Local animal shelters, non-profits struggling with growing stray population

Volunteers at local shelters say donations go a long way to help spay and neuter pets but also to house and care for the hundreds of animals that are taken in at the shelters.

HOUSTON - After 59 puppies were dropped off in one hour last week, the staff at the Harris County Animal Shelter says by Monday most of those puppies have been adopted or have holds on them.

Martha Marquez of Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services told KHOU 11 that 25 animals were adopted on Monday and 100 more were adopted over the weekend, all spayed and neutered.

However, Marquez and other volunteers say those same cages often fill back up in a matter of hours because of the region’s pet and stray overpopulation. 

Melissa Carson says no matter how many trips she’s made to the Harris County Animal Shelter over the years, it doesn’t get any easier.

“We see this all the time and it’s heartbreaking,” said Carson on Monday afternoon, holding two small puppies just 10 days old, rescued from the shelter five days earlier. “I can’t leave them, especially bottle babies with maggots. That’s my weakness.”

Carson works with K9 Angels Rescue, a local nonprofit that takes about 1,000 dogs a year from the Harris County Animal Shelter, fosters them, then finds homes for them.

Co-founder Mary Tipton has been rescuing animals for 25 years and says Houston’s stray problem hasn’t improved.

Tipton, along with representatives from two other nonprofits working to fix the stray issue, Emancipet and Barrio Dogs, told KHOU 11 they believe low cost spay neuter services are key to keeping Houston’s estimated stray population of 1.2 million animals from growing.

Kelly McCann of Emancipet says some estimates suggest 68,000 spay/neuter surgeries would need to be done in Houston every year just to keep up with the amount of strays.

MORE: 'Well over 100 animals a day': Houston-area shelters ask public for adoption, foster help

McCann said the veterinarian in their office performs 30 surgeries per day, which is considered “high volume.” 

However, those volunteers say those services after often too expensive and too inaccessible for people in low-income areas, while other residents don’t want to fix their animals because of cultural differences or just don’t realize how important the procedure is.

“(We work to) help them understand the importance of it and how it increases their home values, their property values,” said Tipton. “Their quality of life gets better by having less strays on the streets.”

After receiving $743,000 in donations in June, Harris County is keeping its low-cost spay neuter clinic open longer hours with more staff.


During the check presentation, Judge Ed Emmett credited the city-county stray animal summit in October 2016 with helping secure the money. He told KHOU 11 he wants to have another summit by late summer.

Meanwhile, the volunteers at K-9 Angels Rescue just bought around $120,000 worth of surgical equipment as part of their Empty Shelter Project, storing them in their office and even in their homes.

“Yeah, my mom’s not too happy with me,” laughed Miller Friedman, a volunteer who organized the purchase.

Those tools will be used Saturday to fix more than 300 animals at a spay-neuter event that received so much interest, they’re no longer accepting new animals.

However, Tipton, Carson, and Friedman hope to eventually hold similar spay-neuter clinics every over month, or even every month.

Early Tuesday morning, the City of Houston’s animal shelter, BARC, along with Emancipet and the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) will be holding a free spay-neuter event at Sylvester Turner Park at 2800 West Little York from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 a.m.

However, the event is only open to people who live within Houston city limits, and it’s first-come, first-serve. For more information on who is eligible and what to bring, click here.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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