Houston Election Results and the effects on sheltering issues in Houston

Houston, TX –  On November 3, Houston held elections for mayor and all city council positions.   Houston Voters For Companion Animals prepared a Voters’ Guide which rated the candidates who responded to our Candidate Survey and/or participated in our Candidate Forum on September 29th.  The Voters’ Guide focused solely on sheltering issues.  

The candidates that we believe truly care about the high kill rates in Houston shelters and who are willing to work on this issue, using the programs and services that are already working across the country, were rated highest in the Voters’ Guide.

I am extremely happy to report that one of our highest rated candidates, Greg Travis, won his race for City Council District G. 

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  • Rated 5 out of 5
  • Responded to Candidate Survey? YES
  • Attended Candidate Forum? YES

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From the Voters Guide “Mr. Travis agrees that BARC should be a No Kill shelter and said that he will roll up his sleeves and tackle this issue.  He will be the liaison with city hall to get the lifesaving programs in place. 

We are really impressed with Mr. Travis’ responses to our Survey and at the Candidate Forum.  He had some very thoughtful and innovative ideas regarding implementing various programs of the No Kill model of sheltering that would increase life saving. 

We believe that Greg Travis truly cares about animals and animal sheltering issues and that he will work hard to help end the needless killing of shelter pets in Houston.  Mr. Travis is the type of advocate for pets that Houston really needs on city council if we hope to end sheltering killing in Houston. 

He would be an extraordinary asset to city council.”

Greg Travis

In addition, a couple candidates that Houston Voters For Companion Animals rated nearly as highly have made it to the run-off elections which will be held on December 12, 2015.  Notably, Roy Morales is rated 4 ½ out of 5 and is in the run-off election for Houston City Council At Large Position 4 (more info below). 

Unfortunately, several other candidates that we rated 5 out of 5 did not win their seats.   I am very disappointed about that as I really believe that they would have been great assets on city council and wonderful advocates in our fight to end the killing of shelter pets in Houston.  And Houston could certainly use as many animal advocates on city council as possible considering the mind numbingly slow progress that has been made in the last 6 years in increasing Save Rates.  

I hope that these candidates run again in the future and I hope more animal loving voters pay attention when they do.

Below I have listed the candidates who are in the run-off elections.   If they responded to our Candidate Survey and/or participated in the Candidate Forum before the general election, their ratings are shown by their names.  

If the candidates did not respond to our Candidate Survey, they were previously rated 0 as we had no information available to rate them. However, we recently sent another opportunity to these candidates to respond to the Candidate Survey.   Their responses will be posted on Houston Voters For Companion Animals’ website as they are received.  

A new Voters’ Guide will be created for the run-off election.  

Make sure that you take our Voters’ Guide with you to the polls.

Before voting for candidates who are not yet rated, I urge you to contact them and ask them to respond to our Candidate Survey.  It is crucial that we know their stance before giving them our votes.  

The candidates are listening to what voters want right now because they know that every vote counts.  Our votes are POWERFUL.  (One race was won by only FIVE votes, so every single vote counts).  

The contact information for all of the candidates is listed on Houston Voters’ For Companion Animals website here.

Remember that 65% of Americans have pets, yet only about 13% of Houstonians voted in the last election.   I predict that even fewer Houstonians will vote in the run-off elections, making each of our votes more powerful.

If we animal lovers joined together and voted for the right people, we could swing an election in favor of shelter pets this year.

MAKE YOUR VOTE COUNT FOR SHELTER PETS!

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Turner

SYLVESTER TURNER

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  • Rating 3 Out Of 5
  • Responded to Candidate Survey? YES
  • Attended Candidate Forum? No

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From the Voter’s Guide: “We disagree with Mr. Turner’s statement that improvements at BARC have been impressive considering BARC’s high kill rate. 

Mr. Turner made some interesting comments regarding solving some issues such as breed bans in rental housing, however we would have liked to have seen more research into this topic. 

