Redemption, a key component to reduce shelter killing

Houston, TX (Reposting my article which originally appeared in Examiner.com on 5/13/2010.  Examiner.com has shut down it’s website and the article is no longer available there, so I am re-posting it here.)

According to the No Kill Equation, “one of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims.  Sadly, besides having pet owners fill out a lost pet report, very little effort is made in this area of shelter operations.” This is deplorable because, when shelters aggressively pursue this opportunity, they are able to return a large percentage of lost animals to their families.
 
A prime example of the enormous impact that reclaims can have on life saving is Washoe County, (Reno) Nevada whose shelters reunite approximately 60% of dogs with their owners. In fact, Washoe County has one of the highest returned-to-owner rates in the nation.  They accomplished this by being proactive in their efforts, rather than blaming the community
 
Let’s compare Washoe County to BARC (Houston’s animal control facility). At the time of Nathan Winograd’s assessment of BARC in September 2009, it had 1% redemption rate for cats and a 7% redemption rate for dogs.
 

Repeat: That is a 60% redemption rate for dogs at Washoe Co. animal control, but only 7% at BARC.   

The following story is a perfect example of why BARC returns only 7% of lost dogs to owners.  Unfortunately, this example is repeated every day.
 
On March 14, 2010, Brian Simon lost his Chihuahua, Nino.  On March 15, Mr. Simon went to BARC to search for Nino. He did not find his dog so BARC’s kennel supervisor told Mr. Simon to leave his “Lost” flyer on BARC’s bulletin board. 
 
Mr. Simon was told that BARC employees looked at the bulletin board regularly to match up lost pets.  He relied on BARC’s assurances and unfortunately that was a big mistake. Those familiar with BARC know that the bulletin board is rarely, if ever, reviewed before animals are killed.
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Picture of BARC’s “lost pet” bulletin board in May, 2010 taken by Fox 26 Houston

Even if BARC employees were checking the bulletin board regularly, it is absurd to think that anyone could match up animals against the mountain of paper hanging there. See the picture above. It is more sickening that Nathan Winograd’s assessment report includes instructions on how to set up a lost and found program that actually works (see page 37-39), yet BARC has not even attempted to institute this program.

On March 17, two days after Mr. Simon reported Nino lost, a Chihuahua matching Nino’s description was brought to BARC.  (See below. Nino is on the left. The Chihuahua brought to BARC is on the right)  The Chihuahua at BARC had been picked up very close to the location where Nino was last seen, yet no one contacted Mr. Simon to tell him that a Chihuahua matching Nino’s description was at BARC.  

Nino-SidebySide

Dog on Left:  Picture of Nino that his owner posted on BARC’s “lost” bulletin board — Dog on Right:  Stray/lost dog that was picked up in the same area where Nino was lost, 2 days after Nino went missing

On March 21, four days after arriving at BARC, the Chihuahua was killed. It is appalling that no one attempted to find his owner and he was never considered for adoption.  See the Fox 26 news report here. 
 
Below is a picture of the bulletin board taken by Nathan Winograd in September 2009.  Compare it to the picture of the bulletin board above taken by Fox 26.  With BARC’s measly 1% redemption rate for cats and a 7% redemption rate for dogs, why has absolutely nothing changed in the last 8 months? 
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BARC’s “lost pet” bulletin board in September, 2009

If we take Washoe County’s 60% percent reclaim rate for dogs and apply it to BARC’s intakes, it would translate to a staggering 8,100 dogs that are killed at BARC who are actually lost with families who want them back.* 

That is 8,100 cages, that are being used, that could instead be freed up so truly homeless pets would have more time.

This means BARC would kill 8,100 fewer animals which would also save $972,000 because it costs roughly $120 to house an animal for 3 days then kill him/her and dispose of the body.

The only reason that those 8,100 lost dogs (and many more thousands of lost cats) are being killed each year is because BARC has not instituted an effective program that would reunite these animals with their owners even though instructions for an effective program are literally sitting at BARC and at city hall.

Nino

Nino

 

So, when shelter directors or city politicians tell people that there are “too many pets and not enough homes” or claim that shelters “must” kill because irresponsible people have caused pet overpopulation, remember this story.  

Remember little Nino, and the other 8,100 dogs just like him, with families who want them back, but who will be killed at BARC this year. 

As I’ve said in previous articles, whether a shelter stops killing depends on the shelter director.  So, I have to ask, when will the Mayor and city council hire a shelter director for BARC who will pursue every avenue that has been proven to save lives?  

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Note 07/05/17:  Although the above blog was written more than 7 YEARS ago, BARC leadership still has not implemented an effective Return to Owner program. BARC’s Return to Owner rates have been appallingly low every year since this blog was written.  BARC’s Return to Owner rate was only 6.88% in 2016 — 9.68% for dogs and only 1.1% for cats. 
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An effective Return to Owner program would cost little to nothing to implement but could save literally thousands of lives, and would actually SAVE money for BARC/City of Houston because of reduced intakes.  Yet BARC’s leadership has not attempted to implement such a program.  
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This is horrendous and inexcusable.  And again, this is a shelter leadership issue.

