On the streets or penned in cages, it’s hard to get a leg up on Houston’s exploding animal population.
Although it’s a number that no one knows for sure, there are anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of stray dogs and cats in Houston’s city limits alone.
“It's very frustrating and it seems overwhelming at times,” said Gloria Zenteno, founder of the non-profit Barrio Dogs.
Zenteno’s mission is to educate the public about the importance of spaying, neutering and proper pet care. She founded Barrio Dogs seven years ago and goes into various lower income neighborhoods handing out educational pamphlets door to door. Volunteers also go into schools to teach children in hopes they will educate their parents and grow up to be responsible pet owners themselves.
In addition to education, Barrio Dogs raises funds to fix family pets for free. So far about 3,000 have been fixed since its founding.
“The demand is still bigger than we can get funds for,” Zenteno said.
According to PETA, just one unaltered female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in six years. For a cat, the number is closer to 300,000 which is why spaying and neutering is key.
BARC Houston is also playing a part with their trap, neuter and release program where so far more than 500 animals have been treated this year.
BARC Director Greg Damianoff says part of the problem stems from Houston’s cultural diversity.
“Different folks view things differently,” Damianoff said. “They view animals in a different way.”
The ever-expanding population isn't only a problem because countless animals are suffering, they also pose a health and safety threat to the community.
“These dogs are running in the street,” Zenteno said. “They may have parasites or parvo. They’re in communities where we have our seniors and our children, and it's just unacceptable.”
And it’s a problem that these organizations can’t fix on their own.
“We have prevented many unwanted litters, but unfortunately, the problem is so huge they are reproducing faster than we can keep up with,” Zenteno said.
Experts say that medically speaking, a fixed dog or cat tends to be a healthier and happier animal.
There are several organizations and veterinarian offices that can help with free or reduced services. For more information, tap/click here.
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