Adopting a Mega Pet in Houston to Ease Overcrowded Shelters

Paula Tolbert, 73, and her husband, Gary, 77, have been looking for a new pet since their old dog died of cancer.

To find their new best friend — a little dog who wouldn’t shed much — the Tolberts attended Petco Love Mega Adoption at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Saturday. It was love at first sight when they saw a 5-year-old dachshund-chihuahua mix.

The convention center filled over the weekend with nearly 2,000 dogs and cats eagerly awaiting future homes, and potential adopters flocked to meet them. All animal adoptions cost $35, and animals came home spayed or neutered, fully vaccinated and microchipped.

While the event joyfully united pets and their new families, it highlighted a serious problem in Houston: all local animal shelters are beyond capacity and the overcrowding crisis is critical.

On HoustonChronicle.com: By the Numbers: Houston’s Mega Pet Adoption Event

In 2019, the Mega Adoption resulted in 1,450 animal adoptions, according to Rene Vasquez, director of Fort Bend Animal Services. The event has been canceled for the past two years due to COVID-19, but Vasquez hopes this year’s event will see similar numbers.

Shelters should eliminate as many animals as possible.

Fort Bend Animal Services has more than 200 animals in its shelter, even though it has a capacity of 130, Vasquez said, adding that he hadn’t seen the crisis that bad.

“There have never been as many people as we are now,” he said. “About four or five years ago we could track how many strays we picked up, but now it seems we just aren’t catching up. We will be bringing 50 dogs and only adopting 10.”

Aaron Johnson, director of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, said his shelter currently cares for more than 400 dogs. It is designed to accommodate 180 people.

Kennel runs are designed to have one dog per run. Most tracks are currently home to four dogs, he said. Cutting too many animals in enclosures spreads disease and increases the risk of injury to dogs and humans, he added, but the alternative is euthanasia or leaving the dogs on the streets.

Some shelters are so overrun with animals that they have resorted to packing animal crates wherever there is room.

“We started stacking crates in the bathroom,” said Chelsea Williams, SPCA Brazoria County Community Outreach Coordinator. “After doubling the occupancy of each kennel, we had nowhere to put them, and the animals kept coming.”

Cory Stottlemyer, senior director of the BARC division, said animals have been turned over to shelters in alarming numbers since the pandemic began to wane.

“We got a lot of people adopted during the pandemic because they were sitting at home doing nothing,” he said. “But then things reopened and suddenly the owners thought they had no time for their pets.”

The problem is compounded by a lack of public awareness of proper pet care, said Shannon Parker, awareness and education program manager for Harris County Animal Shelter.

Unmodified pets reproduce rapidly, flooding the streets with homeless animals.

“It’s amazing how many people I meet from all walks of life who just don’t know the basics of neutering and neutering, and how that impacts animal overpopulation,” Parker said. “The great thing is that most people really want to be good pet owners, and they’re really receptive when we try to educate them.”

Shelter workers hope the weekend adoptions will ease some of the shelter’s burdens. “If we get 100 adopted animals today, that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Don Specks, director of animal services for the town of Sugar Land.

Sugar Land Animal Control can house 120 animals, but currently has 200. “That’s important advice, though. If we eliminate these animals, we can take more, and there will always be more.

Specks echoed Parker’s stance on spaying and neutering.

“A large litter of dogs or cats can lead to hundreds of homeless animals without neutering or neutering, and that’s probably the main reason why we have such a hard time finding homes for these animals,” a- he declared.

There are no official figures yet on the number of pets adopted as a result of the Mega Adoption, but since Saturday hundreds of visitors have found new pets.

Grace Allen, 25, just moved to Houston and wanted some company. On Saturday, she adopted a 4-month-old beagle mix puppy.

“I was looking for something to come home to, and I missed having a dog,” Allen said.

Allen hasn’t decided on a name yet, but she’s thinking “Cairo” or “Latte,” a nod to the pup’s tricolor brown, white and black coat. As she spoke, the puppy curled up into a ball in her arms and began to doze.

“I believe in adoption instead of shopping, and it was a great way to meet thousands of dogs from all over the area. This little guy and I just clicked, and now he’s coming home with me. .

The Tolberts’ new dog doesn’t have a name yet either, but Paula thinks she’ll be a perfect fit for their family.

“I love dogs and have always had rescue dogs,” Paula said. “Gary and I were missing something from our lives, and now we have it.”

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