Dallas' Animal Services Department Is Hot, Tired, Cranky, and Killing Too Many Dogs

Categories: Animal Welfare

AdoptionPets.jpg
Mark Graham
Cash-strapped Dallasites are leading more people to give up their pets.
Blame it on the Texas heat, summertime relocations or more cash-strapped Dallasites: Whatever the root cause, local pet owners are increasingly giving their animals up to shelters. And during the summer months, more animals tend to escape from their homes and are brought to the shelter as strays.

Between the strays and the surrenders, Dallas Animal Services reports this week that they've been taking in more than 100 animals a day. With just a 650 animal capacity, space is quickly running out. The online community is exploding with frustrated Dallas residents, and Dallas Animal Services employees are clearly nearing a breaking point.

In a Facebook post, employees said they were worn out and asked for understanding from the community in dealing with waning resources. On top of the rapidly increasing demand, the shelter is having ongoing trouble with their air conditioning. Noisy fans are only serving to make communication more difficult between pet owners and staffers.

"Everyone, please bear with us," Dallas Animal Services wrote in the post. "People are having to wait in line to surrender pets and everyone is losing patience. The staff is discouraged and exhausted, so please, please be patient with them. They are doing the best they can under the circumstances."

The shelter is already discounting fees for older animals and waiving fees entirely for animals that have been at the shelter longer than two weeks. This is all to cut down on the euthanizations the shelter performs when animals have been there too long. Current policy dictates that strays could be put to sleep after just 72 hours, and surrendered animals could be euthanized within the day of their surrender.

"Our euthanizations are down, year after year," Jody Jones, a manager at Dallas Animal Services, told CBS 11. "But we're still putting to sleep far too many animals." Dallas Animal Services has a history of abuse allegations. More than three years ago, an investigation uncovered stories of animal starvation and cruelty at the shelter, and euthanasia rates of roughly 80 percent.

Since then, the shelter has largely cleaned up its act. It has cut down on euthanization, and adoption rates have skyrocketed. A facility makeover, overhauled staff, marketing campaigns, and a watchful city eye have all helped to improve a dismal record and reputation. But with increasingly stretched resources, the shelter is enduring a rough stretch, at least until summer finally gives way to fall.

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly cast blame for recent issues on the shelter's employees.


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25 comments
karindc
karindc

This is the most ridiculous, badly researched article I've ever read.  If the writer had taken time to do even a little research, she would have known how much has changed at DAS.  The people there are working harder than ever, regardless of circumstances, to make sure that all the animals can be helped and adopted.  The differences between the "old pound" and what DAS is now is not only night and day but it's as though they have skipped a decade and improved beyond recognition!  I don't live in Dallas proper but at least twice a month, I donate to DAS because I KNOW how hard they are working to make things better for animals!

Emily Mathis....you should be ashamed of yourself for this garbage!

bureeda.bruner
bureeda.bruner

I've read the Observer for years and despite any number of controversial issues it's taken on capably in its role as the "alternative" newspaper, it's never produced something that inspired me to comment until now. I've written better Facebook posts in five minutes than this poorly researched, poorly written article.


July is well known as a difficult time for homeless dogs and cats. Yet a writer who is apparently so ignorant about this issue that not once are the words "spay" or "neuter" used, randomly shrugs off the part of her job - hey, let's call that part journalism - with a breezy "oh well, whatever the reason" those with the responsibility for these pets blow off that responsibility.


The core reason for homeless pets in Dallas is the failure of irresponsible owners to spay and neuter their pets. It only takes a few minutes of a dog getting out of a gate to result in even more unwanted animals.


To write a credible article reflecting on the hard work the DAS does, Emily Mathis could have wandered a bit beyond Facebook and made a few phone calls to places like:


- The Spay and Neuter network - whose FREE spay/neuter and low-cost rabies shot mobile clinic spots often go completely unused.


- Duck Team 6, a local networking nonprofit that is very well known within the homeless animal community for routinely saving street dogs


She would have learned a few of the reasons for the sudden influx of dogs:


- Dogs routinely go missing on the Fourth of July, when they're left in the yard and fireworks frighten them. Irresponsible owners are happy for one less thing to be accountable for, and the dogs become strays or street dogs.


- Christmas puppies grow large enough for buyer's remorse to set in, and the dogs are abandoned.


- Owners move in the summer when their kids are out of school, and (astoundingly) leave their pets behind.


And finally, there's still a culture of ignorance about our basic moral and ethical responsibilities to pets. People think that all they have to do is buy a water and food bowl and stick the dog in the backyard. In this they rob the dog of the joy of caring for his family. They rob their children of the many valuable life lessons dogs teach us - about responsibility, about unconditional love, about kindness, about sacrifice - and so many other values. And they rob their family of the joy of truly knowing and loving a lifelong companion that you cannot find elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Emily Mathis did little to alleviate the ignorance.


