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Texas Rangers relief pitcher Chris Martin throws in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Thursday, June 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Longview shelter offers adoption deals after 400+ animals show up in June

Editor's note: The deal on adoption fees has changed since this story initially published. This version has been updated. 

Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center has temporarily waived adoption fees after its kennels accepted more than 400 animals this month — and nearly 80 in the past two days.

According to the center's post on Facebook, all adoption fees are waved through Saturday with an approved application. 

The shelter’s kennels are full as it approaches July Fourth, considered the busiest week for intakes, according to its Facebook page.

“We waived the fees so that we could get them out the door,” interim director Chris Kemper said. “This time of year is when we drop our prices so we get them adopted. It’s consistent with what you see other shelters doing.”

Also, two insurance agents have stepped up to aid the shelter.

Through 3 p.m. today, anyone who likes and comments a Facebook photo of agents Laird Insurance Agency’s Josh Winberly and Kelly McClendon with their dogs will have their adoption fees waived. If Laird Insurance is among the top two Facebook like-getters nationwide, it will win a $2,000 donation to the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center.

Adoption promotions are a recurring event for the shelter, at 300 H.G. Mosley Parkway, Kemper said.

“Two weeks ago, when we had the major influx of cats, we did free adoptions on cats and kittens that we had done surgery on, and we went from literally had every cage in the building full to we got every cat out the door,” he said.

Since June 1, the shelter has taken in at least 418 animals. More than half of them were stray dogs and cats, but also 80 were animals surrendered by their owners, nearly 100 were picked up by animal control officers and 13 were bite quarantines.

Kemper and shelter veterinarian Dr. Christine Prior said May and June are normally the months with the highest animal intake numbers of the year, and that the shelter took in more than 300 animals in the first 2 1/2 weeks of June 2018.

“I don’t think this year or this month is anywhere from anything we’ve done in the past 2 1/2 years,” Prior said.

Kemper said the shelter has sent 105 animals to rescue groups, adopted out 142 animals and returned 22 animals with microchip implants to their owners this month alone.

“That actually is a huge number,” he said, “because it used to be we rarely ever saw dogs come in with microchips, and since we’ve really pushed microchipping, we’re seeing more and more animals.”

That has helped the shelter keep its euthanasia rate at percentages within range of being considered a “no-kill shelter,” he said.

“Technically, if you stay under 10 percent for euthanizing for space, you’re a no-kill shelter,” he said. “We’ve actually been hovering around 5 percent. We have not euthanized a cat for space since last October including all of those that we got in, and this month, we have done one euthanasia of dogs for space.

“We are at 0.3 percent for euthanasia rate for space” for June, Kemper said, “and we are actually very proud of that.”

He and Prior credit social media for attracting people from well outside just Gregg County along with lowering prices from time to time to adopt animals.

“We have people driving in from Dallas. We had someone who drove in from Austin, and a lot of that comes from the community support we get on our social media,” he said. “We work really hard on our social media to promote our dogs and market our dogs and to do things that hopefully entice people to come in, and if it takes lowering prices to get them out the front door, then we’re absolutely fine in doing that.”

The shelter still maintains a standard for adoptions to make sure each animal goes to the right home and that they aren’t just shipped out to make space, Prior said.

“We had somebody come in the other day, and they were going to adopt this dog because they felt sorry for him because he was our longest resident, and it wasn’t a good fit,” Prior said. “She had too many dogs already.”

The dog was later adopted by another person.

“We don’t want to see our animals go to the wrong home for the wrong reason,” Prior said. “We do happy things, because we want people to come here and not just adopt a dog because they feel sorry for it.”

Local aquatics instructor offers free lessons focusing on drowning prevention

Janet Galvan has worked at SeeSaw Children’s Place day care center for 19 years and said some of the students are scared to get into the pool when they start swimming in the summer.

But on Thursday, they could not get into the pool fast enough at Paula Martin Jones Recreation Center in Longview.

