Taft, Texas is a classic small town. With a population of nearly 4,000, it only took one of San Patricio County’s community members to make an impact. Hometown hero turned award-winning animal advocate Kayla Denney did just that.
Denney saves lives. In 2018, chief of police John Cornish appointed Denney as the lead animal control officer for the City of Taft Animal Control Department. The underfunded animal shelter was in dire need of tender loving care. At the time, the shelter’s kill rate was almost 100 percent, and rescued animals spent their last days in the shelter with no electricity.
The lead animal control officer took to social media to spread awareness. On her personal Facebook page, Denney shared the adverse conditions of the shelter, asking friends, family, and anyone scrolling for donations. The outpour of support came in tenfold, with over 800 boxes delivered to the shelter. So much support, boxes needed to be relocated so personnel could navigate their way through the shelter.
This support helped the Taft resident help so many other animals. “As of November 1, we have saved 565 dogs and cats out of Taft,” Denney said in an interview with KZTV Corpus Christi in November 2019.
Denney brought the kill rate down to zero in a matter of five months, with each dog and cat the shelter houses finding a forever home with Taft residents. Her efforts did not go unnoticed.
The animal control officer was nominated for the 2019 Petco Foundation Unsung Hero award. The foundation and Victoria Stilwell work to bring awareness and highlight the extraordinary lifesaving efforts of individuals across the country in relation to animals. Thousands of people with worthy stories are nominated each year. In February 2019, Denney made the top five nominees and received a $10,000 award for Taft Animal Control. And then, nine months later, the animal control officer received news that would change her life.
Kayla Denney was the 2019 National Unsung Hero, winning an additional $25,000 for the animal shelter. To add to her humility, the lead animal control officer was unaware of her nomination. She flew out to San Diego, California to accept her award on stage.
The funds Denney won were pumped right into the shelter, serving as a means to continue to improve the lives of animals rescued and the physical conditions of the shelter. And Denney is not done yet.
While the Unsung Hero Award helped launch her into the national spotlight, Denney continues to organize efforts to benefit dogs and cats in San Patricio County. The award-winning Taft resident launched a new animal nonprofit organization. Texas Animal No Kill, or T.A.N.K., will aid rural animal shelters in purchasing equipment and supplies they are in need of.
Denney and the City of Taft Animal Control Department have come a long way since, and are continuing to look for opportunities to improve the lives of animals. It is a good thing Taft, Texas has an unsung hero in their community.