Palm Valley Animal Center granted The Monitor access to its facility to track the nonprofit’s intake process and follow the 85 cats and dogs reportedly processed on June 5. This is the final part in the series.


Marshall’s intake paperwork identified him as a Shepherd mix, but one wouldn’t know by looking at him.

Dry, cracked skin covered his head and frail, skinny body. Ribs protruded from his emaciated torso.

“Smells like mange,” said an intake staff member on June 5.

His dark, hairless tail swung behind the 2-year-old dog who walked on a leash like he’d done it before. Despite his poor condition and “severe skin infection” staff noted, Marshall was friendly and cooperative during the process.

But Marshall wouldn’t last long at PVAC. The shelter’s intake system, which has one of the highest rates in the nation, opts for a care-by-numbers approach. Animals requiring personalized attention and robust medical care are vulnerable to euthanasia.

These animals are prime candidates for transfers to out-of-the-area rescues, if those facilities have the resources and interest. Luckily, Big Dog Haven Inc. on Tennessee tagged Marshall the day after his arrival at PVAC.

“This is a stray. This is what happens when you don’t keep your dogs up and don’t take responsibility for them,” the rescue wrote in a social media post featuring Marshall on June 12. “At one time this dog had a family as he knows commands and is house trained.

“BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE THIS IS A STRAY.”

Marshall is one of 14 animals who arrived on June 5 that left PVAC via transfer. The shelter has emphasized getting animals out of the Rio Grande Valley since 2016. Transfers have more than tripled in that time.

The system isn’t perfect, though. Most transfers don’t happen as quickly as Marshall’s. The facility relies on fosters and is also using a facility in Edinburg to house dogs before their departure to MatchDog Rescue in New Jersey.

Stacey, a Blue Heeler mix, came to PVAC with 10 puppies. Though she and her liter were identified for a transfer to New Jersey, seven of her pups died in care or where euthanized while waiting.

PVAC euthanized 19 animals from the June 5 intake, including Stewart, one of Stacey’s Heeler-mix puppies.

His sisters Sofia, Suezanna, Stephanie, Serena and Sapho are among the nine animals of the June 5 intake that died in care.

Like increasing transfers, PVAC invested in other opportunities for animals to get out of their facility. Their community cat program, which was recently approved by Edinburg, gives feral cats a path for live release.

Jerome (left), Amia (middle) and Alexa (right) were released through Palm Valley Animal Center’s new community cat program. (Courtesy photos)

A trio of cats — a black, gray and white male cat named Jerome, a black female named Amia and a brown and black tabby female named Alexa — are alive because of this new initiative.

PVAC staff are the first to admit their process isn’t perfect. An internet outage impacted intake records on June 5 and lasted until the end of that week. This could have contributed to the seven animals who were marked as either duplicates or classified as missing in their system.

As of late last week, a gray, black and white male tabby named Mateo could not be located at the facility. There is no precise record of his outcome.

The most common way animals are released from PVAC, and their sister facility the Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center, is adoption. Thirty-two animals of the June 5 intake were adopted, including female puppy siblings Dolores and Debra.

“Debra seems to be the dominant one,” said Marcos Ramirez. “She pushes Dolores around.”

Ramirez, and his wife Sue, adopted the seven-month-old pups during the Clear the Shelters event on Aug. 17.

They pair recovered from skin and upper-respiratory infections which put made them vulnerable to euthanasia. They survived multiple deadlines the shelter placed on them, which are timetables that makes euthanasia more likely.

Like Dolores and Debra, Marshall too has recovered since June. After about two months, he’s gained weight and his skin infection has cleared. Given time and the care of a foster, he’s up for adoption.

These dogs, which would have likely been euthanized within days of their arrival at PVAC just years, represent a shift in animal care at the facility. Staff there are the first to say they’re not perfect, but a jump in their live-release rates over the last few years at least indicates progress.

Read more in this series

The 85: Vicious Cycle

The 85: Devil in the details