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El Paso Animal Services program to reunite lost pets with owners comes under scrutiny

EL PASO, Texas -- Community members say a pilot program that's supposed to make it easier for lost animals to reunite with their families is being used as an excuse for El Paso Animal Services not to take in animals. 

Animal Services was selected as one of 12 shelters to join a nationwide program back in June 2020. A key to the program is asking the community to take in a pet they find for a few days and keep it, with the hope the family will be reunited. 

According to Animal Services, most pets that go missing are just a few miles from their home. By asking people to look after the dog gives them the best chance of reuniting with their family. 

Animal Services told ABC-7 that when an animal goes directly to the shelter, their chances of being reunited are 18%. If they stay in their neighborhood, that number more than doubles to 38%. 

But many are saying it’s a big ask for community members and a program animal services is taking advantage of. 

I still find it really amazing you have all these complaints on El Paso Lost and Found talking about the shelter and the things they're doing including not taking the dogs but yet every time you talk to a city official, everybody tells us that they're taking all the strays,” Ron Como said. 

ABC-7 asked El Paso Animal Services whether they are in fact taking in strays. 

“There’s a misconception that we’re not accepting any animals whatsoever. I think the full kennels and the almost 8,000 animals coming in so far from January to July that actually animals are coming in and that’s what we’re here for,” Ramon Herrera, interim director of El Paso Animal Services, said. 

Concerned citizens instead said at a recent City Council meeting that not only are they not accepting animals, but they’re telling people if you can’t care for the pet for a few days they will be euthanized. 

"They are doing this as punishment and revenge for having to take these dogs in. And this is local government sponsored animal genocide,” Mary Gonzalez said. 

"There is not infinite space here, so if an animal needs to come in what does that mean? An animal needs to go out and we're always going to strive for the positive outcomes, but unfortunately we have to make those decisions of euthanasia as well,” Herrera said.

ABC-7’S General Manager Kevin Lovell found a dog on the street on Sunday. Unable to look after him, Lovell called El Paso Animal services.

“It was like there was no option, they were really unwilling to come and pick up the animal until 2 or 3 days had elapsed and even then they said oh it will be about a week till we can get to you,” he said.

Lovell was able to find a temporary home for ’Sweet Boy’ at the El Paso Humane Society. If you’re interested in adopting him, here is a link to their website: https://hselpaso.org/

Local News / News / Video

Rachel Phillips

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