Revisionist History

Houston, TX – The Houston Chronicle recently published an article talking about Annise Parker’s “legacy” after 6 years as Houston’s mayor.  The article was filled with a lot of “inaccurate” statements, especially concerning BARC.

If we are going to talk about legacies, it is important that we look at actual history.  And since it appears some people have conveniently forgotten what has taken place in the last 6 years, I’d like to recap.  

First, Parker claims in the article that she loves animals.  Really?  This is the person who admitted to trapping feral cats and taking them to BARC at a time when BARC killed ALL feral cats (or any cat that BARC claimed was feral even if he/she was just scared).   When Parker trapped the cats, she knew that BARC killed all feral cats, because she was part of the 2005 Mayor’s Task Force report which reported on BARC and Houston’s other kill shelters.  Yet, Parker took those cats to their deaths anyway.   

What kind of “animal lover” does that?

gattoSecond, the article claims that Parker started BARC’s “transformation”.  Actually, BARC’s “transformation”, if you want to call it that, began in Bill White’s last term in 2009.  After many, many demands from animal lovers, Bill White hired the “change agent” who fired 75+ truly horrendous, animal abusing, employees at BARC.   At the same time, citizens demanded that the city hire international, No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd to assess BARC.   After the public donated the money to hire Winograd, he wrote a nearly 200 page, assessment, telling the City and BARC how they could stop killing healthy and treatable pets.    

All of this took place before Parker even took office.  

So, the day Parker took office as Mayor, BARC was perfectly poised to stop killing shelter pets.   They had better employees, and a step by step guide showing them exactly how to do it.   But, Parker did not require her employees to actually implement what Winograd recommended.  

Therefore, BARC kept killing huge numbers of animals every year:   

At least 15,088 killed in 2010;  

13,060 killed in 2011;

14,530 killed in 2012;

12,596 killed in 2013; and

10,050 killed in 2014.   

That is 65,324 pets killed, or who died in BARC’s “care”, during Parker’s first 5 years in office.  (Of course, the total number killed during her entire 6 years in office is much higher with 2015’s numbers that I don’t have yet).   

In fact, BARC’s Kill Rate INCREASED every year for the first 3 years that Parker was in office.   

And all this happened after she promised voters to do “everything in her power” to transform Houston to a No Kill city.  If Parker had kept her promises, and if she had actually required that her employees rigorously implement all of Nathan Winograd’s 2009 recommendations, BARC would, no doubt, be a No Kill facility by now.  But, she didn’t.    Instead, she left the same management in place, year after failed year, doing the same failed jobs over and over…. and the results were disastrous.  
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Parker waited 5 years and 11 months to even require that her employess save at least 90% of BARC pets for just 1 month.   A nice little PR stunt, but what kind of “legacy” is that?

More kill shelter lies

Parker also kept Greg Damianoff in charge over BARC year after year, even though he totally failed to even try to end shelter killing.  He does not even work at BARC full time.   He shows up once a day for an hour and goes back to city hall.  You cannot turn around a facility like BARC by not even working there all day.  But, Damianoff and Parker were not trying to end shelter killing. 

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And let’s not forget that Damianoff, and the Houston Animal Shelter Advisory Committee, that Parker appointed, made a deal with HFD to allow them to EXPERIMENT on BARC cats.  

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And Damianoff  is the person who allow(ed) his employees to violate city ordinances and kill pets before the city mandated 3 day stray hold period expired.   

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In addition, over the years, I have received numerous emails from people saying that they offered to foster pets that were at risk of being killed by BARC, but they were turned down. BARC management i.e. Damianoff, chose to kill those pets even though people offered to save them. Click here and here.     

Another great “legacy”.  Not.

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Many people will never go to BARC to adopt.  1) Because of the horrible location and inconvenient hours — Houston is 600 square miles and it simply is not convenient for a lot of Houstonians to go there;  2) People know that BARC is a kill shelter and they simply cannot stand to go and stare into the faces of animals that they know will be killed.   

That is why offsite adoptions are CRITICAL to ending shelter killing. Parker knows this.  BARC management knows this.  Nathan Winograd told them this in 2009.  In fact, BARC experienced how successful offsite adoptions can be in 2011. The one, very successful, offsite adoption event that BARC organized was located in a HIGH TRAFFIC, HIGHLY VISIBLE location. This event was so successful that BARC had over 400 adoptions that weekend alone.    As a comparison, BARC had only 343 adoptions during the entire previous MONTH.) 

So, considering how many lives were saved at this successful offsite adoption event, logic would dictate that BARC leadership would organize many more just like it.  But, logic does not come into play when BARC leadership makes decisions.  That event took place in July 2011, and I have yet to see a similar event.    

Another failure on the part of BARC management and Parker who left him in charge for 6 years.

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And who can forget Keiko, the horribly injured dog that entered BARC in 2010.  She had serious head/eye injuries that so obviously needed specialized care, that BARC  was not equipped to handle.  (At the time, BARC was doing x-rays in a closet and had no specialized equipment for anything other than spay/neuters). Rescuers raised thousands of dollars to have Keiko cared for by a specialist, but BARC management refused to release Keiko to rescuers.   BARC and ARA Dept employees lied many times about the state of Keiko in order to keep her there.   This was not done in Keiko’s best interests.  This was all done as a PR stunt.  Despite not having adequate diagnostic or operating room equipment, BARC choose to operate on that poor dog.  Not surprisingly Keiko died.    

Big, fat, horrendous failure/legacy.

No Excuse Sad Embarrassed Person Isolated from Group

Under Parker and the ARA Dept, BARC illegally banned volunteers because those volunteers spoke up about problems at BARC. The last ARA Dept Director also threatened to ban volunteers who were trying to network and save death row pets, because he didn’t like words like “last chance” posted on the volunteers’ own Facebook page.  

And BARC ticketed rescuers who spent their last dime trying to save homeless animals. 

And BARC killed animals even when alternatives were literally standing right in front of them.

And Parker claims to have done a good job at BARC just because she took some pictures with BARC pets?  She does not mention that she did not bother to require her employees to actually market those pictures to the adopting public.  Personally, I have never once seen them marketed publically in a place where a large number of potential adopters would actually see them.  The only time I’ve seen the pictures is when I have been searching the city’s website or when they rarely turn up in one of my Google searches. But how many other people are doing this?   Very, very few from the results…

What Parker conveniently did not mention is that many of those same pets ended up on death row at BARC.  RESCUERS then saved those pets.  Not Parker. 

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And let’s talk about that white elephant, multi-million dollar, “shelter” that she built with our tax dollars.   She did not decide to buy some land “right after she took office” as she claimed in the article.   Bill White had already designated a horrible piece of property off of Wayside for more kennel space.   There were many problems with that property.  1) it was on the same property as a sewage treatment facility;   2) it was in a flood plain; 3) endangered birds were nesting in the trees there; 4) the neighborhood is in a zip code where BARC picks up the most strays i.e. that location is not conducive to high volume adoptions when there are so many strays already there.  

People from that neighborhood told me that they met with Parker and asked her to build the facility somewhere else, but she told them that she couldn’t.  She told them it was a done deal.  But, miraculously after thousands of people complained and no one wanted to donate to build in that foolish location, THEN Parker decided to build kennel space right next to BARC’s old facility.    This did not occur “right after she took office” and it was not of her own volition. 

And, let’s remember that when she was trying to sell people on donating to build that sewage treatment adjacent facility on Wayside, she said that BARC’s current location DETERS adoptions.   So why did she then turn around and spent millions of dollars to build in the exact location that she had earlier said deters adoptions?  More revisionist history at work.

BARC’s current location does deter adoptions.  So, building more kennel space/an adoption facility there is a waste of tax dollars and donor dollars because few people will go there to adopt.  That means fewer adoptions, so more animals losing their lives as well as fewer adoption fees (i.e. smaller return on that investment).  And it means higher costs (it costs MORE to kill animals than to save them).   That facility will waste money and hamper life saving efforts for decades to come.  Thanks for that “legacy”.

Burning dollar

And it gets worse, if you can believe it.  After the white elephant was built, BARC/city of Houston can’t even use it fully because Parker failed to budget money to actually pay employees to work there.  Dogs are taken to the new facility during the day, but have to be taken back to the old facility at night, if they aren’t adopted.   This means BARC has to leave the kennels in the old building open, in case the dog has to come back. 

And cats were completely forgotten during any plans.  They aren’t housed in the new facility at all.

Parker spent $12 million on a facility and it essentially added NO additional kennel space.  Not only that, but before that thing was built, she said it would cost $12 million to build.  That $12 million is gone and in the last report that I saw, she said it will cost another $20 million to finish.   How can anyone be off by $20 MILLION dollars? 

So let’s recap:  tax payers and donors are supposed to spend $32 million to build more kennels in a horrible location that DETERS adoptions and adds that no new kennel space.

Awesome “legacy”.

In addition, in 2009 Bill White set aside millions of dollars that were supposed to be spent to renovate the horrendous North Kennels.  Click here to see pictures of the nightmarish, dungeon-like, North Kennels. Architects were paid hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to come up with plans yet, 6+ years later, those kennels still have never been renovated.  What did Parker do with all of those millions that were dedicated to BARC?   

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And let’s talk about BARC’s recent claimed 80%+ Save Rate.  I’ve caught BARC/COH lying about their Save Rates at least a ½ dozen times over the 6 years of Parker’s terms. Here is must one instance.   So, I absolutely do not believe their claims now.  BARC management uses a lot of “fuzzy math” to come up with their Save Rates. 

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In addition, a new “program” that BARC recently started includes dumping friendly cats in BARC’s parking lot.   This is a perversion of a program that was created to save more cats’ lives at kill shelters i.e. the shelters are supposed to spay/neuter friendly, healthy, adult, free roaming (non-feral) cats and return them to the location where they were picked up.  If the cats look healthy/well fed, they are most likely someone’s pet and will find their way back home.  If not owned, the cats are obviously finding food somewhere in the area and should be returned. 

But, BARC does not return the cats to the location where they were picked up.   BARC is dumping them in their parking lot.  Two cats were attacked and killed by dogs a few months ago in BARC’s parking lot.  I believe that these were most likely indoor only cats that didn’t know to be afraid of dogs and didn’t know how to survive “in the wild”.

And an email was recently forwarded to me about a group cats that were friendly, perhaps indoor only cats, that had been up for adoption at BARC. But the BARC employee said the cats were “out of time”, and they were going to “ear notch” them and release them.   If they are released in BARC’s parking these cats would never find their way home, nor would their owners ever them.  I supposed this is better than killing them, but it is not a good solution for these cats and this is not how this program is supposed to work.  If BARC had leadership that actually cared about saving lives, this program would never be perverted in this manner.

This is just a way to count “Saves” instead of “Kills” so Parker could claim that 94% Save Rate last November.  They are risking cats’ lives just to make a better Save Rate claim to the media. 

KittensatBARCIn addition, BARC/COH is paying a group literally millions of dollars to ship animals other communities.  The problem is that those communities also have kill shelters. This means that even if those BARC pets are going to No Kill rescue groups in those communities, pets on death row there will not be saved because the rescue groups are full with BARC pets. 

Causing the death of pets in another communities is not a “Save”. It is just transferring the killing somewhere else to make BARC “look” better.  It is trading one life for another.  This is not a solution.

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Further, a 94% Save Rate is not “unheard of” in a big city as Parker claimed.  Animal control in Austin and Williamson County, both very large communities, have been saving over 90% for years now.   And, there are hundreds of Open Admission animal control facilities doing the same all over the country and have been for 15 years.  Click here for a list of those communities.  

There were Open Admission, No Kill facilities when Parker took office.  In fact, the number of Open Admission, No Kill communities increased from about 5 to hundreds after Parker took office.  The only thing she had to do was require that BARC management copy their successes. But, she didn’t. For six long deadly years, she didn’t.  And BARC is still killing thousands of pets. 

Yea, that is quite a “legacy”.

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And Parker did absolutely nothing to try to end shelter killing in the other four kill shelters that are located in Houston’s city limits either.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  In fact, she did the exact opposite.   She fought others’ efforts to end shelter killing… 


In 2011, No Kill Houston got the Companion Animal Protection Act filed at the state level.  This was lifesaving legislation that would have done the following across the state of Texas: 

1) abolish the gas chamber;

2) abolish “heart sticks” as a method of “euthanasia” except under certain specific circumstances;

3) ban “convenience killing” (killing when there are empty cages);

4) mandate collaboration by requiring shelters to work with non-profit rescue organizations to maximize lifesaving;

5) mandate transparency by requiring shelters to report how many animals they kill;.

6) ban the killing of animals based on arbitrary criteria such as breed, age or color;

7) prohibit selling shelter animals to research labs;

8) protect feral cats and feral cat caretakers; and more….

Yet Parker opposed the bill.  

And true to form, BARC management fought life saving, shelter reform legislation again in 2013.  Click here and here

Parker’s opposition against state wide, shelter reform legislation is worse than her failure to act.   She actively fought against those life saving efforts.

That is nothing short of an atrocity.

Animal shelter

And during Parker’s terms, BARC and the other kill shelters in Houston, killed tens of thousands more pets than all of the cities with larger human population. When it comes to animal shelters, Houston is literally the Biggest Loser.

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Here are some more of Parker’s promises to animal  lovers the first time she ran for office.   She has totally failed to do most of what she promised voters.  

Considering the above, I’d say that the word “legacy” is accurate only if we use the dictionary definition which is associated with something that is outdated or discontinuedand perhaps if we add the description complete and utter failure“.   

Parker’s legacy does not include an attempt to push Houston into the 21st century of sheltering.  She did little to nothing to “transform” BARC and she allowed it stay in the dark ages of catch and kill sheltering for 6 long years. And she made irresponsible and wasteful use of taxpayer and donor dollars to build a facility that has not, and will not, measurably increase life saving vs. had it been built in an intelligent location.

That is Parker’s legacy.  And it is a “legacy” that Houstonians will be stuck with for decades.

dirty toilet with money close up, lot of cash uselessYou might wonder why I bothered to recap some of Parker’s failures.  After all, she is term limited out and Houston recently elected a new mayor and some new city council members.

The reasons are:

1) It is important to remember history accurately.  Revising history to suit one person’s agenda, does nothing to help the rest of us in the future.  

2) Like Bill White, Parker may run for another office.  The Chronicle article stated that she was considering running for Harris County Commissioner or County Judge.  We need to remember the true history of Parker’s 3 terms so we can make wise decisions at the polls in the future.

I hope that Houston’s new mayor and city council members are forward thinking and will be willing to think outside the traditional sheltering “box” and that they are willing to make decisions, even the difficult decisions, that are required to move Houston into the 21st century.  

change management

If they are, then Houston will truly have a legacy that is worth boasting about.

best friends

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Damianoff agreed to allow experimentation on BARC pets

Houston, TX – I recently sent a Public Information Request (PIR) to the City of Houston for several years’ worth of minutes of meetings of Houston’s Animal Shelter Advisory* (ASA) committee.  I was curious about what this committee actually did for shelter pets.   I assumed that the purpose of this “Animal Shelter Advisory” committee is to come up with ideas to help Houston’s shelter pets; as in how to save more of them from being killed at Houston’s five kill shelters.**  At the very least, I expected the ASA committee to work on programs and services to help save more lives at Houston’s high kill pound, BARC .

As an example of what other cities have accomplished, Austin’s Animal Advisory Committee worked with their city council to create ordinances which mandated that their pound save at least 90% of the animals…. a Save Rate that Austin’s pound has met or exceeded every year since the ordinances were passed.   However, as I was reading through the minutes of a January 2013, Houston ASA committee meeting, I came across information that was shocking beyond belief.

The Minutes state that Houston ASA committee member, Chris Souders (Associate Medical Director-Houston Fire Department), requested an “arrangement” with BARC to allow Houston Fire Dept. personnel to practice doing intubations on cats at BARC. 

And as utterly appalling as that agreement is, it is equally appalling that not one Houston ASA committee member had any objections to Souders’ ghoulish request. In fact, the Minutes say “Action: Neil [Sackheim] will get back with Chris Sounders re: numbers of euthanasias and the general schedule so HFD can see if it can be incorporated.” (AnimalShelterAdvisoryCommMeeting2013-01-30).   So, another member of Houston’s ASA committee thought this idea was just peachy and even offered to help make arrangements.   Not one person on Houston’s Animal Shelter Advisory committee actually stood up FOR the cats at BARC.   Not one.

Houston Fire Department memos indicate that, after that January ASA committee meeting, HFD-EMS personnel then discussed the shelter pet experimentation arrangement in meetings on at least 6 occasions.   On December 20, 2013, an HFD memo states “The department will support a program to allow paramedics (both interns and veteran) to intubate recently euthanized feline as a proxy for pediatric intubation”.

So the program to experiment on BARC cats was approved by HFD. (See HFD-Memos here)

CatinCage2009-05-01_188-1

Let’s think about this scenario. Imagine that your pet accidentally got lost.   Imagine searching frantically for your pet for days, maybe weeks or months, but you could not find your pet. (Considering the fact that there are five Houston area kill shelters spread out over 600 square miles and a lot of people would have no idea where to look for their lost pet, never finding a lost pet is not an uncommon occurrence.)   Imagine discovering that BARC had had your pet, but because you did not find your pet at BARC within Houston’s measly 3 day stray hold period, BARC killed your pet.  (Believe me, it happens.  With BARC’s low 7% Return to Owner Rate, it happens A LOT.)

Now imagine that you discover that not only did BARC kill your pet, but BARC’s director allowed his cronies to experiment on your pet.  This scenario is repulsive and literally makes my skin crawl, but that is exactly what BARC, Houston’s Animal Shelter Advisory committee and HFD have been planning.

The experimentation agreement between these people is beyond repulsive.  Instead of working to try to save shelter pets, like Austin’s Animal Shelter Advisory committee did, Houston’s Animal Shelter Advisory committee uses shelter pets for their own personal unlimited supply of bodies.

Also, not only is this agreement reprehensible, but this type of animal experimentation is entirely unnecessary as there are non-animal alternatives which are far superior.  Dr. John Pippin, with Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), said that “Using cats is an antiquated and discredited practice that persists in fewer than one percent of training programs in the U.S. and Canada. In the past, cats have been used to teach neonatal and pediatric intubation, but this has been replaced by simulation and using animals is now considered substandard training.” [Emphasis added]

Two hundred and fifteen (215) facilities currently have non-animal simulators which can be used for intubation practice. 2 of those facilities are right here in Houston and 1 is in Galveston. (See “Pediatrics Survey Results 2014-11-13”). 

Besides being heinous and entirely unnecessary, I believe that this ghoulish experimentation agreement also violates Houston ordinances. Section 6-138 states “Under no circumstances may an animal be sold or donated for research or teaching purposes to a medical school, licensed hospital, or nonprofit university or college.  It is against the law because the animal loving public does not want shelter pets used for experimentation.

Dr. Pippin also sent a letter to BARC, HFD and ARA Dept personnel informing them of far superior non-animal alternatives in 215 facilities in the country. (See Dr. Pippin’s letter here DrPippinLtrToHoustonFD) To date, no one from the city of Houston has responded to Dr. Pippin.  If those experiments never took place, why didn’t any of these people immediately respond to Dr. Pippin and say so?

This arrangement is also a huge conflict of interest on the part of Chris Souders and Greg Damianoff. Since BARC continues to kill thousands of pets year after year, Damianoff can provide a never ending supply of pets to Souders to be used for HFD experiments. There is no incentive for Souders, as a member of the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee, or Damianoff as BARC Director, to do anything that will lead to the end of killing pets at BARC.

Are you are curious about the rest of the members on Houston Animal Shelter Advisory committee? According to the City of Houston, below are the names of the people who were on the ASA committee at the time the January 2013 meeting took place.   All of these people, except Ms. Gebhardt, are still on the Houston Animal Shelter Advisory Committee today.

Tippit, Taffi 04/21/2010 12/31/2015 Council 01 ACTIVE
Souders, Chris 10/21/2009 12/31/2015 Council 02 ACTIVE
Muenzer, Kappy 03/05/1998 12/31/2015 Council 03 ACTIVE
Sackheim, Neil 10/21/2009 12/31/2015 Council 04 ACTIVE
Mantor, Michelle 08/15/2012 12/31/2015 Mayor CC 05 ACTIVE
Gebhardt, Deborah 03/30/2011 12/31/2013 Mayor CC 06 REPLACED

The below information was online concerning these members:

* Taffi Tippit – Veterinary, Bissonnet Southampton Vet Clinic

* Chris Souders – Associate Medical Director-Houston Fire Department

* Kappy Muenzer – Director of Citizens for Animal Protection

* Neil Sackheim – Board Member, SNAP

* Michelle Mantor – Publisher/Editor at Houston Pet Talk magazine

Looking at these names and positions of these people, it is simply mind boggling that not one of them stood up to protect BARC pets. .

Reporters have recently begun asking the City of Houston questions about this ghoulish agreement. Not surprisingly, personnel at HFD now claim that they have not actually done experimentations on BARC cats. (At least, not yet.)  However, IF they have not begun their experimentations, it is not because Greg Damianoff, or anyone on the Houston ASA committee has ever attempted to stop it.

In fact, Damianoff told Randy Wallace with Fox 26 news that he had no idea why HFD didn’t follow through with the experiments.  

And, if all of that isn’t bad enough, BARC i.e. Greg Damianoff has lied about the existence of documents in connection with this grisly agreement.  In February, 2015, I sent a PIR to BARC asking for “all documents between the City of Houston and/or BARC and the Houston Fire Dept. and/or Chris Souders and/or any other Fire Dept personnel or city personnel, in connection with any agreement, plan, proposal or discussion to allow paramedics to practice intubation techniques on any animal in the possession of BARC and/or located at BARC’s facility.”

The reply? “BARC does not have any responsive information”.

But, that statement is a lie because I have the January 2013 meeting minutes in which this very agreement is discussed. BARC should have produced that document in response to my PIR, but they instead lied. I’m sure there are more documents which BARC is legally required to produce, but city of Houston employees continue to lie in an attempt to hide the details of their experimentation agreement from the public.

