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Shelters and rescue organizations in San Antonio are seeing a bumper crop of kittens and puppies this summer, and the city’s network of animal caretakers and users felt the strain this month.
Last week, San Antonio Pets Alive (SAPA), a group that works closely with San Antonio’s Animal Care Services, made a particularly urgent request via social media and email to residents to help with the influx of puppies from some of whom were at risk of being euthanized.
“We were very pleased with the response we received last week,” said Alexis Moore, Marketing Director of SAPA. “The community has really grown and we’ve received hundreds of applicants for both carers and adopters. These puppies really drew people’s hearts. ”
With all of the new applicants, SAPA was able to adopt 53 dogs and cats last week and now has 713 pets in foster homes.
While the risk of puppies being euthanized caught the attention of animal lovers in San Antonio last week, they are exposed to the possibility that pets are euthanized is a daily reality for SAPA employees.
“We’re the last chance for many of these animals to get into the animal care services,” said Moore.
Kaitlynn Diezel, coordinator for mediation transports at SAPA, said the purpose of the organization is to prevent animals from being euthanized in the shelter due to lack of space, foster families or adoptive parents. Diezel said SAPA receives an email every morning from ACS with the list of dogs that could be euthanized that day, and with typically just a few hours of work, SAPA staff immediately start looking for a foster home or an adopted child for every pet.
Jessica Travis, the live release manager at ACS, said she’s working hard to keep the live release rate for pets brought into the shelter at 90%. This means that only about 10% of the animals are euthanized and only then as a last resort.
Moore said SAPA is helping to lower euthanasia rates by taking away the sick dogs and cats that almost no other organization can or would help. SAPA Medical Clinic accepts and treats puppies with parvovirus, distemper, and heartworms, diseases that are usually considered a puppy death sentence. Moore said the clinic has a pretty good success rate in helping the pups recover and be adopted.
However, it is not always sick or injured animals that are at risk of euthanasia. Travis said that every decision is made on a case-by-case basis, and as new animals keep adding, ACS needs to have kennel space and difficult decisions to be made.
“We’re an openly licensed shelter, one of the largest in the country,” said Lisa Norwood, a spokeswoman for ACS. “We can’t just say, ‘No, we can’t take in animals anymore.’ We can’t do that. “
Finding a place for the constant flow of animals is always difficult, but finding a place for every animal is even more difficult during the busy summer season, Travis said.
“This time of year is right for us,” said Travis. “We recorded a little over a thousand this month alone [animals], and we have half a month behind us. “
Because spring starts early in south Texas and there are so many warm summer months, the puppy and kitten seasons are always extra long for San Antonio, Norwood said.
“It extends the breeding season to almost the whole year for most animals,” said Norwood. “It really doesn’t stop for San Antonio.”
The greatest need this season is for foster families, especially kittens, and especially those who still need to be bottle-fed 24/7.
Norwood said the void often has to be filled by the staff at ACS, who end up caring for many of the kittens, even if that means staying in their own offices during the day.
“Right now I have three kittens in my office who are looking at me while we talk,” Norwood said during a phone interview from her office.
Adoptions are, of course, the permanent solution that all animal rescue organizations are always looking for, and Norwood said there had been a significant surge in adoptions during the pandemic which helped ease overcrowding in the animal shelters last summer.
This year, ACS hasn’t seen the same surge in adoptions as it did last year, Norwood said, but the good news is that, contrary to reports from other Texan cities, San Antonio animal shelters don’t return pandemic pets. In fact, according to Travis, the number of owner handovers at ACS is very low.
Travis said some of the uptake at shelters came from pets that accidentally ended up there, and that she would like to change.
“People have to withhold their pets,” Travis said. “Pets don’t make good decisions on their own.”
About 30% of all pets that come through ACS are microchipped, Travis said.
“The perception that there are all these stray animals in the community is incorrect,” said Travis. “The microchips really brought us closer to this point.”
But right now, at this busy time of year, the best way for the community to help ease the burden of housing is by volunteering for care, Travis said.
ACS relies on the help of SAPA and many other local animal rescue organizations to find a home and foster home for the incredible number of pets that are brought in each year.
“Fosters are at the heart of our organization and they make it possible to save hundreds of lives every week,” said Moore. “We usually save over 200 lives, dogs and cats, every week.”
Without foster families, ACS could never take in all of the kittens brought to the shelter each year, Norwood said.
“Our carers are helping to create a wallless shelter,” said Norwood. “There are only a limited number of kennels that ACS or San Antonio Pets Alive have, but who knows how many people in our community could help us? Even if it was only a litter, a dog, a kitten. “