There is a solution that been proven to work to end shelter killing.  If elected, we hope that Mr. Turner will be willing to learn how other communities have ended shelter killing and not just repeat what the kill shelter directors have told him. “

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King

BILL KING

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  • Not Yet Rated
  • Responded to Candidate Survey? No
  • Attended Candidate Forum? No

CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES

District F

STEVE LE

STEVE DUC LE

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  • Not Yet Rated
  • Responded to Candidate Survey? No
  • Attended Candidate Forum? No

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RICHARD NGUYEN

RICHARD NGUYEN

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  •   Not Yet Rated
  • Responded to Candidate Survey? No
  • Attended Candidate Forum? No

District H

KARLA CISNEROS

KARLA CISNEROS

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  • Not Yet Rated
  • Responded to Candidate Survey? No
  • Attended Candidate Forum? No

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JASON CISNEROZ

JASON CISNEROZ

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  • Not Yet Rated
  • Responded to Candidate Survey? No
  • Attended Candidate Forum? No

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District J

JIM BIGHAM

JIM BIGHAM

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  • Not Yet Rated
  • Responded to Candidate Survey? No
  • Attended  Candidate Forum? No

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MIKE LASTER

MIKE LASTER

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  • Not Yet Rated
  • Responded to Candidate Survey? No
  • Attended Candidate Forum? No

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At Large Position #1

Knox2

MIKE KNOX

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  • Rated 1 out of 5
  • Responded to Candidate Survey: YES
  • Attended Candidate Forum: No

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Houston’s problem is not 1.2 million stray dogs

Houston, TX – In 2013 and 2014, I wrote about BARC’s ridiculous claims that there are 1.2 million strays roaming the streets of Houston.

You can read the blogs here: Repeating Lies from Kill Shelters Harms Shelter Pets and,

here:Repeating Misinformation Does Not Help Shelter Pets

The No Kill Advocacy Center wrote about the myth of pet “overpopulation” and how BARC’s absurd claims of 1.2 million strays simply cannot be true.   Click here to read more.  (Houston is discussed on pages 12-14)

Many media outlets have continued to repeat the “1.2 million strays” number over and over but have apparently failed to do any fact checking whatsoever to find out where that number came from.  Apparently, no one even pulled out a calculator to find out that “1.2. million” strays in Houston would equal 2,000 stray pets in every single square mile of Houston.

As I wrote in my blog post, “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.”

Finally, a reporter has done some fact checking into BARC’s “1.2 million strays” claim!   I am grateful that Ken Hoffman actually researched BARC’s fabricated claim before printing it.

By Ken Hoffman. Reprinted with permission.

From the city that once gave us “400,000 spectators attend Thanksgiving Parade downtown” – a number that city officials now admit was ridiculous – more headlines:

“Houston’s 1.2 million stray dog problem”

“One million stray dogs in Houston”

“Houston’s dirty, furry secret”

It’s a headline that’s been out there for years – we have 1 million, or 1.2 million (do I hear 1.3 million?) stray dogs roaming our streets, wreaking havoc in neighborhoods, making residents prisoners in their homes, creating health problems.

Say something enough times, and people will accept just about anything as fact.

Houston isn’t alone.

In 2012, a Rolling Stone headline declared, “City of Strays: Detroit’s Epidemic of 50,000 Abandoned Dogs.”

Let’s crunch some numbers. Detroit covers 139 square miles. If there were 50,000 stray dogs, that would have been 360 stray dogs per square mile. It wouldn’t have taken until 2012 to cry epidemic.

That’s when Tom McPhee and World Animal Awareness Society entered the Motor City. Using scientific survey methodology, including sending volunteers into the field, McPhee studied and counted stray dogs for two years. It was the first time anybody had done a responsible, accountable census of stray dogs there. His findings:

There were – and this is stretching it – 3,000 stray dogs in Detroit, a figure that may be knocked down to 1,000 by the time McPhee concludes his research.

A Detroit columnist jumped on McPhee’s report:

“Hey, guess what? Turns out there aren’t 50,000 stray dogs roaming the streets of Detroit. It seems the number is closer to 3,000. It’s a far cry from 50,000, a figure that a host of national publications swallowed with an embarrassing gullibility. Folks in the city would hardly be able to step outside without being surrounded by a dog pack.”

The thing is, 3,000 stray dogs, or 1,000, that’s a major problem. Especially when it’s your neighborhood with the problem.

But let’s get a grip, Houston, 1.2 million stray dogs?

Houston covers 600 square miles. We’ll be nice and use the lower number. One million stray dogs are marauding our streets?

Houston would have 1,666 stray dogs per square mile. And that’s every square mile in Houston.

