Houston Humane Society; not humane after all

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

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

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

bellakilledbyhhs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

truth or lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ACTION ALERT! Please take a few moments to help save shelter pets in Texas

patriotic bucky

Texas – Hundreds of thousands of healthy and treatable animals are killed by Texas “shelters”.   At least 80,000 are killed in Houston area shelters alone.   Texas House Bill 2981  aims to help rescuers save more lives while saving the state tax dollars.   HB2981, also called the Tax Saving Pet Adoption, Sterilization, and Transfer Act requires that government run animal shelters collaborate with qualified 501(c)(3) animal rescue groups who are willing to save animals at risk of being killed.

The passing of this Bill into law would mean that kill shelters would no longer be legally allowed to kill an animal that a qualified rescue group has offered to save.*

The average citizen would be appalled to know that “shelters” frequently kill pets that others have offered to save.   But, just about any rescuer, who has worked to pull animals from a kill shelter, can attest to the fact that it does happen, either by accident and many times on purpose.   It is a dirty little “secret” that is happening all over Texas, all of the time.  It has happened to me.   Houston’s city pound i.e. BARC has killed cats that I offered to save.

Appallingly, but not surprisingly, several weeks ago, many of the directors of kill shelters gathered in Austin to oppose this life saving Bill.   They even told legislators that the Bill is not needed because they never turn down rescue groups.  (I suppose that it should not be a shock that some of the opposition of this Bill includes Patti Mercer, director of the Houston SPCA [65% KILL rate], Sherry Ferguson, director of the Houston Humane Society [89% KILL rate], Greg Damianoff, shelter manager of BARC [57% KILL rate] and Joanne Jackson from Citizens for Animal Protection [52% KILL rate].  Revolting, yes.  Shocking, no.)

Best Friends Animal Society and FixAustin.org are asking Texas rescuers to talk about their experiences with Texas animal shelters.  Rescuers know what is really going on in shelters, because they there day after day scrambling to save as many as they can.

Below is a link to a short on-line survey that Best Friends and Fix Austin have prepared to collect data from rescue groups regarding their experiences. (Note: They only want data concerning TEXAS shelters since HB2981 will affect only Texas shelters).

If you rescue animals in Texas, please take a moment to answer the survey.  Please do it  RIGHT NOW while you are thinking about it.  It only takes a few minutes to complete and you can remain anonymous, if you wish. 

Click here for the survey  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ShelterAccessSurvey

**A hearing on this Bill is expected to be set very soon so your survey responses are needed ASAP.   Legislators need to be aware of what rescuers face while trying to save shelter pets so that they will make the right decisions regarding this important Bill.** 

If Rescuers do not speak up NOW, then the kill shelters may win this battle and could retain their “right” to kill animals that others have offered to save.

If you would like to provide more information than requested in the survey, or if you have any questions, please contact Ryan Clinton at Fix Austin at ryan@fixaustin.org

*****Please share this survey with other Texas rescue groups.*****

Also, whether you are a rescuer or not, please contact your state representative in and tell him/her that you support HB2981, the Tax Saving Pet Adoption, Sterilization, and Transfer Act.

Click here to go to a site provided by Best Friends that makes it easy to contact your elected representative by typing in your name and address.

Please speak up for shelter pets TODAY.   It only takes a few minutes but it could help save thousands of shelter pets in Texas.

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*HB2981 also gives shelters the right to administer vaccinations on intake to protect shelter pet populations.

It also prohibits shelters from refusing to adopt out dogs or cats based solely on an animal’s breed (i.e. no breed discrimination).  It also and requires rescue groups to spay or neuter adopted pets.    HB 2981 is authored by Texas Representative Eddie Rodriguez.

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