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El Paso Animal Services (Interim Director, Ramon Herrera) celebrated the highest-ever live-release rate of 92.54% (December.) EPAS also won the 2020 Diane & Bob Hoover Innovation Award for the Pet Finder Map, an interactive tool available to the community that offers a centralized location to view lost and found pets as pinpoints on the city’s map as well as free microchip scanning locations.
COVID hit the El Paso community and EPAS staff very hard in November, and in response, El Paso Animal Services expanded the Pet Pantry program even more to provide families that tested positive or are awaiting test results to have two weeks of pet food delivered to their homes. This allows families to safely quarantine without worrying about having to leave their homes to get food for their pets. This service is an expansion of the Pet Pantry program where we also provide weekly curbside pickup of pet food for families, and monthly pet food distribution in partnership with other local food banks. The EPAS Field Department has also been working with local rescues directly to coordinate the transfer of pets straight from the location to the rescue, rather than that animal coming to the shelter first. Animal Care Officers coordinate with rescue partners on potential pets for transfer, pick them up, vaccinate them, and deliver them to the rescue or foster. As a department, we are continuing to check ourselves to ensure we are offering compassion to not only our pets and the community, but also to our lifesaving team during this difficult time.
In October, El Paso Animal Services continued to expand its ‘Stronger Together’ services to the community by offering pet pantry and pet wellness services to targeted areas of the community. The Pet Pantry program added a second location to distribute pet food monthly along with other pantry services, and we partnered with organizations like the Texas National Guard that are assisting with pantry preparation and bagging for our events. The Animal Protection team also continued to provide assistance to families in need, including a family that were overwhelmed with the number of pets they were caring for, and needed rehoming and pet wellness support. Our team also partnered with another city department, Environmental Services, to assist the family with cleaning up their home. Through the Community and Pet Support program, 135 pets were returned to their owner or went directly into foster homes without having to come to the shelter in October.
In September, El Paso Animal Services expanded the new ‘Stronger Together’ program which provides services and support to our community. For the first time ever, El Paso Animal Services teamed up with El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank (the largest food bank in the region that serves 24 million meals a year) to offer pet food at their food bank distribution site. We also hosted numerous events that targeted areas of town that have been underserved and haven’t had the access to many of our programs and services. In September, EPAS assisted 1,060 community pets with 10,459 pounds of pet pantry food, 874 microchips and 338 vaccinations. El Paso Animal Services also presented the 2020 Fiscal Year report to City Council, which showed the success of the new Community & Pet Support program (created on some of the foundations of HASS), how much our community has supported our lifesaving efforts, and how EPAS is transforming from the traditional brick and mortar shelter system to a community wide resource aiming at supporting the human-animal bond.
Over the last few months, HASS has allowed us to re-evaluate what El Paso Animal Services can do to help our community in the ways they need it most. We’ve since implemented numerous programs and expanded existing once that have allowed us to connect with our community directly. Some of the programs include: attending weekly Senior Food Bank events to provide pet food, vaccines and microchips to senior citizens right in their neighborhood; developed our ‘Stronger Together’ program which offers pet food, supplies and resources to families in need to help keep families together; an extension of this program also includes our Animal Protection Officers providing support and services to community members in need through engagement rather than enforcement, offering pet supplies, fence repair, and education to our community; set up new microchip scanning locations at city park facilities across the city (this is in addition to the 34 fire stations already established as scanning locations) who also help finders research microchip information; established a new Community & Pet Support program which provides pet finders with support and resources to help reunite lost pets directly in the community, or find a new foster through our Home Base Foster program—since this program began in mid-July, about 42% of pets were reunited with their family that were kept in their community compared to a 16% return-to-owner rate at the shelter.