TEXARKANA, Texas -- The city's euthanasia rate is 27.5% higher than the national average, according to a comparison with data in a 2019 study by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The study showed nationally approximately 390,000 of the 3.1 million dogs that entered shelters in 2019 were euthanized. Texarkana's chief code enforcer Mashell Daniel said in an earlier Gazette article she estimated 40% of the animals taken into the city's kennel were destroyed.
"My main concern is for the health and safety of our public," she said in an email. "One way (sic) address this issue is to encourage more owner responsibility in caring for and keeping the pets of our community safe and healthy."
Daniel said the city's euthanasia process isn't random.
"It's important to remember we are talking about dogs that have no owner, are unable to be reunited with their owner, are sick, or injured, are not registered in accordance with our city's ordinance, and, or display signs of aggression. If a dog cannot be safely adopted or fostered, we have to do what we can to ensure the safety and health of our community."
Daniel said the city does not keep records on how many dogs are euthanized annually.
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Best Friends Animal Society State Communications Strategist Kerry McKeel said Texas has no requirements for tracking intakes, adoptions or euthanasias. The BFAS estimates Texas euthanasia rate at 18.6%.
The state does provide broad guidance for handling the stray animal population, but Daniel said municipalities and their residents are responsible for managing the issue.
"The only way to combat this issue locally is for pet owners to be responsible for their own pets," she said in an email. "We partner with the local animal coalition, rescue groups, veterinarians and residents to work toward a safer, healthier community every day."
Financially, other cities in the Lone Star State contribute substantially more resources than Texarkana to combating the stray problem.
Lufkin, Texas, a city with a population of over 35,000 people, has an annual budget of $800,000 to handle its animal control department, according to Director of Animal Services Aaron Ramsey. Comparatively, Texarkana has a population of 36,000 people and holds a budget of $115,000 for animal control services this year.
Ramsey said he has 11 full-time employees, including animal control officers and shelter staff. He said they were able to take in 4,845 animals in 2021. He said so far this year, about 35% of the animals his department has taken in have been euthanized. Ramsey said at max capacity, his facility can hold 250 animals.
Comparatively, Texarkana, Texas has two full-time budgeted positions and seven kennels in its facility.
About 90 miles north, Longview, Texas, a city with a population of 82,183 is contributing $2 million annually to combat its stray animal problem. Comparatively, the Texarkanas have a combined population of 66,597 people.
Chris Kemper, Animal Services manager for Longview Care and Adoption Center, said year to date in 2022, Longview has only euthanized 1.1% of the healthy animal population taken in at the center. He said between 12% and 20% of their total intake come in sick or injured and that their kennel can hold up to 70 dogs at a time.
Kemper said his budget covers animal control officers, a full veterinary clinic and a total of 28 staff members.
Daniel said she is grateful for the help the city receives from its partners.
"We partner with state agencies such as Texas Parks & Wildlife and the Zoonosis Control Office for issues such as rabies and animal encounters outside our typical calls," she said in an email. "We are thankful for our partnerships with state agencies, our local coalition and business owners, our sister city, Texarkana, Arkansas, and other community leaders."
Since the release of the Gazette's article earlier in May, the city has regained control of its Facebook page, Texarkana Texas Animal Services and at publishing time of this article had posted three times in the last week.