Animal control

Members of the city’s animal control department leave a property in the 4000 block of Vega Verde Road with a load of dogs that will be euthanized. All 38 dogs found on the property will be put down.

County officials said 38 small dogs abandoned on a rental property along the Rio Grande will be euthanized.

A Val Verde County Sheriff’s Office deputy found the terrier-type dogs, penned by twos, threes and fours in makeshift corrals, on a property in the 4000 block of Vega Verde Road on Aug. 1 after the property owner notified the sheriff’s office about the situation.

The property owner told the sheriff’s deputies the dogs were left behind by a couple who had leased the property.

A veterinarian deemed the dogs in good enough health to stay on the property until a decision could be made on their future.

County Attorney Ana Markowski Smith said she called members of the Animal Advocacy Rescue Coalition, led by Del Rioan Jess Carpenter, in an effort to find foster and permanent homes for the dogs.

But in a weekend text message, Smith said she had been told none of the dogs could be saved.

Carpenter confirmed the message on Monday.

“Ana contacted me. She let me know the sheriff went out, the city, the county, everybody went there and was trying to figure this out because it had become an emergency,” Carpenter said.

Animal Advocacy Rescue Coalition volunteers were already working to rehome dogs rescued from another county property, she added.

“And that situation had been going on for months, but it was not considered an emergency for some reason, and then this situation came along,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said she quickly reached out to the coalition’s rescue partners around the state, such as the Austin Humane Society, as well as similar organizations elsewhere in the country.

“I asked them, ‘What’s your advice? Do you have any room? Can you come down and do a mass extraction?’ I got hold of a rescue organization in New York that said they might be able to assist, but it was taking time, and that’s what really wasn’t on our side,” Carpenter said.

“We couldn’t just go scoop them up and put them somewhere. We had to have a plan for once we took them off the property. We can’t just take them and that’s it,” she added.

She pointed out the Animal Advocacy Rescue Coalition is, at this point, strictly a foster-based rescue. They are not able to extract animals from a property and then hold them in their own facility, she said.

“It was a very difficult situation because of the number of the dogs. If there were five on the property, let’s say, it would have been much easier, but with that being said, our advocates and our vet tech went out there a few days ago and assessed the dogs’ behavior, because that’s important, too,” Carpenter said.

She said she also considered having the city trap the animals as her organization was able to find foster homes for them or hold them in the city animal control facility until they could be assessed and homes found.

Neither of those options proved feasible, however.

“What we found out was that these little guys are completely wild, completely feral. They were just trying to survive. There was a lot of inbreeding, and they have never been socialized. They were never touched or held,” Carpenter said.

“It’s really unfortunate because we’re here as that resource, we’re here to save animals ... but after assessing behavior and seeing that this was like going up to a completely wild pack of dogs, we knew we didn’t have the time, because they need to be off the property right now,” Carpenter said.

“It was just something we had to back away from, and what we as the rescue want the community to understand is that not every dog is a pet. Not every cat is a pet,” she added.

The city’s animal control department took the first set of dogs off the property to be euthanized before noon Tuesday.

Carpenter said she hopes the sad ending to the Vega Verde saga will serve as a reminder to the rest of the community.

“This situation should never have gotten to this point, so we want to let people know that this is what happens when there is no spay and neuter,” Carpenter said.

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