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Success of new Longview animal shelter beyond statistics

By Jimmy Isaac
Feb. 18, 2017 at 11:16 p.m.

Ryker Reed, 3, of Hallsville makes friends with a puppy in a window Thursday at the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center.

Longview-area animal euthanasia rates are down, but directors of the city's seven-month-old shelter say the facility's positive effects go beyond statistics.

Since the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center opened July 1, it has recorded a euthanasia rate of 40.4 percent. While that number is higher than ideal for many animal advocates, it's lower than what the area's former animal shelter recorded three years ago.

"If you want to talk about where we are and what we're doing, that's the proof in the pudding right there," Longview Animal Control Supervisor Chris Kemper said as he looked at Reggie, a stray dog hit by a car recently on Pine Tree Road. It suffered a fractured skull and a broken leg, but emergency surgery and care from new shelter veterinarian Dr. Christine Prior brought Reggie from near death to playfulness within a day.

Photos of Reggie have been shared hundreds of time on Facebook.

LOOKING FOR THE OWNER....

This poor baby is at the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center in critical condition after...

Posted by Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center on Friday, February 10, 2017

"He's worth giving a second chance to," Kemper said.

Stories such as Reggie's were the goal for many of the people who donated funds to building and furnishing the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center, constructed by the city and Gregg County on land donated by the Humane Society of Northeast Texas.

The city opened the shelter before crafting an animal services budget that included shelter operations. Despite that, Director Shannon DeRosa said the facility has performed financially well so far, but she'll have a better gauge as she crafts the upcoming year's budget over the next month.

"We're actually right on target," said Community Services Director Laura Hill.

So far, the shelter is a half-percent below budgeted spending through the first four months of the fiscal year — Oct. 1 through Feb. 13.

Hill credited that to the knowledge that city administrators gained by touring other cities' shelters before constructing its own, and for the knowledge and experience brought by DeRosa, who previously directed a shelter in Washington state.

"We brought in somebody who knew how to run a shelter," Hill said. "She's been instrumental in getting us going so well so quickly."

Intake

The Humane Society shelter built in 1972 could hold up to 140 animals, and overcrowding often led to euthanasia.

That facility closed one night before the new facility opened, transferring 110 animals to the city.

Those were among the 3,543 animals taken in by the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center between June 30 and Wednesday, which is an average of about 470 animals a month.

By comparison, the Humane Society took in about 1,000 animals a month in fall 2012, euthanizing about 70 percent of them mostly because of space.

More than half of the new facility's animal intake have been either strays or were seized by police or animal control officers.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about twice as many animals enter the nation's 13,600 shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners. For Longview, that ratio is five-to-one in strays versus surrendered animals.

Outcomes

A total of 1,394 animals, or 40.5 percent, were euthanized during that seven-and-a-half-month time frame. (Twenty-nine animals taken in were adoptions that were returned to the shelter, either because a family member was allergic to the animal or it didn't take to another household pet, DeRosa said.)

It's a significantly lower kill rate than the 67 percent at the Humane Society shelter in March 2013 and the 50 percent rate recorded in early 2014, according to News-Journal records.

Euthanasia rates for other time periods at the Humane Society shelter were unavailable.

Nationally, about 31 percent of dogs and 41 percent of cats entering animal shelters are euthanized, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Among the 1,394 animals euthanized in Longview since June 30, about 14 percent were because the shelter reached capacity, DeRosa said.

Thirty percent of the animals euthanized were because of behavior issues, particularly violent biting and aggression. DeRosa attributed the remaining deaths to medical issues that were beyond reasonable treatment means or that the animal's owner requested euthanasia.

Another 60 animals either died in the shelter's care or were dead on arrival after being seized by officers.

For the 2,100 animals brought to the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center that lived, 900 were adopted, 274 were returned to their owners, 623 were transferred out to rescue groups and 20 wild animals were released in wooded areas usually outside the city limits, DeRosa said. Adoption rates during the time the Humane Society operated its shelter were unavailable for comparison.

The new facility's intake since June 30 includes 170 animals that were held overnight for observation after having microchips implanted.

There were about 100 animals at the shelter Wednesday.

Having Prior and veterinary staff on site has allowed the shelter to help injured, ill animals quickly and more thoroughly than the Humane Society, which contracted with several area vets.

The Longview facility also has found more ways to promote adoptions, spaying and neutering and implanting microchip in pets.

Adoptions

To boost adoptions, the shelter and Longview Police Department this month introduced Wishful Wednesdays.

Each Wednesday, an officer comes to the shelter, picks out an animal and poses for a picture that is posted on both agencies' social media pages.

