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EDITORIAL — At the shelter: Forlorn, forgotten

From this side of the cage, last week’s inhabitants at the Port Arthur Animal Shelter presented a mixed bag: pit mixes, Labrador mixes and something related to Huskies. Toss in some pedigree pups, two kennels with cats and a handful of chickens that wandered the yard. They were whatever God and nature allowed or encouraged.

This much the 34 dogs shared, though, in addition to four paws: The infrequent sight of humans was a joyous occasion. Man is their natural friend, and worth the unfailing, vigorous wag of a tail. In some of the crowded 16 kennels, they climbed over one another, barking to solicit the attention of their human visitors and even passersby.

“Take me,” they might have said. Or simply, “How ‘bout a scratch?” No dog asks for too much — just a moment of your time.

All but for one, that is — a lone pup in a single cell, who would not lift his eyes to meet those of the human’s. The shelter takes in lost and abandoned pups and — this is worse, still — abused animals. The shelter is their last refuge; for these lost and dispossessed animals, it may be their last hope at a happy home.

We say “last week’s inhabitants” because the population shifts. Anthony Mitchell, who runs the shelter and made his pitch last week for new, expanded facilities, told Port Arthur City Councilmembers that the shelter is out of compliance with local and state regulations, that it was never meant to house so many forlorn residents, short term or long term. The shelter, built in 1978, needs more space and facilities commensurate with 2019 realities.

Mitchell says unclaimed animals can be euthanized within five days, although Darlene Thomas-Pierre, code compliance officer, said Mitchell does whatever he can to give the animals a shot at adoption. That means if there’s a possibility that someone might adopt a dog, Mitchells gets on the phone, calling rescue groups and anyone else who might decide they have room for an animal. Nonetheless, many animals are euthanized to allow the next ones to enter the shelter.

The pedigreed, the puppies, German Shepherds and pit bulls are preferred, Thomas-Pierre said. The rest have a longer road to travel to adoption … or a too-short stay.

In making their pitch for funding — Port Arthur’s city staff foresees a new shelter built at a city-owned site in two years — the animal shelter sought a $2.7 million facility on 19th Street, a place that could accommodate the stray or discarded animals humanely. But this was about more than money.

District 2 Councilman Cal Jones called the shelter situation “a matter of some urgency,” and no colleagues disputed that characterization. A dog’s life ought to be better than this.