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

*****

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.

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