Including River Oaks, Tanglewood, Memorial and many more well-maintained, patrolled areas that virtually have NO stray dogs. I’m not talking about Scruffy getting out of the backyard for an hour, until he’s picked up by a friendly neighbor.

Put it this way, if Houston really had 1.2 million stray dogs, many neighborhoods would look like the migration scene from “Lion King.” There would be an army of dogs, 100 across and 100 deep, pouring down Westheimer.

Hey, guess what?

The 1.2 million stray dog figure makes 400,000 people at the Thanksgiving parade look like a lowball estimate.

Why do we constantly hear that there are 1.2 million scavenger mutts on Houston streets? Where did this number come from? Why isn’t anybody challenging it?

It came from the city a few years ago. And to be fair, the city originally said “1.2 million stray animals” – dogs and cats. The media is to blame for headlines and reports repeating the number as “1.2 million stray dogs.

“We’ll go with dogs and cats here. I asked the city’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, how on earth did you come up with 1.2 million stray animals in Houston? A spokesperson said that BARC has never conducted a physical survey of Houston’s homeless animal population. It just doesn’t have the budget for that. Instead, it used a math formula hodgepodged from a couple of sources.

Here’s the explanation from BARC: “The North Shore Animal League is the self-proclaimed world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization. The North Shore Animal League says that each day 10,000 people are born in the U.S. and each day 70,000 puppies and kittens are born. Animals are reproducing at alarming rates. If half of these animals live, that’s 12,775,000 animals born in the U.S. each year. Even if only 33 percent survive, that is still a whopping 8,431,500 animals born in the U.S. each year.”

The ASPCA says: “It is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States; estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.”

BARC, which takes in about 2,000 animals each month, concluded, “4.25 million people live in Harris County, which is 1.36 percent of the total population of the U.S. If the stray cat population (70 million) mirrors the U.S. population, that’s 952,000 cats. If you add about 300,000 stray dogs (or owned dogs allowed to roam) then Houston has over 1.2 million stray animals.”

BARC said its 300,000 stray dogs figure is an estimate.

Houston is about to find out how many stray dogs really roam our streets.

McPhee and World Animal Awareness Society, as they did in Detroit, are here counting stray dogs in all far reaches of Houston. This time, in addition to sending teams of volunteers from local animal welfare groups into neighborhoods, McPhee is using a high-powered, camera-equipped drone to fly above areas most troubled by stray dogs.

McPhee is gathering footage for a proposed TV series called “Operation Houston: Stray Dog City.”

I know, Space City or Bayou City or Clutch City or H-Town, heck, even Screwston sound a whole lot nicer than “Stray Dog City.”

McPhee will be here for about 10 more days, doing research and counting dogs. In early June, he will hold a press conference, show the pilot episode of “Stray Dog City” and announce a real number of stray dogs in Houston.

I asked him, are we going to have another Detroit, where you come up with a figure way, way lower than what’s been used for years?

He said, “I believe the number will be demonstrably different than the number that you’ve seen in headlines.”

Why are you making my job hard? Will the number be demonstrably higher or demonstrably lower?

“I don’t suspect that it will be higher.”

McPhee wouldn’t give me his early guess on the number of stray dogs in Houston. He doesn’t pull numbers out of thin air – where his drone will operate. But …

“I’ve found that, when a resident sees a stray dog, and tells other people, who tell other people, it becomes 100 dogs,” he said.

Read Ken Hoffman’s article in the Houston Chronicle here.

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Photos from Ken Hoffman’s article:

Repeating the Lies from Kill Shelters Harms Shelter Pets

CrossFingersFotolia_13943038_XS-EX

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 .

DogSigningPetition2

 

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Friend me on Facebook and Pinterest.

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A BIG day is coming up!

Houston, TX – A BIG day is coming up soon and  in more ways than one.  November 5th is my birthday.  This birthday will be one of those “milestone” birthdays.  You know, the ones that slide you into a new category on those lists that we fill out with the checkboxes.  I’m now going to have to check a new box.

Every time I pass one of these milestones, I realize how fast time is passing.  This year I realize how fast time is  passing without significant changes to Houston’s high kill sheltering system.  I first learned about the successful No Kill model of sheltering about 5 years ago when I read Nathan Winograd’s book, Redemption.   At that time, I was thrilled to learn that someone had finally figured out how we could end the killing of healthy and treatable shelter pets.   Five years ago, I could have never imagined that people would actually fight the efforts to stop killing shelter pets.  So, the last five years, although it seems like they have flown by, have certainly been a long, hard, very stressful and eye opening experience.   I have certainly become wiser and more educated to the shocking realities of the animal sheltering industry.

