A shelter pet advocate

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Houston, TX – Welcome to my new blog!   This blog is really just a continuance of the blog that I have been writing for several years as the Houston Animal Shelters Examiner.   Due to difficulties with their website, I’ve decided to continue writing here.   

If you have come across my blog for the first time, you should know that I write mostly about the animal shelter situation in Houston.  I live in a city that is very compassionate when it comes to animals, but this city also contains five kill shelters that are killing about 80,000 pets each year.  

As of this date, there are over 50 Open Admission animal controls and shelters that are saving 90% or more of all animals, but Houston’s kill shelters save only a measly 11% to 50%.  

I advocate for the implementation of the No Kill model of sheltering that is saving all healthy and treatable pets in those 50+ Open Admission, No Kill shelters.  If they can do it, so can Houston. 

I began this journey after reading Nathan Winograd’s book Redemption, and realizing that:

1) the horror that I, and others, had witnessed at BARC (Houston’s city funded animal control) was actually an epidemic all over the country; and

2) there was a common sense solution to stop shelter killing completely.   We no longer had to kill shelter pets for population control.  As someone who had been rescuing and fostering animals for some time, and as someone who had seen A LOT of healthy and treatable animals killed and treated very inhumanely in local “shelters”, this book was an answer to a prayer.

Someone had actually created a sheltering model that  saved all healthy and treatable pets and it worked everywhere it was implemented!

That was 2008 and, looking back, I can see that I was quite the Pollyanna because I thought that if I just told our city officials about this remarkable “new” model of sheltering, that they would jump to implement this model in Houston immediately.  Surely, any rational and compassionate human being  would want to try this model so that Houston could stop the mass shelter killing here.  

I bought a copy of Redemption for Mayor Bill White, all city council members and the city controller (Annise Parker) as well as the Director of the Health Dept, who was over BARC at the time.   If it helped to stop the shelter killing at BARC, I thought it was well worth the cost.  

But, to my shock and dismay, city officials and BARC leaders weren’t very interested in implementing the model that was working so well elsewhere.  It was apparent that they just wanted to continue business as usual, even if that business was the slaughter of 30,000 animals every year.

It is now four years later, and although a lot of faces have changed at the city of Houston and at BARC, and although a lot of No Kill promises have been made, BARC is still a high kill facility.    

In 2008, there were just a handful of Open Admission, No Kill shelters in North America, now there are over 50 and that number is increasing constantly.   America, and other countries, are on the way to No Kill, but Houston remains in the dark ages of “catch and kill” sheltering.   

I attended the national No Kill conference a couple weeks ago.  This conference has been growing by leaps and bounds each year since it began just 4 years ago.  This year it nearly tripled in size from 300 to 800 attendees, proving that many people — average citizens like you and me — are ready for change.  We are sick of the mass killing that is taking place in our “shelters” and we want to stop it.  The conference was very informative, thrilling and depressing all at the same time. 

It was informative because many of the people who have already stopped shelter killing in their communities were there explaining how they did it.

It was thrilling because, since the last time I attended 2 years ago, about 30 more shelters have crossed the No Kill goal line.  There were 800 people at this conference and many are working to replicate that success.

But it was also depressing because 3 full years after Houstonians paid to have the leading, international No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd assess BARC  and produce a 196 page report detailing how BARC could stop killing shelter pets, just like those 50+ shelters are doing right now, BARC is pretty much in the same place that it was 3 years ago.  

Thirty or more shelters have passed Houston by reaching No Kill since Winograd wrote his report for the City of Houston.  This is while few life saving efforts have been implemented at BARC.   Sure, Bill White hired a “change agent” to fix BARC before he left office in 2009.   And sure, the change agent fired about 70 employees,  but there has been little to no effort to stop the killing at BARC.  

For instance, in 2011 BARC killed or “lost” an average of almost 1,100 animals every single month.  

After Mayor Parker’s No Kill promises both in 2009 and 2010, BARC’s kill rate actually rose from 2010 to 2011.   And, after reviewing their current reports, it appears that BARC’s Kill Rate has been steadily rising in 2012.  

BARC’s Kill Rate reached a horrific 72% this past May.  

I guess it really shouldn’t shock us that BARC’s kill rate is not decreasing.  After all, BARC leaders have yet to implement all of the recommendations of Winograd’s 2009 assessment and Mayor Parker has yet to admit that there are still huge problems at BARC under her administration.   Yes, she admitted there was a problem under White’s administration (after he was gone), but she has refused to accept responsibility for continued problems, like sky high kill rates, under her administration.   Instead, she continues to blame the public and continues to allow the mass slaughter to continue under her watch. 

Even when BARC employees break the law;

or when they kill pets that people offer to save; and

even as BARC’s kill rate consistently climbs higher and higher under her watch, Parker still won’t admit that are serious problems and refuses to implement Nathan Winograd’s recommendations that she has had in her hands for 3 years.

The one thing that has become very clear is that, in Houston, the people running kill shelters will not voluntarily implement the No Kill model of sheltering.   Likewise, city officials, who ultimately control what takes place in our shelters, are not likely to voluntarily force shelters to implement the No Kill model.   Four years of dealing with BARC, Houston city officials and the other 4 kill shelter directors have confirmed this.   

No, if the killing is to end in our animal shelters, it will be up to us. 

The only way that the kill shelters in Houston will ever stop killing is if we demand it.   And we can’t just say it once and forget about it.  We have to continue to stand up for the animals in our community

Every day we have to tell Mayor Parker and city council to implement the No Kill model of sheltering at BARC — the very same model that is saving 90% or more in shelters all over the country.   We must tell city officials that if they will not take steps to make sure that No Kill model of sheltering is implemented, then we will vote for someone else next time around. The power to stop shelter killing is in our hands and we must use that power.

It is up to us —- average citizens — to make the killing stop in our community.

Contact the Mayor and city council and tell them to implement every single recommendation in Nathan Winograd’s 2009 assessment.  Tell them that we must have leadership that will rigorously implement every single program in the No Kill model of sheltering.   Tell them that you, as a voter, are sick of the mass killing in our shelters, and you expect that they will do what has been proven to stop it.  Houston should be a leader, not trailing behind 50+ communities in the country.

Calls are best, but if you can’t call, write them.  

Letters are better, but if you can’t write a letter, send an email.

Here is their contact information.  

Do it today and write it on your calendar to do it every week, until Houston joins the 21st century and stops killing shelter pets.

If we don’t do this, the killing in our city will never end.


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