Reports that people from out of town are taking unwanted pets to League City’s no-kill shelter has some residents concerned about rising costs and questioning plans to spend $7.5 million to build a bigger facility.
But shelter officials argue annual operating costs have remained relatively flat in recent years and a larger shelter isn’t meant to increase animal population, but provide better space to speed up the adoptions.
The League City Animal Shelter on July 31 stopped accepting surrendered or stray animals, citing extreme overcrowding since it became a no-kill shelter in 2017. Officials at the time said they suspected people from outside the city were taking pets to the no-kill shelter.
“We believe this is because people prefer not to surrender pets to shelters where the pets might be euthanized,” shelter Director Kim Schoolcraft said.
The news left some residents wondering about the practicality of operating a no-kill shelter.
“I do wonder when the decision is made by a city to go no-kill with all the financial implications, should citizens have a voice and, perhaps, a chance to vote?” resident Peggy Zahler said. “It is a laudable goal, but is it affordable in the long-term?”
A shelter achieves no-kill status when more than 90 percent of the animals it takes are not euthanized, said Monica Millican, who runs the volunteer group Friends of the League City Animal Shelter.
Achieving the no-kill status took five years and the designation was worth preserving, Schoolcraft said.
“It’s saying we are going to stop killing and then looking at what every other alternative to that is,” Schoolcraft said.
While the taxpayer-supported shelter can only accept animals from League City, many people get around that fact by claiming to have found the animal in town, Schoolcraft said.
“You don’t want to call someone a liar when you don’t have proof, because a lot of the animals are from League City,” Schoolcraft said. “I’d say about 25 percent of the animals aren’t from League City, but about 75 percent are from League City.”
The shelter this week housed about 95 cats and 75 dogs, but should only hold about 46 dogs and 48 cats, Schoolcraft said.
While the extreme overcrowding has strained staff and led to some creative solutions for adopting animals, the shelter’s budget and financial picture is stable, Schoolcraft said.
“Our entire budget is about $800,000 per year, which includes personnel, which makes up a large part,” Schoolcraft said.
Several volunteer organizations and community donations cover much of the difference, including medicine and space, Schoolcraft said.
For instance, the shelter receives many cats and then displays them at League City pet stores for potential adoption, saving room at the facility itself, Schoolcraft said.
Still, some residents are unconvinced, especially given an April city council vote to spend $7.5 million to build a 15,020-square-foot animal shelter.
“Yes, we need a shelter, but not having a state-of-the-art facility is not going to stop companies from relocating to League City,” resident Marika Fuller said.,
That money would be better used improving flood control, Fuller said.
But not all residents agree.
“I believe the animal shelter is greatly needed in our community,” resident Chris Mallios said. “It has been in the planning stages for so long that the costs went up. I believe our government should be proactive instead of reactive.”
Officials expect contractors to break ground on the new shelter in December and take about eight months to build it, Schoolcraft said.
Architects had estimated in 2016 the cost of a 19,000-square-foot facility would be $7.5 million. Construction on the new animal shelter was supposed to start in July, but when more detailed plans called for a $10.3 million facility, the city took a step back and considered a scaled-down version of the new shelter.
The higher price tag had many causes, city staff said. For one, the plans were for a 20,225-square-foot facility. Also, prices had risen in the two years since the initial estimate. To meet a greater demand after Harvey, construction costs in the greater Houston area had gone up by as much as 10 percent, staff members said.