As you might imagine, my house has been, and still is, home to many rescued and homeless pets; a couple of them were found lost, alone and scared but most were pulled from Houston’s high kill pound, BARC.   When I pulled them out, most of them were on the “kill list” because they were either sick, infants or simply because they had been there longer than the 3 day hold period.

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*Marley

I pulled Marley, who was skinny and had become very sick at BARC, but now looks like the Pillsbury Dough Cat.

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Conan*

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I pulled Conan, along with his mother and 4 siblings.  He is my gentle giant with a tiny meow too small for his body.

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Penelope&Jezebel

I pulled Penelope, the sweet kitty who opens her mouth to meow, but no sound emerges.

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Sebastian*

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I pulled Sebastian, my 20lb moose of a cat who sits up and “begs” for attention or treats.  He was on BARC’s kill list because he had been adopted and returned because he didn’t get along with the adopter’s cat.

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All of my sweet babies, with wonderful, loving and individual personalities each deserving of the right to live their lives.

I still remember the day that I pulled each cat out of BARC.  I remember standing in front of cat cages trying to decide who to take, knowing that those I did not take, would probably be killed soon.  It is one of the most horrible decisions I’ve ever had to make.   Therefore, years later, those memories are still burned into my brain like it was yesterday, along with the faces of those I could not take.  It is a choice that I do not wish on anyone, but one that is made by rescuers and adopters each day at BARC.

This is why I am determined the change the system that forces this horrible choice on the animal loving public.

As I look into the eyes of the wonderful, loving, quirky pets who now share my home, sometimes it brings me to tears because I think of the nearly 15,000 animals, just like them, who entered BARC last year and were KILLED by BARC instead of being rehomed or returned their owners.

Those pets were killed for one simple reason; because LEADERSHIP has, for almost 4 years, REFUSED to implement all of the programs and services that would have saved them.

For almost 4 years, city leadership has REFUSED to implement the recommendations of the leading No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd.

For almost 4 years, leadership at BARC has not cared whether they continue to kill tens of thousands of animals; they do care enough to work hard and change their procedures to make the killing stop.

Leadership.  That is why BARC continues to kill.  Plain and simple.

Folks, we have the opportunity to change that leadership in just a couple weeks.

My birthday, November 5th,, is also Election Day this year.  On that day, we will have the opportunity to change the leadership in our city….. we have the chance to elect a new mayor and city council members who can then change the leadership at BARC.

We hold the power to make changes that will save lives.

Even though this birthday is a “big” one for me, I do not want to celebrate with presents.

The only thing that I want for my birthday is for every single person in Houston to stand up for the animals.  I want every single person to use your right and this opportunity to vote for new leadership in Houston.

We already know what the incumbent leadership will do (or more accurately, WILL NOT do).  We’ve seen the mass killing continue and we’ve seen the ridiculous waste of precious dollars that could have been used to save lives. We’ve seen that, for almost 4 years, BARC’s kill rates have risen.

If we ever hope to change the culture of killing in our city pound, we must change the leadership.

I am asking each of you to please grant my wish and vote for change.

No Kill Texas Advocates has sent questionnaires to the mayoral and city council candidates regarding sheltering issues. They will post the candidates’ responses on their website.  They will also endorse the candidates that they believe will make a difference in the lives of shelter pets in Houston.

For me, this is a one issue election.  Yes, I am concerned about pot holes, taxes and crime, but all that pales significantly in comparison to my concern for the mass slaughter of adoptable animals that our city pound performs daily….. and on my dime (taxes).

Personally, I am voting for Ben Hall for mayor I had the opportunity to meet with him recently and I believe that he is genuinely concerned about the horrific sheltering situation in Houston and that he is committed to creating a better, more humane, more financially responsible, life-saving method of sheltering in Houston.

I believe that he is our best shot to drag Houston out of the dark ages of “catch and kill” sheltering and our best shot to save the lives of Houston’s shelter pets.

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BARC’s kill rate has steadly risen since 2010

Houston, TX –  In response to my public information request, I recently received intake and outcome records from BARC (Houston’s animal control) .  Considering all of the rosy Press Releases and statements from the Mayor and Alfred Moran, I actually expected BARC’s kill rate would have decreased since last year.   Sadly, I was mistaken.

