Sweeps = more killing of Houston pets

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Houston, TX – Last Monday I wrote about Houston city councilman Boykins’ plan to pay Houston’s pound $50,000 to do more “sweeps” i.e. round ups of stray dogs in District D.   Those people who are familiar with BARC, or kill “shelters” in general, are understandable very concerned to hear this news because we all know what this usually means.    It means the killing of additional pets by BARC.  

Randy Wallace with Fox 26 news reported on this issue, and what sweeps will mean for pets in Houston.  You can watch the report here.

I wrote to Councilman Boykins and asked him to consider non-lethal alternatives for dealing with this problem such has high volume, free, spay/neuter services for the effected areas.   S/N will make dogs less likely to roam (males won’t be chasing females) and it also reduces dogs’ propensity to bite.

I received an email from an un-named staffer in District D which stated:

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.”

My response to the staffer was:

“You may not be advocating for it, but that is exactly what will happen with this plan for increased sweeps.

As you may know, BARC is a kill shelter and the city mandated stray hold period is only 3 days before animals can be pulled by rescues, adopted or killed.

Since BARC does not have an adequate adoption program for a facility that takes in 20,000+ pets per year, BARC is perpetually full and they do kill animals every single day of the year; thousands of them every year.

Increasing intakes by ramping up sweeps absolutely will cause kill rates at BARC to increase, either to the dogs that are brought in during the sweeps or the dogs that will be killed to make room for the increased intakes.

This “catch and kill” method has been tried over and over and it has never worked. In 2009, Annise Parker advocated for increasing sweeps in the “Corridor of Cruelty”. This did nothing to save pets, nor did it decrease the strays there.

In 2010, after a report showed that Houston was #1 in bites to postal workers, and again BARC’s “solution” was to increase sweeps.  Since we are still talking about bites to postal workers now, it is obvious that this “solution” did not work either. (You can see both documents linked here: http://bit.ly/1KAixrM )

As I said below, there is a better solution that does not involve increasing the killing of pets at BARC which Councilmember Boykin’s plan will cause. How about trying a different approach vs. the knee jerk “solution” that has repeatedly failed?

How about using that $50,000 wisely to implement proven, long term, solutions that do not involve slaughtering hundreds of animals?”

I received no reply to my email.

But, it appears that Councilman Boykins is not interested in the spay/neuter release option, as he told Randy Wallace that “it will take too long”. 

So my next non-lethal suggestion is that he should, at the very least, use some of that money to create at least one offsite adoption facility so that the hundreds of dogs that will be picked up in these sweeps will actually have a chance of adoption;  and so that hundreds of additional dogs won’t be killed at BARC to make room for the flood of dogs from these sweeps.

TAKE ACTION

I am again urging animal lovers to contact Councilmember Boykins and BARC management and even Mayor Turner, and ask them to make non-lethal arrangements for the dogs that will be picked up during these sweeps.

Calls are best.  If you can call, I suggest stating the following (you will probably speak to a staffer and may be asked for your address):

“I would like to tell Councilman Boykins that I oppose his plans to pick up hundreds of homeless dogs in his District if he does not also make plans to insure that those dogs will actually be seen by the people who would adopt them.   This simply will not happen if the only option is BARC’s overcrowded facility that already kills dogs every single day. 

Please use some of that $50,000 to create offsite adoption opportunities so that these dogs will have a chance at adoption and so that your plan will not be a death sentence for these dogs and the hundreds of dogs already at BARC who will be killed to make room.

Public safety and saving the lives of homeless pets do not have to be mutually exclusive. They can work together hand in hand.”

If you can’t call, letters, faxes and emails are good too.

Below is a copy of my letter to Councilmember Boykins.  Feel free to copy and paste any part of it for your own letter. 

Councilman Dwight Boykins

900 Bagby, 1st Floor

Houston, TX 77002

Phone: 832.393.3001

Fax: 832.393.3201

districtd@houstontx.gov

Re:      Public safety and saving the lives of homeless pets do not have to be mutually exclusive. They can work together hand in hand. 

