Reflections on 2009

This time of year makes me reflect on the past 12 months. There certainly has been a lot of activity dedicated to animal welfare in Houston this past year.  It felt like a never ending battle was waged for the very lives of the thousands of animals who enter Houston’s shelters. Although, it feels like this year has just flown by, I also feel battle weary.   To gear up for next year, it helps me to look back and remember what we have accomplished this past year. 

Advocates have spoken out loudly and in great numbers to make Houston city leaders aware that we are sick and tired of the killing at BARC and we refuse to stand by and watch it any longer.  We have written letters, called, faxed and emailed hundreds of times.  We have protested outside of city hall and we have gone to city council sessions and spoken to city leaders.   Our voices have been heard as one city council member commented that they had received far more mail about BARC than any other city issue. 

Since we began speaking out for the animals, an ineffective Bureau Chief has been fired;  unqualified and uncaring vets and vet techs have been fired;  abusive kennel attendants have been fired.  In years past, the mayor and city council have completely ignored citizens’ complaints.  Last year, the mayor and “some” city council members got up and left the room while animal advocates spoke at city council sessions.  But, during the Houston elections this year, two mayoral candidates issued position statements on BARC issues  (and those two candidates also made it to the run-off election).  Mayoral, city controller and city council candidates answered questionnaires from No Kill Houston and Noah’s Ark PAC.  During the debates on live television, the mayoral candidates answered questions regarding their plans for BARC.  All of these things occurred because you, citizens and animal advocates, demanded that the city make this issue a priority. 

No Kill Houston, Frisky Paws Rescue and several other rescues groups organized a big “adoption extravaganza”.  We almost emptied the two free roaming cat rooms because we pulled so many cats.  We pulled all TWENTY SEVEN “90 day” cats from BARC and brought them to the event, along with dozens of other cats.  We had been assured by BARC that if we brought any of the 90 days cats back, they would be killed.  The community came together and worked hard to make sure  that didn’t happen… some BARC kitties and I even ended up on TV!   Click here to watch:   Over that weekend, 15 cats went to new homes and the rest of the 90 days cats went to foster homes and rescues.   We proved that adoptions in a high traffic, highly visible location is key to adoption success.  Our happiness was short lived, however, when we learned that Elena Marks and Gerry Fusco planned to convert the two, newly emptied, free roaming cat rooms into office space, a computer room or a clinic.  This meant cats at BARC would have less room to live than before.  Two steps forward, one step back… 

In December, the city also announced plans for a new “animal campus” including an adoption center.  Although, it is welcome news that the city is finally spending additional money to benefit animals at BARC, the location of the planned facility (2999 Wayside) is very simliar to BARC’s current location (3200 Carr).  Click here for pictures and description of the area:  It is also in a zip code in which BARC picks up the most cats.  Considering these factors and that it is not in a high traffic nor highly visible location, this effort seems like more of the same that we’ve seen from the current administration over the years.   At the Wayside press announcement, Bill White took the opportunity to take one last shot at the animal advocates who have been asking for change.   I sincerely hope citizens and advocates receive better treatment from  newly elected mayor, Annise Parker in 2010 and in years to come.

This past year we have educated citizens on what is possible… that stopping the killing in our shelters is not just a far off dream but a reality that is occurring all over the U.S. and in other countries.  Last year and this year we gave the mayor and every city council member a copy of Nathan Winograd’s book so they could see for themselves that No Kill is possible; we brought Winograd to Houston for a “Building a No Kill Community” seminar and gave free tickets to the Mayor, the city controller and all city council members as well as the Directors of every kill shelter in Houston and those in other counties and cities; we helped persuade city bureaucrats to finally, after 6 months, sign Winograd’s contract so he could assess BARC–this happened because citizens continued to demand it;  we have talked to hundreds and hundreds of people about No Kill at the dog show, dog parks, local events, home owners associations and civic clubs; we’ve been on the radio with Winograd numerous times educating the public regarding the No Kill model of sheltering;  we’ve been in the media–radio, TV and newspapers;  we’ve run ads in Best Friends magazine, local magazines, newspapers and are on every social media website; we’ve had billboards up several times in various areas of Houston.  Together, we are making all 2.2 million Houstonians aware that shelters CAN stop the killing. 

Although there have been many ups and downs, together we have made progress for the voiceless animals at BARC.  But there is still much left to do.  There is a new General Manager at BARC and I’m sure that your wish for 2010 is like mine, that he is a person who is dedicated to saving all healthy and treatable pets at BARC.  If he is, we should support him and his efforts.  But, if he is mired in bureaucracy and content to let the killing continue, then the fight must go on. 

My wish for all of us is that 2010 brings many more animal lives saved in a No Kill Houston. 











Unfortunately, the cost of fighting for Houston’s shelter pets is not cheap.  Please help us in our quest to make Houston a No Kill city. Your support will help us fight for Houston’s voiceless.  We couldn’t do it without the compassionate animal lovers and advocates.

You can donate thru Paypal (; the email address is

or you can mail donations to:

 No Kill Houston
11152 Westheimer #841
Houston, TX 77042

 *No Kill Houston is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.


Bill White proves once again that he doesn’t have a clue

Mayor Bill White used a BARC related announcement last week as an opportunity to take one last shot at animal advocates before he leaves Houston to run for governor of Texas.  In his statement (see below) he showed his ignorance of who the animal advocates really are, and his ignorance of who his constituents are and have been—the very same constituents who will be eligible to vote when he runs for governor next year.

White stated that “Talk is cheap and advocates come a dime a dozen“….. “real advocates are those who are willing to donate both their treasure and their time to accomplishing the goal that they seek”.  Since White, and some of his minions, seem to be clueless as to whom the animal advocates really are, let me enlighten them and readers.   Every person who has written a letter, emailed, faxed and/or called White and city council members regarding BARC are the very same people who are volunteering their time to try to save animals from being killed at BARC.   They do it by volunteering at BARC, or at various events and projects around the city.  They also do it by trying to educate White and city council regarding the inhumane treatment, high disease rate and high kill rate at BARC.  They have been trying to enlighten White regarding how other cities have stopped the killing altogether so that White could have stopped it in Houston as well.   But White only criticized or ignored the true experts who have stopped the killing, those that could have taught White how to do it too.

In addition, the advocates White references are the very same people who have been spending exorbitant amounts of their own “treasure” by fostering BARC animals or running rescue organizations that pull animals out of BARC to safety.   Personally, I have fostered many, many cats and kittens from BARC over the last few years.   Considering I’ve been spending $80 per week on food and litter the last 6-8 months, I would estimate that I’ve spent $3,000+ on food and litter alone this year.  That doesn’t include the thousands of dollars I’ve spent getting BARC animals spayed/neutered and trying to get them well after they became sick at BARC (because of BARC’s own poor disease prevention procedures). 

 This also doesn’t take into consideration the incredibly high emotional toll of holding tiny kittens while they die one by one, until the entire litter is dead, from what “should” have been a very curable upper respiratory infection.  They instead died because no one at BARC bothered to give the mother or kittens medicine while at BARC even though it was obvious they were very ill.    My story is not isolated.   It is similar to all the other advocates who have contacted White this year and for the past 6 years White has been in office.

So Bill, tell us how much “treasure” does it take to meet your standards?   And, please tell the advocates exactly how much “time and treasure” you have personally spent helping BARC animals or Houston’s homeless animals?  In the past, you couldn’t even be bothered to sit at the city council table until advocates finished their one and half minute speech.   One and half MINUTES… not a lot of your time that could have helped save animal lives years ago.

Perhaps you should become more educated on who the advocates really are.  After all, we are not limited to Houston.   We live all over Texas and yes, we talk to each other.

There is one thing that I do agree with you about and that is “talk is cheap”.  Just because you pop in for a photo op after ignoring BARC issues for 5 years, 11 months and 18 days doesn’t mean we believe you actually get it now. 


