EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Paso Animal Services employees said they were one of the thousands of people to react to a viral video showing a dog being abandoned on the side of the road in Horizon City this week.
Animal Services said it is seeing an increasing number of stray animals and pets ending up in the streets. However, community members said this is a problem because of a program Animal Services has implemented.
“The public has always been there and, honestly, we need more of that right now,” Ramon Herrera, Interim Director of El Paso Animal Services, said. “We want to make sure we let the public know we have heard their concerns, but we’re going to continue asking for help.”
The Human and Animal Support Services Pilot Program went into effect in June 2020, which is meant to keep pets and families together rather than the pets in the shelters. Through the program, Animal Services said it created the found-report process, which is where the community holds on to any lost pets they find, file a lost report and through that, it helps reunite pets with owners before entering the shelter.
“When anyone finds a friendly, healthy stray, we’re going to ask the community to help us out, two or three days or even just a few hours,” Herrera said.
He said this would help minimize the animals in the shelter.
“I think we have seen it in the community that the public does care about that Husky. That broke everyone’s heart in this building. This community showed that you know, we have some challenges with pets in El Paso, but we have amazing people and more amazing people that are going to want to help,” he said.
However, local animal rescue groups say they want to see this program end.
“I feel if the shelter would go back to the way it used to be — allow people to surrender animals, people with found dogs to go turn in later — but asking the citizens of El Paso to hold on to a dog 24 to 48 hours, it’s not working,” said Karen Washington, president of Pawsitive Rescuers El Paso.
The local non-profits said they are also at capacity and can’t take in more animals.
Animal Services said its facility is meant for 250 to 350 animals at the most and right now are at 650 and counting. They also said they are taking in 50 to 60 pets a day and anticipate that can go up to 80 to 100.
“We’re doubling what this facility was made for, we made enhancements to areas, but really it’s not suited for that amount of animals,” Herrera said.
Washington said because of the pandemic, more and more animals are out in the streets.
“The last eight months I have seen dogs out in the streets doubled, I’ve been rescuing for 17 years in El Paso and this is the worst I have seen it,” Washington said.
Animal Services said the program is working, however.
“Since the program went in place in July, more than 3,400 people filed a found report, meaning that 3,400 people found a pet doing the right thing and of that 38 percent were able to be reconnected,” Herrera said.