There is a small group of dog rescuers who know where San Antonio Animal Care Services (ACS) overflow facility is on Brooks City Base. It is a set of kennels that is supposed to be for saving dogs when all the kennels are filled at the main facility; but the rescuers say it is a place that condemns dogs. Tonight, August 22, animal rescuers attended a meeting of the ACS Advisory Council to ask why more people do not know about Brooks. NEWS4 and KSAT sent television crews to cover the meeting. There have been stories in the media recently about rescuers' concerns that Brooks dogs are special. Special in that they are in a facility where the public is not allowed. A facility on the aptly named "Stealth Road." There are no directions, no address or even a mention of Brooks on the city website.
Brooks overflow facility is so secret that Animal Care Services cannot even decide if it is open to the public. This writer has heard variously that the facility is closed to the public, open to the public, and open to the public if you go to the main facility to get a pass which will allow you to see only one dog. Here are ACS instructions from November, 2011 on how to handle visitors to Brooks: "Citizen at shelter: Allow citizen on property. Animal Care Services Employee is to advise ACS 151 management of unannounced visit. " The Director of Animal Care Services, Kathy Davis, advised in an e-mail this month, "We are closed to the public by our lease agreement . . . We cannot advertise the Brooks facility as open to the public. It is not."
Even the lease agreement is shrouded in mystery. In 2010 (this controversy is not new), the Brooks Development Authority released a statement which appears to contradict Davis on the lease: "Our campus is accessible to anyone showing proper ID, but if the destination is to the ACS shelter, then they must have the approval of ACS... We treat every tenant inside our security gates as per their wishes. Some tenants have strict security requirements and others do not." This writer would advise you to venture there at your own risk. Here are directions.
Certainly the dogs who go to Brooks are taking a risk. Perhaps a third of all ACS dogs, usually big dogs, travel from the ACS 151 facility to Brooks. No adoptions are done at Brooks and no medical procedures. During their stay, they have few visitors, just dedicated rescuers with approval to be admitted, who take the dogs' photos and send out frantic messages through the social media pleading for adoption or rescue. The dogs have 72 hours before they are taken back to the main ACS facility. A few ride in so-called "golden crates." Those lucky few go to rescue or to be adopted. The majority are taken to be killed. They are not displayed to the public at any time. Brooks is called an overflow facility, but rescuers charged this week that 50 kennels were empty at the main facility and dogs were still taken to Brooks.
Because the rescuers take photos of the dogs and spend time looking at photos ACS has taken of the same dogs, they notice some dogs are left off the ACS website. If you lose your dog and your dog is unlucky enough not to be photographed, and that seems to happen each week, your dog will likely be killed and you could not have known at any time that ACS had your big goofy Lab. At a time when ACS claims be working hard toward No Kill, this secrecy goes against the No Kill equation. People who have lost dogs are cautioned by experts not to rely on photographs, but to make that shelter trip and look at the dogs. The lively dog that bolted through your gate heading for adventure may not resemble the depressed dog in the dark corner of a kennel with her regretful head hung low.
Indeed it is so hard to keep track of the dogs hidden away at Brooks, that ACS even loses their own special dogs there. Lost Dogs of Texas (LDOT), a social media effort on FaceBook to reunite lost dogs with their families, recently received information about a lost ACS foster dog. (Disclosure, this writer is the director of LDOT.) It is not that uncommon for a foster or newly rescued or adopted dog to get loose. In this case, the dog, Lauren (A265206), had had special treatment and was featured for adoption on the ACS FaceBook page with a rare glam shot. She was chipped, vetted, fostered and considered a stellar candidate for adoption! Lauren was not Brooks material at all. Or was she? Despite her microchip, and her youth and her good looks, Lauren was put on the bus to Brooks where fortunately she was photographed. Oddly enough, ACS recognized the dog had previously been in their system and she was given her previous ID number and her old name, "Groceries." But ACS staff did not notice that she had been vetted by ACS, chipped by ACS and fostered by ACS. Miraculously an eagle-eyed LDOT volunteer spotted the Black Mouth Cur's distinctive dimple between her eyes and made a match with the lost dog flyer. So Groceries got in a golden crate, chewed on a Cinderella slipper and returned to foster life as Lauren, a highly adoptable puppy. Lauren is one of the few, the lucky few to have seen Brooks and survived.
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