SAN ANGELO – The San Angelo Animal Shelter over the last week has been forced to close down, turn away dogs, and re-home the majority of animals after a roach infestation took over.
Concho Valley PAWS had been criticized on social media and elsewhere for the situation. In response, Concho Valley PAWS released a letter stating, "Perhaps the naysayers were right all along – San Angelo can never be a no-kill community because not enough people care. However, those of us that do will not stop fighting to save lives."
The following is the full letter sent out by Concho Valley PAWS:
First and foremost, Concho Valley PAWS would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has offered their home to a pet during this crisis. We would also like to express our genuine gratitude to the overwhelming response we received from the community who provided us with supplies, dog food and linens. We are also grateful to area rescues CMC2, New Beginnings, Hands of Mercy Cat Sanctuary, Cassie’s Place and Critter Shack for taking some animals into their care. On behalf of our organization and the animals helped by your generosity, thank you!
It is important for us to address concerns and questions that have been posed to us by our community and especially the people who support our mission. Recent photographs circulating on social media have raised valid concerns over how the city of San Angelo is housing animals. While we in no way defend those conditions or find them acceptable, there is more to the story than those photos depict.
First, we’d like to clarify that Concho Valley PAWS works with the city of San Angelo to promote and facilitate the adoption of shelter pets. We also provide for emergency medical care for pets who are brought into the shelter sick or injured and PAWS employs a licensed veterinarian to spay and neuter all shelter pets upon adoption. Concho Valley PAWS does not operate animal control, nor do we maintain the shelter building nor its pets. That is not our role. That is the role of the City of San Angelo Animal Services.
The photos currently circulating social media were taken at a time when the city's shelter workers were scrambling to remove animals from the shelter to prepare for a deep clean and pest control treatment. It is not an excuse for those conditions, but those photos are not representative of how animals are housed on a regular basis. However, the shelter is indeed overcrowded and is utilizing crates to hold dogs. Those of you that follow us on social media are aware of our pleas for help from volunteers to foster and get animals out of the shelter because there are too many animals.
PAWS has posted almost daily pleas for fosters for months. Sadly, for every animal PAWS gets out to foster or adopter, ten more take their place. As a result, the shelter is where it is today. As far as the pest control issues, it is important that you know that Concho Valley PAWS has not been complacent with the situation. However, we do not participate in finger pointing and witch hunts as they are an ineffective and a fruitless approach to problem solving. We appropriately voiced our concerns regarding the roaches many times through the proper channels. Through those professional conversations, we were made aware of the MANY attempts to resolve the roach problem. The city has numerous bills that have been paid to local pest control services to treat the property. However, the problem has persisted. It is our hope that this aggressive treatment will work.
We maintain a constant dialogue with shelter staff and management regarding better care for the animals. We offer our assistance whenever possible because it has been a shared goal for PAWS and animal services to save lives. For example, we have offered to construct additional outdoor kennels to make the cleaning process more efficient and easier. While that offer has yet to be officially accepted, we are hopeful it will be. We provided for power washing services to help clean and prepare the shelter for the current pest control services. We are here to help and offer support for anything that will improve the lives of animals. We have chosen to try to work with the shelter instead of being an adversary because our only agenda is saving lives.
The shelter has issues. Concho Valley PAWS acknowledges that. Part of the issue is that there are too many dogs – we understand and acknowledge that. However, the other side of that issue is inadequate staffing and staff wages. The shelter is consistently understaffed and that is because the city wage paid to the people responsible for animal care and welfare is less than what they could make if they went to work for any fast-food restaurant in our town. Those
employees are asked to care for and maintain hundreds of animals. It’s a dirty job and even dangerous when you consider the city shelter is responsible for caring for and maintaining bite dogs and rabies quarantine.
We had hoped to help the shelter staff find resolution to many of the issues and move forward with lifesaving programs so that every animal was given the chance to find a forever home. However, after the latest social media attacks and “outrage” by keyboard warriors, we suspect that a mandate will be handed down by city leadership soon imposing a cap on the population of the shelter.
Instead of addressing the root of the issues which is the failure of this community to comply with the spay and neuter ordinance in place, PAWS anticipates that the city leaders will instruct Animal Services to abandon the no-kill initiative. We expect a mandate to establish harsh limits on the number of animals allowed on the property and the length of stay they can be housed. You see, if your job is looking at hard numbers and data and trying to find solutions, then killing the animals seems the most “logical, cost effective and efficient approach.” We don’t mean to imply that the individuals in those positions don’t care, but it’s easy to make those kinds of decisions when you are so far removed. They don’t know these dogs. We do. These are good dogs. Dogs with sweet temperaments, the majority less than a year old and full of life, energy and resilience. No matter how bad humans have failed them, these dogs are more than willing to give another human all their love, loyalty and devotion. They will make even an undeserving human their master. Their only crime is being homeless, a liability to the community and problem to the city.
Who will have to look into their eyes and select who lives and who dies?
Everyone needs to remember that the shelter is a representation of the community it serves. If pet owners in our community would stop abandoning their pets and stop allowing indiscriminate breeding, we wouldn’t have an overcrowded shelter. If we had more people willing to foster, adopt and advocate; we could keep this initiative alive. This is a community problem, and the community must be the solution.
Perhaps the naysayers were right all along – San Angelo can never be a no-kill community because not enough people care. However, those of us that do will not stop fighting to save lives. Please, join us as we pledge to continue to fight to ensure every pet gets a chance at adoption. Sign up to foster at cvpaws.org/foster-application. The more fosters we have, the more prepared we are to react to the changes anticipated by the city and the more animals we can protect.