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Clear the Shelters: Day of 2nd chances

Some days, Anthony Mitchell gets to work to find a box full of puppies at his doorstep. Beat that for fun.

For Mitchell, though, there’s a bundle of work connected to that sort of found treasure.

The director of the City of Port Arthur Animal Shelter generally has oversight of some 30 animals — dogs and cats — on any given day, and his job involves life-and-death decisions about the animals. He doesn’t take those lightly.

A “Clear the Shelters” event Saturday helped stem and reverse an overload of animals at the shelter — for now. Mitchell said there were more than 50 pets living at the shelter at 201 E. Fourth St on Saturday, and 33 pets were adopted. That represented an increase of 14 pets adopted at this year’s over last year’s event.

Clear the Shelters, a national movement whose event is hosted by NBC and Telemundo, says some 88,000 pets were adopted from 1,200 participating shelters and rescue organizations during the 2018 pet adoption effort. In all, some 240,000 pets have been rescued since year No. 1 in 2015. That’s a lot of happy homes and pets.

But Mitchell says the fortunes of his shelter ride on a population rollercoaster. That box load of puppies he might find on his shelter’s doorstep can send the shelter on an uphill ride or a downhill plunge.

The city says stray animals can be destroyed after five days; Mitchell says he uses whatever means possible — oftentimes, he works with animal rescue groups — to prevent euthanizing helpless, unwanted and otherwise adoptable animals. Sometimes, people will “foster” adoptable animals to give them extra time and opportunities for adoption. Still, tough decisions must be made. He’s had to make a lot of them since taking the shelter job in 2000.

“We do euthanize,” he said. “Our shelter is only so big. We separate by temperament, gender and size.”

Sometimes, those animals make their way not only into the shelter, but into shelter employees’ hearts, as well.

For example, he said the shelter recently picked up a cur mix, a puppy of some 2-3 pounds, who was being fed by customers near a grocery store in West Port Arthur. Mitchell says the cur may be the most adoptable dog in the shelter.

He said employees typically give the animals temporary names, based on where they were found: “Market Basket” or “MB” or WPA.

“If we go to Sabine Pass, we might call the animal ‘Sabine Pass’ or ‘SP’, “ he said.

The cur, he says, is “real pretty.” And on a short clock.

Someone could give that cur puppy a lease on life for 10 bucks, which is the license fee. “MB” is an OK name, but you could give him a better one.