Students surrender pets back to animal shelter
Numbers rise at Spring Break and end of semester
Published: Friday, March 7, 2008
Updated: Sunday, October 17, 2010 08:10
Last March an SFA student brought her small dog to the Nacogdoches Animal Shelter to surrender it on the Thursday or Friday before Spring Break. The student told Jennifer Harris, Nacogdoches Animal Shelter supervisor, that she was going to South Padre and didn't have anywhere to keep the dog while she was gone. Harris asked her if she understood the shelter was not a boarding facility, and the girl said yes, but said she didn't want to spend money on one. The girl was told there was a possibility her pet could be put down while she was on vacation.
"It didn't even faze her," Harris said. The girl never came back to get her pet.
"It's really sad when an animal goes from living in a home to living in a shelter," Harris said. "(The animals) think they've done something wrong, but they haven't; it's just the irresponsibility of the owners."
Last year after graduation, a student's family came in to surrender their daughter's pet because they didn't know she had adopted one and wouldn't allow it to come home. Harris made the family bring the girl to the shelter herself and sign the paperwork to surrender her pet.
Last May 550 animals were surrendered. This number is double the number surrendered in February or March. Harris said this increase is due to graduation.
"Some people treat animals like books at the library. They check it out, and if it doesn't work, they turn it back in," Tommy Wheeler, environmental health manager with the City of Nacogdoches, said.
To help ensure students do not surrender their pets at the end of each semester, the shelter has recently implemented a new policy. They are requiring students to get the approval of their parents to make sure the adopted animal will be welcome at home over school breaks and holidays.
"Calls flood in at the end of a semester for pets that were left at apartment complexes," Harris said.
If a person lives in an apartment and decides he or she wants to adopt a pet, that person must first supply proof to the animal shelter that a pet deposit has been made at their apartment complex.
Most students are unaware of city ordinances regarding pets, such as needing a license for each, and have been receiving tickets for violating these laws. To view the city ordinances, go to www.ci.nacogdoches.tx.us and click on the City Departments- animal control link.
Also, in order to prevent more unwanted or homeless animals, the pet owner must also pay for the animal to be spayed or neutered at the time of adoption. If the animal is still too young to have this procedure done, the owner will be supplied with a certificate to present to a local veterinarian to spay or neuter their pet once the animal is old enough.
"The biggest, most important thing is understanding the responsibility of what it takes (to own a pet)," Harris said. "It is a lifelong commitment."
The city supplies the Nacogdoches Animal Shelter with the facility and a $240,000 budget to cover salaries, utilities, building maintenance and upkeep. This amount does not cover food, vaccines, heartworm tests or de-worming medication; all these products must be donated. The shelter is able to feed animals by food donations from Wal-Mart, which gives the shelter any bags of pet food with holes or food that has gotten old.
Harris graduated from SFA in 2003 with an animal science degree. She earned her master's degree in 2005 in general agriculture. Her thesis research was over the Parvovirus and seeing which vaccine puppies respond to quickest. She has applied this research to her job and knows which vaccines are the best for animals in the shelter environment. The Nacogdoches Animal Shelter only uses the vaccine with the quickest antibody response.
Harris said the shelter's goal is by 2012 to only have to euthanize the animals that can't survive. "It does not get easier (to euthanize) every day," she said. "We are trying every avenue to reach a no-kill shelter. It's a slow process, but we are being very progressive with it."
In 2006, 5,219 animals were surrendered and 865 were adopted. In 2007, 5,679 were surrendered and 729 were adopted. Although the adoption rate has dropped from 76 percent to 59 percent, more animals are euthanized than are adopted every year.
"There are some of us who get attached (to the animals,) but this barrier has been put up," Harris said. "Each staff member has a selected day to euthanize, and we do it in the most humane way possible."
The shelter takes in dogs, cats, pot bellied pigs, horses, rabbits, cows, deer, rats, birds, snakes and various other animals. There is no room to keep large animals like horses or cows at the facility so Bill Plunkett, manager of the Nacogdoches Expo Center, lets the shelter house them there.
At the shelter, cats and puppies are kept inside in cages, and large dogs are kept in outside cages since they require more room. In order to get to know an animal better, potential pet owners can take the dogs and puppies outside to play in a fenced-in area. There is a room inside to play with the cats.
There are six employees currently working at the shelter, and each is assigned to a different room.