For years, the Montgomery County and Conroe Area Animal Shelters have been frontline soldiers in the battle to save local animals. However, county-wide indifference, inconsistent management and a perpetual deluge of homeless animals kept those facilities pushed well beyond their physical and financial means, and their live release rates hovered at a paltry 50%.

Consequently, local animal lovers became activists and formed additional rescue organizations in and around The Woodlands. Working both independently and in partnership with MCAS and CAAS, these warriors have transformed the community mindset and powered Montgomery County toward a no-kill designation—the shelter gold-standard, stipulating that at least 90% of animals taken into a shelter must either be released or find new homes.

After years as a shelter volunteer, The Woodlands resident Marcia Piotter was frustrated. “In that role, I could only make program and policy suggestions,” Marcia said. “I wanted to form a nonprofit that could bring about real change for homeless animals by implementing proven, life-saving programs.”

In 2011, she did. Marcia began Operation Pets Alive hoping to receive twenty animals into its foster and adoption program. Seven years later, OPA has more than five hundred dogs, cats, puppies and kittens mercifully tucked away in foster families and available for adoption at one of the several OPA-staged events every weekend.

OPA’s objective is to lessen the number of animals entering animal shelters like MCAS and CAAS. “We work with the shelters to determine their needs, and we stretch our comfort zone to tackle some of their at-risk animals: those injured, with contagious diseases, pregnant and nursing mothers or neo-natal babies,” Marcia said.

In a short period of time, OPA has become a force for change. How? “With a lot of help from my friends! And our thirteen hundred volunteers,” Marcia laughs. “Every one of us is passionate about doing this work honestly and responsibly, while keeping the focus always on the animals. We’ve also been truly blessed with undying community and corporate support. That has kept us going and helped us launch pivotal programs. That support has, literally, saved thousands of lives.”

OPA’s initiative, Trap, Neuter, Return, is one of those pivotal programs. By neutering, vaccinating and returning feral cats to their colonies, OPA has been instrumental in reducing local shelter intake numbers. OPA’s transport programs, Flight for Life and Pups on Trucks, have opened new and significant channels to rehoming homeless animals.

A quick computation shows that over ten thousand animal lives have been saved by OPA programs. However, other local animal programs have contributed greatly to The Woodlands’ progress toward becoming a no-kill town.

Lone Star Animal Welfare League (LSAWL) is a significant crusader in the movement to save animal lives. Over the years, with the generous help of local veterinarians and stalwart corporate support, LSAWL has been able to spay and neuter over 4,500 dogs and cats. In addition, LSAWL runs a labrador rescue operation that has proudly saved over 3,000 labs.

Friends of Montgomery County Animal Shelter is another workhorse 501(c)(3). Like the others, it saves, fosters and finds forever homes for animals in its care and provides substantial support to our shelters.

Pure Mutts Animal Sanctuary began when area residents Priyanka Johri and Rovi Grover realized the need for a different kind of shelter. The couple cares for dogs that are injured, elderly, have special needs or are diagnosed with a terminal illness, rehoming when they can and ensuring that the other dogs’ last days are comfortable and filled with love.

S.A.F.E. House, Woodlands Animal Rescue, Montgomery County SPCA and breed-specific rescue groups like Greyhound Pets of America, All Border Collie Rescue of The Woodlands and Poodle Rescue of Houston are just a few others in the list of many organizations committed to preserving animals’ lives.

Montgomery County commissioners and city councils have honored citizen demand for no-kill sheltering and improved shelter operations. Because of the increase in funding and support, and the sound management team of Director Aaron Johnson and Assistant Director Mark Wysocki, MCAS has more and better medical equipment and treatment partnerships; an improved air-exchange system to control disease; transport capability, new kennels and new, more effective programs for adoption. Dogs Playing for Life, for example, gets dogs out of their kennels to de-stress and learn social skills, making them more adoptable. And, more significantly, Montgomery County now supports a Community Cat program.

Tremendous progress has been made in The Woodlands. At the end of 2017, MCAS had a live-release rate of over 92%. CAAS followed close at just under 89%. Even so, litters of six, seven, eight puppies and kittens are brought to shelters in our community on a regular basis. The MCAS website keeps a current tally of animals housed, and on the day this article was written, that number was a staggering 901: a blunt, bewildering reminder that neglect and abuse are enemies that the community cannot stop fighting.

If you’re considering adding a pet to your household, contact any of the organizations listed. Adoption fees vary, but these animals have been fully vetted for heartworms and FIV; they’ve been de-wormed, vaccinated, spayed and neutered; and some have even been microchipped.

What you get in return will be priceless.

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