A family from Corpus Christi, Texas contacted Watchdog Mary, upset the city’s Animal Care Services department demanded they pay $100 to reclaim their dogs after Hurricane Harvey hit the area.
Carolyn Buschow said her 86 year-old grandmother, Carolina Campos’ roof was damaged by the storm and she had no electricity. So Campos went to her daughter’s home overnight. Campos left her dogs at the house, which the family said was secure. The dogs had food and water. When Campos came back the next day, her two dogs, Buddy and Hope were gone.
Campos then received a call from Corpus Christi Animal Care Services, (CCACS), notifying her Buddy and Hope were at the shelter. The agency tracked her down by tracing one of the dog’s microchips. “We raced down to get the dogs, we think they had been at animal control for about 24 hours,” said Buschow.
When Buschow and her family arrived at CCACS , she said workers told them there was a $100 fee to reclaim the dogs. Most government run shelters charge owners impound fees if their dogs are picked up by animal control. The fees are standard, and help pay back communities for housing the animals, and giving them food and care. And after the hurricane many shelters are waiving these fees.
Problem was, Campos could not afford the fees, and the family begged for a break on the price due to the hurricane. Buschow said workers told her, “Either pay the fee or Campos would be cited for abandonment.”
Bushow was distraught. “I was pretty upset. We were really trying to get the dogs back. I feel like it’s wrong what they did. People are trying to get back to normal, half the city didn’t have electricity, and they were more interested in getting money or citing an 86 year woman.”
At that point Buschow said her mother paid the fine to get the dogs back. The family is puzzled how they got out and were considered strays. Campos left the dogs secured and she also has a fence in the front and back of her home.
After the family contacted Watchdog Mary, she contacted CCACS. A spokesperson for Captain William Broyles, who runs the facility, said it was a misunderstanding. Animal control officers have been working around the clock, some employees are even sleeping at the shelter to help, and everyone is exhausted. His spokesperson issued this statement:
Captain Broyles personally apologized for a misinterpretation of his directives by his staff.
In an effort to transition, Captain Broyles issued a "10 day stray hold" on impounded animals entering CCACS 8/26-8/29 -- the "hurricane period", with a return to the "normal" 3-5 day stray hold period to resume afterward. However, the issue of not charging people coming to reclaim their pets was not made abundantly clear.
"I did not authorize CCACS staff to charge people to reclaim, nor was the decision to do so run by management," said Broyles. "It was an internal mis-understanding/mis-communication issue on the part of my staff which I accept responsibility and apologize for. We have corrected this error. And I’ve instructed my staff to issue refunds to the small number of people that were affected" said Broyles.
CCACS will resume its regular procedures for stray holds & fee assessments as of next week Saturday, explained Capt. Broyles. Meanwhile, CCACS staff has slept on cots, with some employees unable to return to their own homes, as they manned the facility to care for the influx of strays and abandoned animals.
"For now, the matter has been resolved, and I’m sorry for the inconvenience", added Broyles.
Broyles said the shelter does need supplies to help care for the dogs they have taken in after the hurricane. To volunteer or donate food or supplies for the staff, or for the animals, please contact the shelter at: (361) 826-4630.
Campos and her family are thrilled to be reunited with their dogs. And Watchdog Mary is told they will be getting a refund. If anyone else was charged for picking up their pet after the hurricane, the city will refund them as well. If anyone has an problem getting a refund please email Watchdog Mary.