Clearing the shelters: Pets need homes and you can help

August is not only back-to-school month, but also back-to-a-home month for animals in shelters across America, including those overseen by Fort Worth Animal Care and Control (FWACC).

This is Clear-the Shelter Month, a national campaign sponsored by NBC Universal (Channel 5 and Telemundo in North Texas). Free adoptions are taking place all month.

With shelters at capacity everywhere, including Fort Worth, having plenty of animals to adopt or foster is not a problem. Sometimes, however, finding homes for the pets can be a challenge.

“Our adoption numbers are slightly down from last year (about 500 adoptions), but equal to our four-year average,” said Brandon Bennett, City of Fort Worth Director of Public Health and Code Compliance. “It is necessary to mention that last fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) was a record adoption year, so being down about 500 adoptions from a banner year may not suggest that adoptions overall are down.”

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“Our shelters operate at capacity,” he said, “but we have a revolving cycle of animal intakes/surrenders that we must balance with adoptions, foster, rescues and transport.”

Bottom line: Animals are in need of owners to love and care for them. And that’s where you can help.

Those interested in adopting can go to any of the four FWACC adoption sites (two PetSmart stores and two shelters). Also, they can look for pets online at https://www.cleartheshelters.com/ or https://www.fortworthtexas.gov/departments/code-compliance/animals to determine the location of their choice and visit that location.

The four locations are:

  • North Animal Campus, 351 Hillshire Dr., Fort Worth.
  • South Animal Campus (Chuck & Brenda Silcox Animal Care & Adoption Center), 4900 Martin St., Fort Worth.
  • Hulen PetSmart Charities Adoption Center, 4800 SW Loop 820, Fort Worth.
  • Alliance PetSmart Charities Adoption Center, 2901 Texas Sage Trail, Fort Worth.

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“We urge everyone to view our website that has all of our available animals. If they find an animal they want to learn more about, they can come into one of our locations and spend time with the animal ensuring it is a good fit for both them and the animal,” Bennett said.

“Additionally, they can walk in and visit with our animals in the kennels, he said. “Once they find their forever friend, it is only a few short minutes to complete the necessary paperwork before they can take their new family member home.”

While dogs and cats are the primary animals for adoptions, others, such as rabbits and chickens, can also be adopted.

Fostering is also an option, Bennett said.

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“We are always in need of fosters and it is a great program where animals are in private homes awaiting their forever home. This allows the animals time away from the shelter to be with a loving family,” he said.

Longtime volunteer Paige King said both shelters are as full as she’s ever seen them in her more than 11 years associated with FWACC.

“I’d like to think that more don’t help because they just aren’t aware of the situation,” King said. “We have a large foster base and rescue partners, but everyone is at their own limits.”

“I love going into the shelter and being the face those faces see,” she said. “A familiar, friendly face and they greet me with excitement because they are so forgiving. Some are sad, confused and/or scared and their faces are what bring me back each time.”

The process of becoming a foster for an animal isn’t complicated. It starts with going online and filling out an adoption form.

There is never a cost for fostering. And while adoptions are free in August, the rest of the year they are free for dogs over 40 pounds, while puppies and small dogs are $49 to adopt.

And, with all due respect to pet stores, Bennett said adopting from a shelter is always the better choice. Besides, retail sales of dogs and cats are illegal in the city of Fort Worth.

“We are strong believers in the sentence, Adopt, don’t shop,” he said.

If you find a stray animal, Bennett said, bring it in to the shelter. Of course, the first option is to scan for microchips and potentially return the pet to its owner. However, it is possible for the finder to adopt that animal if there is no owner response.

“We have a foster-to-adopt program where, if the owner does not claim their dog within the stray hold, then at that point the dog is available for adoption. During this process, the dog stays with the family that found them,” Bennett said.

“Anyone who can adopt long-term, we urge them to adopt, but if unable to do so, please think of fostering short-term. If they are unable to foster or adopt, we are always looking for volunteers to assist us with the daily care of our animals.”

And, if you aren’t in a situation where you can adopt or foster, you can still make a difference as a volunteer, King said. Among the ways a volunteer can help are in an office doing paperwork, cleaning kennels, feeding and watering animals, assisting with adoptions, walking dogs and giving them outside play time.

FWACC also has an enrichment team that provides mental stimulation for the animals with toys or food dispensers several times a week.

“This is a very time-consuming but rewarding process,” King said. “The shelter can use help in many ways.”

Other ways to help include making donations of items such as blankets, and food. The foster program can use these items as well, King said.

“We need everyone to know – and when you know better, you do better,” she said. “You know the saying, ‘be part of the change.’”

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