Making room for no-kill: Waco animal shelter expands facilities, services to decrease euthanasia

Zeina, a foster dog available for adoption at the Humane Society of Central Texas, plays with a tennis ball in a play area at the shelter. Waco plans to renovate the shelter in effort an to make Waco a no-kill city, foregoing animal euthanasia. Photo credit: Trey Honeycutt

The city of Waco has new building plans to renovate the Humane Society of Central Texas. The plans are part of the initiative to make Waco a no-kill city, or one that does not need to euthanize animals.

The project is a $2.5 million job and includes much larger and roomier kennels, a veterinary clinic, a remodeled cat room and an exclusive puppy house.

Boerne sophomore Nicole Cutler used to spend much of her time volunteering at the old shelter. As she began to notice how quickly the shelter would fill up and how many animals never found homes, she left her position at the shelter, she said.

“It’s just so hard for me to see them in the shelter and not having homes. It’s too much of an emotional toll for me, as pathetic as that sounds,” Boerne said.

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Phoenix is a 3-month-old tabby cat at the Humane Society of Central Texas. Waco plans to renovate the shelter over the next year in effort to make Waco a no-kill city, or one which does not implement animal euthanasia. Photo credit: Trey Honeycutt

Renovations began at the shelter two months ago, said Jose Arroligas, the rescue coordinator at the shelter. Officials are expanding the quarantine center and building a new parking lot.

Within the next couple months, the shelter will begin renovations on its kennels. This will include tearing down the B and C kennels, and replacing them with improved facilities that will hold an estimated 20 more dogs in each section.

“Since we will have more kennel room, we won’t have to euthanize as much any more,” Arroligas said.

The renovations will also include a new play yard and adoption center.

“We’re pretty excited about that. We’re hoping, with the increased kennel space and the improved facilities, we will be able to help our adoptions out more and get ourselves out to the public more,” Arroligas said.

The new shelter renovations will be a huge success for Waco, said Mayor Malcolm Duncan. They were able to raise much of the money from local foundations, private and county supporters. Duncan said all city council members supported the improvement of animal life throughout the city.

“We are very close, if not there, to being a no-kill city,” Duncan said.

Roswell, Ga., junior Peyton Thomas has been actively involved with the Humane Society of Central Texas since she has been enrolled at Baylor. She fostered a dog for almost two months last year and fell in love.

“The time I spent with her was short, but it was probably the best time of my life,” Thomas said. “It’s rewarding to know that she has a great home now and that I could provide love for her so that she wouldn’t have to be tucked away in a shelter.”

Thomas is also very excited about the new shelter, and agrees with the mayor that this is a huge step for Waco. She said she hopes Waco’s step forward will encourage other shelters around the country to follow.

“The fact that the people of Waco are concerned about this issue shows a great deal of character and compassion in the city,” Thomas said. “The new shelter is going to be wonderful, and I cannot wait to see the impact it has on the population of homeless animals. This type of recognition to the shelter will hopefully increase the number of re-homed pets.”

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James Parker, a volunteer at the Human Society of Central Texas, plays with Zeina, a foster dog a the shelter. Photo credit: Trey Honeycutt

In December 2012, Waco entered into a partnership with the Humane Society of Central Texas to help manage and improve operations. Since the partnership, live-exit rates, or adoptions, of animals have increased to 88 percent. Much of this success is attributed to increased efforts to educate and provide affordable spay and neuter options, especially through the Animal Birth Control Clinic of Waco.

The clinic and the city have worked hand-in-hand to increase live-exit rates.

“The city of Waco felt so strongly about providing an affordable way for people to be compliant with the Pet Responsibility Ordinance, that they funded free spay and neuter microchips for city residents to the tune of $100,000,” said Carrie Kuehl, the executive director of the Animal Birth Control Center. “Last year we did over 1,800 surgeries. This year we did over 2,100 surgeries just with that funding.”

The city of Waco has also had success launching an outreach group called SpayStreet Waco. The group offers free microchips and low-cost spay and neuter options for low-income citizens of Waco. The outreach group enacted by the city is all part of Waco’s continued effort to becoming a no-kill city.

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The graph above shows the Animal Birth Control Clinic’s results from recent spay and neuter initiatives in Waco. The shelter has since experienced a decrease in the numbers of animals acquired and euthanized, as well as an increase in adoptions.

SpayStreet is the middleman between the public and the Animal Birth Control Clinic, Kuehl said. When volunteers for SpayStreet travel door-to-door in the community, many people see the SpayStreet logo and end up calling to ask how to get their animals spayed or neutered. They are then referred to the birth control clinic.

Clinic officials are excited about the advancement towards becoming a no-kill city, the expansion of the shelter and the increased number of animals being spayed or neutered. However, Kuehl said the excitement goes beyond just the statistical depletion of animal deaths and increased adoptions at the shelter. The ultimate joy lies in seeing the improvement of health in the animals, Kuehl said.

“Not only do we want to affect the shelter and the intake and euthanasia over there in a big way, what I love and what not everybody gets to see is the quality of life and the health boost that every dog or cat gets from getting spayed or neutered,” Kuehl said.

The city still needs the public’s help if it is going to succeed in its mission. As renovations are being made to the current animal shelter, space for animals will be temporarily limited. The shelter is expected to be under renovations until midway of next year, Arroligas said.

“We need your help. If you can foster a dog or cat and help us through this interim period, it would be really good. We are very short on space in the interim,” Duncan said.

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Pyper is a foster dog at Humane Society of Central Texas and is available for adoption. Photo credit: Trey Honeycutt

The Animal Birth Control Center could also use volunteers, Kuehl said. Many of the clinic workers are citizen volunteers who spend Saturdays knocking on doors and informing citizens of the benefits of getting their animals spayed or neutered.

“Any time we have volunteers, whether it’s one or two or a team of 30, if we can campaign in a neighborhood like that, that leaves a huge impact,” Kuehl said.