Tuesday, October 15, San Antonio Animal Care Services (ACS) will ask the city for the authority to shorten the stray hold time for animals from 72 to 48 hours. (See page 17.) This would apply to animals that are being released alive to rescue or adoption. Animals that are going to be killed will be held for 72 hours. The argument is that by keeping animals for a shorter period of time, ACS will save more animals by making room to take in additional animals. If this argument were correct, then you could save even more animals by holding animals for an even shorter length of time, say an hour.
The logic is faulty because one of the best ways to keep an animal alive is to send him home. Take dogs for example. The longer you can keep a dog in the public’s view, the more likely that dog is to be discovered at the shelter by his family. Nationally, the percentage of shelter dogs returned home is 15%. The number of dogs received by the ACS during the fiscal year ending September 30 was 21,672. If 15% of the dogs went home, that would be 3,250 dogs. However, only 1,987 dogs went home. Had ACS met the national average, 1,263 more dogs would have returned to their families. A shorter hold time will serve only to decrease the number of dogs who go home. Families expect to be able to retrieve their animals from Animal Control. They do not expect to find out too late that their dog was only at the shelter for two days.
The peril is not just that a beloved animal will be adopted out or released to rescue. This writer has detailed how ACS makes mistakes and does not list every found animal on their website. If your lost dog is held at the Brooks facility (where the public is discouraged from visiting) and if your lost dog is not listed on the ACS website, then your dog will die unseen by anyone. (Most of the dogs held at Brooks are killed.) ACS now neglects to post some dogs online through clerical error. How will they ensure that all dogs live for 72 hours, when they add a complex rule to hold some dogs for only 48 hours? It is head spinning.
There is no safety net for dogs and cats at ACS. Too many are killed at 72 hours. Now they may be killed even sooner. Just last week ACS started killing animals on Sunday. The care is not there to make sure every animal has every opportunity to live.
This writer has a very cute small dog who was recently on Death Row twice at ACS. The dog was on the list to die, but a hold was placed by a rescue, which meant he had a safe place to go and would be released alive. Before the 72 hour hold expired and rescue could take this dog, the small terrier was requested for adoption. That is a great outcome! A home is better than rescue. However, the adoption fell through.
Instead of contacting the rescue and accepting their previous offer to save the dog, ACS again scheduled the dog to die. Just by chance the same rescuer saw he was re-listed and placed a hold again. This time the dog went to the rescue. My vet met “Thurber” last week and minutes into the exam exclaimed, “This is a great dog! He is happy and outgoing and friendly and smart.”
Why is every opportunity not exploited to save an animal? Why would ACS neglect to keep a list and act on every chance to save an individual dog or a specific cat? Is it is too much trouble to keep a record and contact anyone who has expressed an interest when an adoption falls through and death will be the consequence? Or is it a better business decision to reduce paperwork on particular animals and focus on reducing numbers as a whole? Is this the mindset that leads to wrong-headed decisions like holding animals who have homes for 48 hours instead of 72 hours?
There is a lot of talk about No Kill in San Antonio; why isn’t there more talk of the killing?