. One of the first things the initiative required was for PAWS to implement a high-volume progressive adoption program to attract adopters" said PAWS Executive Director, Jenie Wilson.
PAWS established an office inside the city's shelter and began growing the shelter pet adoption program while reaching out to partnering rescues across the state and nation to place pets in homes outside of San Angelo. "What we discovered by networking with rescues throughout the country is that some communities have done so well with their spay and neuter initiatives that there is actually a demand for the shelter pet so we are able to place San Angelo dogs in loving homes across the country." Wilson said.
These initial changes reduced the kill rate to 43%. A successful beginning, but the shelter and PAWS still had much to do to achieve "no kill".
"No Kill" is defined as saving every cat and dog in a shelter that can be saved. A shelter is considered a "no kill" shelter if it has a save rate of 90% or more. "It means providing medical care for the sick, addressing unwanted behaviors and treating each and every pet as an individual life worth saving." Wilson said.
The next step towards the no-kill goal was to end the euthanasia of animals arriving with illness or injury. "Prior to our partnership with the city, the shelter euthanized animals with treatable illnesses such as kennel cough, upper respiratory, coccidia or parvo. They also euthanized injured animals upon arrival. Now, PAWS provides all animals with necessary veterinary care so that the animal can regain health and prepare for adoption." Wilson said. "The only time euthanasia is considered is if the illness or injury is such that there is no viable treatment or where quality of life is diminished." Wilson said.
Finally, the shelter had to look at how feral cats were handled. "Even though we had done such great things with adoptable pets, the feral cat population, also referred to as community cats, were being captured and killed until 2019." Wilson said That year the shelter implemented a Spay, Neuter & Return (SNR) Program where community cats were spayed or neutered and released back to their colonies. "It made a big difference. A difference for cats and for the morale of the staff." Wilson said. "It is a proven effective and humane approach to dealing with the cat population," Wilson said. In 2021, when shelter funding for the SNR program was exhausted, PAWS came alongside the shelter to provide for the sterilization services so that the program could continue.
"We have officially flipped the script. The shelter went from euthanizing 80% of its population to releasing 90% alive-saved by progressive adoption and return to owner programs." Wilson said.
"While we celebrate the success of lives saved, we also must stay focused and dedicated to the mission because sustaining this save rate will be a constant struggle as San Angelo still has an overpopulation of dogs and cats. I can't stress enough the importance of having your pets spayed or neutered." Wilson said. "We have a very delicate balance right now, all it takes is for an unexpected influx of animals or a reduction in our out of state placement partners for us to lose ground. We need the community's help sustain this achievement We need adopters, fosters, volunteers and donors. But the one thing everyone can and should do, is spay or neuter their pet. Having said that, we are excited and looking forward to having an annual average save rate of 90% or greater." Wilson said.
PAWS has since moved from having an office inside the shelter into their new facility directly next door. The Judith & David Hirschfeld Adoption Center was completed in mid 2020 and houses office space, a spay and neuter clinic, parvo ICU unit and education center. Currently under construction is the Stephens Dog Dorms which will house adoptable dogs awaiting adoption. "Big and exciting changes are happening right now which means things are improving for homeless pets," Wilson said. "It's a great time to get involved and be a part of a promising future for pets and the people who love them."
For more information on adopting, fostering, volunteering or donating please visit cvpaws.org or call 325-656-PETS.