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But, this issue has a solution….. a pink slip.

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Please SPEAK OUT for the pets at BARC and demand shelter leadership who will work hard to save lives.   Click here for an easy way to speak out for shelter pets.  It takes only seconds, but could help save thousands of lives.  

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PLEASE SPEAK OUT FOR SHELTER PETS!

Leah

Houston, TX – In response to Houston Voters for Companion Animals‘ Candidate Survey, Sylvester Turner stated “Implementing a no-kill policy should be the ultimate goal for Houston’s animal control. As mayor, I will champion policies in pursuit of that goal”.

Yet, during Mayor Turner’s 1st year in office, BARC KILLED or LOST 6,600+ pets.

During the same year, 200+ OPEN ADMISSION shelters, just like BARC, serving 500+ cities and towns,SAVED 90% up to 100% of all pets.

Many shelters are saving ALL healthy and treatable pets even though they have HIGHER Intakes Per Capita than BARC (meaning they have a harder job saving shelter pets than BARC’s director).

Those shelters accomplished their high Save Rates because of compassionate, hard working shelter LEADERSHIP who has COMPREHENSIVELY implemented the programs of the No Kill model of sheltering.

BARC could stop killing pets too IF it had the same type of leadership.

Please SPEAK for shelter pets and ask Mayor Turner to keep his campaign promises.  He could end the killing of shelter pets at BARC by instructing his employees, BARC leadership, to COMPREHENSIVELY implement proven solutions — or he could hire new leadership for BARC who will.

CLICK HERE EASILY SPEAK OUT FOR SHELTER PETS

It will open a pre-written email to the mayor and city council.  It takes only seconds, but could help save thousands of shelter pets.

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BARC’S 2016 Save Rate better than 2015, but they killed 6,643 animals in 2016

Houston, Texas – I received December 2016’s intake and outcome records for BARC (Houston’s taxpayer funded animal control facility).   I calculated the Save Rates, and although they are slightly better than 2015, 6,643  pets were killed by BARC in 2016.  

That is an average of 553.5 pets killed every single month, or 18.2 pets killed by BARC EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR IN 2016.  

That is nothing to be proud of, in my opinion. 

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A dog killed by BARC in 2016

Here is a breakdown for 2016:

BARC had a 23.24% Kill Rate / 76.76% Save Rate for all animals

BARC had a 22.56% Kill Rate / 77.44% Save Rate for dogs and cats only

6,643 Animals were killed or lost by BARC (including “Other” animals)

6,239 Dog and Cats were killed or lost by BARC

28,579 Total Intakes

  8,865 Dog and Cat Adoptions – 32% Adoption rate

  9,149 Dogs and Cats transferred to rescue groups and transporters being paid to ship pets to other states

  1,976 TNRs

     945 Dogs & puppies Returned to Owners – 9.68% RTO rate for dogs & puppies

        52 Cats & kittens Returned to Owners – 1.1% RTO rate for cats & kittens

6.88% Total Return to Owner Rate

 

Here is a side-by-side comparison of BARC’s 2015 and 2016 numbers. 

2015-2016saveratescompare

BARC’s monthly intake and outcome reports (gathered thru a Public Information Request), are posted here.   

From looking at the huge numbers of pets still being killed, it is pretty clear that shelter leadership could do many things that would increase the Save Rates, both immedately and in the long term.  

The first thing, that would have an immediate impact, is a comprehensive offsite adoption program.  This would not only save more lives, but it would also bring in additional revenue to BARC.  Win-win.

Comprehensive is the key word that BARC leadership continues to ignore though. Houston stretches an enormous 623 square miles.  It should be clear to anyone that BARC’s facility on Carr St. is not convenient to a large number of Houstonians i.e. potential adopters.  In addition, some people will absolutely never, ever, go to a kill shelter. This is why comprehensive offsite adoption venues are critical to saving enough lives to end shelter killing.  Nathan Winograd told BARC and City of Houston officials this back in 2009.  

When Wingorad worked at the San Francisco SPCA, they had SEVEN offsite adoption venues, EVERY SINGLE DAY of the week, throughout the city.  San Francisco is about 49 square miles.  

After quite a bit of searching of BARC’s website, I finally found this calendar at the bottom of a page.  

barccalendar2-2016

The calendar lists ONE offsite adoption venue only 3 days per week. And TWO offsite adoption venues, only 1 day per week…. in a city that spans 623 square miles.  BARC should have ten times the number of offsite adoption venues that San Francisco had, but instead they have a tiny fraction of that amount.   

And to make matters worse, 2 of the 4 days that show offsite adoptions are work days for most people i.e. potential adopters.  Yet the hours BARC is available for adoptions is 11 to 4 or 11 to 5.  This means that the vast majority of the target adopting public will be unable to utilize these adoptions because they will be working.  

In addition, BARC’s Carr St. facility is open for adoptions when most of the target adopting public would be at work. The below is posted on their website.  

barc-hours

Considering the traffic and the sheer size of Houston, most working people would never be able to adopt from BARC during the week.  

