Hays County has moved a step closer to creating a pet resource center, naming a project coordinator to run the facility with a community-centric model.
The Hays County Commissioners Court picked Austin Pets Alive as the project coordinator, the first step in what is expected to be yearslong process. Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said Austin Pets Alive is the pioneer in the community-foster-centric model, has proactive programs and was the best fit for the job.
The nonprofit is excited for the opportunity in Hays County, said Clare Callison, director of national pet supply and demand for American Pets Alive and Austin Pets Alive.
“We have prepared for this for years, and we have assembled an excellent team to bring this pet resource center to Hays County,” she said.
Has County animal shelter housing nearly 250 animals
In September, Hays County began soliciting proposals for an organization to assist with developing and operating a new pet resource center. The center would be the first of its kind in the county, offering an open-door veterinary clinic and social services for residents and their pets.
The timeline and cost for the project have not been established. A feasibility study, presented to the county in June, estimated a cost of more than $23 million depending on square footage, services and other features.
A new animal shelter has long been needed in Hays County, animal advocates have said, citing overcrowding at the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter.
The shelter, home to about 250 animals, has been struggling with capacity issues as the only intake animal shelter in fast-growing Hays County.
Christie Banduch, animal services manager for the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter, said in October that just over 30 of those animals — eight dogs and 23 cats — are being fostered, but the remaining ones are being housed in whatever space can be made available in the facility’s 93 dog kennels and 83 cat kennels, meaning pet cages are spilling into the lobby, hallways, offices and bathroom.
Shelter workers do everything they can to get animals adopted, she said, but that takes a lot of effort and partnerships with several animal rescue groups, including Pet Prevent a Litter of Central Texas, known as PALS, and the PAWS Shelter of Central Texas. It also means counseling families through challenges such as landlord restrictions, affordability and returning to work in offices.
The proposed center, county officials said, would hopefully be able to alleviate overcrowding as well as provide a combination of resources for pet owners in Hays County.
The study pointed to a number of recommendations, including a new intake facility and community-based programming such as low-cost clinics, food assistance and reunification services.
Improving shelter and services
Hays County Commissioner Lon Shell, who is helping lead the project, said that Austin Pets Alive submitted a response that best fit the goal of the project and could meet the needs recommended in the study.
“This is a natural next step in the process,” Shell said. “Now we can work with them to find ways to continue to move forward on planning for the new shelter and services.”
In the meantime, Banduch has said, she and her staff will continue to do what they can to get animals adopted. The county this week also adopted an interim community cat management policy to help prevent cat overcrowding in the shelter.
The program aims for a TNR approach — for “trap, neuter and return” — which involves trapping, spaying or neutering, and then returning the cat back to its home habitat.
Sharri Boyett, a volunteer with PAWS and PALS, helped create the policy. In October, she told the American-Statesman, that “rather than holding those poor babies in cages, and not being able to go back to home,” the program will aim to vaccinate and sterilize cats, making them less likely to fight and unable to reproduce, and then return them to their previous locations.