It’s been almost two years since Lubbock’s nearly $5 million southside animal shelter opened on city leaders’ hopes a cleaner, more eye-appealing facility would reduce euthanization rates and increase adoptions.
Lubbock Animal Services instead saw the opposite occur in the past two years, with adoptions for cats and dogs down nearly 25 percent and euthanizations up nearly 5 percent between 2010 and 2012 — statistics city officials hope will improve with $750,000 in proposed expansions at the shelter.
“Both of those are bad trends,” Mayor Glen Robertson said. “We’re in a situation where, when we built the shelter, it was too small on the first day it was open.”
Robertson said he’s hopeful city efforts to expand capacity at the new shelter and increase adoption levels will ease a problem he believes goes beyond shelter capacity.
“You want adoptions going up and euthanizations going down,” he said. “We have a tremendous issue in this city where you have irresponsible pet owners and we have a limited capacity to deal with that.”
Maintaining two shelters
City officials opened the new adoption center at 3323 S.E. Loop 289 in late April 2011 after working for years and having several proposed locations, including spots in McAlister, Mackenzie and Clapp parks, shot down by City Council members and area residents.
Assistant City Manager Quincy White said city leaders built the best shelter they could with a $4.8 million budget, taking advantage of a $1.5 million contribution from a private donor who continues to remain anonymous.
But with roughly the same capacity as the old shelter on Ash Avenue, the new shelter wasn’t expected to shutter its predecessor.
“We always planned to operate both facilities for a time,” White said. “But, ultimately, we definitely want to get to having just one facility.”
The new shelter’s 168 pens for dogs and cats was not a large enough addition for the city to close about 140 pens at the old shelter at 401 N. Ash Ave, giving the department just over 300 pens.
As of Wednesday, April 3, Animal Services housed about 250 dogs and cats between the two shelters, said Animal Services Director George Torres.
“And it’s already picking up,” Torres said, explaining his department sees an increase in stray animals in the late spring and summer and could be near capacity this year.
A $750,000 capital improvement project approved and funded in the 2013 city budget could significantly increase capacity and accessibility at the new shelter with the construction of a new pod, White said.
Torres said the project is in initial phases, with an architect scheduled to study the facility sometime in April and work possibly complete sometime in 2014.
He said it isn’t clear if the improvements will allow Animal Services to consolidate all operations out of the new shelter.
“If I could get 150 pens, that would be ideal,” he said. “I think it will help and, then, we can re-evaluate where we are to see if we need both shelters.”
The old center — a gloomy, smelly, cinder block and brick bunker in North Lubbock — was difficult to clean and officials considered it a tough place to show off adoptable animals, according to Avalanche-Journal archives.
That hasn’t changed, Torres said.
Animal Services continues using the old location to temporarily house unidentified or non-tagged animals.
Identified and tagged animals — as well as animals at the old shelter deemed adoptable in temperament, health and age — are housed in the new shelter.
White said the new shelter’s accessibility seems to be an issue for some residents, despite five road signs for the shelter in the area around the southeast Loop near Guava Avenue.
The shelter has just one entrance accessible from the eastbound South Loop 289 access road.
Those traveling to the shelter from the west on South Loop 289 must pass it, exit at Southeast Drive and use the turnaround lane to approach the shelter from the east.
“Once people have been here once they know where it is and don’t have trouble getting here,” White said. “Over time, we hope more and more citizens are going to be comfortable coming out here.”
As part of the capital improvement project, planners will create another entrance along the access road.
Working for improvement
Ultimately, the higher euthanization rates result from fewer adoptions and more animals dropped off at the shelter or picked up by Animal Services since 2010, Torres said.
Animal Services reported 11,133 live animals delivered to the shelter in 2010, increasing to 12,267 in 2011 and down to 11,773 last year.
During the same period, adoptions decreased from 1,267 in 2010 to 940 in 2011 while climbing slightly to 955 in 2012, Torres said.
“We’re seeing a good trend there,” he said. “Adoptions are slowly increasing and we’re going to keep working to get more people to adopt.”
Torres said Animal Services plans to organize adoption events at community centers in the coming months and work with area adoption agencies to find homes for unclaimed animals in the shelter.
Torres said he’s also trying to encourage adoptions by keeping adoption fees low, by offering a package including spay or neuter services, rabies shots, microchip tagging and a city licensing fee for $60. He said his department hasn’t raised the fee in more than a decade.
“We’re trying to save a life, encouraging adoption by offering those services at that amount,” he said.
Source: Lubbock Animal Services