This is NOT comprehensively implementing an offsite adoption program. 

Likewise, most people with jobs, would be unlikely to be able to get to BARC to search for their lost pets before BARC closes. Since the stray hold period is only 3 days, a lost and loved, pet could be killed by BARC before the owner had the opportunity to get to BARC to search for their pet. 

Making small changes would solve this issue. Simply altering the hours that BARC is open to the public for adoptions, and to search for lost pets, would save many lives and also save money.  It would get more pets into loving homes, or back to their families, and it would save tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars every year.

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Another adoptable pet killed by BARC in 2016

Something so simple, and free, could have a profound impact on lifesaving.  

So, why isn’t it being implemented by BARC leadership?

Another program that could save thousands of lives, and hundreds of thousands of dollars is an effective and comprehensive Return to Owner program.  BARC’s Return to Owner rate has hovered at about 7% for years. Yet, other Open Admission, No Kill shelters have RTO rates of 60% to 65%.  

I calculated that if BARC comprehensively implemented the same Return to Owner program that other shelters implemented, it could free up 8,100 kennels per year for pets who are truly homeless.  

It  would also save over $900,000…. because it costs money to intake, process and then kill pets.  

Nathan Winograd also told BARC/City of Houston that this program should be implemented back in 2009.  This program would cost little to nothing to implement, yet BARC leadership has not bothered to comprehensively implement such a program. Again, I have to ask why not?

So, the bottom line is that the Save Rate at BARC, has increased slightly from 2015 to 2016.  But more than SIX THOUSAND animals were still killed by BARC in 2016 while simple, cost effective and FREE programs, were not comprehensively implemented.  

This is horrendous and inexcusable.  And as usual, this is a shelter leadership issue. 

But, this issue has a solution….. a pink slip.

 

Please SPEAK OUT for shelter pets.  If we do not demand better from our shelters, the killing will never end.  

No Kill Houston has made it very easy for you to contact your elected officials, who could increase the Save Rates. They have programmed a link that will  create a pre-written, pre-addressed email that you can send.

Click here to send your email and SPEAK OUT for pets at BARC.

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Councilman Boykins paid $50k to have BARC kill 74+ dogs and cats

Houston, TX – Last year, I wrote about Councilman Boykins’ plan to pay $50,000 to BARC (Houston’s animal control) for BARC to work overtime doing “sweeps” in his District.  Of course, we knew this would mean more death to more pets at BARC. 

Last year, I blogged about this issue here and here  and Randy Wallace with Fox 26 News reported on it here

Many people called and wrote Boykins and asked him to consider non-lethal options instead, but he refused to listen.  

One of Boykins’ staffers wrote me claiming “Please be advised that the allocated funds will cover the costs to intake an animal, care for it at BARC for the average length of stay, market it and find a live release home for it. The cost is approximately $180 – $200/per animal for these services, thus allowing the animal control officers to pick-up and secure the adoption of approximately 250 – 270 dogs. Adoption is an integral part of this initiative and our office is not advocating, nor supporting any lethal solutions.”

But BARC killed 7,715 pets in 2015 alone, so  everyone knew that BARC leadership would not require that his employees work harder to get these additional pets adopted, and Boykins did not require that BARC use his $50,000 to save those lives.  Boykins just wanted the pets picked up.  He didn’t care what happened to them.

Anyone familiar with BARC knew that these sweeps would result in mass slaughter, and we were right.

The kennel cards of those pets picked during Boykins’ “$50,000 sweep” show that, of the 224 pets picked up , 74 pets were killed by BARC.  10 kennel cards do not list an outcome, so I would bet that those pets were killed as well.  If those animals had been adopted out or sent to rescue, there would like be notations about it.

The above equals a 33% to 37.5% KILL RATE.  And, of course, that does not include the pets, that were already at BARC, and who were killed to make room for the increased intakes.

The kennel cards for the animals picked up in Boykins’ $50,000 sweeps are posted here.  

The pictures of the dogs and cat that BARC killed are posted below.  These are pets that Boykins paid BARC to kill.   And BARC leadership was happy to oblige because they  did nothing differently to make sure that these pets made it out alive.

It breaks my heart to look into all the faces that Councilman Boykins paid BARC to kill.

Remember, your tax dollars were used to kill these pets, instead of being used to save them.  Demand better than this from your elected officials.  Demand that the mayor require BARC to comprehensively implement all of the programs of the No Kill model of sheltering.

Click here to watch Randy Wallace’s recent report on this issue. 

From No Kill Houston: “To the animal lovers who want to help us help shelter pets in Houston, we need you SPEAK OUT in mass.  We do not want to see a repeat of Councilman Boykins’ & BARC’s $50,000 killing spree before the Super Bowl. 

We have made it very easy for animal lovers to SPEAK OUT for shelter pets by contacting the mayor and city council.  We have programmed a link on our web page that will open a pre-addressed, pre-written email to all.  

Here is the link. http://bit.ly/2iIvdXC   Please use it then SHARE.  Make this go VIRAL.

