Taxpayer funded extortion in Harris County

Harris County, Texas – Randy Wallace with Fox 26 news recently reported that Harris County animal control killed a woman’s dog  even though they knew that she was on her way to retrieve her pets.  

Harris County Animal Control (HCAC) had taken Diesel, Chelsea and a puppy because someone had complained about them “running loose”.  However, when the animal control officer (ACO) showed up, the dogs were inside their fence, on their own property.   The ACO told the daughter of the dogs’ owner, Amy Kroll, that she would be fined $500 PER DOG ($1,500) because the dogs had been reported as “loose”. No one reported them as aggressive. They did not try to harm anyone. No, someone allegedly reported that her dogs had been outside of their fence, and Ms. Kroll was told that she had to pay the ACO $1,500 or he would take her pets.  

Ms. Kroll did not have $1,500.  As it happens, the dogs belonged to Ms. Kroll’s mother, Cathy Foster.  Ms. Foster has suffered some serious losses recently.  Her husband died and her house was recently destroyed in a fire, so she had been living with her daughter.  Her dogs were normally inside only dogs, but after her house burned down, they had to stay in the fenced yard temporarily.

But, instead of talking to Ms. Kroll to find out why the dogs might have been “loose”, and maybe even helping her to rectify any issue that might have allowed the dogs outside their fence, the ACO forced Ms. Kroll to relinquish the dogs—to a high kill pound.

Charging rexhorbitant fines and fees, that few people can afford; forcing people to relinquish their pets; and holding a person’s beloved pets for ransom, in a facility that kills thousands of pets every year, is the equivalent of EXTORTION.    

It should be noted that the fines/fees that Harris County employees told Ms. Foster and her family that they owed, changed a number of times over several days, and no one at HCAC could give a clear explanation of what the fees were for.

At one point, HCAC told Ms. Foster that she would have to pay an “extra” fee because the address listed on Diesel and Chelsea’s microchip was in Montgomery County (Ms. Foster’s house that burned down.)  This is insane.  People should not be charged more fees because the address on their pet’s microchip is in a different county than the pound where they were taken.   And it’s not like they even needed the microchips to contact Ms. Foster or Ms. Kroll, since the ACO took the dogs from her own front yard. 

Even HCAC’s director, Michael White, could not explain why his own employees told Ms. Foster that she would have to pay “extra” fees.  Nor could he explain why his own employees told her different amounts on multiple occasions.   

This whole thing sounds like a big SCAM.  It sounds like some Harris County employees are overcharging distraught pet owners, while holding their pets for ransom, and pocketing the excess “fees”. 

Ms. Foster and her family, did not have $1,500, $900, $700, $600 or any of the other ridiculous charges that HCAC employees claimed that she owed, so she was forced to  give the puppy to a rescue group to avoid paying HCAC’s ridiculous fine.  She told HCAC employees that they would pick up Diesel and Chelsea in 2 days when she got paid again. This time HCAC told her that she owed $200 EACH for Chelsea and Diesel.  

Even after Ms. Foster, and her family, called HCAC multiple times about her dogs; and even though she called HCAC before she left her house to pick up her dogs from HCAC; and even though Chelsea and Diesel’s kennel cards allegedly say that their owner was going to pick them up…. HCAC employees KILLED Chelsea.  

Diesel was next in line.  If Ms. Foster had arrived minutes later, HCAC would have killed Diesel too. Chelsea was the only thing that Ms. Foster had left that had belonged to her and her deceased husband.  She has lost everything else, and now this facility has killed her beloved pet.  

OwnedandLovedDogs

And over what?  What exactly did taking these pets to the pound solve?  These dogs were not dangerous.  They were beloved family pets that may, or may not, have been outside of their yard at some point in time.  If the issue was an inadequate fence, this family sure could not afford to repair it now, after paying HCAC’s ransom.  

HCAC’s actions solved absolutely nothing, other than to enrich their own employees.    

When HCAC’s director, Michael White, was made aware of this horrendous situation, one of his responses to Ms. Foster was “we can give you another dog“. Seriously? He actually thinks that giving this woman another dog will make everything OK?  
 
The fact that he thinks that a pet lover can just exchange one dog for another, like he/she is a piece of furniture, is a clear example of an extreme issue with the director of this facility.

The employees at Harris County claim that killing Chelsea was an “accident”.   But, this facility killed a horrifying 9,562 animals in 2016.  That is an average of 26 animals killed every single day of the year.
 

