Amarillo SPCA, Animal Control strive to improve life for shelter animals

The more animals out the front door, the better. That's the goal of the Amarillo SPCA and Amarillo Animal Control.

The SPCA is non-profit, operating solely on the generosity of the community.

"All donations- we don't get any grants, we don't get any kind of government money whatsoever," Amarillo SPCA Shelter Manager Kelley Mickey stated. "It's just from the goodness of people's hearts."

The volunteers at the shelter work on their own time to provide the dogs and cats with clean cages, fresh food and water and some playtime. Mickey added the shelter is always in need of volunteers.

"We love to have volunteers out here. We really can't have enough."

With the never-ending cycle of animals coming into and going out of the shelter, more hands are always helpful. And those hands can also help to care for the animals that have made the shelter their permanent home.

"Pretty much everybody gets adopted here," Mickey said. "I mean, we've got a few animals here that have been here, you know, for six or seven years. But, you know, this is their home now."

The animals at the SPCA are both strays and surrenders. Since the shelter holds a no-kill status, the animals are kept at the shelter for as long as it takes to find them a good home.

"You know, here in the Panhandle, we've got a big problem with stray dogs and stray cats. And so, you know, come on out and find your next best friend and, you know, get your pet spayed or neutered."

To help get those animals out the door, the SPCA takes part in adoption events throughout the year.

"The 26th I believe- Sunday, May the 26th- we're going to take some dogs out to the Panhandle Greenhouse out on South Washington for an adoption event out there," Mickey said. "We've got Muttfest, which is our biggest fundraiser of the year. It's coming up on the 20th- Sunday, May the 20th- out at Memorial Park on Washington over by Amarillo College."

Some people prefer to purchase their pets from a pet store or a breeder, but Mickey encourages pet seekers to consider adopting from a shelter.

"You know, you're going to get an animal that's going to be very appreciative of what you do. In a weird way, they know that you've rescued them. So, they're much more loyal and, generally, they're healthier here than they are when you get them from a pet store."

Unlike the SPCA, Amarillo Animal Control is not a no-kill shelter and can only take in a limited number of animals. Many people in the community have been adamant about the municipal shelter making the transition to no-kill, but Animal Control Executive Director Mike McGee says that change cannot happen with the current budget.

"Tax dollars that are going to have to be spent to house and put up and feed and care for these animals over the long term, facility expansions- all of those things are issues that are going to be passed on to our citizens in a very difficult time," McGee pointed out.

And after keeping track of the happenings with Austin's municipal no-kill shelter, both McGee and Assistant Direct Shannon Barlow are beginning to see the downsides of no-kill shelters.

"Being at overcapacity the majority of the time is not conducive to good health, it's not conducive to comfort and it's not the optimum environment," Barlow stated.

Something Animal Control is fighting against is the Trap-Neuter-Release program for feral cats. The program involves trapping wild cats, having them spayed or neutered and then returning them to the environment from which they came. Texas Panhandle Pet Savers is in favor of the program and presented the idea to the Public Board of Health last month. The board rejected the idea on the grounds of concerns for public health and safety.

"The money that the non-profit group has secured or plans to secure from grant funds will run out at some point and somebody will have to continue those programs," McGee said, "and that will be passed on to the City of Amarillo and to the taxpayers."

The Animal Control Board is meeting on Tuesday, May 29, and Animal Control officials will speak on the concerns they have in regards to program.

On the upside, the shelter begins a new budget year this October and, according to McGee, plans have already been made to improve the shelter and lives of the animals living in it.

"A designated area out back where people will be able to come and play with the dogs and associate themselves with the dogs to, you know, check out temperament," McGee said. "We've got some different plans for updates to the kennels, things that we saw in Austin that would be beneficial to us."

Animal Control is also participating in the national adoption event Just One Day on June 11. For 24 hours, shelters across the country will not put down any adoptable animals. Instead, they will take photos of the animals and post them on the internet- Facebook, Twitter; etc. Discounted rates will be given for adoptions and the shelter will stay open for extended hours.

Next door to the municipal shelter, the Amarillo Panhandle Humane Society is under new management. And since that change, the non-profit organization has taken part in a national adoption event and has worked with Pronews 7 to get some of the animals on TV in hopes of spreading the word about the need for adoptions.

Humane Society Executive Director Jena McFall says with the help and responsibility of the community, more four-legged lives can be saved.

"Amazingly enough, people microchip their pet and don't register the microchip," she stated. "I would love for everyone in the community to fully embrace the spay/neuter because, I mean, if they did we wouldn't have a job."

According to McFall, more than 200 animals are adopted out monthly. But she said the Humane Society is always in need of more foster families.

With things looking up at the Humane Society, Animal Control feels confident the upcoming changes will shed new light on the shelter and its intentions for the animals within.

"Ultimately- reduce euthanasia, increase adoption, increase foster parenting, things like that," Barlow stated. "Those are the things we really hope to see a marked increase in."

And like the SPCA, both the Humane Society and Animal Control encourage the public to adopt shelter pets. Taking one more animal out the front door can make room for one more animal to be saved.

"Consider a shelter animal, whether it's here, the Humane Society, Animal Rescue, any of these because, you know, you're helping out," Mickey said. "First of all, you're giving an animal a home and you're going to free up a space for another animal to be taken in and then they can find a home."