If people prefer to call, write a letter or fax the mayor and city council, we also have all contact information listed here: http://bit.ly/1twjKi3

Please also Follow our Facebook page and register for our e-newsletter here http://bit.ly/1VWic9C

We have big plans for this year but we need more animal lovers speaking out with us. Thank you.”

February – 27 pets killed by BARC.  5 with unknown or incomplete kennel cards, presumed killed.

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March – 28 pets killed by BARC.  4 pets with unknown or incomplete kennel cards, presumed killed.

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April – 19 pets killed by BARC.  1 with unknown or incomplete kennel cards, presumed killed.

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ANIMAL LOVERS, YOUR INPUT IS NEEDED TO HELP SHELTER PETS!

Houston, TX – The city of Houston is asking for YOUR INPUT on what priorities that you want the city to focus on.

According to the Plan Houston website: “In 2015, Houston’s City Council took the groundbreaking step of adopting the city’s first general plan, Plan Houston. The Plan describes a vision and goals for our community and identifies twelve core strategies that represent the City’s approach for achieving the vision.

The City of Houston is now actively working towards achieving the community goals laid out in Plan Houston. The next step is to understand the community’s interests so that policy makers can consider them as they develop City priorities for the next budget year. The City’s next fiscal year begins July 1, 2017.

You can share your thoughts on what the City should be focusing on by responding to a brief survey.

I have reviewed the city’s current plan, and could find absolutely no mention of animal issues nor addressing Houston’s high kill sheltering issues. 

This needs to change.

planhouston

I believe that animal lovers CARE DEEPLY about animal issues and I am asking you to tell the mayor and city council this.  This is YOUR opportunity to tell them what is a priority for you.

Please TELL the mayor and city council that you want them to work hard to end the barbaric killing of 80,000+ shelter pets every year in Houston. There is a solution to end shelter killing.  But the mayor must require his city employees work hard to implement the solution comprehensively.

On the Survey, there are no choices for “ending the killing of shelter pets” under Choice A, B or C, so you will have to type it in under “Other”.

Then, please explain your choice in Box #3.   If you need help writing a statement for Box #3, I have posted my statement below that you can copy and paste and edit as you wish.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

Then forward this blog to your animal loving friends and family and ask them to take the Survey as well.  We need ALL Houston animal lovers to speak for shelter pets!

My statement:

“There are 5 kill shelters located within Houston city limits: 1) BARC; 2) Houston SPCA; 3) Houston Humane Society; 4) CAP; and 5) Harris County animal control.

According to the Mayor’s Task Force report, these 5 shelters are killing approximately 80,000 pets every year. Some people believe the number is now closer to 100,000. However, there are now 200+ Open Admission shelters, serving 500+ cities and towns, who are saving 90% up to 100% of all animals entering their doors. Leadership in these shelters have comprehensively implemented a series of programs and services, called the No Kill model of sheltering which has effectively ended killing of healthy and treatable shelter pets.

I want the mayor and city council to focus on putting leadership in place at BARC who will comprehensively implement the same programs and services that have ended shelter killing around the country. BARC may be better than it was in years past, but BARC also killed more than 7,700 pets in 2015 alone. That simply is not good enough when there is a proven solution to end the killing.

Houston is a city of passionate animal lovers. We spend millions of dollars on our pets each year, and we spend millions of dollars to help homeless pets. Animal charities represent the largest growing sector of philanthropy.

If the mayor and city council made a concerted effort to end shelter killing at BARC, Houstonians would step up to help with their time and with their donations.

But, we need the mayor and city council to step up and put BARC on the right track.

As a Houston voter, who voted for Mayor Turner based on his responses to Houston Voters for Companion Animals Candidate Survey, I want him to keep his campaign promise when he said “Implementing a no-kill policy should be the ultimate goal for Houston’s animal control. As mayor, I will champion policies in pursuit of that goal” and when he said “I will work until they all have a forever home.“

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Will Houston shelters join the rest of the nation and stop killing for Just One Day?

JODL

Houston, TX – Just One Day is a national event in which organizers ask animal shelters across the country to stop killing on June 11 of every year.  Thousands of groups, across the nation, take part. And the results have been dramatic.  One shelter with high rates of killing stayed open for 11 hours.  Roughly 100 animals found homes, one every seven minutes the shelter was open, its most successful adoption day ever.

Another shelter opened on a day it was normally closed and placed 231 animals as a result. In still another, the director of animal control who once said that he would not hesitate to kill every community cat in the world, reported that, “The parking lot has been full since 10:00 this morning, it continues to be full. I’ve never seen so many people come out here all at one time, in one day.”

In an Arizona animal control shelter, 88 out of 100 dogs and 28 out of 30 cats were adopted by 11 am. In another community, they ran out of animals.

Yet another reported staff crying….. because they had never seen so many animals going out the front door in the loving arms of families.

For many of these shelters, it was a watershed moment. Not just because animals who would have normally been killed were saved, but because of the valuable lessons hundreds of traditional shelters across the country learned.  

