Animal Welfare

Dallas Animal Services Doesn’t Cry Wolf. When They Ask for Help, They Need It.

The Dallas shelter hasn’t had to euthanize an adoptable animal for space in about 18 months.
The Dallas shelter hasn’t had to euthanize an adoptable animal for space in about 18 months. Meredith Lawrence
As rain poured over North Texas, 90 cats and dogs from Dallas Animal Services (DAS) and other local shelters took flight out of DFW International Airport bound for a new life in Colorado, Utah, Idaho or Wyoming. The national nonprofit Petco Love partnered with Dog Is My CoPilot and DFW shelters to make the life-saving trip happen.

Adoption and foster numbers haven’t kept up with intake at the Dallas Animal Services shelter. When this happens, they’re faced with difficult decisions to open up space. No one with the agency wants to euthanize animals, but there isn't always another option.

Fortunately, the Dallas shelter hasn’t had to euthanize an adoptable animal for space in about 18 months. But they have needed the public’s assistance.

Dallas Animal Services doesn’t cry wolf. They need it when they ask for help, said Leah Backo, public information officer for the agency.

The shelter takes in 60-100 animals a day. In the first week of June, they took in 472 dogs and cats.

Toward the end of May, they ran out of medium and large dog kennels with hundreds of more pets expected to arrive. It's hard to nail down the exact reason they ran out of space because there are so many factors, Backo said. What it boils down to is their output wasn't keeping up with the input.

One factor was that many adoptions and foster arrangements had to be organized online. It worked but was slower than going through the process in person.

This meant that while intake stayed steady, they weren't able to get animals in homes as fast as normal. So, for the first time since the pandemic, they opened up the shelter for in-person visits and asked the community to come down and foster or adopt a pet. Adoption is free and the pets come spayed and neutered. DAS also throws in a voucher for a free visit to the vet.

“If you’ve been on the fence about saving a life, now is the time to act,” DAS Interim Director MeLissa Webber said in a press release.

Backo said the community pulled through and saved lives, but the shelter always faces the possibility intake will exceed adoption and foster rates. “I don’t think we’ll ever be in a place where we don’t have to make those difficult decisions,” Backo said. They expect more spikes in their intake as warmer weather sweeps across Texas.

Still, things are looking up for Dallas Animal Services.

From 2019-2020, they surpassed their 90% live release rate goal — the highest in its history — while taking in 22,812 cats and dogs. “Our work is far from over,” Ed Jamison, the director at the time, said in a press release. “Though we have achieved Dallas90, the real challenge will be to sustain it, particularly with the daily operational challenges brought on by the pandemic.”
click to enlarge Three playful puppies at Dallas Animal Services. More dogs are making it out of shelters alive, the city says. - MARK GRAHAM
Three playful puppies at Dallas Animal Services. More dogs are making it out of shelters alive, the city says.
Mark Graham

They launched the Dallas90 campaign to achieve these numbers again. At just over 88%, they’re on par to meet this rate again this year.

In 2020, DAS also received the Positive Outcome Lifesaving Award from Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare organization dedicated to ending euthanasia of dogs and cats in American shelters.

“Over the past couple of years, new leadership at DAS has continued to make dramatic lifesaving changes, including major increases in adoptions, substantial public engagement around their Dallas90 campaign and great support from their rescue and spay/neuter partners across the metroplex,” Brent Toellner, senior director for Best Friends Animal Society’s national programs, said in a press release.

“The team effort in Dallas has made them a leader across the nation in so many areas and has led to a dramatic increase in lives saved for one of the nation's largest shelters,” he said.

Taking in nearly 40,000 pets in 2019, DAS is the third-largest intake shelter for cats and dogs in the U.S. Backo said that even if you’re not a cat or dog person, there are still ways to get involved to help save lives as volunteering at Dallas Animal Services.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn