Dallas, Texas – In a concerted effort to redefine animal welfare, the city of Dallas inaugurated a seminal initiative in 2018, dubbed BeDallas90. This ambitious program aspired to secure homes for a minimum of 90% of the city’s stray animal population, eschewing the more draconian measure of euthanasia. The overarching vision encompassed not merely an operational adjustment, but an aspiration to become a national beacon for the humane and compassionate treatment of animals through the dual channels of effective shelter management and robust community involvement.
Regrettably, the existing animal shelter—erected in 2006—is now emerging as a bottleneck to the realization of this laudable vision.
Dallas Animal Services wants to include the animal shelter project in the city’s 2024 bond package
This palpable discord between the program’s objectives and the limitations of the physical infrastructure has galvanized Dallas Animal Services (DAS) into action. The agency is currently spearheading a proposal to include a state-of-the-art animal shelter in the city’s 2024 bond package. Touted to come with a hefty price tag exceeding $114 million, the envisioned facility would not only dwarf its current predecessor located at 1818 N. Westmoreland Road by more than twice its size, but also encompass a comprehensive package that includes site development, the erection of a new edifice, a specialized livestock building, animal care enclosures, and contractor fees. Should the plan garner the requisite approval, the construction phase is projected to commence in December 2025.
“This is a shelter that would bring us into 2050 and beyond,” MeLissa Webber, DAS director, said during an Aug. 24 meeting of the city’s Animal Advisory Commission. “It’s for the city of Dallas. It’s for the animals. It’s for Dallas Animal Services. It’s for you, the residents.”
In the context of its current limitations, the existing shelter was principally conceived as a venue for animal control and housing—a paradigm that has shown itself to be increasingly antiquated. Not only does the aging facility exhibit visible signs of wear and tear on its materials and equipment, but it also grapples with acute issues related to disease control. The lack of adequate separation measures for healthy and afflicted animals has been particularly problematic. Additionally, spatial constraints at the existing site have severely hampered efforts to effectively display and interact with animals awaiting adoption.
If approved, the new animal shelter will be located at the intersection of W. Davis Street and N. Cockrell Hill Road in South Dallas
As Dallas Animal Services (DAS) grapples with spatial and operational constraints that compromise both animal welfare and community engagement, the agency has envisioned an expansive, state-of-the-art shelter and adoption center. Positioned to revolutionize the adoption landscape for its burgeoning menagerie of over 400 animals, the proposed facility has a strategic location at the nexus of W. Davis Street and N. Cockrell Hill Road in southwestern Dallas, situated on municipally-owned real estate. MeLissa Webber, DAS Director, underscored the new facility’s potential to radically ameliorate prevailing challenges, from mitigating the spread of illness among shelter animals to offering a multifaceted hub for community services and support.
The incumbent shelter’s static footprint precludes any possibility for infrastructural expansion, a limitation Webber highlighted as a critical concern. While supplementary satellite facilities could partially alleviate this bottleneck, DAS is resolute in its prioritization of a capacious new facility, which promises not only an enhanced quality of animal care but also the flexibility to scale up operations in the future without a corresponding surge in staffing levels.
Current operational conditions present a grim tableau: The shelter is perpetually in a state of overcapacity. As of August 31, it housed 417 dogs, markedly exceeding its kennel capacity of 300, thereby resulting in an alarming overcapacity rate of 39%. On the same day, the shelter had little choice but to admit 64 new animals. Such an unsustainable influx inevitably triggers a series of exigent decisions that gravitate towards the unfortunate necessity of euthanasia. According to the shelter’s daily report card for that day, ten animals met this cruel fate; conversely, seven were reunited with their owners, 27 were rescued, 23 found adoptive homes, and two succumbed to illness while in the shelter’s care.
Throughout the course of this year, the shelter’s live release rate has stagnated at approximately 76%, conspicuously falling short of the ambitious targets set forth by the BeDallas90 initiative. The advent of the proposed new shelter stands as a potentially pivotal milestone in the city’s quest to fulfill these objectives. To actualize this vision, DAS is actively soliciting public support and is encouraging residents to vociferously articulate their advocacy for the new facility to their respective council members, particularly in light of the forthcoming bond package.