Long-time volunteers say Harris Co. Animal Shelter Interim Director's claims are false, dogs paying the price

In a report last month, we told you how the county's animal shelter called, Harris County Pets, was sending euthanasia lists to rescue groups in hopes of saving as many lives as possible.

We asked Rebecca Bridges, a 6-year volunteer with the shelter, how many euthanasia lists she's seen since our report aired.

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"None. We haven't received any euthanasia lists from the shelter since October," she said.

Three women have volunteered at the county shelter for many years. They work with four social media rescue pages that reach about a quarter of a million people.

"These are people who share donate, help us find fosters, help us find adopters," Bridges said.

The shelter's interim director, Max Vigilant, told us last month the shelter is completely transparent.

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"He says he wants transparency and wants to work with us, but that's not what we've seen at all," said volunteer Sandee Roquemore-Maxwell. "We've seen the exact opposite of that."

Instead of sharing information about the dogs shelter, employees now read from a script that gives those who call little or no information.

"We're not sure why the shelter refuses to work with us, but it's a very different tone and style under this new management," said Bridges.

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A rescue tag one dog named Meynard was four hours past the 6 p.m. deadline. Even though he had a way out, the shelter killed him anyway. 

Same thing with Lance. He had an adopter, but the rescue tag was a few hours past the deadline, so Lance didn't make it out alive.

"He got a lot of backlash about these dogs and I think the changes are because of that," Maxwell said.

"We're working to save the dogs. That is the same goal the shelter has, but they have put roadblocks in our way to keep us from helping them," Bridges said.

FOX 26 received the following statement from Harris County Public Health regarding our story:

"The Harris County Pets (HCP) Resource Center, like many other shelters, continues to face the challenge of finding loving homes for the animals in our care. With people returning to work and regular life, many shelters and rescue groups are seeing a reduction in the number of animals being adopted or going to fosters.

During the height of the pandemic, shelters and rescue groups experienced more adopters and fosters due to many people staying home. Now, we are seeing lower, pre-pandemic, adoption and fostering rates, making it more challenging for our shelter to stem the tide of an increasing animal population.

Regarding the three dogs in question, they were put down due to aggressive behaviors that endangered shelter visitors and staff. Staff assessed and monitored the dogs on a daily basis over extended periods of time, and due to the dangerous and aggressive behaviors, they were put down. All actions were taken in the interest of public health and safety.

• The first dog (Alden, ID# A597191) was put down after three weeks of extreme, aggressive behavior (e.g., snarling and attacking staff when entering the kennel and attacking other animals in the kennel).

• The second dog (Maynard, ID# A591288) was assessed and monitored for a five-month period and exhibited aggressive behavioral changes, including biting staff, and the inability to socialize appropriately with other dogs.

• The third dog (Lance, ID# A594271) was adopted and returned because of aggressive behavior, including attempting to bite a child in the face. The dog was assessed and monitored for four months and due to continual aggressive behavior, was deemed not adoptable.

All three dogs above were placed on a euthanasia list and given the opportunity to increase their chances to be adopted, fostered, or rescued over an extended period of time. None were successfully adopted, fostered, or rescued. They were euthanized after all live-saving options were exhausted.

It is important to note that HCP remains transparent in our euthanasia actions, including the sharing of euthanasia lists with our rescue partners and any individual who may request this information. The shelter staff also continues to work diligently with our partners and the community to ensure life-saving outcomes of healthy and adoptable pets.

HCP staff has worked diligently to maintain a high live-release rate. In the last three years, we have consistently maintained a live-release rate of over 90% to place animals in our community. Most recently, in the month of October, we achieved a live-release rate of 95%.

We appreciate all efforts to partner with HCP to promote adoption, fostering, and the spaying and neutering of pets in order to save our animals.

Below are the annual totals for rescues and transfers at our facility from 2017 through April 30, 2022.

Year Rescue/Transfer
2017 - 6,657
2018 - 6,220
2019 - 7,368
2020 - 5,092
2021 - 4,119

We are working towards the goal of attracting more rescue groups and adopters by providing incentives to help reduce animal overpopulation and longer-stay pets at our facility.

What can someone do to help?
- Foster an animal
- Adopt a pet
- Our plea to the public, to prevent this situation in the future, is to spay and neuter their pets. This is the most effective way we as a community can manage our dog and cat population thus reducing the burden on local shelters."