The change in the children’s attitude is partially thanks to Sarah Fox, an aquatics instructor who offered the children free swim lessons during the summer.

Typically, the students go to Ingram Pool to swim for fun, Fox said. But she partnered with the city of Longview to use the pool at Paula Martin Jones to give free swim lessons to the children, because it is less crowded.

“We’re focusing on water safety,” Fox said. “Basically what that entails is teaching them how to float on their back if a real-life emergency occurred ... call out for help, don’t jump in after someone.”

Some of the children are learning more advanced swimming such as stroke development, she said.

“It’s a good opportunity because there’s really a lack of aquatic safety awareness in East Texas that I’ve noticed,” Fox said.

Earlier in June, a teenager drowned at Lake Murvaul, and media reported a recent drowning at Lake O’ the Pines.

“Drownings happen all the time. Texas is the leading state in drownings,” Fox said. “Swimming is a life skill and not having access to the programs is really why I saw a need for it, which is why I thought SeeSaw is a great opportunity because kids are already at the pool.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day, and two of those are children aged 14 and younger. Of leading causes of unintentional injury death in the U.S., drowning ranks fifth.

The youngest child is 6 and the oldest is 12 in the group of about 20 from SeeSaw whom Fox taught, she said. On Tuesdays, she worked with younger children, and on Thursdays, she taught the older students.

Galvan said she has noticed a difference in the students after the swim lessons, especially because many of the children would not be able to afford them otherwise.

“This gives them the opportunity to get confidence so they can learn how to swim and keep up with their peers at a pool that has a deep end,” she said. “They need to be able to take care of themselves if they happen to be out on a lake or something like that.”

Lessons ended Thursday, but Fox said she is looking into doing more lessons in July or August.

House sends Trump $4.6B border bill, yielding to Senate

WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled House voted Thursday to send President Donald Trump a bipartisan, Senate-drafted, $4.6 billion measure to care for migrant refugees detained at the southern border, capping a Washington skirmish in which die-hard liberals came out on the losing end in a battle with the White House, the GOP-held Senate and Democratic moderates.

The emergency legislation, required to ease overcrowded, often harsh conditions at U.S. holding facilities for migrants seeking asylum, mostly from Central American nations like Honduras and El Salvador, passed by a bipartisan 305-102 vote. Trump has indicated he’ll sign it into law.

“A great job done by all!” Trump tweeted from his overseas trip.

Ninety-five Democrats opposed the bill, reluctantly brought to a vote by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after her plan to further strengthen rules for treatment of migrant refugees ran into intractable opposition from Republican lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence. Many moderate Democrats split with Pelosi as well, undercutting her efforts, which faded shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would swiftly reject them.

The legislation contains more than $1 billion to shelter and feed migrants detained by the border patrol and almost $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children who are turned over the Department of Health and Human Services. It rejects an administration request for additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds, however, and contains provisions designed to prevent federal immigration agents from going after immigrants living in the country illegally who seek to care for unaccompanied children.

The funding is urgently needed to prevent the humanitarian emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border from worsening. The government had warned that money would run out in a matter of days.

The Senate bill passed Wednesday by an 84-8 vote, with Democrats there pleased with the deal they cut with Republicans controlling the chamber.

The measure was initially only reluctantly accepted by the White House — which complained about elimination of the request for detention bed for immigrants facing removal from the U.S. — but GOP support grew after the measure presented an opportunity to outmaneuver Pelosi. Just seven Republicans opposed the bill.

“We could have done so much better,” Pelosi said in a floor speech. Earlier, Pelosi pushed a plan to ping-pong the Senate-passed bill right back across the Capitol with provisions requiring more stringent care requirements for detained migrant families and other steps. But confronted with splintering unity in the Democratic rank and file and intractable opposition from McConnell, Pelosi changed course.