Bill White uses BARC to criticize advocates and plug his campaign


Mayor Bill White’s announcement today of a fund-raising campaign for an $11 million animal campus at Gragg Park was about as non-political as any public appearance by an outgoing mayor seeking a promotion can be.
But Councilman James Rodriguez, whose district includes the site, managed to sneak in a plug for White’s campaign.
Rodriguez talked about the value of animal adoption and noted that his family had recently adopted a dog.
“Our dog, who is appropriately named ‘guv’nah,’ is not here,” Rodriguez said.
White also took the opportunity, in one of his last public appearances as mayor, to share ideas about how citizens should agitate for change. His comments seemed directed, at least in part, to some of his more strident critics on problems at the city’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care:
I would encourage those to whom I’ve passed the baton to use words that I’ve used in many other contexts, whether it be with our parks, our libraries, our historical preservations, our building of our arts and cultural institutions. Talk is cheap and advocates come a dime a dozen. Ooh, did I just say that? I did.  And there’s a role for advocacy.  But real advocates are those who are willing to donate both their treasure and their time to accomplishing the goal that they seek.  They’re not so into taking credit as they are taking individual responsibility for making sure change takes place.

The final Mayoral debate is scheduled for this Wed 12/09 on Channel 2

The final Mayoral debate is scheduled for this Wed 12/09 at 7:00 pm on KPRC Channel 2.  They are supposed to ask viewer questions this time, so send in your questions regarding BARC.  We have to impress upon these two candidates (and the news media) that BARC, and our city’s high kill rate, are important topics to many people.

They must feel pressure to pay attention to these issues or we will have more years just like the recent years of oblivion.

Viewers can submit questions to the candidates at

Houston Run-off elections are Dec 12th! Vote for the welfare of homeless animals!

Saturday, December 12th are the run-off elections for Mayor, City Controller and several City Council member seats.  The closeness of some of the races proved that even a few votes can make a difference in who will be at city hall next year.

It is predicted that the runoff elections will have a low turnout.  The animal loving community CAN make a difference in this election!  PLEASE VOTE. YOU can make a difference.

No Kill Houston sent questionnaires to the candidates in the run-off elections.  Candidates responses are posted on our website and were Rated from 1 to 5 based solely regarding how well their responses align with the programs and services that have been proven to stop the killing in other shelters i.e. the No Kill Equation.

Responses to No Kill Houston’s questionnaires are posted here:

Responses to Noah’s Ark PAC’s questionnaire and other publically available information were also considered when rating candidates’ responses regarding no kill objectives.


This election is critical for the 80,000+ pets who will enter Houston/Harris County shelters next year. We must elect representatives who will work to drop Houston’s appallingly high kill rate by using methods that have been PROVEN to stop the killing.

We must elect candidates who are not only compassionate to animal issues but we also need leaders who will research what is being done in other successful No Kill shelters. We do not want politicians who will propose more punitive laws that only punish pet owners (as we have seen in the recent past) and will cause kill rates to rise.  This only shifts the blame of killing on the public instead of laying blame where it belongs….. on the shelters that are still killing.

We are fortunate that Houston does not have to “re-create the wheel”.  There are cities all over the US and Canada, including open admission shelters, who have STOPPED THE KILLING ENTIRELY.  Houston can copy their successful strategies. Our city leaders must, must become educated on the programs that have stopped the killing in other cities and they must work to put THESE programs in place in Houston. Nothing else will stop the killing.

Please review the candidates responses CAREFULLY. Pay particular attention to those candidates who propose more puntive laws such as mandatory spay/neuter laws.  Houston does not need this type of legislation that will only cause kill rates to RISE.

I have listed several links below so you can become more educated on this topic yourself. I know mandatory spay/neuter laws may sound like the answer to all of our prayers, but they are not. Please become informed. The 80,000 pets who may die in Houston shelters next year are depending on us to make informed decisions.

1]  L.A.’s euthanasia rates increased 31% following their passage of mandatory spay / neuter law:

2] When it comes to spay/neuter, income tells the story:

3] Mandatory Spay/Neuter Success? Not Remotely:

4]  The Best Animal Control Program in North America

5] Mandatory Spay/Neuter Fails:

6]  Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws -A Failure Everywhere:

7] Forced Spay-Neuter laws don’t save lives or tax payer money

8] Forced Spay/Neuter update – Shifting the Costs of Killing:

Click here for candidate questionnaires

Thank Len Cannon for questioning candidates regarding BARC issues

Kudos to KHOU journalist, Len Cannon, for asking the mayoral candidates a question regarding BARC issues.  Here is a link to the debate if you missed it.  The question regarding BARC is almost at the end of the debate.

