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:

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Will you support No Kill efforts?

KittensatBARC

Houston, TX – No Kill Houston is an advocacy group who is working to transform Houston to a No Kill community. This is no easy task since Houston has the distinction of having 5 kill shelters that are killing approximately 80,000 shelter pets each year.   There are now approximately 500 cities and town who have become No Kill communities, meaning their Open Admission pounds and shelters are saving 90% to 99% of all animals entering their doors.   No Kill Houston wants this for Houston.  We know that it is possible, but we need the support and advocacy of Houston animal lovers to move the No Kill goal forward in Houston.

Since Houston is a huge city of over 1 million people and is spread out over 600 square miles, it is extremely tough to try to reach all Houstonians to educate them regarding what is going on in Houston “shelters” and also educate them on how Houston can end the killing of shelter pets.

2015 is an election year for mayor and city council positions, so it is a critical time to raise awareness about how the right LEADERSHIP in Houston could make all the difference in the lives of Houston shelters pets. If we animal lovers band together, I have no doubt that we can swing the elections, and elect people who will actually work to transform Houston to a No Kill city. 

No Kill Houston is currently running photo contest/fund raiser which will allow them to do more “advertising” in 2015 to reach more animal lovers.  The top 13 photos with the most votes will be featured on the cover and pages of No Kill Houston’s 2015 calendar.  Entering the contest is only a $5 donation and votes are a $1 each donation. If you want to make sure that your pet is shown in the calendar, you may also “Reserve a Day” meaning your pet’s picture will be shown on the day that you choose.   Donations are tax deductibleClick here to go to the contest web page.

If you do not want to enter the contest, but do want to make a donation to support No Kill efforts, you can do so by clicking here.  Please donate generously.

No Kill Houston is also allowing rescue groups and animal friendly businesses the opportunity to market their organizations on the pages of their calendar.   The sponsor’s name, logo, website address and/or any other requested information will be listed across the bottom of a calendar page below the winning monthly photo.   To sponsor one month in the calendar is only a donation of $125 for 501(c)(3)s or $225 for businesses. (Individuals may also sponsor a month at the non-profit rate).

If you are interested in this marketing/sponsorship opportunity, please email No Kill Houston at NoKillHouston@yahoo.com ASAP as the contest ends on January 1st at midnight.  Calendars will be shipped out in early January and sold at various events.

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BTW: If you are considering a donation to local or national animal related charity, I would strongly suggest that you do some research first.   I say this as someone who has, in the past, donated to, and volunteered for, local shelters thinking they were No Kill shelters, but found out later that they were actually high kill shelters.  Just because an organization may have the word “animal”, “humane”, “protection”, “ethical”, “prevention of cruelty” or “shelter” in their name does NOT mean that they are actually working to save animals.  There are a lot of frauds out there, and in the past, I have been duped by some of them as well.

Houston has five kill shelters/pounds.  Many people believe that the 3 limited admission “non-profit shelters” i.e Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society and Citizens for Animals Protection (CAP) are No Kill.  They are NOT.  Far from it. The kill rates of these 3 facilities are as high or even higher than Houston’s high kill pound (BARC) or Harris county’s high kill pound.

I would never tell anyone to not adopt from these facilities.  Obviously, the animals there need out. Their lives depend on it.  However, be aware that if you send them money, that money could very well be used to buy the poisons they use to kill animals.

Perhaps do a Google search with the charity’s name & the word “kill”. You might be shocked at what you find.  Or, check No Kill Houston’s site.  There is a lot of information there about what these “shelters” are actually doing.

Or read this blog regarding CAP;

Or read this page about the Houston SPCA;

Or read this blog about the Houston Humane Society;

And or this page.

CarMagnet3

If you are considering donating to a national animal related charity such as HSUS, ASPCA or PETA, please do some research as well.  I have personally donated my hard earned dollars to PETA and ASPCA only to find out later that they fight against everything I believe in.  Not only that, they are kill shelters as well.  Also, although the HSUS claims to “rescue” various animals, they actually have no shelter.  And the HSUS has historically fought against No Kill efforts.  They have fought hard to kill some animals such as the victims rescued from Michael Vick’s house of horrors.  These organizations rake in millions of dollars in donations, but do little to nothing to actually help pets.

You can start your research about these national organizations here.

bulldog laughing at another dog dressed up with clown wig

In the meantime, have some fun and enter No Kill Houston’s photo contest.   Your companion may just become a 2015 calendar Pin Up!  Click here to enter and vote in the contest!

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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.

Follow No Kill Houston on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to their email list.

Follow No Kill Texas Advocates, a No Kill political advocacy group, on Facebook and Twitter, and register to receive their newsletter.

Follow these stories and writing by other Texas writers on “Texas Animal Writers” on FaceBook.

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