One of the primary goals of the Just One Day campaign is to not only save animals through adoption on June 11, it is to get shelters resistant to the principles of the No Kill model of sheltering — of marketing animals, of asking the public for help, of being open for adoptions at times that are more convenient for the working public and families, of using the media to save lives and of partnering with rescue groups — to commit to trying these ways of operating.

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So far, 95 shelters in Texas, such as Friends For Life Animal Rescue and Adoption Organization – Houston have made the pledge.

Open Admission facilities such as Houston’s animal control facility, BARC, Pearland Pets – Animal Servicesand League City Animal Shelter have taken the pledge.

However, Limited Admission facilities such as Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society and Citizens for Animal Protection have NOT pledged to stop killing shelter pets for JUST ONE DAY.  

I have to ask why not? Shouldn’t the animal loving public and donors EXPECT them to join the nation and work to stop killing shelter pets?

Will you ask them to take the pledge?

They can take the pledge here:http://bit.ly/1sw5aq0

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Please Stop Serving the Kool-Aid

Re-printed with permission by Paw4Change

I genuinely do not seek out conflict. I am not one of those people who thrives on crisis and seeks to create drama. I know that my belief system causes me to be in conflict with others. I understand that is unavoidable. You cannot be vocal about your beliefs in the midst of people who do not agree and expect that we will all just get along without a degree of friction.

I’ve been in conflict with volunteers at high kill animal shelters for a very long time. A lot of people think I’m intolerant and I’m perfectly fine with that because I am intolerant when it comes to having my tax dollars and donations used to kill healthy and treatable animals. Although people from outside animal welfare circles may presume that we all stand for the same thing, that we all champion the cause of saving lives, that is not always the case.  As was said by one of my mentors during a radio interview last November.  No.  We cannot hug it out and just all get along.  We are two separate factions of people and we often share little in common in terms of what we value.

If you are a volunteer at an animal shelter that routinely and systematically destroys healthy and treatable pets, I will applaud you for your efforts to help animals based on a few conditions. I want you to educate yourself on programs being used across the country to save shelter pets. I want you to question why it is that the shelter in which you volunteer destroys animals when other places across the country are saving animals.  I want you to voice your protests over the destruction of animals which could and should be saved.  I want you to speak loudly and with a sense of urgency when you know that animals in the shelter have veterinary care delayed or denied, get sick due to lack of vaccinations and proper cleaning protocols or are allowed to kill each other because they were not properly housed or supervised.  I consider those acts to be criminal in nature because they amount to neglect and cruelty even if they take place inside a public building.  If you think you can do good from working inside the shelter, by all means continue to do so.

If you are a volunteer at an animal shelter that routinely and systematically destroys healthy and treatable pets and you remain silent, go along to get along or, worse yet, you defend the killing of healthy and treatable animals, you are an enabler. You are helping to perpetuate the destruction of the very animals you say you want to help. You may tell yourself that you are doing good because you are helping to care for animals in their last hours, as if their death is some foregone conclusion. That may be the case for animals which are suffering or which are so sick that they simply cannot be saved. But do not sugar coat your volunteerism and make it seem like you are rendering compassion and love to a healthy and treatable animal which is about to be destroyed for no good reason at all. And believe me, there is no good reason for that animal to be destroyed in spite of what you may have been told.

I have heard volunteers say that people who advocate for animals outside of the shelter are not “in the trenches,” do not see what they see and are part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution.  But, here’s the thing. I am working to save the lives of animals by resolving systemic issues.  I would no more set foot in a high kill shelter than I would help hunt coyotes or work in a stockyard. I do not need to be in the shelter to know that what takes place there is wrong.  I know I cannot be there because then I, too, would be complicit in the killing.

And to those volunteers who think it is appropriate to defend killing savable shelter pets, I say this: you are not only part of the problem but you are actively working to prevent the solution.

 

It has been said that some in the sheltering industry have “drunk the Kool-Aid.” That they are so close to the destruction of animals that they simply cannot see any other way to think or function.  That they believe that animals simply must die and that they are performing some morbid public service.  If you volunteer in a shelter, please.  Focus on helping animals and advocating for them from inside the system.  

Just don’t serve the Kool-Aid.

Animal shelter

Read more on this topic here:  Can’t We All Get Along, by Nathan Winograd

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One Step Forward….

Houston, TX – I recently wrote a blog regarding Bella, a dog that the Houston “Humane” Society claimed should be killed because of the way she looked i.e. she had white fur on her neck so she must be a Pit Bull (click here to read the blog).  

Bella-HM

Bella, in her new home

While posting the blog on Facebook, I wrote that 3 “shelters” within Houston’s city limits refused to adopt dogs that someone claimed was a Pit Bull or Pit mix* meaning all of those dogs were automatically killed if a rescue group could not pull them to safety i.e. Houston SPCA, Houston “Humane” Society and Harris County Animal Control.  

But, that list has recently changed.  Harris County Animal Control confirmed that there Harris County Commissioners voted to end the breed discrimination at that facility meaning they now adopt out “Pit Bull” type dogs, along with other friendly dogs. 

This is good news!    

