Hundreds of local animals adopted as part of national Clear the Shelters campaign


McALLEN — Cages holding about 40 dogs, cats and rabbits were scattered around the Boys & Girls Club gym here on Saturday.

Yaqui Animal Rescue, a nonprofit organization based in Sullivan City, has about 300 animals in their care — dogs, cats, horses, cows, chickens, pigs and rabbits. The group brought a few closer to the Rio Grande Valley population centers to participate in the national Clear the Shelters campaign involving over 1,200 facilities in the United States.

“If it helps get animals out, it’s very important,” said shelter founder Sonia Venecia, “but we still follow our regular adoption procedure” which includes a home visit.

Their normal $120 adoption fee was only $20 Saturday, which weeds some people out, she said. And others become disinterested when they learn the animals are spayed or neutered.

“We’ve had people come wanting to breed them with their dog,” she said. “We need to be cautious.

“We don’t want to add to the stray population.”

Thirteen Yaqui animals were adopted Saturday, and that number could increase to 18 with pending home visits, Venecia said.

Last year, Mike Bricker, executive director at Palm Valley Animal Center, was worried when people didn’t show up early.

“At my previous shelter, I got there at 7 a.m. and there was a line,” he said. “I got here at 7 a.m. and there was nobody here, so we were panicking.”

People showed up late and trickled in, he said. By midday, Bricker said he felt good about the turnout.

At Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center in Edinburg, prospective adopters walked through rows of kennels, looking at dogs and flipping through their paperwork. At another part of the facility, people inspected information cards with photos adhered to the outside of the clear cat enclosure.

Individuals looking for animals have already filed their adoption paperwork because of the high traffic from this event.

Between PAWS and PVAC, 305 animals were adopted Saturday, one being a gray pitbull named Bruce.

Jovanna Lazo of Edinburg went to PAWS first, didn’t see any pups she liked, and so she came to PVAC.

“I saw Bruce and fell in love with him,” she said.

The 2-and-a-half-year-old dog was originally slated for out-of-town transport, and a PVAC employee stepped up to foster him for two weeks. That turned into three months because the rescue fell through.

“The first few days, he was just riddled with anxiety,” said Valerie Balli, the PVAC staff member who cared for Bruce. “He wasn’t fond of other dogs.

“He really wanted to be left alone.”

Balli said he would drop to the floor with loud noises, he peed seemingly uncontrollably, he was destructive and he’d twitch around her other animals. But those behavior issues went away in about a week.

“He completely changed,” she said. “He would start wagging his tail with everybody and he was excited with my dogs at home.”

Balli was there to say goodbye — to give his new family his toys and leash. She said it was “heartbreaking,” but bittersweet.

“It was very hard to let him go, but it was very exciting for him because … he loves making new friends,” Balli said. “For him to have new experiences, new friends, and possibly fur buddies at home, that’s very exciting.”

Venecia had a sobering take considering the realities of the overpopulation of animals locally.

“It doesn’t matter if we adopt or transfer out 30 dogs a month, we’re always replacing them,” she said.

The Clear the Shelter event continues from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at PAWS and PVAC.