Considering that they are open 5 hours or less per day, that is 5+ animals killed EVERY SINGLE HOUR, of EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR.

Let’s face it, it is not really an “accident” when this facility is an assembly line of death, day in and day out.   

And this is not a “shelter” when there is very little actual sheltering going on. That facility is a revolving door of death.  Slaughterhouse would be a more accurate description.

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And to add insult to injury, HCAC was on the local news about a week ago, saying they were “overcrowded” and asking people to adopt or foster etc.   So the HC animal control officer, knew that if he took Ms. Foster’s pets to the pound, that other dogs would be killed to make room.   He knew this and yet he coerced Ms. Kroll into relinquishing her mother’s pets to the high kill pound anyway. 
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It costs money to intake pets, “shelter them”, kill them and dispose of their bodies.   The No Kill Advocacy Center estimates that it costs shelters/pounds approximately  $106 to intake, house, then kill one animal.  
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It actually costs more to kill pets than it does to save them. 
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So, in their extortion of Ms. Kroll, it actually cost HCAC (i.e.  it cost Harris Co. taxpayers) $106 to intake and kill a loved and WANTED pet.  It also cost HCAC money to intake and “shelter” Diesel and the puppy, when it was totally unnecessary.  These pets HAD homes.   The heartache that they have caused Ms. Kroll and her family is immeasurable.
 

HCAC’s director should be comprehensively implementing programs that reduce intakes.  He should be working hard to find ways to keep pets out of that high kill pound.   He should be working hard to comprehensively  implement the programs that have been proven, for years, to both decrease intakes and increase live outcomes.

He, and his employees, should not be intimidating and coercing people into relinquishing their beloved pets, especially for something as trivial as “some dogs” were reported as being loose.  Not only is this cruel, inhumane and costly, but doing so only drives up intakes and drives up the killing, as this horrific story clearly illustrates.

 
I have to wonder if Dr. White has even bothered to visit any Open Admission, No Kill shelters to find out how they ended the killing?  There are 200+ of them now, including 6 right here in Texas, including 2 entire Texas counties. http://www.Savin90.org Has White even bothered to research any of them?  
 
I’m going to guess that he has not, since he has not bothered to comprehensively implement well known, common sense, cost effective, life saving programs. Apparently, remaining in the dark ages of catch and kill sheltering is simply easier.
 

Folks, this is your taxpayer funded animal control facility.  Harris County Judge, Ed Emmett and the 4 Harris County Commissioners should be ashamed that they have allowed a county dept to function like a third world country.  These people are ultimately over this facility, and the leadership and employees working there.  Yet they have not required that their employees implement the programs and services which have ended killing all over the country.  

If you are sick and tired of the horrendously high killing at our animal “shelters”, then speak out to your elected officials.   Tell them that this issue matters to you and that you expect better from your taxpayer funded departments.  

Tell them that you will not vote for people who do not represent your values.  And if they do not represent your values, then VOTE THEM OUT OFFICE during the next election. 

Click here to SPEAK OUT for shelter pets at Harris County Animal Control.

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Redemption, a key component to reduce shelter killing

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

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

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

The following story is a perfect example of why BARC returns only 7% of lost dogs to owners.  Unfortunately, this example is repeated every day.
 
On March 14, 2010, Brian Simon lost his Chihuahua, Nino.  On March 15, Mr. Simon went to BARC to search for Nino. He did not find his dog so BARC’s kennel supervisor told Mr. Simon to leave his “Lost” flyer on BARC’s bulletin board. 
 
Mr. Simon was told that BARC employees looked at the bulletin board regularly to match up lost pets.  He relied on BARC’s assurances and unfortunately that was a big mistake. Those familiar with BARC know that the bulletin board is rarely, if ever, reviewed before animals are killed.
BulletinBoard2010L

Picture of BARC’s “lost pet” bulletin board in May, 2010 taken by Fox 26 Houston

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

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

Nino-SidebySide

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

On March 21, four days after arriving at BARC, the Chihuahua was killed. It is appalling that no one attempted to find his owner and he was never considered for adoption.  See the Fox 26 news report here. 
 
Below is a picture of the bulletin board taken by Nathan Winograd in September 2009.  Compare it to the picture of the bulletin board above taken by Fox 26.  With BARC’s measly 1% redemption rate for cats and a 7% redemption rate for dogs, why has absolutely nothing changed in the last 8 months? 
BARCBulletin08-2009

BARC’s “lost pet” bulletin board in September, 2009

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

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

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

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

Nino

Nino

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PLEASE SPEAK OUT FOR SHELTER PETS!

Leah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK HERE EASILY SPEAK OUT FOR SHELTER PETS

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

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

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

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

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

common sense public information sign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These excuses are all demonstrably false.

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

 It is crazy when you think about it.

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The biggest hypocrisies of the sheltering industry–Exposed!

FF imageHouston, TX – I just read Nathan* and Jennifer Winograd’s new book, Friendly Fire.   When I read the last page and put the book down, the sole word that kept going through my mind was WOW.   Even though I was already familiar with some of the stories, this book is still so stunning that I had trouble forming any other words but wow for some time.

The Winograds’ absolute honesty about the shocking state of our nation’s sheltering system makes this book, in many places, a hard read for anyone who cares about animals.  It is a hard read for anyone with a conscience, for that matter.  You cannot read this book and not be shocked, stunned, enraged and moved.  I read Nathan’s first book, Redemption over 4 years ago and was shocked and also moved to act.  It literally changed the entire way I thought about animal sheltering and quite literally changed the direction of my life.   And, even though I have personally experienced much of what is described in Friendly Fire within Houston and Texas’ broken shelter system, I was still just as stunned reading this book as the first time I read Redemption.

Friendly Fire is the biggest, most thorough, expose of absolute corruption and hypocrisy that the “humane” industry has ever seen.   It is methodical, like a criminal indictment.  Step by step;  one mind boggling story after another; one betrayal after another;  failure upon failure;  and lie upon lie perpetrated upon animal lovers who spend their very last dimes to donate to the “humane” organizations who have promised to save the animals that we love.  The proof is all there.

The massive lies perpetrated on animal lovers and the mass death and horror supported, and actually committed, by the “humane” organization is simply mind boggling.   The lengths that the multi-million dollar “humane” organizations have gone to sell out companion animals, and fool the animal loving public is in a word revolting.   It is particularly maddening to me as I have been fooled into donating to almost all of the “humane” organizations described in Friendly Fire before I learned that they are fighting against everyting that I believe in.

Others within the animal sheltering industry have been afraid, or simply unwilling, to speak about the atrocities and betrayals, but the Winograds are not.  They are not content to keep the lies a secret any longer.  They turn over all the rocks and expose the ugliness to the light of day, so it can be reformed.

This book also examines the excuses that kill shelters, and their defenders, use to continue killing even when faced with proven life-saving alternatives.  The absurdity of the arguments in favor of killing animals is beyond rational comprehension.  Arguments such as “an animal is better off being killed by a “shelter” rather than released to a rescue group because transporting might be stressful to the animal.”  You think that surely this must be some kind of sick joke.  But it isn’t.  The leaders of the “humane” organizations actually tell us that it is better to kill animals than allow rescue because a car ride might be stressful.  It is simply insane.

The “humane” organizations’ fight to maintain the horrible, sadistic status quo is so irrational as to be unbelievable.  But I do believe every word because, unfortunately, I have seen and experienced some of it personally.  Some of the stories in this book come from the kill shelters, and their defenders, right here in my community.

I live in a city with a non-profit kill shelter that claims to be “humane” and even has the word in its name, but that also has an 89% Kill Rate.  Pit Bulls or Pit mixes never leave this facility alive regardless of temperament and adoptability.  They are not Open Admission, meaning they can so no to intakes, yet they continue to kill the vast majority of animals that they take in.

I live in a city with a city pound that allowed puppies to be washed down kennel drains for years by abusive pound employees, and was only stopped after massive negative attention by reformers.  A pound that has killed cats that I offered to save.  A pound that, to this day, still kills animals that rescuers and the public have offered to save.  This is more than 3 years after our Mayor promised to do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill city.

I live in a county with a county pound that has an 85% Kill Rate.  A pound that the County Attorney confirmed has broken state humane laws for years, maybe decades.  A pound with a director who forces severely injured animals to suffer for days with no medical care. A pound who has killed animals, out of spite, that rescuers offered, and even begged, to save.   Yet the pound director still has her job.

I live in a city with multiple kill shelters that kill all Pit Bulls or mixes, and who even label other breeds as Pit Bulls to have an excuse to kill them.

I live in state with a self-labeled “humane” organization who has taken donations from animal lovers and promised to protect animals by fighting for humane legislation.  Yet, they instead fought against critical, life-saving Texas state legislation in 2011 with ridiculously feable and egocentric excuses such as 1) the bill is 30 pages long and 2) they were not notified before the bill was filed.

