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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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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Forty thousand opportunties to save Houston shelter pets

Houston, TX – The Reliant Park World Series of Dog Shows will be in Houston starting July 17th.    This is one of the largest dogs shows in the country.   If you are a dog lover, it will be THE place to be (Cat lovers, don’t despair.  You will find many kitty related items there as well).

No Kill Houston will have a booth at the Dog Show again this year.  Forty thousand people are expected to pass through the doors each year, so it is the ideal location to reach thousands of animal lovers.

Today, there are over 160 OPEN ADMISSION, animal control facilities and shelters, representing approxmiately FIVE HUNDRED cities and towns, who are saving 90% to 98% of all animals entering their doors.   There is a successful, No Kill model of sheltering that, when rigorously implented, DOES work to save all healthy and treatable pets even in Open Admission shelters.  That is the good news.

Protest

The bad news is that  3 1/2 YEARS after the international No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd, gave Houston’s city council a step-by-step guide detailing how to stop killing pets at Houston’s pound, in 2012 they saved only 42% and killed nearly 15,000 pets. 

In fact, BARC’s Save Rate has DECREASED every single year for the last 3 years…. every single year that Annise Parker has been in office.

Enough is enough.  Houston’s pound desperately needs leadership who is dedicated to saving lives, and who willing to work hard, to save all healthy and treatable pets.   Saving a measly 42% of animals is just not good enough.

The only way Houston’s pound will get the leadership that it needs is if animal lovers (and voters) in Houston join together demand better for Houston’s pets.

knowledge is power

No Kill Houston needs volunteers to help in their booth at the Dog show in order to help raise awareness regarding the pathetic state of Houston’s “shelter” system and what can be done to transform Houston to a No Kill community………… just like the hundreds of No Kill communities across the US.

They need you to help them help Houston’s shelter pets.

Volunteers are needed Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 19-21, from 8 am to 5 pm.  There are morning and afternoon shifts.  

If you are able to help out, even for a few hours, you could help in Houston’s transformation.

Please contact No Kill Houston at NoKillHouston@yahoo.com if you help us help Houston’s shelter pets.

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Annise Parker’s Bait and Switch attempts to cover her No Kill failures

Hear speak see no evil

Houston, TX - As reported by the Chronicle, Mayor Annise Parker recently hired some Rice students to come up with solutions to BARC’s miserably low Save Rates.   ARA spokesperson, Christopher Newport is quoted as saying “It’s going to be useful for the council members. What they want to know is, ‘What can we do?’ You can’t really start grappling with that until you’ve got a tool in your hands like what these students provided”.

Apparently, Mr. Newport and Annise Parker have chosen to forget about the 2005 Mayor’s Task Force report which pinpointed many problems at BARC and offered many good solutions.  This lack of memory is stunning considering Parker actually served on the Task Force and she reminded animal lovers and voters many times of this fact while running for election to the Mayor’s office the first time  — for instance in her Policy Brief (see it at this link AnniseParkerPolicyBrief-2009)

Newport and Parker have also chosen to forget that in September 2009, the international, No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd came to Houston and assessed BARC.   Mr. Winograd prepared a 200 page report which details EXACTLY how BARC can stop killing healthy and treatable pets and achieve 90% or more Save Rates.  That was 3 ½ YEARS ago.  Remarkably, Parker even recommended that the city “Listen to the Experts” including Nathan Winograd, in her Policy Brief (linked above), yet she has failed to take her own advice.

If Annise Parker had hired leadership dedicated to saving lives when she first took office and required that BARC vigorously implement expert, Nathan Winograd’s recommendations, BARC would be well on its to No Kill by now.   Instead, BARC’s Save Rates have DECREASED every single year that Annise Parker has been in officeEVERY SINGLE YEAR.

For those who are not familiar with Nathan Winograd, he created the first Open Admission, No Kill shelter in the US, which saved all healthy and treatable animals entering their doors.   Only the irremediable suffering were euthanized (this is the true definition of euthanize).   His shelter was responsible for animal control for 8 municipalities, yet they still saved 90% or more of all animals entering their doors.

Since then, 90+ other Open Admission facilities, representing approximately 300 communities, have followed the same No Kill model of sheltering (called the No Kill Equation) and those shelters have achieved the same successes.   When shelters vigorously implement (i.e. not half-assed as is the case at most kill shelters) all of Winograd’s  recommendations, they stop killing too.knowledge is power

Many of those 90+  Open Admission shelters have reached No Kill while the city of Houston has had Winograd’s assessment report in their hands.   More than 80 Open Admission shelters have passed Houston by on their way to No Kill, while the Kill Rates at Houston’s pound continue to rise, year after year.

In addition to having a step-by-step No Kill guide for BARC, BARC employees attended the national No Kill Conference in Washington DC in 2012.   Present at this conference were people who have actually stopped shelter killing in their communities, and they taught classes on how they achieved their successes.

So, Annise Parker and BARC leaders know EXACTLY what needs to be done at BARC to stop the killing  — the tools are already in their hands, and have been there for over 3 1/2 years. 

But, instead of using those tools, as Parker promised and recommended, she has chosen to ignore them and asked some college students to come up with “more” solutions.

The sheer insanity of choices made for BARC is simply stunning.

Don’t get me wrong,   I’m sure the students’ motivations were well meaning.  But did they research the many other Open Admission shelters that have already reached No Kill?  I have not seen the report, but the Chronicle article does not mention many of the crucial components of the successful No Kill model of sheltering, so it does not appear that the students researched what is already working.  So, essentially the students’ solutions are merely a guess.    

Why did Parker even ask college students to come up with solutions in the first place, when she already has the solutions and all the tools necessasry to stop shelter killing?  

The answer?  Asking the college students to come up with solutions is just a “bait and switch” charade and nothing more than the Mayor’s attempt to divert attention away from the fact that she has totally failed keep her No Kill promises.   She has never bothered to require that her employees do their jobs well and implement the solutions that have already been proven to work and already in her hands, so she asks someone else to come up with “other” solutions.

Annise Parker has repeatedly promised that she would do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill city.  

Nathan Winograd gave Houston detailed solutions in September 2009. 

The only thing that Annise Parker has to do is DEMAND that her employees do their jobs and vigorously implement all of the recommendations in Nathan Winograd’s assessment report.

For almost 3 1/2 years, she has failed.

It is foolish, wasteful and dishonest to squander time, money and lives by continuing to refuse to implement proven solutions, and by asking others, with absolutely no life-saving shelter experience, to “guess” about solutions.  It a reprehensible and reckless use of our tax dollars and a reckless loss of precious lives that:

  • she has allowed BARC’s kill rates to INCREASE every single year that she has been in office;
  • she has allowed BARC to continue to ILLEGALLY ban volunteers;
  • she allows BARC to continue to kill animals that others have offered to save;
  • she allows BARC to make it harder for foster parents and rescuers to pull animals from BARC to safety;
  • she has not hired a director for BARC that is dedicated to saving lives—one willing to work hard to implement the programs that are saving 90% of animals in shelters all around us;
  • she has hired a director for BARC that does not even work onsite all day, but only makes a short appearance periodically;

There are a lot of things that BARC leadership and Annise Parker could be doing at this moment to save hundreds more lives every month, that would literally cost the city absolutely NOTHING, yet the Mayor and BARC leadership continue to refuse to implement these programs and services.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where BARC’s problems lie.  It is the same problem that has plagued BARC for years — LEADERSHIP.  Annise Parker and BARC manager, Greg Damianoff that just do not care if BARC stops killing.  

As I have said before, that problem could be solved with a pink slip.

I urge everyone to demand that Annise Parker (and your city council member) require BARC to vigorously implement the recommendations in Nathan Winograd’s 2009 assessment report.  Call, write letters, fax and/or email them.   (Their contact information is linked here.)

If you just don’t have time to call or write, I have created a petition that will send them an email each time someone signs.  You can find the Petition here.    Please SHARE it with all of your friends and family. 

If we all do not speak up and demand better, BARC and city of Houston will continue the “business as usual” as a high kill pound forever.    This is an election year for the mayor and city council members, so remind them that you vote.

