SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – The stray dog population in Smith County has been out of control, and it’s still growing. 

Dogs have been found running on the side of the highway, dead on the side of the road and in overcrowded shelters. 

“Last year we did 800 and something dogs,” said Amber Greene, the Supervisor of the Smith County Animal Control and Shelter. 

East Texas has had a serious stray dog problem with many being surrendered, lost and abandoned. 

“Some of the situations we’ve gone into…It’s indescribable,” said Deborah Dobbs, the Founder of SPCA of East Texas. 

And the number hasn’t been going down. 

“It’s a growing problem,” said Dr. Gary Spence of Spence and White Pet Hospital said. 

Staff with the Smith County Animal Control said they’re always busy. 

“There are some days we take in 14-15 dogs,” mentioned Greene. 

Although the Smith County Animal Control has been dedicated to adopting out all of their dogs, not all have had happy endings.

“Unfortunately, if we reach max capacity, the dogs that have been here the longest, we’ll have to euthanize.”

Amber Greene, the Supervisor Smith County Animal Control and Shelter

To avoid euthanasia and clear space, the shelter has worked with other animal advocates in the community, but even they have their limits. 

“All of us are full and bulging and overpopulated with animals,” said Dobbs.

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Pet Haven. A photo of 20 puppies that were dumped on Hwy. 155 South in Tyler back in May 2021.

In 2020, due to the pandemic, adoption rates shot up.

“Everyone was home with COVID-19, and everything was shut down so they wanted something to do at home so they came and got an animal,” Greene said.

However, after restaurants and civilization started going back to regular routines, many dogs faced the same tragic trend. 

“Once the restaurants started opening back up and the bars started opening, people found things to do again and the animals were kind of in the way,” Dr. Spence said. “So a lot of them were given up.”

While the number of dogs who need homes in Smith County is heartbreaking, what is even worse is the condition of some of the dogs who go into the shelter. Many come in holding on to life.

“Most of the strays we see are emaciated,” Dr. Spence continued, “ Some of them have been hit by cars and some of them have been attacked by other dogs.” 

Dumping dogs, a sight seen too often, has been a major contributor to the overpopulation of stray dogs. 

“Taking dogs out into rural settings and dumping them because you can’t keep them is what’s creating this problem,” Dobbs said.

Some of the dogs have been surrendered from homes that can’t care for them anymore.

“I have been amazed and appalled at what I’ve seen,” Dr. Spence mentioned.

One stray was found lying in the middle of the highway, just left to die. Dr. Spence said she had four different fractures in her pelvis. She was blessed with a second chance at life. 

“I never knew how bad the situation was until I started working with Cindy Nash and Nicholas Pet Haven,” Dr. Spence said. 

The overpopulation of stray dogs has been due to unintentional breeding. 

According to Gayle Helms, the Executive Director of the Humane Society of Pets Fur People said that one female and her offspring can produce around 42,000 puppies in 6 years. 

Smith County has been dealing with dogs who were found in horrific hoarding situations.

“We have rescued more than 70 dogs from one home,” Dobbs explained. 

This year, 60 dogs were recovered from a property in Winona with unlivable conditions. Some of the dogs who were rescued were pregnant and needed serious medical attention. 

The situation was a result of the dumping in rural areas and families who got themselves in over their heads.

“They’re domesticated animals so they really can’t take care of themselves if they’re going to be out in the wild on their own,” Helms said. 

There is only one answer to the stray situation and Helms explained that owners have to be responsible and spay and neuter the dogs and cats. reported that 96,000 animals were euthanized in Texas in the last year. Thankfully, organizations in Smith County have worked hard to make sure that no dog will face that fate. However, if the population continues to increase, there may be no other choice. 

“If we would just film for 24 hours and let people see what we see on a daily basis, they would want this problem taken care of,” Dr. Spence said. 

Greene said her goal is to not have any animals in the shelter. “But that won’t happen,” She explained.

“I’m not certain that within our lifetime, it’s ever going to be different,” Helms said.

For these East Texas animal organizations, fostering and donations can help the burden they face.

The SPCA of East Texas allows East Texans to foster dogs and cats to help get pets into a private foster home rather than housing them in a shelter. Fosters take in homeless pets on a temporary basis. All of the supplies, veterinary care and food are provided by the SPCA of East Texas.

For those who want to foster in East Texas, they must be 21 or older.

For those who have a lost or found pet, people can call their local animal control agency. Texas Law only requires animals to be held for 72 hours.

Animal control agencies to call when they see a stray cat or dog or any animal:

  • Tyler residents: City of Tyler Animal Control – (903) 535-0045
  • Smith County residents: Smith County Animal Control (903) 566-6600

To Report A Lost or Found Pet on Facebook: