Houston Humane Society; not humane after all

*This is a reprint of my article that appeared on Examiner.com.   Examiner.com has shut down its website, and articles are no longer accessible, so I am moving my articles to my blog site here. 

(Originally printed December 8, 2011)  Houston, TX-  I recently received a disturbing from a heartbroken woman. I’m printing her email below exactly as she wrote it (except for removing a rescue group’s name) because it so clearly illustrates the serious issues plaguing so called “shelters” that are costing thousands of animals their lives.

“I made a terrible horrible mistake. I found a beautiful black and tan healthy Cocker Spaniel mix with a red collar no tags on an extremely busy road very close to the Humane Society. Stupidly I thought the best way for her to be found by her owners was to take her to the HUMANE Society. I told them I would be back to get her with the group I foster with (___) on day 3 which I was told she would be evaluated. I have 5 dogs, 2 which are fosters. I was not prepared to take her home. It takes some time to get these things worked out. So, when I called today I was told I would have to adopt. I said I was pulling her through a rescue and we could handle any treatments and neutering. She said they wouldn’t do that. I asked if she was still there. Did her owners come and find her? She said couldn’t give out that info. I said I am trying to help this dog what is your problem. Isn’t this the HUMANE Society? She said you signed a contract. She said this about 5 times. After about 15 minutes of this crap, she finally told me they had already euthanized her. This dog was sweet and fat and beautiful and obviously someone’s dog. When I took her through the clinic part 4 people said how cute she was. They did not even give her 2.5 days. Even BARC gives them 3 full days and allows rescue groups to take the dogs. They were not interested at all in me trying to come and get her. In fact, she pretty much discouraged me trying to help this dog in any way. This is just so wrong. I am sick that I did this. Please write about this in your news paper. I thought i was helping this dog to reunite with her people and I killed her. Never in a million years would I have thought they would euthanize this dog. Jennifer __”

bellakilledbyhhs

Jennifer is a kind hearted person who tried to help Bella*, a little lost dog that she found on the side of a busy street*.  Jennifer did what most people think is the best thing to do when they find a lost or stray pet…. she took Bella to an animal shelter. After all, animal shelters are supposed to be just that… shelters. They are supposed to be a place of refuge and safe havens where shelter workers work hard to make sure that lost animals find their way back home and homeless pets find new homes.

And Jennifer did more than the average person who finds a lost or homeless pet. She didn’t just drop Bella off and expect the shelter to do all of the work. No, she told the Houston Humane Society (HHS) that if Bella’s owner did not find her during the 3 day hold period, she would pull Bella from the shelter, through a rescue group, and foster her in her own home while she tried to find Bella’s owner herself. Jennifer talked at length with a HHS employee regarding the exact date and time that Bella’s 3 day hold would expire. The only thing that the Houston Humane Society had to do was hold Bella for 72 hours and hope that her family thought of looking for her there.

Jennifer took Bella to the Houston Humane Society on November 1 at 10:00 am. She was told that Bella’s 3 day hold period would expire on November 4 at 10:00 am. But, when Jennifer called HHS on November 3 at 3:00 pm to make arrangements to pick up Bella the following day, she was horrified to discover that the Houston Humane Society had already killed her. How long did the HHS wait before they killed Bella? Did they kill her the same day, as soon as Jennifer left the building? We don’t know exactly when the Houston Humane Society killed Bella because they consistently refuse to be honest with the public and release their intake and outcome records. However, we do know that Houston Humane Society killed Bella before Jennifer called to check on her, which was within 53 hours, or barely over 2 days.

Now a little dog, who was obviously someone’s loved lost pet, is dead and Jennifer blames herself for taking her to this “shelter”. But it is not Jennifer’s fault that Bella was killed. Jennifer, and thousands of other people, have been told that shelters are doing everything that they can to save animals. People believe that everyone who works at an animal shelter works hard to save their lives. They believe the “shelters’” claims that they do not want to kill animals, but they have no choice because the so called “irresponsible public” forces them to kill animals. Many people are not aware that some “shelters” are hiding hideously dark and nefarious secrets.

