By Brittany Anderson
HAYS COUNTY—The San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter (SMRAS) may finally find some relief after years of struggling to be the only animal shelter in the county.
The Hays County Commissioners Court heard a presentation for a second animal shelter, following a feasibility study, at its June 21 meeting.
Commissioners approved funding for the study and released the request for proposals at meetings in 2021, leading to the selection of Team Shelter USA and Animal Arts in March to conduct a needs assessment for a resource center centralized for pets. Commissioners Debbie Ingalsbe and Lon Shell have been at the forefront of these efforts.
Dr. Sara Pizano of Team Shelter USA and Heather Lewis of Animal Arts presented the study at the meeting, outlining potential programs, costs, and goals for a new shelter that would complement SMRAS. Pizano said his team is trying to dismantle a 150-year-old animal welfare system that is currently “set up for failure,” and that while San Marcos is currently trapped in that system, there is a great opportunity to help people and pets in other ways.
According to the study, a shelter should be the last option for pets when all other placement alternatives have been exhausted. Research has indicated that most pets entering shelters often come from socioeconomically disadvantaged pet owners in underserved communities and often want to keep their pets – they just need temporary help.
Since SMRAS is currently the county‘s only foster animal shelter, it is experiencing overcapacity, high operating costs, volunteer staffing issues, and more. A new shelter would alleviate much of the stress placed on SMRAS, which often shares on social media its urgent need for adopters and foster homes to help contain the overflow of animals kept in front office cages. or the shelter having to make difficult decisions concerning the fate of an animal.
Additionally, proactive programs could significantly reduce the number of animals entering the shelter system. The new shelter would also be able to offer veterinary services for the county, including microchipping and trap/spay/spay/release programs, which were recommended to be run by a nonprofit organization.
The total estimated cost of the new shelter is approximately $23.3 million and would include an indoor and outdoor pet resource center and model open-door veterinary care clinic facilities totaling approximately 27,500 square feet with a recommended capacity for 58 dogs and 47 felines. It is also recommended that the shelter be located in a more centralized and urbanized area of Hays County, such as around Kyle.
If the court moves forward with the new shelter, it will take some time to materialize, but commissioners plan to continue working with the community, Hays County towns, Team Shelter USA, Animal Arts and other shelters. .
“You have the ability to do it right and not be wrong, it’s a social problem,” Pizano said. “It’s not just about pets; it’s about people. … When you help pets, you help people.
For more information about SMRAS and how to volunteer, donate, adopt, or foster, visit www.sanmarcostx.gov/208/San-Marcos-Regional-Animal-Shelter.