Animal control officer Bob Matthews never envisioned picking up the carcass of a mythological creature. A “chupacabra” was what a Denton 911 dispatcher called it, but it couldn’t be one of those, he figured.
Built like a coyote, with long bat wings protruding between its shoulders and fangs the length of daggers, the chupacabra is a monster from an old Mexican legend. “The chupacabra is going to get you,” parents warned unruly children. To think one had been found between Aubrey and Pilot Point was ludicrous.
Matthews and his company, All American Dogs, have assumed animal control responsibilities for six small towns in northern Denton County since 2009. They’ve trapped and rescued stray dogs or feral cats in Krum, Pilot Point, Aubrey, Sanger, Krugerville and Cross Roads. All American Dogs also works in Grayson, Cooke and Hunt counties.
For seven years, Matthews and his partner Steve Bigelow, an old college friend, have been picking up stray animals in Denton County. Over the years, he’d seen his share of exotic animals in rural areas: a flock of miniature goats, a salamander and now a chupacabra.
The purported chupacabra looked partially cooked after lying all morning on the asphalt. “I’m not sure what that is,” he told the onlookers as he approached its carcass. It looked like a coyote, but he later found out it was a hairless albino coyote — a rare specimen indeed.
All American Dogs’ three animal control officers employ nonlethal means to capture animals, including catch poles and sedation rifles. Once they pick up an animal, they’ll hold it for a minimum of five days at their shelter before they put it up for adoption. If animals are “edgy,” they’ll be evaluated more carefully before being put up for adoption.
“I wish I could say that we could save them all,” Matthews said. “To be honest, most of the ones we put down are if they’re aggressive or if we can’t find people to take them.”
All American Dogs advertises a 92 percent adoption rate, but this number also includes the animals they return to owners. They use Petco, social networking sites like Facebook and online adoption centers to help keep their “live release rate” exceptionally high for a kill shelter.
“They’re a wonderful organization,” said Diana Lobb, the companion-animal manager at Petco. “We’ve seen an increase of people adopting animals since we’ve been working with them.”
Bob Matthews and his wife, Meredith, have been helping animals for as long as they can remember. They both share a love of animals. They have five dogs, six cats, a couple of donkeys and horses and a pony. He’d shown German shepherds in dog shows and enjoyed it, so he opened a boarding and training facility to continue his passion.
“You have to start with a love of animals,” Bob Matthews said.
For 18 months they boarded and trained all types of dogs. Then a local police chief called, asking if they offered animal control services.
Matthews built six runs, thinking it would be a “perfect animal control building.”
“We thought we’d just pick up people’s escaped dogs,” he explained, “and they’d be here a day or two later and take them home. We were naive.”
With some animals, days turned into weeks. He began contacting rescue organizations to help find them homes. After several months, six more cities had signed up for his services, and then more soon followed.
Matthews operates from a headquarters near Pilot Point. The operation consists of animal control officers, patrol trucks, kennel technicians, veterinarian services and shelters.
Larger cities such as Denton and Lewisville operate their own animal control services. But Ron Whitehead, Aubrey’s city administrator, said that is too expensive for small towns, especially when private contractors such as All American Dogs offer similar services at a fraction of the cost.
Aubrey’s annual fee is $14,600, while Krum’s is $47,000 for 24 months of service. Sanger pays $163,000 for 48 months of service, plus an additional $160 per animal after reaching the 260 animal limit per contract year. Sanger also paid an upfront fee of $21,500 for an expansion of All American Dogs’ existing kennels. These prices are based on the city’s size and number of animals the company picks up each year.
All American Dogs plans to add an additional truck, a new adoption center and 36 more kennels. It currently has 32 kennels holding 54 dogs and a dozen cages holding 18 cats. Since January, employees have picked up 422 dogs and cats in Sanger. Seventy-three were adopted, 105 were returned to owners, 37 released to ranches across the county and 59 either died or were euthanized.
The company is also adding more cages to handle feral cats. Right now they’re being kept in a space that looks like a broom closet. “We try to adopt them as fast as we can,” Matthews said.
Matthews said his staff of seven people is able to keep up with the animal control demands of 16 cities as well as provide code enforcement for places such as Krum.
“I’m only going to grow if I can keep my euthanize rate low,” he said.
CHRISTIAN McPHATE can be reached at 940-566-6878.
All American Dogs serves these Denton County cities: