BARC’s kill rate has steadly risen since 2010

Houston, TX –  In response to my public information request, I recently received intake and outcome records from BARC (Houston’s animal control) .  Considering all of the rosy Press Releases and statements from the Mayor and Alfred Moran, I actually expected BARC’s kill rate would have decreased since last year.   Sadly, I was mistaken.

BARC’s records show that for January through June 2012, BARC’s kill rate was 57.90%.  

That is up from 56.20% in 2011. 

It is also up from 55.33% in 2010.

So, despite Annise Parker’s promises to citizens that she would do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill community, the truth is that during the entire time that she has been Mayor, BARC’s kill rate has steadily risen….. every single year.

In addition, BARC’s Return to Owner rate is  a measly 7%.   The Return to Owner rate has consistently stayed around 7% for the entire period of time that Parker and Alfred Moran have been in charge of BARC.   This is despite the fact that Nathan Winograd, the international No Kill sheltering expert, gave BARC and City of Houston leaders detailed instructions on how to create a successful Return to Owner program…. 3 YEARS ago.    I noticed that  BARC’s report has no category listed for animals returned in the field.  Considering the Animal Control Officer notes that I found and reported here, I suppose it should not be a shock that BARC is not trying to return animals to their owners in the field.   It is despicable, but not surprising.

There really is no excuse for refusing to implement a Return to Owner program.  It could literally keep thousands of animals from entering BARC.   It would not cost BARC extra money to have Animal Control Officers knock on doors and try to find the owners of stray animals out in the field instead of taking them to BARC.   In fact, it would save money if thousands less animals entered BARC.  Nathan Winograd has said that “one of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims”.   I calculated that if BARC worked as hard on this program as animal control does in Reno, NV, BARC would SAVE over 8,000 more lives and it would also save over $970,000 every year.   As I said, there really is not excuse that this program has not been implemented at BARC, 3 full years after Winograd gave BARC and City of Houston detailed instructions.

Alfred Moran and his spin doctors are busy telling everyone how great BARC is doing, but the fact is that BARC’s kill rate has steadily risen since he and Parker have been in charge.  All the whitewash and pretty pictures does not change this fact.

The question is, when will Annise Parker keep  her promise?   When will she hire someone who will actually work hard to save lives, instead of just spinning out more fanciful tall tales?

You should ask her these questions. She is your elected official.   Click here for her contact information.

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A shelter pet advocate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even when BARC employees break the law;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is their contact information.  

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

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

BARC’s refusal of offers of humane care may have cost an injured dog her life

Kieko aka Liberty, a young dog, was brought to BARC on Monday, 3/15/10.   It was obvious that she had suffered severe head/eye injuries.  BARC’s vet reportedly told volunteers that it appeared that the dog had been beaten with a 2×4. 

Despite, Keiko’s obvious severe injuries BARC decided that she should wait at BARC until Friday when her stray hold period would expire. At that point she would “officially belong to BARC” and BARC would remove her eyes.  On Friday morning, BARC vet staff operated on Keiko.  This was done despite that BARC has no diagnostic tools to properly evaluate the extent of Keiko’s injuries, nor do they have the proper surgical equipment for this type of surgery.  If BARC’s services had been the only option available for Keiko, BARC might have been considered a hero for attempting to save this animal.  However, this is far from the truth.

Early this week, the rescue community offered to take Keiko from BARC to a specialist where she could get the immediate specialized care that she desperately needed.  This would have been at no cost to BARC i.e. taxpayers.   BARC repeatedly refused these offers.

After hearing of BARC’s refusal, the community bombarded BARC and the city of Houston with requests that Keiko be released to see a specialist.  BARC did not release Keiko to rescue, but on Thursday, BARC allegedly took Keiko to a specialist who allegedly recommended that her eyes should be removed.  That day, BARC representative, Chris Newport told Fox 26 that the specialist had offered to perform Keiko’s surgery free of charge.  This offer was refused and Keiko was taken back to BARC where BARC staff proceeded to operate on Keiko. 

BARC is a clinic of “last resort” i.e. when there are no other options available.   BARC staff has only the most basic diagnostic tools at their disposal; they have no x-ray machines and certainly nothing more sophisticated such as an MRI or CT scanner; their microscopes are in need of repair; their surgical equipment is geared towards spays/neuters only; they do not have the ability to run complete blood panels; many of the spays / neuters are done in a former closet.  In addition, after delicate surgery such as this, Keiko would have required overnight medically monitored care.  BARC cannot not provide this.  Yet, BARC still proceeded with the surgery to remove Keiko’s eyes and soon after she died.

