The animal shelter is struggling with overcapacity

By Brittany Anderson

COUNTY OF HAYS — Understanding what’s going on at your local animal shelter can ensure the safety and well-being of hundreds of animals in the community.

The San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter (SMRAS) operates as the only public admitting animal shelter in Hays County and has continually struggled with overcapacity as the county’s population grows while resources are depleted.

As of July 15, there were 257 animals at SMRAS, including 49 in foster care and 208 internally (at the shelter). During the first two weeks of July, the shelter welcomed 23 owner abandonments, 12 return adoptions, 120 strays, 23 wild animals and two seized animals.

Christie Banduch, animal services manager for SMRAS, said the shelters’ most recent adoption event/rescue advocacy has helped, but there must be some momentum behind it.

“What we’re seeing is everyone rushing to save the day, and then adoptions go down and drop again,” Banduch said. “Animals arrive every day. We need adopters, foster homes and rescue support every day.

Banduch said that although the shelter is located in San Marcos, 30% to 40% of lost animals that enter the shelter come from unincorporated areas of Hays County and towns that do not have their own animal control. animals, such as Wimberley and Dripping Springs.

“If you live in Hays County and your pet is missing, chances are it’s here,” Banduch said. “We know it’s someone’s baby; their fingernails are cut, they are groomed,” adding that microchipping can be an affordable and effective solution to this.

Banduch said on a busy admissions day, the shelter can accommodate up to 30 to 40 animals. They currently have 93 dog kennels and 83 cat crates, and while their actual animal capacity is greater than the number of kennels and cages – mother cats will share a cage with their litter of kittens, for example – the shelter would ideally have 20 to 30 empty kennels a day so they don’t have to go into “panic mode”.

Banduch described this ideal situation as a revolving door, where the animals enter and exit at the same rate.

PAWS of Central Texas, which has shelters in Kyle and Dripping Springs, is a nonprofit rescue partner of SMRAS. Minnie Buckhaults, Marketing and Social Media Coordinator for PAWS, said PAWS diverts many strays and travels from SMARS to their shelter if they have space.

“When SMRAS is over capacity, we send some of our foster staff to assess the animals and integrate them into our program,” Buckhaults said. “There are high demands for this throughout the year, but especially during holidays or when people go on vacation.”

Banduch said that while you have good intentions of helping the shelter by adopting, it’s best to make sure you’ve thought it through and that it’s appropriate for your current situation. Listening to shelter staff is essential in determining whether a pet will be suitable, as well as in successfully integrating shelter animals into your home.

“Don’t be an impulse buyer,” Banduch said. “Have realistic expectations. … [I always tell people] you are adopting a toddler between the ages of 15 and 20. They will never age after two years. We want to find forever homes, not impulse homes that aren’t ready. If you are not ready, you can help us in other ways.

Along with adopting, fostering, and volunteering when possible, make sure people know how to be a responsible pet owner. Identify the resources the community needs to do this and be part of the spaces where these conversations take place, such as city council meetings.

“Support the shelter staff. We are on the front line here,” added Banduch. “Everything we do in our working day is aimed at saving the lives of these animals. If it’s heartbreaking from your couch at home, imagine how we feel here.

Banduch reiterated that if you are having difficulty with your pet in any way – training, behavioral issues, or need financial assistance, medical attention or food for your pet – SMRAS offers programs that offer help with these things as an alternative to abandonment.

PAWS echoes similar sentiments, encouraging anyone considering returning their pet due to unforeseen circumstances or who feels they are not the right person to contact the shelter first.

“A lot of people are nervous about adopting and bringing an animal into their home because they’ve never had one before or they’ve had one and don’t know how to acclimate. Some behaviors can be scary and present other challenges,” Buckhaults said. “Call PAWS. We can talk to you and advise you. We really want to make sure your pet or foster animal does well in your home. We’ll do everything we can.

Above all, however, neutering and neutering your pets. Banduch said the procedure needs to become something that is done instinctively and resources need to be made more widely available and affordable in Hays County.

“Fixing your own animals saves more lives than anything you can do,” Banduch said. “Tell your neighbors about it. It’s a huge problem in Hays County. Educate one another; reach. What are the obstacles ? Is it something you or us [SMRAS] can help them? »

Ultimately, the culture around pet ownership is what needs to change, Banduch said.

“We’re not going to break out of the cycle of animals needing shelter until we start to see real changes in our community and how we treat our animals,” Banduch said. “They are not disposable. … These are not novelty items. … They are living, sentient beings and not just something you can throw away. It is a commitment; it is a responsibility.

Adoptable pets, the latest adoption promotions, and other shelter information and updates are available on the SMRAS Facebook page at Find out how to become a foster or volunteer at

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