Multiple Crises Strike Houston-Area Animal Shelters Amid Summer Heat

Houston SPCA is warning of the danger of heat-related deaths for dogs left outside without water, and shelters are experiencing seasonal overcrowding.

Puppies Harris County Animal Shelter
Harris County Pets
Puppies up for adoption at the Harris County Animal Shelter.

Houston-area animal shelters are facing multiple problems as rising temperatures threaten animal safety and seasonal overcrowding threatens capacity across the region.

Employees at Montgomery County Animal Shelter pleaded for help last week as the shelter surpassed maximum capacity, with almost 800 animals in its care.

A statement from the shelter claimed 700 of those animals were brought in since June 1.

“We need adopters, fosters and rescue partners TODAY,” the statement read. “We are now at a critical capacity point!.”

As part of its efforts to find adopters and foster parents, Montgomery County Animal Shelter is currently waiving all adoption fees.

The spring and summer months are when shelters typically experience an influx of orphaned newborn animals, according to Julie Kuenstle, vice president of communications for the Houston SPCA.

She added that it’s not just it's not just the change in season that's causing shelters to feel stretched.

“You've got the summer heat, and we've got a 20% increase in abandonment cases since the pandemic hit," Kuenstle said.

That summer heat was worse than usual during last week’s heat wave, as portions of Southeast Texas were hit with record-high temperatures.

The extreme heat caused the death of at least two Houston-area dogs after they were left outdoors Tuesday without access to water, food, or shelter.

Kuenstle urged owners to be mindful of their pets’ comfort level.

"It really is critical that people remember to bring your pets in at the hottest part of the day, which is not noon," Kuenstle said. "It's actually between 2 and 4."

Texas state law makes it a crime to abandon an animal, or fail to provide food, care or shelter. Those who do could be charged with animal cruelty, a state felony punishable for up to 10 years in prison.

Issues plagued Houston's animal shelter, BARC, as well last week.

The shelter was forced to temporarily close between Thursday and Sunday to address an outbreak of distemper, an upper respiratory illness in dogs.

The shelter recently impounded 20 dogs that had been exposed to and possibly infected with the disease.

“BARC has decided to take immediate, preemptive measures to isolate the issue,” said the shelter's assistant director, Greg Damianoff. “Temporarily closing the shelter will allow BARC to focus our resources on treating sick animals and prevent further spread within the shelter population.”