BARC’s records show that for January through June 2012, BARC’s kill rate was 57.90%.  

That is up from 56.20% in 2011. 

It is also up from 55.33% in 2010.

So, despite Annise Parker’s promises to citizens that she would do everything in her power to transition Houston to a No Kill community, the truth is that during the entire time that she has been Mayor, BARC’s kill rate has steadily risen….. every single year.

In addition, BARC’s Return to Owner rate is  a measly 7%.   The Return to Owner rate has consistently stayed around 7% for the entire period of time that Parker and Alfred Moran have been in charge of BARC.   This is despite the fact that Nathan Winograd, the international No Kill sheltering expert, gave BARC and City of Houston leaders detailed instructions on how to create a successful Return to Owner program…. 3 YEARS ago.    I noticed that  BARC’s report has no category listed for animals returned in the field.  Considering the Animal Control Officer notes that I found and reported here, I suppose it should not be a shock that BARC is not trying to return animals to their owners in the field.   It is despicable, but not surprising.

There really is no excuse for refusing to implement a Return to Owner program.  It could literally keep thousands of animals from entering BARC.   It would not cost BARC extra money to have Animal Control Officers knock on doors and try to find the owners of stray animals out in the field instead of taking them to BARC.   In fact, it would save money if thousands less animals entered BARC.  Nathan Winograd has said that “one of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims”.   I calculated that if BARC worked as hard on this program as animal control does in Reno, NV, BARC would SAVE over 8,000 more lives and it would also save over $970,000 every year.   As I said, there really is not excuse that this program has not been implemented at BARC, 3 full years after Winograd gave BARC and City of Houston detailed instructions.

Alfred Moran and his spin doctors are busy telling everyone how great BARC is doing, but the fact is that BARC’s kill rate has steadily risen since he and Parker have been in charge.  All the whitewash and pretty pictures does not change this fact.

The question is, when will Annise Parker keep  her promise?   When will she hire someone who will actually work hard to save lives, instead of just spinning out more fanciful tall tales?

You should ask her these questions. She is your elected official.   Click here for her contact information.

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A shelter pet advocate

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Houston, TX – Welcome to my new blog!   This blog is really just a continuance of the blog that I have been writing for several years as the Houston Animal Shelters Examiner.   Due to difficulties with their website, I’ve decided to continue writing here.   

If you have come across my blog for the first time, you should know that I write mostly about the animal shelter situation in Houston.  I live in a city that is very compassionate when it comes to animals, but this city also contains five kill shelters that are killing about 80,000 pets each year.  

As of this date, there are over 50 Open Admission animal controls and shelters that are saving 90% or more of all animals, but Houston’s kill shelters save only a measly 11% to 50%.  

I advocate for the implementation of the No Kill model of sheltering that is saving all healthy and treatable pets in those 50+ Open Admission, No Kill shelters.  If they can do it, so can Houston. 

I began this journey after reading Nathan Winograd’s book Redemption, and realizing that:

1) the horror that I, and others, had witnessed at BARC (Houston’s city funded animal control) was actually an epidemic all over the country; and

2) there was a common sense solution to stop shelter killing completely.   We no longer had to kill shelter pets for population control.  As someone who had been rescuing and fostering animals for some time, and as someone who had seen A LOT of healthy and treatable animals killed and treated very inhumanely in local “shelters”, this book was an answer to a prayer.

Someone had actually created a sheltering model that  saved all healthy and treatable pets and it worked everywhere it was implemented!

That was 2008 and, looking back, I can see that I was quite the Pollyanna because I thought that if I just told our city officials about this remarkable “new” model of sheltering, that they would jump to implement this model in Houston immediately.  Surely, any rational and compassionate human being  would want to try this model so that Houston could stop the mass shelter killing here.  

I bought a copy of Redemption for Mayor Bill White, all city council members and the city controller (Annise Parker) as well as the Director of the Health Dept, who was over BARC at the time.   If it helped to stop the shelter killing at BARC, I thought it was well worth the cost.  

But, to my shock and dismay, city officials and BARC leaders weren’t very interested in implementing the model that was working so well elsewhere.  It was apparent that they just wanted to continue business as usual, even if that business was the slaughter of 30,000 animals every year.

