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With No New Facility Coming Anytime Soon, Dallas Animal Services Gets Creative

As of Friday morning, the shelter was at 139 percent capacity for its dog population. With no bond money for a new facility, Dallas Animal Services is facing animal intakes that outpace adoptions.
Loretta, a larger mixed-breed dog, was adopted from Dallas Animal Services in October. Bethany Erickson

When the upcoming $1.25 billion bond package appears on May ballots, there will be many programs and requests for funding that didn’t make the cut. One of those is a request from Dallas Animal Services, which tried and failed to make a case for a new $114 million facility last fall.

The current shelter, which sits on Interstate 30 and Westmoreland Road, was originally built to contain animals that were picked up because they were dangerous or seized by law enforcement. It now holds animals much longer in hopes of reuniting them with their families or adopting them out. The department has a goal of releasing 90 percent of its animals to fosters, adoption, or reunification. It met that goal in 2019-2020. In January, the live release rate was 85 percent for cats and dogs.

“We used to think of animal control as protecting people from animals, and the humane society was protecting animals from people. But now animal control is often expected to do both,” Mary Martin, the assistant director of Dallas Animal Services, said last fall.

That means that DAS is almost chronically overflowing with adoptable pets. In previous meetings, shelter officials said that overcrowding means that there aren’t enough play spaces for dogs to socialize or for prospective families to always have the opportunity to comfortably interact with a potential new pet.

The new shelter would have addressed all of that and would have created more space for the community to come in and interact with animals. 

Until funding comes through, DAS will rely on foster programs and incentives to entice the would-be pet owners to consider adoption. On Friday, the department announced that it would offer $50 Petco gift cards this weekend for the first 75 people to adopt a dog. The shelter is at 139 percent capacity for dogs, with large breed dogs making up most of that. Last weekend, the shelter received 161 dogs over a three-day period.

“We have a robust foster program with more than 1,000 pets in foster homes, and our adoptions have been steady, but that simply hasn’t been enough to keep up with the sheer volume of intake,” said DAS assistant general manager Sarah Sheek.  “We are trying every strategy we can to find positive outcomes, and we’re asking the community to come out this weekend to help us save lives.” 

Because of the overflow, the department has also waived adoption fees for all animals. It also employs a home-to-home program that helps pet owners who need to rehome an animal match with a family ready to adopt, keeping the animal out of the shelter entirely.

The shelter is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; from 1 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday; and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. You can see available pets here.


Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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