BARC’s refusal of offers of humane care may have cost an injured dog her life

Kieko aka Liberty, a young dog, was brought to BARC on Monday, 3/15/10.   It was obvious that she had suffered severe head/eye injuries.  BARC’s vet reportedly told volunteers that it appeared that the dog had been beaten with a 2×4. 

Despite, Keiko’s obvious severe injuries BARC decided that she should wait at BARC until Friday when her stray hold period would expire. At that point she would “officially belong to BARC” and BARC would remove her eyes.  On Friday morning, BARC vet staff operated on Keiko.  This was done despite that BARC has no diagnostic tools to properly evaluate the extent of Keiko’s injuries, nor do they have the proper surgical equipment for this type of surgery.  If BARC’s services had been the only option available for Keiko, BARC might have been considered a hero for attempting to save this animal.  However, this is far from the truth.

Early this week, the rescue community offered to take Keiko from BARC to a specialist where she could get the immediate specialized care that she desperately needed.  This would have been at no cost to BARC i.e. taxpayers.   BARC repeatedly refused these offers.

After hearing of BARC’s refusal, the community bombarded BARC and the city of Houston with requests that Keiko be released to see a specialist.  BARC did not release Keiko to rescue, but on Thursday, BARC allegedly took Keiko to a specialist who allegedly recommended that her eyes should be removed.  That day, BARC representative, Chris Newport told Fox 26 that the specialist had offered to perform Keiko’s surgery free of charge.  This offer was refused and Keiko was taken back to BARC where BARC staff proceeded to operate on Keiko. 

BARC is a clinic of “last resort” i.e. when there are no other options available.   BARC staff has only the most basic diagnostic tools at their disposal; they have no x-ray machines and certainly nothing more sophisticated such as an MRI or CT scanner; their microscopes are in need of repair; their surgical equipment is geared towards spays/neuters only; they do not have the ability to run complete blood panels; many of the spays / neuters are done in a former closet.  In addition, after delicate surgery such as this, Keiko would have required overnight medically monitored care.  BARC cannot not provide this.  Yet, BARC still proceeded with the surgery to remove Keiko’s eyes and soon after she died.

There are a number of troubling questions:         

1) BARC is not equipped to diagnose nor treat this type of severe injury. Why didn’t BARC immediately call on rescuers on Monday, 3/15/10 when Keiko came in with these severe injuries? They call on rescuers for animals with much less severe injuries such as broken bones, ringworm and upper respiratory infections. Why not this dog?

2) On Tuesday 3/16/10, rescuers began asking to pull Keiko and take her to a specialist who has the diagnostic equipment to do sensitive surgeries. Why did David Atencio and Dr. Mendelsohn repeatedly refuse these offers throughout the week?

3) Why did Keiko wait 3 1/2 days before BARC’s attempts to properly diagnose her injuries at a specialist’s office with the appropriate equipment? BARC’s spokesperson said it wasn’t safe to move her until Thursday, but in an earlier statement he said that she was rolling over for belly rubs. If she was well enough to roll over for belly rubs, why wouldn’t she be well enough to ride in a car, especially since it was clear that this was an emergency situation?

4) BARC is well known to have rampant diseases.   Does BARC personnel think that Keiko was in a healthier environment waiting in a BARC kennel rather than in a private vet’s office?

5) BARC is severely underfunded. If a rescue group was willing to take to take Keiko and have her treated by an eye specialist, at no cost to taxpayers, why did David Atencio continue to refuse?

6) Why did BARC spend so much money on this severely injured dog when free, and much better alternatives, were available?

7) In emergencies, other animals have been released from BARC before the stray hold period was up. BARC’s own policy and procedure manual states clearly that animals with certain medical conditions such as ringworm and upper respiratory infections can be released before the stray hold period has expired.  Why wasn’t this dog, with far more severe injuries, released when care was offered?

8 )  Of the 6 vets that the city touts as examining Keiko, 4 were BARC vets. None of these four vets would have had access to proper diagnostic equipment to adequately diagnose an injury such as Keiko’s, much less operate on her.  Why did they proceed when they clearly did not have the equipment to adequately care for Keiko?

9) Why did BARC vets consider handling such a major and specialized surgery when they knew that they did not have appropriate surgical tools for this specialized and delicate surgery?

10) If the city claims that BARC does have appropriate equipment to properly diagnose injuries such as Keiko’s, we would like to know which tests were done by the any of the 4 BARC vets on 03/15/10 or 3/16/10 that allowed them to determine and diagnose that Keiko’s eyes should be removed? X-rays? MRI? CT Scan? Blood work?