This so-called “humane” organization joined with the sell-out HSUS and fought against proposed legislation that would have:

*ended the inhumane gas chamber and heart sticks;

*banned “convenience killing” (killing when there are empty cages);

*mandated collaboration by requiring shelters to work with non-profit rescue organizations to maximize lifesaving;

*mandated transparency by requiring shelters to report how many animals they kill;.

*banned the killing of animals based on arbitrary criteria such as breed, age or color;

*prohibited selling shelter animals to research labs;

*protected feral cats and feral cat caretakers.

Instead of supporting our efforts to pass legislation that would have prevented immense suffering and death of animals in Texas, the self-proclaimed “humane” organizations instead fought against our efforts.

The stories like this are absolutely astounding and sound too ludicrous and macabre to be true, but every word is true.

I think Friendly Fire is one of the most important books on animal sheltering issues that has been written to date.  It blows the lid off of the industry’s tightly held, horrible, secrets.  The Winograds expose a corrupt industry that, in many cases, has become very wealthy from the deaths of the companion animals that they have promised to save.  Once animal lovers read this book, it will leave the high kill shelters and the corrupt, self-proclaimed “humane” organizations that defend them, scurrying for cover.

This book also answers some of the questions that have perplexed me for a number of years, such as why do some self-proclaimed animal lovers and rescuers fight No Kill efforts?  Why do they continue to claim that the No Kill model of sheltering does not or cannot work even when it already is working in 82** Open Admission pounds and shelters.   It has been truly mind boggling to watch the “No Kill naysayers” fight efforts to reform high kill shelters in Houston, Harris County and Texas even when the animals in those “shelters” are subject to the most horrific treatment imaginable.

Just as described in Friendly Fire, the naysayers have gone so far as to personally attack me and even my family in their desperation to defend the kill shelters.  They have blamed animal advocates when the kill shelters continue to kill and commit unspeakably inhumane acts against the animals they proclaim to care for.   One Houston naysayer actually said that we were causing “Dr. Death” to kill more animals.  They claimed that Dr. Death was killing animals out of spite because we are speaking out, so we should just stay quiet about the atrocities that we witnessed.  (Dr. Death was the nickname given to the city pound’s horrible vet by volunteers.  She has since been fired because we kept speaking out).   Even after the naysayers have seen improvements such as puppies no longer being washed down kennel drains by cruel shelter employees and animals no longer being purposely starved for the entertainment of a psychopath shelter employee, the naysayers still support the kill shelter and fight reform efforts.   The positive changes that have occurred, such as dozens of horrible and inhumane  employees being fired, occurred solely because of our reform efforts.   Yet the naysayers still attack No Kill advocates and continue to defend the high kill shelter.   Their absurd reasoning and their fight to maintain the status quo of a high kill, inhumane “shelter”, is beyond all logic and beyond my comprehension.   But, Friendly Fire explains their motivations.

If we want to end shelter killing, and I believe the majority of us do, then we will be the ones that will have to fight for it.  The kill shelters have proven that they will not stop killing voluntarily even when we literally hand them the solutions.  The  wealthy, national “humane” organizations have proven that they will fight our life saving, shelter reform efforts.  So, it is up to us.   Luckily, Friendly Fire gives us the tools to reform an industry that has become the antithesis of everything that it proclaims to be.   If I could place this book in the hands of every animal lover in the America, I would.

The most important thing that you can do for companion animals is to read this book… then pass it on to everyone you know.

Friendly Fire*** is available exclusively on Amazon.

* For those who are not familiar with Nathan Winograd’s work, he can arguably be called the father of the No Kill movement.  He was the first person to take over a high kill shelter and transform it into a No Kill shelter, saving all healthy and treatable pets.  And he is the person who has pushed the No Kill model of sheltering farther than anyone else in history.   His work has, no doubt, made more of a difference in the lives of companion animals than anyone else.

** This number is as of today’s date.  The number of Open Admission shelters and pounds that are saving 90% or more of all animals is growing constantly.

*** To the No Kill bashers, and Winograd attackers, who have claimed that the Winograds are only in it for the money or to sell their books, I would like to point out that the Winograds are selling Friendly Fire at their cost.  Friendly Fire is being sold with the Winograds’ altruistic goal of ending shelter killing.

Follow Nathan Winograd on Facebook and Twitter.

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