Yes, Harris County AC still appears to be a high kill facility, but at least all dogs will now get a shot at adoption.  And in fact, someone commented on my Facebook page that she had just adopted a dog from Harris County AC that had been labeled a Pit Bull.

So, this is one step forward for Harris County Animal Control and for Pit Bull type dogs entering that facility. 

Now both Houston’s city pound and Harris County’s pound adopt out Pit Bull type dogs, but tragically two of Houston’s Limited Admission “shelters” i.e Houston SPCA and Houston Humane Society remain in the dark ages of “catch and kill sheltering” still refuse to adopt out any dog that one of their employees claims is a Pit Bull or mix, meaning those dogs are killed . **

Riley

Riley, a dog that the Houston SPCA said is a Pit Bull mix and should be killed

I congratulate the 2 pounds for being more progressive than the Houston SPCA and Houston “Humane” Society on this issue.  

I also ask people to consider which practices better represent your values as an animal lover.  We should support only the facilities which represent our values, and continue to demand only the best practices known when it comes to sheltering our homeless pets.

Petie

Petie, the “Pit Bull” with The Little Rascals

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*”‘Pit Bull’ is not a breed of dog.  It is, according to a leading advocacy organization, “a catch-all term used to describe a continually expanding incoherent group of dogs, including pure-bred dogs and mixed-breed dogs. A ‘Pit Bull’ is any dog an animal control officer, shelter worker, dog trainer, politician, dog owner, police officer, newspaper reporter or anyone else says is a ‘Pit Bull.’”

** Studies show that shelter workers mis-identify dog breeds up to 87% of the time. 

 

 

Sweeps = more killing of Houston pets

StrayDog2

Houston, TX – Last Monday I wrote about Houston city councilman Boykins’ plan to pay Houston’s pound $50,000 to do more “sweeps” i.e. round ups of stray dogs in District D.   Those people who are familiar with BARC, or kill “shelters” in general, are understandable very concerned to hear this news because we all know what this usually means.    It means the killing of additional pets by BARC.  

Randy Wallace with Fox 26 news reported on this issue, and what sweeps will mean for pets in Houston.  You can watch the report here.

I wrote to Councilman Boykins and asked him to consider non-lethal alternatives for dealing with this problem such has high volume, free, spay/neuter services for the effected areas.   S/N will make dogs less likely to roam (males won’t be chasing females) and it also reduces dogs’ propensity to bite.

I received an email from an un-named staffer in District D which stated:

Please be advised that the allocated funds will cover the costs to intake an animal, care for it at BARC for the average length of stay, market it and find a live release home for it. The cost is approximately $180 – $200/per animal for these services, thus allowing the animal control officers to pick-up and secure the adoption of approximately 250 – 270 dogs. Adoption is an integral part of this initiative and our office is not advocating, nor supporting any lethal solutions.”

My response to the staffer was:

“You may not be advocating for it, but that is exactly what will happen with this plan for increased sweeps.

As you may know, BARC is a kill shelter and the city mandated stray hold period is only 3 days before animals can be pulled by rescues, adopted or killed.

Since BARC does not have an adequate adoption program for a facility that takes in 20,000+ pets per year, BARC is perpetually full and they do kill animals every single day of the year; thousands of them every year.

Increasing intakes by ramping up sweeps absolutely will cause kill rates at BARC to increase, either to the dogs that are brought in during the sweeps or the dogs that will be killed to make room for the increased intakes.

This “catch and kill” method has been tried over and over and it has never worked. In 2009, Annise Parker advocated for increasing sweeps in the “Corridor of Cruelty”. This did nothing to save pets, nor did it decrease the strays there.

In 2010, after a report showed that Houston was #1 in bites to postal workers, and again BARC’s “solution” was to increase sweeps.  Since we are still talking about bites to postal workers now, it is obvious that this “solution” did not work either. (You can see both documents linked here: http://bit.ly/1KAixrM )

As I said below, there is a better solution that does not involve increasing the killing of pets at BARC which Councilmember Boykin’s plan will cause. How about trying a different approach vs. the knee jerk “solution” that has repeatedly failed?

How about using that $50,000 wisely to implement proven, long term, solutions that do not involve slaughtering hundreds of animals?”

I received no reply to my email.

But, it appears that Councilman Boykins is not interested in the spay/neuter release option, as he told Randy Wallace that “it will take too long”. 

So my next non-lethal suggestion is that he should, at the very least, use some of that money to create at least one offsite adoption facility so that the hundreds of dogs that will be picked up in these sweeps will actually have a chance of adoption;  and so that hundreds of additional dogs won’t be killed at BARC to make room for the flood of dogs from these sweeps.

TAKE ACTION

I am again urging animal lovers to contact Councilmember Boykins and BARC management and even Mayor Turner, and ask them to make non-lethal arrangements for the dogs that will be picked up during these sweeps.

Calls are best.  If you can call, I suggest stating the following (you will probably speak to a staffer and may be asked for your address):

“I would like to tell Councilman Boykins that I oppose his plans to pick up hundreds of homeless dogs in his District if he does not also make plans to insure that those dogs will actually be seen by the people who would adopt them.   This simply will not happen if the only option is BARC’s overcrowded facility that already kills dogs every single day. 

