Denton’s animal shelter is at capacity for large dogs and needs your help (2024)

They show up at all hours of the day to surrender their pets, many of whom will remain at the shelters for months until — or if — they get adopted.

Some thought they could do it when they adopted their pets, only to realize they can’t. Others claim they’re moving and simply can’t afford the pet deposits. The stories they tell shelter workers around the country seem to echo similar reasons in many cases: inflation and rising costs.

About 23 million U.S. households adopted pets during the pandemic. A few years later, some are racking up credit card debt to care for them or surrendering them to animal shelters, according to a PBS NewsHour report from Feb. 20.

City staff have reported a similar situation affecting Denton’s Linda McNatt Animal Care & Adoption Center.

“Denton Animal Services (DAS) continues to receive a high volume of surrendered dogs to the shelter, resulting in the shelter being at capacity for dogs,” staff wrote in a Friday Staff Report from May 12. “Some animals have been in the shelter for several months, which can have a negative impact on their overall mental and physical health.”

“Animal Services staff is working diligently with rescue and foster groups to place the animals; however, animal shelters, rescues and foster groups are all experiencing the same influx of dogs and demand for resources.”

Denton Animal Services Manager Shelly Meeks said that while the shelter does have space available for small dogs, puppies and cats, they don’t have any space available for large dogs. She said they have a waitlist with 100 people on it waiting to surrender their large dogs.

“I haven’t seen numbers like this in probably 10 years,” Meeks said.

Denton’s animal shelter is at capacity for large dogs and needs your help (1)

DRC file photo

She said that while the Denton Animal Support Foundation’s pet food pantry has been able to help some pet owners who are struggling to afford care, the foundation can’t solve this problem alone.

“Believe it or not, we are at capacity,” City Manager Sara Hensley said Tuesday. “We’ve run out of space, period.”

That’s why a proposal to expand the animal shelter could be part of the November 2023 city bond package. The citizen bond advisory committee held its first meeting to discuss the bond package Tuesday night. As the group continues to meet in June and early July, they’ll determine which proposals, such as the animal shelter expansion, will be included.

Hensley and Meeks saw several reasons Denton’s animal shelter is at capacity:

  • People adopted pets because they thought they could do it, but then returned the animals to the shelter because they can’t afford it.
  • People adopted animals during the COVID pandemic, but then realized they could no longer care for their pet after they returned to work in person.
  • Explosive growth continues to hit the Denton area, bringing in more people and more animals.
  • People from other cities, such as Corinth, are surrendering their pets at Denton’s shelter.

“We don’t necessarily go, ‘Where are you from? Oh, you’re from Arlington, we’re not going to take your animal,’” Hensley said.

A former city administrator in Austin, Hensley referred to the animal shelter in the capital city, known as one of the largest cities in the country with a no-kill shelter. About this time last year, the Austin Animal Center was facing a similar situation to Denton and struggling to remain a no-kill shelter due to overcrowding. In late July, the shelter was at 145% capacity for dogs and 171% for cats, according to an Austin Chronicle report.

Some of the reasons Austin was able to have a no-kill facility, Hensley said, is because volunteers and people would adopt the animals.

“We take a lot of pride in being a very, very, very, very, very no-kill shelter,” Hensley said. “But when you say no-kill, that isn’t always true because some animals come in so injured that they have to be put to sleep. But we don’t just arbitrarily put animals to sleep.”

However, the Linda McNatt Animal Care & Adoption Center has been struggling to find a home for the most vulnerable, and Meeks said she hopes the expansion happens due to the area’s population growth.

Denton’s animal shelter is at capacity for large dogs and needs your help (2)


Denton Animal Services staff have been figuring out ways to address the issue. They’re currently offering what they call a “30 for $30” offer — any animal that has been at the shelter for 30 days or longer has an adoption fee of only $30.

They’ve also worked with the Denton Animal Support Foundation to find forever homes for five dogs who were considered the most vulnerable. Foundation supporters started raising awareness via social media, and the foundation has offered a $100 PetSmart gift card upon adoption.

“Since then, DAS has seen a spike in interest,” city staff wrote in the May 12 staff report. “Staff expects the dogs will soon find their forever homes.”

Meeks said the foundation has already found homes for the five dogs.

“I may reach back out to them to do another set,” Meeks said.

Denton’s animal shelter is at capacity for large dogs and needs your help (2024)


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