Pence and Pelosi had an hour-long conversation on the legislation Thursday as the White House and Republicans kept pounding the message that the only way forward on the long-sought legislation was to pass the Senate bill.

Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short described the call as friendly and productive. Pelosi, a devout Catholic, appealed to Pence’s sense of faith.

Pelosi presented an effective case that House Democrats wanted more, Short said, but the vice president stressed that with the bipartisan vote in Senate and funding running out, now was not the time to be reopening the bill.

The leaders of the House Progressive Caucus, which includes almost half of House Democrats, immediately issued a statement calling the Senate bill — which had the backing of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — “entirely insufficient to protect vulnerable children in our care.”

“Standing up for human rights requires more than providing money,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

Thursday’s outcome was a victory for McConnell, who vowed that the GOP-held Senate would kill any “partisan” House changes that the Democratic-controlled House passed, and he appeared to hold a strong hand. All sides agreed that Congress wouldn’t leave for its Independence Day recess until the measure was passed in some form.

“The United States Senate is not going to pass a border funding bill that cuts the money for ICE and the Department of Defense. It’s not going to happen. We already have our compromise,” McConnell said. He called the Senate bill “the only game in town.”

McConnell said the White House might support making some changes administratively — which have less than the force of law — to address some Democratic concerns.

In fact, Pence agreed that lawmakers would be notified within 24 hours when a child died in custody, said people familiar with his call with Pelosi. The vice president also agreed to the 90-day time limit for migrant children to be housed in influx facilities.

Meanwhile, pressure built on lawmakers whose constituents are upset by accounts of brutal conditions for detained children. And with lawmakers eager to break for the 10-day July 4 recess, internal pressure built on Democrats to wrap it all up quickly.

“The Administration sent its request for emergency funding eight weeks ago, but there was no action,” said Sarah Sanders, outgoing White House press secretary. “We have already negotiated a broadly supported bipartisan funding bill. It is time for House Democrats to pass the Senate bill and stop delaying funding to deal with this very real humanitarian crisis.”

Lawmakers’ sense of urgency to provide humanitarian aid was amplified by recent reports of conditions in a windowless Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, where more than 300 infants and children were being housed. Many were kept there for weeks and were caring for each other in conditions that included inadequate food, water and sanitation.

The Border Patrol reported apprehending nearly 133,000 people last month — including many Central American families — as monthly totals have begun topping 100,000 for the first time since 2007.

At her weekly news conference, Pelosi choked back tears when asked about an Associated Press photo of a migrant father and daughter killed crossing the Rio Grande River as she pushed for stronger protections in a border crisis funding bill.

Pelosi told reporters Thursday she’s a “lioness” when it comes to children. She called it a “shame that this should be the face of America around the world.”

Girl, 5, resuscitated Thursday after near-drowning at Kilgore city pool

KILGORE — A child nearly drowned Thursday night at the Kilgore City Pool, but the quick response of teenage lifeguards and Kilgore firefighters saved her.

Few details were available Thursday evening about the child. Officials say she is about 5 years old and was being taken to Dallas for additional care after she was resuscitated then regained consciousness en route to a local medical facility.

According to Kilgore Fire Chief Johnny Bellows, “The child was awake and crying before she arrived at the hospital,” he confirmed Thursday evening. “Lungs appeared to be clear, but they’re transporting to Dallas just to be safe.”

From initial information, the girl, along with friends and family members, visited the pool Thursday afternoon. She initially swam with the help of a life jacket but reportedly shed it at some point.

Sometime after 5:15 p.m. as the group of children crossed a 4-foot-deep section of water, the girl apparently went under the water and didn’t resurface.

One of the lifeguards on duty jumped in and pulled the girl to the wall of the pool, Kilgore’s Special Services Superintendent B.J. Owen reported. According to Owen, the child was not breathing.

“Two guards pulled her out,” he said, “while others called 911 and cleared (the) pool.”

