FORT WORTH (CBS11) – When Fort Worth Code Compliance looked at ways to better respond to the hundreds of animal calls it receives every day, it created the Stray Team.

“What we did is we got kind of creative and said, you know, let’s create a couple of teams of officers that focus just on strays,” said Brandon Bennett, Director of Code Compliance.

Focused just on finding stray animals, the Stray Team animal control officers found the normal 9 to 5 schedule didn’t work.

“The problem with that is you are not picking up enough strays to make it safer for the public and actually give those strays a better life,” Bennett said.

Strays are more active early in the morning and late in the afternoon. With new hours and targeting areas with high numbers of reported strays or bites, the dedicated stray catchers saw rapid improvement in the numbers of animals they collected.

“In the first year alone, the number of strays we picked up was up 300 percent. And then in the second year it was up 1,200 percent. And it continues to grow,” Bennett said.

The program also uses a lot of interaction in the neighborhoods to get strays back to their owners. Three years ago fewer than 100 dogs were immediately returned to owners. Last year more than 1,200 animals were brought back to their owners.

“We’re collecting a lot more animals that actually belong to folks. Whether they’ve either let the animals out when they shouldn’t have or the animal escaped from the owner and they just hadn’t found it yet,” said Bennett.