FORT WORTH — Fort Worth is forced to euthanize about 6,000 animals each year, but the staff is hoping to change that with a new, $1 million medical treatment ward.Many of the 20,000 animals that come into the shelter each year are sick, said Brandon Bennett, director of code compliance, and without a treatment center, often the only option is to find a rescue for the animals or to euthanize them. “Space is always the limiting factor in a public shelter. We are always at capacity. So what happens is, if I have a healthy, adoptable animal, I can move them out to adoption right away. But because I don’t have enough cages to continually keep the sick animals. … we have to euthanize,” Bennett said. The facility will also keep dogs isolated when they come in to the shelter, Bennett said, to keep deadly diseases like parvovirus and distemper from spreading to the healthy dogs in the kennels. The medical treatment ward, which should open in September and is adjacent to the Chuck Silcox Animal Shelter, will be able to house about 60 dogs and cats, according to a city news release. In April 2010, the adoption and rescue rate of the city shelter was under 30 percent, said Bennett, with even healthy animals being put down because a lack of adoptions.But with a comprehensive plan to increase live outcomes in 2009, including implementing a spay and neuter program at the shelter, partnering with PetSmart Charities for two adoption centers and utilizing more rescue groups, the shelter is now adopting out 60 to 70 percent of animals. Hopefully, the treatment ward can bring live adoptions to about 85 percent, Bennett said.Jan Wilkins, executive director of PetSmart Charities, flew in from Phoenix for the groundbreaking of the new center on Wednesday, saying it is on the “cutting edge” for cities to open their own treatment ward. “When you see how this community has come to support this animal shelter, it is very different. Not every city is like this. Lots of cities struggle to get support; clearly this city cares about the homeless animals in their city,” Wilkins said. All of the money to build the shelter was donated, and the estimated operating costs for the city will be about $270,000 annually, and will include three full-time employees, 20 hours of additional veterinarian services, medicine and medical supplies for the facility. Kit Moncrief, founder of the Saving Hope Foundation, which was one of the donors for the building, got involved with helping with animals when she found an abused pug-mix wandering the Moncrief Ranch in Parker County. The dog’s muzzle had been taped shut and she had been stabbed multiple times and left for dead. Adopted by Moncrief, the dog, now named Hope, is a face of the Saving Hope Foundation, which works on spaying and neutering animals and educating residents on how to care for them. “When animals come in here and they are sick, they are put with the well animals and so more were getting sick and were being destroyed. This is going to save so many animals,” Moncrief said.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst