Redemption, a key component to reduce shelter killing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nino-SidebySide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nino

Nino

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PLEASE SPEAK OUT FOR SHELTER PETS!

Leah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK HERE EASILY SPEAK OUT FOR SHELTER PETS

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

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

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

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

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

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A dog killed by BARC in 2016

Here is a breakdown for 2016:

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

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

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

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

28,579 Total Intakes

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

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

  1,976 TNRs

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

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

6.88% Total Return to Owner Rate

 

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

2015-2016saveratescompare

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

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

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

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

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

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

barccalendar2-2016

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

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

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

barc-hours

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

This is NOT comprehensively implementing an offsite adoption program. 

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

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

april19

Another adoptable pet killed by BARC in 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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