Exhausted humanitarian society workers share the challenges of running an animal shelter without killing

HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) – Behind the walls of the only non-killing animal shelter in the Rio Grande Valley are hardworking staff who want the public to understand their plight and stop abandoning animals at their doorstep.

The Humane Society of Harlingen (HSH) came out on top in late 2020. As many operations were forced to retreat under pressure from the pandemic, the HHS was able to have its best year yet – quantified in lives saved.

The distinction as a non-killing animal shelter was earned after a long year of adapting to unforeseen circumstances. Constant and proactive efforts through social media, networking with rescue partners, and community engagement have saved the lives of thousands of animals.

Dogs wait in kennels in the police hall while staff find space for them at the shelter. [Photo: Gaby Moreno]

In an ideal scenario, animals brought to the shelter have space to recover from curable illnesses or behavioral problems, and only those with injuries too severe to heal are euthanized. HSH realized this scenario and was able to deal with a difficult rottweiler named Chief.

In many shelters, dogs like Chief with severe behavioral issues have a narrow window to get out of the shelter alive. But at shelters like MSM, Chief saved time and was able to stay an entire month while staff struggled to find a solution for him.

“We have to try until we have no other option,” MSM executive director Luis Quintanilla said of being a safe haven without death.

As Quintanilla celebrates the lives saved through his mission without killing, he believes the public mistakenly thinks all animals are safe from euthanasia when left with MSM. He says what the public needs to understand is that space is often limited at the shelter.

“We are the only deathless refuge in the valley, which is great for our community here in Harlingen. But the problem with getting all that extra support through donations, volunteers, adopters and foster families is that we also get a massive influx of people wanting to drop animals here, ”Quintanilla said. . “No-kill doesn’t mean we have endless space. ”

Well-meaning residents from across the valley, all the way to Rio Grande City, notice the shelter’s good work and choose MSM as their animal drop-off location, many times without following proper procedures. Daily, the front desk turns away dozens of people who try to return their animals, and some do not take it too kindly.

“They threaten our staff. They get really mad when we tell them that we don’t have a space to humanely house this animal, ”said Quintanilla.

Others bypass the “by appointment only” system and abandon the animals outside the shelter at night, frequently forcing staff to scramble to find space the next morning.

Lately, shelter staff feel like they’ve broken a record – they frequently have to tell their social media followers that they’re at full capacity, ask for help getting supplies and lobby for them. adoptions. While the community is doing amazingly, the relief is always temporary.

During one of these influxes, the Rottweiler leader found him in a difficult situation. After a month of relentless effort, interactions with the possibly traumatized animal continued to be dangerous for staff, and with the shelter at full capacity, there was no room for dogs like Chief. Staff networked Chief on social media in hopes of finding someone who could work with him in the next 24 hours.

Luis Quintanilla, left, talks to Jason, right, while building makeshift kennels outside the shelter. [Photo: Gaby Moreno]

Shelter staff say the hardest part of working there is watching the animals that have been there for a long time being overlooked. Adopters often choose dogs of the desired breeds and puppies, but these are the remaining dogs that the staff become attached to, and they will do their utmost for a live result.

Chief was already sedated when his last glimmer of hope appeared. Someone reached out to the shelter and said they would take her. The staff waited, but this person never showed up.

Staff had to perform euthanasia; they had no other choice.

Quintanilla says he and his staff deplored the chef’s euthanasia. As they exhaust all resources to continue their no-slaughter mission, the animals they cannot save become more difficult to let go.

“It’s our life,” said Quintanilla. “This is why we are so intense in what we do. Because we are the ones who have to face it and it is never easier.

HHS staff hope people realize that the no-kill mission is a community effort. They hope the community will do everything possible to ensure that more animals are not left at the shelter. Whether it’s making sure your animals are spayed and neutered, repatriating animals among your own group of friends, or fostering and adopting animals.

You can read more about what you can do to help MSM on their website.

About Timothy Ball

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