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Officials to debate Humane Society contract

By Sherry Koonce skoonce@news-journal.com
Aug. 12, 2012 at 10 p.m.


City officials, animal lovers and shelter workers are coming together this week to address the city's escalating animal problem and the growing need for a new or expanded facility to take care of strays or abandoned pets.

All Hearts 4 Paws, a newly formed group dedicated to the welfare of community pets, will hold a 6:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday at the Longview Public Library to raise public awareness about Longview's pet overpopulation issue.

"I don't know that everybody is on the same agenda, but everybody agrees that this is something that needs to be done," said Elyse Bowers, All Hearts 4 Paws organizer.

Members have addressed Longview city leaders at the last two city council meetings, asking the city to consider the need for a new animal shelter.

City Mayor Jay Dean said he was aware of the need, but funding was an issue.

"Our Longview shelter is not the proper place for our stray pets to be taken to," Bowers said.

The group has asked the city to no longer take animals to the Humane Society of Northeast Texas, at 303 Enterprise St. in Longview.

Bowers said the shelter is overpopulated and disease infested.

Stuart Russell, interim director of the Humane Society of Northeast Texas, is among the speakers planning to attend Tuesday's meeting.

She agrees that the shelter is overcrowded. The Humane Society is doing the best it can with the number of animals coming in daily - and there are just too many, she said,.

"We definitely have a pet overpopulation," Russell said.

When the facility was started in the 1980s, it was intended to service only the city of Longview.

More than 20 years later, Longview is among eight entities the local Humane Society services. The list now includes Hallsville, Gilmer, Gladewater, Lake Cherokee, White Oak and Gregg County.

The facility is licensed for up to 140 animals, but on any given day the number of animals needing shelter could easily exceed the space limitation.

"We have outgrown this space about 20 years ago," Russell said.

Not only do abandoned and stray animals come from the eight entities, the nonprofit shelter takes animals from other places without contracts for a $36 fee. And that does not count the number of pets taken to cities and counties with contracts by people who do not reside in those areas.

In the two weeks since Russell was named interim director, people from as far away as Avinger, Lindale and Carthage have brought pets to the shelter.

Typically up to 1,000 animals a month are brought to the shelter, depending on the time of year. Of those, about 600 to 700 are euthanized each month, Russell said.

All Hearts 4 Paws would like to see a new shelter constructed that would be large enough to accommodate the abandoned and stray pet population. The group has no funds to contribute to the effort, she said,.

Lack of space at the Humane Society of Northeast Texas not only contributes to disease among the animals, it also is a deterrent to pet adoptions.

If the Humane Society were to expand, a separate area should be constructed for people to come in and adopt animals.

"We need to come up with somewhere new where we can put our adoptable animals, where the community feels comfortable in going and it makes it quite clear what is up for adoption," Russell said.

A new building, however, would not solve the problem. As long as people do not take proper care of their animals, the pet population will continue to grow. People are the problem, Russell said, not pets.

"If everyone would spay and neuter and vaccinate, we'd be out of business and that would sure be nice," Russell said.

Bowers agreed that pet owners should take their responsibility more seriously.

"The shelter and local rescues are to their maximum capacity, and there are still hundreds of pets wandering on the street in every neighborhood. It is so disheartening," Bowers said.

"Pets are just like us in that they need shots, their teeth brushed, clean water and food, and medicine to stay healthy and survive. They come to the shelter sick and neglected, some near death," Bowers said.

District 1 Longview City Councilman John Sims agrees that something needs to be done.

The city, he said, is looking into the pet over-population problem.

Sims plans to attend Tuesday's meeting.

"I am not sure what can be done, but it's time the city seriously looks at the issue," Sims said.

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