More attempts at coverup:  I sent anther PIR to the Houston Fire Dept. asking for additional documents concerning HFD’s use of animals for training purposes.  The city attorney has written a letter to the Texas Attorney General claiming that documents that I requested should not be produced to the public and the reasons are beyond ridiculous. The city attorney claims that the records that I requested are “highly intimate and embarrassing, such that its release would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person, and it is of no legitimate concern to the public”. The city also claims that documents responsive to my request contain “medical requests of a patient”. See the city attorney’s letter here. COH-ReqToWithholdDocs  

Again, my PIR concerned only HFD’s use of animals for training purposes.  I’m sure that since reporters are now asking questions about their experimentation plans, the city is trying to keep this ghoulish, and possibly illegal, agreement hidden from the public.

Houstonians, sadly this is what is running Houston’s taxpayer funded “shelter” and this is who is making decisions affecting the lives of shelter pets.

Even Annise Parker’s campaign promises that “Houston can do better than this” and after all of BARC’s claims of “transformation”, BARC still has a director who would actually agree to allow shelter pets to be used for experimentation. 

BARC still has a director who is obviously satisfied to “save some and kill the rest”.

With this type of person as the shelter director, I do not believe that BARC will ever stop killing pets.

The type of person, who would make such a heinous agreement, should NOT be running an animal shelter.  Damianoff should be moved to another city department, just like Austin’s regression pound director was moved to another dept. (After she was moved, the Save Rates at Austin’s pound skyrocketed)

Act Now - Red Button

If you are sickened and outraged about Greg Damianoff’s agreement to allow shelter pets to be used for experimentation and if you are sick of the continued killing of thousands of shelter pets month and month, year after year, then please speak up for the animals of Houston.  Their lives are in your hands.

Please call or send a letter or email to the mayor and city council and tell them you are an animal lover, a taxpayer and a voter and Enough is Enough.  It is time to hire someone to run BARC who actually cares about saving lives….. not someone who would make such a grisly agreement.

It’s an election year, and the city council members who are running again, will need your votes. So make sure you tell them exactly how they can get your vote.   Click here for their contact information

TALKING POINTS;

It has come to my attention that BARC’s director, Greg Damianoff, and Houston’s Animal Shelter Advisory committee, made an agreement to allow Houston Fire Dept personnel to experiment on BARC pets.  Not only do I find this ghoulish agreement absolutely heinous, but I believe it violates Houston ordinances and federal animal welfare laws.   This does not represent the type of person that I believe should be managing the care of shelter pets in Houston.   After five years of killing thousands of pets, and macabre deals to allow experimentation on shelter pets, it is clear that Greg Damianoff is NOT the type of person who should be running an animal shelter.

BARC’s Save Rate was only 61% in 2014, while hundreds of Open Admission facilities and communities across the country are SAVING 90% to 100% of all animals.  BARC’s 61% Save Rate is ludicrous.

BARC killed or lost 10,050 animals in 2014.  That is 838 pets KILLED BY BARC every single month in 2014.

BARC KILLED 28+ pets every single day in 2014 under Greg Damianoff’s management.

Enough is enough.  BARC’s continued killing of healthy and treatable shelter pets, under Greg Damianoff’s management, is not acceptable.  I expect a shelter director who is willing to work hard to save all animals; not a director who is satisfied with saving some and killing the rest, or someone who would allow shelter pets to be used for experimentation;

I ask that you work to hire leadership for BARC who is dedicated to saving all lives, and who is willing to work hard to rigorously implement ALL of the programs and services of the No Kill model of sheltering so that BARC can stop killing shelter pets.

This is an election year, and I vote!

If you can’t call or write an email or letter, I have created a petition which will send an email to the mayor, all city council members and the director of the ARA Dept (over BARC) every time someone signs.  

Please sign the petition, then forward it to all of your friends and family.  Click here for the petition.

* An animal shelter advisory committee is mandated by both Houston city ordinance and Texas state law. Members of Houston’s Animal Shelter Advisory committee are appointed by the mayor and city council.

**When Houston’s ASA committee was first being formed five years ago, under Annise Parker’s direction, I contacted several city council members asking to be nominated for the committee. But, I got the run around from several council members saying that another council member was going to make the nomination even Houston ordinances state that any of them could nominate for that committee position.   It was quite clear that the mayor and city council did NOT want a person on that committee who would actually advocate FOR the lives of shelter pets.  And considering the experimentation agreement that these people made.  Mission accomplished.

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BARC pledged to stop killing for Just One Day; then killed 30 pets

Houston, TX –  Just One Day is a nationwide campaign which occurs every year on June 11th.   It is a day that shelters nationwide are asked to explore and experiment with alternatives to killing shelter pets. These are alternatives that have already been proven successful in 200+ communities.

JOD-2014

In 2014, roughly 1,200 organizations pledged to participate in the Just One Day campaign.  They put down their “euthanasia needles” and picked up cameras instead, to photograph and market animals. They reached out to rescue groups, hosted adoption events, stayed open for extended hours, and asked their communities to help them empty the shelters. Roughly 10,000 animals were adopted that day across the nation.

Houston’s pound (BARC) took the pledge to stop killing for Just One Day in 2014.   They posted their promise to not kill pets on their blog and they convinced Proler Southwest/Sims Metal Management to sponsor them based on their promise.

BARC promised the media that they would not kill any savable pets on June 11th.  The city of Houston sent out a Press Release promising Houstonians that they would not kill savable pets that day.

Click 2 Houston reported BARC’s pledge here.

KHOU reported on BARC’s pledge here.

Guidry News reported BARC’s pledge here.

BARC management promised everyone that they would not kill healthy and treatable pets for Just One Day, but they lied.

In fact, BARC killed THIRTY innocent lives that day.  That’s right, THIRTY!  That is roughly 6 pets killed by BARC every single hour that BARC was open that day.

Let that sink in a minute……

BARC killed SIX pets every single hour that they were open.  That means that BARC killed 1 pet every ten minutes!  

That is literally an assembly line of death — on the day that BARC promised everyone that they would not kill at all.*

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Of the 54 animals that left BARC that day, BARC sent more than half of them out in body bags.

  • Only 11 pets were adopted that day;
  • 5 were transferred;
  • 5 were TNR’d; and
  • 1 was fostered.
  • BARC did not bother to update the kennel cards for 2 dogs, so who knows what happened to them? Considering, the mass slaughter that day, I would bet money that BARC killed them as well.  See the kennel cards for “outcomes” that day here.

Instead of killing 30 pets, BARC’s leadership could have picked up a phone and called rescue groups and foster parents to help pull more pets to safety.  They could have called the media to help garner more of the public’s help in getting those 30 pets out alive.

BARC leadership could have gotten on their computers and MARKETED those animals.

BARC leadership could have organized dozens of adoption events all over Houston’s 600 square miles, like this one in which over 400 BARC animals were adopted.

There are dozens of alternatives that BARC’s leadership could have taken that day instead of KILLING 30 pets.

When I first looked at the kennel cards of all of the innocent lives that BARC/City of Houston snuffed out that day, I felt sick.   I can still hardly look at those precious faces without tearing up.

But, now I am FURIOUS.  I am furious at the lies and senseless killing.  And I am furious that my tax dollars are used to enable massacres like this.  I am furious that when Annise Parker first ran for mayor, she promised to “do everything in her power to transition Houston to No Kill community” but those promises have been nothing more than lip service.  For the 5 YEARS that she has been in office, she has done squat to keep her promises.  During that time, over TEN THOUSAND animals have been killed by BARC EVERY YEAR.   And in those 5 years that she has allowed BARC to continue killing, HUNDREDS of other Open Admission pounds and shelters have stopped killing.   In fact, there are over 200 communities with Open Admission, pounds and shelter, all over the country, saving 90% to 99% now.   Most of them achieved their successes after Annise Parker made her No Kill promises to Houstonians.

In fact, the newest Open Admission shelter to join the No Kill club is The Humane Society of Fremont County CO.   That shelter used to kill over 50% of all animals in their care, just like BARC.   But, several months ago, they hired new leadership.  They hired Doug Rae, who is a hard working and compassionate leader and who is dedicated to saving lives.   Do you know what happened?

Fremont County killed ZERO animals in December.   That is right, ZERO.  Doug Rae’s leadership transformed a shelter that was killing 50% to one than killed 0%, within a few months.

So, while Annise Parker take pictures for her “Pet of the Week” PR stunt — and while many of those same “Pets of the Week” then end up on BARC’s death row — shelters all over the country have  worked hard to implement the programs and services that allowed them to stop killing.

Yes, BARC’s Save rate has increased slightly in 2013 and 2014, and an increased save rate is nice.  However, the miniscule increase in saving lives is revolting!

What kind of person, who has the power to hire employees who would end shelter killing, instead does nothing year after year after year?   Why isn’t this travesty at the top of her “to do” list?   It’s not like ending shelter killing is a secret.   Nathan Winograd gave the city of Houston a step by step guide in 2009.  The only thing Annise Parker has to do is hire shelter leadership, like Fremont County did, who will actually work hard to rigorously implement all of the programs and services of the No Kill model of sheltering.

So, why does Annise Parker continue to do nothing to end pet killing in Houston?

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If we all do not demand that the city hire a shelter manager who will end the killing, nothing is likely to change.  We’ve seen this for 5 years.  Citizens must be the driving force for change for the animals.   That is why I am asking you to demand better from Annise Parker and Houston’s city council.  You can find their contact information listed here.   Calling them is best, but letters and email are good too. If you have trouble coming up with talking points, you can find some on this petition.  You can also sign the petition which will send an email to the mayor and city council.

But, please do not let this be the last time that you speak out for the animal’s in Houston’s pound. 

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*As a result of BARC and the city of Houston’s lies, BARC has been removed from the Just One Day website.

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Crazy Alert! “No Kill can’t be done here”

Houston, TX – I am continually perplexed and saddened by people who continue to say that No Kill is not possible or can’t be done, despite the fact that it IS already being done.  And it is being done not by just one Open Admission shelter and not just by two…..  there are now over one hundred Open Admission, No Kill shelters which represents about 500 cities and towns.

How can people continue to claim that “it can’t be done” when it already IS being done?

From the creation of the very first No Kill community in San Francisco, there were naysayers who made up excuses why it couldn’t be done.   They said it can’t be done because  “there are too many gay people in San Francisco”.   When the San Francisco SPCA started proving them wrong, the naysayers then said it is being done in San Francisco “because” of the large gay population and because “San Francisco is “surrounded by water” —- but it can’t be done in other communities.

common sense public information sign

Nearly 2 decades later, hundreds of communities are proving these excuses are absolutely false.  These excuses have no basis in reality.   I’m sure there were naysayers in every single one of those No Kill communities who said that “No Kill can’t be done here”…… until someone else did it and proved them wrong.  [I’m sure glad that No Kill advocates in all of those communities did not listen to the naysayers and kept on pushing for No Kill in their communities.]

Even the HSUS and ASPCA have FINALLY admitted what the HSUS/Maddie’s Fund study showed 5 YEARS ago…. that “pet overpopulation” does not exist.   There ARE enough homes for the number of pets being killed in “shelters” and pounds; in fact, the number of homes that will get a new pet each year far exceeds the number of pets being killed in “shelters” each year by many million.

