Michael and Chance in their matching rides, Photo courtesy of SAPA!
Michael Williams and Chance in their matching rides, Photo courtesy of SAPA!

Chance is a Chihuahua blend whose heartwarming story began as a heartbreaking one. Back in 2013, Chance was taken to a city shelter after being hit by a car and left for dead. He had sustained severe spinal injuries that left him paralyzed, and his condition made him a prime candidate for the euthanasia list.

San Antonio Pets Alive! (SAPA!) nursed him back to health. A perfect, Chihuahua-sized wheelchair was donated and Chance’s health and mobility were quickly regained. That’s the difference between a dog put down and a dog given life anew.

Casually surfing the Internet one day, Stacey Williams let curiosity get the best of her. She came across Chance’s bio and made a remarkable connection. Stacey’s husband, Michael, also had been hit by a car. Like Chance, he was adjusting to life in a wheelchair. She showed the picture to Michael, and the decision was immediately clear. They made the drive the following weekend, met Chance, and the dog became a member of their family.

“He’s what our family needed,” said Michael, shortly after Chance’s adoption was finalized. “We can’t imagine life without him.”

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Chance’s story would be considered fiction/fantasy in 2011. Before SAPA! opened its doors in 2012, an average of 30% of the animals brought to San Antonio’s city shelter were live-released – meaning they were either reclaimed by their owners, taken in by a rescue group, or adopted by a new family. The other 70% were euthanized.

During 2014, the City of San Antonio Animal Care Services (ACS) broke a new city record, achieving an 86% live release rate. More dogs and cats were given a second chance than ever, a number that is only growing thanks to partnerships with rescue organizations like SAPA!

SAPA!’s impact on the No Kill initiative in San Antonio since it’s inception in 2012.
SAPA!’s impact on the No Kill initiative in San Antonio since it’s inception in 2012.

SAPA! was created specifically to raise the live release rate in San Antonio – to partner with ACS as a safety net program, to save as many four-legged lives as possible.

With dedicated volunteers, sponsors, foster families, and a city that is quickly adjusting to an “adopt, don’t shop” mentality, SAPA! and many other local rescue groups have nearly tripled the number of pets that have survived a trip to the shelter. In the three years since the organization was founded, SAPA! has saved more than 20,000 dogs and cats from euthanasia, with more being added to that list every day.

San Antonio strived to become a No Kill City for cats in 2014. This was made possible in large part by the innovative neonatal kitten nursery and ringworm wards at SAPA!

Kittens nursed back to health by SAPA!. Courtesy photo.
Kittens nursed back to health by SAPA!. Courtesy photo.

Innovative programs have been started for dogs, too,  making San Antonio a No Kill City for small breed dogs and puppies. The Parvo Puppy Ward is dedicated to curing puppies infected with parvovirus, a highly contagious viral disease, and is one of only two wards in Texas created to mitigate the virus. In two years, the ward has treated more than 800 puppies with an 80-85% survival rate.

SAPA also treats the majority of dogs and cats suffering from mange and dermatophytosis so they can be adopted. With the large street population of dogs and cats, contagious skin diseases are very common; until SAPA! was created, there was literally no outlet for live release.  

A puppy finds his forever home at SAPA! Courtesy photo.
A puppy finds his forever home at SAPA! Courtesy photo.

For large adult dogs less likely to be adopted, SAPA! has put in place several behavioral programs to help them find new homes. This is the last group of animals that need serious programmatic help the city achieve  No Kill status, which is a 90% or greater live release rate.

It’s a historic time for animals throughout the city of San Antonio. With the help of caring citizens, volunteers, fosters, adopters, and rescue organizations like San Antonio Pets Alive!, San Antonio is well on its way to becoming the largest No Kill city in the country.

There are plenty of options available to all citizens of San Antonio who want to get involved. To learn more about donating, volunteering, or opening your home to foster car for an animal in need, visit the SAPA! website. You also can browse SAPA!s up-to-date list of adoptable pets to see if the newest four-legged addition to your family has arrived and is patiently waiting for you.

*Featured/top image: Michael Williams and Chance in their matching rides. Courtesy photo.

Related Stories:

Rescue Pups Pay a Visit to City Hall

Animal Care Services Report Record No-Kill Numbers

Key to a No-Kill San Antonio: Affordable, Accessible Clinics

Stray Dogs & Cats: Why No-Kill is the Path Forward

San Antonio Pets Alive! is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to stopping the killing of San Antonio's adoptable dogs and cats.