Push to ease Waco Animal Shelter crowding continues | Local Govt. and Politics

The Waco Animal Shelter hopes to encourage more adoption in the community to alleviate overcrowding, an issue pressuring the shelter since late last year.

Officials hope to make a dent by raising awareness, holding a public event next week and continuing to waive adoption fees, while also weighing policy changes aimed at getting to a more stable shelter population.

The Humane Society of Central Texas, which manages adoptions at the shelter, is partnering with Waco Pride Network for a Paws and Pride adoption event from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at Brotherwell Brewing, 400 E. Bridge St. Eastside Market will arrange vendors for the event. This will be the second year the event has been held.

Mike Gray, community outreach manager for the Humane Society of Central Texas, said he hopes the event provides an opportunity for the community to come together in addition to being an adoption event. Gray said the shelter in part uses off-site adoption events to become more visible to the community.

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“You’re going to have people from all different areas of Waco all in the same place, meeting dogs and meeting friends,” Gray said. “We just want to get out in the community, let people know who we are so when they are wanting to adopt a dog, they’ll remember ‘Hey, we saw the Humane Society when we went to Brotherwell, or when we went to the farmers market,’ so then they’ll want to come in and adopt when they’re ready.”

Gray said the adoption events typically see many dogs get adopted, with almost 40 dogs getting adopted the day of an “Adopt-a-Palooza” event in May. Gray said the Paws and Pride event is the only adoption event planned for the near future, but that the shelter will host more events come fall.

The animal shelter has faced repeated capacity issues since November, said Kandi Hillyer, executive director of the Humane Society of Central Texas. Hillyer said the shelter’s capacity is about 200 dogs. As of Sunday, the Humane Society’s website showed 188 dogs available for adoption, and officials have said more dogs are coming into the shelter than are leaving.

Gray said the high intake can be attributed to factors of COVID-19 and inflation, and is not an issue unique to Waco. As veterinarian offices closed during the early pandemic, fewer animals were fixed, leading to increases in the number of strays, Gray said.

“It’s a perfect storm,” she said. “You got a bunch of unaltered animals right now, you got a bunch of people struggling with inflation, gas prices. It’s hard to afford your way of life right now, and then having to add a dog on top of that.”

The shelter has hosted adoption events, issued “Code Reds” to encourage adoption in the community and has even been waiving adoption fees for about a month to alleviate the overcrowding, but keeps finding itself back at or near capacity.

Last month, the Waco Animal Welfare Board held a meeting to discuss possible policy changes to alleviate crowding at the shelter, including possibly changing the shelter’s euthanasia criteria, increasing staffing and volunteer support to assist with the large intake of dogs, and increasing the capacity of the shelter to spay and neuter animals entering the shelter. During the meeting, a subcommittee composed of members was formed with the purpose of drafting policy change recommendations for the shelter.

For several years, the shelter has only euthanized animals for medical or extreme behavioral reasons and has not euthanized animals for space. During their May meeting, members of the board expressed their desire to keep the shelter’s no-kill status, and said they would only consider changing the current euthanasia policy as a last resort.

The Animal Welfare Board will have a public meeting at noon Wednesday at the animal shelter, 2032 Circle Road, to discuss the policy change recommendations made by the subcommittee.

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