We can create Open Admission, No Kill pounds and shelters in every community and we can end shelter killing once and for all.  It CAN be done.

The true problem is an overpopulation of shelter directors who refuse to do their jobs and implement the programs that will end shelter killing.  That is the reason that shelter killing still exists.  That overpopulation problem could be solved fairly quickly…. with pink slips.

Still, nearly every day I hear or read that “No Kill can’t be done in my community because“:  

  • “there are too many irresponsible people”; or
  • “too many people don’t spay/neuter”; or
  • “we have too many pets of a X, Y or Z breed”;  or
  • “our city is different from everyone else”; or
  • “other cities are more progressive”; or
  • “our city is too small”; or
  • “our city is too big”; or
  • “our community is surrounded by swamp land”.

These are all excuses that I have heard people use an excuse why certain shelters or communities can’t stop killing shelter pets.

These excuses are all demonstrably false.

What is perplexing and very sad is that instead of saying “I’m going to study what all of those communities have done to stop killing shelter pets and then I’m going advocate for the implementation of those same programs in my community”, those people just keep claiming that “it can’t be done here”.

 It is crazy when you think about it.

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Is it ethical to transport thousands of pets to communities with kill shelters?

Houston, TX – There is an odd myth among a lot of people in the south that communities in more northern states do not have kill shelters.  Some southerners have said that communities up north are literally begging for more dogs and cats and that their shelters have empty cages because there is such a shortage of companion animals there.

I’ve heard many stories about southern rescuers transporting animals up north to what they believe is “mecca”; the magical northern state where no shelter pets are killed.   Unfortunately, this belief is fiction.   If it were true, No Kill advocacy groups like No Kill Colorado, No Kill Wisconsin, No Kill New York, No Kill New Hampshire, No Kill New JerseyNo Kill Ohio and Animal Ark in Minnesota, would not exist. There would be no need.   But they do exist because there are kill shelters in northern states who are killing shelter pets just like in the south.   Those northern kill shelters are killing for the exact same reasons that kill shelters in the south are killing….. shelter management  refuses to implement the No Kill model of sheltering.

Recently, I was contacted by Davyd Smith, who runs No Kill Colorado.   Just like in the south, they are working to end shelter killing in Colorado.  Davyd was concerned because he had heard that a Houston group was shipping hundreds of animals to CO.  He was also concerned because he heard that Houston city council was considering giving this group more than $400,000 to ship thousands more BARC animals to their communities while they are fighting their own battles to end shelter killing.

It turns out Davyd was right.  I later received BARC’s proposed budget confirming that BARC was asking for $415,000 to pay Rescued Pets Movement (RPM) to transport BARC animals to CO.

Obviously, it is a good thing when animals are pulled to safety from BARC, which is Houston’s pound that killed/lost 12,500+ shelter pets last year.   Over the years, I’ve pulled a lot of animals out of BARC either by adoption or by fostering and believe me, I understand the desperation of rescuers who stand in front of perfectly wonderful, adoptable animals that are slated for death at BARC the next day if no one pulls them.  I’ve looked into those innocent faces and I understand the sadness and frustration of not being able to save them all because Houston’s pound in run by management that absolutely refuses to implement the No Kill model of sheltering that has been proven to save lives.

And, I’ve seen the pictures with all the cute shelter pets being loaded onto vans headed for that promised “mecca”.    I understand how some rescuers would be desperate to believe in that mecca.   But, we cannot look at transports in a vacuum.  We cannot turn a blind eye to what is  happening at the other end of the transports.   To do so would be, at the very least, unethical.

If we ship  hundreds or thousands of shelter pets to other communities with kill shelters, that means that rescuers in those communities will not be able to pull animals off the kill lists.  Therefore, animals in those kill shelters are killed.  

Can we really call this saving lives?   Isn’t this  just exchanging one life for another?   

Do Houstonians have the right to “dump” the problems of our high kill shelters on other communities who are also struggling to save lives? 

Is it ethical to make Houston’s kill shelter’s numbers look better at the expense of animals in another community?  

I do not believe it is ethical, nor is it a viable humane solution.Animal shelter

It is not fair to the rescuers in Colorado who now have to scramble even harder to save Colorado shelter pets lives because some of their foster parents and rescue groups are loaded up with Houston pets.   It is not fair to the shelter pets in Colorado who are on death row but will not be pulled to safety by a rescue group or foster parent because those rescuers are full with Houston pets.

Mike Fry, the director of Animal Ark, wrote about the problems associated with the transport of shelter pets from the south to kill shelters in his community and other northern states.  He wrote:

A logical person would be inclined to ask, “If the transports result in no net life-saving (and they don’t), then why do they happen?” It was a question I was able to ask the director at a southern shelter that regularly ships dogs to New York.

The shelter in question was the Huntsville, Alabama animal control facility. The shelter’s director, Dr. Karen Sheppard, has maintained a miserable save rate. She is currently saving only about 25% of the cats for which she is responsible, for example.

During a recent phone conversation with Sheppard, we talked about these transports. Almost immediately, she acknowledged that the New York shelter system was very broken, resulting in a lot of needless killing. When she said this, I immediately asked her, “If you know about all the killing going on in New York, why are you shipping so many animals there?”

Sheppard laughed and simply exclaimed, “You KNOW [emphasis her’s] why we are doing it!”

In fact, I DO know why she, and others like her, are shipping animals to communities that are still killing large numbers of their own animals:   It makes all of the shelters look like they are doing better than they actually are.   Sheppard herself has recently been credited with “improving” the “save rate” for dogs to nearly 50%.   However, a careful look at the statistics shows that nearly all of the “improvement” is the result of the transport of dogs to New York.

This seems to be a very controversial and heatedly debated topic here.  In fact, I posted questions on RPM’s Facebook page asking them if they knew that  communities that they are transporting thousands of animals to are NOT No Kill communities meaning these transports could very well cause CO shelter pets to die.   I even posted some of the Colorado statistics.   No answer was forthcoming from RPM, but some RPM supporters immediately jumped in and called me a liar.

There was no attempt to even look at facts; just the immediate spewing of lies and vulgarity.

AroutyComment

I have records from Colorado that rescue groups and shelters are required to file with the state.   It clearly shows that the communities where RPM is shipping BARC animals DO have kill shelters that are killing shelter pets.  Sometimes, more than one kill shelter.  The numbers are there.  Yes, they have lower kill rates than BARC, but they are still killing adoptable shelter pets.   But, apparently RPM and supporters, do not want to look at facts about the cities where they have sent over 2,600 animals, and the consequences they can cause.

To add to my concerns of Colorado shelter pets being killed because of these transports, additional very troubling information was forwarded to me.   I received copies of a Complaint filed against one of the rescue groups in Colorado (New Hope Rescue) where RPM shipped BARC pets.  The investigation of New Hope includes pictures of animals being kept in absolutely filthy conditions.   The house where many animals were roaming free, shows feces and urine all over the house; not just in cages as BARC’s director, Greg Damianoff, told a reporter;  it is EVERYWHERE.   It looks like a hoarding house.  (The Complaint and investigative reports are linked at the bottom of this blog and pictures from the investigations are posted below).

The investigation report shows multiple visits to the New Hope house with multiple problems noted on multiple dates.  The report says that the ammonia level in one room was so high that the animals in the room were confiscated and taken to animal control…..a KILL shelter in Colorado Springs.   These were animals shipped to New Hope by RPM.   So, BARC animals were pulled from one kill shelter and ended up in another kill shelter in another state.   Look at the pictures, and read the Complaint and investigation report.  Ask yourself if you would be concerned to know that BARC shelter pets were being shipped there.  Ask yourself if you would be concerned when the photos and investigation are shown to RPM and BARC director, Greg Damianoff but are simply dismissed as “just mess in a puppy cage”.   Ask yourself if you think this whole situation is a good solution.

One of RPM’s founders, Laura Carlock, recently told a reporter, that she personally visited all of the locations where they are transporting BARC animals.  RPM also issued a statement saying “We have VERY close relationships with the groups in Colorado with whom we work. Very close. We correspond with them no less than 15 times a day“.  This causes me great concern because I have trouble believing that the New Hope hoarding house got in that condition overnight.

Included in the Complaint is a handwritten letter from a former New Hope foster parent complaining of the conditions.   She stated that New Hope was having spay/neuter surgeries performed in a trailer that was someone’s home, not a vet clinic.   She also stated that New Hope refused to use any of the $50 per pet that RPM paid them on vet care for foster animals.  The New Hope foster animals she was caring for were sick, but she was told New Hope would not pay for medical care.   It seems to me that New Hope was using this RPM transport situation as way to make some money.  Colorado records show that most of the animals that New Hope took in were from out of state;  263 out of 307 dogs and 65 out of 76 cats taken in were transports from out of state    If all of the out of state animals New Hope took were from RPM, then New Hope made $16,400 from that deal and used none of it to provide vet care for those animals.   That is quite a racket.  (Records do not indicate where New Hope got all of their  transported animals, and RPM has been less than forthcoming when questions have been asked).

After a local news report recently aired about this serious situation, RPM sent out an emailed statement claiming that the “Colorado community is furious”.  I have to think that the people who are furious are the people that RPM has been paying $50 per animal to take BARC animals.   Raising awareness of the situation is a threat to their money train.

The people in Colorado who are genuinely concerned about shelter killing in their community and who are working to end it, are upset that Houston is transporting thousands of shelter pets to their communities (over 2,600 shipped by RPM).  In fact, they have asked Houston/RPM to stop transporting animals there until they end shelter killing in their communities.  I think it is a reasonable request.  But, it appears that the city of Houston, RPM, and the CO rescuers getting paid, are willing to turn a blind eye and ignore the serious issues they are causing.   This week, the mayor agreed to give RPM $265,000 tax dollars for thousands more transports to Colorado.   This will, of course, artificially improve the appearance of BARC’s save rates.  Apparently, the promise of big bucks, and inflated live release rates are blinding them all to the killing of shelter pets that are already in Colorado.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

In RPM’s recent email, they make a number of false statements.   I would like to clear up a few of the false statements that were made about me and No Kill Houston.

1)  I never told the reporter that spay/neuter was the only answer.  I don’t believe that it is and I have said this repeatedly.  Free and low cost spay/neuter is “part” of the No Kill solution but it is one of several solutions that I offered to the reporter that would save more lives and not burden another community with Houston shelter pets.  I told the reporter about many of the programs and services of the No Kill Equation that must be implemented to end shelter killing.  I even gave her a brochure explaining all of the programs of the No Kill model of sheltering.  I gave her a lot of information, but most of it did not air because of time constraints.

I did tell the reporter that part of that $330,000 additional money that the city just agreed to give to BARC for “live release initiatives” could be better used for more free spay/neuter for low income people, just like the free spay/neuter event held in which people lined up at 5:00 am, walking in the dark with flashlights to get there.  There are people in Houston who are desperate for these services and will use them, if offered.  Why isn’t BARC/city of Houston using this money more wisely and spending it right here in our city where it will make a longer term impact?  Instead of taking in litter after litter after litter and shipping them to other communities over and over or killing them, BARC could say “We’ll take that litter from you but you must bring in the momma cat or dog and we will spay her FOR FREE.”

2) I also told the reporter that part of that $330,000 would be better spent on offsite adoption locations all over the city.  I have been saying this years.  In fact, in 2009, No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd told BARC that offsite adoptions were essential to raising save rates.  No Kill shelters have found this to be critical in many cases because some people absolutely will never, ever go to a facility like BARC because they kill animals there.  They cannot take it.   The problem is compounded because BARC is hidden away, on a dead end street, in an industrial part of town where no one would ever just drive by and see them.

Houston is also 600 square miles, so there are many people who live so far away that they would never drive to BARC to adopt, even if they know where it is.  Offsite adoptions, in high traffic, highly visible areas, all over the city are CRITICAL to saving more lives at BARC.

This was proven to BARC management when they organized a very successful, well marketed offsite adoption event in 2011.  I wrote about it here.  At that adoption event, BARC actually ran out of animals!  They had to go back and get more BARC animals; they told their foster parents to bring their fosters and sent some of the people to BARC to adopt.   It was July and the temperature had been around 100 degrees but people waited in long lines in order to adopt. (See a picture at the link above).   By the end of the weekend, BARC had adopted out more than 400 animals It was more than BARC had adopted out in the entire previous month.  It literally cleared out the kennels at BARC.

Since BARC management has personally experienced how successful this offsite adoption event was, a rational person would expect to see more of them, if not every day, at the very least, every weekend. 

But that is not happening.

3) I also told the reporter that if BARC would implement the same successful Return to Owner program that Washoe County animal control uses to return 60% of their animals to owners who want them back (vs. BARC’s 7% Return to Owner rate) that it could save the lives of more that 8,000 lost pets per year, empty out more than 8,000 kennels per year and SAVE over $900,000 per year in the process.  I gave her this article.  This program would be easy to implement and not require a lot of additional funding, but the returns would be enormous in both life saving and money saved.   Nathan Winograd told BARC/city of Houston leadership this in 2009, but, they have yet to implement it. 

In short, we talked about a lot of life saving alternatives that could be implemented that would not involve dumping Houston’s pets on other struggling communities.  But, none of that made it to the air, or even the online version of the report.

4) Ms. Carlock’s statement to the reporter that the only 2 options for death row BARC animals is transporting them to another state or death is absolutely and demonstrably false.   As I stated above, there are  a lot of alternatives.  There are ten programs and services that are being implemented by hundreds of communities that have been proven to save all healthy and treatable pets i.e. 90% to 99%.   None of those programs include transporting thousands of pets to other communities with kill shelters.

5) RPM stated that “No Kill Houston has not saved one single dog from BARC”.  This was used as some sort of argument that No Kill Houston should not be allowed to express concerns about serious issues involving BARC pets.  Apparently, RPM does not comprehend that No Kill Houston is an advocacy group.   It has never claimed to be a rescue group and therefore does not pull animals from kill shelters under No Kill Houston’s name.   However, I  have personally pulled more animals than I can count from BARC to foster, or adopt, both dogs and cats.    I have also fostered for a number of the rescue groups who pull animals from BARC.

But, regardless of those facts, contrary to RPM’s statement, concerned citizens are not required to have a BARC dog in their home in order to be “allowed” to express concerns about BARC animals.    We are not required to have a BARC dog in order to speak out for animals about serious issues that we see, or when animal lives are in jeapardy.   We are not required to have a BARC dog in order to advocate for the solutions that have been proven to work to save 90%+ of all shelter pets all over the country.

If that ridiculous argument were true, few people would be able to speak out and effect changes in other situations where animals are in danger such as puppy mills, inhumane zoos or circuses, inhumanely treated lab animals or endangered wildlife.   If we paid attention to RPM’s senseless argument, we would all have to have puppy mill dogs, elephants, lab animals and wild life in our homes in order to have the privilege of speaking out for animals.  It is absurd.

6) RPM stated that No Kill Houston and No Kill Colorado are “fringe” groups.  That statement would be comical if it wasn’t coming from a rescue group who say that they are working to save shelter pets.

The fact that RPM board members are apparently unaware that there are more than 500 cities and towns with Open Admission No Kill shelters is tragic

The fact that  RPM board members have not educated themselves on exactly what these communities are doing to become No Kill communities is even more tragic.  

The fact that RPM is trying to recreate the wheel, using hundreds of thousands of tax dollars and using a program that has not created a single No Kill community…. a program that, in fact, puts lives in other communities in jeopardy, is shocking. 

That fact that the city of Houston, and therefore, we are funding this smokescreen to cover BARC’s high kill rates, is appalling.

Just as there are kill shelters in across the country, there are also Open Admission, No Kill shelters across the country.   In fact, there are at least 8 Open Admission, No Kill shelters/communities right here in Texas.   All of those No Kill shelters have one thing in common.   They have leadership who is dedicated to saving lives.  They have compassionate hardworking leadership, who are willing to do what has been proven to work.

If you are not familiar with how hundreds of Open Admission shelters have stopped killing shelter pets, I urge you to do some research.  You can start at the webpages for No Kill Houston and the No Kill Advocacy Center.

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Click here to read the Investigation reports regarding New Hope Rescue: NewHopeCrueltyInvestigation-Seizure

Below are pictures taken during the investigation of New Hope Rescue and the seizure of BARC animals from New Hope’s property.

 

Repeating the Lies from Kill Shelters Harms Shelter Pets

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Houston, TX – I recently wrote about the claim that BARC management (Houston’s pound) made that there are 1.2 MILLION strays on the streets of Houston  I’ve seen this claim repeated by several reporters lately and  BARC continues to repeat this claim as an excuse and as political cover for the high kill rate that continue year after year at BARC’s facility (almost 51% of all animals at BARC were killed or lost in 2013 i.e. 12,596 in 2013 alone).

If we take a moment to really think about BARC’s claim, we can clearly see that it cannot possibly be true.   If it were true that there are “1.2 million strays” on the streets of Houston, that would mean there are 2,000 stray animals PER EVERY SINGLE SQUARE MILE of Houston.   We would not be able to walk out of our doors without stumbling across a stray pet.  As a long time resident of Houston, I can assure you that this is not the case.

Even in the low income areas of town, where the most strays are picked up by BARC, there are not 2,000 stray animals per square mile.  

Are there a lot of stray, or free roaming, animals in those areas?  Yes.  

Are there 2,000 stray animals per square mile in those areas?  No.

Are there 2,000 stray animals per square mile in the rest of Houston?  No, absolutely not.

In an attempt to learn how BARC management arrived at the astronomical “1.2 million strays” number, I sent a public information request to BARC asking for “documents which support, corroborate and/or validate recent statements made by city of Houston and/or BARC employees, to citizens and various media, that there are 1.2 million stray animals in Houston.

BARC’s response? “…there are no responsive documents for your request“.

Let me repeat that: BARC / City of Houston stated that there are no documents to support BARC’s claim of 1.2 million stray animals on the streets of Houston.

When pressed again for the source of the “1.2 million strays” number by another skeptical citizen, BARC’s manager, Greg Damianoff, cited a “pet population calculator” on the AVMA website.   I looked at the website and found that it clearly states that their calculations are based on no actual, provable data in Houston.   It uses estimates based on some survey information from vets in other communities and is multipled by guesses as to how many strays there are based on how many owned pets there are.   In fact, the website states,  “… because these formulas use sample survey data, they should not be considered 100% accurate.”   And it is not accurate for Houston.

A look around the city, by the average person, would confirm that the “1.2 million strays” i.e. 2,000 strays per square mile number cannot possibly be true.  It is absurd.   The fact that this claim is being made repeatedly by the person who is responsible for managing the city’s pound i.e. responsible for “sheltering” strays impounded by BARC is, to say the least, irresponsible.

The “1.2 million strays in Houston” claim is yet another fabrication spread by management of a kill shelter in order to defend and excuse their mass slaughter of shelter pets.  

Not only should we animal lovers reject this absurdity, but we certainly should not repeat it.  When we repeat ficticious claims, such as this number, we provide them an excuse as to why BARC is still killing over ten thousand pets per year.   It allows BARC/city of Houston leadership to continue to refuse to do the work necessary to implement the programs and services that have been proven to work to save 90% to 99% of all pets in hundreds of communities.   Repeating fictious information such as the “1.2. million strays” claim allows them to continue to take the easy way.    They can continue to save a few and kill the rest, and animal lovers won’t complain because they think that the situation is hopeless and they believe that BARC’s only option is to kill thousands of shelter pets.   It is not hopeless and we can end shelter killing in Houston, just as 500+ cities and towns have done.

The No Kill Advocacy Center has just produced a new publication that breaks down the real facts, in detail.   It is a very interesting publication and I highly recommend that everyone read it.   Click here to read it. 

Learn the truth and repeat that information, then demand better from our city leaders who control BARC.

If you want to end shelter killing at Houston’s tax payer funded pound, then demand that Annise Parker keep her No Kill promises to do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill city.  

It has been four and half years and it is long overdue that she actually work to keep her promises to citizens and voters.

The first and most CRITICAL thing Annise Parker  must do to keep  her promises is to hire a director for BARC who is dedicated to saving lives.

Contact information for Parker and city council members is listed on No Kill Houston’s website here.

If you are unable to call or write them, No Kill Houston has created a petition which will send an email to them each time someone signs.   Find one petition here or, if you have already signed the first petition, find a new petition here .

DogSigningPetition2

 

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Follow these stories and writing by other Texas writers on “Texas Animal Writers” on FaceBook.

 

BARC would rather KILL this kitten than accept offers of foster and adoption

Kitten

Houston, TX – The email chain below illustrates another instance of BARC & City of Houston management creating IDIOTIC rules that cost animals their lives.

Stacy emailed me because she offered to foster this kitten but BARC management (Amneris Diaz) told her no. Stacy then offered to adopt the kitten, but BARC again told her no because the kitten is 5 weeks old.

So, the 3 day hold period for this kitten expires today meaning that BARC can either choose to kill this kitten or work to find an alternative such as a foster home or adopter. In this case, BARC does not even have to work. An offer to save her is already there, yet BARC has REFUSED offers of adoption and foster care. So that means that BARC would rather kill this kitten. If another rescue group doesn’t offer to take this kitten, which isn’t likely since it is kitten season and most rescues are very full, she will be killed.

A beautiful, perfectly adoptable kitten will be KILLED by BARC…. while an offer to save her is in BARC’s lap.

How many times a day is this happening?!   How many adoptable pets are KILLED by BARC even when people have offered to save them?   Dozens?  Hundreds?  Thousands? 

How long does this have to go on before the citizens of Houston finally say ENOUGH!    How long will our tax dollars pay to KILL perfectly adoptable pets who have a place to go?

This is yet another example of why BARC is still a high kill facility.

 SHAMEFUL!

If you are as outraged at this horrific insanity, tell Annise Parker that it is not acceptable to kill animals that have a place to go.  You can contact her at: 832-393-1000 or mayor@houstontx.gov.  Tell her:

Annise Parker, when will you keep your promises and do everything in your power to transition Houston to a No Kill facility? Continuing to KILL kittens that have a place to go is NOT the way to get there.

