Over 50 animals were adopted from Palm Valley Animal Society in Edinburg during its “Empty the Shelters” drive, which waived adoption fees in an effort to keep its status as a no-kill shelter.
“We have been overcapacity for the past few months and we are doing this to encourage adoptions to get people out here to help preserve our shelter’s reputation,” Julian Whitacre, Palm Valley’s development coordinator, said.
The animal shelter waived these fees for its adopters at both the Trenton Center and the Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center thanks to the Bissell Pet Foundation agreeing to cover the costs.
The executive director for the shelter, Donna Casamento, said this compensation helps with the financial burden of hosting so many animals.
Casamento said her shelters are budgeted at about 1/5 of what other shelters their size have throughout the country. Due to this, these sponsorships are important to the shelter.
This is the second time this year that the Bissell Pet Foundation sponsors this drive.
The first was between March 5 and 9 where the shelter accomplished 148 adoptions.
However, this time around adoption numbers appear significantly lower, which is concerning to Casamento.
“It’s not nearly enough,” Casamento said about the adoptions.
Palm Valley is currently totaling 1,645 animals at both its locations with more than 898 dogs and 400 cats.
Casamento said the shelters receive anywhere from 70 to 100 animals a day, which makes for overcrowding.
Despite its humane practices, Whitacre emphasized that the shelter is a highly stressful place for many animals.
This environment can ultimately result in deaths by natural causes such as kittens with fading kitten syndrome, and is a breeding ground for illnesses that have hospitalized many animals due to disease transmission which can come with full kennels.
Fading kitten syndrome occurs when kittens are overwhelmed by environmental factors, congenital defects, parasites, bacterial or viral infections, and even human error in hand-raising kittens.
Though unintentional, these deaths contribute to the shelter’s save rate which ultimately affect its status as a no-kill shelter — a status that Palm Valley had been striving for since 2018 and finally achieved last year.
“We want to do everything that we can to save these animals’ lives,” Whitacre said. “We don’t want them to have to be euthanized just because of space or funding. We are trying so hard to remain a no-kill shelter and adopting these animals is gonna help us do that.”
In order to maintain its status the shelter must have a save rate of 90%, meaning that 90% of the animals that come into their care must leave with a positive outcome or a live outcome.
“We are on the brink of losing that 90% qualification,” Casamento said.
Given the low turnout in adoptions and overpopulation, this status is becoming more and more difficult to maintain, Whitacre said.
“We usually keep one animal, two animals, maybe three in a kennel at a time and currently we have four and five animals and the shelter is just a stressful environment,” he said. “No animal should be in a shelter environment because they are extremely stressful, and so right now with 1,600 animals it’s not an ideal situation, and it’s not what we want for them.”
In response to this issue the shelter is providing free fostering programs to encourage the public to find the pet that best suits them in a gradual way.
Fostering options include the “Tails around town” program where people can take an animal out for the afternoon, which helps the dog get out and reduce stress — an overnight program. A long-term program involves fosters taking an animal home for a week or months depending on their preference.
The shelter also has a rescue transport program where they send animals to other parts of the country.
In helping with the overpopulation of strays in the Rio Grande Valley, Whitacre also encourages pet owners to spay and neuter their animals.
The shelter is also hiring for positions with its medical team, animal care and marketing. For more information, call (956) 720-4563.