There are a number of troubling questions:         

1) BARC is not equipped to diagnose nor treat this type of severe injury. Why didn’t BARC immediately call on rescuers on Monday, 3/15/10 when Keiko came in with these severe injuries? They call on rescuers for animals with much less severe injuries such as broken bones, ringworm and upper respiratory infections. Why not this dog?

2) On Tuesday 3/16/10, rescuers began asking to pull Keiko and take her to a specialist who has the diagnostic equipment to do sensitive surgeries. Why did David Atencio and Dr. Mendelsohn repeatedly refuse these offers throughout the week?

3) Why did Keiko wait 3 1/2 days before BARC’s attempts to properly diagnose her injuries at a specialist’s office with the appropriate equipment? BARC’s spokesperson said it wasn’t safe to move her until Thursday, but in an earlier statement he said that she was rolling over for belly rubs. If she was well enough to roll over for belly rubs, why wouldn’t she be well enough to ride in a car, especially since it was clear that this was an emergency situation?

4) BARC is well known to have rampant diseases.   Does BARC personnel think that Keiko was in a healthier environment waiting in a BARC kennel rather than in a private vet’s office?

5) BARC is severely underfunded. If a rescue group was willing to take to take Keiko and have her treated by an eye specialist, at no cost to taxpayers, why did David Atencio continue to refuse?

6) Why did BARC spend so much money on this severely injured dog when free, and much better alternatives, were available?

7) In emergencies, other animals have been released from BARC before the stray hold period was up. BARC’s own policy and procedure manual states clearly that animals with certain medical conditions such as ringworm and upper respiratory infections can be released before the stray hold period has expired.  Why wasn’t this dog, with far more severe injuries, released when care was offered?

8 )  Of the 6 vets that the city touts as examining Keiko, 4 were BARC vets. None of these four vets would have had access to proper diagnostic equipment to adequately diagnose an injury such as Keiko’s, much less operate on her.  Why did they proceed when they clearly did not have the equipment to adequately care for Keiko?

9) Why did BARC vets consider handling such a major and specialized surgery when they knew that they did not have appropriate surgical tools for this specialized and delicate surgery?

10) If the city claims that BARC does have appropriate equipment to properly diagnose injuries such as Keiko’s, we would like to know which tests were done by the any of the 4 BARC vets on 03/15/10 or 3/16/10 that allowed them to determine and diagnose that Keiko’s eyes should be removed? X-rays? MRI? CT Scan? Blood work?

11) If the city claims that BARC does have appropriate equipment to properly diagnose injuries such as Keiko’s, we would like to know exactly which tests were done by any of the 4 the BARC vets on 03/15/10 or afterwards that allowed them to determine that she did NOT have a brain injury that might require additional treatment?  X-rays? MRI? CT Scan? Blood work?

12) What tests were done by both of the outside vets that allowed them to determine and diagnose that Keiko’s eyes should be removed? X-rays? MRI? CT Scan?  Blood work?

13) What tests were done by either of the outside vets that allowed them to determine that she did not have a brain injury that might require additional treatment? X-rays? MRI? CT Scan? Blood work?

14) If a vet agreed to evaluate and diagnose Keiko, why did he/she later not want to be identified?

15) According to media reports, the specialist who examined Keiko on Thursday 3/18/10 offered to do the surgery for free? Why was this offer refused?

16) Why was surgery performed at BARC when they had no options for medically monitored aftercare?

17) Dr. Mendelsohn was reprimanded and fined by Virginia’s Veterinary Board for the death of a dog that died during a routine spay procedure. After the fiasco concerning the discovery of disciplinary actions filed against Dr. O, why did BARC hire yet another vet who has at least one disciplinary action on her record?

18) Did the city do any type of background check before hiring Dr. Mendelsohn or any of the other vets?  If so, we would like to know what types of checks are performed?

Had Keiko been released to rescue who could take her to a specialist the minute she entered BARC, she might have lived.  A specialist might have been able to save her sight had she been evaluated at that time.   However, BARC’s director and veterinarians utterly and stubbornly failed this dog and I believe it cost Keiko her life.  The animals’ welfare should be the number one concern for the staff at BARC.  Everything else should come second, including egos and publicity.

It is time for regime change.  Clearly, BARC leadership is not interested in the best welfare of the animals.  I, for one, am tired of waiting for them to stop the killing and inhumane treatment.

Please take a minute to speak out for Keiko.  Demand leaders who will work hard to stop the killing and inhumane treatment.