11) If the city claims that BARC does have appropriate equipment to properly diagnose injuries such as Keiko’s, we would like to know exactly which tests were done by any of the 4 the BARC vets on 03/15/10 or afterwards that allowed them to determine that she did NOT have a brain injury that might require additional treatment?  X-rays? MRI? CT Scan? Blood work?

12) What tests were done by both of the outside vets that allowed them to determine and diagnose that Keiko’s eyes should be removed? X-rays? MRI? CT Scan?  Blood work?

13) What tests were done by either of the outside vets that allowed them to determine that she did not have a brain injury that might require additional treatment? X-rays? MRI? CT Scan? Blood work?

14) If a vet agreed to evaluate and diagnose Keiko, why did he/she later not want to be identified?

15) According to media reports, the specialist who examined Keiko on Thursday 3/18/10 offered to do the surgery for free? Why was this offer refused?

16) Why was surgery performed at BARC when they had no options for medically monitored aftercare?

17) Dr. Mendelsohn was reprimanded and fined by Virginia’s Veterinary Board for the death of a dog that died during a routine spay procedure. After the fiasco concerning the discovery of disciplinary actions filed against Dr. O, why did BARC hire yet another vet who has at least one disciplinary action on her record?

18) Did the city do any type of background check before hiring Dr. Mendelsohn or any of the other vets?  If so, we would like to know what types of checks are performed?

Had Keiko been released to rescue who could take her to a specialist the minute she entered BARC, she might have lived.  A specialist might have been able to save her sight had she been evaluated at that time.   However, BARC’s director and veterinarians utterly and stubbornly failed this dog and I believe it cost Keiko her life.  The animals’ welfare should be the number one concern for the staff at BARC.  Everything else should come second, including egos and publicity.

It is time for regime change.  Clearly, BARC leadership is not interested in the best welfare of the animals.  I, for one, am tired of waiting for them to stop the killing and inhumane treatment.

Please take a minute to speak out for Keiko.  Demand leaders who will work hard to stop the killing and inhumane treatment.

Contact information is below:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;


BARC to remove a dog’s eyes although rescuers offer to save her

This poor dog (see picture below) was brought into BARC on Tuesday 3/16/10 with obvious serious head/eye injuries.  Rescuers are BEGGING BARC to be allowed to pull this dog so they can take her to an animal ophthalmologist where she can get the specialized care that she so obviously needs.  In addition, people have donated almost $2,000 for her treatment.  But, as of the end of the day Wednesday 3/17/10, BARC leaders refuse to release her.   BARC leaders plan to let her sit in this condition at BARC until Friday 3/19/10 then they plan to REMOVE HER EYES.  BARC does not have the proper equipment to diagnose this dog; they don’t even have x-ray equipment.  Yet, BARC plans to REMOVE her eyes.  This is unconscionable and  unethical.

I would urge everyone to take a few minutes and send an email to BARC leaders and city council and express your outrage.  Demand that this dog be released to Rescue so that she has a chance to save her sight.  At the very least she deserves to be treated in a facility with the proper equipment necessary for her care.   Below is my email.   Feel free to copy any of it.  Just please do it TODAY before it is too late.

A1018499, female, black and white Pit Bull Terrier mix, 1 year old.

blog post photo

My email to David Atencio, Alfred Moran and all city council.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Re: A1018499, female, black and white Pit Bull Terrier mix, 1 year old.

I would like to know why this dog has not been released to one of the rescues who have offered to take her to an animal ophthalmologist where she can get the specialized care that she so obviously needs?  (City council, please see her picture at the bottom of this email).

Rescuers have offered to take her to an eye specialist. People have donated money to pay for her care. BARC should immediately release this dog to the rescuers so she might have a chance at saving her sight.

It is absolutely absurd and inhumane to make her sit at BARC for even one more minute waiting to have her eyes REMOVED when people are BEGGING to take her and give her proper care.

With all due respect to Dr. Mendelsohn, BARC vets are not specialists. They practice generalized shelter medicine.  Even if she were an eye specialist, BARC simply does not have the equipment to handle the medical needs of this dog.  Dr. Mendelsohn has stated this herself at the volunteer meeting.  This dog most likely has severe head trauma. She may have other injuries such as brain damage.  She needs x-rays and possibly an MRI and CT scan, but BARC doesn’t even have x-ray equipment.   How can BARC even consider operating on this dog without so much as an x-ray?  This is absolutely unethical.  BARC sends out requests for help for animals with broken bones because you have no x-ray equipment, but yet you won’t release this dog that so obviously needs much more than BARC can offer? 

It is absolutely absurd, inhumane and unethical that BARC leaders have forced this dog to sit at BARC in this condition since Tuesday, but that BARC leaders continue to refuse to release her to rescue so that rescuers can give her a chance to save her sight is absolutely barbaric.

