COMMENTARY: Friends of animals thanked

The past 21 months have been transformative at Palm Valley Animal Center. So much has improved so quickly that I wanted to update everyone and give thanks to the many hearts, hands and minds that have helped us along the way. Let’s start with some great news. The live release rate, those animals finding live outcomes, has improved from 34% in March of 2018 to almost 70% today. That increase in percentage means thousands of more animals have had a second chance at life, through increased adoptions, owner reconnections, rescue organizations and the new community cat program. For the months of September and October, the percentage of animals saved was 82%. By the end of 2019, our team will have saved almost 20,000 animals.

We could not have achieved that level of success without our national partners. Ever since Best Friends Animal Society discovered the nation’s highest-kill shelter down in Edinburg they have believed in us, believed that even an underfunded, overcrowded shelter like PVAC could aspire to becoming no-kill. They’ve invested heavily in that pursuit, but more crucially they’ve put boots on the ground to turn things around in so many ways. Many thanks to interim executive director Mike Bricker and the other Best Friends change-makers, also to the founders and leaders who have visited the Rio Grande Valley many times to cheer on the progress.

Maddie’s Fund has been a key partner along the way as well. Working with Best Friends to make the entire nation no-kill, this national animal welfare organization has funded many of the transformative programs that Best Friends has put into place.

In 2018, Petco Foundation awarded PVAC a grant for $1 million, much of which has gone toward increasing staff. Saving more animals meant needing more people to take care of them, and our caring team has grown from 70 to 110. Thank you, Petco Foundation, for believing our efforts worthy of your investment.

Also in partnership with Best Friends and Maddie’s, the international organization Animal Balance made PVAC the first mainland U.S. shelter to receive its mass spay/neuter services, and its heroic efforts continue on a regular basis, alongside our full-time veterinarian Dr. Lisa Rodriguez and visiting vets from around the country.

We also want to thank the local entities that have been by our side throughout this endeavor, starting with Hidalgo County. Under Ramon Garcia’s leadership and continuing with Richard Cortez today, the county has made the treatment of our stray animal population a higher priority than in the past. We appreciate their partnership with us and their willingness to tackle this communitydriven problem as a community-wide effort.

The city of McAllen has been a stalwart partner, too. When we asked the cities that contracted with us in 2018-19 to increase funding to help save more animals, the city leaders of McAllen boldly stepped up and made an extended commitment to work with PVAC.

The city of Edinburg closed its holding facility in 2017 and returned to our shelter, then renewed its partnership although a nearby pound offered a cheaper contract price. Edinburg city leaders chose the more humane option, a true shelter that saves their animals rather than dooms them.

We wish we could count the cities of Pharr and Alamo among those helping lead the way, but Pharr declined to renew in October of 2018 and Alamo last month, both opting to take their animals to Weslaco. Unfortunately, the city of Weslaco operates a compound where no intake or outcome numbers are made public. Due to this lack of transparency, no one can determine how many (or few) make it out alive.

With the help of visionary local partners and national organizations, we’re proud of how far we’ve come in such a short time. Many businesses and individuals in our community have been there for us through thick and thin, and we’re always very appreciative of their time and generosity as well. Every contribution makes a difference in the lives of the animals.

To reflect the new day in RGV animal welfare, our new parent entity is now Palm Valley Animal Society, and going forward, our facilities will be referred to as Trenton Center and The Laurie P. Andrews Center.

Working toward a continually brighter future, our board recently adopted a new mission statement. “Our mission is to provide life-saving care, comfort and compassion to animals in need by engaging the hearts, hands and minds of our community.” Our pursuit of saving more animals is indeed a community effort, and in this time of thanksgiving, we give thanks to all the organizations, donors, volunteers, fosters and staffers who are helping make our dream a reality.

On behalf of all the homeless, neglected and surrendered animals that come through the Trenton gates, desperately needing a second chance, thank you!

Keely Lewis is a retired journalism teacher and board president of Palm Valley Animal Society. She writes for The Monitor’s Board of Contributors.