Not only are your employees NOT working hard to save lives, they are actually turning down the public’s offer to save them.

You should also tell BARC’s shelter manager, Greg Damianoff.  His contact information is here


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From: “stacey@com”
To: nokillhouston@yahoo.com
Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2014 2:18 PM
Subject: Re: Kitten – Ragdoll Himmie Mix At BARC – due out date today. HELP!!!

he’s too small they said to adopt out. 5 weeks so they said I could foster to adopt but only if in the city limits. They don’t have space to hold her until she is ready to be adopted out and so she probably won’t be put up for adoption and put down. So sad because I have experience with these breeds and have rescued and vetted many of them.
Stacey
From: No Kill Houston
Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2014 2:10 PM
To: stacey@.com
Reply To: No Kill Houston
Subject: Re: Kitten – Ragdoll Himmie Mix At BARC – due out date today. HELP!!!
They won’t let you adopt her if you live outside the city limits??  I knew that they had an insane rule that people could not foster if they lived outside the city limits, but I thought that you could still adopt.  Randy Wallace (reporter with Fox TV) did a story on this topic a year or so ago, and the rescuer was forced to adopt some animals to save them when BARC would not allow him to foster since he was outside the city limits.   I would double check that.

From: “stacey@***com”
To: NoKillHouston@yahoo.com
Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2014 1:30 PM
Subject: Kitten – Ragdoll Himmie Mix At BARC – due out date today. HELP!!!

This little girl is at BARC in Houston. Due out date is today 5/29. ID is A1238418 under LOST and listed as Himilayan Mix. Since I live outside the city limits. They won’t let me foster or adopt. However a rescue group can pull her. Let me know. She is just precious and a shame to be put down. I have attached a picture.

Kitten-PetHarbor

Annise Parker refuses to implement the No Kill model of sheltering, then claims that Houston’s pound cannot be No Kill

Houston, TX – A concerned citizen, Trina, recently emailed me because she, like thousands of people in Houston, is concerned about the sky high kill rates that continue at Houston’s pound.  She wrote Annise Parker asking when she will keep her promises to do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill community.

Annise Parker sent a letter to Trina stating in part “Because BARC, unlike other shelters, cannot turn down any animal brought to it no matter its condition, it will never be a 100% No Kill.”

My question is “How could Parker possibly know if BARC can be No Kill?”  She has not required BARC employees to implement the No Kill mode of sheltering.   She cannot state that it cannot be done, when she has not even bothered to attempt it.

Personally, I find Parker’s response incredibly repulsive on so many levels, not the least of which is that her statement is entirely false.    In 2009, Parker promised to do everything in her power to ensure that BARC became a No-Kill shelter.   However, after 2 terms and four years of broken promises and complete and utter failure, Parker now conveniently claims that BARC cannot be 100% No Kill.  This is despite the fact that there are now more than 200 Open Admission, No Kill shelters/communities in the US.  Most of them became No Kill communities while Parker has been mayor.

pinocchio

What is certain is that, as long as Parker continues to claim that No Kill cannot be achieved at Open Admission facilities like BARC, it absolutely will not be achieved at BARC.  She is giving BARC management a free ticket to just keep on killing thousands of pets.  BARC management can continue to just skate by, doing a half-way job instead of working hard to implement the programs and services that have been proven to work.

And, the claim that BARC cannot turn down any animal is also not true.   A couple weeks ago, I talked to a man who recently visited BARC.  It was a Monday and BARC was closed to the public, so he drove to the back gate.  In front of him was a person in a car who was trying to surrender an animal.  BARC turned them down and turned them away.  So BARC can, and does, turn down animals.  This is just another excuse for her failure.

Parker’s letter also claims that they want to meet with Trina to “hear your ideas about how to achieve No Kill at BARC”.   The kicker is that city of Houston and BARC leadership already know what is necessary to achieve No Kill.   They do not need citizens to continue to tell them.  They have already heard it from the people who are actually doing it every day.  No Kill Houston brought No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd to Houston twice to teach his “Buidling a No Kill community” workshop.  Nathan Winograd is the first person to create an Open Admission, No Kill community and he has taught thousands of others how to copy his success.

Employees from the ARA Dept (the Dept over BARC) attended Winograd’s 2011 workshop. In addition, shelter manager, Greg Damianoff and several other ARA Dept employees, also attended the national No Kill conference in Washington DC last year.  This is the premier No Kill conference in which hundreds of people, who are already achieving No Kill, gather to teach others exactly how they are accomplishing it.

So Parker, and the people she hired to manage BARC, know exactly what needs to be done to stop killing shelter pets at BARC, but they have chosen to ignore it.  They have chosen to continue doing the same thing that they have always done, even though it has been a colossal failure for 4 years.

When I wrote about this issue, and the litany of lies coming from the city in November 2011, there were 27 Open Admission, No Kill pounds and shelters (just like BARC) saving 90% to 99% of all animals.  Today, less than 2 years later, there are more than 200!   There is absolutely no good excuse that BARC is only saving 42%.

I want to know exactly how many other Open Admission shelters/communities will reach the No Kill goal before Annise Parker admits that No Kill IS possible at BARC as well, with the right leadership?   I really want to know what that number is?   Apparently, 200+ of them is not enough to convince her to even try.

How many other communities will pass by Houston on the way to No Kill before Parker admits that she has not even attempted to implement the No Kill model of sheltering at BARC?

How many thousands of shelter pets must be killed by BARC and the city of Houston before Parker admits that she has failed to demand that BARC management, such as Greg Damianoff, actually do their jobs and work hard to save lives?    

How can anyone, with a conscience, stand by and do absolutely nothing while people, under her direction and control, KILL tens of thousands of pets every single year?

Ostrich-HeadInTheSand

How long will Parker keep her head in the sand, ignoring what is going on in the world around her, at the expense of tens of thousands of shelter pets who will be killed on her watch?

How many sweet, loving, adoptable pets will be killed before Houston gains leadership who will truly work on this issue?

Parker stated, in her letter to Trina, that BARC “will never be 100% No Kill”.  I agree that, under Parker’s administration, BARC will never be a No Kill shelter.  We have 4 years of proof of this fact.

Houston desperately needs city leaders who will make life saving in our shelters a priority, not just an afterthought while running for re-election.

The only way that BARC will make any positive improvements in life saving is after pink slips are issued at city hall.    We voters have the power to write those pink slips on November 5th.    It is up to we citizens to elect city leaders who actually care about saving lives. 

simple pink slip

Learn about the candidates on No Kill Texas Advocates’ website.

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A BIG day is coming up!

Houston, TX – A BIG day is coming up soon and  in more ways than one.  November 5th is my birthday.  This birthday will be one of those “milestone” birthdays.  You know, the ones that slide you into a new category on those lists that we fill out with the checkboxes.  I’m now going to have to check a new box.

Every time I pass one of these milestones, I realize how fast time is passing.  This year I realize how fast time is  passing without significant changes to Houston’s high kill sheltering system.  I first learned about the successful No Kill model of sheltering about 5 years ago when I read Nathan Winograd’s book, Redemption.   At that time, I was thrilled to learn that someone had finally figured out how we could end the killing of healthy and treatable shelter pets.   Five years ago, I could have never imagined that people would actually fight the efforts to stop killing shelter pets.  So, the last five years, although it seems like they have flown by, have certainly been a long, hard, very stressful and eye opening experience.   I have certainly become wiser and more educated to the shocking realities of the animal sheltering industry.

As you might imagine, my house has been, and still is, home to many rescued and homeless pets; a couple of them were found lost, alone and scared but most were pulled from Houston’s high kill pound, BARC.   When I pulled them out, most of them were on the “kill list” because they were either sick, infants or simply because they had been there longer than the 3 day hold period.

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*Marley

I pulled Marley, who was skinny and had become very sick at BARC, but now looks like the Pillsbury Dough Cat.

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Conan*

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I pulled Conan, along with his mother and 4 siblings.  He is my gentle giant with a tiny meow too small for his body.

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Penelope&Jezebel

I pulled Penelope, the sweet kitty who opens her mouth to meow, but no sound emerges.

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Sebastian*

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I pulled Sebastian, my 20lb moose of a cat who sits up and “begs” for attention or treats.  He was on BARC’s kill list because he had been adopted and returned because he didn’t get along with the adopter’s cat.

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All of my sweet babies, with wonderful, loving and individual personalities each deserving of the right to live their lives.

I still remember the day that I pulled each cat out of BARC.  I remember standing in front of cat cages trying to decide who to take, knowing that those I did not take, would probably be killed soon.  It is one of the most horrible decisions I’ve ever had to make.   Therefore, years later, those memories are still burned into my brain like it was yesterday, along with the faces of those I could not take.  It is a choice that I do not wish on anyone, but one that is made by rescuers and adopters each day at BARC.

This is why I am determined the change the system that forces this horrible choice on the animal loving public.

As I look into the eyes of the wonderful, loving, quirky pets who now share my home, sometimes it brings me to tears because I think of the nearly 15,000 animals, just like them, who entered BARC last year and were KILLED by BARC instead of being rehomed or returned their owners.

Those pets were killed for one simple reason; because LEADERSHIP has, for almost 4 years, REFUSED to implement all of the programs and services that would have saved them.

For almost 4 years, city leadership has REFUSED to implement the recommendations of the leading No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd.

For almost 4 years, leadership at BARC has not cared whether they continue to kill tens of thousands of animals; they do care enough to work hard and change their procedures to make the killing stop.

Leadership.  That is why BARC continues to kill.  Plain and simple.

Folks, we have the opportunity to change that leadership in just a couple weeks.

My birthday, November 5th,, is also Election Day this year.  On that day, we will have the opportunity to change the leadership in our city….. we have the chance to elect a new mayor and city council members who can then change the leadership at BARC.

We hold the power to make changes that will save lives.

Even though this birthday is a “big” one for me, I do not want to celebrate with presents.

The only thing that I want for my birthday is for every single person in Houston to stand up for the animals.  I want every single person to use your right and this opportunity to vote for new leadership in Houston.

We already know what the incumbent leadership will do (or more accurately, WILL NOT do).  We’ve seen the mass killing continue and we’ve seen the ridiculous waste of precious dollars that could have been used to save lives. We’ve seen that, for almost 4 years, BARC’s kill rates have risen.

If we ever hope to change the culture of killing in our city pound, we must change the leadership.

I am asking each of you to please grant my wish and vote for change.

No Kill Texas Advocates has sent questionnaires to the mayoral and city council candidates regarding sheltering issues. They will post the candidates’ responses on their website.  They will also endorse the candidates that they believe will make a difference in the lives of shelter pets in Houston.

For me, this is a one issue election.  Yes, I am concerned about pot holes, taxes and crime, but all that pales significantly in comparison to my concern for the mass slaughter of adoptable animals that our city pound performs daily….. and on my dime (taxes).

Personally, I am voting for Ben Hall for mayor I had the opportunity to meet with him recently and I believe that he is genuinely concerned about the horrific sheltering situation in Houston and that he is committed to creating a better, more humane, more financially responsible, life-saving method of sheltering in Houston.

