Is it ethical to transport thousands of pets to communities with kill shelters?

Houston, TX – There is an odd myth among a lot of people in the south that communities in more northern states do not have kill shelters.  Some southerners have said that communities up north are literally begging for more dogs and cats and that their shelters have empty cages because there is such a shortage of companion animals there.

I’ve heard many stories about southern rescuers transporting animals up north to what they believe is “mecca”; the magical northern state where no shelter pets are killed.   Unfortunately, this belief is fiction.   If it were true, No Kill advocacy groups like No Kill Colorado, No Kill Wisconsin, No Kill New York, No Kill New Hampshire, No Kill New JerseyNo Kill Ohio and Animal Ark in Minnesota, would not exist. There would be no need.   But they do exist because there are kill shelters in northern states who are killing shelter pets just like in the south.   Those northern kill shelters are killing for the exact same reasons that kill shelters in the south are killing….. shelter management  refuses to implement the No Kill model of sheltering.

Recently, I was contacted by Davyd Smith, who runs No Kill Colorado.   Just like in the south, they are working to end shelter killing in Colorado.  Davyd was concerned because he had heard that a Houston group was shipping hundreds of animals to CO.  He was also concerned because he heard that Houston city council was considering giving this group more than $400,000 to ship thousands more BARC animals to their communities while they are fighting their own battles to end shelter killing.

It turns out Davyd was right.  I later received BARC’s proposed budget confirming that BARC was asking for $415,000 to pay Rescued Pets Movement (RPM) to transport BARC animals to CO.

Obviously, it is a good thing when animals are pulled to safety from BARC, which is Houston’s pound that killed/lost 12,500+ shelter pets last year.   Over the years, I’ve pulled a lot of animals out of BARC either by adoption or by fostering and believe me, I understand the desperation of rescuers who stand in front of perfectly wonderful, adoptable animals that are slated for death at BARC the next day if no one pulls them.  I’ve looked into those innocent faces and I understand the sadness and frustration of not being able to save them all because Houston’s pound in run by management that absolutely refuses to implement the No Kill model of sheltering that has been proven to save lives.

And, I’ve seen the pictures with all the cute shelter pets being loaded onto vans headed for that promised “mecca”.    I understand how some rescuers would be desperate to believe in that mecca.   But, we cannot look at transports in a vacuum.  We cannot turn a blind eye to what is  happening at the other end of the transports.   To do so would be, at the very least, unethical.

If we ship  hundreds or thousands of shelter pets to other communities with kill shelters, that means that rescuers in those communities will not be able to pull animals off the kill lists.  Therefore, animals in those kill shelters are killed.  

Can we really call this saving lives?   Isn’t this  just exchanging one life for another?   

Do Houstonians have the right to “dump” the problems of our high kill shelters on other communities who are also struggling to save lives? 

Is it ethical to make Houston’s kill shelter’s numbers look better at the expense of animals in another community?  

I do not believe it is ethical, nor is it a viable humane solution.Animal shelter

It is not fair to the rescuers in Colorado who now have to scramble even harder to save Colorado shelter pets lives because some of their foster parents and rescue groups are loaded up with Houston pets.   It is not fair to the shelter pets in Colorado who are on death row but will not be pulled to safety by a rescue group or foster parent because those rescuers are full with Houston pets.

Mike Fry, the director of Animal Ark, wrote about the problems associated with the transport of shelter pets from the south to kill shelters in his community and other northern states.  He wrote:

A logical person would be inclined to ask, “If the transports result in no net life-saving (and they don’t), then why do they happen?” It was a question I was able to ask the director at a southern shelter that regularly ships dogs to New York.

The shelter in question was the Huntsville, Alabama animal control facility. The shelter’s director, Dr. Karen Sheppard, has maintained a miserable save rate. She is currently saving only about 25% of the cats for which she is responsible, for example.

During a recent phone conversation with Sheppard, we talked about these transports. Almost immediately, she acknowledged that the New York shelter system was very broken, resulting in a lot of needless killing. When she said this, I immediately asked her, “If you know about all the killing going on in New York, why are you shipping so many animals there?”

Sheppard laughed and simply exclaimed, “You KNOW [emphasis her's] why we are doing it!”

In fact, I DO know why she, and others like her, are shipping animals to communities that are still killing large numbers of their own animals:   It makes all of the shelters look like they are doing better than they actually are.   Sheppard herself has recently been credited with “improving” the “save rate” for dogs to nearly 50%.   However, a careful look at the statistics shows that nearly all of the “improvement” is the result of the transport of dogs to New York.

This seems to be a very controversial and heatedly debated topic here.  In fact, I posted questions on RPM’s Facebook page asking them if they knew that  communities that they are transporting thousands of animals to are NOT No Kill communities meaning these transports could very well cause CO shelter pets to die.   I even posted some of the Colorado statistics.   No answer was forthcoming from RPM, but some RPM supporters immediately jumped in and called me a liar.

There was no attempt to even look at facts; just the immediate spewing of lies and vulgarity.

AroutyComment

I have records from Colorado that rescue groups and shelters are required to file with the state.   It clearly shows that the communities where RPM is shipping BARC animals DO have kill shelters that are killing shelter pets.  Sometimes, more than one kill shelter.  The numbers are there.  Yes, they have lower kill rates than BARC, but they are still killing adoptable shelter pets.   But, apparently RPM and supporters, do not want to look at facts about the cities where they have sent over 2,600 animals, and the consequences they can cause.

To add to my concerns of Colorado shelter pets being killed because of these transports, additional very troubling information was forwarded to me.   I received copies of a Complaint filed against one of the rescue groups in Colorado (New Hope Rescue) where RPM shipped BARC pets.  The investigation of New Hope includes pictures of animals being kept in absolutely filthy conditions.   The house where many animals were roaming free, shows feces and urine all over the house; not just in cages as BARC’s director, Greg Damianoff, told a reporter;  it is EVERYWHERE.   It looks like a hoarding house.  (The Complaint and investigative reports are linked at the bottom of this blog and pictures from the investigations are posted below).

The investigation report shows multiple visits to the New Hope house with multiple problems noted on multiple dates.  The report says that the ammonia level in one room was so high that the animals in the room were confiscated and taken to animal control…..a KILL shelter in Colorado Springs.   These were animals shipped to New Hope by RPM.   So, BARC animals were pulled from one kill shelter and ended up in another kill shelter in another state.   Look at the pictures, and read the Complaint and investigation report.  Ask yourself if you would be concerned to know that BARC shelter pets were being shipped there.  Ask yourself if you would be concerned when the photos and investigation are shown to RPM and BARC director, Greg Damianoff but are simply dismissed as “just mess in a puppy cage”.   Ask yourself if you think this whole situation is a good solution.

One of RPM’s founders, Laura Carlock, recently told a reporter, that she personally visited all of the locations where they are transporting BARC animals.  RPM also issued a statement saying “We have VERY close relationships with the groups in Colorado with whom we work. Very close. We correspond with them no less than 15 times a day“.  This causes me great concern because I have trouble believing that the New Hope hoarding house got in that condition overnight.

Included in the Complaint is a handwritten letter from a former New Hope foster parent complaining of the conditions.   She stated that New Hope was having spay/neuter surgeries performed in a trailer that was someone’s home, not a vet clinic.   She also stated that New Hope refused to use any of the $50 per pet that RPM paid them on vet care for foster animals.  The New Hope foster animals she was caring for were sick, but she was told New Hope would not pay for medical care.   It seems to me that New Hope was using this RPM transport situation as way to make some money.  Colorado records show that most of the animals that New Hope took in were from out of state;  263 out of 307 dogs and 65 out of 76 cats taken in were transports from out of state    If all of the out of state animals New Hope took were from RPM, then New Hope made $16,400 from that deal and used none of it to provide vet care for those animals.   That is quite a racket.  (Records do not indicate where New Hope got all of their  transported animals, and RPM has been less than forthcoming when questions have been asked).

After a local news report recently aired about this serious situation, RPM sent out an emailed statement claiming that the “Colorado community is furious”.  I have to think that the people who are furious are the people that RPM has been paying $50 per animal to take BARC animals.   Raising awareness of the situation is a threat to their money train.

The people in Colorado who are genuinely concerned about shelter killing in their community and who are working to end it, are upset that Houston is transporting thousands of shelter pets to their communities (over 2,600 shipped by RPM).  In fact, they have asked Houston/RPM to stop transporting animals there until they end shelter killing in their communities.  I think it is a reasonable request.  But, it appears that the city of Houston, RPM, and the CO rescuers getting paid, are willing to turn a blind eye and ignore the serious issues they are causing.   This week, the mayor agreed to give RPM $265,000 tax dollars for thousands more transports to Colorado.   This will, of course, artificially improve the appearance of BARC’s save rates.  Apparently, the promise of big bucks, and inflated live release rates are blinding them all to the killing of shelter pets that are already in Colorado.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

In RPM’s recent email, they make a number of false statements.   I would like to clear up a few of the false statements that were made about me and No Kill Houston.

