Rise in owner-abandoned pets puts strain on rescues, Animal Care Services

SAN ANTONIO – Local animal care and rescue services have too many dogs and insufficient space, putting them in a difficult situation.

Julianne Marchbanks, Founder and President of God’s Dogs Rescue, said: “We’re maxed out.”

“We just see needs like we’ve never seen before,” said Debbie Davis, director of operations for the rescue.

The kennels at God’s Dogs Rescue’s home base are full. Unfortunately, their host families don’t have room either.

“In our rescue, we have over 500 dogs,” Davis said.

Rescuers said it was something they had never seen before. They say owners are abandoning their dogs at an exponential rate.

“I mean, 25, 30 a day in the emails we get, asking us to take their dogs,” Davis said.

“It’s heartbreaking. And we really want to help. We want to help so badly,” Marchbanks added.

Rescuers aren’t the only ones feeling this impact. The same thing happens to animal care services.

“We are experiencing a fairly high rate of owner buyouts. Requests were usually booked for about a month, and now we’re booked for three and four months,” said Bethany Colonnese, director of operations at ACS.

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As the number of dogs in their care increases, Colonnese said the number of placement opportunities decreases. They come up with creative solutions.

“Trying to get people to keep their animals, solving their problems so they don’t have to surrender by their owner, asking citizens who find stray animals to keep them, trying to find the owners,” a declared Colonnese.

Another part of this problem is a nationwide shortage of veterinarians, so it’s harder to get dogs spayed and neutered now. Colonnese said the demand should be met to create a long-term solution to the dog overpopulation problem.

“The one resource we really need for a long-term solution is missing, and we’re seeing it dwindle. And, unfortunately, we are seeing the results of that right now too,” Colonnese said.

Davis and Marchbank agree that more neutering and neutering needs to happen in the community to curb the trend.

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“We would really, really like to see neutering and neutering on the streets. You know, they had a mobile sterilization clinic that was out. And it was amazing because you had to get into those neighborhoods,” Marchbanks said.

Rescuers hope people will reconsider instead of letting go of their pets, and that more people will open their hearts to the foster family.

“If rescues across the city could get more foster families to help bring the animals back, love them in their homes while we prepare them for adoption, that would help tremendously,” Davis said.

ACS also conducted an extensive community survey, asking people what they thought.

“There was a lot of discussion about access to resources. They recognized that solving long-term problems – whether free-ranging animals or backyard keepers – was a matter of access to education and access to resources,” Colonnese said.

The results are still being collected, and in a few months ACS will be ready to make a recommendation.

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Meanwhile, a local relief group is holding a private town hall with several elected officials on Sunday May 1 at 2 p.m. at Braun Hall to discuss how to resolve this issue.

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Benjamin M. Yerger