Increase in owner-surrendered pets puts strain on rescues, Animal Care Services

According to ACS, this is not just a San Antonio problem. It’s a problem across the country.

SAN ANTONIO – Animal Care Services and local rescues have too many dogs and insufficient space, putting them in a tight spot.

Julianne Marchbanks, founder and president of God’s Dogs Rescue, said, “We are maxed out.”

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

The kennels at God’s Dogs Rescue’s home base are full. Unfortunately, their fosters also have no room.

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

The rescuers said this is something they’d never seen before. They say owners are giving up their dogs at an exponential rate.

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

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

Rescuers aren’t the only ones feeling this impact. The same thing is happening at Animal Care Services.

“We are experiencing a pretty high rate of owner surrender. Requests typically were booked out about a month, and now we’re booked out three and four months,” said Bethany Colonnese, chief operation officer for ACS.

As the number of dogs in their care rises, Colonnese said the number of placement opportunities is falling. They’re coming up with creative solutions.

“Trying to get people to hold on to their animals, solving their problems so that they’re not having to owner surrender, asking citizens who find strays, to hold on to them, try and find the owners,” Colonnese said.

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

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

Davis and Marchbank agree that more spay and neutering needs to be happening in the community to curb the trend.

“We really, really would love to see spay and neuter back out in the streets. You know, they had a mobile spay-neuter clinic that went out. And it was amazing because you had to get into those neighborhoods,” Marchbanks said.

The rescuers hope people reconsider instead of letting go of their pets, and more people open their hearts to fostering.

“If rescues across the city could get more fosters to help bring the animals in, loving them in their homes while we’re getting them ready for being to be adopted, that would help dramatically,” Davis said.

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

“There was a lot of conversation about access to resources. They recognized that solving the long-term problems -- whether it’s free-roaming animals, whether it’s backyard breeders -- was about 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.

Meanwhile, a group of local rescues is putting on a private town hall with several elected officials Sunday, May 1, at 2 p.m. at Braun Hall to discuss how to solve this problem.

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About the Author

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

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