Rounding up strays means more will die

06/30/2014 4:42 PM

06/30/2014 4:44 PM

Fort Worth is facing reality on stray dogs: More of them need to be taken off the streets, which will put the animal shelter over its capacity, which will mean more dogs will be euthanized.

The city has put three additional animal control officers on the streets in an effort to combat the problem of strays.

“One way we could keep [shelter] capacity available is not picking up as many strays,” code compliance director Brandon Bennett told Star-Telegram City Hall reporter Caty Hirst for an article published Monday, “but that is not a good public safety policy, to leave these animals out there, so we have to pick them up.”

If that sounds a little like an “it’s us or them” policy — well, it is.

Stray dogs are a danger, plain and simple. The city has an obligation to control the population of free-ranging dogs as much as possible.

The euthanasia part is a natural result.

As Bennett pointed out, many times these are not dogs that people want to take home as pets. They are large, mature dogs that often have behavior or health problems, and their feral lifestyle makes them naturally skittish around people.

Fort Worth has long taken steps at its animal shelter to keep from putting animals down. The shelter’s live release rate typically has been 65 to 70 percent.

This month, the city put out a call for help when the number of animals at the shelter topped its capacity of 460. The number of animals held was reduced by 197 through adoptions prompted by the call.

Sometimes animal rescue groups take the strays in.

But the numbers are expected to become more challenging with the new team of animal control officers on the streets.

In their first week, they took in 71 dogs in addition to the shelter’s normal intake of 50 animals a day.

The city expects to take 18,200 stray dogs off the streets this year, up from 13,000 last year.

The city adopted out 457 dogs in May and 435 in April.

The numbers add up to a stark reality: too many dogs on the street, not enough room and no good reason to just hold them all at the shelter, and not enough adoptions or adoptable animals to stave off euthanasia.

The shelter is expected to be expanded by 100 kennels within 12 to 18 months.

A long-range plan calls for building an additional shelter in north Fort Worth.

Not even those steps will solve the problem. Bennett pointed to the best answer: responsible pet ownership.

“If the owners take care of their own pets, they are fenced in, licensed and vaccinated, you have a community that is much safer and you cut down on the public health concerns,” he told Hirst.

And you have fewer animals taken to the shelter and eventually killed.

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