About 150 people from 20 different community animal-care groups met with Harris County’s judge, Houston’s Mayor and top shelter and public health officials at NRG Park Wednesday at the county’s first ever “animal summit.”
The goal: discussing possible solutions to different animal control concerns, including overpopulation, sheltering, adoptions and jurisdictional problems.
Several groups called for more spaying and neutering, including mobile clinics and financial help to poorer parts of town that see a lot of the strays.
Patti Mercer, president of the Houston SPCA, told Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner “we cannot adopt ourselves out of this problem.”
Leaders say outreach and education are also critical, especially changing the culture of thinking that says just because the animals belong to you, you can do whatever you want.
“You have a lot of people who just aren’t going to take the time, and they think, ‘Gosh, having a litter of puppies is cute. What am I going to do with all these puppies?’” Emmett said. “And they go, ‘Well, we’ll just take them to the animal shelter. Out of sight, out of mind,’ and that’s unfortunate.”
Emmett says he likes the idea proposed at the summit of creating one emergency number for animal issues, similar to 911, to make it easier and less confusing. He also likes the ideas of better enforcement and spay-neuter programs.
He says the county will take Wednesday’s suggestions under consideration, put out a refined list of ideas to the groups and hold another summit soon.
One big challenge Emmett mentioned: unincorporated Harris County is so big, if it were a city, it’d be the fifth-largest in the country. However, since it’s not, the county can’t make its own laws, like a spay-neuter requirement. The judge says they’re hoping for help from the Legislature in January.