A Behind the Scene Look at the Journey of Valley Strays


POSTED: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 9:32am

UPDATED: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 10:00am


Death is a part of an animal control officer's job.

"I wish i could save them all, but hopefully we can," said Robert Barcenas. 

Barcenas has worked as an animal control officer for almost a year. 

"It makes me feel bad I feel sad for those dogs," said Barcenas.

Barcenas is on his way to pick up one of the many animals without a home.
He's going to bring it back to the Weslaco shelter.  It's only been open for a little over a month but has put down an alarming number of animals. 

"We had a total of 134 animals.  Out of the 134 animals we euthanized 107," said Code Enforcement Health Official, Joe Pedraza.

Pedraza says the city was spending over $120,000 a year to dispose of the animals by taking them to the Edinburg Humane Society.

"It's just instead of being done over there we're doing it over here trying to save the city some money," said Pedraza.

Right now, it's about educating the public so they can be responsible for their pets.

"I've been out there and it's really is very sad to look at an animal being put down and it just kind of tugs at your heart and you've got to realize this is not right and that's why we really need to focus more on prevention," said city manager, Leonardo Olivares.

Measures such as spaying and neutering your pets could decrease the amount of unwanted animals that Barcenas deals with on a daily basis.
They get rid of them? "Yeah most of them yeah, it's sad but it's the way it is," said Barcenas.

It's something he's seen too often.

"To me it's the owners fault, they don't take care of them," said Barcenas.

I was with Barcenas when he received his first call of the day.

"We had a call about a loose canine running loose around some apartments.  We're going out there probably we can spot him and catch him," said Barcenas.

Barcenas found the stray dog who we will call Max.
We loaded him up and took the short trip back.  Since the shelter is still new, no adoption program is in place.   Even if you wanted to save Max, you couldn't.

While it's animal control's job to get stray animals off the street, like Max...once here it's a race against time before state law requires them to be put down.

"That's the only part that I don't like about this job…putting them to sleep you know," said Barcenas.

Is it because they don't really have a fighting chance after you pick them up the clock starts ticking?  "Yeah that's basically how it is."

The waiting game begins for Max.

He is surrounded by dozens of dogs who  come from different places, but share the same fate.

Do you ever go home sad or anything after?  "Well, sometimes.  It depends on the dog.  Sometimes we get pretty messed up dogs, sick dogs," said Barcenas.

When a dog comes in sick or injured…it's often more humane to euthanize.

"It makes me feel sad and angry at the same time," said Barcenas.

In the meantime…the officers keep their distance.

Why don't you give them a name?  "It's harder for us.  We give them a name and then we get attached...but for me it's hard…I'd rather not," said Barcenas.

That's because Barcenas is  not only directly involved in the dog's capture, but their death as well.  He's been certified to euthinize. 

And after days of waiting....Max's time is up.

"Today is the day, nobody has come for him.  We're going to have to euthanize," said Barcenas.

He is taken into a small room where he is prepped to be injected.  His death is pain free.  Afterwards, he is placed in a black trash bag and stuffed in the freezer where he will later be dropped in a landfill.

The shelter plans on taking immediate steps to raise awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering animals at a young age so it doens't have to come to this.

Put some more money aside for prevention efforts and it's public education, get the information out," said Olivares.

Olivares also plans to push for an adoption program so dogs like Max have a chance to find a new home.


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