Too Many Animals: Harris County Pets Suspends Intake

Harris County Pets announces pause on intake services.
Harris County Pets announces pause on intake services. Photo by Harris County Pets
Harris County Pets will temporarily suspend animal surrender and stray intake services on Saturday after reporting that it is over capacity by nearly 300 animals – an issue it faced earlier this month.

The county animal shelter currently houses 767 animals, up from the 758 cats and dogs it had at the beginning of June. About 40 percent of intakes brought to its facility are surrendered by owners.

The shelter will pause these services until Tuesday, August 1, and intakes in the interim will only be from priority calls involving aggressive, sick or injured animals.

Corey Steele, Harris County veterinary public health director, said the county’s shelter is not the only facility facing this issue, as other local animal organizations that may be available to lend a helping hand also have to deal with their overpopulation.

“We’re all overcrowded," Steele said. "This is just a community problem here in Harris County; we’re all having issues."

The Houston SPCA, one of the local nonprofit shelters, transferred 488 animals from 21 rescues and organizations so far this calendar year. While it aims to help other places, its numbers have grown, too, as it now has 1,588 animals in its care.

Macey Staes, marketing coordinator for the Houston Humane Society, said shelters that are offering assistance should check in to see where they are with their own adoptions and what resources they may have available.

"We definitely make it known that if we have the resources available and the space, we want to help," she said.

The Humane Society has taken in animals from BARC, Pasadena Animal Shelter and other facilities in the area. It currently has 446 dogs and cats in its shelter. However, this number fluctuates daily, depending on the number of animals it is boarding from cruelty cases or for people experiencing homelessness.

Some shelters either limit or do not take in animals from other organizations or areas – to combat overcrowding.

Cory Stottlemyer, BARC's deputy shelter director, said the operations pause at the county's animal shelter would not "majorly" affect the animal shelter and adoption center's numbers, as it does not accept animals from Harris County unless under special circumstances such as a severe injury.

Stottlemyer said that BARC is a managed intake facility and expanded intake appointments earlier this year for both owner-surrenders and strays from two to four weeks at a time to address demand.

The organization increased the number of appointments after resuming intake services, which paused temporarily in response to a positive case of distemper detected in its shelter – this and other illnesses are also a problem among local shelters.

BARC currently houses 316 animals and has had 18,413 intakes between July 2022 and now – 61 percent of which were from strays brought in from the field.

The animal shelter and adoption center depends on rescue organizations and experienced fosters; as Stottlemyer said, more dogs, cats or other animals brought in are experiencing captivity for the first time and may not be socialized, which affects the animals' ability to be adopted.

The city also assists the shelter, providing it with around $488,000 on average to transport and place more than 5,000 animals eligible for adoption in homes in Colorado and other states.

Harris County Pets will also turn to adoptions to get animals out of its facility. From Saturday until August 1, all eligible shelter pets are up for adoption free of charge and will come spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped.

The facility’s foster and volunteer services will continue to operate during the intake pause, so anyone interested in temporarily housing one of the adoptable pets or helping out at its facility can do so.

The shelter is also trying to find areas to bring its mobile adoption unit into the community so it can reach more potential adoptees, Steele said.

Steele encouraged those with pets that need to be spayed, neutered or microchipped to visit the shelter’s wellness clinic, which provides these services at a low cost. These efforts help animal control officers relocate pets to their owners and keep animals on the street from overpopulating the area.

Harris County Pets will reassess where its population is in August and may consider resuming normal intake and surrender operations then.

If you are interested in adopting visit:

Harris County Pet Website or Social Media

Houston Humane Society

BARC Animal Shelter & Adoption Center
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.