1)  I never told the reporter that spay/neuter was the only answer.  I don’t believe that it is and I have said this repeatedly.  Free and low cost spay/neuter is “part” of the No Kill solution but it is one of several solutions that I offered to the reporter that would save more lives and not burden another community with Houston shelter pets.  I told the reporter about many of the programs and services of the No Kill Equation that must be implemented to end shelter killing.  I even gave her a brochure explaining all of the programs of the No Kill model of sheltering.  I gave her a lot of information, but most of it did not air because of time constraints.

I did tell the reporter that part of that $330,000 additional money that the city just agreed to give to BARC for “live release initiatives” could be better used for more free spay/neuter for low income people, just like the free spay/neuter event held in which people lined up at 5:00 am, walking in the dark with flashlights to get there.  There are people in Houston who are desperate for these services and will use them, if offered.  Why isn’t BARC/city of Houston using this money more wisely and spending it right here in our city where it will make a longer term impact?  Instead of taking in litter after litter after litter and shipping them to other communities over and over or killing them, BARC could say “We’ll take that litter from you but you must bring in the momma cat or dog and we will spay her FOR FREE.”

2) I also told the reporter that part of that $330,000 would be better spent on offsite adoption locations all over the city.  I have been saying this years.  In fact, in 2009, No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd told BARC that offsite adoptions were essential to raising save rates.  No Kill shelters have found this to be critical in many cases because some people absolutely will never, ever go to a facility like BARC because they kill animals there.  They cannot take it.   The problem is compounded because BARC is hidden away, on a dead end street, in an industrial part of town where no one would ever just drive by and see them.

Houston is also 600 square miles, so there are many people who live so far away that they would never drive to BARC to adopt, even if they know where it is.  Offsite adoptions, in high traffic, highly visible areas, all over the city are CRITICAL to saving more lives at BARC.

This was proven to BARC management when they organized a very successful, well marketed offsite adoption event in 2011.  I wrote about it here.  At that adoption event, BARC actually ran out of animals!  They had to go back and get more BARC animals; they told their foster parents to bring their fosters and sent some of the people to BARC to adopt.   It was July and the temperature had been around 100 degrees but people waited in long lines in order to adopt. (See a picture at the link above).   By the end of the weekend, BARC had adopted out more than 400 animals It was more than BARC had adopted out in the entire previous month.  It literally cleared out the kennels at BARC.

Since BARC management has personally experienced how successful this offsite adoption event was, a rational person would expect to see more of them, if not every day, at the very least, every weekend. 

But that is not happening.

3) I also told the reporter that if BARC would implement the same successful Return to Owner program that Washoe County animal control uses to return 60% of their animals to owners who want them back (vs. BARC’s 7% Return to Owner rate) that it could save the lives of more that 8,000 lost pets per year, empty out more than 8,000 kennels per year and SAVE over $900,000 per year in the process.  I gave her this article.  This program would be easy to implement and not require a lot of additional funding, but the returns would be enormous in both life saving and money saved.   Nathan Winograd told BARC/city of Houston leadership this in 2009, but, they have yet to implement it. 

In short, we talked about a lot of life saving alternatives that could be implemented that would not involve dumping Houston’s pets on other struggling communities.  But, none of that made it to the air, or even the online version of the report.

4) Ms. Carlock’s statement to the reporter that the only 2 options for death row BARC animals is transporting them to another state or death is absolutely and demonstrably false.   As I stated above, there are  a lot of alternatives.  There are ten programs and services that are being implemented by hundreds of communities that have been proven to save all healthy and treatable pets i.e. 90% to 99%.   None of those programs include transporting thousands of pets to other communities with kill shelters.

5) RPM stated that “No Kill Houston has not saved one single dog from BARC”.  This was used as some sort of argument that No Kill Houston should not be allowed to express concerns about serious issues involving BARC pets.  Apparently, RPM does not comprehend that No Kill Houston is an advocacy group.   It has never claimed to be a rescue group and therefore does not pull animals from kill shelters under No Kill Houston’s name.   However, I  have personally pulled more animals than I can count from BARC to foster, or adopt, both dogs and cats.    I have also fostered for a number of the rescue groups who pull animals from BARC.

But, regardless of those facts, contrary to RPM’s statement, concerned citizens are not required to have a BARC dog in their home in order to be “allowed” to express concerns about BARC animals.    We are not required to have a BARC dog in order to speak out for animals about serious issues that we see, or when animal lives are in jeapardy.   We are not required to have a BARC dog in order to advocate for the solutions that have been proven to work to save 90%+ of all shelter pets all over the country.

If that ridiculous argument were true, few people would be able to speak out and effect changes in other situations where animals are in danger such as puppy mills, inhumane zoos or circuses, inhumanely treated lab animals or endangered wildlife.   If we paid attention to RPM’s senseless argument, we would all have to have puppy mill dogs, elephants, lab animals and wild life in our homes in order to have the privilege of speaking out for animals.  It is absurd.

6) RPM stated that No Kill Houston and No Kill Colorado are “fringe” groups.  That statement would be comical if it wasn’t coming from a rescue group who say that they are working to save shelter pets.

The fact that RPM board members are apparently unaware that there are more than 500 cities and towns with Open Admission No Kill shelters is tragic

The fact that  RPM board members have not educated themselves on exactly what these communities are doing to become No Kill communities is even more tragic.  

The fact that RPM is trying to recreate the wheel, using hundreds of thousands of tax dollars and using a program that has not created a single No Kill community…. a program that, in fact, puts lives in other communities in jeopardy, is shocking. 

That fact that the city of Houston, and therefore, we are funding this smokescreen to cover BARC’s high kill rates, is appalling.

Just as there are kill shelters in across the country, there are also Open Admission, No Kill shelters across the country.   In fact, there are at least 8 Open Admission, No Kill shelters/communities right here in Texas.   All of those No Kill shelters have one thing in common.   They have leadership who is dedicated to saving lives.  They have compassionate hardworking leadership, who are willing to do what has been proven to work.

If you are not familiar with how hundreds of Open Admission shelters have stopped killing shelter pets, I urge you to do some research.  You can start at the webpages for No Kill Houston and the No Kill Advocacy Center.

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Click here to read the Investigation reports regarding New Hope Rescue: NewHopeCrueltyInvestigation-Seizure

Below are pictures taken during the investigation of New Hope Rescue and the seizure of BARC animals from New Hope’s property.

 

Repeating the Lies from Kill Shelters Harms Shelter Pets

CrossFingersFotolia_13943038_XS-EX

Houston, TX – I recently wrote about the claim that BARC management (Houston’s pound) made that there are 1.2 MILLION strays on the streets of Houston  I’ve seen this claim repeated by several reporters lately and  BARC continues to repeat this claim as an excuse and as political cover for the high kill rate that continue year after year at BARC’s facility (almost 51% of all animals at BARC were killed or lost in 2013 i.e. 12,596 in 2013 alone).

If we take a moment to really think about BARC’s claim, we can clearly see that it cannot possibly be true.   If it were true that there are “1.2 million strays” on the streets of Houston, that would mean there are 2,000 stray animals PER EVERY SINGLE SQUARE MILE of Houston.   We would not be able to walk out of our doors without stumbling across a stray pet.  As a long time resident of Houston, I can assure you that this is not the case.

Even in the low income areas of town, where the most strays are picked up by BARC, there are not 2,000 stray animals per square mile.  

Are there a lot of stray, or free roaming, animals in those areas?  Yes.  

Are there 2,000 stray animals per square mile in those areas?  No.

Are there 2,000 stray animals per square mile in the rest of Houston?  No, absolutely not.

In an attempt to learn how BARC management arrived at the astronomical “1.2 million strays” number, I sent a public information request to BARC asking for “documents which support, corroborate and/or validate recent statements made by city of Houston and/or BARC employees, to citizens and various media, that there are 1.2 million stray animals in Houston.

BARC’s response? “…there are no responsive documents for your request“.

Let me repeat that: BARC / City of Houston stated that there are no documents to support BARC’s claim of 1.2 million stray animals on the streets of Houston.

When pressed again for the source of the “1.2 million strays” number by another skeptical citizen, BARC’s manager, Greg Damianoff, cited a “pet population calculator” on the AVMA website.   I looked at the website and found that it clearly states that their calculations are based on no actual, provable data in Houston.   It uses estimates based on some survey information from vets in other communities and is multipled by guesses as to how many strays there are based on how many owned pets there are.   In fact, the website states,  “… because these formulas use sample survey data, they should not be considered 100% accurate.”   And it is not accurate for Houston.

