Death Row Dogs: The RGV’s Animal Crisis

Local News

In one year alone, tens of thousands of animals will die in the Rio Grande Valley.

At one shelter alone in 2015, more than 6,000 dogs, cats, kittens and puppies were euthanized.

Of those 6,000, an average of 80% were healthy and available for adoption.

Minutes before being put down, a rescue group saved their lives but to live, the dogs have to leave Texas.

Kim Warunek with the Harlingen Humane Society said in an exclusive interview with KVEO News Center 23’s Derick Garcia “we try to save as many as we can get”

“[However] we’re lucky if we get 2, 3 or 4 adoptions a day and we’re taking in 15 to 50 animals a day.”

Warunek allowed KVEO an all access pass into the humane society’s euthanasia statistics and facility.

Warunek – “This is what we refer to as the bad room”

Garcia – “So where are we walking to right now?

Warunek – “This room is what we refer to as Room 2 which is our euthanasia facility.”

In 2015, Harlingen Humane Society received 8,142 animals, 6,125 were euthanized.

2016, is on track to have similar numbers.

“We have to basically line them [the animals] up and body bags. Verify that their hearts have stopped beating, put them in a bag and put them into a freezer. That’s where the bodies go when we’re finished” said Warunek opening two large white colored freezers.

The bodies are cremated offsite in mass numbers.

Warunek flipped through pages in the most current euthanasia log on a small desk.

“You can see there’s no end.” Said Warunek. Directly beside the log is a blue vile marked fatal with a poison skull and cross bones symbol on it. 

Warunek is one of several staff members making life and death decisions every day.

An obligation she and her staff would give up in a heartbeat.

“We would be happy if we could close the doors to this… unfortunately until the community decides to be responsible for the animals they choose to have this is going to continue day after day after day.” Said Warunek with a frustrated and defeated tone.

In her hands is 2016’s YEAR TO DATE statistics. The metrics are a monthly breakdown; Rows of cats, kittens, dogs, puppies, with columns of adopted, claimed, euthanized, escape, died, and foster. The highest figures; Intake – 6,884, euthanasia, 4,528.

Garcia – “This is the vile that is being used to put down animal. How many of these would you say you go through?

Warunek – “In the course of a year we go through probably close to 60.”

Recap, 2015, 6,125 animals euthanized.

Garcia – “Of those 6,000+ how many would you say could have been adopted?”

Warunek- “I would say probably close to 4,000 of those were adoptable animals.”

The numbers presented by the Harlingen Humane Society are similar to others across the Rio Grande Valley.

Every shelter and humane society can testify, the solution is not adoption it’s spay and neutering.

The “lucky ones” from the Harlingen Humane Society and other shelters are saved through rescue groups but to survive, the animals will have to flee the state.

At a home in Harlingen, fosters from across the Rio Grande Valley are converging for a mass exodus.

“There’s not as much or no pet overpopulation in most of the northern state” said Executive Director of the Laguna Madre Humane Society Christiana Dijkman.

She heads RGV Rescue ride is a lifesaving transport, taking upwards of 50 dogs to Colorado.

Many of the dogs have been pre-adopted through the Colorado based humane society 4 Paws 4 Life.

Dijkman and co-driver, Julio Trevino, will hit the road for 27 hours.

To give Maddox, an Irish Wolfhound, a second chance. Maddox’s teeth were broken to the gums. Like due to chewing on a metal cage and malnourishment.

The ride is also for coral- a mother of 5.

She and her newborns were saved minutes before being put down.

Her pups, including Dijkman’s favorite, Stripe would have been alive for just one week.  

“He [Stripe] was pulled out of the euthanasia chamber” said Dijkman holding the light brown mix-breed pup.

An unspayed female dog like coral can produce thousands of offspring.

Dijkman – “I think the statistic is 5000 with her offspring.

Garcia – “Right! Over her life span? That’s not just her specifically…?

Dijkman – “No, that’s her offspring”

Garcia – “it’s the multiplication of it.”

Dijkman – “Right! But that’s just over her lifespan. Think about it. So when you spay 1 dog that’s 5000 less dog you’re going to have out on the streets. And if you spay 10 dogs that’s 50,000 less”

Spaying or neutering is critical to dropping the pet overpopulation crisis.

Fewer animals reproducing, equals fewer kills and fewer transports.

“We could transport 5,000 dogs every month and we’re not get anywhere unless we spay and neuter and stop at the source” said Dijkman.

The impossible odds aren’t stopping transports from moving.

In fact, more rescue ride groups are popping up, taking death row dogs to greener pastures.

Dijkman and Trevino hit the road and 1,100+ miles later… the “lucky ones” meet their new family.

Across state lines – Maddox found his forever home along with Coral and her pups who are now safe from the chamber.

Meanwhile, back in the south, the bad rooms will stay full with animals waiting to die simply because they were born.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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