More Valley pets euthanized than adopted

The pitter-patter of tiny feet bouces off the cold, dark cement and the walls at the Palm Valley Animal Center in McAllen.

About an hour before, Animal Control workers dropped off their daily findings: a few dogs, cats and a rooster.

Among them is, Number 16, a small white dog whose name and owner is unknown.

Number 16 is one of 60,000 animals picked up wandering the streets of the Rio Grande Valley, a visible sign of an overpopulation problem that many say has reached its peak.

Back in his small 12 square foot cage, Number 16 limps around in circles.

Animal Workers think the injury was caused by a motorist when the small white dog roamed around the streets.

Now at the shelter, injured and with no one to claim him, Number 16 has little chances of being adopted, and so he will be put to sleep.

But, he will not be the only one. In any given day, nearly 200 dogs, cats and other animals will be euthanized at one of the few shelters in the Valley.

One such shelter, the Palm Valley Animal Center near McColl and Trenton Roads, sees dozens of animals from all over Hidalgo County being dropped off.

Shannon Ponce, the center TMs director of community outreach, told Action 4 News it is too many for the shelter to handle.

"The valley has such a large pet overpopulation problem," she said.

Once animals are dropped off at the center, they are tested for diseases and good behavior.

They are put under stress to see how they react to certain situations.

With a positive reaction, they end up and the shelter TMs adoption facility, ready to be taken in by a family. But those are the lucky few.

"The amount of animals that we receive being 125 to 150 a day, there's just no possible way that we can't not euthanize them," Ponce said.

She told Action 4 News that two of every three animals at the Shelter have to be put to sleep.

But that is not an isolated incident happening only in Hidalgo County.

In Brownsville, the number of animals being euthanized is one in two according to the city TMs animal Control.

Meanwhile, the Humane Society in Harlingen said their shelter is always running at full capacity. So unless a spot opens up from an adoption, all incoming animals have to be put down.

"If they would take care of their animals and get them fixed and not let them loose and roam around and procreate, then we wouldn't have the problem," Dan Dinges said, visibly bothered by their situation.

He added that a large part of the responsibility falls on pet owners and that they play a big part of the solution.

"The only way for us to be successful is to reduce the number of animals that come here."

That solution could come out of McAllen City Commissioner John Ingram's office.

For the past few months he has been part of a Valley-wide group working on an ordinance to try and solve the pet over population problem.

"We'd just like to get a handle on that so that so many animals aren't being picked up and so many animals aren TMt being euthanized," he said.

His proposal, known as the model pet ordinance, would outlaw the sales of animals in flea markets and on the sides of the road.

It would also make spay and neuter procedures mandatory for pets that are impounded for a third time. But it also creates "incentives" for owners who choose to do that procedure on their pets.

Those incentives include half off annual license fee if pets are spayed or neutered, and a decrease by half of fines for pet owners, if their dog or cat is ever impounded.

"Hopefully by November, late November, we'll have an ordinance that we can pass out to the different municipalities," Ingram said.

Meanwhile, expectations throughout the Valley shelters are riding high. Those agencies say they are desperate for a solution, and they agree on the best place to start.

One of the best ways to help reduce that number of animals that are euthanized is to spay and neuter so that were not receiving as many animals every year, Ponce said.

They said pet owners must take that initiative. In the meantime the Harlingen Humane Society is hoping to make it easier for them.

Construction of a spay and neuter clinic is underway, they plan on opening by January. But they are still about $45,000 short, and time is running out for them.

"We are planning to open the first part of next year, our goal is to do 6,000 procedures per year," Dinges said.

But those procedures cannot save many of the animals currently housed in the Valley TMs shelters, not even a small white dog, with a limp and that goes by Number 16.