Rooms brightly decorated and filled with cat toys, climbing posts and windows line the once barren walls of the Angleton Animal Control and Adoption Center. The appearance is a 180-degree turn from a year ago, officials said.
The turnaround is as much philosophical as it is visual, though.
High euthanasia rates and underfunding of the animal control department led the city to make the shelter an emphasis, said Councilman Cody Vasut.
“Maybe a year ago, I was contacted by some members of one of the area rescues to make some changes to the animal shelter,” Vasut said. “At the time it was a high-kill shelter, so the city manager put together a task force who then put together a report to provide recommendations. We took those recommendations, which included adding staff and purchasing kennels, and implemented them into the budget,” he said.
For the last six months, the Angleton Police Department and city and shelter staff have worked diligently to transform the shelter into a clean, disease-free facility where the community can adopt animals, officials said.
Police Chief Aaron Ausmus said the animal shelter had a horrible reputation prior to the transition. High volumes of animals being picked up or surrendered led to high kill numbers and overworked staff, Ausmus said.
“The biggest advancement in this changeover has been a partnership with area rescues and with our efforts here,” Ausmus said at the shelter. “Those relationships have allowed animals that are coming in to be going out and placed in homes. That’s allowed us to achieve a status of no-kill. We care about the animals and want them to be adopted out.”
Working through Three Little Pitties All Breed Rescues, Gulf Coast Stars, Pet Tribe and PawPrint Cottage, animals held at the Angleton shelter have been adopted out, either in the community or sent to places including Washington state, Colorado and Canada, Ausmus said.
Vasut said an increase in funding has aided the shelter’s turnaround. The city went from budgeting $171,000 last year to $244,000 this fiscal year, he said. The funds have helped to provide a full-time shelter director, two part-time staff, more kennels, repairs to the building and more supplies for the animals.
“We really took rescues’ advice to heart and drastically altered the culture from just a policing and enforcement facility to a saving arm,” Vasut said.
Volunteers and community service workers also provide a huge help to the center, said Brenda Majors, the shelter’s director.
Three cat rooms were designed and constructed by a community service worker at no cost to the city or shelter, allowing the numerous cats a chance to move around freely and play with toys instead of being caged all day, Majors said.
In addition to the cat rooms, the shelter contains 20 dog kennels, which are cleaned and sanitized daily, Majors said. Health of the animals also has drastically improved, Ausmus said.
“We’ve been able to maintain a high standard of health and wellness, and obviously a dog or a cat being healthy is paramount to them being adopted out,” Ausmus said.
The animals receive vaccines and treatments, which keep them in good health, Ausmus said.
A traveling veterinarian even provides spaying and neutering services at low costs on occasion, Majors said.
Additionally, Officer Roxanne Raper, the K-9 officer for Angleton police, helps evaluate the temperament and training of the animals, Ausmus said. He said the training she has been able to do is a great help when working with the animal shelters.
The community has banded together behind the police department and the shelter staff as well, Majors said.
Following a Facebook post asking for supply donations, the shelter was able to collect several bags of litter and food in just a week, Majors said.
While funding has drastically increased and allowed the center to make significant improvements, Majors said they still have many projects they’d like to incorporate into the center. More Kundra beds, which are elevated beds for the dog kennels, a French drain to keep water out of the facility when it rains and more outdoor facilities to give dogs exercise are among the envisioned projects.
“I do this for the animals, this my passion,” Majors said.
Moving forward, Vasut said he wants to see the entire county work to improve its local animal shelters and echo Angleton’s efforts to make each center no-kill.
“I want the animal shelter to remain no-kill at all times and I’m committed to providing the resources necessary to keep that status,” Vasut said. “I call on every single elected city and county official to make every single shelter no-kill with access to the general public to adopt pets.”
Vasut said the reason so many animals are ending up in shelters is because they are not spayed or neutered, and he encourages residents to make sure they take this important step when adopting.
“I love to see the culture change. We’ve all got to work together,” Vasut said.