A look around the city, by the average person, would confirm that the “1.2 million strays” i.e. 2,000 strays per square mile number cannot possibly be true.  It is absurd.   The fact that this claim is being made repeatedly by the person who is responsible for managing the city’s pound i.e. responsible for “sheltering” strays impounded by BARC is, to say the least, irresponsible.

The “1.2 million strays in Houston” claim is yet another fabrication spread by management of a kill shelter in order to defend and excuse their mass slaughter of shelter pets.  

Not only should we animal lovers reject this absurdity, but we certainly should not repeat it.  When we repeat ficticious claims, such as this number, we provide them an excuse as to why BARC is still killing over ten thousand pets per year.   It allows BARC/city of Houston leadership to continue to refuse to do the work necessary to implement the programs and services that have been proven to work to save 90% to 99% of all pets in hundreds of communities.   Repeating fictious information such as the “1.2. million strays” claim allows them to continue to take the easy way.    They can continue to save a few and kill the rest, and animal lovers won’t complain because they think that the situation is hopeless and they believe that BARC’s only option is to kill thousands of shelter pets.   It is not hopeless and we can end shelter killing in Houston, just as 500+ cities and towns have done.

The No Kill Advocacy Center has just produced a new publication that breaks down the real facts, in detail.   It is a very interesting publication and I highly recommend that everyone read it.   Click here to read it. 

Learn the truth and repeat that information, then demand better from our city leaders who control BARC.

If you want to end shelter killing at Houston’s tax payer funded pound, then demand that Annise Parker keep her No Kill promises to do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill city.  

It has been four and half years and it is long overdue that she actually work to keep her promises to citizens and voters.

The first and most CRITICAL thing Annise Parker  must do to keep  her promises is to hire a director for BARC who is dedicated to saving lives.

Contact information for Parker and city council members is listed on No Kill Houston’s website here.

If you are unable to call or write them, No Kill Houston has created a petition which will send an email to them each time someone signs.   Find one petition here or, if you have already signed the first petition, find a new petition here .

DogSigningPetition2

 

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If you wish to receive an email notification each time I post a new blog here, please click the small Follow link in the bottom right corner of your screen. (Note: you can only see the link if you are reading this from my blog site. The link does not show if you are reading this blog in an email.)

Friend me on Facebook and Pinterest.

Follow No Kill Houston on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to their email list.

Follow No Kill Texas Advocates, a No Kill political advocacy group, on Facebook and Twitter, and register to receive their newsletter.

Follow these stories and writing by other Texas writers on “Texas Animal Writers” on FaceBook.

 

BARC would rather KILL this kitten than accept offers of foster and adoption

Kitten

Houston, TX – The email chain below illustrates another instance of BARC & City of Houston management creating IDIOTIC rules that cost animals their lives.

Stacy emailed me because she offered to foster this kitten but BARC management (Amneris Diaz) told her no. Stacy then offered to adopt the kitten, but BARC again told her no because the kitten is 5 weeks old.

So, the 3 day hold period for this kitten expires today meaning that BARC can either choose to kill this kitten or work to find an alternative such as a foster home or adopter. In this case, BARC does not even have to work. An offer to save her is already there, yet BARC has REFUSED offers of adoption and foster care. So that means that BARC would rather kill this kitten. If another rescue group doesn’t offer to take this kitten, which isn’t likely since it is kitten season and most rescues are very full, she will be killed.

A beautiful, perfectly adoptable kitten will be KILLED by BARC…. while an offer to save her is in BARC’s lap.

How many times a day is this happening?!   How many adoptable pets are KILLED by BARC even when people have offered to save them?   Dozens?  Hundreds?  Thousands? 

How long does this have to go on before the citizens of Houston finally say ENOUGH!    How long will our tax dollars pay to KILL perfectly adoptable pets who have a place to go?

This is yet another example of why BARC is still a high kill facility.

 SHAMEFUL!

If you are as outraged at this horrific insanity, tell Annise Parker that it is not acceptable to kill animals that have a place to go.  You can contact her at: 832-393-1000 or mayor@houstontx.gov.  Tell her:

Annise Parker, when will you keep your promises and do everything in your power to transition Houston to a No Kill facility? Continuing to KILL kittens that have a place to go is NOT the way to get there.

Not only are your employees NOT working hard to save lives, they are actually turning down the public’s offer to save them.

You should also tell BARC’s shelter manager, Greg Damianoff.  His contact information is here


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From: “stacey@com”
To: nokillhouston@yahoo.com
Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2014 2:18 PM
Subject: Re: Kitten – Ragdoll Himmie Mix At BARC – due out date today. HELP!!!

he’s too small they said to adopt out. 5 weeks so they said I could foster to adopt but only if in the city limits. They don’t have space to hold her until she is ready to be adopted out and so she probably won’t be put up for adoption and put down. So sad because I have experience with these breeds and have rescued and vetted many of them.
Stacey
From: No Kill Houston
Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2014 2:10 PM
To: stacey@.com
Reply To: No Kill Houston
Subject: Re: Kitten – Ragdoll Himmie Mix At BARC – due out date today. HELP!!!
They won’t let you adopt her if you live outside the city limits??  I knew that they had an insane rule that people could not foster if they lived outside the city limits, but I thought that you could still adopt.  Randy Wallace (reporter with Fox TV) did a story on this topic a year or so ago, and the rescuer was forced to adopt some animals to save them when BARC would not allow him to foster since he was outside the city limits.   I would double check that.

From: “stacey@***com”
To: NoKillHouston@yahoo.com
Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2014 1:30 PM
Subject: Kitten – Ragdoll Himmie Mix At BARC – due out date today. HELP!!!

This little girl is at BARC in Houston. Due out date is today 5/29. ID is A1238418 under LOST and listed as Himilayan Mix. Since I live outside the city limits. They won’t let me foster or adopt. However a rescue group can pull her. Let me know. She is just precious and a shame to be put down. I have attached a picture.

Kitten-PetHarbor

Mayoral candidate, Ben Hall: attorney, doctor, minister and No Kill supporter

Houston, TX - On November 5th, Houstonians will have the opportunity to vote to elect many city officials, including mayor and city council.   I have made it no secret that I believe that Annise Parker has totally failed to even attempt to keep her No Kill campaign promises to Houstonians.   When Parker took office, BARC / city of Houston leadership, was perfectly poised to dramatically increase BARC’s save rates.   Gerry Fusco had fired 70+ HORRENDOUS employees and Nathan Winograd had assessed BARC and given the city a 196 page report detailing exactly how to increase life saving.

We should have seen a dramatic rise in BARC’s Save Rates.  Instead, BARC leadership ignored Winograd’s recommendations, and BARC’s Save Rates actually decreased every year for 3 years.

BARC’s Save Rate was a shockingly low 42% in 2012.

A couple weeks ago, a few animal advocates and I, met with mayoral candidate, Ben Hall, to talk about his stance on sheltering issues and BARC, in particular.   We talked for a long time about a lot of different options….. all better than the situation that we have now.  I am convinced that he is appalled by the sky high kill rates at BARC, and am I convinced that he is committed to implementing the No Kill model of sheltering in Houston.

In fact, Mr. Hall’s position statement committing to a No Kill policy for Houston is posted here.

Hall

No Kill Texas Advocates has also endorsed Ben Hall for Mayor of Houston.

I thought I would offer some additional interesting information that I learned about Mr. Hall.  For instance, Mr. Hall is an attorney, a doctor and an ordained minister:

Dr. Benjamin L. Hall, III is a Harvard-trained lawyer who founded The Hall Law Firm in 2000.   Dr. Hall obtained  a J.D. from Harvard Law School in June 1986;   a Ph.D from Duke University Graduate School in May 1985;  a Masters of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School in September 1979;  and,  a B.A. from the University of South Carolina in September 1977.

Animal issues have been a concern for Mr. Hall for many years.   For instance, his doctoral dissertation “A Reverence for Life” involved animal issues.  You an read his dissertation here.

I believe that Mr. Hall is genuinely committed to dragging Houston out of the dark ages of catch and kill sheltering and that he is committed to making No Kill the policy in Houston.

Ben Hall is the best candidate to help us save the lives of Houston’s shelter pets.

I urge every animal lover to vote for Ben Hall for Mayor.

BenHall3

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If you wish to receive an email notification each time I post a new blog here, please click the small Follow link in the bottom right corner of your screen.  (Note: you can only see the link if you are reading this from my blog site.  The link does not show if you are reading this in an email.)

Friend me on Facebook and Pinterest.

Follow No Kill Houston on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to their email list.

Follow No Kill Texas Advocates, a No Kill political advocacy group, on Facebook and Twitter, and register to receive their newsletter.

