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Having been involved with Palm Valley Animal Society for almost 20 of its 50 years, I have had a unique vantage point from which to see the organization in both its good times and bad. The one constant throughout my tenure has been our desire to do right by the animals in the communities we serve. That means working closely with city and county leaders to help their animals in need and form partnerships that are effective for creating a community of change and compassion. We realize that partners do not always agree completely, and through the years there have been times when our relationships have been more adversarial than we would have hoped. However, we have never lost sight that we must find ways to work together for the common good of both animals and people.

Recently an article was published that contained information provided by an employee of Palm Valley Animal Society. Although the information was public, it should not have come from us and does not represent our level of respect for our partner, the city of Edinburg. It is our deepest desire to continue to work with them in a mutually beneficial manner. Palm Valley Animal Society employees are passionate about our lifesaving mission and sometimes express their views passionately. While we are concerned about the data, the comments and views expressed by one person are not shared by PVAS or the board of directors.

Prior to 2018, Palm Valley Animal Society euthanized more animals than we saved. It was a heartbreaking and dark time in our history. As an open-intake facility, we served 18 municipalities and the county of Hidalgo while taking in approximately 40,000 animals a year. Knowing we needed to and could do better, the board of directors voted to pursue significantly higher live outcomes. That decision did not sit well with many of our partner cities, and they elected to leave Palm Valley. Their search for lower animal control costs became more about saving money than saving lives.

The city of McAllen and the city of Edinburg are two of the entities that have stayed with us and shifted their attitudes and efforts toward a more compassionate and progressive treatment of animals. Both cities are educating their citizens and pet owners about caring for their pets and how to handle strays. This proactive philosophy has helped dramatically reduce the overcrowding at PVAS, and we have been at a consistent 87.5% save rate. Palm Valley Animal Society is grateful to have both Edinburg and McAllen make the best choice when it comes to lifesaving.

We understand that it is not possible to save every animal, but transparency of these efforts is vital. Every month, PVAS partners are provided with a complete list of every animal we have touched along with their outcome. If euthanasia was the only option, we include the reason behind that difficult decision. All shelters handling animals should offer that level of transparency. Citizens deserve to know the animals in their community are being treated with respect and care. Compassion for those that cannot advocate for themselves influences the perception others have of the Valley as a whole and plays a significant role in the quality of life both for citizens and their pets.

While Palm Valley Animal Society understands our local partners wanting to explore cost-saving animal care options, those usually turn out to be more expensive with a much less positive result. It should not mean we can’t discuss them and work together. Regular open communication is key to avoiding misunderstandings.

Thankfully, the days of the shelter being the dog pound and animal care officers playing the role of evil dogcatchers are long behind us. Progressive Valley cities are evolving in how they think about animal welfare, and they want their animal shelters to offer the services that reflect that change. Adoption, rescue and foster programs are opportunities that give animals a second chance and are now what is expected from concerned citizens. At its most basic level, the shelter needs to be a safe place for abandoned, lost and stray pets to find a loving home.

My years with Palm Valley have taught me many things, particularly that saving animals can be a messy, heartbreaking endeavor. I so admire our employees who give their best day in and day out. Their passion makes it all possible. The lost and homeless animals of the Valley deserve the best efforts of all of us in this community. Their very lives depend on it.

Barbara Guerra is board president of Palm Valley Animal Society in Edinburg.

Barbara Guerra