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Dallas' animal shelter staff: We're overcrowded — 'stop going to the puppy store' and adopt

 A group of grey kittens sit on a blanket in a metal kennel in a shelter.
Nadya Faulx
/
KERA
Dallas Animal Services officials say that their shelter is overcapacity. Large dogs, kittens and puppies are swelling the numbers in the shelter.

Dallas’ one animal shelter is heavily overcrowded. Staff members say they’re doing their best to cater to all the animals — but urge people to "stop going to the puppy store" and start looking for their next pet at the shelter.

Before the holiday weekend, the shelter was over 100% capacity for dogs — and nearly the same for cats.

“We are at 144% capacity with 432 dogs sharing 300 kennels,” Marlo Clingman, marketing coordinator for Dallas Animal Services, told KERA. “For cats, we’re at 97% capacity. We’ve got 91 cats in 94 kennels.”

Clingman said that number would likely go up.

Animal services staff have tried in the past the incentivize people to adopt pets, to make more room in the shelter.

A late June press release offered $150 gift cards “for the next 150 dogs over 40 [pounds] that leave the shelter.” Still, Clingman says this isn’t a new issue.

“We’ve had capacity issues for several years now,” Clingman said. “For dogs over 40 pounds…for at least three or four years.”

But this year has been especially difficult. Along with an influx of large dogs, Clingman says there’s been a lot more puppies and kittens coming into the shelter as well.

“We’ve always been full or close to it as long as I’ve worked here,” Clingman said. “And we’ve been over, way overcapacity for over a year now.”

The majority of the shelter’s animals come in as strays. And the department tries to prevent a lot of owners from surrendering their pets to Dallas Animal Services.

“We have a rehoming service on our website,” Clingman said. “We have partners…that have resources and funds to help people keep their pets safe.”

Clingman said a lot of animals end up at the shelter because of housing issues.

“People who have to move to a new place and the new place and the new place isn’t pet friendly, or doesn’t take their breed,” Clingman said. “That is a big obstacle, is finding affordable pet-friendly housing in Dallas.”

So, what are the consequences to overcrowding in Dallas’ animal shelter?

“Other than, obviously, euthanizing healthy, wonderful, lovable adoptable pets for nothing other than we have no space, would be disease management,” Clingman said.

Clingman said the department has learned from working through two outbreaks in the kennel. Now the department has different protocols for what dogs it brings into the shelter. That includes sanitation procedures.

In 2022, the department asked for the public’s help in stopping the spread of distemper among dogs. The contagious, often-fatal, disease attacks a dog’s vital functions including the respiratory and nervous systems.

At the time, Dallas Animal Services stopped accepting owner-surrendered dogs, unless the owner was in an emergency.

“The more crowded it is, the easier it is for disease to spread,” Clingman said.

And the animals are more stressed too. Clingman says the kennels are designed with a mental divider in the middle. Workers lower the divider to clean on side of the kennel, while the dog is on the other side.

But with the influx of animals, Clingman says that set up has changed.

“Right now those dividers are down and there is one dog on each side of the kennel,” Clingman said. “So the dogs are being housed…in half the size of the kennel it was intended for.”

Or there are dogs sharing that kennel, or three or four dogs in one if they’re from the same litter, according to Clingman. That makes cleaning the shelter harder too.

“We’re taking every step that we can to maximize our staff time, to maximize our kennel space,” Clingman said. “Our…number one need is obviously for volunteers and just people getting involved.”

And the department hopes people will start looking for the next addition to their family at the shelter.

“Please don’t go to the puppy store or get a dog off of TikTok,” Clingman said. “Come to the shelter, we have those cute dogs…they come through our shelter.”

That includes breeds like Frenchies, Pugs and Doodles — and “so many puppies and so many kittens,” according to Clingman.

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at ncollins@kera.org. You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Nathan Collins is the Dallas Accountability Reporter for KERA. Collins joined the station after receiving his master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Arizona State University. Prior to becoming a journalist, he was a professional musician.