Proposed expansion of Collin County's overcrowded shelter may be too late for many cats and dogs
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Proposed expansion of Collin County's overcrowded shelter may be too late for many cats and dogs

Aug 04, 2023

It’s never quiet at the Collin County animal shelter. There are fans whirring, calming music playing on an intercom and of course, barking — the dogs there have a lot to say.

The growing county’s animal shelter has been overflowing with pets for years. The facility could double in size if a $5.7 million bond proposition passes in November — but construction wouldn’t finish until February 2027. And Kimberly Alsobrook, the shelter’s volunteer and foster coordinator, said they need the space now.

All of the shelter’s kennels are full. There are also cages stacked on top of each other in the hallways. That’s been typical at the Collin County Shelter for a while. And it’s getting worse.

Alsobrook said animal intake numbers are up this year — the shelter has taken in 5,407 pets this year so far. But she said adoption rates are down, which means there are more animals in tight quarters.

“There's only so much space and only so far apart that you can keep them,” Alsobrook said.

Keeping animals close together can cause behavioral problems. Alsobrook said they’ve had to euthanize animals who can’t be adopted because of behavior problems and to make room for more animals.

“Those are the ones that always pull at my heartstrings,” she said. “The ones that come in and they're afraid.”

The shelter euthanized 97 animals for behavior in June, according to data the animal advocacy group Frisco’s Pet Project obtained through an open records request.

Less room also makes it harder to stop disease from spreading. Krista Schull, the vice president of local cat rescue Texas CARES, said most of the 26 cats the rescue took in from the shelter after the AC went out in July were sick.

“It increased our vet costs immensely because everybody had to get into the vet as quickly as possible,” Schull said.

Schull said the cats had diarrhea, eye infections and upper-respiratory infections. She said that might’ve been prevented with better cleaning.

Alsobrook said the staff and volunteers do their best to keep things clean — but there’s only five full-time staffers and two part-time employees working with her.

Kacy Hendricks, the founder of Hope’s Rescue and Recovery Angels, said not all of the volunteers at the shelter are as attentive to cleanliness as they should be. Her rescue spent $13,000 trying to save a dog it took from the shelter that had multiple illnesses.

Hendricks said some of the volunteers at the shelter are there to fulfill court-mandated community service hours. But she said many end up playing on their phones instead of working because there’s not enough staff to monitor them.

“They don’t see it as an important thing, that they could be costing these animals their lives by not cleaning properly,” Hendricks said.

Some animals from Frisco may arrive at the shelter sick. Animal advocate Terri Palleschi said sick puppies from a local pet store have ended up at the Collin County shelter. She said the puppies seem healthy at pet store but get sick within a couple of days.Then the owner has vet bills they can’t afford after spending thousands of dollars buying the dog.

“They’ll turn it into the shelter and have them adopt it out and wipe their hands to their health issues,” she said.

A 2019 investigation by the Humane Society at Petland's Frisco location found that the pet store was selling sick and underweight puppies. A representative for Petland denied the allegations in an email to KERA and said Frisco Police and Animal Services didn't find any evidence to support them.

"None of the claims by this [Humane Society of the U.S.] investigator were justified," Petland said.

Frisco doesn’t have a city animal shelter like Plano or Allen. Marla Fields, the founder of the Frisco Pet Project, said the animal advocacy group has been trying to get the Frisco city council to put money for an animal shelter on a bond for years — but the mayor and most of the city council members have been resistant.

The council took the money for a shelter off the ballot for the bond election last May – even though the citizen bond committee recommended it. Fields said that frustrates animal advocates.

“The county is doing enough already,” she said. “They don't need to be asked to do even more.”

There’s a county bond election in November that $5.7 million to expand the county’s animal shelter that would double its size – but the construction wouldn’t finish until February 2027.

Until then, Alsobrook and the other staff and volunteers at the shelter will have to make do with the space they have and put cages on top of each other in the hallways.

Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at [email protected].

Caroline Love is a Report For America corps member for KERA News.

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