Please use some of that $50,000 to create offsite adoption opportunities so that these dogs will have a chance at adoption and so that your plan will not be a death sentence for these dogs and the hundreds of dogs already at BARC who will be killed to make room.

Public safety and saving the lives of homeless pets do not have to be mutually exclusive. They can work together hand in hand.”

If you can’t call, letters, faxes and emails are good too.

Below is a copy of my letter to Councilmember Boykins.  Feel free to copy and paste any part of it for your own letter. 

Councilman Dwight Boykins

900 Bagby, 1st Floor

Houston, TX 77002

Phone: 832.393.3001

Fax: 832.393.3201

districtd@houstontx.gov

Re:      Public safety and saving the lives of homeless pets do not have to be mutually exclusive. They can work together hand in hand. 

Councilmember Boykins, 

In connection with your plans to pay BARC $50,0000 to pick up hundreds of dogs in District D, one of your staffers stated that “Adoption is an integral part of this initiative and our office is not advocating, nor supporting any lethal solutions.” 

Your office may not be “advocating” for a lethal solution, but that is exactly what will happen with your plan for increased sweeps if you do not also have legitimate plans for increasing adoptions. 

As you know, BARC is a kill shelter and the city mandated stray hold period is only 3 days before animals can be pulled by rescues, adopted or killed. 

Since BARC does not have an adequate adoption program for a facility that takes in 20,000+ pets per year, BARC is perpetually full and they do kill animals every single day of the year; thousands of them every year. 

Increasing intakes, with additional sweeps, absolutely will cause more killing of dogs.  The dogs that are brought in during the sweeps will be killed and/or dogs that are already at BARC will be killed to make room for the increased intakes. 

Since you stated that you do not to want to use any of that $50,000 for free spay/neuter services for that area, you should use some of that money to create at least one offsite adoption facility.  This would help ensure that the hundreds of dogs that will be picked up in these sweeps will actually have a chance at adoption and so that hundreds of dogs will not be killed at BARC to make room for the flood of dogs from these sweeps.  

It does no good to pay BARC $180-$200 per animal to get them ready for adoption, if you do not also insure that they will actually be seen by the people who would adopt them.  This simply will not happen if the only option is BARC’s overcrowded facility. 

Public safety and saving the lives of homeless pets do not have to be mutually exclusive. They can work together hand in hand.

cc: 
Mayor Sylvester Turner
City of Houston
P.O. Box 1562
Houston, TX  77251
Phone: 832-393-1000
Fax: 832-393-1084
mayor@houstontx.gov
BARC Shelter Manager
Greg Damianoff
P.O. Box 1562
Houston, TX  77251
Phone: 713-837-9630
Fax:  713-837-0631
greg.damianoff@houstontx.gov
ARA Director (over BARC)
Tina Paez, Director
611 Walker, 13th Floor
Houston, TX  77002
Phone:  832-393-8501
tina.paez@houstontx.gov

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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?   

도둑

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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The most important thing that you can do for shelter pets

Ad

Houston, TX – On December 12, Houston will have run-off elections for mayor and 7 city council positions.  In order for Houston to end the killing of shelter pets, it is CRUCIAL that we elect people who care about this issue, and who are willing to work to solve it.

So, it is very important that we question the candidates about their plans to end shelter killing in Houston.  Before the general elections, we sent all of the candidates a Candidate Survey on sheltering issues. However, some of the candidates in the run-off elections did not respond.

So, the one thing I am asking Houstonians to do today is:
ASK THE CANDIDATES ABOUT THEIR STANCE ON SHELTER ISSUES.

Houston Voters For Companion Animals has made it very easy to contact them as we have collected all of their email addresses. The only thing you have to do is copy and paste them into an email.

Feel free to use the sample question below or create your own question(s), just PLEASE DO contact them.

SAMPLE QUESTION:
Houston’s taxpayer funded city pound (BARC) killed more than 10,000 pets in 2014 alone. Yet, other communities have ended shelter killing entirely. If elected, what are your plans to end the killing of shelter pets at BARC?

The candidates’ email addresses are below (copy and paste them all into an email):
info@billkingforhouston.com, info@steveleforhouston.com, info@nguyenforhouston.com, admin@karlacisneros.com, info@jasoncisneroz.com, jgbigham@gmail.com, lasterfordistrictj@yahoo.com, gdprovost@hotmail.com, wrayd4@gmail.com, campaign@davidwrobinson.org

The following candidates have not responded to our Candidate Survey and did not attend our Candidate Forum on sheltering issues.

MAYORAL CANDIDATE – Bill King

CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES – DISTRICT F
Steve Duc Le, Richard Nguyen

CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES- DISTRICT H
Karla Cisneros, Jason Cisneroz

CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES-DISTRICT J
Jim Bigham, Mike Laster

CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES – AT-LARGE POSITION #1
Georgia Provost 

CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES – AT-LARGE POSITION #2
Willie Davis, David W. Robinson

*Sylvester Turner, running for mayor and all of the candidates running for City Council At Large Positions #4 and #5 have already responded to our Candidate Survey and their responses are posted on HVFCA’s website here.