Contact information is below:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

BARC to remove a dog’s eyes although rescuers offer to save her

This poor dog (see picture below) was brought into BARC on Tuesday 3/16/10 with obvious serious head/eye injuries.  Rescuers are BEGGING BARC to be allowed to pull this dog so they can take her to an animal ophthalmologist where she can get the specialized care that she so obviously needs.  In addition, people have donated almost $2,000 for her treatment.  But, as of the end of the day Wednesday 3/17/10, BARC leaders refuse to release her.   BARC leaders plan to let her sit in this condition at BARC until Friday 3/19/10 then they plan to REMOVE HER EYES.  BARC does not have the proper equipment to diagnose this dog; they don’t even have x-ray equipment.  Yet, BARC plans to REMOVE her eyes.  This is unconscionable and  unethical.

I would urge everyone to take a few minutes and send an email to BARC leaders and city council and express your outrage.  Demand that this dog be released to Rescue so that she has a chance to save her sight.  At the very least she deserves to be treated in a facility with the proper equipment necessary for her care.   Below is my email.   Feel free to copy any of it.  Just please do it TODAY before it is too late.

A1018499, female, black and white Pit Bull Terrier mix, 1 year old.

blog post photo

My email to David Atencio, Alfred Moran and all city council.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Re: A1018499, female, black and white Pit Bull Terrier mix, 1 year old.

I would like to know why this dog has not been released to one of the rescues who have offered to take her to an animal ophthalmologist where she can get the specialized care that she so obviously needs?  (City council, please see her picture at the bottom of this email).

Rescuers have offered to take her to an eye specialist. People have donated money to pay for her care. BARC should immediately release this dog to the rescuers so she might have a chance at saving her sight.

It is absolutely absurd and inhumane to make her sit at BARC for even one more minute waiting to have her eyes REMOVED when people are BEGGING to take her and give her proper care.

With all due respect to Dr. Mendelsohn, BARC vets are not specialists. They practice generalized shelter medicine.  Even if she were an eye specialist, BARC simply does not have the equipment to handle the medical needs of this dog.  Dr. Mendelsohn has stated this herself at the volunteer meeting.  This dog most likely has severe head trauma. She may have other injuries such as brain damage.  She needs x-rays and possibly an MRI and CT scan, but BARC doesn’t even have x-ray equipment.   How can BARC even consider operating on this dog without so much as an x-ray?  This is absolutely unethical.  BARC sends out requests for help for animals with broken bones because you have no x-ray equipment, but yet you won’t release this dog that so obviously needs much more than BARC can offer? 

It is absolutely absurd, inhumane and unethical that BARC leaders have forced this dog to sit at BARC in this condition since Tuesday, but that BARC leaders continue to refuse to release her to rescue so that rescuers can give her a chance to save her sight is absolutely barbaric.

Why on earth would any person, who claims to care about animals, refuse to release this dog so she can have a shot at retaining her sight?  Before BARC REMOVES HER EYES, she deserves every chance available to her.  Even if her sight can’t be saved, BARC is still not equipped to handle this type of surgery.  She will need specialized surgery and care that BARC cannot provide.

It costs BARC NORTHING to release this dog to rescue.  So, why do BARC leaders continue to refuse to release her?  

Again, citizens are stepping up and trying to help BARC animals, but they are again being refused. 

Bett Sundermeyer, President
No Kill Houston


A few weeks ago, I wrote about BARC’s new rule limiting the animals that foster parents could foster (see below).  I want to take this time to remind everyone that BARC is a HIGH KILL shelter that kills approximately 27,000 animals every single year.  This means 75 animals are killed at BARC EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

BARC is currently sending out emails that BARC has had a spike in Intakes and “BARC is full”.  They are asking for foster parents, as they should.  However, BARC’s new leader, David Atencio, has enacted a new rule that only animals that are under 5 months old or that are sick can be fostered.   I would hazard to say that a large number of animals at BARC do NOT fall into these categories so BARC is excluding a large number of animals from potential foster care.  This new rules makes no sense.  Anytime someone wants to take ANY animal out of BARC to foster, which frees up cage space for another animal, is a good thing and should be accepted.

A concerned citizen wrote BARC and asked if this new rule was true, because it seems just too ridiculous to believe.  She received the following response from a BARC employee: 

“This is true except for experienced BARC fosters. This policy was put into place because we had foster come in and give incorrect phone numbers and we never saw the animal again.  We even had one person say “I heard BARC gives out free animals”.  We had to gain control over the foster network.  I hope this helps…”

Again, this is a facility that kills at least 75 animals every single day,  they had a problem with ONE person giving an incorrect phone number and Atencio’s response is to exclude a huge group of potential foster parents?  So many, many animals will be excluded from the foster program and therefore kept at a HIGH KILL shelter where it is pretty much a guarantee that they will be killed.  