This past week, officer Luke Altman posed with two-year-old pointer-mix Gwen, who's been at the shelter since January.

The weekend of Feb. 4, the shelter held a "Free over Three" special in which it charged no fee to anyone who adopted an animal at least three years old.

"It was about getting the old timers out into good homes without having to euthanize them," DeRosa said.

On Feb. 11, it held a Valentine's Day special that promoted a pet kissing booth, reduced adoption prices and offered free microchips. Twenty-one animals were adopted and 123 animals were issued free microchips that day, DeRosa said.

"Which means that if every one of those dogs got out and got scanned, they would get to go home, which is huge, and it wasn't just Gregg County," she said. "I mean, people came in from Smith County, everywhere. The goal is to get people to understand that this is important, and if money is the factor, then I'll do these free microchips from time to time."

The Longview shelter's improved adoption and rescue numbers have attracted regional attention, including a Jan. 17 report in the Shreveport Times. Shreveport is the seat of Caddo Parish, where officials are being pressured from some residents who want a new animal shelter.

DeRosa told the newspaper that her shelter adopted out all of its adoptable animals on two consecutive weekends, and she attributed those successes to the shelter's aggressive social media campaign.

"It's about marketing," DeRosa told the Times. "We'll start some social media hype when animals become adoptable, and by the time we build the hype up, we've had people waiting outside our doors."

Volunteers

While adoptions, microchip implanting and general traffic were high Feb. 11, volunteer turnout was low, said Volunteer Services Coordinator Jackie Reynolds. She has about 65 to 70 people who volunteer on a regular basis about once to three times a week, she said, "but there's days like Valentine's Day. I had moms who were at Valentine's parties, or the flu has taken a lot of people out. I always need more to fill in."

Reynolds wants to have at least four volunteers in the morning and afternoon shifts to make sure all animals get plenty of out-of-kennel time and social interaction. On Wednesday, Reynolds had two volunteers.

"The ideal candidate would be a stay-at-home mom, or would be a retiree that's got some time during the day," she said. "Saturdays, I'm always full because that's when everybody's off, but it's the Tuesday through Friday where we could use the consistent help."

Volunteers must be 18 years old, or must be accompanied by an adult if between the ages of 13 and 17. Reynolds said the shelter is hosting more and more office, church and school groups and Scout troops who are coming to the shelter in the afternoons, and it's hosting more birthday parties.

"So we're getting people that are coming in, and that's the key," Reynolds said. "If we get them in the door and they see the facility, then they want to be a part of it. They want to be involved. It's just getting people in here to know that we're here."

Anyone wishing to volunteer can contact Reynolds at (903) 291-5262 or email jareynolds@longviewtexas.gov.

Volunteers also can stop by the shelter at 303 H.G. Mosley Parkway.

Even with the successes, Kemper said survival stories like Reggie's are the real story of the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center.

"Numbers and statistics are great, but the face of that?" Kemper said. "Reggie."

Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center stats

June 26-Feb. 15 Intake detail report

  • Clinic (microchip, foster, post-surgical): 173
  • Owner/guardian surrender: 548
  • Returned adoptions: 29
  • Seized (brought in by ACO or police): 1,657
  • Service in: 7
  • Stray: 976
  • Transfer in (from Humane Society): 110
  • Wildlife in: 43
  • Total: 3,543

Outcome summary report

  • Admin missing: 1
  • Adoption: 900
  • Clinic out (microchip): 170
  • Died in care: 54
  • Dead on arrival: 6
  • Euthanasia: 1,394
  • Return to owner: 274
  • Service out – bite QT: 1
  • Transfer out – rescues: 623
  • Wildlife release: 20
  • Total: 3,443

Upcoming events

K-9 workshops

  • 6 p.m. Thursdays
  • Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center, 303 H.G. Mosley Pkwy.
  • Learn to solve potty problems quickly with the four key elements of successful house training
  • Must register through on The Good Dog Academy K-9 Education's Facebook or by email at longviewgoodacademy@gmail.com

Hogs & Dogs Poker Ride

  • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 25
  • Start at Roughneck Harley-Davidson, 3400 N. Fourth St.; second stop at Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center; final stop at Roughneck Harley-Davidson
  • Free poker ride benefiting Longview pets to find homes, with free food, refreshments, music and activities; all bikes are welcome, and poker ride participants will receive discounted adoption fees

Blessing of the Animals

  • 4:30 p.m. April 21
  • Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center
  • Pets can receive blessings by pastors of Alpine, First and St. Andrew Presbyterian churches
  • All animals are welcome

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