The building that houses the Commerce Animal Shelter is more than fifteen years old, but appears much older due to the sort of use that it has seen. In particular, the large, heavy metal doors on the indoor kennels have suffered the most, due to a design flaw which requires animals inside to jump up on the doors in order to see out.
Between the kennel door situation and keeping up with the painting and the floors, Animal Control Officer Samantha Manrique fears that the environment may also negatively affect the already fragile mental health of the animals that the shelter sees, many of whom arrive malnourished, lost, unfamiliar with human interaction, or in some cases, abused.
"Many people like to think of it as a doggy jail, but we're an orphanage," said Manrique, as she lead me through the back of the establishment. "Our goal is to adopt out all of these animals quickly, but we want them to feel safe and cared-for while they're here."
Manrique says that the longest an animal generally stays at the shelter is between 12 and 16 weeks. "Our primary goal is to get these dogs and cats rehabilitated and ready to move into their forever home as efficiently as possible," she said. Further, she shared that she's partnered directly with the SPCA in order to take advantage of a broader advertising network. That can increase the rate of adoptions at the Commerce shelter, which Manrique said has paid off.
One program that helps with cat adoptions, according to Manrique, is a current promotion whereby people aged 55 and older may adopt a cat at no charge. In addition to necessary shots and paperwork, she says, these new pet parents would also get a bag of food, a litter box, and a bag of litter for free.
Right now, Manrique is leading an effort to address safety and aesthetic issues on 31 kennel doors inside the shelter. She's working with Texas Made Fences to replace or repair as many as possible, at costs that range from $55 to $125 per door, depending on the current state of the doors. A fundraising campaign is underway.
Local businessman Russell Armstrong with AIS Financial in Commerce has offered to match any gifts to the Commerce Animal Shelter on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to $2,000 in total. "I watched [Manrique's] presentation at Rotary the other day and it really spoke to me. I like what she and her crew are doing out at the shelter, and it's time to step up and help them get what they need," says Armstrong.
Manrique says that the shelter can accept donations over the phone at 903-886-1160, or in person at the shelter, located at 1203 O'Neal Street in Commerce. She can accept cash, check, or credit card.