Municipal support for animal center wanes

EDINBURG – The city of Edinburg, where Palm Valley Animal Center and the Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center are located, has not renewed their annual contract with the shelter since it expired Oct. 1.

PVAC is now asking the city of Edinburg to pay over $500,000 for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which is more than triple the amount they were charged last year. The charge is individualized for each city depending on how many animals were brought in from their jurisdiction.

According to PVAC, the city of Edinburg brought 8,844 animals to the shelter this past fiscal year, which is more than double what they brought the previous and four times as much as the year before that.

Previously, cities paid about $20 to $25 per animal, compared to the $80 to $90 they are charged now. Since this changed, nine out of the 14 cities that contracted with PVAC chose not to renew their contracts after expiring a week ago.

During the public comment section of the Oct. 2 city council meeting, Keely Lewis, vice president of PVAC, brought the issue up to the council.

“ Until yesterday an Edinburg citizen could bring in an animal, and it would be evaluated, vaccinated, photographed, put out to rescue, put out for adoption, put into foster homes — there were all kinds of live outcome options available to them,” she said. “I realize that our contract requires more money than you’re wanting to spend, but it’s very inexpensive to kill animals and it costs a lot to save them.”

The change in price comes after the shelter experienced criticism earlier this year for the conditions of their facilities. Since then, through the help of national animal welfare organizations, the shelter has adopted a new intake system, hired more staff and has added to their facility. In May, the board of directors voted to pursue no-kill status, which requires they achieve above a 90 percent live-release rate. At the time, their live-release rate was near 30 percent, and for the past few months it has stayed near 50 percent, according to the shelter’s statistics.

The Edinburg Police Department runs their animal control facility. The city went five days relying on their own facility, but as of Friday evening PVAC agreed to extend the contract by two weeks while they seek negotiations. Edinburg Police Chief David White was unavailable for comment as of Friday, and the city’s website lacks any information on the facility.

“ The city would like to work out a contract that works for everyone,” wrote Cary Zayas, director of public information for Edinburg. “Our police chief has been in contact with PVAC and made an offer to increase funding from last year, but we have not received a response from PVAC yet.”

With more than half of the cities they previously served no longer using their services, PVAC is looking at a much slower year than the previous, when they took in over 42,000 animals. Some cities are now using services set in place by other municipalities, such as Mission and Weslaco, that charge their own fees.

The city of Weslaco charges $40 per animal to the seven cities they serve, compared to the $80 to $90 PVAC is asking for. Mercedes, Pharr, San Juan, La Villa and Elsa now contract with Weslaco instead of PVAC, meaning that shelter now serves more cities than PVAC. According to the city of Weslaco, their live-release rate is near 50 percent.

Rebeca Villanueva, director of development at PVAC, said the center’s fee only covers the “bare minimum” of what it takes to properly intake an animal, not including the cost of finding a live outcome for them. As the shelter continues to seek no-kill status, Villanueva hopes the county as a whole begins to tackle animal welfare issues.

“ Ultimately, it doesn’t solve our community’s pet overpopulation problem,” she said. “It doesn’t stop with us… We want to make Hidalgo County no-kill, that’s the goal.”