Fort Worth Shelter’s Failing Plan Ramps Up the Fail

Fort Worth Animal Care & Control has been ignoring the recommendations of no kill advocates for years and instead, pioneering its own way to process animals at the pound.  The city’s protocol has been to categorize animals based upon tiers:

Tier 1 — Healthy and ready to adopt;
Tier 2 — Injured, ill or with temperament issues that are potentially manageable with sufficient time and resources;
Tier 3 — Critically ill or injured or highly aggressive.

The city claims that for more than 2 years, no shelter animal categorized as tier 1 has been killed.  Critics say the shelter’s sub-standard cleaning protocols result in many pets who enter the shelter healthy becoming sick.  This moves them from tier 1 to tier 2.  Further, cats and dogs who behave normally in a shelter environment – that is, exhibiting fear or anxiety – are labeled tier 2 when in fact they are friendly, healthy animals who just need an opportunity to live in a normal home environment.  The city does not have a TNR program in place so impounded feral cats have no chance of qualifying as tier 1 even if they are healthy and behaving normally for a feral cat.

So how is the city’s plan working out?  Not so hot.  In fiscal year 2011, Fort Worth AC & C killed 58% of the animals in its care.  And now, the city is threatening to begin killing tier 1 animals due to the usual population increase which occurs each spring:

“We do not want to euthanize healthy dogs and cats,” said Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett said. “It would be heartbreaking.”

To avoid that scenario, adoptions must take place this week. If not, animals will be euthanized to create more space at the shelter.

While I can understand how the plan probably came about – Hey, maybe we can at least try to avoid killing completely healthy and friendly pets – it is a deeply flawed plan because it is based on killing animals, not saving them.  It targets a group to kill and a group to save.  And obviously it doesn’t allow for such easily anticipated occurrences as spring population increase, impounding of feral cats, upper respiratory disease or pets who are frightened at the shelter.

The No Kill Equation on the other hand, is based upon respecting the right of every shelter pet to live while allowing for euthanasia of medically/behaviorally hopeless animals who are suffering.  Every healthy/treatable animal deserves to live – not just tier 1 animals.

I have several pets who, if they were impounded at Fort Worth, would probably be tier 2 (unless it was a bad day, in which case one or more might be classified as tier 3).  But they are great pets, even if they don’t show it to strangers.  Somebody should be advocating for every healthy/treatable animal at Fort Worth AC & C.  Somebody, somebody… Who should it be?

There is a petition asking Fort Worth AC & C to implement the programs of the No Kill Equation.

The shelter is offering half-price adoptions for the rest of the month.

12 thoughts on “Fort Worth Shelter’s Failing Plan Ramps Up the Fail

  1. This is not an uncommon happening – the “shelters” decided who is “adoptable” and then handle their PR around how they “save” most of the “adoptable” animals. Michigan Humane Society is a big player in this kind of “sheltering”! When I confronted them about it, I was told that they are not going to change what they do or who they consider “adoptable” just to “pad statistics”! Never a mention about saving animals’ lives.

    All of my cats would end up not being considered “adoptable” due to shyness or medical issues (my 16 year old) and would be killed at all of these places. But they are great cats and do very well in my home.

    How the he!! do we get through to these people?

    1. Couldnt agree more. The Houston SPCA is awful about “euthanizing” “unhealthy” animals that they deem to be on tier 3 but are really at tier 2 at best, as well. I used to watch ‘Animal Cops’ and it would drive me crazy.

  2. I have two ex-ferals…I say “ex-ferals” because when they were trapped, you would swear that they were feral – like completely wild animals. But time and care has resulted in two touchable cats who come when called and are actually enjoying sitting on laps, now! They would never have been considered “adoptable” by anyone seeing them in the trap.

    With no functioning TNR program, Fort Worth AC&C has no right to take in trapped cats. They may be someone’s pet, or they may be frightened touchables or they may be true ferals, but it’s impossible to tell that in a shelter environment. So unless they are going to neuter and return, they should NOT be taking in trapped cats. To do so is just feeding the killing machine and doing no one any good at all.