And Atencio’s “solution” doesn’t even address the so called “problem”.   Does Atencio think that people who foster animals under 5 months old are more likely to give the correct phone number?  This makes no sense at all.   Wouldn’t a much better solution be for BARC to just check foster parents phone numbers before they foster an animal?  Pretty simple, no?

This is another ridiculous “solution” from BARC that causes more animals to die.  I want to know when it ends? 

And as far as ONE person saying that BARC is “giving away animals”, well maybe BARC should.    If the option for these animals is almost CERTAIN death if kept at BARC, I think pretty much ANY OTHER option is better,  including giving them away for free.  (And adopters do fill out adoption contracts).  In fact, a recent study found that there was no correlation between the amount of money paid for a pet and the amount of affection or care given to that pet.  NO correlation.  In other words, people who pay hundreds or thousands of dollars (or $55.00 at BARC) are not more likely to love and care for that pet than the people who got their pets for free.   So when the options are very high risk of death and/or disease at BARC vs. being adopted out for free, I’ll take my chances on free.

Previous blog below:

On February 3, 2010, a foster parent was at BARC and offered to foster a 7 year old, owner surrendered, heartworm negative Chihuahua mix.  The employees at the front desk told this foster parent that she could NOT foster this dog because the dog was not sick and was not young enough.  The foster brought up the fact that this was a Senior pet (and therefore less likely to be adopted in a shelter like BARC), but this did not matter.  According to the employees, this is a new policy that has just gone into effect.  The foster wanted to question further but was afraid of making someone at BARC mad and therefore subsequently be banned (volunteers have recently been banned ).

It has been confirmed with BARC management that the new policy states that only dogs under 5 months, and those with injuries and illness are available to foster.   BARC is killing 1,500-1,600 pets every month.  So, to say no to any person willing to take ANY animal, young or old, out of BARC into foster care is an absolute and utter absurdity!

The employee said that the policy was put in place “to get some controls in place around the policy.”   This statement doesn’t even make sense.  And are these so called “controls” really worth the lost lives of the hundreds of dogs entering BARC that do NOT fall under the above 2 categories?   In fact, I would submit that MOST of the dogs entering BARC do NOT fall under these 2 categories. 

This was a missed opportunity to get one more animal out of a HIGH KILLL shelter.  And this was an older animal that is less likely to get adopted.  So when shelters tell us that they “must” kill thousands of animals because there just “aren’t enough homes”, or that older animals “just don’t get adopted”, remember this story.  This is an example of what happens every single day in shelters and THIS is the reason that shelters, like BARC, still kill animals.

It’s time to stop blaming the community.  The community is stepping up, but BARC is turning them away.

BARC’s planned pet adoption facility will mean death to many animals in many ways

The city of Houston recently announced plans to build an “animal campus”, including a 30,000 square foot pet adoption facility, at Gragg Park (2999 S. Wayside).  But, building in this location will mean death to many animals in several ways.  First, a pet adoption facility in this spot will not increase adoptions significantly because of its remote, out of the way location.  As noted in no kill expert, Nathan Winograd’s assessment, one of the reasons for BARC’s high kill rate is because BARC is in an area far removed from retail, residential, recreation, and other prime sectors of the city.  It was built in an area of the city with no foot traffic, no retail traffic, far away from where people live, work, and play, ensuring it would be ‘out of sight, out of mind’.  The Wayside location is very much like BARC’s current Carr location* which kills 27,000 pets per year.  Building an adoption center at the Wayside location will be a death sentence for pets who would otherwise find homes if they were housed and shown in high traffic, highly visible locations all over the city.  

Second, this area is in a zip code where BARC picks up the most cats in the city and picks up the third highest number of dogs therefore residents of this area are not likely to adopt pets.  A pet adoption facility at this location will also make it easier for people in the area to dump animals.  Making it easy to surrender and hard to adopt will not result in lowering of the kill rate at BARC.

Third, this property is also entirely within flood plains**.  Covering the property with a 30,000 sq building and 2 parking lots will cause even more flooding in this area.  This will put the animals housed there at risk and it will also cause additional flooding to the residential neighborhood next door.

Fourth, citizens have seen Herons, which are a protected species, nesting in the area for years.  Although the city is within its legal rights to destroy the homes of these protected birds, it is not morally right or necessary to do so, especially when this construction is such a disaster for so many other reasons.

