Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

BARC

A better BARC

This is good to see.

As recently as three years ago, Houston’s animal shelter put down half of the dogs and cats that came through its doors in a busy month.

Now, five times in the last year alone, the city’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care finished a month having euthanized fewer than 10 percent of the animals it took in, achieving, at least momentarily, the coveted “no-kill” label that animal rights activists have sought for years.

BARC is a rare bureaucratic success story, having evolved over the last decade from an embarrassment for city leaders and the cause of outright rage among animal activists to a broadly respected facility that has managed to get ever-increasing numbers of animals into the hands of rescue groups or new owners.

The shelter’s progress even led the City Council to increase its budget by $2.6 million a few years ago to help answer more of the 55,000 calls citizens place to BARC each year.

Now, shelter leaders and their nonprofit partners confront a once-unthinkable milestone: Could Houston’s pound achieve “no kill” status?

[…]

“Our rescue partners have played a major role in how far we’ve come thus far and will continue to play a role in continuing to increase those live release numbers,” [Ashtyn Rivet, the facility’s deputy assistant director] said.

Chief among those partners is Rescued Pets Movement, a local nonprofit that gets $75 in city money for every animal it takes from BARC and relocates, often out of state, to a foster group or a new home. The group has handled more than 22,000 animals for BARC during their roughly four-year partnership.

A key reason for BARC’s low kill rate in recent months, Rivet added, is a burgeoning partnership with Houston Pets Alive! and its more established cousin, Austin Pets Alive!, a group that was instrumental in helping that city achieve no-kill status several years ago.

That nonprofit has taken 975 animals from BARC since August, only 14 percent of which were in good health. Avoiding having to put down ill animals will be a key way to further boost BARC’s live release rate, Rivet said.

Just getting BARC to a point where it is fully functional was a big win. Getting it to full no-kill status would be amazing, and a very worthy goal for which to aim. Kudos to all for the major progress.

City and county confer on critter control

Hope they can work something out.

Judge Ed Emmett

Judge Ed Emmett

Harris County and Houston city officials will meet [this] month to better tackle the region’s significant stray animal problem.

City and county leaders and private animal welfare representatives will meet Oct. 12, according to a spokesman for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. One focus of the “summit” is expected to be better collaboration between the county, which focuses primarily on unincorporated areas despite having a shelter located inside the city limits, and the city of Houston.

[…]

The city and county shelters run at or above capacity almost every day. The county shelter takes in some 23,000 animals each year from unincorporated areas while the city shelter accepts 25,000 to 27,000. Both generally only take in animals from their respective jurisdictions, though both also report making exceptions, especially when an animal is sick or injured.

Stray animals can be a public health threat because they can spread disease and can also attack and injure humans and other animals.

A 2010 survey of Houston-area households conducted by the University of Texas School of Public Health found “stray dogs and cats” to be the most frequent neighborhood problem reported by residents surveyed, beating out crime, drinking water and dumping, among other problems.

See here for some background. I don’t know what specifically they can do, but I feel certain they can do something to work together and reduce the scope of the problem. I look forward to hearing what they come up with.

Let’s cooperate on animal welfare

Yes to this.

Judge Ed Emmett

Judge Ed Emmett

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett called Tuesday for a summit of county and Houston city leaders, along with animal welfare organizations, to address the region’s “outrageous” problem with stray animals.

While the details are still being developed, Emmett said one focus would be better collaboration between Harris County, which focuses primarily on unincorporated areas despite having a shelter located inside the city limits, and the city of Houston.

Last month, Harris County shelter employees drew criticism for apparently refusing to pick up and euthanize a German shepherd mix that lay dying from a gunshot wound across the street from the facility because it was not in the county’s jurisdiction.

“I’m going to try and call everybody together, get everybody in one room and say ‘What do we really need to be doing here’ so we’re more coordinated,” Emmett said.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner “looks forward to hearing from Judge Emmett,” said Janice Evans, a spokeswoman for Evans. She said the city and county have successfully worked together on road projects, including Precinct 1 Commissioner Gene Locke’s plan to invest up to $45 million in city roads that fall within his precinct.

“It’s probably worth exploring similar arrangements for other areas,” Evans said.

The city and county shelters run at or above capacity almost every day. The county shelter takes in some 23,000 animals each year from unincorporated areas while the city shelter accepts 25,000 to 27,000. Both generally only take in animals from their respective jurisdictions, though both also report making exceptions, especially when an animal is sick or injured.

On most occasions, people are asked to take an animal to the appropriate shelter. Sometimes they don’t, choosing to dump animals near one shelter rather than drive the seven miles to get to the other.

