PVAS, McAllen partner together on new animal shelter

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McALLEN — New things are coming for the Palm Valley Animal Society after the city of McAllen agreed to partner with the nonprofit to build a new shelter in the coming years.

The shelter will be located at the site of PVAS’s current shelter on Trenton Road in Edinburg, according to Keely Lewis, secretary of the PVAS board of directors.

The news came as part of a humdrum discussion during a McAllen City Commission meeting Monday evening.

There, during a discussion about mid-year budget amendments, the commission approved the expenditure of some $820,000 to fund the design and planning of the new facility.

Though the funding proposal passed without much fanfare, the partnership between PVAS and the city is something that has been in the works for quite some time, McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said.

“We’ve been talking about the need for an animal shelter for several years at the commission level, probably as far back as 2020,” Rodriguez said Wednesday.

“Really, this is just the beginning of executing that plan and those discussions,” he said.

For Lewis, who has long been an animal welfare advocate, it’s exciting for PVAS to be working together with its longest-serving community partner.

The city of McAllen is the only entity that has partnered with PVAS since its inception five decades ago, Lewis said.

“McAllen’s forward-thinking investment in PVAS’s high-demand intake center in Edinburg proves how much they value our partnership,” Lewis said.

The Palm Valley Animal Society on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

The project will be completed in phases.

First, the existing facility will be completely demolished before being rebuilt “from the ground up,” Rodriguez said.

But first, the new facility will need to be planned and designed. That process will take between 9-12 months.

“I would say a year from now, we will be looking to turn dirt and go to construction — and hopefully with other partners,” Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, the PVAS board of directors has committed to a massive fundraising effort to help fund the new shelter’s construction.

“The PVAS Board has committed to raising $2 million to help fund Phase 1 which will include a new main building and new kennels that include both indoor/outdoor spaces,” Lewis said via text message.

The project will take a significant investment to complete — something Rodriguez characterized as “not easy things to do,” but something that he’s proud of the city commission for committing to.

“It’s taken a lot of time, a lot of energy, focus, and ultimately, money. And they’re convinced that this is the way to go and I’m really proud of them,” Rodriguez said.

The city’s $820,000 funding commitment is also illustrative of a shifting philosophy when it comes to public animal control policy.

Once known as a “high kill” shelter that euthanized tens of thousands of animals per year, PVAS has completely overhauled how it approaches animal intake and control.

The face of a young pup only a mother could love as she sits at the Palm Valley Animal Center on Friday, April 29, 2022, in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Now, its “save rate” is greater than 84% for both dogs and cats, according to data published on the shelter’s website.

PVAS has also shifted to focusing solely on dogs and cats, whereas previously, the shelter handled everything from opossums to farm animals like chickens.

McAllen has also shifted its animal control priorities.

A few years back, the city initiated a temporary moratorium on picking up nuisance opossums due to shelter overcrowding.

And last July, the city moved to shift its animal control department from the auspices of the McAllen Police Department to the Health and Code Enforcement Department.

Along with the move came a new name, Animal Care Services.

The evolution of the city’s approach to animal control was the result of an epiphanous moment Rodriguez had after attending an animal control training with other leaders across Hidalgo County.

“I was really taken aback. I was really … touched with what they said and how things really should be run with animal care operations and facilities,” Rodriguez said.

“And that’s what started the turn,” he said.

Rodriguez was referring to a presentation delivered by Dr. Sara Pizano, once the director of animal services for Miami-Dade County, Florida.

A dog rests on a raised bad as dogs stay warn inside the Palm Valley Animal Society on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Like PVAS, that county’s shelter was known for its high kill rates and courted controversy from numerous animal welfare activists.

Pizano herself was the subject of much criticism before she resigned under a cloud of controversy.

Since then, Pizano’s own philosophies have evolved. And what she preaches now struck a chord with Rodriguez, who invited her to deliver a presentation to the McAllen City Commission last summer.

The city’s evolving view has dovetailed neatly with how PVAS approaches animal control today.

And though both entities are excited about partnering together for a new shelter, they’re hoping others will join their efforts.

“We’re gonna approach this design as it we have another partner, so that if somebody comes in, we’ve already done the work to have capacity for at least two different entities and maybe more,” Rodriguez said.

“(We want to) give our friends in Hidalgo County, the region, an opportunity to join us,” he said.