Denton Animal Shelter faces max capacity through the summer

Denton Animal Shelter faces max capacity through the summer

Denton Animal Shelter faces max capacity through the summer
July 08
14:29 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

@kayleighbywater

The lights are dimmed as nurse and Denton Animal Shelter volunteer Monica Ochoa sings “Happy Birthday” with her family and friends. The guest of honor, Richie, sits in front of them, staring down his festive cookie with a hat on top of his head and a look of anticipation in his big green eyes.

It isn’t his actual birthday, but Richie is celebrating one year with his family. One year of hugs, scratches, kisses and being in a loving home. One year of not wondering where his next meal will come from, not knowing what the next day will bring and not having to wonder if someone will finally take him home.

Instead of feeling confused, Richie the pit bull knows exactly what to expect out of every day: a loving family to lie on and slobber up with kisses to call his own.

While Richie was able to find his forever home, the Linda McNatt Animal Care and Adoption Center has reached its limit on the number of animals it can take in over the past few months.

“Shelter animals don’t really get the love, attention and home life they need anyway,” Ochoa said. “When the shelter is maxed out, it makes finding these animals homes even more difficult.”

A hard few months

Currently, the shelter has more than 70 dogs, mostly large breeds, and over 200 cats available for adoption. The Tuesday after the Fourth of July alone brought in 31 dogs to the shelter with not very many finding homes at the end of the day.

Even though the center, which opened in February 2015, has room for three times as many animals as the previous city shelter, the influx of animals coming in provides for some bumpy roads.

“Summers are the worst,” shelter volunteer Kim Gaffey said. “We have a lot of student surrenders after the semester ends, and the holidays just make the number of pets we have surge. It’s the most stressful time of the year for us.”

Gaffey has been volunteering with the shelter for five years. In spite of the hardship of the summer season, what started as a simple way for her to volunteer developed into a passion.

Richie enjoys a birthday party hosted by Monica Ochoa, Denton Animal Shelter volunteer. Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

Richie enjoys a birthday party hosted by Monica Ochoa, Denton Animal Shelter volunteer. Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

Gaffey said when she first began volunteering at the original facility, she saw a heavy need for a bigger residence to host animals in Denton. The new facility includes a quarantine section for animals who are in for bites or injuries, an isolation section for animals who are sick or injured, a freehold section that is not open to the

to the public and the adoption area up front. While there is more room now to house more animals, more are coming through the doors every day.

Despite the center’s 93 percent adoption rate, if more animals keep coming in, there are some that are going to find themselves in a rough situation.

“When we get new animals, we have to make room for them somehow,” Gaffey said. “It’s really life or death for them. That’s why we push so hard for people to adopt because the animals that have been here the longest might not make it. And it’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

The shelter, however, isn’t giving up, Gaffey said. Although the summer months are hard, they do what they can to ensure every animal finds their home.

Lending a helping hand

In order to keep the shelter in viable shape for these animals, it takes a large amount of volunteers and donations. Many people who have adopted animals from the shelter have been stepping up these past few months in order to assist the facility in keeping up with the large number of drop-ins and strays.

Among monetary donations, Gaffey said the shelter collects donations ranging from a truckload of dog food to children bringing in toys and treats they received for their birthdays in lieu of presents.

Psychology junior Elizabeth Price adopted a brown and gray tabby cat named Ahri from the shelter in April, right when the facility began to fill up. Price is living on a college student’s budget, but she said she desires to give back to the shelter and the animals that deserve the best treatment possible.

When she has extra cat food or some that Ahri doesn’t like, she takes it straight to the shelter.

“Living on a college budget isn’t easy, but I try to help when I can,” Price said. “I know it’s not always possible for those struggling with money to be able to help, but these animals need a great [environment] while they are waiting for somewhere to live out the rest of their days.”

Besides adopting, the shelter has also received a lot of inquiry about people temporarily fostering animals until there is room in the shelter to house more animals. Gaffey said that though a foster system would be beneficial, the shelter only takes into account those who are serious about helping these animals for the long haul.

Both Gaffey and Ochoa, however, foster animals from the shelter that either wouldn’t do well in the shelter environment, are injured or just need love. Currently, Ochoa is fostering five puppies from the shelter while Gaffey is fostering three others.

Ochoa fostered Richie last year at a time when the shelter was full. Since pit bulls are seen as vicious and are prohibited by many apartment complexes in Denton, many pit bulls come to the city shelter. Ochoa, however, said she instantly fell in love with Richie.

When she realized that Richie might not be adopted – in part because of an ACL injury that would require surgery – Ochoa decided to take him in and help him heal. Through donations and a veterinarian discount, Ochoa raised the money to fix Richie’s ACL and helped him all through his recovery.

“Even though I didn’t really know it at the time, I was Richie’s last chance,” Ochoa said. “Some friends of ours adopted him after we fostered him, so we get to see him often. But there’s no telling if he would have even been here today, the sweet, loving dog he is, without the opportunity he had.”

Through foster homes, volunteers and donations, the shelter is able to continue on through summer, even with the high number of animals that are brought in. Despite the help, Gaffey said it’s important to remember to keep track of your pets, to spay and neuter them and to see whether or not you can make room for another animal in your life.

By the end of summer, the shelter is hoping the number of animals in the facility drastically decreases. Until then, they have to make decisions a day at a time.

“We have a really big shelter, but when you’re talking about hundreds of animals, it’s hard,” Gaffey said. “Anyone who helps spread the word, whether it’s just sharing one of our Facebook posts or actually taking one of these loving animals home, is making such a huge impact. Each and every one of these animals deserves the absolute best home possible.”

Featured Image: City of Denton Animal Shelter – 3717 North Elm. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

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