Councilmember Boykins, 

In connection with your plans to pay BARC $50,0000 to pick up hundreds of dogs in District D, one of your staffers stated that “Adoption is an integral part of this initiative and our office is not advocating, nor supporting any lethal solutions.” 

Your office may not be “advocating” for a lethal solution, but that is exactly what will happen with your plan for increased sweeps if you do not also have legitimate plans for increasing adoptions. 

As you know, BARC is a kill shelter and the city mandated stray hold period is only 3 days before animals can be pulled by rescues, adopted or killed. 

Since BARC does not have an adequate adoption program for a facility that takes in 20,000+ pets per year, BARC is perpetually full and they do kill animals every single day of the year; thousands of them every year. 

Increasing intakes, with additional sweeps, absolutely will cause more killing of dogs.  The dogs that are brought in during the sweeps will be killed and/or dogs that are already at BARC will be killed to make room for the increased intakes. 

Since you stated that you do not to want to use any of that $50,000 for free spay/neuter services for that area, you should use some of that money to create at least one offsite adoption facility.  This would help ensure that the hundreds of dogs that will be picked up in these sweeps will actually have a chance at adoption and so that hundreds of dogs will not be killed at BARC to make room for the flood of dogs from these sweeps.  

It does no good to pay BARC $180-$200 per animal to get them ready for adoption, if you do not also insure that they will actually be seen by the people who would adopt them.  This simply will not happen if the only option is BARC’s overcrowded facility. 

Public safety and saving the lives of homeless pets do not have to be mutually exclusive. They can work together hand in hand.

cc: 
Mayor Sylvester Turner
City of Houston
P.O. Box 1562
Houston, TX  77251
Phone: 832-393-1000
Fax: 832-393-1084
mayor@houstontx.gov
BARC Shelter Manager
Greg Damianoff
P.O. Box 1562
Houston, TX  77251
Phone: 713-837-9630
Fax:  713-837-0631
greg.damianoff@houstontx.gov
ARA Director (over BARC)
Tina Paez, Director
611 Walker, 13th Floor
Houston, TX  77002
Phone:  832-393-8501
tina.paez@houstontx.gov

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BARC pledged to stop killing for Just One Day; then killed 30 pets

Houston, TX –  Just One Day is a nationwide campaign which occurs every year on June 11th.   It is a day that shelters nationwide are asked to explore and experiment with alternatives to killing shelter pets. These are alternatives that have already been proven successful in 200+ communities.

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In 2014, roughly 1,200 organizations pledged to participate in the Just One Day campaign.  They put down their “euthanasia needles” and picked up cameras instead, to photograph and market animals. They reached out to rescue groups, hosted adoption events, stayed open for extended hours, and asked their communities to help them empty the shelters. Roughly 10,000 animals were adopted that day across the nation.

Houston’s pound (BARC) took the pledge to stop killing for Just One Day in 2014.   They posted their promise to not kill pets on their blog and they convinced Proler Southwest/Sims Metal Management to sponsor them based on their promise.

BARC promised the media that they would not kill any savable pets on June 11th.  The city of Houston sent out a Press Release promising Houstonians that they would not kill savable pets that day.

Click 2 Houston reported BARC’s pledge here.

KHOU reported on BARC’s pledge here.

Guidry News reported BARC’s pledge here.

BARC management promised everyone that they would not kill healthy and treatable pets for Just One Day, but they lied.

In fact, BARC killed THIRTY innocent lives that day.  That’s right, THIRTY!  That is roughly 6 pets killed by BARC every single hour that BARC was open that day.

Let that sink in a minute……

BARC killed SIX pets every single hour that they were open.  That means that BARC killed 1 pet every ten minutes!  

That is literally an assembly line of death — on the day that BARC promised everyone that they would not kill at all.*

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Of the 54 animals that left BARC that day, BARC sent more than half of them out in body bags.

  • Only 11 pets were adopted that day;
  • 5 were transferred;
  • 5 were TNR’d; and
  • 1 was fostered.
  • BARC did not bother to update the kennel cards for 2 dogs, so who knows what happened to them? Considering, the mass slaughter that day, I would bet money that BARC killed them as well.  See the kennel cards for “outcomes” that day here.

Instead of killing 30 pets, BARC’s leadership could have picked up a phone and called rescue groups and foster parents to help pull more pets to safety.  They could have called the media to help garner more of the public’s help in getting those 30 pets out alive.

BARC leadership could have gotten on their computers and MARKETED those animals.

BARC leadership could have organized dozens of adoption events all over Houston’s 600 square miles, like this one in which over 400 BARC animals were adopted.

There are dozens of alternatives that BARC’s leadership could have taken that day instead of KILLING 30 pets.

When I first looked at the kennel cards of all of the innocent lives that BARC/City of Houston snuffed out that day, I felt sick.   I can still hardly look at those precious faces without tearing up.

But, now I am FURIOUS.  I am furious at the lies and senseless killing.  And I am furious that my tax dollars are used to enable massacres like this.  I am furious that when Annise Parker first ran for mayor, she promised to “do everything in her power to transition Houston to No Kill community” but those promises have been nothing more than lip service.  For the 5 YEARS that she has been in office, she has done squat to keep her promises.  During that time, over TEN THOUSAND animals have been killed by BARC EVERY YEAR.   And in those 5 years that she has allowed BARC to continue killing, HUNDREDS of other Open Admission pounds and shelters have stopped killing.   In fact, there are over 200 communities with Open Admission, pounds and shelter, all over the country, saving 90% to 99% now.   Most of them achieved their successes after Annise Parker made her No Kill promises to Houstonians.

In fact, the newest Open Admission shelter to join the No Kill club is The Humane Society of Fremont County CO.   That shelter used to kill over 50% of all animals in their care, just like BARC.   But, several months ago, they hired new leadership.  They hired Doug Rae, who is a hard working and compassionate leader and who is dedicated to saving lives.   Do you know what happened?

Fremont County killed ZERO animals in December.   That is right, ZERO.  Doug Rae’s leadership transformed a shelter that was killing 50% to one than killed 0%, within a few months.

So, while Annise Parker take pictures for her “Pet of the Week” PR stunt — and while many of those same “Pets of the Week” then end up on BARC’s death row — shelters all over the country have  worked hard to implement the programs and services that allowed them to stop killing.

Yes, BARC’s Save rate has increased slightly in 2013 and 2014, and an increased save rate is nice.  However, the miniscule increase in saving lives is revolting!

What kind of person, who has the power to hire employees who would end shelter killing, instead does nothing year after year after year?   Why isn’t this travesty at the top of her “to do” list?   It’s not like ending shelter killing is a secret.   Nathan Winograd gave the city of Houston a step by step guide in 2009.  The only thing Annise Parker has to do is hire shelter leadership, like Fremont County did, who will actually work hard to rigorously implement all of the programs and services of the No Kill model of sheltering.

So, why does Annise Parker continue to do nothing to end pet killing in Houston?

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If we all do not demand that the city hire a shelter manager who will end the killing, nothing is likely to change.  We’ve seen this for 5 years.  Citizens must be the driving force for change for the animals.   That is why I am asking you to demand better from Annise Parker and Houston’s city council.  You can find their contact information listed here.   Calling them is best, but letters and email are good too. If you have trouble coming up with talking points, you can find some on this petition.  You can also sign the petition which will send an email to the mayor and city council.

But, please do not let this be the last time that you speak out for the animal’s in Houston’s pound. 

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*As a result of BARC and the city of Houston’s lies, BARC has been removed from the Just One Day website.

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Repeating the Lies from Kill Shelters Harms Shelter Pets

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Houston, TX – I recently wrote about the claim that BARC management (Houston’s pound) made that there are 1.2 MILLION strays on the streets of Houston  I’ve seen this claim repeated by several reporters lately and  BARC continues to repeat this claim as an excuse and as political cover for the high kill rate that continue year after year at BARC’s facility (almost 51% of all animals at BARC were killed or lost in 2013 i.e. 12,596 in 2013 alone).

If we take a moment to really think about BARC’s claim, we can clearly see that it cannot possibly be true.   If it were true that there are “1.2 million strays” on the streets of Houston, that would mean there are 2,000 stray animals PER EVERY SINGLE SQUARE MILE of Houston.   We would not be able to walk out of our doors without stumbling across a stray pet.  As a long time resident of Houston, I can assure you that this is not the case.

Even in the low income areas of town, where the most strays are picked up by BARC, there are not 2,000 stray animals per square mile.  

Are there a lot of stray, or free roaming, animals in those areas?  Yes.  

Are there 2,000 stray animals per square mile in those areas?  No.

Are there 2,000 stray animals per square mile in the rest of Houston?  No, absolutely not.

In an attempt to learn how BARC management arrived at the astronomical “1.2 million strays” number, I sent a public information request to BARC asking for “documents which support, corroborate and/or validate recent statements made by city of Houston and/or BARC employees, to citizens and various media, that there are 1.2 million stray animals in Houston.

BARC’s response? “…there are no responsive documents for your request“.

Let me repeat that: BARC / City of Houston stated that there are no documents to support BARC’s claim of 1.2 million stray animals on the streets of Houston.

When pressed again for the source of the “1.2 million strays” number by another skeptical citizen, BARC’s manager, Greg Damianoff, cited a “pet population calculator” on the AVMA website.   I looked at the website and found that it clearly states that their calculations are based on no actual, provable data in Houston.   It uses estimates based on some survey information from vets in other communities and is multipled by guesses as to how many strays there are based on how many owned pets there are.   In fact, the website states,  “… because these formulas use sample survey data, they should not be considered 100% accurate.”   And it is not accurate for Houston.

A look around the city, by the average person, would confirm that the “1.2 million strays” i.e. 2,000 strays per square mile number cannot possibly be true.  It is absurd.   The fact that this claim is being made repeatedly by the person who is responsible for managing the city’s pound i.e. responsible for “sheltering” strays impounded by BARC is, to say the least, irresponsible.

The “1.2 million strays in Houston” claim is yet another fabrication spread by management of a kill shelter in order to defend and excuse their mass slaughter of shelter pets.  

Not only should we animal lovers reject this absurdity, but we certainly should not repeat it.  When we repeat ficticious claims, such as this number, we provide them an excuse as to why BARC is still killing over ten thousand pets per year.   It allows BARC/city of Houston leadership to continue to refuse to do the work necessary to implement the programs and services that have been proven to work to save 90% to 99% of all pets in hundreds of communities.   Repeating fictious information such as the “1.2. million strays” claim allows them to continue to take the easy way.    They can continue to save a few and kill the rest, and animal lovers won’t complain because they think that the situation is hopeless and they believe that BARC’s only option is to kill thousands of shelter pets.   It is not hopeless and we can end shelter killing in Houston, just as 500+ cities and towns have done.

The No Kill Advocacy Center has just produced a new publication that breaks down the real facts, in detail.   It is a very interesting publication and I highly recommend that everyone read it.   Click here to read it. 

Learn the truth and repeat that information, then demand better from our city leaders who control BARC.

If you want to end shelter killing at Houston’s tax payer funded pound, then demand that Annise Parker keep her No Kill promises to do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill city.  

It has been four and half years and it is long overdue that she actually work to keep her promises to citizens and voters.

The first and most CRITICAL thing Annise Parker  must do to keep  her promises is to hire a director for BARC who is dedicated to saving lives.

Contact information for Parker and city council members is listed on No Kill Houston’s website here.

If you are unable to call or write them, No Kill Houston has created a petition which will send an email to them each time someone signs.   Find one petition here or, if you have already signed the first petition, find a new petition here .

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