Community helps restore lost animals to owners through PASS program

By Paula Rivadeneira

Since May 2020, every healthy or treatable animal that left Waco Animal Shelter is living their best life in a forever home, with their original owner or with a trusted nonprofit rescue partner. The Humane Society of Central Texas can offer these positive outcomes because of a program that aims to keep healthy stray animals out of the shelter so staff can focus their efforts on the animals who need the most help.

Through the Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender (PASS) program, Good Samaritans who find stray animals are discouraged from bringing the animals to the shelter, but instead are provided with resources and a series of steps to try to get that animal safely back home. By following the steps, the animal never enters the shelter, which means the finder does not pay a surrender fee, the owner does not pay a reclaim fee, and the animal is not subjected to shelter life, which can cause fear, anxiety, stress, and frustration, often having lasting effects. 

Plus, if the shelter is full and more stray animals are coming in, the shelter may have to euthanize animals to make space. They have not done this in well over a year, and they have no plans on ever having to do that again, as long as the community embraces PASS and is willing to play their part and hold onto healthy stray animals until the owner is found.

The steps to locating an owner are easy:

  • Snap a photo of the animal, note the nearest cross streets, and post it on the “Central Texas Lost and Found Pets” Facebook page where over 53,000 people will help you locate the owners. 
  • Knock on doors in the neighborhood and ask delivery drivers if they recognize the animal. 
  • If you can’t find the owner in the neighborhood, bring the animal to a veterinarian’s office, animal shelter, animal rescue, or Waco fire house where they can scan for a microchip. 
  • If there is a microchip, look it up on and contact the owner. If there is no microchip or the owner cannot be located, file a Found Pet Report by calling the Humane Society at 254-754-145.4 (the report will soon be available online, too.) 
  • Finally, call Waco Animal Shelter’s Intake Department at 254-750-7090 and tell them you found a pet and you would like to surrender it if you cannot locate the owner. They will give you an appointment in three business days to surrender the animal to the shelter. The Humane Society can provide you with food, bed, blankets, and other supplies to help you hold onto the animal for those three days. If there’s absolutely no way for you or someone you know to hold onto the animal, the shelter will take in the animal for a $50 surrender fee. But, if you can hold the animal for at least three days and you can show that you followed all the steps to find the owner, the surrender fee will be waived. 

In bigger cities, like El Paso, this program has resulted in over 30% of stray animals going home in less than 48 hours. Here in Waco, our return-to-home rate should be even higher.

We have all spent our lives thinking that the best thing to do when you find a stray animal is to bring it to the animal shelter, but that was when animals were euthanized every day for space, including here in Waco. 

Do the math: The shelter can hold 115 medium and large dogs, and they intake 5-25 new dogs every day. That means that even if the shelter were empty right now, it could fill up in one week. 

The answer to shelter crowding should not be euthanizing animals. The answer is decreasing intake numbers by engaging the community to help stray animals get home and avoid the shelter altogether.

Waco loves animals, so the Humane Society is confident the community will support it in making the PASS program a success. The shelter is not a catch-all for stray and unwanted animals; it is a last resort for animals that need to be there. Healthy stray animals need to stay in the community where their owners are more likely to find them, finders and owners can avoid shelter fees, and the animals will be returned home quicker than if they went to the shelter.

If you would like to help with the PASS program by doing community outreach, securing fosters; being a foster to help with stray animals; assisting with microchipping clinics; or developing marketing materials, the Humane Society would love your help, so please contact them at 254-754-1454.

The Humane Society is at 2032 Circle Road and is open Mon 1-6pm, Tues-Fri 11am-6pm, and Sat 10am-5pm. The last meet and greet is 45 minutes before closing. Staff must accompany guests through the kennels, and COVID precautions are observed. Bring your own dogs and everyone who lives in your household to the meet and greet so your family can be matched with the perfect pet!

The Humane Society of Central Texas is an advocate for the animals at the City of Waco Animal Shelter. The Humane Society provides adoption, rescue, and foster opportunities, as well as community education regarding responsible pet ownership. The partnership between HSCTX and the City of Waco Animal Services, along with the support of the community, has resulted in a current average live-exit rate above 90%, giving the Waco Animal Shelter No-Kill status! Our goal is to save each and every healthy and treatable animal that comes into the shelter because we believe Every Waco Animal Deserves A Chance!

By Paula Rivadeneira is executive director of the Humane Society of Central Texas. She may be reached at 254-754-1454 or [email protected].

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

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