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The earth is flat, pet overpopulation exists and other myths we’ve been told

truth or lie

Houston, TX – For years, most people in the United States have been told that that there are “too many pets and not enough homes”.  We have been told that there is a pet “overpopulation” problem.  We have been told that the reason that America’s animal shelters are killing millions of pets every year is because of this “overpopulation”.   We’ve heard this over and over and we have accepted this as truth without question.

Until a few years ago, I too believed that there was a pet overpopulation problem.  After all, I have seen the large numbers of animals at shelters, and who would believe that an animal shelter would kill thousands of animals every year if there actually were enough homes for all of them?  The caring and rational people who work at animal shelters would not do such a thing……. would they?

The truth is that pet “overpopulation” is actually a myth.  It does not exist.  I know this sounds heretical to many people especially to those who have fostered many animals, or to the people who watch animals being killed by the thousands at shelters every year. The first time that I read that pet overpopulation was a myth on a book cover, I thought it was crazy.  I am sure that people felt the same way the first time someone suggested that the earth might actually be round, not flat.  It is hard to change our belief system when we’ve been taught one thing our entire lives.  But, people finally realized that the earth really was not flat after all, that people were not sailing off the edge of the earth and people will soon realize that pet overpopulation is a myth as well.

But, let’s look at the numbers to make some sense of what the true facts are.   According to a national study done by Maddie’s Fund and the Humane Society of the United States, 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).

And the supply of adoptable shelter pets 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 65% of pets to their owners.  Conversely, most shelters in the US average a return of only about 5%.  If Houston’s animal control i.e. BARC would utilized the same Return to Owner program as Washoe Co. with the same success, it would save the lives 8,100 more animals every year; that’s 8,100 animals that BARC would not need to adopt out or put in foster care and 8,100 empty kennels for the animals that truly are homeless.  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.

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 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, as mentioned above.

So we can see that adopting out all animals entering shelters is doable.  And the fact is that it is already being done in many communities.  If pet overpopulation really existed, there would be no open admission, No Kill shelters.  They could not exist. But, they do exist.

So let’s break these numbers down and get a perspective on what it means for Houston.

According to the U.S. census, there are 310,895,000+ people in the U.S.  As we discussed above, 17 million people who will get a new pet each year, have not yet decided where they will get that pet.  Those “undecided” new pet owners equal about 5.4% of the U.S. population.

The latest census shows that Houston has just under 2.2 million people.  The “undecided” new pet owners in Houston would equal about 118,800 people.  That is 118,800 people who could be convinced to adopt their next pet.

We also know that approximately 80,000 pets are being killed in Houston’s five kill shelters each year.   Again, we can see that the “demand” for pets by the “undecideds” in Houston (118,800) far outnumbers the “supply” of pets being killed in Houston’s shelters (80,000).

This means that there is no pet “overpopulation”.  It just means that the 80,000 pets being killed in Houston shelters each year could be saved if they were better introduced to the people who would be willing to adopt them.

And the numbers above are a worst case scenario because again this does not take into consideration the feral cats that should be TNR’d; it doesn’t take into consideration the number of pets that “should” be returned to their owners but who are not (see above); it does not take into consideration the number of animals that could be kept out of the shelter entirely with a proactive “help desk”.

I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of pets entering Houston’s shelters each year.  Of course there are.  And I’m not saying that there aren’t irresponsible people in Houston.  Of course there are.  I am saying that just because 80,000 pets are being killed in Houston shelters each year does not equate to “too many pets and not enough homes”.  The numbers prove that this is false.  It is myth and propaganda perpetuated by kill shelters.

I’m also not saying it is easy to save all healthy and treatable pets entering shelters.  To the contrary, it is hard work.  But therein lies the true heart of problem ….. saving all healthy and treatable pets is hard work and most shelter directors in the U.S. still refuse to do everything necessary to save them.  Continuing on the same path of “save a few and kill the rest” is easier.  Continuing to blame the public for pet “overpopulation” is easier.

So while I will admit there is an overpopulation problem, it is not a pet overpopulation problem.  The problem is an overpopulation of ineffective shelter directors who refuse to join the 21st century and put into place the programs and services that we know will save all healthy and treatable pets.

That overpopulation problem could be solved fairly quickly…. with a pink slip.

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