Animal advocates are against building in this remote location.  Residents of the area are also against building on this property, but they are being ignored, lied to or threatened. City council could fix this white elephant by voting to choose another location for the pet adoption center.

Listen to our radio interview regarding this issue here:

 * Photos of the area are available on our website. Here and here

 ** Flood plain maps are also available on our website here:


On February 3, 2010, a foster parent was at BARC and offered to foster a 7 year old, owner surrendered, heartworm negative Chihuahua mix.  The employees at the front desk told this foster parent that she could NOT foster this dog because the dog was not sick and was not young enough.  The foster brought up the fact that this was a Senior pet (and therefore less likely to be adopted in a shelter like BARC), but this did not matter.  According to the employees, this is a new policy that has just gone into effect.  The foster wanted to question further but was afraid of making someone at BARC mad and therefore subsequently be banned (volunteers have recently been banned ).

It has been confirmed with BARC management that the new policy states that only dogs under 5 months, and those with injuries and illness are available to foster.   BARC is killing 1,500-1,600 pets every month.  So, to say no to any person willing to take ANY animal, young or old, out of BARC into foster care is an absolute and utter absurdity!

The employee said that the policy was put in place “to get some controls in place around the policy.”   This statement doesn’t even make sense.  And are these so called “controls” really worth the lost lives of the hundreds of dogs entering BARC that do NOT fall under the above 2 categories?   In fact, I would submit that MOST of the dogs entering BARC do NOT fall under these 2 categories. 

This was a missed opportunity to get one more animal out of a HIGH KILLL shelter.  And this was an older animal that is less likely to get adopted.  So when shelters tell us that they “must” kill thousands of animals because there just “aren’t enough homes”, or that older animals “just don’t get adopted”, remember this story.  This is an example of what happens every single day in shelters and THIS is the reason that shelters, like BARC, still kill animals.

It’s time to stop blaming the community.  The community is stepping up, but BARC is turning them away.



The issues I previously wrote about reminded me of a news story that a friend sent to me recently.She sent me a couple newspaper articles regarding how Moscow’s stray dogs have learned to ride the subway in order to survive. The dogs ride the subway into the city each day to “work” and return each evening. They know which trains to catch and which stops will get them back to their original starting point.I’m attaching two links to this remarkable story: said that the dogs have evolved into 4 types:

One type is truly feral and can’t live with humans because it’s dangerous;

Another is truly domestic and can’t survive without humans;

Then there are two types in the middle that have learned how to co-exist with humans.

Her take home message? “Dogs have evolved….animal control hasn’t.

I think I’ll put this message on my business card, next to a picture of a dinosaur.

Fox 26 reported that “BARC Changes Paying Off Dividends”. But is it true?

On Feb 5, 2010, Fox 26 reported that “BARC Changes Paying Off Dividends”.  See report here:

First, I am happy that dogs are now getting out of their cages during the week.  This was the issue that got me started trying to help the animals at BARC in the first place after I found out that the dogs never got out of their kennels 24/7 unless a volunteer did it.  Not only was it cruel but the dogs were coming to adoption events COMPLETELY stir crazy and hard to adopt out.  I also do hope that this new procedure includes dogs in the North kennels not just the South kennels.

Second, I “think” that perhaps Fox misquoted Mr. Atencio and he probably meant there were 500 Outtakes (not just adoptions) in Jan 2009 vs. 900 Outtakes in Jan 2010.   However, I have a couple problems with this statement:

 1) We know that BARC’s records have historically been vastly incorrect. Mr. Fusco admitted that about 95% of Chameleon was wrong when he started.  He claims that it is largely up to date now, but I have doubts.  One reason I have doubts is that the HSPCA called a BARC foster parent regarding a cat that was at their shelter. The microchip was registered to the foster so the SPCA called her.  The foster parent still had BARC’s “A” number for the cat so she called to find out the new owner’s contact information.  However, BARC still had the cat registered to the foster parent.  This was a cat that had been adopted at No Kill Houston’s adoption event almost 3 months prior.  BARC cashed NKH’s checks which were attached to the adoption contracts, but didn’t bother to update Chameleon with the new owner’s information.  This is not isolated.  Foster parents know that a lot of their records are wrong.  

It should be noted that if this cat had not gone into foster care before being adopted, it would have been yet another pet that BARC claims it “has” to kill because they just can’t find enough homes.  But, this is a cat who was adopted,  has a home, and BARC even has the new owner’s name “somewhere” at their facility.  However, since BARC is unable to find the new owner’s name in their own computer system to return this pet to her owner, this would be another death and another excuse to kill that doesn’t fly.