Another minor detail Ms. Mathis neglected to mention was the timing; the DAS is at a critical crossroads with their budget threatening to be cut. Their hard work and the importance of their partnership with PetSmart's Everyday Adoption Center (in no small part a reason behind their improving adoption rates) should be accurately reported.


I challenge the editors of the Dallas Observer to report this issue correctly and with the appropriate focus; either by requiring Emily Mathis to do her job and research the issue correctly, or by putting a capable writer on the story instead.



P.S. And what in the world does "Cash-strapped Dallasites are leading more people to give up their pets" even mean? Dallasites are asking people to give up their pets? Suggest a basic freshman English class (high school, that is) for whichever illiterate wrote that.

serafip
serafip

Clearly the Dallas Observer will let anyone write for them and when it comes to rating the best patio to drink a beer or who makes the best pizza in Dallas who cares if the stories are accurate. However, when it comes to something this serious, you should be responsible enough to get your facts straight Emily.

In 2007, 28,095 pets were euthanized and in 2013 15,067 pets were euthanized. That is a significant decrease and obviously they are moving in the right direction, but I still find this statistic unacceptable. Emily, you should be using your reach in Dallas to write articles that support increased funding for DAS, educate the public on responsible pet ownership, share resources for lower income pet owners who need assistance, provide a list of ways people can help, NOT write crappy inaccurate articles that only make things worse. Shame on you Emily.

PP1Erin
PP1Erin

Disgusting journalism and only out for shock vaule!  This article could have promoted resolutions to fix what is truly broken, for instance support from the City of Dallas, spay/neuter,etc, but instead blamed hard working employees for reasons that are unsubstantiated!!! I hope you are happy with the take away most will remember from this article. I just hope they see through the shoddy reporting.  

DallasAshley84
DallasAshley84

Comes down to Dallas City Council funding the shelter properly... clearly the community is using DAS more than, ahem, other projects out there that are sucking up our tax dollars.  When is Dallas going to get it's priorities straight?  It's one of the wealthiest cities in the nation and because we have all politics and bureaucracy we can't execute something this important to a decent standard.  The people of DAS do their ABSOLUTE best with what they are given... I have been down there and talked to the people, seen the work in action - more than some Dallas politicians can say I'm sure. When you get slack from government, the community, & the media for never doing enough, have your funding threatened constantly, and are dealing with lines of impatient "owner surrenders" you'd be a little frazzled too - oh and why you're at it, add in AC going out during the Texas summer.  Sounds kinda nightmarish to me.  Things that DAS DOES NOT have:  x ray machine (how many injured animals you think they see everyday?), a back up generator (what happens to the 650 animals if the power goes out due to tornado level winds during the 105 degree heat?), enough funding for office supplies, animal traps, cleaning supplies, THE LIST GOES ON.  What other government organization has to beg the public for basic needs like DAS?





citygirl
citygirl

The post implies that the fault belongs with DAS; seems to me there's more responsibility that belongs on the owners that surrender their animals, fail to keep their animals contained/fenced in, and don't neuter them.  DAS could certainly use more resources, but  they are dancing as fast as they can.

michelleszen
michelleszen

I found an adorable husky wandering the streets with a broken chain tight around his neck. DAS let me bring him in before hours and were working with other rescue organizations to try to have him placed. SPCA would not take the dog. Needed an "appointment." Basically, it is on you to watch the dog for several days while they decide whether or not he's cute enough. DAS takes any and every dog, cat, etc. If there are more surrenders than adopters then they have to make tough choices. Don't like it? Go adopt a 6 year old dog instead of getting a puppy next time. 

sooner6770
sooner6770

SPCA is offering free neutering and spaying for all Dallas County Residents!

Dub919
Dub919

The staff at DAS are probably the most unappreciated in the city.  We adopted our dog at DAS and everyone we dealt with in the process was awesome.  These are people that, at the end of the day, see more animal death and the results of irresponsible, shitty humans than anyone should be subjected to.

greenvillite
greenvillite

I recently adopted a "surrendered" pet from the shelter. My experience was nothing like this article describes in terms of staff or animal treatment. Sadly, Animal Services lacks sufficient funding and therefore must make tough choices. In my observation, the staff was courteous, professional and dedicated. The front desk staff were excited to see me adopt an older animal and stayed late to coordinate with the vet staff to ensure that my new pet came home with me that night. I witnessed the same sort of dedication to service and animals from other members of the staff. I'm inclined to give them a chance and support them in performance of a difficult job. 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Cash-strapped Dallasites are leading more people to give up their pets.