Follow these stories and writing by other Texas writers  on “Texas Animal Writers” on FaceBook. 

Annise Parker’s 2009 promises to animal lovers; in her own words

Houston, TX - In 2009, No Kill Houston sent questionnaires to the candidates running for mayor and city counsel in order to learn the candidates’ stances on sheltering issues in Houston.   Annise Parker was one of the candidates who responded to the questionnaire.

Since Parker has been in office for 4 years and currently running for a 3rd term, I thought that this would be a good time to review her 2009 responses to find out just how many promises that she has kept during her 2 terms as mayor.

Below are her responses (in blue.)  My comments regarding whether she has kept her word are in red.  (You can also see her completed questionnaire here:

1. Will you commit to supporting offsite adoption centers in highly visible, high traffic locations/retail space all over the City of Houston?

Yes

After A LOT of searching of BARC’s website, I found only 3 regularly scheduled offsite adoption locations, which are generally open only on Saturdays for only 4  hours per day.  These are 3 PetsMart and Petcos locations.  I also found 1 location in the Galleria that is open only on Saturdays for only 4 hours.

Houston is 600 square miles, yet BARC has only 4 offsite locations that are only open for 4 hours, 1 day per week.

The one very successful offsite adoption event that BARC organized was located in a HIGH TRAFFIC, HIGHLY VISIBLE location.  This event was so successful that BARC had over 400 adoptions that weekend alone.  As a comparison, BARC had only 343 adoptions during the ENTIRE PREVIOUS MONTH.

So, considering how many lives were saved at this one successful offsite adoption event, logic would dictate that BARC leadership would organize many more just like it.  But, logic does not come into play when BARC leadership makes decisions.  That event took place in July 2011, and I have yet to hear about a similar event.  

All the events that BARC organizes take place AT BARC’s facility on Carr Street.   This is the location that Nathan Winograd said was not conducive to high volume adoptions.  He pointed out that offsite adoption events were critical to increase the adoption numbers enough so that BARC did not kill “for space”.  This is also the very same location that the mayor herself said DETERS adoptions.  Yet, BARC continues to organize events there instead of more successful locations.

STRIKE ONE

2.  Would you support changing/extending BARC’s hours so that working families can get to BARC after work/school to reclaim their lost pets or adopt new pets?

Yes

BARC’s website indicates that their hours are noon to 5:30 for adoptions and noon to 6 to find a lost pet.   Considering the sheer size of Houston, and heavy traffic and congestion on our freeways, I don’t believe that these hours are adequate.  Personally, I work until 6:00 pm every day and it has taken me over an hour to drive across town to BARC during rush hour traffic.  If I was looking for a lost pet, I could absolutely never make it to BARC before they closed, without having to take off work. 

If lifesaving were truly important to BARC leadership, one would think that BARC would have later hours at least a couple days a week… especially considering that they can, and do, kill pets, including lost pets, after only a 3 day hold period.

STRIKE TWO

3. Would you support requiring that BARC be open on most holidays since there are generally the busiest adoption days of the year?

I would consider it, but I would need to review this with the appropriate HR personnel.

This is not happening at BARC.   The holidays are very good opportunies for people to bring a new pet home because they have time off from work and school.   So, why isn’t BARC taking advantage of these easy opportunities?   Nathan Winograd has said that, when he ran the first Open Admission, No Kill animal control/shelter, his shelter was never closed on a holiday.  They made it easy for the adopting public to adopt from them.  This would make it easier for people to rescue and foster animals for BARC as well since the majority of those people have full time jobs and families.

STRIKE THREE

4.  Would you support BARC having longer weekend hours since weekends are busier adoption days than rest of the week?

Yes

On the busiest days of the week for adoptions, Saturday and Sunday, BARC is open only 5 ½ hours each day.

STRIKE FOUR

5.  Would you support hiring a new Bureau Chief who is familiar with the programs and services necessary to drop kill rate at BARC i.e. the steps in the No Kill Equation?

Yes

This has not happened.   Before Parker took office in 2010, the city hired David Atencio to manage BARC.  Atencio was not at all familiar with the programs and services of the No Kill Equation.   Nevertheless, Atencio tried to make some positive changes that would have increased lifesaving.  However, his attempts were continually thwarted by ARA management (management that Parker put in charge).

Atencio eventually quit in March 2012.  I can only assume that Atencio quit out of the sheer frustration of trying to save more lives, but being blocked at every opportunity by city “leadership”.  Since that time, Atencio has not been replaced.   There is no one at BARC, full time, acting as director.   There is no leadership at BARC who is working to implement programs and services that would save more lives.    No one.

STRIKE FIVE

6.  Would you support shutting down the North Kennel entirely and building new kennels to replace it?

Yes, as funds are available.

The funds for this project have been available since before Parker took office.  In 2009, Bill White arranged for several million dollars to be spent on this renovation, yet 4 YEARS later absolutely no work has begun.  The North Kennels (aka North Ward) are still an absolute dungeon.

For those of you who have never seen the North Ward, see pictures below. 

Note that the dog in the top photo is unable to stand normally in this kennel.  His hind legs are up on top of the metal, flip down, “shelf” in the back of the kennel.  

NorthKennels

NorthKennels2

NorthKennels3

The kennels in the North Ward are absolutely appalling.   In fact, Nathan Winograd said that they were some of the most poorly designed kennels that he has ever seen.  Considering that he has toured shelters around the US and other countries, that is quite a statement.  

Personally, I have nightmares about animals stuck in those tiny, dark, dank, barbaric cells, too small for larger dogs to turn around or even stand comfortably.   The first time that I walked through the North Ward, I saw a German Shepherd standing on his hind legs, with his front paws up on the metal bars.  He wasn’t trying to get attention.  He was just standing there.  He did this because he was too large to stand comfortably in his kennel.  That was 5 years ago and the image is forever burned into my memory.

The funds to totally gut and rebuild those barbaric kennels has been available to Parker for 4 long years, yet she has not done a thing to make sure that this happened.

What has Parker done with those millions of dollars that were set aside for the animals? 

STRIKE SIX

7.  Would you support a comprehensive TNR (Trap, Neuter, and Return) Program, which has been proven to drop the population of feral cats without killing them?

No.  I understand the theory and concept. But we need a policy that also balances the need to protect birds and other native wildlife, on which sterile, feral cats have an adverse impact.

One, Parker’s statement about feral cats having an adverse impact on wildlife has been blown out of proportion for years.  Those wild claims have also been thoroughly debunked

Today, there IS a TNR program at BARC, which I am sure is no thanks to Parker.   After all, this is a person who, in 2009, admitted to trapping and taking feral cats to BARC.   She did this at a time, when she knew full well that BARC had no TNR program.

She trapped and took feral cats to BARC knowing that there was a 100% guarantee that BARC would kill them.

STRIKE SEVEN

8.  Would you commit to making ‘no kill’ – defined as killing less than 10% of pets sheltered at an open-admission shelter – the official policy of Houston and support any laws or policy changes necessary to achieve this goal?

Yes

This absolutely has not happened.   In fact, just the opposite.  Parker actually opposed No Kill legislation when it was introduced at the state level in 2011.  

In addition, BARC’s records show that their Kill Rates have increased every single year that Parker has been in office.  If the No Kill model of sheltering had been implemented when she took office in 2010, we would have seen a HUGE increase in life saving. 

I would submit that, if BARC had begun rigorously implementing all of the programs of the No Kill model of sheltering when Parker took office, that today, 4 years later, BARC would be very close to No Kill status, if not there already.

But it isn’t, because the No Kill model of sheltering has NOT been implemented by Parker.

STRIKE EIGHT

9.  Would you support the implementation of performance standards that tie management performance to salary increments or bonuses or continued employment? If not, please explain why not.

Yes.  The official policy of the city already requires such reviews – it requires a written work plan and annual evaluations based on performance called for under that plan.

Apparently, this has not happened either.  BARC’s Save Rates have decreased every year for 3 years, yet Parker has kept the same people in management positions the entire time.   She has even made statements that BARC  management is doing a great job.   In any other business, such continued massive failure would not have been rewarded, but apparently, there is no accountability for BARC management under Parker’s watch.

STRIKE NINE

10.  Are you committed to supporting/enforcing the recommendations in Nathan Winograd’s recent assessment of BARC?

Yes.

Again, this absolutely has not happened.  In fact, BARC has implemented very little of what Nathan Winograd recommended in his nearly 200 page assessment report

Further, in a reprehensible and reckless use of our tax dollars and a reckless loss of precious lives, she actually went so far as to waste an entire year, asking some college students to come up with a solution.   Instead of simply requiring that her employees do what has already been proven to work in more than 200 communties, she asks college students for advice.  

