FORT WORTH -- For the first time in more than two years, city officials are facing the unpleasant prospect of having to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals.
The record run is now in jeopardy because 560 animals were brought into the shelter over the last week, overwhelming the facility.
As a result, the city is making an urgent plea for residents to adopt animals to help reduce extreme overcrowding in the shelter, which normally has a maximum capacity of 400 animals.
"We do not want to euthanize healthy dogs and cats," said Brandon Bennett, director of Code Compliance. "It would be heartbreaking."
To avoid that scenario, adoptions must take place this week. If not, animals will be euthanized to create more space at the shelter.
Since the city opened pet adoption centers inside PetSmart retail stores starting in April 2010, not one adoptable animal has been killed, officials say.
But unhealthy animals and those deemed too dangerous to be adopted are still euthanized if they can't be placed with rescue groups.
"With the success of our partnerships with PetSmart Charities and others, we haven't had to face the prospect of euthanizing healthy, adoptable ... animals until now," Bennett said.
Fort Worth isn't the only city facing overcrowding problems at its shelter.
In Austin, where the animal control center became a no-kill facility this year, officials had to euthanize 17 dogs this month. Arlington officials said they have also seen a surge in animals being brought in compared to a year ago.
During the late spring and early summer, the number of animals impounded drastically increases with new litters of puppies and kittens. But this year, the numbers have been higher than normal.
And more residents are abandoning their pets when they move, which could be a byproduct of the recession.
"This situation is not easy for anyone," Bennett said. "Not for the staff, the volunteers or the partner organizations we work with on a daily basis.
"The animals we received last week are quickly and currently being assessed for a range of health issues," Bennett said. "However, many of the animals that were already at the shelter are ready to be adopted or rescued immediately."
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698