Of course, “shelters” like the Houston Humane Society do not tell the public or donors that they are actually little more than assembly lines of death, killing thousands of healthy and treatable, adoptable and even owned pets, even when alternatives are standing right in front of them. And unfortunately, it took the Houston Humane Society’s killing of an innocent little lost dog, to make Jennifer painfully aware of the reality of what is really going on at the Houston Humane Society.

It is despicable and immoral that a self-proclaimed “animal shelter” and “humane society” would kill an obviously owned, healthy pet within 53 hours, especially when a rescuer was begging to save her. Bella’s owner is probably still searching for her believing that she might one day return home. Bella’s family will probably never know that she even entered Houston Humane Society because Houston Humane Society could not be bothered to care for Bella long enough for her owner’s to find her. HHS could not be bothered to even offer Bella for adoption. And Houston Humane Society could not be bothered to try to find a foster home or rescue group to take Bella instead of killing her.

To make matters worse, Houston Humane Society didn’t even have to lift a finger to find a foster home because a rescue group had already offered to save Bella. But the Houston Humane Society couldn’t be bothered to hold her for the full 3 day hold period.

Houston Humane Society couldn’t even be bothered to call Jennifer and tell her that they planned to kill Bella before her 3 day hold expired to give Jennifer a chance to pick up Bella earlier. No, the Houston Humane Society killed Bella even when alternatives were beating down their door begging to save her life. How many thousands of animals have suffered the same fate as Bella at this so called “shelter”?

The above is not the definition of an animal shelter. This is a revolving door of death where thousands of animals go in, but only ELEVEN PERCENT of them make it out alive. **

And to add insult to injury, Houston Humane Society charged Jennifer $20 to leave Bella there. (Reminder: Jennifer was a Good Samaritan just trying to help another person’s lost pet.) In addition, when Jennifer called back to make arrangements to pull Bella through a rescue group, Houston Humane Society told her that she would have to adopt Bella in order to get her out of Houston Humane Society alive (this was before she discovered that Houston Humane Society had already killed Bella).

According to the Houston Humane Society’s website, their adoption fees for dogs range from $90 to $200. This means that, in addition to the $20 that Jennifer paid to leave a lost dog at a “shelter”, she would also be required to pay another $95 – $200 for the “privilege” of rescuing that same dog 3 days later from a “shelter” that is killing 89% of all animals entering their doors.

In addition, according to the citizen reviews on the websites here and here, it appears that Houston Humane Society does an incredibly horrible job at encouraging adoptions and has atrocious customer service, both of which are significantly important factors in getting animals out of shelters alive. In fact, after reading these reviews, it appears that most of their rules or procedures are geared towards making sure that animals never leave Houston Humane Society alive.  It is no wonder that only 11% of animals make it out of the Houston Humane Society alive.

In addition to the above issues, “According to Texas statutes, shelters like the Houston Humane Society, Houston SPCA, Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP) or any other mom and pop shelter, do not have the legal right to impound animals, without a contract with a local government.” said Zandra Anderson, Houston trial attorney and founder of the Texas Dog Commission. The Houston Humane Society, Houston SPCA and CAP do not have government contracts for animal control duties in Houston. In fact, the city of Houston and Harris County both operate their own animal control facilities. (I also recently sent a public information request to the city of Houston asking for all contracts with Houston Humane Society, Houston SPCA and CAP. The city of Houston reported that there are none.)

The above means that the only animals that the Houston Humane Society, Houston SPCA and CAP have the legal authority to admit to their “shelters” are those relinquished by their owners. Admitting strays and lost pets, whether from a citizen who drops them off or whether the “shelters” pick up strays themselves, is impounding animals and they do not have the legal right to impound animals. So these facilities are breaking the law every time that they take in any animal, other than an owner relinquished pet.