I believe that he is our best shot to drag Houston out of the dark ages of “catch and kill” sheltering and our best shot to save the lives of Houston’s shelter pets.

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BARC proposing revisions to city ordinances that are detrimental to animals

jeune fille pull rouge négatif

Houston, TX – On October 1, 2013, there will be a meeting to discuss BARC’s (Houston’s high kill pound) proposed revisions to Houston city ordinances.   I am still reading the proposed revisions (since it is such short notice, I wanted to get this information out ASAP) but I have already seen that many of the proposed revisions would be very deterimental animals in Houston, such as lumping feral cats into the same category as “wounded” animals and stating that they should be killed immediately (Section 6-7).

Some of their proposals are just lipstick on a pig such a changing their name to try to fool the public into thinking that they are a “shelter” not a high kill pound.

And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that none of what I’ve read so far creates legislation that would help save more lives as the Companion Animal Protection Act does in the cities and states where it has been passed. 

No, in fact, most of what I’ve read of BARC’s proposed revisions gives BARC more authority to impound animals. 

Considering that BARC is already a very high pound, had a kill rate of over 57% in 2012, and their kill rate has increased every year for the last 3 years, more power to impound animals is the LAST thing that we, and the animals of Houston, need.

Please read BARC’s proposed revisions (click here) and compare their proposals to legislation that would actually help save animals (click here) , then please attend the meeting.  RSVP information is listed in the email below that was sent out to a select group of people notifying them of the meeting.

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“BARC Animal Shelter and Adoptions administers regulations concerning animals within the City of Houston through Chapter 6 of the Code of Ordinances. Currently, BARC is considering revisions to Chapter 6.  While some of the changes are administrative, others warrant feedback from stakeholders like you.

On Tuesday, October 1, BARC invites you to join a discussion among local pet businesses, rescue groups and other interested individuals regarding the new revisions. This meeting precedes a City Council Committee meeting on Chapter 6 scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.

WHO: The City of Houston’s BARC Animal Shelter and Adoptions

WHAT: Stakeholders meeting on revisions to Chapter 6 in the City’s Code of  Ordinances

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.

You can find a current “redline” draft of the ordinance by visiting this link: http://www.houstontx.gov/barc/chapter6draft.pdf.

Please feel free to review the document prior to the meeting to prepare questions or comments relating to the ordinance. The majority of the conversation will likely surround pages 39-48 in the draft.  Please note that items in the draft that are crossed out indicate language that is removed in the revised ordinance and items underlined are additions.

This meeting will help us ensure that the changes reflect the goals of rescues groups such as yours, especially as it relates to the health and well-being of animals.  We welcome any and all feedback you may have on the proposed changes.

If you have any questions prior to the meeting, please feel free to call 832-393-8503 or email Christopher.Newport@houstontx.gov.  If you plan to attend the meeting, please RSVP by sending an email to Chris.”

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Forty thousand opportunties to save Houston shelter pets

Houston, TX – The Reliant Park World Series of Dog Shows will be in Houston starting July 17th.    This is one of the largest dogs shows in the country.   If you are a dog lover, it will be THE place to be (Cat lovers, don’t despair.  You will find many kitty related items there as well).

No Kill Houston will have a booth at the Dog Show again this year.  Forty thousand people are expected to pass through the doors each year, so it is the ideal location to reach thousands of animal lovers.

Today, there are over 160 OPEN ADMISSION, animal control facilities and shelters, representing approxmiately FIVE HUNDRED cities and towns, who are saving 90% to 98% of all animals entering their doors.   There is a successful, No Kill model of sheltering that, when rigorously implented, DOES work to save all healthy and treatable pets even in Open Admission shelters.  That is the good news.

Protest

The bad news is that  3 1/2 YEARS after the international No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd, gave Houston’s city council a step-by-step guide detailing how to stop killing pets at Houston’s pound, in 2012 they saved only 42% and killed nearly 15,000 pets. 

In fact, BARC’s Save Rate has DECREASED every single year for the last 3 years…. every single year that Annise Parker has been in office.

Enough is enough.  Houston’s pound desperately needs leadership who is dedicated to saving lives, and who willing to work hard, to save all healthy and treatable pets.   Saving a measly 42% of animals is just not good enough.

The only way Houston’s pound will get the leadership that it needs is if animal lovers (and voters) in Houston join together demand better for Houston’s pets.

knowledge is power

No Kill Houston needs volunteers to help in their booth at the Dog show in order to help raise awareness regarding the pathetic state of Houston’s “shelter” system and what can be done to transform Houston to a No Kill community………… just like the hundreds of No Kill communities across the US.

They need you to help them help Houston’s shelter pets.

Volunteers are needed Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 19-21, from 8 am to 5 pm.  There are morning and afternoon shifts.  

If you are able to help out, even for a few hours, you could help in Houston’s transformation.

Please contact No Kill Houston at NoKillHouston@yahoo.com if you help us help Houston’s shelter pets.

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Annise Parker’s Bait and Switch attempts to cover her No Kill failures

Hear speak see no evil

Houston, TX – As reported by the Chronicle, Mayor Annise Parker recently hired some Rice students to come up with solutions to BARC’s miserably low Save Rates.   ARA spokesperson, Christopher Newport is quoted as saying “It’s going to be useful for the council members. What they want to know is, ‘What can we do?’ You can’t really start grappling with that until you’ve got a tool in your hands like what these students provided”.

Apparently, Mr. Newport and Annise Parker have chosen to forget about the 2005 Mayor’s Task Force report which pinpointed many problems at BARC and offered many good solutions.  This lack of memory is stunning considering Parker actually served on the Task Force and she reminded animal lovers and voters many times of this fact while running for election to the Mayor’s office the first time  — for instance in her Policy Brief (see it at this link AnniseParkerPolicyBrief-2009)

Newport and Parker have also chosen to forget that in September 2009, the international, No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd came to Houston and assessed BARC.   Mr. Winograd prepared a 200 page report which details EXACTLY how BARC can stop killing healthy and treatable pets and achieve 90% or more Save Rates.  That was 3 ½ YEARS ago.  Remarkably, Parker even recommended that the city “Listen to the Experts” including Nathan Winograd, in her Policy Brief (linked above), yet she has failed to take her own advice.

If Annise Parker had hired leadership dedicated to saving lives when she first took office and required that BARC vigorously implement expert, Nathan Winograd’s recommendations, BARC would be well on its to No Kill by now.   Instead, BARC’s Save Rates have DECREASED every single year that Annise Parker has been in officeEVERY SINGLE YEAR.

For those who are not familiar with Nathan Winograd, he created the first Open Admission, No Kill shelter in the US, which saved all healthy and treatable animals entering their doors.   Only the irremediable suffering were euthanized (this is the true definition of euthanize).   His shelter was responsible for animal control for 8 municipalities, yet they still saved 90% or more of all animals entering their doors.

Since then, 90+ other Open Admission facilities, representing approximately 300 communities, have followed the same No Kill model of sheltering (called the No Kill Equation) and those shelters have achieved the same successes.   When shelters vigorously implement (i.e. not half-assed as is the case at most kill shelters) all of Winograd’s  recommendations, they stop killing too.knowledge is power

Many of those 90+  Open Admission shelters have reached No Kill while the city of Houston has had Winograd’s assessment report in their hands.   More than 80 Open Admission shelters have passed Houston by on their way to No Kill, while the Kill Rates at Houston’s pound continue to rise, year after year.

In addition to having a step-by-step No Kill guide for BARC, BARC employees attended the national No Kill Conference in Washington DC in 2012.   Present at this conference were people who have actually stopped shelter killing in their communities, and they taught classes on how they achieved their successes.

So, Annise Parker and BARC leaders know EXACTLY what needs to be done at BARC to stop the killing  — the tools are already in their hands, and have been there for over 3 1/2 years. 

But, instead of using those tools, as Parker promised and recommended, she has chosen to ignore them and asked some college students to come up with “more” solutions.

The sheer insanity of choices made for BARC is simply stunning.

Don’t get me wrong,   I’m sure the students’ motivations were well meaning.  But did they research the many other Open Admission shelters that have already reached No Kill?  I have not seen the report, but the Chronicle article does not mention many of the crucial components of the successful No Kill model of sheltering, so it does not appear that the students researched what is already working.  So, essentially the students’ solutions are merely a guess.    

Why did Parker even ask college students to come up with solutions in the first place, when she already has the solutions and all the tools necessasry to stop shelter killing?  

The answer?  Asking the college students to come up with solutions is just a “bait and switch” charade and nothing more than the Mayor’s attempt to divert attention away from the fact that she has totally failed keep her No Kill promises.   She has never bothered to require that her employees do their jobs well and implement the solutions that have already been proven to work and already in her hands, so she asks someone else to come up with “other” solutions.

Annise Parker has repeatedly promised that she would do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill city.  

Nathan Winograd gave Houston detailed solutions in September 2009. 

The only thing that Annise Parker has to do is DEMAND that her employees do their jobs and vigorously implement all of the recommendations in Nathan Winograd’s assessment report.

For almost 3 1/2 years, she has failed.

It is foolish, wasteful and dishonest to squander time, money and lives by continuing to refuse to implement proven solutions, and by asking others, with absolutely no life-saving shelter experience, to “guess” about solutions.  It a reprehensible and reckless use of our tax dollars and a reckless loss of precious lives that:

  • she has allowed BARC’s kill rates to INCREASE every single year that she has been in office;
  • she has allowed BARC to continue to ILLEGALLY ban volunteers;
  • she allows BARC to continue to kill animals that others have offered to save;
  • she allows BARC to make it harder for foster parents and rescuers to pull animals from BARC to safety;
  • she has not hired a director for BARC that is dedicated to saving lives—one willing to work hard to implement the programs that are saving 90% of animals in shelters all around us;
  • she has hired a director for BARC that does not even work onsite all day, but only makes a short appearance periodically;

There are a lot of things that BARC leadership and Annise Parker could be doing at this moment to save hundreds more lives every month, that would literally cost the city absolutely NOTHING, yet the Mayor and BARC leadership continue to refuse to implement these programs and services.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where BARC’s problems lie.  It is the same problem that has plagued BARC for years — LEADERSHIP.  Annise Parker and BARC manager, Greg Damianoff that just do not care if BARC stops killing.  

As I have said before, that problem could be solved with a pink slip.

I urge everyone to demand that Annise Parker (and your city council member) require BARC to vigorously implement the recommendations in Nathan Winograd’s 2009 assessment report.  Call, write letters, fax and/or email them.   (Their contact information is linked here.)

If you just don’t have time to call or write, I have created a petition that will send them an email each time someone signs.  You can find the Petition here.    Please SHARE it with all of your friends and family. 

If we all do not speak up and demand better, BARC and city of Houston will continue the “business as usual” as a high kill pound forever.    This is an election year for the mayor and city council members, so remind them that you vote.

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The earth is flat, pet overpopulation exists and other myths we’ve been told

truth or lie

Houston, TX – For years, most people in the United States have been told that that there are “too many pets and not enough homes”.  We have been told that there is a pet “overpopulation” problem.  We have been told that the reason that America’s animal shelters are killing millions of pets every year is because of this “overpopulation”.   We’ve heard this over and over and we have accepted this as truth without question.

