I was browsing online and next thing I knew I was looking at a video of an adorable yet heartbreakingly sad-faced dog in need of a good home. My emotions took over and within minutes I was using the same video to convince my husband we needed to save her life before the looming euthanasia deadline was up in less than 24 hours. The video of “Candy” had garnered hundreds of comments by the time I stopped by Dallas Animal Services (DAS) the next day to see if she would be a good match for our family (i.e. we have an old cantankerous dog who doesn’t make friends easily). I spent some time with Candy — who was ultimately adopted by someone else — but was more heartbroken than ever wandering the shelter halls. The shelter floors are very clean, most still damp from being sprayed out, yet the smell inside the halls was of pungent urine. With each step down the hall, another cute face greets you with hope and happiness amidst a tune of incessant barking. Any human with a beating heart would find it hard to be unemotional inside these halls.
How did we get here, Dallas? This past July, DAS took in on average 82 animals per day with a total of 2,540 animals for the month. In the same month, 1,219 animals were humanely euthanized. Not all are impounded from the field, either (838 dogs for July). Many are surrendered in shelter (1,018 for July) for various reasons. DAS works with a wide range of local nonprofits and foster groups to save as many lives as possible, but there are way too many animals coming through the door. Animals with chronic health issues or not appropriate for adoption are humanely euthanized. Despite these numbers, there are far too many feral dogs still wandering the streets of Dallas.
Stray dogs are a human health risk, as we saw a few months ago with the death of Antoinette Brown in South Dallas. They can also significantly disrupt ecosystems and have an effect on the wild environment. Stray dogs kill small prey, causing competition with native species such as coyotes, foxes and bobcats. The presence of dogs can alter the behavior of local wildlife, causing animals to avoid areas, disrupting the ecosystem. Feral dogs can also spread disease such as rabies, parvovirus and canine distemper to wild animals. They spread parasites such as fleas, much the same as feral cats do.
The city has recently announced that changes will happen to improve the stray dog situation, which should decrease the number of animals arriving to DAS. Talk of more money being allocated to DAS, new direction and departmental organization changes brings hope of big improvements to come.
But that’s not going to help the daily influx of animals (dogs, cats, birds and more) to DAS for the time being. What can we as a community collectively do to protect the animals, humans and environment from stray dogs?
1. Spay or neuter your pet now.
2. Donate time or money. Visit DallasAnimalServices.org and click on the volunteer/donate tab. Volunteering your time can greatly impact the life of a pet at the shelter and better its chances at adoption. A $60 donation can pay the cost to spay or neuter one needy pet and prevent the birth of hundreds of unwanted animals.
3. Share the knowledge with your friends and family. In some cases it’s estimated it takes six visits with a family to convince them to spay/neuter their pet because cultural and societal pressures support not spaying/neutering. A change of culture can lead to fewer dogs on the streets and health benefits for your dog. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states, “Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumors, which are malignant or cancerous in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats. Neutering your male companion prevents testicular cancer and some prostate problems.”
4. Adopt if you can and adopt for the long-term. Plan on bringing the pet into your family for its entire life through all of life’s challenges.
5. Follow DAS on social media so you can meet your “Candy” or help share their posts to increase the chances of each pet finding their forever home.