HOUSTON—With as many as 1.2 million strays on Houston’s streets the problem is immense, but one local group of volunteers is hoping to bring that number down through education, awareness and, ultimately, prevention.
Gloria Zenteno and her husband, along with a couple dozen volunteers, walk the East End neighborhood she grew up in well aware of the dire situation for homeless dogs.
“I was horrified at the number of dogs on chains, pregnant mamas, sick animals, dogs that had been hit by cars, a daily occurrence for me,” she said. “And then I would drive to my really great job in the Galleria, and I would see a different life there. I would see people walking their dogs on leashes, they’re all very healthy.”
Zenteno wanted that healthy reality in her own neighborhood. So three years ago she founded Barrio Dogs, a non-profit dedicated to educating pet owners about everything from leash laws to free services they help provide.
“Your dog will be spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies, and be checked for heart worms and intestinal worms,” she said.
Running on private donations Barrio Dogs has helped spay or neuter hundreds of dogs free of charge.
And for the Zentenos trying to save dogs from a life on the street has been a family affair.
Gloria’s late sister-in-law, Norma Zenteno, a beloved singer-songwriter, wrote a song to bring awareness to the estimated 800,000 homeless animals on the streets of Houston.
BARC spokesperson Chris Newport said the city is in the midst of a pilot program, offering free and low-cost spay/neuter services in Near Northside, but admitted the problem is huge. And without city dollars funding the effort, change is slow in coming.
The volunteers hope to speed things up.
“ Houston is a very wealthy city, a very successful city, and to have this kind of problem on the streets—not just in the East End, in Sunnyside, Denver Harbor, Fifth Ward—it’s unacceptable,” said Lynn Rodriguez with Barrio Dogs.
If you live in the East End, Barrio Dogs will be holding another free spay/neuter sign-up event in DeZavala Park on Saturday, December 7th.