Each year, as temperatures rise, shelters across the country see an increase in the number of orphaned neonatal kittens and lost dogs in need. Here at Dallas Animal Services (DAS), our team works around-the-clock during spring and summer months to secure positive outcomes for this influx in animals and to prevent our shelter from reaching capacity. This year, the continued uncertainties and challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and nation-wide staffing shortages have made things even more difficult.
This climate of compounding challenges is precisely why your ongoing support is more critical today than ever before. Thanks to your consistent support, we can confidently tackle these and future hurdles and continue to ensure the pets of Dallas receive the exceptional care they deserve.
This past May, DAS was able to begin once again offering onsite adoptions. With capacity climbing to the highest point since the pandemic began, this operational change could not have come at a better time and we were thrilled to see an excellent response from our community. Though DAS must limit public visitors to 25 at a time, the ability to offer both online and in-person adoptions has had a significant impact on the number of lives we have been able to save this summer. During the first week of in-person adoptions, DAS saw 433 dogs and cats going home to new families – a 158% increase in adoptions when compared to the week before.
In order to streamline onsite visitation while ensuring compliance with the City of Dallas’ COVID-19 Phase III building capacity limitations, DAS implemented a text-based waitlist process and a handheld pager system for residents without cell phone access. Once inside the building, visitors are encouraged to wear masks and DAS staff and volunteers continue to enforce social distancing and elevated cleaning practices.
While online adoptions have been incredibly successful over the past 14 months, there are many experiences we have truly missed during that time. Personally, I have most missed watching the magical moment when a visitor passes the kennel of a pet that they’d never have thought to adopt online, but instantly fall in love with when they see that animal’s wiggly smile or sweet meows. Since starting onsite adoptions again, we have seen our longest stay and senior pets finding forever homes faster, which truly warms our hearts.
Many of our supporters and partners have reached out with concerns that the pets adopted during the pandemic will find their way back to the shelter as soon as their new owner is called back into the office. I am proud to say that this is not something DAS is seeing. While the rise in our capacity came alongside the reopening of many businesses, our adoption return rate actually went down this year compared to last year and only 1% of the pets adopted during the pandemic have been returned since the world began re-opening. We realize that the effects of the pandemic are far from over, which is why we are working hard to provide new supportive programs to owners who are struggling so we can ensure that pets can stay where they belong – in their home with their loving family.
Even before the pandemic began, we recognized that many painful owner surrenders would be unnecessary if simple resources were put into place. As a result, DAS began working with our partners at Spay Neuter Network to develop its Pet Support Call Center, which helps owners navigate resources and options other than surrender, and with Dallas Pets Alive! to expand their PASS Program, which helps owners overcome hurdles such as expensive medical procedures and pet deposits. This Spring, we launched a pop-up Pet Food Pantry in conjunction with local food pantries that meets owners in need where they are and provides free, nutritious pet food. These efforts have contributed to a dramatic 63% decrease in owner surrenders at DAS since fiscal year 2017, but there is more to be done. Currently, we are focusing on the recent launch of a pilot program that microchips loose dogs in the field at no cost to their owners, on expanding our community outreach efforts, and developing a fence building program.
As DAS continues to lead the industry in a shift towards social services-inspired assistance programs that emphasize the human-animal bond, your ongoing support is critical. It is DAS’ hope that, with the support of donors like you and our partners at Human Animal Support Services (HASS), we will soon be able to ensure that no owner is forced to surrender their beloved pet due to circumstance.
As a result, your support is not only helping pets in need inside our shelter, but it is also helping to keep pets that are lucky enough to have devoted families out of our shelter and in those loving homes.
Thank you for choosing to #BeDallas90 in even the most uncertain of times,
Interim Director of Dallas Animal Services