The above is true regardless of whether the “shelter” forces a citizen sign a bogus “contract” such as the contract that Jennifer was forced to sign in order to leave Bella at the HHS. Anderson states that “Someone who finds an animal at large, a stray, is not the legal owner of that animal so does not have any ownership rights to convey to a private shelter. Any document that a finder of a stray animal signs purporting to extinguish ownership rights or to convey them, is worthless since this person has no rights to transfer or give up.”

I previously wrote an article asking what right these so called “shelters” have to kill animals. Texas has anti-cruelty laws prohibiting people from killing companion animals, but if some people get together and proclaim themselves a “shelter”, they suddenly have the right to kill companion animals any time that they choose? Obviously, laws in Texas that would actually protect animals from being killed by “shelters”, when alternatives exist, are non-existent. Every heartbreaking story like Jennifer’s that I hear, and I hear a lot of them, makes it abundantly clear that animals desperately need legal protections from the very institutions that proclaim themselves shelters or “humane” societies.

The Companion Animal Protection (CAPA) would provide such protections for shelter animals. CAPAwas filed in the Texas state legislature earlier this year. It was supported by animal lovers and rescuers because of stories like Jennifer’s, and equally repulsive stories, that are coming out of kill shelters far too often. It should come as no surprise to learn that Sherry Ferguson, the director of the Houston Humane Society, opposed Texas CAPA. After all, if Texas had shelter reform laws like CAPA, then Ferguson could not kill thousands of pets each year behind closed doors and in secret. Just like any other business which has the power over life and death, Ferguson would be required by law to be transparent with the public. But Ferguson does not want that.

If Texas CAPA had passed, Ferguson could no longer kill a pet after only 53 hours. She would be required by law to hold a pet longer to give the owner a fighting chance of finding and reclaiming his or her lost pet. But Ferguson does not want that.

If Texas CAPA had passed, Ferguson could no longer kill a pet when a qualified rescue group offered to save that pet, as in Bella’s case. But Ferguson does not want that.

If Texas CAPA had passed, Ferguson could no longer kill animals for arbitrary reasons such as color, breed or age. But Ferguson does not want that. No, she wants to continue to kill all Pit Bulls, or Pit mixes, that enter the Houston Humane Society’s doors, instead of adopting them out.

If Texas CAPA had passed, Ferguson would have to stop blaming the public for the fact that the Houston Humane Society, under her direction, kills 89% of all animals entering their doors and has done so for decades. Ferguson would have to face the fact that the Houston Humane Society does very little to save lives, and in fact hampers the life saving efforts of the community. But Ferguson does not want that.

If Texas CAPA had passed, more people might discover that the Houston Humane Society is not really humane after all, and Ferguson does not want that.

*We don’t know this dog’s real name since she was killed by Houston Humane Society before her owners could be found, but I’m going to call her Bella for this article. (See more pictures of her in the Slideshow posted on this article. If you, or anyone you know, has lost a dog fitting “Bella’s” description, in the Almeda Genoa area, please contact me.

**According the 2005 Mayor’s Task Force Report. This was the last time that the Houston Humane Society was transparent with the public. At that time, they were killing 89% of all animals entering their doors. They were even killing animals from other cities and counties FOR A FEE. That’s right, the Houston Humane Society was taking money to kill animals for others. They may still being doing this today. We don’t know if they still are because they currently refuse to be transparent with the public and produce their intake and outcome records.

***Earlier this year, the HHS told Texas state representative, Jessica Farrar that they were designing their own reports and didn’t want it to conflict with state laws. They “said” that this was the reason that they were opposed to Texas CAPA. I’ve looked at their website, and 8 months after their statement, they have yet to post any intake and outcome reports on their website. They continue to hide the number of animals that they are saving or killing from the community. So much for honesty, even when they are talking to a Texas state representative.

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