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Mission to become no-kill city for pets

This article originally ran in the Jan. 27 issue of the Progress Times. 

In about 90 days, Mission will be a safer place for sheltered animals. The city joined the no-kill movement Monday night when the mayor and council approved a contract with the Rio Grande Valley Humane Society. 

With the contract, Mission retains ownership of the Mission Animal Shelter, but the RGV Humane Society operates it under the supervision of the city health department. 

Formerly known as the Harlingen Humane Society, the RGV Humane Society is in pursuit of making the entire region no-kill. By partnering with cities across the Valley, the nonprofit helps ensure no facility euthanizes animals to make room for more. Mission is the second city in the Valley to align itself with the organization. But the Humane Society’s history with the City of Harlingen shows they’re on track to meet their goal. 

“I’ve been [in Harlingen] since 2020 and we’ve been no-kill since 2020,” RGV Humane Society Executive Director Luis Quintanilla said. “Throughout COVID, throughout all the different uncertainties that have happened over the last few years, we’ve managed to stay a no-kill shelter. And now we’re offering community resources to our fellow Valley residents that were never offered before, including our monthly vaccination clinics and our weekly spay and neuter.” 

Quintanilla said the org saves more than 90% of all the animals that come into the facility. And in 2022, they posted their highest ever save rate of 94% of the 4,000 animals from the year. 

“Our goal is to address this regional issue of stray overpopulation and lack of access to care as a region,” the executive director said. “This is the first step in bringing the Valley that much closer together, and we’re excited that Mission is taking the first step.” 

In addition to spay and neuter services, the agreement allows for adoption clinics, rescues and a designated veterinarian in the city to care for and perform surgeries at a discounted rate to Mission citizens. 

The contract is for three years with the option to extend. The city agreed to pay $400,000 yearly, broken into 12-month installments. The RGV Humane Society must operate the shelter a minimum of eight hours per day, seven days a week, and the org manages the volunteers. 

City Manager Randy Perez said if all goes smoothly, the new operations will commence Feb. 1. According to Quintanilla, the target date for achieving no-kill status is within the first 90 days. But he is confident the Humane Society team “will shorten that window substantially.” 

When Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza announced approval for the contract, city hall erupted in cheers from attending community members supporting the initiative. Quintanilla expressed his appreciation for Missionites helping the cause. 

“We by no means hold ourselves out to be the experts. Obviously we do have a lot of experience running shelters,” he said. “But when it comes to our mission, it is serving the community and it is only with the community’s buy-in that we can accomplish this. So we’re absolutely excited to start this journey together.”

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