Until a few years ago, I too believed that there was a pet overpopulation problem.  After all, I have seen the large numbers of animals at shelters, and who would believe that an animal shelter would kill thousands of animals every year if there actually were enough homes for all of them?  The caring and rational people who work at animal shelters would not do such a thing……. would they?

The truth is that pet “overpopulation” is actually a myth.  It does not exist.  I know this sounds heretical to many people especially to those who have fostered many animals, or to the people who watch animals being killed by the thousands at shelters every year. The first time that I read that pet overpopulation was a myth on a book cover, I thought it was crazy.  I am sure that people felt the same way the first time someone suggested that the earth might actually be round, not flat.  It is hard to change our belief system when we’ve been taught one thing our entire lives.  But, people finally realized that the earth really was not flat after all, that people were not sailing off the edge of the earth and people will soon realize that pet overpopulation is a myth as well.

But, let’s look at the numbers to make some sense of what the true facts are.   According to a national study done by Maddie’s Fund and the Humane Society of the United States, 23.5 million people in the US will get a new pet each year.  Some of those people have already decided where they will get that pet i.e.  they will adopt from a shelter, go to a breeder or get a pet from free to good home ad etc.   However, 17 million of those people have not yet decided where they will get their new pet.  So these “undecideds” are the homes that are up for grabs.  These 17 million people could be convinced to adopt.*

Today, between 3 and 4 million animals are being killed in “shelters”.   So it’s pretty clear that the “demand” for pets each year (17 million) far outnumbers the “supply” of animals being killed in shelters (3-4 million).

And the supply of adoptable shelter pets each year is actually even less because a large portion of that 3-4 million being killed are actually lost pets that should be reunited with their owners.   For example, Washoe Co., NV animal control returns 65% of pets to their owners.  Conversely, most shelters in the US average a return of only about 5%.  If Houston’s animal control i.e. BARC would utilized the same Return to Owner program as Washoe Co. with the same success, it would save the lives 8,100 more animals every year; that’s 8,100 animals that BARC would not need to adopt out or put in foster care and 8,100 empty kennels for the animals that truly are homeless.  It is also a savings of $972,000 every year which could then be directed to programs like free spay/neuter or a Help Desk to keep animals from being relinquished by their owners.

In addition, that 3-4 million “supply” could be further reduced if all shelters TNR’d (trap, neuter, released) feral cats instead of killing all of them, as many shelters do.

That 3-4 million “supply” could be reduced further still if shelters had pet retention programs that kept many of those animals out of the shelter in the first place, as mentioned above.

So we can see that adopting out all animals entering shelters is doable.  And the fact is that it is already being done in many communities.  If pet overpopulation really existed, there would be no open admission, No Kill shelters.  They could not exist. But, they do exist.

So let’s break these numbers down and get a perspective on what it means for Houston.

According to the U.S. census, there are 310,895,000+ people in the U.S.  As we discussed above, 17 million people who will get a new pet each year, have not yet decided where they will get that pet.  Those “undecided” new pet owners equal about 5.4% of the U.S. population.

The latest census shows that Houston has just under 2.2 million people.  The “undecided” new pet owners in Houston would equal about 118,800 people.  That is 118,800 people who could be convinced to adopt their next pet.

We also know that approximately 80,000 pets are being killed in Houston’s five kill shelters each year.   Again, we can see that the “demand” for pets by the “undecideds” in Houston (118,800) far outnumbers the “supply” of pets being killed in Houston’s shelters (80,000).

This means that there is no pet “overpopulation”.  It just means that the 80,000 pets being killed in Houston shelters each year could be saved if they were better introduced to the people who would be willing to adopt them.

And the numbers above are a worst case scenario because again this does not take into consideration the feral cats that should be TNR’d; it doesn’t take into consideration the number of pets that “should” be returned to their owners but who are not (see above); it does not take into consideration the number of animals that could be kept out of the shelter entirely with a proactive “help desk”.

I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of pets entering Houston’s shelters each year.  Of course there are.  And I’m not saying that there aren’t irresponsible people in Houston.  Of course there are.  I am saying that just because 80,000 pets are being killed in Houston shelters each year does not equate to “too many pets and not enough homes”.  The numbers prove that this is false.  It is myth and propaganda perpetuated by kill shelters.

I’m also not saying it is easy to save all healthy and treatable pets entering shelters.  To the contrary, it is hard work.  But therein lies the true heart of problem ….. saving all healthy and treatable pets is hard work and most shelter directors in the U.S. still refuse to do everything necessary to save them.  Continuing on the same path of “save a few and kill the rest” is easier.  Continuing to blame the public for pet “overpopulation” is easier.

So while I will admit there is an overpopulation problem, it is not a pet overpopulation problem.  The problem is an overpopulation of ineffective shelter directors who refuse to join the 21st century and put into place the programs and services that we know will save all healthy and treatable pets.

That overpopulation problem could be solved fairly quickly…. with a pink slip.

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Ask Mayor Parker why she has not kept her No Kill promises LIVE MONDAY online

Wa&Cat2009-05-01 041-1

Houston, TX – According to CultureMap Houston, Mayor Annise Parker wants to answer our questions on any subject we choose.  We will have the opportunity to ask our questions during a live web chat with Mayor Parker on Monday, April 29 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

You can submit your questions now in the Comments section of this story;  Tweet them using the hashtag #askannise; record them in a YouTube video; or ask them LIVE by going to this article on  Monday.

Considering BARC’s ever increasing KILL RATES (see below), I have a few questions for Parker about her No Kill promises that she has yet to keep (read more about her promises here): 

In 2010, BARC had a 55.33% Kill Rate 

In 2011, BARC had a 56.20% Kill Rate

In 2012, BARC had a 57.27% Kill Rate  

Here are a few  of my questions for Annise Parker:

1)  You have made repeated promises to citizens, including during your election campaign, that you would do everything in your power to transition Houston to a No Kill city.  Yet, after 3+ years in office, records show that the KILL RATE at Houston’s taxpayer funded animal control (i.e. BARC) has actually INCREASED every single year that you have been in office.   I would like to know when you plan to keep your No Kill promises to citizens?

2)  In 2009, the international No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd, gave you a 196 page step-by-step guide which tells you exactly how to increase BARC’s Save Rates.   Why have you completely ignored Mr. Winograd’s recommendations for more than 3 years and allowed BARC’s Kill Rates to INCREASE every year that you have been in office?

3)  You know that the most important element to stop the killing of shelter pets is a hard working shelter director who is dedicated to saving lives and who will vigorously implement all of the steps of the No Kill model of sheltering.   So, why have you hired a shelter director who is not dedicated to saving lives?   Why have you hired a shelter director who does not even work at BARC’s facility full time?   Why have you hired a shelter director who has been responsible for BARC’s ever increasing Kill Rate, yet you have done nothing to rectify this problem?

4) Volunteers and rescuers are the backbone of shelters and absolutely necessary to saving lives.  Yet, at least five volunteers and rescuers have been banned from BARC since you have been in office. Some have been banned for simply asking questions.    I would like to point out that not only is this a huge waste of resources i.e. tax dollars and free labor, but it is also illegal.   Why have you allowed this wasteful and illegal activity, that costs lives, to continue under your administration?

5)  Considering that you have totally and completely failed to keep your promises to citizens and voters during 2 terms in office, why should we vote for you again this November?

I sincerely hope that everyone will ask Mayor Parker serious questions about her failures regarding BARC as well*.   She needs to hear from all you. 

It is imperative that she knows how many of us care deeply about this issue and that we have not forgotten her No Kill promises. 

She also needs to know that we all VOTE.  

The lives of the animals at BARC depend on us. 

*You can copy my questions if you wish, but please try to change them so they are not the exact same questions over and over.

Thank you for standing up for the animals.

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Rescuers, your input is needed to convince Texas legislators to save lives

ATTENTION TEXAS ANIMAL RESCUE GROUPS!!!  A version of the Companion Animal Rescue Act may be filed in Texas this session.

If passed, this bill would make it illegal for an animal shelter to kill an animal if either:
(1) a qualified rescue group is willing to save it, or
(2) a qualified adopter is willing to adopt it.

One of the things that opponents of the bill (i.e. kill shelters and their supporters) have said is that shelters NEVER turn down qualified rescue groups in Texas.   I know, for a fact, that this is a lie.   I have seen this happen dozens and dozens of times over the last few years.  In fact, I have written about this very thing many times here.

I know that any dog that remotely looks like a Pit Bull is particularly vulnerable as they are many times denied adoption, and killed more often, simply because of the way they look.  The Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society and Harris County animal control all have policies to NOT adopt out dogs that “look” like Pit Bulls or Pit mixes.

The “shelters” choose to kill them all instead.

Also, I know that the kill shelters are lying to legislators because BARC (Houston’s animal control), killed animals that I, myself, offered to save.  I placed Holds on animals because I had found homes for them, but BARC killed them before I could travel there to get them.   I was told that BARC employees did not bother to check the computer for Holds before killing animals.

A sweet, healthy cat killed by BARC even though I had found a home for her and placed a "Hold" on her.

A sweet, healthy cat killed by BARC even though I had found a home for her and placed a “Hold” on her.

Also, a kitten that I had put on Hold somehow “vanished” from BARC before I could return for her.  I was told that BARC “could not find her”.  This was just a day or two after I took the below picture of her.   I have since learned that “cannot find” usually means “already killed”.

Kitten2-042 (Small)

A sweet, healthy kitten allegedly “lost” by BARC even though I found a home for her and placed her on “Hold”.

I was told that a third cat, an adult Tortie Point Siamese, that I had also placed on Hold, could not be found in her kennel either.   Luckily, dedicated volunteers were at BARC that day and searched the facility for the cat.   She was located sitting in a kennel outside of the Kill Room, next in line to be killed.  On top of her kennel was the kennel card for a 6 week old, solid black kitten.   So, not only did the shelter employees not bother to check the computer for Holds, they couldn’t even be bothered to verify that they had the correct animal.

Tortie224

Although, I had found a home for this cat, and placed a Hold on her, she was found in a kennel outside of the Kill Room with the kennel card of a 6 week old, solid black kitten. Shelter employees didn’t even bother to verify that they had the correct kennel card and animal before carting her off to the kill room.

RESCUE GROUPS, your input is needed to help get this bill passed to make these actions illegal.  It is vital that legislators  hear from you so that they know how often animals are killed that we have offered to save.   I know you have war stories just like I do.

If this has happened to you, or someone you know, please contact Ryan Clinton  ASAP at Ryan@FixAustin.org.  You can also contact him through his Facebook page.

Time is of the essence, as there is only a short window of time to convince legislators to file this bill.  If it is not filed within the next few months, it will be 2 more years before anyone can try again.

I realize that some rescuers are afraid of speaking publically about their experiences for fear of being banned by those kill shelters so, at your request, your identifying information will be kept confidential.

Thank you for standing up for the animals.

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If you wish to receive an email notification each time I post a new blog here, please click the small Follow link in the bottom right corner of your screen.  (Note: you can only see the link if you are reading this from my blog site.  The link does not show if you are reading this from the email version)

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Follow No Kill Houston on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to their email list.

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