2) BARC has not posted Intake and Outtake information on their website since Oct 2009 so who knows if these numbers are correct or what the break down really is?

3) From a “bar chart” that BARC produced by Fusco, it appeared that Outtakes had gone up by about 100-125 vs. the previous month.   Although I’m glad that Outtakes are going up, if in fact they are going up, this means BARC is STILL killing 1,500-1,600 animals EVERY MONTH.  Personally, I expected a MUCH larger increase in Outtakes from Mr. Fusco’s six month reign.  Wasn’t that supposed to be the main goal…. to stop the killing?

3) BARC has been less than transparent and still is. I’d have a lot more respect if they didn’t appear to be hiding records.  A friend has done several FOIA records requests to BARC/city of Houston and MANY are being appealed to the Attorney General. The city has appealed the request to produce records in connection with an adoption event in which BARC claimed to have adopted out the most animals in BARC’s history.  

If they really adopted out that many animals, why would they try to hide the records?    Why object to producing records that would validate your claims?    It’s very suspicious, and again less than transparent.

Fusco stated in an interview on August 3, 2009 that “everyone will know what we are doing”.   Considering the above, this just seems to be more of the same bureaucratic double speak that we’ve come to know at BARC. 

Do you feel like the $200,000+ of your tax money that the city spent on the Change Agent was worth it? 



In December 2009, Bill White, city council and BARC leaders announced a planned animal campus, including a pet adoption center, at Gragg Park (2999 Wayside). Although it is welcome news that the city is planning to increase adoption sites for BARC animals, this remote, out-of-the-way location is not a smart choice for a pet adoption center. Not only will it NOT increase adoptions, it most likely will cause animal Intakes to increase which would, of course, drive the kill rate up.

I also recently learned that this site is in a flood plain. This is an additional reason to oppose this location. The city should not contemplate potentially putting animal and human lives at risk by building an adoption facility in a flood zone.

I wrote a letter to the Mayor Parker and City Council opposing this location. Councilmember C.O. Bradford called me and said he agreed and also opposed this location for a pet adoption center.

I am asking that all citizens PLEASE SEND A LETTER, EMAIL or FAX to the mayor and city council and ask them to reconsider the location for the planned adoption facility on Wayside. This location is not a wise choice if we ever hope to increase adoptions in large enough numbers to stop the killing at BARC.

Please speak up now.  At least one councilmember is listening.

All contact information is on our website, along with pictures of the proposed location.

Click here for more information regarding the Wayside site




During Gerry Fusco’s 6 month tenure, he has banned at least 3 volunteers from BARC.

I posted the “Security Alerts” for 3 of the banned volunteers on our website.  These Security Alerts would make it appear that the banned citizens are terrorists posing some kind threat to security.  But, these are VOLUNTEERS.  These are people who have given up their precious free time, to selflessly go to BARC to try to help save animals.  Yet, they are treated like criminals and banned from the premises.  This is a complete and unnecessary waste of resources that BARC cannot afford to lose.  BARC generally does not have enough volunteers.  Many of those who used to volunteer, or might be talked into volunteering in the future, will not because of BARC’s new over-restrictive rules and badging requirements.  So, those citizens who do go out of their way and jump through hoops to volunteer are becoming exhausted and burned out. 

Is the “Change” that Fusco/Bill White promised?  Is this BARC’s path to stopping the killing?  It sounds remarkably similar to what we had before Fusco arrived.

Click here for more information on the “Security Alerts” and the sometimes non-existent reasons for banning volunteers.


A Channel 39 news report recently stated that Houston is number 1 in the nation regarding dog bites to postal workers. From this report, it appears that General Manager, David Atencio’s “solution” is more sweeps i.e. catch and kill. Considering this “solution” has been unsuccessfully employed by BARC for decades, I would suggest that this is not a practical solution.

See No Kill Houston’s open letter to Mr. Atencio suggesting non-lethal solutions to this issue


Reflections on 2009

This time of year makes me reflect on the past 12 months. There certainly has been a lot of activity dedicated to animal welfare in Houston this past year.  It felt like a never ending battle was waged for the very lives of the thousands of animals who enter Houston’s shelters. Although, it feels like this year has just flown by, I also feel battle weary.   To gear up for next year, it helps me to look back and remember what we have accomplished this past year. 

