City boosts Humane Society’s payment

Shelter expands programs to save more animals

HARLINGEN — Every day, Lilia Castillo Jones finds puppies and kitties at her door.

At the Harlingen Humane Society, residents drop off as many as 20 to 50 animals a day, Castillo Jones, the agency’s executive director, said yesterday.

“For the most part, people walk in with a cardboard box or a bucket — whatever they can put them in,” she said.

In kennels and cages, she said, the shelter was holding 225 dogs and cats yesterday.

“That’s only because we don’t have room for more,” she said. “They’re not responsible in getting their animals spay and neutered.”

Now, it costs about $42 to care for every animal for three days — the period the law requires the shelter to hold animals while they wait to be adopted.

“That allows us to medicate them and feed them,” Castillo Jones said.

So she asked city leaders to help out.

Last month, city commissioners boosted the city’s annual contribution from $160,000 to $287,000.

“We were able to present the hard numbers and how much it costs to run this,” said Castillo Jones, the Valley Morning Star’s former publisher who took the job a year ago. “They graciously stepped up.”

The increase in the city’s contribution marks the biggest since the shelter opened in 1989.

At City Hall, City Manager Dan Serna said the shelter has taken on the job of helping to find homes for more of the city’s stray dogs and cats.

“We’ve had a long, steady partnership with the humane society,” he said. “They do an outstanding job of operating and managing the shelter on behalf of our citizens. The City Commission is very happy with everything they’re doing. We look forward to several more years with our partnership.”

But the city’s contribution leaves no room for frills in the shelter’s annual $1 million budget.

“The operating cost of running the shelter is almost $1 million,” Castillo Jones said. “We’re in the black. Our problem is we’ve been at capacity for three or four months — every single day.”

So the shelter continues to count on residents’ donations to run its operations.

“Even with this to help with the operation of the shelter, the Humane Society still needs the community’s support,” Castillo Jones said, referring to the city’s contribution.

Spay and neuter program

Castillo Jones said she’s working with a strong, new board of directors to make operations more effective.

The shelter’s spay and neuter program stands on top of her priority list.

Last year, she said, the shelter spayed or neutered 3,215 dogs and cats.

“This year, we’re trending a little higher,” she said.

So far this year, she said, the shelter’s spayed or neutered about 2,700 animals.

“We’re working with area vets to make sure all of our adopted animals are spayed and neutered,” she said.

By the end of the year, she plans to top last year’s numbers.

“That’s my hot spot,” she said. “It all starts with education. Our community has to understand the importance of spay and neutering.”

Saving more animals

This year, Castillo Jones also aims to double the number of animals the shelter “saves.”

Last year, the shelter saved 25 percent, or 1,700, of the 6,800 animals it took in, she said.

This year, she said, she plans to save 50 percent.

New programs are helping the shelter save more animals.

“They put together some awesome, outstanding programs,” Serna said.

Expanded foster care and rescue programs are helping more and more animals find new homes, Castillo Jones said.

Meanwhile, she said, the agency has stepped up its adoption program.