HOUSTON—In its new budget, the City of Houston has approved about $330,000 to transport unwanted shelter animals from its BARC facility to pet adoption agencies in Colorado.
Each Thursday the animals, primarily puppies, are driven in vans to be placed with Colorado agencies that insist they can find good homes for the animals.
However a few months ago, one of the agencies called New Hope Rescue, Inc. was investigated by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and found to have “excessively dirty and cluttered” conditions. The investigator stated, “I observed animal wastes in enclosures and many other areas of the facility.”
When told by KHOU 11 News about the report and pictures of New Hope Rescue, BARC Director Greg Damianoff said, “Photographs are one thing. Animals do go to the bathroom and animals do, you know, you got puppies in a cage, they’re gonna’ do their business. So that’s basically what you saw in that photo.”
He then said, “We’re not dealing with New Hope anymore.”
BARC’s critics are outraged. Among them is one of the leaders of a rescue advocacy group, No Kill Colorado.
“How many animals could you spay/neuter with that money and avoid doing (more transfers) in six months or a year?” Board member and spokesman David Smith asked.
What’s worse, Smith said, is that some of the Houston animals could end up meeting the same fate in Colorado.
”Some of those animals could be killed,” he said.
Smith said even if Houston animals are not killed, Colorado strays could be euthanized to make room in shelters for Houston animals.
The president of No Kill Houston called the situation a “body swap.”
“It’s essentially just transferring bodies, exchanging one body for the next,” Bett Sundermeyer said. “Dumping them on another city that’s killing as well, is not the solution.”
Smith said Colorado killed 7,000 unwanted shelter animals in 2013. That is a very low kill rate compared to Houston’s. Damianoff said only 54 percent of the thousands of animals that come into BARC live.
The group responsible for transferring Houston strays to Colorado is Rescued Pets Movement. Its co-president, Laura Carlock, said the group is working wonders to save Houston’s strays and has transferred more than 2000 animals to Colorado since it began operating last fall.
“We are giving them the best chance possible to live and lead second chance lives in another state,” she said.
She said she personally goes to Colorado to make sure. Carlock said New Hope was an isolated incident.
She said the city will pay Rescued Pets Movement, RPM, $75 to transport each animal to Colorado. She said the actual costs are higher and before the new city budget, her group relied solely on private donations, but could not sustain operations that way.
The money pays for “vans, insurance, hiring two drivers,” Carlock said. She places the cost per animal at $220 for getting each one medically sound and delivered to no-kill pet adoption and rescue agencies in Colorado.
Carlock said RPM’s operations include a lot of accountability.
“I’ve driven the drive myself and transported these animals myself a couple of times,” she said.
Carlock said many of their pet foster parents keep track of what becomes of Houston’s BARC animals.
To critics of the transfer program, Damianoff said, “If they’ve got another method that will be as productive and get as many animals out of here alive as we are doing with RPM, then I’m happy to hear what they have to say.”
Sundermeyer said her group has presented better options to BARC, to no avail. She and Smith said BARC should follow a multi-step plan called the “No Kill Equation” that has dramatically increased adoption rates and lowered euthanasia rates in other communities.
For more information on BARC, visit: http://www.houstontx.gov/barc/index.php
For more information on No Kill Houston, visit: http://www.nokillhouston.org/
For more information on Rescued Pets Movement, including how to foster a BARC animal, visit: http://www.rescuedpetsmovement.org/