Katy-area animal shelters strained by stray populations

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As growth continues to come to the Katy area, the need for animal control services and community involvement strains resources, local animal control professionals say.

“I could go on and on about strays, lost dogs, found dogs, intake requests, the reasons why we have such an issue and the reasons why most dogs get lost [or]go astray,” Special Pals Shelter Director Elizabeth Trick said. “It’s a multilevel issue and awareness is part of the solution.”

According to data provided by the nonprofit Special Pals Shelter, the number of cats and dogs taken in has increased 211 percent since 2010.

Other area shelters are seeing similar strains.

“We have 39 kennels that we have in the shelter that are supposed to give the dogs access inside and out, but right now we’re using both sides,” said Barbara Vass, adoption coordinator for Fort Bend Animal Services.

Vass said intakes for dogs and cats throughout Fort Bend County has been between 3,500 and 4,000 annually for the last few years, but she expects that number to grow as the county’s population grows, especially near Katy.

Harris County is also seeing challenges, said Dr. Michael White, director of the Veterinary Public Health Division of Harris County Public Health.

“We’re always over capacity,” White said. “This shelter … was only designed to handle 10,000 to 12,000 animals a year, and now we’re handling 18,000 or more.”

Vass said Fort Bend County is adding a $1 million expansion to its Rosenberg facility, which serves the whole county, including the Katy area.

Harris County is also building a new facility, White said. Petco recently donated funding for a new facility with 243 dog runs or cages, which can support about 315 dogs. It will also hold about 210 cats and space for administration, veterinary care, animal isolation and nursing, White said.

Citizens for Animal Protection expanded in 2017 by adding a new veterinary clinic building, said Maverick Wagner, Clinic and Foster Care Director. The nonprofit shelter takes in between 8,700 and 10,500 animals each year. Wagner said the number fluctuates with the economy. This year, CAP has received about 6,000 animals, Wagner said.

Officer David Brown of Katy City Animal Control said the city partners with groups like CAP for animal adoptions. Community partners spay, neuter and rehome strays found within Katy city limits.

Sources said proactive community members help make their workloads manageable. Volunteering at shelters can be a big help, they said.

“In the city of Katy, all dogs and cats over 6 months have to be registered with animal control. This helps get them back to their homes,” Brown said.

Other tools, such as programs to spay or neuter feral cats help keep shelter populations down, sources said. Shelters catch feral cats, spay or neuter and vaccinate and return them to where they were found. Vass said the practice keeps feral populations down and improves the health of the wild cat population.

Special Pals Shelter is a no-kill shelter, according to its website. CAP is a limited intake facility that does not take in more animals than it can hold, Wagner said. Meanwhile, county facilities take as many pets as they are able to and can become overwhelmed by animal intakes, officials said.

Wagner said helping animals stay in their current homes helps as well. Most area shelters offer low-cost veterinary care. Wagner said the low-cost clinic at CAP may cost a quarter of what commercial veterinary care does, making it affordable to keep pets.

Agencies rely on social media to spread the word about animals available for adoption. Vass said area residents can help by following the shelters and sharing pet profiles on social media.

“We want to give them every available chance to find a home, but we always have to rely on our community for support, and every time we’ve reached out to them for help … people respond in droves,” Vass said.

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  1. Lost pets could be returned quicker to their owners if all pet dogs and cats were microchipped. The shelter could scan a new intake animal and notify the owner, who would reclaim his pet. This would take less time than waiting for the owner to think about checking for his lost pet at the shelter. Microchipping could be done along with licensing. Releasing trapped stray cats is a wrong-headed idea. The best thing to do with a stray unowned cat is 1) offer it for adoption or 2) euthanize it. If it is neutered and released, it will still be defecating and urinating on private or public property.

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R. Hans Miller
R. Hans Miller joined the Community Impact team in June 2017. He is a recent graduate of Texas State University's College of Journalism and Mass Communication, a U.S. Army veteran, husband and father. He is originally from Montana. He has written for VoiceBox Media and the San Marcos Daily Record, among others. He covers city government, emergency services, local business development and other topics for the Katy area.
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