The result? BARC’s kill rates have increased every single year.

STRIKE TEN

11.  Would you commit to providing funding to pay low cost and free spay/neuter services to low-income citizens of Houston?

As funds are available.  Expanding spay/neuter services is a major part of my BARC policy, which you can find at

http://www.anniseparker.com/issue/houston_is_better_than_barc/.

This was not attempted until July of this year.  After 3 ½ years, BARC, with several partners, finally implemented a so-called “beachhead” program in which they have gone into one low income neighborhood and provided spay/neuter services. 

As a reminder, Houston is 600 square miles and has many low income neighborhoods who could use these services.  So much more could have been done in the last 4 years.

Also, I can’t help but notice the convenient timing of this program coincides with Parker’s bid for re-election and the announcement of formidable Mayoral candidate, Ben Hall. 

STRIKE ELEVEN

12.  No city in America has achieved ‘no kill’ success by implementing a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance. Some cities/counties such as Los Angeles, CA, San Mateo, Co.,CA, Lake Co., CA, Santa Cruz Co., CA and Ft. Wayne, IN have seen an increase in shelter killing after introducing mandatory spay/neuter. In addition, such ordinances require increased enforcement costs, money that could be used for life-saving programs that are correlated with reduced shelter killing. In light of this, would you support a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance, or would you support additional funding to increase access to low cost or free spay/neuter services?

As funds are available.

See my comments on number 11 above.

STRIKE TWELVE

13.  Would you support the implementation of CAPA i.e. The Companion Animal Protection Act (attached) or some parts thereof?

I support it in concept, but as always with legislation, the devil is in the details.

This has not happened.   In fact, just the opposite.  Parker, along with the directors of the other high kill shelters in Houston actually opposed the Companion Animal Protection Act (Hope’s Law) when it was filed in Texas at the state level in 2011. 

This was a law that would have protected the lives of shelter pets.  If passed, Hope’s Law would have:

1) abolished the gas chamber;

2) abolished“heart sticks” as a method of “euthanasia” except under certain specific circumstances;

3) banned“convenience killing” (killing when there are empty cages);

4) mandated collaboration by requiring shelters to work with non-profit rescue organizations to maximize lifesaving;

5) mandated transparency by requiring shelters to report how many animals they kill;.

6) banned the killing of animals based on arbitrary criteria such as breed, age or color;

7) prohibited selling shelter animals to research labs;

8) protected feral cats and feral cat caretakers.

and more…….

BARC representatives, and the directors of other high kill “shelters”, again opposed a similar law in 2013.  As a reason for opposing this life saving law, BARC’s “director” was reported as saying that if this law passed, then people would actually expect BARC to save more lives.  

STRIKE THIRTEEN

14.  Would you support programs which have been proven to keep pets in their homes instead of being relinquished to a shelter such as distribution of heart worm preventative, food, animal behavioral counseling, low cost dog training, pet friendly rental programs and dog walker referrals?

Yes, but not with city funds.

Volunteers, who saw the lifesaving potential of a program to help keep pets from being relinquished to BARC, attempted to create and run such a program themselves (it was FREE to the city).  They eventually quit, no doubt from lack of support from BARC leadership.

Volunteers simply cannot run such a program without the full support and involvement of BARC management.

STRIKE FOURTEEN

15.  Would you support the reformation of an animal advisory committee as defined by state and city ordinance? If so, how would you, propose that members of this committee be chosen?

Yes.  I support such a committee and am open to suggestions.  I will consult with City Council and other stakeholders on how to proceed with such a task.

This committee was reformed, however not a single No Kill advocate was appointed to the committee by the mayor or city council.  When appointments were being made for the first committee, I contacted several city councilmembers and asked to be appointed.  But all of them told me that a different council person or the mayor would make the appointments.  I had the city ordinances in front of me which clearly stated that each of those city councilmembers could have made the appointment, but all refused.   Instead the committee was filled with many of the mayor’s “yes people”.

In fact, when one veterinarian, who was appointed to the committee, spoke to a reporter about Keiko‘s prognosis while BARC was foolishly performing delicate surgery on her, the vet was kicked off of the committee.

It is quite clear that the mayor only wanted “yes people” on this committee; those who would not offer differing opinions from her own.   No one on that committee would be allowed to actually speak out for the animals.

STRIKE FIFTEEN

16.  Have you ever rescued an adopted pet?

I currently have 1 dog and 5 cats; all are licensed with the city.  All are indoor pets.  I found my dog – a 15+-year old pincer cross named Dancer – as an adult stray.  Rembrandt is a 15-year old DLH cat that I took home as a stray kitten.  Willie is a one-year old DLH cat that I adopted from the SPCA.  Cinder is a 19-year old DSH cat that I adopted as an adult stray.  Galahad is a 7-year old DSH cat that I bottle fed after I rescued it as an abandoned kitten.  Isis is a one-year old DSH cat that I adopted from the SPCA.

As you can tell, I am definitely an animal lover.

From her inaction over the last 4 years, when it comes to implementing programs that have been proven to save lives; and considering the fact that she trapped feral cats and took them to be killed at BARC herself, I absolutely do not agree that she is an animal lover.   A true animal lover would absolutely never do this.

In addition, now that we have 4 long years of Parker’s leadership to review, we unfortunately are able to see that tens of thousands of animals have been killed, every single year, under Parker’s watch; that is over 14,000 shelter pets killed or lost by BARC in 2012 alone.  

Thousands of animals were killed by a city department, under her control, while she did nothing differently.   More than 200 Open Admission communities are now saving 90% to 99% of all animals, yet Parker has refused to demand that her employees implement the same successful model of sheltering.

No, I do not call this an animal lover by any stretch of the imagination.

STRIKE SIXTEEN

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Annise Parker refuses to implement the No Kill model of sheltering, then claims that Houston’s pound cannot be No Kill

Houston, TX – A concerned citizen, Trina, recently emailed me because she, like thousands of people in Houston, is concerned about the sky high kill rates that continue at Houston’s pound.  She wrote Annise Parker asking when she will keep her promises to do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill community.

Annise Parker sent a letter to Trina stating in part “Because BARC, unlike other shelters, cannot turn down any animal brought to it no matter its condition, it will never be a 100% No Kill.”

My question is “How could Parker possibly know if BARC can be No Kill?”  She has not required BARC employees to implement the No Kill mode of sheltering.   She cannot state that it cannot be done, when she has not even bothered to attempt it.

Personally, I find Parker’s response incredibly repulsive on so many levels, not the least of which is that her statement is entirely false.    In 2009, Parker promised to do everything in her power to ensure that BARC became a No-Kill shelter.   However, after 2 terms and four years of broken promises and complete and utter failure, Parker now conveniently claims that BARC cannot be 100% No Kill.  This is despite the fact that there are now more than 200 Open Admission, No Kill shelters/communities in the US.  Most of them became No Kill communities while Parker has been mayor.

pinocchio

What is certain is that, as long as Parker continues to claim that No Kill cannot be achieved at Open Admission facilities like BARC, it absolutely will not be achieved at BARC.  She is giving BARC management a free ticket to just keep on killing thousands of pets.  BARC management can continue to just skate by, doing a half-way job instead of working hard to implement the programs and services that have been proven to work.

And, the claim that BARC cannot turn down any animal is also not true.   A couple weeks ago, I talked to a man who recently visited BARC.  It was a Monday and BARC was closed to the public, so he drove to the back gate.  In front of him was a person in a car who was trying to surrender an animal.  BARC turned them down and turned them away.  So BARC can, and does, turn down animals.  This is just another excuse for her failure.

Parker’s letter also claims that they want to meet with Trina to “hear your ideas about how to achieve No Kill at BARC”.   The kicker is that city of Houston and BARC leadership already know what is necessary to achieve No Kill.   They do not need citizens to continue to tell them.  They have already heard it from the people who are actually doing it every day.  No Kill Houston brought No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd to Houston twice to teach his “Buidling a No Kill community” workshop.  Nathan Winograd is the first person to create an Open Admission, No Kill community and he has taught thousands of others how to copy his success.

Employees from the ARA Dept (the Dept over BARC) attended Winograd’s 2011 workshop. In addition, shelter manager, Greg Damianoff and several other ARA Dept employees, also attended the national No Kill conference in Washington DC last year.  This is the premier No Kill conference in which hundreds of people, who are already achieving No Kill, gather to teach others exactly how they are accomplishing it.

So Parker, and the people she hired to manage BARC, know exactly what needs to be done to stop killing shelter pets at BARC, but they have chosen to ignore it.  They have chosen to continue doing the same thing that they have always done, even though it has been a colossal failure for 4 years.

