MeLissa Webber, DAS Interim Director, wrote an end of year message for our recurring Shelter Society donors that was just too good not to share with everyone.
With another fiscal year behind us, I want to first take a moment to say thank you for your unwavering support through one of the most difficult years in history.
The evolving COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact us in unexpected ways: the nation-wide staffing shortage deeply impacted the shelter and large dog kennel space continues to be scarce. However, despite our focus on COVID-19 challenges, the world has continued to turn, residents and animals in the community have continued to need assistance, kitten season has come and gone, and Texas’ infamous weather has lived up to its reputation. Through all of these challenges, both new and old, the support of animal lovers like you has been critical in helping DAS continue its lifesaving mission.
In February, Texas battled Winter Storm Uri, which resulted in treacherous road conditions and left many Texans without power or water for days. Your support allowed us to provide critically needed straw to community members with outdoor pets, providing the extra insulation necessary to keep them safe in their shelters. You also provided blankets and other critical items from our shelter wish list to keep the pets here at DAS cozy and comfortable. Thanks to supporters like you, we were able to give Dallas pets the warmth and love they deserved during and beyond the storm.
Towards the end of May, when we faced our first urgent capacity crisis for large dogs since the pandemic began, your support ensured our team was able to quickly create a plan for safely reopening our doors to the public; within days, we had brand new waitlist and notification systems in place to effectively manage crowd control and social distancing. That first week of onsite adoptions led to 433 dogs and cats going home to new families – a 158% increase in adoptions compared to the week before. Your support has helped keep these new in-person processes running efficiently as capacity in the shelter continues to ebb and flow.
Your donations have also helped us to successfully launch a pet food pantry program this year for Dallas pet owners in need. The pantry has already distributed over 6,000 pounds of dog and cat food since launching in April, helping over 2,000 pets in our community stay with the family they love. The pet food pantry is just one example of how DAS has worked to increase pet owner support this year in conjunction with shelters across the country that are participating in the Human Animal Support Services (HASS) program. We have also partnered locally with Spay Neuter Network and Dallas Pets Alive! on our Pet Support Call Center, which connects pet owners with resources to help them keep their pets. We believe that these increased support options are contributing to the 29% decrease in pet owner surrenders at DAS compared to last fiscal year. In the long term, this decrease in owner surrenders could also eventually lead to a decrease in the capacity challenges we have faced this year.
Kitten season was another hurdle for DAS this year – not because of a greater number of kittens, but because the kittens who came into the shelter were overall more fragile than in past years. For the last two years, DAS has been pushing messaging to our community asking residents not to “kit-nap” healthy, older kittens or kittens receiving care from their mothers from their environment. We utilized social media, our website, and even a texting platform to deliver this message to residents, and the impact was substantial. Unlike most years, when DAS receives high volumes of kittens that were thriving in their environment, this year, DAS saw primarily the most urgent and fragile orphaned kittens. These vulnerable felines poured in daily from May to September, requiring extensive around-the-clock care from our team. Thanks to your support, we were able to operate our nursery 24-7 throughout kitten season allowing us to take this increase in critical cases in stride, treating the kittens in-house until a foster home was available and then sending their foster home with supplies like formula, bottles, and specialized kitten food. As we look to expand our foster program next year for both kittens and large dogs, we know that essential supply kits like those we provided our kitten fosters will be crucial to helping us build up our foster base.
Your financial support isn’t all that we’re celebrating as we wrap up this year: many of you have continued to increase your impact here at DAS by becoming volunteers. The DAS Volunteer program has seen tremendous growth this year, and we could not be more grateful. Our individual volunteers have spiked 161% from this time last year and our volunteer hours are up 240%. This truly couldn’t have come at a better time as staffing shortages have prevailed at shelters across the country. Because of the steady stream of support from good-hearted people like you, DAS has tackled each challenge that has risen head-on and saved the lives of over 14,000 dogs and cats this year. Meanwhile, our euthanasia rate has continued to decrease to an all-time low that is down 78% from Fiscal Year 2017. All of this is possible thanks to your support, which has allowed us to swiftly pivot, secure urgently needed items through Friends of DAS, and ultimately, to find lifesaving solutions for the pets in our care—even in these most difficult times.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that from donor to volunteer, foster to staff member, we are all a family here at DAS. Thank you for allowing us to lean on your steady support this year and for always choosing to #BeDallas90.