Cities in northeastern San Antonio Metrocom are working on new ways to promote animal adoption and expand city-run animal facilities as part of their efforts to combat stray animal numbers and regular dog intake and unwanted cats.
Shelters share similarities in how they define what it means to be a stray — an animal that runs free or at large, with no physical or verbal restrictions — and in some cities, the definition includes that there appears to be no known owner.
According to animal care experts, facilities across the region, including Schertz and Cibolo, are recording hundreds of animal intakes over the course of a few months.
Each facility handles stray issues, including disease treatment, spay and neuter procedures, pet owner education, and other initiatives to reduce the number of animals cared for in shelters.
In Schertz, from August 2022 to January 2023, the Schertz Animal Shelter took in 607 animals, mostly cats and dogs, said Megan Lagunas, head of animal services at Schertz.
In Cibolo, from August 2022 to January 2023, the Cibolo Animal Shelter welcomed 318 animals. Of those hires, 229 were dogs and 89 were cats, said Jacob Jenkins, animal services manager at Cibolo.
By comparison, in the same time frame, the City of San Antonio’s Department of Animal Care Services took in 12,856 animals, including foster and adoption returns, as well as rescues, according to an annual report. Of that total, 8,499 were stray animals.
Lagunas said many of the animals in the shelter come from unwanted litters of animals that haven’t been spayed or neutered, animals that have escaped from their homes or yards, abandoned pets and feral animals.
“People have unwanted litters and don’t know what to do with them, so they show up at the shelter,” Lagunas said. “I think it’s the main source of the stray population in this region of Texas.”
In northeast San Antonio Metrocom, the cities of Schertz, Cibolo, Universal City and Live Oak have shelters where residents can adopt pets.
At Live Oak, the shelter has capacity for approximately 24 dogs and up to 30 cats. Animal control supervisor Stephanie Kinney said the Live Oak shelter has impounded 184 animals since August, most of which are pets from homes in the area.
“[An animal] it’s always a pet that gets put in a shelter, but it’s a question of whether it’s a pet that gets taken care of or it’s a pet that people don’t really care about, and that’s what we get stuck with,” Kinney said. said.
Similar to Live Oak, the Universal City shelter returns many pets to their owners. Those that are unclaimed are then evaluated for adoption.
While Universal City has no issues with overcapacity, the shelter assists surrounding shelters with animal relocations when those shelters can no longer accommodate pets.
In Schertz, the shelter has 72 kennels, including quarantine and isolation kennels. Over the past six months, the shelter has taken in 607 domestic and wild animals.
While the Schertz facility also has no capacity issues, the impounded animals often have illnesses or diseases that need to be treated, Lagunas said.
“Every day we have disease in our shelter,” he said. “It’s contained, but almost every single animal that comes in here has something, whether it’s worms or a skin disease or whatever.”
Because Schertz and Cibolo are larger than the surrounding cities and have more rural areas, there are more animals being dumped because people don’t know what to do with their animals, said Jacob Jenkins, animal services manager. Cibolo animals.
“We have many [dumping] because we only have 12 kennels and we can’t accept the surrender of the owners right now, but we try to offer different solutions to these owners and we are reaching out to different organizations to try and rehouse these pets,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins said the Cibolo facility was built in 2000, when the city had a population of about 2,000. With a growing population of approximately 38,000 people, the 12-kennel facility is constantly full and there is no room for extra dogs.
When kennels are overcrowded and pet owners want to turn in the animals, shelter workers contact other area shelters, including Universal City and Schertz, to see who has room.
“Right now, I have 16 dogs with only 12 kennels, so I have to get creative,” Jenkins said.
Cibolo Police Lieutenant Jan Wilkiewicz said many of the abandoned animals are due to residents experiencing difficulties and not knowing where to go to get help with an animal they can no longer care for.
When shelters are at or near capacity, it can be more difficult for owners to deliver pets, which leads to areas like Cibolo Creek being used as landfills.
“Just because people are making bad choices doesn’t make them bad people,” she said.
To address the stray problem, city officials are working to expand facilities and help educate the public about responsible animal care and pet ownership.
Cibolo has the smallest facility and is in the exploratory stage of coming up with a plan to invest in and expand animal and shelter operations.
While discussions are still preliminary, there is a desire in the community to make more space in the shelter, Jenkins said.
Another initiative for the city is to help educate the community about alternative resources for rehoming pets, which would reduce the number of animals dumped in more rural areas.
Officials are also working to better enforce dumping penalties, to ensure those who abandon animals are properly fined, Jenkins said.
Live Oak officials are working to upgrade the shelter’s gates to turn quarantine zones into adoptable zones, which will increase the number of animals the shelter can hold.
Kinney said there is a discussion about building a new facility, but those conversations have not moved forward.
Kinney said officials are also working to revise city ordinances to help eliminate the problem of not being able to return pets to their owners.
The revised ordinances will allow the city to microchip a pet to ensure that owners are within easy reach if the pet goes missing.
“After the first seizure, when your dog goes out, we will microchip that animal,” he said. “That way, if we get it back, it’s much faster to get the owner back.”
Live Oak officials also use social media, such as Facebook and TikTok, to promote the animals in the shelter, which has led to a surge in adoptions, Kinney said.
“We’re getting to the point of making collages for every animal we have, and we’re getting to the point of making TikTok videos for them,” she said, adding that it’s been an effective strategy since animals are being adopted more quickly.
Over the past two years, Schertz has invested $650,000 in the shelter and has worked to address holding space, infrastructure construction, and heating and cooling, all of which have eased some of the capacity bottlenecks.
However, city officials continue to work on the shelter with plans to add an outdoor cat space and dog agility class in the future, Lagunas said.
The main initiative for Schertz is to educate residents about vaccinations and preventative measures for illnesses and diseases.
Lagunas said the city relies on a passionate team of volunteers and staff to collect the animals and care for them.
“It’s hard work sometimes, but everyone is passionate about it,” she said.
Each shelter relies on community assistance and each needs volunteers and donations.
For Schertz, the shelter relies on the community to help with vaccinations and ensure pets are adequately protected outdoors.
“We want to discuss rabies a lot with the community and help educate about responsible pet vaccinations,” Lagunas said. “The rabies vaccine is so important. … The focus of our existence is to prevent the spread of rabies and zoonotic diseases.
Towns in the area host events for discounted vaccinations, microchipping, and spay and neuter services.
Schertz offers residents the microchip for $15, which is about $45 cheaper than other facilities.
Similar to Live Oak, if an animal is impounded without a microchip, it will be chipped before leaving the facility.
In Universal City, the shelter has initiatives to provide low-cost microchips and vaccinations along with Penny Paws twice a month.
Wilkiewicz said shelters like the one in Cibolo rely on community support to be successful, and without cash donations and volunteers, facilities would be unable to continue helping pets and other animals in the area.
“We would not survive without community support,” Wilkiewicz said. “I am grateful for the community and the feedback they give us and continued support going forward. We are a small shelter, but we keep it».