There are things that the city and county do separately that make sense to do separately, and there are things they do separately that really ought to be done jointly. This is a clear examplae of the latter. There’s probably some savings to be had, but more importantly it’s about delivering the service more effectively. If you’re dropping off an animal at a shelter, you shouldn;t have to figure out if you’re inside city limits or not. Kudos to Judge Emmett for pursuing this. I feel confident that Mayor Turner will be willing to work with him on it.

Don’t kill no-kill

I don’t like the look of this.

Stricter enforcement of a previously obscure state regulation is threatening the no-kill movement across Texas and could result in animal shelters euthanizing tens of thousands of additional pets each year, advocates warn.

A “clarification” of state rules by the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners last August already has sparked a court case and caused widespread confusion among city officials and private groups.

At issue is the veterinary care provided to animals in municipal shelters and privately-operated animal rescue organizations.

Under its rules, the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners requires the same level of medical care and attention for shelter dogs and cats as they would receive from a private veterinarian. That means volunteers and fosters cannot perform routine care, such as administering intake vaccinations, without a trained vet present. It also means shelter veterinarians must provide individual care to each shelter animal upon intake.

Shelters say that requiring a veterinarian be present at all times would bust their budgets and reverse cities’ efforts to reach and maintain the no-kill status of euthanasia rates at or below 10 percent. Without full-time vet staff, animal advocates say, shelters eventually would fall back on euthanizing more animals since state law allows trained staff to administer lethal injections to animals.

“There’s no need for this policy,” said Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, a leading animal advocate in the Legislature who has sponsored numerous humane treatment bills. “We already have high-kill shelters and this would just exacerbate that. They’re just going to turn into euthanasia centers.”

TBVME Executive Director Nicole Oria said the Board always has interpreted the law in this way to protect public health and safety. Shelters, she said, will not be targeted by the agency because it only takes action when it receives a complaint.

Shelter veterinarians and their advocates, however, worry that could leave them open to investigations sparked by disgruntled former employees, volunteers or rival groups.

There’s already been one disciplinary action taken against a no-kill shelter that stemmed from two complaints, one of which turned out to be spurious. I’d like to see some more clarity in the law to ensure that the interests of the animals are being put first. I feel reasonably confident that Rep. Farrar will file a bill to that effect at her first opportunity. But let’s not wait that long till we get this straightened out.

Endorsement watch: A late roundup

Some recent endorsements in City elections over the past few days. Going back to last week, here are the endorsements from the Houston Black American Democrats (HBAD):

Mayor – Gene Locke
Controller – Ronald Green
At Large #1 – Karen Derr
At Large #2 – Andrew Burks
At Large #3 – Melissa Noriega
At Large #4 – C.O. Bradford
At Large #5 – Jolanda Jones
District A – Lane Lewis
District B – Roger Bowden
District D – Wanda Adams
District F – Mike Laster
District G – Dexter Handy
District H – Ed Gonzalez
HISD District IX – Adrian Collins
Proposition 4 – Yes

HBAD also endorsed John Sharp in the whenever-it-will-be Senate race. More on that in a bit. Next up is the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce PAC, which thankfully put its endorsements online where I could easily find them:

Gene Locke, Mayor

Ronald Green, Controller

Sue Lovell, At Large Pos. 2

Melissa Noriega, At Large Pos. 3

Noel Freeman, At Large Pos. 4

Jarvis Johnson, Dist. B

Anne Clutterbuck, Dist. C

Wanda Adams, Dist. D

Mills Worsham, Dist. G

Ed Gonzalez, Dist. H

James Rodriguez, Dist. I

Alma Lara, HISD Dist. 1

Mary Ann Perez, HCCS Dist. III

And finally, and also nicely online, the Noah’s Ark PAC:

Noah’s Ark PAC endorses Gene Locke for Mayor of Houston. Following a personal visit to Houston’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC), Gene Locke met with a group of Houston’s most vocal advocates for BARC to ask for their input and suggestions for making lasting changes at BARC. Locke incorporated their input into his policy for BARC which can be found on his web site at:
http://www.genelocke.com/release_details.asp?id=68#

Gene Locke was selected due to his obvious commitment to working with advocates and for providing tangible, realistic solutions to addressing the problems at BARC.

Noah’s Ark PAC also endorses the following candidates for controller and city council:

City Controller- Pam Holm

City Council
At-Large 1- Karen Derr
At-Large 2- Sue Lovell
At-Large 3- Melissa Noriega
At-Large 4- C.O. “Brad” Bradford
At-Large 5- Jolanda Jones
District A- Lane Lewis
District B- Jarvis Johnson
District C- Anne Clutterbuck
District D- Wanda Adams
District E- no endorsement
District F- Peter Acquaro
District G- Oliver Pennington
District H- Ed Gonzalez
District I- James Rodriguez

Noah’s Ark PAC congratulates these candidates and thanks the many candidates that completed the PAC’s candidate survey. Noah’s Ark PAC would like to specifically recognize Karen Derr for being the first major candidate for Houston city council to make the issues at BARC a campaign platform issue. The PAC also recognizes candidate for mayor, Annise Parker, for routinely discussing the problems at BARC in her newsletter and campaign literature, helping to elevate the public discussion. Noah’s Ark PAC also recognizes Councilwoman Jolanda Jones for her commitment to thoroughly researching the problems at BARC and for asking tough questions when they needed to be asked.