Please thank Mr. Cannon for asking the question and keeping the topic of BARC and animal issues on par with other issues that are important to citizens.   I’m told that Doug Miller played a part in the question getting on air, so you may want to thank him as well.

Here are their email addresses:

My email to Mr. Cannon:

Mr. Cannon,

Thank you very much for asking the Mayoral candidates a question regarding how they would work to solve BARC’s continued problems. And thank you for accurately stating BARC’s kill rate.   If we ever hope to make positive changes at BARC, it will only be with the help of journalists such as yourself, who question politicians about the issues that are important to the public and who continue to keep citizens informed.

Thank you for keeping this issue in the forefront of citizens’ and politicians’ minds and agendas.

Bett Sundermeyer, President

No Kill Houston

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished by City of Houston or BARC

A few days ago I told you about our very successful cat adoption event. (See this link for previous blog We pulled TWENTY SEVEN “90 day” cats from BARC and got them to safety. The reasons we pulled these cats were two fold: 1) to save the cats who were destined to die immediately; 2) to free up more cage space for the many cats pouring into BARC. We had been assured that if we returned any of these cats to BARC, they would be killed, so we worked very hard to make sure this didn’t happen.

Many members of the community came together to get these cats to safety. We almost completely cleared out the two free roaming cat rooms which would have given a lot of new space for the many cats pouring into BARC. Then, on Monday, we learned that Elena Marks & Gerry Fusco plan to convert the two, newly emptied, free roaming cat rooms into OFFICE SPACE, A COMPUTER ROOM, OR A CLINIC. This means cats will now have LESS room to live than before! BARC is overflowing with cats. It is UNCONSCIONABLE that anyone would even consider taking away any living space for any animal at BARC. BARC leaders should be looking for more places to house animals, not taking away space from them.

In addition, No Kill Houston and the other citizens did NOT organize this adoption event and spend an enormous amount of time and money only to provide offices, etc. for BARC leaders. BARC is an animal shelter. Their first priority should be to find more ways to save animals, not making themselves more comfortable. The community worked hard to SAVE LIVES. I want to know when BARC leaders will start making decisions that actually save lives as well? I, for one, am sick and tired of waiting.

Elena Marks and Gerry Fusco have been in charge at BARC since July and there has been no change in the kill rate. The only things they have done is to make it more difficult for volunteers, foster parents and rescue groups to save lives.

I am writing our Mayor and City council and telling them that the above actions, as well as many other actions that Marks & Fusco have taken recently, are intolerable and do NOT save lives. 

I URGE EACH OF YOU TO CONTACT THE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL as well, even if you do not live in Houston.   We must, must speak up and make our voices heard before BARC goes any farther backwards than it already has. I’m attaching my letter below.  Feel free to use it or write your own.  Email addresses for the Mayor and city council are also below. I urge you to also FAX them.  Fax numbers are on our website at



No Kill Houston’s Letter to Mayor White and City Council

Dear Mayor White and City Council Members:

This past weekend No Kill Houston and Frisky Paws Rescue organized a large offsite adoption event in a high traffic area of town. We pulled every single “90 day” (meaning their time was up) cat out of BARC and brought them to our adoption event. The reasons we pulled these cats were two fold: 1) to save the cats who were destined to die immediately; 2) to free up more cage space for the many cats pouring into BARC. We had been assured by BARC that if we returned any of these cats to BARC, they would be killed so we worked VERY hard to save them.

Over the weekend, we adopted out 14 of these cats and arranged for the remaining cats to go to foster homes or rescues so that they were not returned to BARC. This event was a HUGE undertaking that required many volunteers working many long hours and donating many supplies and funds. Many members of the community came together to get these cats to safety. At the end of the 3 day event, we were all exhausted but pleased that we helped save so many lives.

Then, on Monday, I learned that Elena Marks & Gerry Fusco plan to convert the two free roaming cat rooms (that we just emptied by pulling 90 day cats) into office space, a computer room or a clinic. This means cats will now have LESS room to live than before. BARC is overflowing with cats. It is unconscionable that anyone would consider taking away living space from any animal. BARC leaders should be looking for more places to house animals, not taking away space from them.