Advocates have spoken out loudly and in great numbers to make Houston city leaders aware that we are sick and tired of the killing at BARC and we refuse to stand by and watch it any longer.  We have written letters, called, faxed and emailed hundreds of times.  We have protested outside of city hall and we have gone to city council sessions and spoken to city leaders.   Our voices have been heard as one city council member commented that they had received far more mail about BARC than any other city issue. 

Since we began speaking out for the animals, an ineffective Bureau Chief has been fired;  unqualified and uncaring vets and vet techs have been fired;  abusive kennel attendants have been fired.  In years past, the mayor and city council have completely ignored citizens’ complaints.  Last year, the mayor and “some” city council members got up and left the room while animal advocates spoke at city council sessions.  But, during the Houston elections this year, two mayoral candidates issued position statements on BARC issues  (and those two candidates also made it to the run-off election).  Mayoral, city controller and city council candidates answered questionnaires from No Kill Houston and Noah’s Ark PAC.  During the debates on live television, the mayoral candidates answered questions regarding their plans for BARC.  All of these things occurred because you, citizens and animal advocates, demanded that the city make this issue a priority. 

No Kill Houston, Frisky Paws Rescue and several other rescues groups organized a big “adoption extravaganza”.  We almost emptied the two free roaming cat rooms because we pulled so many cats.  We pulled all TWENTY SEVEN “90 day” cats from BARC and brought them to the event, along with dozens of other cats.  We had been assured by BARC that if we brought any of the 90 days cats back, they would be killed.  The community came together and worked hard to make sure  that didn’t happen… some BARC kitties and I even ended up on TV!   Click here to watch:   Over that weekend, 15 cats went to new homes and the rest of the 90 days cats went to foster homes and rescues.   We proved that adoptions in a high traffic, highly visible location is key to adoption success.  Our happiness was short lived, however, when we learned that Elena Marks and Gerry Fusco planned to convert the two, newly emptied, free roaming cat rooms into office space, a computer room or a clinic.  This meant cats at BARC would have less room to live than before.  Two steps forward, one step back… 

In December, the city also announced plans for a new “animal campus” including an adoption center.  Although, it is welcome news that the city is finally spending additional money to benefit animals at BARC, the location of the planned facility (2999 Wayside) is very simliar to BARC’s current location (3200 Carr).  Click here for pictures and description of the area:  It is also in a zip code in which BARC picks up the most cats.  Considering these factors and that it is not in a high traffic nor highly visible location, this effort seems like more of the same that we’ve seen from the current administration over the years.   At the Wayside press announcement, Bill White took the opportunity to take one last shot at the animal advocates who have been asking for change.   I sincerely hope citizens and advocates receive better treatment from  newly elected mayor, Annise Parker in 2010 and in years to come.

This past year we have educated citizens on what is possible… that stopping the killing in our shelters is not just a far off dream but a reality that is occurring all over the U.S. and in other countries.  Last year and this year we gave the mayor and every city council member a copy of Nathan Winograd’s book so they could see for themselves that No Kill is possible; we brought Winograd to Houston for a “Building a No Kill Community” seminar and gave free tickets to the Mayor, the city controller and all city council members as well as the Directors of every kill shelter in Houston and those in other counties and cities; we helped persuade city bureaucrats to finally, after 6 months, sign Winograd’s contract so he could assess BARC–this happened because citizens continued to demand it;  we have talked to hundreds and hundreds of people about No Kill at the dog show, dog parks, local events, home owners associations and civic clubs; we’ve been on the radio with Winograd numerous times educating the public regarding the No Kill model of sheltering;  we’ve been in the media–radio, TV and newspapers;  we’ve run ads in Best Friends magazine, local magazines, newspapers and are on every social media website; we’ve had billboards up several times in various areas of Houston.  Together, we are making all 2.2 million Houstonians aware that shelters CAN stop the killing. 

Although there have been many ups and downs, together we have made progress for the voiceless animals at BARC.  But there is still much left to do.  There is a new General Manager at BARC and I’m sure that your wish for 2010 is like mine, that he is a person who is dedicated to saving all healthy and treatable pets at BARC.  If he is, we should support him and his efforts.  But, if he is mired in bureaucracy and content to let the killing continue, then the fight must go on. 

My wish for all of us is that 2010 brings many more animal lives saved in a No Kill Houston. 











Unfortunately, the cost of fighting for Houston’s shelter pets is not cheap.  Please help us in our quest to make Houston a No Kill city. Your support will help us fight for Houston’s voiceless.  We couldn’t do it without the compassionate animal lovers and advocates.

