KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
January 17, 2024
By Natalie Cook Clark
As Katy continues to grow, local pets continue to suffer through being lost and abandoned. Twelve years ago, some Katy moms took their passion for animals and turned it into action. Their social media network continues to help Katy area pets today.
Many success stories are because of Katy area social media groups. Leo's family was happy to get him back! Photo by Cynthia Bennett from the Cinco Ranch Area Lost & Found Pet Network page.
Katy is rapidly growing. We see it in the addition of new schools, new master-planned communities, and businesses. While this growth is wonderful in many ways for our community, it’s not good when it comes to local pets.
Social Media Helps to Reunite and Educate Pet Families
Many Katy neighborhoods have turned to social media to work together to protect pets. One of the largest local lost and found groups continues to help families reunite but to also educate families on loss prevention. Cinco Ranch Area Lost & Found Pet Network has been helping local dogs, cats and other animals for over a decade. Recently they have promoted posts of missing birds and a found donkey.
In 2012 Paige Holsapple started working with Houston area rescue centers and wanted to find a way to help Katy area pets. Her passion for helping animals led her to meet Donna Hutchins and the two of them started Cinco Ranch Area Lost & Found Pet Network.
“I saw that I could to start helping reunite pets in the FB County shelter system and the Harris County shelter system,” says Holsapple. “Those pets that were picked up from the Katy area, could be saved if someone helped their families find them—and social media was the most expedient answer—if we had a dedicated Facebook page.”
Pets Don't Recognize County or Neighborhood Lines
Cinco Ranch Area Lost & Found Pet Network is the largest Katy neighborhood pet pages and is for more than just families that live the Cinco Ranch subdivisions. “We always say that pets don't recognize neighborhood signs, so any Katy area residents are welcome to join and volunteer,” says Donna Hutchins.
“Over the years, we got to know the other lost and found groups in the area, and all of us worked together to network pets and even put boots on the ground to actually go out and try to catch pets before they could get hurt or picked by animal control,” continues Hutchins.
Katy’s size and structure makes losing a pet even more tragic. Without such a network, lost pets would be sent to county shelters and with Katy being a tri-county shelter this further complicates matters.
“And the animals have no way of knowing what county they wander into… so a Fort Bend pet could end up in Harris County off of I-45 and Canino,” explains Holsapple.
Depending on where a pet is picked up they could be up to 40 miles away from their home.
Holsapple says that this presented a logistical nightmare for anyone trying to locate a lost pet within a 72-hour window, which is the window when some pets could be euthanized at a kill shelter or being adopted out to another family.
“It completely moved me around this time to see a family lose their two elderly Labradors who had just moved to Texas from Oklahoma for his job… the kids and wife were in tears and the husband contacted me by word of mouth… 4 days after they disappeared,” says Holsapple. “They had no idea what the mandate was or how the rules worked. It devastated me for their family and their sweet dogs who were likely euthanized.”
The Katy Pet Safe Guide
Holsapple and Hutchins wanted to stay ahead of the growth and share what they have learned as a way to help people, especially newcomers. They created a pet safe guide (look at the files section on the Facebook page) to help educate the families moving to the greater Katy area.
“By doing this, we had hope that we could prevent a lot of unnecessary loss and broken hearts,” says Holsapple. “And we had seen a lot of unnecessary heartbreaks over the past decade, but we have made a difference in the prevention of what we hope would many, many more, too. “
They worked with organizations like the Katy Community Chip Clinic to help make microchipping more accessible to all and we updated the Safe Pet Guide to be printed and distributed at our mobile clinic events.
They started to run chipping clinics and work with volunteers to help locate Katy pets.
“Once we were rolling and found our non-profit sponsor, FoundAnimals.org, I began by doing the chipping before we started contracting vet techs, and our associate Pam Stanton joined up to help with the registration training for our volunteers, insurance, and processing, I was doing the promotional ads, POS, and the actual chipping, while Donna did admin work and more training, etc,” explains Holsapple.
Throughout the years, Cinco Ranch Area Lost & Found Pet Network has gained dedicated volunteers. Some have been with the group from the beginning and help in many ways from online, and in person at our events, or in the field with boots on the ground trapping, rescuing and saving through fostering.
Fostering continues to be the biggest need to help Katy area animals. It’s easy to find ways to help local area shelters. If families are not able to foster, there are other ways to help local shelters.
Other Donations Items Local Shelters Need:
Blankets and Towels
Pet food, especially canned kitten and dog food
Both Holsapple and Hutchins says that 2020 saw an increase in everything going wrong with area pets and communicating. At this time setting up mobile clinics became even more difficult.
Loss Prevention Education is Key
There are things that people can do to help protect their pets.
Microchip and register
Collar and ID (Owner’s name, address, two phone numbers, pets name.)
Restrict access to backyard with padlocks
Walk fence regularly
“Economic times create hardships but there’s no excuse for abandonment,” says Holsapple. “Pets are family and with so many kind and caring people in the rescue community, if someone needs assistance, there are people who will help when they can if they’re asked.”
Apollo was reunited with his family due to the help from the Cinco Ranch Area Lost & Found Pet Network page. Photo by Heather Sanderson
Local Agencies Offer Food for Those in Need
This weekend, January 20, 2024, the Houston Humane Society is partnering with Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office to give out pet food to those who need help. The event is in Richmond at 1521 Eugene Heimann Circle starting at 9:00 a.m.
Pet abandonment now carries a large fine or up to a year in jail, but people are still doing it.
“Sadly, those pets abandoned or dumped are often killed by predators or in traffic. People need to know their pets are prey and it’s truly tragic and cruel to put one’s pet through such a horror,” says Hosapple.
Katy continues to grow and along with it the ongoing pet problem.
“Overwhelming the county shelters results in more euthanasia of healthy placeable pets, explains Holsapple. “The best way to protect one’s pet is through the prevention of loss. So, after never leaving them alone outside unattended and off-leash, the most effective way to give them a voice to help them get home again in through a microchip that is registered and up to date.”
Katy area families can help local pets by volunteering to help foster and be willing to help network and support groups like Cinco Ranch Area Lost & Found Pet Network and other groups like them.
“All of us worked together to network pets and even put boots on the ground to actually go out and try to catch pets before they could get hurt or picked by animal control,” says Hutchins. “Once animal control is involved, most Katy pets are re-located MANY miles from home and it really threatens their chances of returning home, especially if they aren't microchipped.”
Many Katy neighbors have their own lost and found pet pages. It’s important to know the networks in your area.