EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The Duranguito neighborhood in downtown El Paso is best known for its connection to the past, but a group of volunteers is working to preserve and protect the lives of some of the area’s four-legged residents.
KTSM 9 News spoke with Veronica Carbajal, a lawyer and activist, leading efforts to rescue and rehome litters of puppies and their parents living inside the dilapidated buildings of Duranguito.
“Non-professional animal rescuers have been feeding and providing water to the dogs in Duranguito. We have a pack of dogs, we’ve counted up to six adults and have rescued five puppies,” Carbajal tells KTSM.
The volunteers are frustrated by what they say is a lack of support from both the City and County of El Paso when it comes to animal welfare and tax payer money to support El Paso Animal Services and other rescues.
“It is very difficult to rehome animals right now. The small animal rescues are saturated right now. They have no more foster homes, no more resources,” she says.
Carbajal says she’s reached out to Mayor Oscar Leeser, District 8 City Representative Cissy Lizzaraga, and Animal Services but told the case was closed because the animals were not present at the time of the separate visits.
“Here we are — three months later — still dealing with a problem that has only multiplied in city property,” says Carbajal.
Efforts to rescue and rehome pets remain a challenge in El Paso, with dozens of animals transported to other shelters around the country from Animal Services because of the influx, as examples of pets being dumped in the desert make the rounds on social media.
El Paso Animal Services is — and has been — at capacity.
“Most — all — of our kennels are full. Most with two and some with three dogs,” says Michele Anderson, Public Engagement Manager at El Paso Animal Services.
Anderson said Animal Services received several anonymous calls about dogs and puppies in Duranguito but that dispatchers were not provided sufficient details to provide adequate information to responding officers.
“If you call 311, be sure to give a description of the kind of dog and specifics as to where it was found. Sometimes people call saying they found a dog in a particular neighborhood, and that neighborhood spans 16 blocks,” says Anderson.
Back in Duranguito, Carbajal says she and the other volunteers were challenged when they called 311 and El Paso Animal Services officers who responded told them that the adult dogs would be euthanized if taken in.
The volunteers opted to keep them in Duranguito to give the dogs a longer chance for survival and took matters into their own hands.
Carbajal and the other volunteers spent months feeding the dogs and puppies, learning their behaviors, and thinking of solutions.
The group managed to trap and rescue many of the dogs and puppies but fear the adult female and a new litter of puppies are inside the crawl space of a severely damaged building that could face collapse after recent thunderstorms and flooding.
Carbajal is calling on the community to help raise awareness of the need for foster homes and donations to support rescue efforts, and to urge elected leaders to put tax payer dollars into animal welfare services, rescues, and shelters.
“We need the community to call upon not just the City but the County to enforce the laws, to create better laws, and do its job,” she says.
KTSM 9 News reached out to the City of El Paso and Cissy Lizzaraga. Updates to this story will be made upon response.