When I wrote about this issue, and the litany of lies coming from the city in November 2011, there were 27 Open Admission, No Kill pounds and shelters (just like BARC) saving 90% to 99% of all animals.  Today, less than 2 years later, there are more than 200!   There is absolutely no good excuse that BARC is only saving 42%.

I want to know exactly how many other Open Admission shelters/communities will reach the No Kill goal before Annise Parker admits that No Kill IS possible at BARC as well, with the right leadership?   I really want to know what that number is?   Apparently, 200+ of them is not enough to convince her to even try.

How many other communities will pass by Houston on the way to No Kill before Parker admits that she has not even attempted to implement the No Kill model of sheltering at BARC?

How many thousands of shelter pets must be killed by BARC and the city of Houston before Parker admits that she has failed to demand that BARC management, such as Greg Damianoff, actually do their jobs and work hard to save lives?    

How can anyone, with a conscience, stand by and do absolutely nothing while people, under her direction and control, KILL tens of thousands of pets every single year?

Ostrich-HeadInTheSand

How long will Parker keep her head in the sand, ignoring what is going on in the world around her, at the expense of tens of thousands of shelter pets who will be killed on her watch?

How many sweet, loving, adoptable pets will be killed before Houston gains leadership who will truly work on this issue?

Parker stated, in her letter to Trina, that BARC “will never be 100% No Kill”.  I agree that, under Parker’s administration, BARC will never be a No Kill shelter.  We have 4 years of proof of this fact.

Houston desperately needs city leaders who will make life saving in our shelters a priority, not just an afterthought while running for re-election.

The only way that BARC will make any positive improvements in life saving is after pink slips are issued at city hall.    We voters have the power to write those pink slips on November 5th.    It is up to we citizens to elect city leaders who actually care about saving lives. 

simple pink slip

Learn about the candidates on No Kill Texas Advocates’ website.

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The world is rushing past Houston on the way to No Kill…

FF image

Houston, TX – Today is the last day to download Nathan and Jennifer Winograd’s book, Friendly Fire, absolutely  FREE.   Click here to download it from Amazon.

As I wrote in my review of Friendly Fire:

If we want to end shelter killing, and I believe the majority of us do, then we will be the ones that will have to fight for it. The kill shelters have proven that they will not stop killing voluntarily even when we literally hand them the solutions. The wealthy, national “humane” organizations have proven that they will fight our life saving, shelter reform efforts.  So, it is up to us. Luckily, Friendly Fire gives us the tools to reform an industry that has become the antithesis of everything that it proclaims to be.  If I could place this book in the hands of every animal lover in the America, I would.

The most important thing that you can do for companion animals is to READ THIS BOOK… then pass it on to everyone you know.

In my review of Friendly Fire, I noted that the number of Open Admission, No Kill shelters in the US was at about 80.  It is less 11 months later and that number now stands at nearly 200!   That is nearly 120 additional Open Admission, No Kill communities in less than 11 months!

The world is literally passing by Houston on their way to a more compassionate, more humane (and more cost effective) No Kill community.  Not only are they passing Houston by, they are RUSHING by and in huge numbers, while Houston/Harris County’s five kill shelters remain firmly entrenched in the dark ages of catch and kill sheltering.

It is time that we all stop listening to the kill shelters, and No Kill naysayers, who say that No Kill can’t be done or that shelters are “forced” to kill healthy and treatable pets.   Every single day, HUNDREDS of communities, some right here in Texas, are proving that No Kill in Open Admission shelters IS possible.  It is already being done.

It is up to US to demand leadership who will end the mass killing in Houston.  For Houston’s pound, that leadership starts at the top with the Mayor’s office.  The incumbent Mayor has allowed BARC’s kill rates to increase every year for 3 years.  She has used our tax dollars to allow BARC to kill or lose nearly 15,000 animals in 2012 alone.

It is clear that it is time for change.

Please VOTE for Ben Hall for Houston Mayor on November 5th.   If elected, Mr. Hall has committed to a No Kill policy for Houston.  Click here to read his statement.

Hall

Help save thousands of shelter pets in Houston.  Vote for Ben Hall for Mayor.

Repeating misinformation does not help shelter pets

Houston, TX – There are now at least 193 communities with Open Admission shelters/pounds who are saving 90% or more of all animals (i.e. No Kill shelters).    These communities represent approximately 500 cities and towns.  This number is growing constantly.  In fact, every time I check the Out The Front Door website, the number has increased.

Yet, I received an email from a woman today claiming that No Kill is not possible.   Among the litany of  misinformation  and flat out lies claimed, she also claimed that there were 11 MILLION homeless dogs roaming the streets in the US (I don’t know how many homeless cats she believes are roaming aorund).  Her claim was made in order to justify her belief in “pet overpopulation”.  However, her claim was not based on any research whatsoever.  Her claim was based on nothing more than a look around her community and she somehow extrapolated that to 11 MILLION homeless dogs in the US.

HearNoEvil

She also claimed that there are 1.2 million homeless dogs in Houston alone.  I’ve seen or heard  variations of this number, from various people, in the last couple of months.   But, I have very serious doubts about this number.

Yes, Houston is a high kill city.   We have five high kill pounds and shelters in Houston (counting Harris county animal control which is located in Houston).  According to the last reliable records that I’ve gathered, these five pounds/kill shelters were killing around 80,000 animals per year.   Since the “non-profit” kill shelters i.e. Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society and Citizens for Animals Protection refuse to be honest with the public and produce their intake/outcome records (I’ve asked them twice), we don’t know exactly how many animals they are saving or killing.   However, after speaking with numerous former volunteers and employees, I suspect the number is still in the 80,000 ballpark.

But even if they are still killing 80,000 shelter pets per year, that is far cry from 1.2 MILLION more homeless dogs on the streets on Houston.  Houston is 600 square miles.  1.2 MILLION homeless dogs would mean that there are Two Thousand homeless dogs per every square mile in Houston.   If that were true, we would literally be tripping over homeless dogs.  (And again, I don’t know how many million homeless cats they claim are also roaming in that space.)

I’ve asked the people making these claims how they arrived at this number.  I asked what reliable information was used to calculate this number.

So far, the silence has been deafening.

Folks, it does not help the animals to ignore facts such as there are already more than 190 No Kill communities.  In fact, continuing to claim that No Kill is not possible only gives the kill shelters a free pass to keep on killing thousands of adoptable pets each year because no one will expect them to do any better.   It does not require them to work hard or to copy the successes of the 190+ No Kill communities who already stopped killing healthy and treatable pets.

Repeating this lie only causes more shelter pets to die.

Also, it does not help the animals to just make up numbers, or repeat numbers that have no basis in reality.  We cannot create solutions using faulty data and pure fiction.

What we do know, based on actual studies done by Maddie’s Fund and HSUS, is that about 23.5 million people in the US will get a new pet each year. Some of those people have already decided where they will get that pet i.e. they will adopt from a shelter, go to a breeder or get a pet from free to good home ad etc. However, 17 million of those people have not yet decided where they will get their new pet. So these “undecideds” are the homes that are up for grabs. These 17 million people could be convinced to adopt.
 
Today, between 3 and 4 million animals are being killed in “shelters”. So it’s pretty clear that the “demand” for pets each year (17 million) far outnumbers the “supply” of animals being killed in shelters (3-4 million). So not only is ending shelter killing entirely doable, it is being done right now.
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And the supply of shelter pets needing a new home each year is actually even less because a large portion of that 3-4 million being killed are actually lost pets that should be reunited with their owners.  For example, Washoe Co., NV animal control returns approximately 65% of pets to their owners.  Conversely, most shelters in the US average a return of only about 5% to 7%.   The Return to Owner rate at Houston’s animal control i.e. BARC has been about 7% for years.  If BARC leadership would utilize the same Return to Owner program as Washoe Co. with the same success, this one program alone would save the lives 8,100 more animals every year at BARC.  That is 8,100 animals that BARC would not need to rehome or put in foster care and 8,100 empty kennels for the animals that are truly in need of rehoming.   It is also a savings of $972,000 every year which could then be directed to programs like free spay/neuter or a Help Desk to keep animals from being relinquished by their owners.  
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But, BARC leadership has consistently refused to implement this program that would save thousands of lives and tax dollars.  That is not “overpopulation”.  That is a high kill shelter that does not care enough to work hard to save those animals.  It is easier to just kill them, so they do.
 
In addition, that 3-4 million “supply” could be further reduced if all shelters TNR’d (trap, neuter, released) feral cats instead of killing all of them, as many kill shelters do.
 