You can donate thru Paypal (; the email address is

or you can mail donations to:

 No Kill Houston
11152 Westheimer #841
Houston, TX 77042

 *No Kill Houston is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Bill White proves once again that he doesn’t have a clue

Mayor Bill White used a BARC related announcement last week as an opportunity to take one last shot at animal advocates before he leaves Houston to run for governor of Texas.  In his statement (see below) he showed his ignorance of who the animal advocates really are, and his ignorance of who his constituents are and have been—the very same constituents who will be eligible to vote when he runs for governor next year.

White stated that “Talk is cheap and advocates come a dime a dozen“….. “real advocates are those who are willing to donate both their treasure and their time to accomplishing the goal that they seek”.  Since White, and some of his minions, seem to be clueless as to whom the animal advocates really are, let me enlighten them and readers.   Every person who has written a letter, emailed, faxed and/or called White and city council members regarding BARC are the very same people who are volunteering their time to try to save animals from being killed at BARC.   They do it by volunteering at BARC, or at various events and projects around the city.  They also do it by trying to educate White and city council regarding the inhumane treatment, high disease rate and high kill rate at BARC.  They have been trying to enlighten White regarding how other cities have stopped the killing altogether so that White could have stopped it in Houston as well.   But White only criticized or ignored the true experts who have stopped the killing, those that could have taught White how to do it too.

In addition, the advocates White references are the very same people who have been spending exorbitant amounts of their own “treasure” by fostering BARC animals or running rescue organizations that pull animals out of BARC to safety.   Personally, I have fostered many, many cats and kittens from BARC over the last few years.   Considering I’ve been spending $80 per week on food and litter the last 6-8 months, I would estimate that I’ve spent $3,000+ on food and litter alone this year.  That doesn’t include the thousands of dollars I’ve spent getting BARC animals spayed/neutered and trying to get them well after they became sick at BARC (because of BARC’s own poor disease prevention procedures). 

 This also doesn’t take into consideration the incredibly high emotional toll of holding tiny kittens while they die one by one, until the entire litter is dead, from what “should” have been a very curable upper respiratory infection.  They instead died because no one at BARC bothered to give the mother or kittens medicine while at BARC even though it was obvious they were very ill.    My story is not isolated.   It is similar to all the other advocates who have contacted White this year and for the past 6 years White has been in office.

So Bill, tell us how much “treasure” does it take to meet your standards?   And, please tell the advocates exactly how much “time and treasure” you have personally spent helping BARC animals or Houston’s homeless animals?  In the past, you couldn’t even be bothered to sit at the city council table until advocates finished their one and half minute speech.   One and half MINUTES… not a lot of your time that could have helped save animal lives years ago.

Perhaps you should become more educated on who the advocates really are.  After all, we are not limited to Houston.   We live all over Texas and yes, we talk to each other.

There is one thing that I do agree with you about and that is “talk is cheap”.  Just because you pop in for a photo op after ignoring BARC issues for 5 years, 11 months and 18 days doesn’t mean we believe you actually get it now. 


Bill White uses BARC to criticize advocates and plug his campaign


Mayor Bill White’s announcement today of a fund-raising campaign for an $11 million animal campus at Gragg Park was about as non-political as any public appearance by an outgoing mayor seeking a promotion can be.
But Councilman James Rodriguez, whose district includes the site, managed to sneak in a plug for White’s campaign.
Rodriguez talked about the value of animal adoption and noted that his family had recently adopted a dog.
“Our dog, who is appropriately named ‘guv’nah,’ is not here,” Rodriguez said.
White also took the opportunity, in one of his last public appearances as mayor, to share ideas about how citizens should agitate for change. His comments seemed directed, at least in part, to some of his more strident critics on problems at the city’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care:
I would encourage those to whom I’ve passed the baton to use words that I’ve used in many other contexts, whether it be with our parks, our libraries, our historical preservations, our building of our arts and cultural institutions. Talk is cheap and advocates come a dime a dozen. Ooh, did I just say that? I did.  And there’s a role for advocacy.  But real advocates are those who are willing to donate both their treasure and their time to accomplishing the goal that they seek.  They’re not so into taking credit as they are taking individual responsibility for making sure change takes place.

The final Mayoral debate is scheduled for this Wed 12/09 on Channel 2

The final Mayoral debate is scheduled for this Wed 12/09 at 7:00 pm on KPRC Channel 2.  They are supposed to ask viewer questions this time, so send in your questions regarding BARC.  We have to impress upon these two candidates (and the news media) that BARC, and our city’s high kill rate, are important topics to many people.

They must feel pressure to pay attention to these issues or we will have more years just like the recent years of oblivion.

Viewers can submit questions to the candidates at