    1. Thank you! I am starting to feel like the ferals/strays/community cats are the forgotten kill statistics because they don’t “belong” to anyone. After caring for a few myself (and still trying to trap a very wily feral boy right now) I love them as much as my indoor cats, just understand that it has to be on their terms.

  3. I’m about halfway through the book “Redemption: The myth of pet overpopulation and the no kill revolution in america” and this is an exact example of what the book talks about. Everything rises and falls on leadership, not on the public, not on the seasons, not on the funding.On the leadership.

    The Ft Worth shelter is going to have to switch from blaming circumstances to taking responsibility. Spring happens every year, like clockwork. Plan ahead.Start recruiting and training foster homes in January. There’s no such thing as too much preparation.

    I can feel myself ramping up on a soapbox, so I’ll leave it there. Thank you for writing about this important issue.

    1. You will find on Nathan’s site as well as on this blog that change is also led by a person or group in the community that will stand up and rally the people for the change. The ones that want to change will. The majority will need a lot of education by a group of determined citizens who are usually organized by a determined point person.

  4. Same old crap ! How can they give a real evaluation to an animal who is scared to death and has no idea what is going on. The “Testers” are often untrained – there is no standard criteria. A fair evaluation would take place off the premises and it would take several days, not 2 minutes. .

  5. Taxpayers and citizens of Fort Worth deserve to know there are communities who are successfully saving more lives while keeping costs down. Worth Animal Care & Control need to work with with other groups to learn how this is being done elsewhere and to figure out how to do this in Fort Worth. The City must demonstrate good leadership by collaborating. Because few cities have the necessary information or resources to do this on their own, it’s imperative they work with the community on this. For example, TNR for feral cats is successful in other cities because community volunteers are WILLING to help, which multiplies each dollar invested by the number of volunteers helping out.

    When it comes to cats and dogs, the National Animal Control Association (NACA) believes the times are a-changin’.

    “What we’re saying is the old standard isn’t good enough any more. You need to be able to be flexible with your community animal management strategies for both cats and dogs. And if you continue to follow the old philosophy, eventually everybody else is going to pass you by. Progressive communities are seeing that being flexible in their strategy allows for economic savings. The cost for picking up and simply euthanizing and disposing animals is horrendous, in both the philosophical and the economic sense.”

    ~ NACA president Mark Kumpf
    PDF article

    (Link from

    Those unfamiliar with the basic issues need to know they are not alone; these problems are common all over.
    See the Shelter Tour:

    Because these problems have solutions that can be copied, the same solutions can work in any community. The proof is shown by the growing number of real no-kill communities.
    See the No-Kill Communities blog:

    “From the research.., it’s overwhelmingly apparent that it isn’t the size of the city or town, it isn’t the wealth or lack of wealth in the community, it isn’t the population density, it isn’t the educational level — what makes the difference is the leadership at the shelter. It’s really that simple. People everywhere want to help their local shelter, and they will donate their time and money if they are given a chance. All they need are leaders who will give them that chance.”

  6. Thank you for the coverage – I am in Fort Worth and doing what I can to change the system. I messaged you on Facebook before I read your blog. Thanks again!

  7. “For the first time in more than two years, city officials are facing the unpleasant prospect of having to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals.

    The record run is now in jeopardy because 560 animals were brought into the shelter over the last week, overwhelming the facility.

    As a result, the city is making an urgent plea for residents to adopt the animals to help reduce the extreme overcrowding conditions in the shelter, which normally has a maximum capacity of 400 animals that includes doubling up some puppies or kittens in the same cage with their mothers.

    “We do not want to euthanize healthy dogs and cats,” said Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett said. “It would be heartbreaking.”

    To avoid that scenario, adoptions must take place this week. If not, animals will be euthanized to create more space at the shelter.”

    Read more here:

  8. Thank you for the wonderful, informed, and enlightened reporting!! Too bad Fort Worth TV news stations and the Star-Telegram don’t do research on the subject like you!

Leave a Reply