That 3-4 million “supply” could be reduced further still if shelters had pet retention programs that kept many of those animals out of the shelter in the first place. 
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The moral of this story is do not repeat misinformation being spread across the net. 
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Repeating misinformation and lies does NOT help us save shelter pets.  Learn the real facts proved by  reliable information.  A good place to start your research is here:
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More opportunities to meet Houston city candidates

USA flag and cat

Houston, TX - We have learned from the 190 No Kill communities across the United States (representing approximately 500 cities and towns) that the key to saving 90% and more of all shelter pets is Leadership.  The most critical component of the No Kill model of sheltering is a compassionate, hard working shelter director who is dedicated to saving lives.

In Houston, that leadership begins at the top with the Mayor because this is the person who can ensure that dedicated shelter management is hired to run Houston’s high kill animal control facility.   That person also has the power to fire shelter management if they do not do their jobs well.

On November 5th, we again have the opportunity to choose leadership in Houston.  As a concerned citizen, animal lover, taxpayer and compassionate human being, I hope that you will seize the opportunties before you and learn about the candidates who will run our city for the next 2 years.  These are the people who will ultimately choose life or death for tens of thousands of shelter pets in Houston for the next 2 years.

No Kill Texas Advocates has sent questionnaires concerning BARC issues to all the mayoral and city council candidates.  They have started posting the candidates responses on their website now.

There are also several opportunities to meet the candidates, in person, at candidate forums.  I hope that you will attend at least one forum and please do question the candidates about their stance on BARC and sheltering issues.  If you need help coming up with questions, take No Kill Texas Advocates questionnaires with you. (The questionnaires are linked on their website).

WE citizens hold the power to make changes which will impact the lives of shelter pets at BARC.   Please take advantage of these opportunities.

Several candidate forums are listed below.

If you attend a forum and talk to the candidates about sheltering issues, please post a comment here.   I’d love to hear what the candidates say to voters.

Neighborhood Center, Inc.’s Mayoral Candidate Forum

Monday, October 14, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Neighborhood Center  in  Houston, TX

Church of Bethel Praise Empowerment Center Mayoral Debate

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 08:00 PM

Mayoral Candidate Forum

Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 01:00 PM
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Attend the Mayoral Candidate Forum tonight!

CandidateForum

Houston, TX – Tonight, the Houston Young Republicans invite you to a Mayoral Candidate Forum with confirmed Candidates:

Ben Hall, Mayor Annise Parker and Eric Dick

Although the public is not allowed to ask questions unless you are a member of the Houston Young Republicans, I am told that HYR does plan to ask questions concerning Houston’s high kill pound, BARC.

I urge every animal lover (and taxpayer, who funds BARC’s killing) to find out if the candidate’s care about this issue and if they have a plan to drag Houston out of the dark ages of “catch and kill” sheltering.

Become informed before you go to the voting booth on November 5th.  Candidate forums are a great way to become informed.

The forum will take place at:
Waltrip High School
1900 W 34th St,
Houston, Texas 77018-6107
Friday, October 11th
6:30 – 8:00 pm

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Show off your adoptable pets in Ben Hall’s booth at Pet Fest!

HallHouston’s 2013 mayoral candidate, Ben Hall would like to offer you space in his booth at this year’s Pet Fest Old Town Spring, next weekend, October 19 and 20.   Mr. Hall is an animal advocate and wants to help you place your fur friends in good homes.

This event is expected to attract 20,000 visitors so this is a great opportunity to “market” your wonderful, adoptable pet(s) to thousands of potential adopters.

This offer is open to both rescue groups and individuals who are trying to rehome homeless pets.   If you would like to be in Mr. Hall’s booth with your adoptable pets at Pet Fest, please email Sally Timko as soon as possible at sallytimko@yahoo.com.

No Kill Texas Advocates will be teaming up with Mr. Hall at Pet Fest and sharing booth space.

If you would like to volunteer in their booths, please email them at NoKillTexasAdvocates@yahoo.com.

AdoptMeFotolia_32435271

A BIG day is coming up!

Houston, TX – A BIG day is coming up soon and  in more ways than one.  November 5th is my birthday.  This birthday will be one of those “milestone” birthdays.  You know, the ones that slide you into a new category on those lists that we fill out with the checkboxes.  I’m now going to have to check a new box.

Every time I pass one of these milestones, I realize how fast time is passing.  This year I realize how fast time is  passing without significant changes to Houston’s high kill sheltering system.  I first learned about the successful No Kill model of sheltering about 5 years ago when I read Nathan Winograd’s book, Redemption.   At that time, I was thrilled to learn that someone had finally figured out how we could end the killing of healthy and treatable shelter pets.   Five years ago, I could have never imagined that people would actually fight the efforts to stop killing shelter pets.  So, the last five years, although it seems like they have flown by, have certainly been a long, hard, very stressful and eye opening experience.   I have certainly become wiser and more educated to the shocking realities of the animal sheltering industry.

As you might imagine, my house has been, and still is, home to many rescued and homeless pets; a couple of them were found lost, alone and scared but most were pulled from Houston’s high kill pound, BARC.   When I pulled them out, most of them were on the “kill list” because they were either sick, infants or simply because they had been there longer than the 3 day hold period.

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*Marley

I pulled Marley, who was skinny and had become very sick at BARC, but now looks like the Pillsbury Dough Cat.

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Conan*

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I pulled Conan, along with his mother and 4 siblings.  He is my gentle giant with a tiny meow too small for his body.

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Penelope&Jezebel

I pulled Penelope, the sweet kitty who opens her mouth to meow, but no sound emerges.

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Sebastian*

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I pulled Sebastian, my 20lb moose of a cat who sits up and “begs” for attention or treats.  He was on BARC’s kill list because he had been adopted and returned because he didn’t get along with the adopter’s cat.

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All of my sweet babies, with wonderful, loving and individual personalities each deserving of the right to live their lives.

I still remember the day that I pulled each cat out of BARC.  I remember standing in front of cat cages trying to decide who to take, knowing that those I did not take, would probably be killed soon.  It is one of the most horrible decisions I’ve ever had to make.   Therefore, years later, those memories are still burned into my brain like it was yesterday, along with the faces of those I could not take.  It is a choice that I do not wish on anyone, but one that is made by rescuers and adopters each day at BARC.

This is why I am determined the change the system that forces this horrible choice on the animal loving public.

As I look into the eyes of the wonderful, loving, quirky pets who now share my home, sometimes it brings me to tears because I think of the nearly 15,000 animals, just like them, who entered BARC last year and were KILLED by BARC instead of being rehomed or returned their owners.

Those pets were killed for one simple reason; because LEADERSHIP has, for almost 4 years, REFUSED to implement all of the programs and services that would have saved them.

For almost 4 years, city leadership has REFUSED to implement the recommendations of the leading No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd.

For almost 4 years, leadership at BARC has not cared whether they continue to kill tens of thousands of animals; they do care enough to work hard and change their procedures to make the killing stop.

Leadership.  That is why BARC continues to kill.  Plain and simple.

Folks, we have the opportunity to change that leadership in just a couple weeks.

My birthday, November 5th,, is also Election Day this year.  On that day, we will have the opportunity to change the leadership in our city….. we have the chance to elect a new mayor and city council members who can then change the leadership at BARC.

We hold the power to make changes that will save lives.

Even though this birthday is a “big” one for me, I do not want to celebrate with presents.

The only thing that I want for my birthday is for every single person in Houston to stand up for the animals.  I want every single person to use your right and this opportunity to vote for new leadership in Houston.

We already know what the incumbent leadership will do (or more accurately, WILL NOT do).  We’ve seen the mass killing continue and we’ve seen the ridiculous waste of precious dollars that could have been used to save lives. We’ve seen that, for almost 4 years, BARC’s kill rates have risen.

If we ever hope to change the culture of killing in our city pound, we must change the leadership.

I am asking each of you to please grant my wish and vote for change.

No Kill Texas Advocates has sent questionnaires to the mayoral and city council candidates regarding sheltering issues. They will post the candidates’ responses on their website.  They will also endorse the candidates that they believe will make a difference in the lives of shelter pets in Houston.

For me, this is a one issue election.  Yes, I am concerned about pot holes, taxes and crime, but all that pales significantly in comparison to my concern for the mass slaughter of adoptable animals that our city pound performs daily….. and on my dime (taxes).

Personally, I am voting for Ben Hall for mayor I had the opportunity to meet with him recently and I believe that he is genuinely concerned about the horrific sheltering situation in Houston and that he is committed to creating a better, more humane, more financially responsible, life-saving method of sheltering in Houston.

I believe that he is our best shot to drag Houston out of the dark ages of “catch and kill” sheltering and our best shot to save the lives of Houston’s shelter pets.

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Update regarding BARC’s revisions to animal ordinances

dog in cage

Houston, TX – I received the below update regarding additional changes proposed by BARC to Houston’s animal related ordinances. Although, the change (in red below) removes dogs and cats from the “OK to kill immediately” list, it still leaves every other feral i.e. undomesticated animal at risk of immediate death. This could include any wild animal such as rabbits, raccoons, possums, squirrels, coyetes, bird, etc. etc.

