The Hays County Commissioners Court held a workshop to discuss the findings of an animal shelter and animal services feasibility study for the county at a meeting June 21. The commissioners approved funding for the study at a meeting Oct. 5 and then issued the request for proposals at a meeting Nov. 2.

The San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter, located at 750 River Road, San Marcos, is the sole intake shelter in Hays County that is publicly run and has continued to struggle with overpopulation, highlighting the need for the study.

Animal Arts Principal Heather Lewis and Team Shelter USA Founder Sara Pizano presented their findings and recommendations to the commissioners to help the county aid in the city of San Marcos’ efforts in best practices for handling animal services from an operational and facility standpoint.

Lewis and Pizano set out to try to undo the antiquated, 150-year-old animal welfare system that is set up for failure, Pizano said.

“You have the opportunity to do this right. And make no mistake, this is a social issue,” Pizano said. “This is not just about pets, this is about people.”

One of the recommendations is for the county to establish a veterinary care clinic that can provide spay and neuter programs, which Pizano said should be run by a nonprofit organization.

Additionally, to curb overcrowding at the SMRAS, a new animal resource center should be built that is more centrally located and accessible.

“We recommend that the shelter be located in a heavy, urbanizing area north of San Marcos because we want it to be a little further away from the current [shelter], perhaps around Kyle,” Lewis said. “We want to look at that area of Hays County that’s growing rapidly and is likely to grow rapidly in terms of population density.”

The recommendation for the new center is that of about 17,000-18,000 square feet with a capacity of around 60 canine and 50 feline housing units.

“The sooner they leave the animal shelter and go into loving homes, the better. So, it’s not about the number of animals, it’s about what we do to move them through as quickly as possible into their loving homes,” Lewis said.

The total proposed budget for the new center and its resources is $23.4 million, according to agenda documents.

With the study completed, it is now up to the commissioners to take action and move forward with or halt the project.