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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.*

NorthKennels4

 

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?

CarMagnet3

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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Will you support No Kill efforts?

KittensatBARC

Houston, TX – No Kill Houston is an advocacy group who is working to transform Houston to a No Kill community. This is no easy task since Houston has the distinction of having 5 kill shelters that are killing approximately 80,000 shelter pets each year.   There are now approximately 500 cities and town who have become No Kill communities, meaning their Open Admission pounds and shelters are saving 90% to 99% of all animals entering their doors.   No Kill Houston wants this for Houston.  We know that it is possible, but we need the support and advocacy of Houston animal lovers to move the No Kill goal forward in Houston.

Since Houston is a huge city of over 1 million people and is spread out over 600 square miles, it is extremely tough to try to reach all Houstonians to educate them regarding what is going on in Houston “shelters” and also educate them on how Houston can end the killing of shelter pets.

2015 is an election year for mayor and city council positions, so it is a critical time to raise awareness about how the right LEADERSHIP in Houston could make all the difference in the lives of Houston shelters pets. If we animal lovers band together, I have no doubt that we can swing the elections, and elect people who will actually work to transform Houston to a No Kill city. 

No Kill Houston is currently running photo contest/fund raiser which will allow them to do more “advertising” in 2015 to reach more animal lovers.  The top 13 photos with the most votes will be featured on the cover and pages of No Kill Houston’s 2015 calendar.  Entering the contest is only a $5 donation and votes are a $1 each donation. If you want to make sure that your pet is shown in the calendar, you may also “Reserve a Day” meaning your pet’s picture will be shown on the day that you choose.   Donations are tax deductibleClick here to go to the contest web page.

If you do not want to enter the contest, but do want to make a donation to support No Kill efforts, you can do so by clicking here.  Please donate generously.

No Kill Houston is also allowing rescue groups and animal friendly businesses the opportunity to market their organizations on the pages of their calendar.   The sponsor’s name, logo, website address and/or any other requested information will be listed across the bottom of a calendar page below the winning monthly photo.   To sponsor one month in the calendar is only a donation of $125 for 501(c)(3)s or $225 for businesses. (Individuals may also sponsor a month at the non-profit rate).

If you are interested in this marketing/sponsorship opportunity, please email No Kill Houston at NoKillHouston@yahoo.com ASAP as the contest ends on January 1st at midnight.  Calendars will be shipped out in early January and sold at various events.

scam alert yellow sign - rectangle sign

BTW: If you are considering a donation to local or national animal related charity, I would strongly suggest that you do some research first.   I say this as someone who has, in the past, donated to, and volunteered for, local shelters thinking they were No Kill shelters, but found out later that they were actually high kill shelters.  Just because an organization may have the word “animal”, “humane”, “protection”, “ethical”, “prevention of cruelty” or “shelter” in their name does NOT mean that they are actually working to save animals.  There are a lot of frauds out there, and in the past, I have been duped by some of them as well.

Houston has five kill shelters/pounds.  Many people believe that the 3 limited admission “non-profit shelters” i.e Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society and Citizens for Animals Protection (CAP) are No Kill.  They are NOT.  Far from it. The kill rates of these 3 facilities are as high or even higher than Houston’s high kill pound (BARC) or Harris county’s high kill pound.

I would never tell anyone to not adopt from these facilities.  Obviously, the animals there need out. Their lives depend on it.  However, be aware that if you send them money, that money could very well be used to buy the poisons they use to kill animals.

Perhaps do a Google search with the charity’s name & the word “kill”. You might be shocked at what you find.  Or, check No Kill Houston’s site.  There is a lot of information there about what these “shelters” are actually doing.

Or read this blog regarding CAP;

Or read this page about the Houston SPCA;

Or read this blog about the Houston Humane Society;

And or this page.

CarMagnet3

If you are considering donating to a national animal related charity such as HSUS, ASPCA or PETA, please do some research as well.  I have personally donated my hard earned dollars to PETA and ASPCA only to find out later that they fight against everything I believe in.  Not only that, they are kill shelters as well.  Also, although the HSUS claims to “rescue” various animals, they actually have no shelter.  And the HSUS has historically fought against No Kill efforts.  They have fought hard to kill some animals such as the victims rescued from Michael Vick’s house of horrors.  These organizations rake in millions of dollars in donations, but do little to nothing to actually help pets.

You can start your research about these national organizations here.

bulldog laughing at another dog dressed up with clown wig

In the meantime, have some fun and enter No Kill Houston’s photo contest.   Your companion may just become a 2015 calendar Pin Up!  Click here to enter and vote in the contest!

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If you wish to receive an email notification each time I write a new blog post here, please click the blue Follow link at top right corner of your screen. (Note: The link may not be visible if you are reading this blog in an email. If you cannot see the link in an email, click the title of the blog to be taken to my blog’s website.)

Friend me on Facebook and Pinterest.

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

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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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