That’s a pretty good week for Gene Locke. (It may be a little less so if this story about the Sports Authority needing to refinance a bunch of debt gets any legs.) You can read the responses they got to their questionnaires here and here. And here’s the Chron profile of Locke, the second in their series.

Not endorsement-related, but Annie’s List sent out another mailer in support of Annise Parker, this one attacking Peter Brown for being a “serial exaggerator”. I’ve put a copy of it beneath the fold for your perusal. So far, I have not seen or heard of any pushback on the mailer, which distinguishes it from the hit piece they did on Gene Locke last month.

Elsewhere, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer announced the support of several South Texas legislators.

Announcing their support for Schieffer were Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen and Representatives Veronica Gonzales of McAllen, Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles of Alice, Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville, Armando “Mando” Martinez of Weslaco, Rene Oliveira of Brownsville, Aaron Pena of Edinburg and Tara Rios Ybarra of South Padre Island.

The full release is beneath the fold. Schieffer’s release prompted a response from Hank Gilbert that said the announcement of all this support so early in the game is an acknowledgement that Gilbert is a serious threat to him. Maybe so, but one could also ask at what point Gilbert will start to get official support like that. In particular, I’m wondering which candidate for Governor guys like Reps. Jim McReynolds, Chuck Hopson, Stephen Frost, and Mark Homer – all Dems from Gilbert’s neck of the woods – will endorse.

Finally, circling back to the Senate race, John Sharp announced the endorsement of State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, while Bill White received the nod from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

Endorsing members include Rep Alma Allen (Houston), Rep Garnet Coleman (Houston), Rep Dawnna Dukes (Austin), Rep Harold Dutton (Houston), Rep Helen Giddings (Dallas), Rep Barbara Mallory Caraway (Dallas), Rep Ruth McClendon (San Antonio), Rep Sylvester Turner (Houston) and Rep Marc Veasey (Fort Worth).

Coleman, Allen, Dukes, Caraway, and McClendon were on the first list of endorsees that White released. He’s now received the nod of 37 of the 74 Dems in the House (full list here), including 11 of 14 from Harris County; in addition to Dutton and Turner, Hubert Vo and Armando Walle have signed on since that initial list came out. The three holdouts are Senfronia Thompson, Al Edwards, and Kristi Thibaut. This release is beneath the fold as well.

(more…)

Tuesday Council roundup

Council Member Sue Lovell, who is running hard for re-election after her close win in 2007, has added some fundraising muscle to her team.

Houston Vice Mayor Pro Tem Sue Lovell announced today that Robert Miller would lead the Finance Committee for her campaign for re-election to At-Large Position 2 on the Houston City Council.

Miller is chair of the Public Law Practice Group at the law firm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell and a past Chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas.

“Robert Miller and I have worked together on so many important projects that are making a real difference for Houston,” said Lovell. “I am thrilled – and honored – to work with him again on my campaign.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that Houston needs Sue Lovell’s leadership in the next two years,” said Miller. “With a new mayor and controller facing an uncertain economy, Council Member Lovell’s knowledge, experience and results-driven approach will be critical to continuing our progress.”

This is a good get for Lovell. Miller’s one of those people who knows everyone and should bring with him a lot of opportunities to add to her campaign coffers. Expect her to have a strong 30-days-out report.

One of Lovell’s opponents, Roslyn “Rozzy” Shorter now has a new website. She’s also on Twitter, meaning I’d better update my post. She did not report raising any money in the first half of the year, however, so it’s hard to say how much of a threat she’ll be to Lovell.

Speaking of fundraising, I’ve updated my spreadsheet to reflect the fact that a number of previously missing reports are now – finally! – available online. Anyone who still doesn’t have a report up at this point is presumed by me to have not filed one.

Over in At Large #5, new entrant Dr. Davetta Mills Daniels had her campaign kickoff reception tonight. You can see the invitation and sponsor list here as a Google doc. I’ll be very interested to see what her finance report looks like in October.

Meanwhile, At Large #5 Council Member Jolanda Jones released this letter of support from current, former, and retired Houston firefighters. I presume that was in response to this story about female firefighters who met with Mayor White and pushed back on the charges of rampant sexism and racism within HFD.

Finally, the Houston Press has a detailed report from Monday’s Council hearings on BARC that includes grades for various Council members’ performance. That’s a novel way to approach this sort of thing, and I daresay it will get some strong reactions from inside City Hall Annex.