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.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nino

Nino

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PLEASE SPEAK OUT FOR SHELTER PETS!

Leah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK HERE EASILY SPEAK OUT FOR SHELTER PETS

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

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Please take 30 seconds to help No Kill Houston win $5,000!

Logo

No Kill Houston has been nominated for the Halliburton Hometown Hero Program again!  The three charities receiving the most nominations will each receive a $5,000 donation from Halliburton.  Last year, they came in 4th.  This year, they want to make it to #1!

They need YOUR nominations to make it to the #1 spot and win $5,000 that they can use to push for more lifesaving programs in Houston’s kill shelters!

It is REALLY easy and quick to nominate us.

Just CLICK this link ( http://bit.ly/2qyQoBn ) and enter the following charity information:

Charity Name:  No Kill Houston
Address:  11152 Westheimer St. #841
Houston TX 77042
Website:  www.NoKillHouston.org
Phone:  713-291-1710

*Don’t forget to say why you are nominating No Kill Houston… such as their advocacy work to end shelter killing in Houston’s 5 kill shelters.

You can vote for No Kill Houston every day until the contest ends on June 2nd!

Please SHARE this with your friends and family and ask them to nominate No Kill Houston as well!

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

Friend me on Facebook and Pinterest.

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No Kill Houston’s 2017 Pin Up Calendar

Houston, TX – No Kill Houston’s 2017 Pin Up Calendar is now on sale!  The top 12 photos with the most votes in their Photo Contest are featured on a full page in the new Calendar, along with their stories.

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Waffle got the most votes and is our 2017 Cover Model and also featured in December. Waffle is our 1st kitty Cover Model!  ALL of the other contestants are featured on a date somewhere in our calendar as well.

This calendar is GORGEOUS, full of heartwarming stories and helps raise money for charity.  It is a win-win-win!

There is still time to order your copies and get them in plenty of time to give as CHRISTMAS GIFTS!

CLICK HERE to buy your copies! 

We are thankful for…

via No Kill Houston

Thanksgiving Pet Celebration

We are thankful for those who work to save lives. Whether they are:

Shelter leadership that works to comprehensively implement the programs and services of the No Kill Equation that saves the lives of shelter animals and serves the community; or

Public officials who support the will of their constituents by implementing No Kill policies and legislation; or

The No Kill advocates, who refuse to stay silent in the face of shelter killing and abuses, and who work to help their shelters and communities in the continual journey towards No Kill;

The rescue community who pull shelter pets to safety; or.

Foster parents who keep pets out of the shelter system and provide a safe haven; or

Shelter volunteers who provide free labor to shelters and love to homeless pets; or

Community cat caretakers that practice Trap-Neuter-Return and keep feral cats out of shelters and out of harms way; or

Voters who research politicians and vote for those who are willing to do what is necessary to save shelter pets in their communities; and

We are thankful for YOU. The public, the animal lovers, the voters, who support all of the above with your time, your money, your homes and your votes.

You are helping to save lives every day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This needs to change.

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

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

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

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

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

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

My statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No Kill Houston’s 2017 photo contest-fund raiser

No Kill Houston is excited to announce that their 3rd annual photo contest/fundraiser has begun!  We all love to show off our favorite photos of our pets. We keep them on our phones and share them on social media.

Now you can enter your pet(s)’ photo into our photo contest so the whole world can see just how adorable your pet is!

The top Fan Favorite, who receives the most votes, will win the coveted Calendar Cover spot and will be a featured Pin Up model on one month inside the calendar, along with the pet’s name, guardian’s name and a short story about how your pet became a part of your family. (See our 2016 Cover Model, Honey’s, photos and story below for examples.)

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Calendar Cover

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February’s photo

The next 11 Fan Favorites will be a Pin Up model showcased on each of the remaining 11 months. One winner per month. The pet’s name, guardian’s name and a short story about how your pet became a part of your family will featured with each pet.

All top 12 Fan Favorites will receive a free 2017 calendar! (First place receives 2 calendars).

CLICK HERE to enter your photos into the contest.  Then ask all of your friends and family to VOTE for your pet. 

Each contest submission and vote is a donation that helps support No Kill Houston, a 501(c)(3).

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

JODL

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

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

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

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

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

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

JODMap

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

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

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

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

Will you ask them to take the pledge?

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

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Please Stop Serving the Kool-Aid

Re-printed with permission by Paw4Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Just don’t serve the Kool-Aid.

Animal shelter

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

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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:

mayor@cityofhouston.net; atlarge1@cityofhouston.net; atlarge2@cityofhouston.net; atlarge3@cityofhouston.net; atlarge4@cityofhouston.net; atlarge5@cityofhouston.net; districta@cityofhouston.net; districtb@cityofhouston.net; districtc@cityofhouston.net; districtd@cityofhouston.net; districte@cityofhouston.net; districtf@cityofhouston.net; districtg@cityofhouston.net; districth@cityofhouston.net; districti@cityofhouston.net; david.atencio@cityofhouston.netAlfred.Moran@cityofhouston.net

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.

mayor@cityofhouston.net, atlarge1@cityofhouston.net, atlarge2@cityofhouston.net, atlarge3@cityofhouston.net, atlarge4@cityofhouston.net, atlarge5@cityofhouston.net, districta@cityofhouston.net, districtb@cityofhouston.net, districtc@cityofhouston.net, districtd@cityofhouston.net, districte@cityofhouston.net, districtf@cityofhouston.net, districtg@cityofhouston.net, districth@cityofhouston.net, districti@cityofhouston.net, david.atencio@cityofhouston.net, Alfred.Moran@cityofhouston.net

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

BARC STILL REFUSING FOSTER PARENTS ALTHOUGH INTAKES ARE HIGHER

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.
 
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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 http://rev.ms/472 ).

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:   http://rev.ms/563

 * Photos of the area are available on our website. Here   http://rev.ms/563 and here http://rev.ms/564

 ** Flood plain maps are also available on our website here: http://rev.ms/563

A FOSTER PARENT WAS NOT ALLOWED TO FOSTER BECAUSE THE DOG WAS NOT SICK. HUH?

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 http://rev.ms/472 ).

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.