New Blog Miniseries: APA! On the Ground in Palm Valley

by Lindsey Picard • Posted in: General


Welcome to our new mini blog post series on our work with (and the progress of) Palm Valley Animal Center (PVAC) in Edinburg, far south Texas. As many of you are likely already aware, we’ve been involved in helping PVAC transform their systems and implement No Kill programming since the beginning of this year. Our programmatic leaders have visited their shelter, working tirelessly with the PVAC team to institute fast yet sustainable change to save lives immediately – and to lay the groundwork for the lives that are harder to save so that they, too, can realize live outcomes in south Texas. PVAC staff attended our American Pets Alive! Conference in February of this year, where they were able to walk away with clear action items and a sense of the possibilities for their shelter, despite seemingly crippling intake numbers and budget size.

And now, thanks to a grant from Best Friends Animal Society, a seasoned APA! staff member has been embedded with the PVAC staff to provide the ongoing support they need and deserve, specifically focusing on lifesaving, increasing their save rate, and continuing the initial progress made with building the shelter flow and programs they need from scratch.

This blog miniseries will provide notes from the field. We’ll document the progress being made for the two months that our staffer will be on the ground to show the world that the PVAC staff is dedicated to change – that killing truly is not the goal, and that this incredible transformation is possible. If this shelter in south Texas, starting from one of the most disadvantaged places we’ve seen, can make this change on behalf of the pets who so desperately need it, we strongly believe anywhere in the country can follow suit. And for the record, we are confident that PVAC, through their own determination coupled with the help of various organizations and individuals, can make this happen.

Here are some hard facts to kick us off:

  • PVAC’s annual intake is around 32,000 annually. That is equivalent to Dallas, but with a sliver of the budget to operate.
  • When APA! first started working with PVAC, their live release rate – meaning the percentage of animals that come into their shelter and leave with a live outcome in an adoptive home, for example – was 30% overall. For cats, it was just 10%. In the short amount of time that we’ve been working together, this number has climbed to 71% for the month of March. The overall live release rate for 2018 is standing at 51% now.
  • On the surface, that change may not seem like much. But its percentage point represents a hard fight to find ways to save the huge number of animals that PVAC receives each week. And these first jumps in save rates are often the hardest.

Some of the fast changes that have gone into effect include:

  • Pulling animals and arranging transports to No Kill shelters across Texas. Since our very first visit to PVAC right before the AmPA! Conference, APA! has pulled 607 animals into our care. Shelters from states as far away as California and Nebraska have now expressed interest in helping the cause by accepting transports. Rescue Dogs Rock out of New York and Desidaerart Cat Rescue, out of Washington, have pulled many medical cases and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has even transported nearly 200 animals last week to their shelter in Tulsa, Oklahoma in a partnership with Tulsa Humane Society. They’re currently coming monthly to pull pets, which will soon turn to weekly!
  • Our staff member currently stationed at PVAC is participating in meetings ranging from the tactical and programmatic with staff all the way up to the Board meetings to provide support as these transitions happen.
  • An urgent pet page has gone up to help transparently plea for pets. PVAC started with only a small portion of pets posted online due to the lack of staffing. It took a lot of logistical reorganization to get more hands-on data entry and online posting. This may sound small but is a surprisingly heavy lift for shelters not accustomed to this practice and we’re thrilled to see this progress!
  • Every single pet that comes to PVAC is now listed or considered available for rescue, adoption, foster or transport.
  • Both a nursery for cat mamas and babies as well as a barn cat program have been established. PVAC celebrated their first barn cat adoption this month.
  • Every adoptable animal is now publicly displayed on the website and every animal available for rescue or foster is shown on the urgent pets page.

Another important note: this work takes a village. APA! hasn’t been alone in this fight, as PVAC staff members, volunteers and fosters around Edinburg are stepping up to institute change. The PVAC Director, Board of Directors and staff have jumped into the work that these changes require and are making significant improvements at their shelter to focus on lifesaving. Best Friends Animal Society has also stepped up in a big way. They sent a couple of their staff members down to initially help mentor through communications strategies and streamlining adoption processes; they are working collaboratively with APA! and have graciously given APA! a grant to allow our own Faith Wright to do the on-the-ground, in-the-weeds work with PVAC until the end of May. We know that more help is on the way, too.

We look forward to sharing more news from this significant collaboration with PVAC and the folks in Edinburg and hope you’ll stay tuned!

If you’re in the Rio Grande Valley area and would like to get involved, here are some ways PVAC could use your help: