When you think of Waco, Texas, a popular TV show that is filmed here may come to your mind.
But there is another group of “fixer uppers” here too. There is a group trying to fix the problems of animal homelessness and the overpopulation of unwanted pets with the community of Waco supporting them. And the way that they are going about it is truly unique, truly inspiring, and will surprise you. Allow us to introduce you to the Humane Society of Central Texas!
The latest episode of Stop Hounding Me stars both the Humane Society Of Central Texas, Roscoe, one of their adoptables and the City Of Waco Animal Care Officers. See for yourself how they make this partnership work.
The Humane Society of Central Texas works a little differently than most shelters. According to their website, they are “an advocate for the community goal of maintaining a no-kill status at the Animal Shelter.” They are contracting partners with the City of Waco. They provide adoption, rescue and foster opportunities for the homeless animals at the Animal Shelter, as well as community education regarding responsible pet ownership. What is the background on this however, and how has this partnership worked out?
The City of Waco had owned the Waco Animal Shelter facility for more than 50 years and in December 2012, entered into a new partnership with the Humane Society of Central Texas to manage the facility. Under this new partnership, live exit rates have increased to as almost 100% at times. What was it like before this partnership? The live exit rate varied, but was around 36 percent.
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Change does not happen overnight. We have visited numerous shelters or rescues on this trip that are at the beginning of change in their areas. And this shelter is certainly an inspiration that change can and does happen. The Humane Society of Central Texas was not always a model for others to follow and they will tell you that upfront. Transparency, honesty and integrity are the obvious traits of this shelter in Waco. They know that their past was a lesson as well and it took people willing to make a change and fight for a change that brought them to where they are today. And where they are today is an example to be followed and one that brought me to happy tears.
Don Bland, the shelter’s Executive Director and April Plemons, the shelter’s Associate Executive Director showed us around on an extremely busy day and we were grateful that they made time for us.
We started off by touring the cat room, and this was just the start of my tears. Why? There were only a few cats here. How was this possible? We were told of the city’s mandatory spay and neuter ordinance. Yes. Mandatory.
All dogs or cats in the corporate city limits of Waco must be spayed or neutered (with a few exceptions by law) and also micro-chipped. April explained that along with these ordinances and also the joint efforts of volunteers and rescue organizations, this was the reason for the empty cat cages. As well, their fun and informative approach to adoption was shown on their walls. They tell each animal’s story and why they are at the shelter.
This helps potential adopters to be prepared and often makes for a successful, permanent adoption. As we were visiting, a rescue was coming to pick up a beautiful cat and volunteers were happily saying their goodbyes to their resident that they will miss. The love here is apparent for what they do.
As we toured the dog kennel areas with Daniela, their Rescue Coordinator, we were told of examples that they deal with on a daily basis and how some of these dogs ended up here.
It was obvious that Daniela’s knowledge of each dog’s personality and story made her able to make adoption recommendations, coordinate with rescues and make a difference here.
Each employee that we met and even Board Members coming in were truly devoted to not only their place of work, but their place IN that work to make the biggest difference that they individually could. This was their shelter. They were going to make it great.
Yes, the amount of dogs here was overwhelming. But the way they cared for these dogs was even more overwhelming. An expansive, bright and clean outdoor play area was filled with volunteers throwing balls and running with the dogs.
It was filled with prospective adoptive families. And the Animal Care officers were teaching and training the dogs as well.
For a shelter to reach a “no kill” status, the live exit rate must be at 90%. Have they maintained this? Yes. But daily, on their Facebook page and website, they tell you the numbers, often stating that these numbers reflect real lives. Real animals. And we appreciate this unique transparency. They often share numbers of intakes, adoptions, animals that have went to rescues, all while encouraging people to please adopt. Currently, all of their kennels are full. Certainly fosters are needed and of course adoptions.
No one wants to see the plight of homeless animals across our country. And seeing disturbing images and desperate pleas for help often causes people to turn away. The Humane Society of Central Texas sees the need for a positive social media approach. This is the primary reason we chose them for our ONE Texas rescue pick. They balance the needs of urgent animals with showing the after effects of happy adoptions and fun events on many social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
But did all the good that they are doing now happen overnight? Imagine building a house while you are living in it. That is what the Humane Society Of Central Texas was faced with when they started to make changes for the better.
Keeping the shelter open while improving it and continuing to save lives was not easy. Volunteers were tasked to stay with animals round the clock in tents to make sure heaters worked flawlessly in cold temperatures through the night while renovating. The amount of work and dedication it took to make this shelter what is is today…a beautiful place to visit…took many hours. It took the support of the city. And it took the support of the community. The community of Waco was ready for a change. They demanded it, and it came together, all for one purpose. To save lives.
With their Executive Director Don and Associate Executive Director April, we can see not only how beautiful this facility is, but how beautiful the people are that run it every day.
Don beamed with pride when he showed us not only the facility, but the many “extras” they have added like their mobile adoption van often making appearances at popular Magnolia Market in Waco.
Don himself has adopted two dogs here, and although he sang the praises of this shelter and the city, we have to acknowledge the extreme role he himself has played in this change. With a devoted group of advocates, volunteers and employees behind him, his pride is contagious. His enthusiasm and concern for each animal here and the appreciation that he has for the change this community rallied to make together shows his important role in this shelter’s continued success.
We were surprised to learn April even runs a rescue as well called Long Way Home.
In addition to her responsibilities here, this rescue saves cats and small dogs from euthanasia in Texas shelters regardless of age, health status, or breed. Animal rescuers wear many hats oftentimes because there are simply too many animals to help, and not enough people to help them. April is a Professor but chose to devote her life to animal rescue. Certainly, her education and business experience has contributed to the success of this shelter and what it is now.
Waco has already gotten behind their shelter. That is apparent. But it will take more volunteers, more fosters and more donations to keep them going for the long term.
Certainly, the numbers of unwanted animals has went down due to the spay/neuter and microchip ordinances. As well, the Humane Society of Central Texas shows their love for the community in offering assistance to spay and neuter their animals. They work with organizations and vets to accomplish this and to educate the public on the health benefits to their pets, while offering eligible residents financial assistance options. They also want their animals in the shelter to receive excellent care and believe that healthy animals are vitally important for adoptions to work permanently.
This was also a change for this shelter, and the lasting results are apparent.
What lesson does the Humane Society Of Central Texas hold for you? We hope that the community of Waco, who demanded changes for their animals inspire you. Change is always possible. Always.
We also hope that the Humane Society Of Central Texas will prove to you, beyond a doubt that shelters can and do make a difference, and that they can make changes for the better with the support of the residents where they are, even if things look bleak now. It takes many people to come together, often from many ways of life to make things better. For Waco, Texas, the animals here have many people to thank like the people that volunteer who have busy lives. They have employees to thank for working tirelessly for them. They also have the public to thank for sharing Facebook posts and donating.
Even if you are not in the Waco area, you can help them continue by donating, sharing their posts and telling others about their example. If you are fortunate enough to live in this beautiful Texas place, we ask you to consider volunteering in any way you can, or fostering. Each animal fostered means an empty kennel to save a life. And we all can do something.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
The Humane Society Of Central Texas is a 501c3 organization. All donations are tax deductible.