The girl had no pulse, and the lifeguards began CPR. Kilgore firefighters were sent about 5:30 p.m. A crew already was in the area and arrived within three minutes of the call, Owen said.

The firefighters lifted the girl by her feet to help clear her lungs, he said, adding that she was breathing on her own within three to five minutes.

According to city officials, 14 lifeguards were on duty at the time, eight of them actively monitoring the pool.

Shaken by the event, Owen said he is grateful for the rescue and hopeful for the girl’s recovery.

“Everyone did what they were supposed to, and everything worked the way it was supposed to,” he said. “This is why we have lifeguards.”

No further information was available as of Thursday evening.

Fiery Democratic debate: Race, age, health care and Trump

MIAMI — Democratic divisions over race, age and ideology surged into public view Thursday night as the party’s leading presidential contenders faced off in a fiery debate over who is best positioned to take on President Donald Trump.

The Democratic Party’s early front-runner, 76-year-old former Vice President Joe Biden, was forced to defend his record on race in the face of tough questions from California Sen. Kamala Harris, the only African American on stage. That was only after he defended his age after jabs from one of two millennial candidates in the prime-time clash.

“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said, though she described Biden’s record of working with Republican segregationist senators on non-race issues as “hurtful.”

Clearly on defense, Biden called Harris attack “a complete mischaracterization of my record.” He declared, “I ran because of civil rights.”

For moments Thursday night, a fierce intraparty debate that had been simmering just below the surface about the party’s future was exposed on national television. The showdown featured four of the five strongest candidates — according to early polls, at least. Those are Biden, Sanders, Pete Buttigieg of Indiana and Harris. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who debated Wednesday night, is the fifth.

Together, the two nights gave millions of Americans their first peek inside the Democrats’ unruly 2020 season.

There are so many candidates lining up to take on Trump that they do not all fit on one debate stage — or even two. Twenty Democrats debated on national television this week in two waves of 10, while a handful more were left out altogether.

The level of diversity on display was unprecedented for a major political party in the United States. The field features six women, two African Americans, one Asian American and two men under 40, one of them openly gay.

Yet in the early days of the campaign, two white septuagenarians are leading the polls: Biden and Vermont Sen. Sanders.

Sanders early on slapped back at his party’s centrist candidates, demanding “real change.” Biden downplayed his establishment leanings.

For example, the former vice president, along with the other candidates on stage, raised his hand to say his health care plan would provide coverage for immigrants in the country illegally.

Sanders’ appeal relies on emotion, often anger. He stood alongside Biden, who preaches pragmatism and relative moderation.

Biden, like Sanders, who is 77, also represents a different generation from several candidates on stage. The age difference was noted by California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who said, “Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago.”

Others on the stage Thursday night included South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Buttigieg and Harris, who have shown support in opinion polls. Also: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, New York businessman Andrew Yang, California Rep. Swalwell and author and social activist Marianne Williamson.

The showdown played out in Florida, a general election battleground that could well determine whether Trump wins a second term next year.

Biden sought to sidestep the ideological debate altogether, training his venom on Trump.

“Donald Trump thinks Wall Street built America. Ordinary middle-class Americans built America,” said the former vice president. He added: “Donald Trump has put us in a horrible situation. We do have enormous income inequality.”

Biden’s strategy is designed to highlight his status as the front-runner, and as such, the Democrat best positioned to take down the president at the ballot box. Above any policy disagreement, Democratic voters report that nothing matters more than finding a candidate who can beat Trump.

If nothing else, Thursday’s slate highlights the diversity of the Democratic Party’s 2020 class.

Buttigieg, a 37-year-old gay former military officer, is four decades younger than Sanders, and has been framing his candidacy as a call for generational change in his party. Harris is the only African American woman to qualify for the presidential debate stage. Any of the three women featured Thursday night would be the first ever elected president.

Yet Biden and Sanders have received far more attention and shown higher standing than their less-experienced rivals.

The party will have to decide whether it wants a candidate based on resume over aspiration.