Like many animal shelters across Texas and the United States, the Pearland Animal Shelter & Adoption Center—a division within the Pearland Police Department—faces serious capacity challenges, said Chad Rogers, a Pearland police officer who also serves as the shelter's public information officer.

The gist

The shelter faces capacity challenges for dogs for a myriad of reasons, including policies put in place following the breakout of COVID-19 in 2020 and recent large-scale rescue operations, Rogers said.

In August, Pearland Police Department officials seized 85 dogs who had likely spent their entire lives inside one Pearland home, he said.

The backstory

Yet, the shelter’s struggle with keeping kennels available for new dogs began much earlier, Rogers said.

“I hate to kind of return everything to COVID[-19], but I really think that's where this whole problem started,” Rogers said.

Many shelters completely shut down during the height of the pandemic, which meant shelter staff were not patrolling the streets for strays. That contributed to a spike in stray dog and cat populations, which Rogers said communities—both locally and nationwide—have not recovered from.

“If you call most of the shelters around in the Gulf Coast area and say that you found a stray animal, the large portion of them are not going to be able to help you,” Rogers said. “They're not going to take the stray in Houston, Harris County, Fort Bend, even us in Pearland.”

By the numbers

It’s the shelter’s policy not to take in new dogs if there are no empty kennels. The shelter has 59 kennels for medium- to large-sized dogs and 44 kennels for small dogs. On Jan. 18, the shelter had no available kennels for medium to large dogs, Animal Services Manager John Fischer said.

However, if a dog is injured or potentially poses a public safety issue, the shelter will take the dog in, but the dog that has been sheltered the longest will be euthanized to free up kennel availability, Rogers said.

“We're going to have to hang onto animals,” Rogers said. “We’re going to have to do a massive spay and neuter effort over the next couple of years in hopes that the numbers balance out.”

What residents should know

The shelter hasn’t had to euthanize for space in recent years, except for 2023, Rogers said.

“That's painful,” Rogers said. “We don't get in the business to put animals to sleep. But we understand that public safety and the well-being of animals in our communities is important. So we do what we need to do, but we wish there were other options.”