Why on earth would any person, who claims to care about animals, refuse to release this dog so she can have a shot at retaining her sight?  Before BARC REMOVES HER EYES, she deserves every chance available to her.  Even if her sight can’t be saved, BARC is still not equipped to handle this type of surgery.  She will need specialized surgery and care that BARC cannot provide.

It costs BARC NORTHING to release this dog to rescue.  So, why do BARC leaders continue to refuse to release her?  

Again, citizens are stepping up and trying to help BARC animals, but they are again being refused. 

Bett Sundermeyer, President
No Kill Houston


A few weeks ago, I wrote about BARC’s new rule limiting the animals that foster parents could foster (see below).  I want to take this time to remind everyone that BARC is a HIGH KILL shelter that kills approximately 27,000 animals every single year.  This means 75 animals are killed at BARC EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

BARC is currently sending out emails that BARC has had a spike in Intakes and “BARC is full”.  They are asking for foster parents, as they should.  However, BARC’s new leader, David Atencio, has enacted a new rule that only animals that are under 5 months old or that are sick can be fostered.   I would hazard to say that a large number of animals at BARC do NOT fall into these categories so BARC is excluding a large number of animals from potential foster care.  This new rules makes no sense.  Anytime someone wants to take ANY animal out of BARC to foster, which frees up cage space for another animal, is a good thing and should be accepted.

A concerned citizen wrote BARC and asked if this new rule was true, because it seems just too ridiculous to believe.  She received the following response from a BARC employee: 

“This is true except for experienced BARC fosters. This policy was put into place because we had foster come in and give incorrect phone numbers and we never saw the animal again.  We even had one person say “I heard BARC gives out free animals”.  We had to gain control over the foster network.  I hope this helps…”

Again, this is a facility that kills at least 75 animals every single day,  they had a problem with ONE person giving an incorrect phone number and Atencio’s response is to exclude a huge group of potential foster parents?  So many, many animals will be excluded from the foster program and therefore kept at a HIGH KILL shelter where it is pretty much a guarantee that they will be killed.  

And Atencio’s “solution” doesn’t even address the so called “problem”.   Does Atencio think that people who foster animals under 5 months old are more likely to give the correct phone number?  This makes no sense at all.   Wouldn’t a much better solution be for BARC to just check foster parents phone numbers before they foster an animal?  Pretty simple, no?

This is another ridiculous “solution” from BARC that causes more animals to die.  I want to know when it ends? 

And as far as ONE person saying that BARC is “giving away animals”, well maybe BARC should.    If the option for these animals is almost CERTAIN death if kept at BARC, I think pretty much ANY OTHER option is better,  including giving them away for free.  (And adopters do fill out adoption contracts).  In fact, a recent study found that there was no correlation between the amount of money paid for a pet and the amount of affection or care given to that pet.  NO correlation.  In other words, people who pay hundreds or thousands of dollars (or $55.00 at BARC) are not more likely to love and care for that pet than the people who got their pets for free.   So when the options are very high risk of death and/or disease at BARC vs. being adopted out for free, I’ll take my chances on free.

Previous blog below:

On February 3, 2010, a foster parent was at BARC and offered to foster a 7 year old, owner surrendered, heartworm negative Chihuahua mix.  The employees at the front desk told this foster parent that she could NOT foster this dog because the dog was not sick and was not young enough.  The foster brought up the fact that this was a Senior pet (and therefore less likely to be adopted in a shelter like BARC), but this did not matter.  According to the employees, this is a new policy that has just gone into effect.  The foster wanted to question further but was afraid of making someone at BARC mad and therefore subsequently be banned (volunteers have recently been banned ).

It has been confirmed with BARC management that the new policy states that only dogs under 5 months, and those with injuries and illness are available to foster.   BARC is killing 1,500-1,600 pets every month.  So, to say no to any person willing to take ANY animal, young or old, out of BARC into foster care is an absolute and utter absurdity!

The employee said that the policy was put in place “to get some controls in place around the policy.”   This statement doesn’t even make sense.  And are these so called “controls” really worth the lost lives of the hundreds of dogs entering BARC that do NOT fall under the above 2 categories?   In fact, I would submit that MOST of the dogs entering BARC do NOT fall under these 2 categories. 

This was a missed opportunity to get one more animal out of a HIGH KILLL shelter.  And this was an older animal that is less likely to get adopted.  So when shelters tell us that they “must” kill thousands of animals because there just “aren’t enough homes”, or that older animals “just don’t get adopted”, remember this story.  This is an example of what happens every single day in shelters and THIS is the reason that shelters, like BARC, still kill animals.

It’s time to stop blaming the community.  The community is stepping up, but BARC is turning them away.