Many shelters across the United States are making the transition to no-kill, and animal lovers in the Texas Panhandle would like to see that implemented here.
Amarillo Animal Control euthanized nearly 11,000 animals last year. That is more than the municipal shelter in Austin, which, this past March, had a 92 percent live rate.
According to Animal Control Executive Director Mike McGee, about 2,000 of those animals were wildlife and reptiles. Still, that is 9,000 domestic cats and dogs.
In Randall County, the Amarillo SPCA is No-Kill, but why doesn't the City of Amarillo have a No-Kill shelter? Could they transition to a No-Kill shelter?
The population of Amarillo alone is 261,000. So, why is it so difficult for animals to find homes when they are clearly out there? Why are so many pets dropped off at Animal Control or left to wander the streets?
McGee said people drop off their animals mostly because of relocation issues or financial burden. Many pet owners do not do research on the cost of properly maintaining a pet and, when the time comes for veterinary visits and food refills, they cannot manage it. Many landlords do not allow pets, and when the pet is discovered, the owner has no choice but to let the animal go. Pets picked up off the street are, McGee says, mostly the result of irresponsible owners who do not take the time to fence in the animal.
Due to the high intake at the shelter, becoming no-kill would be somewhat of a challenge. Budgeting is also a concern.
"Having a designated no-kill facility here would require a tremendous amount of money," McGee said, "to be able to house all the animals that we intake and keep them and feed them and doctor them and do all the things that need to be done to maintain that no-kill facility."
However, McGee also noted positive outcomes of a no-kill shelter.
"The pros of having a no-kill facility would be to reduce the stress level of officers that are having to perform that task every day and also giving the animals an opportunity to find them a good home."
The Humane Society of Williamson County made the transition to no-kill in 2007, and its adoption rate went from an average 60 animals per month to about 200 per month. The executive director feels this is the result of community support for no-kill.
"Whether you create a partnership where there's a non-profit that works with the municipal shelters to cooperatively handle the two sides of that equation or you create a single organization that does that all, one way or the other it's doable and there's plenty of models and templates throughout the United States showing that this is a doable process," stated Humane Society of Williamson County Executive Director Ron Marullo.
A lot would need to happen to kick off the process of becoming no-kill. According to Sunny Hodge-Campbell of the Amarillo Panhandle Humane Society, owners would need to become extremely responsible. That is, spaying and neutering every pet, keeping their pets fenced in and on leashes and keeping their animals vaccinated.
"Every human would prefer to think an animal's not being put down or being euthanized," she said. "I think there is a potential and a possibility, but it's beyond the Humane Society, it's beyond Animal Control- being good and responsible pet owners-everyone- to actually make a no-kill work."
Mcgee and Animal Control Assistant Director Shannon Barlow are traveling to Austin soon with Texas Panhandle Pet Savers President Robin Cupell to see how both the municipal shelter and the no-kill shelter run things. They are hoping to bring back ideas to improve adoption and fostering programs here so animals will have better chances at finding forever homes.
Will no-kill ever take over Animal Control? Right now, no one knows. Is it an option? Possibly.
"I know that some cities have no-kill policies,"A marillo City Commissioner Ellen Robertson-Green said. "Will that work in Amarillo? Don't know. Should we be looking at it? You bet we should, you bet we should."
For the time being, the life of the shelter animals will be improved as best it can, something the staff at Animal Control and the Humane Society say they dedicate every day to.
"That's part of what we do is to enforce those laws that force people- of they're going to own a pet- that they're going to properly take care of them," said McGee. "And you can't do this job and not have a love for pets. It's impossible."