In addition, No Kill Houston and other citizens did NOT organize this adoption event and spend an enormous amount of time and money only to provide offices, computer rooms or clinics for BARC staff. BARC is an animal “shelter”. Their first priority should be to save animals, not make themselves more comfortable. We worked hard in order to SAVE LIVES. I want to know when BARC leaders will start making decisions that actually save lives as well? I, for one, am sick and tired of waiting.

None of the “procedures” that Marks & Fusco have come up with have been designed to save lives; most only harass and punish the volunteers, foster parents and rescue groups. It appears that none of their new “processes” address the real problems at BARC, and that is and always has been, the employees and leaders who don’t really care about animals’ welfare. Over FOUR MONTHS since Mr. Fusco was hired, citizens are STILL seeing entire Wards of animals going ALL DAY without food and water or having their kennels cleaned. Employees leave for the day without feeding animals even though the South Ward is overstaffed. No supervisors check to see that animals are properly cared for and it appears that neither Mr. Fusco nor Ms. Marks verifies this either.

We know that distemper and other diseases are still rampant as our foster animals are still dying from these preventable diseases in large numbers. It appears that Marks & Fusco have not addressed proper cleaning protocols yet or, if they have, they are not hiring the right type of employees nor are they supervising them to make sure that procedures are followed. And contrary to what Elena Marks recently stated, foster parents and rescue groups are NOT “selling animals and making a profit”. The medical expenses, that we pay ourselves for these animals, are incredibly high. In fact, many of us have gone deeply in debt to save animals. We do NOT pull animal out of BARC to make money. We pull animals out to save them from certain death at BARC. This, by the way, also saves BARC money as it is well known that it costs the city $125 to take in, house, feed and then kill an animal. Yet Marks & Fusco continue to make it increasingly difficult for us to get animals out. It appears that Marks & Fusco would rather spend $125 and kill an animal, rather than turn it freely over to a foster or rescue group who would spend their own money to save it.

As further proof that basic “processes” for BARC’s own employees are not in place or not being followed, on Monday 11/30/09, BARC ran out of litter boxes. I find it utterly absurd that BARC could run out of a critical supply that it needs every single day. It seems like ordering critical supplies, in a regular, timely manner, should have been one of the very FIRST “processes” that Marks & Fusco addressed. Perhaps Marks & Fusco should have worked on this process rather than on the new rules/procedures for volunteers, foster parents and rescue groups; especially since those particular areas “were” working well until Marks & Fusco’s involvement.

BARC scheduled only one offsite adoption location in November even though Marks & Fusco know, or they SHOULD know, that a large number of people are NEVER, EVER going to go to BARC to adopt. Offsite adoptions are critical to getting animals out alive. The kill rate has not decreased significantly since Marks & Fusco have been running BARC. This fact should prove that most citizens are NOT going to go to BARC. It doesn’t matter how many statutes or murals Ms. Marks plans there–not enough people are going to go to BARC to adopt to stop the killing.

So, over four months after Elena Marks lobbied you all to hire Mr. Fusco, and you all spent $183,000 of our tax money to do so, I want to know exactly what Fusco & Marks have done that is saving lives at BARC because I am not seeing any change. BARC still has the same problems and BARC is still killing just as many animals.

The most important element at a shelter is a hard working leader dedicated to SAVING LIVES. BARC has never had this and again, BARC does NOT have this with Marks & Fusco. And BARC will NOT have this if Elena Marks is allowed to hire the next Bureau Chief because SAVING LIVES is not a priority to her.

Marks & Fusco are failing BARC miserably and this means YOU are also failing BARC and tax payers with this $183,000 fiasco. When will someone at city hall step up to the plate and hire a leader that makes saving lives the NUMBER ONE priority? There is one person who has applied for the Bureau Chief position who has actual experience turning a high kill shelter into a No Kill shelter. The shelter she runs now as a SAVE rate of 92%. Why aren’t you all BEGGING this woman to work at BARC? She is one of the few people who could actually make a difference.


Bett Sundermeyer, President
No Kill Houston