LOCKHART, Texas — The Lockhart Animal Shelter is taking heat after a social media post went viral about possible euthanasia of several at-risk dogs.
- Lockhart Animal Shelter is overcrowded
- Forced to euthanize several animal this weekend
- Volunteers overwhelmed with amount of animals
Volunteer Amy Baxter said the post gives a wake up call to the bigger issue of shelter overcrowding nationwide.
"It is what it is. This is the reality of shelters across America and the handful of people that are dealing with it and trying their hardest to save these animals and getting no support," Baxter said. "It's a lot easier to bash someone on a keyboard, than it is to actually step outside your comfort zone and maybe come offer to help your local shelter."
Baxter said her social media post warning dogs may be euthanized has made her a target for online hatred, nationwide, and even worldwide.
"There's been death threats, there's been bomb threats you know, I need to be euthanized," Baxter said. "That was a completely defeated post, that was an honest post by a volunteer that had tried everything to network these animals to the best of my ability with every shelter that I could think of across the U.S., with every rescue I know locally and nationally, with everyone I could reach out to and we just couldn't keep up with the intake."
Baxter devotes around 60 to 80 hours each week caring for the animals that come into the shelter. She said the reality is there's not enough resources at shelters nationwide.
"It's not a shelter's fault, it's not a volunteers fault. It is the public's fault for not keeping their animals safe in their homes and their yards, for not spaying and neutering and for many reasons," Baxter said. "So there's a handful of us cleaning up a huge mess. And then we're getting beat up along the way. People are angry but they're angry at the wrong people. They need to be angry at the situation and the crisis in America of sheltering. That's what they should really be angry about, and they should try and figure out ways together to help."
As an open-intake shelter, the Lockhart Animal Shelter can’t turn any dogs away, whether they are owner-surrendered or strays. Due to the recent storms, dogs are coming in faster than they can be adopted out or sent to a rescue group.
"We had probably 67 to 70 dogs here already and the other day within an hour and a half, we got 13 to 16 dogs. So where do we put them? Last year we got over 2,000 dogs, we got over 300 puppies, and we got over 870-something cats and kittens, with 18 cages for cats and 51 for dogs. So without the public's help and without people like me networking them, and taking photos and bios, they have nothing," Baxter said.
Baxter said many dogs that have come in recently have had to be placed in overflow kennels in offices and bathrooms.
"But it's not sustainable and we can't keep them there. So without adoptions and without networking and crying for help, we can't get these dogs out. So then we're forced to euthanize."
Baxter said euthanasia is based on a dog's behavior, heart worms, and length of stay. According to the shelter's website, "The animal shelter houses about 56 dogs and puppies and 24 cats and kittens daily. An average of 180 animals pass through the shelter monthly. These animals come from the City of Lockhart and Caldwell County. The animal shelter is funded through the budgets of the City of Lockhart, Caldwell County, and various donations. A stray animal is kept 72 hours from time of admission to the shelter and then is either put up for adoption or euthanized. Approximately 50 percent of the dogs and puppies and 30 percent of the cats and kittens are adopted."
"We have to, by law, hold it on for 72 hours in case the owner comes forward," Baxter said. "So, because we have to hold dogs for 72 hours, the ones that have passed their stray hold are the ones that are at risk. Those are the ones that are legal unfortunately to euthanize because you have no choice. We can't just hold animals. They're also available for adoption after 72 hours, which is a beautiful thing, if people would come adopt."
Although the days at the shelter are stressful for Baxter, she keeps volunteering seven days a week.
"I feel very compelled to come to the shelter because I love this place and work with these wonderful animals every day and the staff here is amazing, and the volunteers. There's three of us, only three of us. We are just doing good things, so it's something I feel compelled to keep doing," Baxter said.
One last piece of advice from Baxter, be a responsible pet owner.
"If you can't afford your animals don't get them. Please secure your animals during storms, please just put them inside during a storm, find a laundry room or a safe room, don't leave them outside. They run away every single time and they're terrified and they end up here, usually injured. Just try your best to be a responsible pet owner. That's all we're asking," Baxter said.
The Lockhart Animal Shelter updates the Petfinder page daily, and currently, adoption prices for unaltered animals are $55 for dogs and $45 for cats.
The shelter takes donations via cash or check in person at 547 Old McMahan Road. There's also an Amazon wishlist to make donating supplies straight to the shelter easier. Currently, they're in need of dog and kitten wet and dry food, towels, and fleece blankets.