It is now four years later, and although a lot of faces have changed at the city of Houston and at BARC, and although a lot of No Kill promises have been made, BARC is still a high kill facility.    

In 2008, there were just a handful of Open Admission, No Kill shelters in North America, now there are over 50 and that number is increasing constantly.   America, and other countries, are on the way to No Kill, but Houston remains in the dark ages of “catch and kill” sheltering.   

I attended the national No Kill conference a couple weeks ago.  This conference has been growing by leaps and bounds each year since it began just 4 years ago.  This year it nearly tripled in size from 300 to 800 attendees, proving that many people — average citizens like you and me — are ready for change.  We are sick of the mass killing that is taking place in our “shelters” and we want to stop it.  The conference was very informative, thrilling and depressing all at the same time. 

It was informative because many of the people who have already stopped shelter killing in their communities were there explaining how they did it.

It was thrilling because, since the last time I attended 2 years ago, about 30 more shelters have crossed the No Kill goal line.  There were 800 people at this conference and many are working to replicate that success.

But it was also depressing because 3 full years after Houstonians paid to have the leading, international No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd assess BARC  and produce a 196 page report detailing how BARC could stop killing shelter pets, just like those 50+ shelters are doing right now, BARC is pretty much in the same place that it was 3 years ago.  

Thirty or more shelters have passed Houston by reaching No Kill since Winograd wrote his report for the City of Houston.  This is while few life saving efforts have been implemented at BARC.   Sure, Bill White hired a “change agent” to fix BARC before he left office in 2009.   And sure, the change agent fired about 70 employees,  but there has been little to no effort to stop the killing at BARC.  

For instance, in 2011 BARC killed or “lost” an average of almost 1,100 animals every single month.  

After Mayor Parker’s No Kill promises both in 2009 and 2010, BARC’s kill rate actually rose from 2010 to 2011.   And, after reviewing their current reports, it appears that BARC’s Kill Rate has been steadily rising in 2012.  

BARC’s Kill Rate reached a horrific 72% this past May.  

I guess it really shouldn’t shock us that BARC’s kill rate is not decreasing.  After all, BARC leaders have yet to implement all of the recommendations of Winograd’s 2009 assessment and Mayor Parker has yet to admit that there are still huge problems at BARC under her administration.   Yes, she admitted there was a problem under White’s administration (after he was gone), but she has refused to accept responsibility for continued problems, like sky high kill rates, under her administration.   Instead, she continues to blame the public and continues to allow the mass slaughter to continue under her watch. 

Even when BARC employees break the law;

or when they kill pets that people offer to save; and

even as BARC’s kill rate consistently climbs higher and higher under her watch, Parker still won’t admit that are serious problems and refuses to implement Nathan Winograd’s recommendations that she has had in her hands for 3 years.

The one thing that has become very clear is that, in Houston, the people running kill shelters will not voluntarily implement the No Kill model of sheltering.   Likewise, city officials, who ultimately control what takes place in our shelters, are not likely to voluntarily force shelters to implement the No Kill model.   Four years of dealing with BARC, Houston city officials and the other 4 kill shelter directors have confirmed this.   

No, if the killing is to end in our animal shelters, it will be up to us. 

The only way that the kill shelters in Houston will ever stop killing is if we demand it.   And we can’t just say it once and forget about it.  We have to continue to stand up for the animals in our community

Every day we have to tell Mayor Parker and city council to implement the No Kill model of sheltering at BARC — the very same model that is saving 90% or more in shelters all over the country.   We must tell city officials that if they will not take steps to make sure that No Kill model of sheltering is implemented, then we will vote for someone else next time around. The power to stop shelter killing is in our hands and we must use that power.

It is up to us —- average citizens — to make the killing stop in our community.

Contact the Mayor and city council and tell them to implement every single recommendation in Nathan Winograd’s 2009 assessment.  Tell them that we must have leadership that will rigorously implement every single program in the No Kill model of sheltering.   Tell them that you, as a voter, are sick of the mass killing in our shelters, and you expect that they will do what has been proven to stop it.  Houston should be a leader, not trailing behind 50+ communities in the country.

Calls are best, but if you can’t call, write them.  

Letters are better, but if you can’t write a letter, send an email.

Here is their contact information.  

Do it today and write it on your calendar to do it every week, until Houston joins the 21st century and stops killing shelter pets.

If we don’t do this, the killing in our city will never end.

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