Does it pay better than panhandling?

rpoling1
rpoling1

Where on earth do you get the idea that " and its employees appear in danger of devolving back to old habits"?  That's insulting to the caring,hard-working staff and management, the local rescue groups and everyone who has worked so hard these last three years to turn things around.  That statement is uncalled, unsubstantiated and if people read it and believe it - could easily cost a lot of animals their lives. We're reaching out to the public for assistance and support and you're discouraging them from helping out.  Emily - please contact me and let's get you up to speed on what's really going on.  I would be happy to meet you at DAS and give you a personal tour. Rebecca Poling, City of Dallas Animal Shelter Commission

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

So if you surrender your animal it has 24 hours to be adopted or euthanized, but if you leave it in a back yard and call animal control, it gets 2 extra days.

What is wrong with their AC? It seems to always be a problem that is always being fixed. This is Dallas. We are world class users of AC. Is my understanding that this facility has recently been upgraded and renovated correct.

Give every inmate in County jail a pet to care for. Do something different because for some reason nothing ever seems to work at the shelter.

cathy260
cathy260

I wish I could "like" this post more than once! Our society could fix the shelter death rate if we could change people's attitudes towards adopting from shelters rather than puppy mills, spay/neutering as an absolutely mandatory responsibility of pet ownership, microchipping as routine, and recognizing animals deserve lifelong care as feeling living beings. It is heartbreaking to think of the millions of dogs and cats that never got a chance because people did not care. But DAS is really trying to change that, and they deserve our support.

PP1Erin
PP1Erin

@rpoling1 Amen Rebecca!  Assuming that employees are going to "go back to old habits" is appalling, what is wrong with you Emily!!  You even wrote that there was a "overhaul of employees".....the shelter was completely different management more than 3 years ago.  Disgusting journalism and only out for shock value, for sure!  So sorry I read this article to the end.  Erin 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

@rpoling: So why is the specialized, filtered etc etc AC unit broken and how often does it breaks? Why is this happening?

Dub919
Dub919

@primi_timpano Stray pick-ups get 2 extra days to allow owners a chance to find their pet.  


"Give every inmate in County jail a pet to care for."


Not a bad idea, actually.


"Do something different because for some reason nothing ever seems to work at the shelter."


DAS has been kicking ass the last couple of years.  What needs to change is the city stepping up enforcement of the city's "intact animal" ordinance ($70/year permit) and on people who set up shop selling dogs and cats in Walmart parking lots (yes, that's illegal).  The problem is the idiot masses who think breeding their fucking pets for financial gain is a good idea (and the assholes who buy those pets) when there's multiple shelters packed full of perfectly good pets on death row.

jonnieengland1
jonnieengland1

@primi_timpano The AC at Dallas Animal Services has not worked properly since the shelter opened in early 2008. City Hall knows this--as a deeply concerned member of the Animal Shelter Commission for 10 years, I fought this battle every summer. There have been numerous media stories over the years, and some additional units have been installed. But here we are, 7 summers later, and the AC and ventilation system still is not working as it should. The building design is problematic, with lots of glass and high ceilings; hoses are used daily to clean the kennels, increasing the humidity; and 700+ warm-blooded bodies (animals and people) come and go daily.  Still, if the City of Dallas truly cared, the problems could be fixed. A couple years ago, someone made the comments that if City Hall had the problem, you could rest assured it would be fixed pronto. But it's not at City Hall; it's in the animal shelter, and official Dallas puts animals way down on the list.

rpoling1
rpoling1

@primi_timpano  For the most part, it is working much better now than in the past. When the shelter was originally built, the system was not properly maintained, but recent efforts seem to have helped.  I'm at the shelter almost weekly and haven't noticed any problems. I'm not an expert, so I'm just guessing here, but I think any system would be taxed when it's over 100 degrees and the doors are constantly opening in closing - doors in adoption, doors in surgery, doors in lost & found, intake doors, doors to play yards,etc. 


jonnieengland1
jonnieengland1

@Dub919 The City needs to step up its enforcement of ALL animal (Chapter 7) ordinances.  Issue citations, take law-breakers to court, force them to pay fines and make them follow the law. People who bring in litters of puppies and kittens--who are right there, admitting they've broken the law by surrendering their animals--are never cited. Think how much money the City would make if they decided to start enforcing the tethering ordinance.  Just drive through the streets and alleys of Pleasant Grove, South Oak Cliff, West Dallas, and you'll see more dogs than you can count tied and chained. The City continues to enable irresponsible "owners" to mistreat, breed and neglect their animals and break law after law. Animals will continue to pour into the shelter until the City decides to enforce the laws that are on the books.

rpoling1
rpoling1

@Dub919 @primi_timpano DAS has been working with PD and enforcement on sales of pets on the street and in parking lots is happening more now (and more people realize it's illegal so they are calling it in now). The intact ordinance is hard to enforce (you can't really tell by looking if a female pet is intact or not, but that's something the Commission has been looking into as well.


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