“As we just finished discussing, the revision to this section is intended to explicitly articulate the ability of our ACOs to take action in the field with respect to feral hogs. We have that flexibility from State law, but like many things, are carrying that through to our local ordinances. This does not affect feral cats, our increasingly successful TNR program, or anything else. We are working on some different language that more thoroughly articulates our intent. We are also pulling some numbers on our TNR program so that we can show people how committed we are to that program.

Thanks for the heads up, it gave us an opportunity to improve our product.

Thank you,

Christopher Newport

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For your information, we have included the new language below into a new draft ordinance that is posted on our website:

Sec. 6-7. Destruction of wounded or feral animals.

(a) For purposes of this section only, feral animal shall not include dogs or cats. When from any cause it may happen that any animal within the corporate limits of the city shall be so wounded, maimed or injured as to render its recovery hopeless, or the animal is feral and poses a threat to humans, domestic animals or property, then it shall be the duty of the director to cause it to be destroyed. Such destruction shall take place as soon after such injury as practicable after such injury occurs or the animal’s feral and threatening situation is discovered, and shall be conducted in such manner as the director shall determine to be the least painful. Upon destruction, the director shall direct or cause the carcass thereof to be lawfully removed and disposed of. When the director shall cause any animal to be destroyed under this section, it shall be his duty to file prepare a report in writing of such destruction with the city secretary to be maintained in BARC’s electronic records. Such report shall show:”

As I said, the way the ordinance it is written now, it could include any animal besides a dog or cat. I don’t believe that feral i.e. wild animals should be included in this section at all which describes ending the life of irremediably wounded and suffering animals. They just do not belong together. In addition, it is a slippery slope to give an organization, that already kills more than 57% of all animals in their “care”, more authority to immediately kill any wild animal.

There is already a section regarding wild animals. If this addition was intended for feral i.e wild hogs, they should covered under the category of wild animals and should be treated like any other wild animal — not killed immediately.

There are additional problems with the proposed revisions such as:

1) Labeling anyone who feeds a homeless animal for 3 days the “owner (Section 6-26). This is what Harris County animal control uses to threaten people who are just trying to help keep strays from starving to death. (They’ve actually threatened my elderly mother just because she left food on her front porch for the starving cats after neighbors moved off and left them behind.) It is absurd to punish the public who are simply trying to save homeless animals. This undoubtedly will cause impounds to go up when those new “owners” can’t afford to spay/neuter the strays they may be feeding. Higher impounds = high kill rates at BARC.

2) Requiring people to prove that their pet has been vaccinated for rabies in the previous 1 year—there are now 3 year rabies vaccines so this is not a reasonable requirement. (Section 6-94)

3) Requiring random inspections if a person fosters animals for BARC. I’m sure a lot of people would never agree to this (I NEVER would) which means BARC will lose foster parents, and/or not retain additional foster parents. This is simply crazy and will only cause BARC’s kill rates to rise when foster parents decrease. [Section 6-121(c)(2)]

4) Requiring mandatory sterilization of an animal if he/she is impounded at BARC, at the owner’s expense.

  • a) There may be a reason that an animal should not be sterilized, such as health reasons.
  • b) What happens if the owner can’t afford to pay for the sterilzation? Are they forced to give up their pet to BARC? If so, that pet will most likely end up killed by BARC, simply because the owner was too poor to pay for spay/neuter and their pet was unfortunate enough to end up at BARC [Section 6-137 (a) (1)(b)(1)].

5) The definition of “public nuisance dog” (page 57) appears to include anyone who has more than one dog/animal.

6) An attorney friend states that the proposed Ordinances make a new category of dogs that can be deemed “aggressiveeven when on your own property.  They are trying to expand the definition of dangerous dog to include if a dog bites someone while on its own property.  Then, they have created a very difficult time scheme for hearings which are in contravention of state law and demand they be conducted in municipal court which is against state law.

As I said, I see quite a few problems with BARC’s proposed revisions which will only cause impounds and kill rates to rise.

I hope everyone will try very hard to attend the meeting tonight and oppose these revisions. The animals are depending on us to speak for them. 

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 1, 2013

WHERE: Houston Permitting Center: 1002 Washington Avenue, Basement Training Room B2

Parking: There is free parking in Permitting Center lots

Please RSVP to Christopher Newport at Christopher.Newport@houstontx.gov.

BARC proposing revisions to city ordinances that are detrimental to animals

jeune fille pull rouge négatif

Houston, TX – On October 1, 2013, there will be a meeting to discuss BARC’s (Houston’s high kill pound) proposed revisions to Houston city ordinances.   I am still reading the proposed revisions (since it is such short notice, I wanted to get this information out ASAP) but I have already seen that many of the proposed revisions would be very deterimental animals in Houston, such as lumping feral cats into the same category as “wounded” animals and stating that they should be killed immediately (Section 6-7).

Some of their proposals are just lipstick on a pig such a changing their name to try to fool the public into thinking that they are a “shelter” not a high kill pound.

And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that none of what I’ve read so far creates legislation that would help save more lives as the Companion Animal Protection Act does in the cities and states where it has been passed. 

No, in fact, most of what I’ve read of BARC’s proposed revisions gives BARC more authority to impound animals. 

Considering that BARC is already a very high pound, had a kill rate of over 57% in 2012, and their kill rate has increased every year for the last 3 years, more power to impound animals is the LAST thing that we, and the animals of Houston, need.

Please read BARC’s proposed revisions (click here) and compare their proposals to legislation that would actually help save animals (click here) , then please attend the meeting.  RSVP information is listed in the email below that was sent out to a select group of people notifying them of the meeting.

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“BARC Animal Shelter and Adoptions administers regulations concerning animals within the City of Houston through Chapter 6 of the Code of Ordinances. Currently, BARC is considering revisions to Chapter 6.  While some of the changes are administrative, others warrant feedback from stakeholders like you.

On Tuesday, October 1, BARC invites you to join a discussion among local pet businesses, rescue groups and other interested individuals regarding the new revisions. This meeting precedes a City Council Committee meeting on Chapter 6 scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.

WHO: The City of Houston’s BARC Animal Shelter and Adoptions

WHAT: Stakeholders meeting on revisions to Chapter 6 in the City’s Code of  Ordinances

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday,  October 1, 2013

WHERE: Houston Permitting Center: 1002  Washington Avenue, Basement Training
Room B2

Parking: There is free parking in Permitting  Center lots.

You can find a current “redline” draft of the ordinance by visiting this link: http://www.houstontx.gov/barc/chapter6draft.pdf.

Please feel free to review the document prior to the meeting to prepare questions or comments relating to the ordinance. The majority of the conversation will likely surround pages 39-48 in the draft.  Please note that items in the draft that are crossed out indicate language that is removed in the revised ordinance and items underlined are additions.

This meeting will help us ensure that the changes reflect the goals of rescues groups such as yours, especially as it relates to the health and well-being of animals.  We welcome any and all feedback you may have on the proposed changes.

If you have any questions prior to the meeting, please feel free to call 832-393-8503 or email Christopher.Newport@houstontx.gov.  If you plan to attend the meeting, please RSVP by sending an email to Chris.”

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Can you spare some time to help save shelter pets?

Did you know that:

* there are now 162 communities (representing 500 cities and towns) that are No Kill communities, and are saving 90% to 99% of all animals?;

* in Sept 2009, the international, No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd, assessed BARC and wrote a 196 page report detailing exactly what BARC need to do to stop shelter killing, yet BARC/city of Houston leadership has ignored most of it?;

* the Save Rates at Houston’s animal control i.e. BARC have DECREASED every year for the last 3 years and was only 42% in 2012?;

* in 2008 and 2009, Annise Parker promised to do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill city?;

* YOU can help stop the madness?

dog in cage

Together, we can bring an end to shelter killing in our city.

Will you take some time out of your day to help us save thousands of shelter pets?  To borrow from a quote, it takes a village and we need more Houstonians to help.

No Kill Houston plans to hold a volunteer meeting to discuss new ideas for transforming our city to a No Kill city.

If you are an animal lover who would like to end shelter killing in our city, please join us. 

The meeting date will be August 7th at 7:00 pm.   Location to be announced after everyone RSVP’s.   We will try to make it a convenient location for as many people as possible.

If you would like to attend our volunteering meeting,

please RSVP to NoKillHouston@yahoo.com

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If you wish to receive an email notification each time I post a new blog here, please click the small Follow link in the bottom right corner of your screen.  (Note: you can only see the link if you are reading this from my blog site.  The link does not show if you are reading this from the email version)

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Follow No Kill Houston on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to their email list.

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