Houston, TX – We are a nation of animal lovers. In fact, studies show that 65% of Americans have pets. Houston is no different. Our city is overflowing with animal lovers, many of whom spend their last dime to take care of their pets and to help save the lives of homeless and rescued pets. You need only to mention your pet to find that friends, and even perfect strangers, will tell you all about their beloved pets. They will grab their phones to show you pictures of their “babies”. No doubt about it, we love pets.
When Annise Parker was campaigning for the Mayor’s seat in 2009, she made promises that she knew would appeal to all of those animals lovers in Houston, especially those who were all too familiar with the high kill rate at Houston’s animal control facility i.e. BARC and the four other kill shelters in Houston/Harris County. She made promises to the people who had been complaining, very loudly, about BARC’s horrendously high kill rate and inhumane treatment animals there.
Parker made a campaign promise that:
“If elected mayor, I will do everything within my power to make sure BARC becomes a humane and adequately funded no-kill shelter.”
In February, 2010, Parker wrote that:
“I have often mentioned that, if I were elected mayor, I would do everything in my power to ensure that Houston transitions to a no-kill community”.
Parker campaigned, and was no doubt elected, on a shelter reform platform.
In December of 2010, Parker had been in office for one year, and after seeing little, to no, reduction in the kill rate at BARC, I wrote Parker and asked when she would keep her No Kill promises. I also posted the letter here.
To date, I’ve received no response.
At the June 2010 budget meeting regarding BARC, Councilmember Bradford showed ARA Director, Alfred Moran the huge stack of citizen complaints regarding BARC and he asked Mr. Moran if he planned to implement the recommendations in No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd’s 2009 assessment of BARC. Mr. Moran’s response was that he would check with Mayor Parker.
Citizens of Houston have yet to receive a response to that question from Parker or Moran.
Here we are at the end of 2011 and at the end of Parker’s term as Mayor. In the 2 years since making those No Kill promises and 2 years after taking office, has the Mayor attempted to keep her promises? Sadly, the answer is no, she hasn’t.
The kill rates before and after Parker’s promises are almost identical. In fact, I compared the kill rate in 2010 to the kill rate for January – August 2011 and found that, even using BARC’s “exaggerated” numbers in 2011, the kill rate has decreased by only about 3% from 2010 to 2011.
Let’s repeat that. There has been only a THREE PERCENT decrease in the kill rate at BARC.
Is this what we get when Parker does “everything in her power”?
This miniscule decrease in the kill rate is absurd. It’s not like getting to No Kill is a secret. It’s been around for 15 years. In addition, Houston leaders have had an even greater advantage because international, No Kill expert, Nathan Winograd, actually came to Houston, assessed BARC and gave the city a 196 page report detailing exactly what the city needs to do. Houstonians wanted this assessment so much that when told that “the city didn’t have $5,000” to pay for Winograd’s assessment, citizens donated money out of their own pockets, in order to get Winograd here.
Yet, instead of rigorously implementing Winograd’s recommendations as other No Kill communities have done, Houston continues with the same failed programs and “blame the public” type attitudes that have never, ever resulted in a No Kill community. Apparently, the mayor believes that just saying the words “No Kill” will somehow magically make it happen even though she has done nothing to make it a reality.
Nothing has changed at BARC that would lead BARC towards a No Kill transformation. The city has ignored the leading No Kill expert’s recommendations for 2 years; the kill rate is still high, the city is still lying about their save rates, BARC leaders are still threatening volunteers, and still banning volunteers. This is exactly what we had before Parker’s campaign promises. Nothing has changed except the faces.
So why has Mayor Parker allowed Winograd’s report to be ignored for over 2 years? Why has Parker allowed the killing to continue unfettered after her No Kill promises?
There are at least Twenty Seven Open Admission, No Kill shelters/communities in North America now. Many of these communities began their No Kill efforts after Mayor Parker’s No Kill promises and those communities have already reached their goal. Rockwall, Texas is such a community. This year, Rockwall’s city council mandated that their animal control must save at least 90% of all animals, and now they are doing just that.
Communities across North America are literally passing by Houston on their way to No Kill. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States. We should be on the cutting edge and ahead of the pack, but our shelters still function (and look) like we are living in the dark ages. After No Kill promises from Houston’s leader, why is this still happening? It can’t be that saving animals would cost too much money, because we now know that it costs more to kill animals than to save them. We know that many of the programs in the successful No Kill model of sheltering would actually save the city money, which could then be re-directed to other life saving programs like free spay/neuter for low income people.
In addition to BARC, we should not forget the three non-profit kill shelters that are operating in Houston as well i.e. Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society and Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP). These are businesses, located within Houston’s city limits, that are also killing tens of thousands of animals each year. (Houston’s five kill shelters have killed over 71,000 animals so far this year). And what is even more appalling is that they are allowed to keep the number of animals they kill hidden from the public. They can do it in secrecy. The reason is that there is currently no law in Houston that mandates a non-profit shelter to reveal the number of animals that they are saving or killing. Government funded “shelters”, like BARC and Harris County animal control, are required by law to produce their numbers when citizens ask, but the non-profits have a loophole and they use it. (I’ve asked each non-profit to voluntarily produce their intake/outcome records on two occasions, but they all refuse).
If you were the leader of a city that contained three “businesses” that were in the habit of killing tens of thousands of animals each year, with kill rates reported of 65%, 89% and 52% respectively, wouldn’t you be concerned? If you had made campaign promises of a No Kill city, wouldn’t you work on improving the save rates at these facilities as well? Wouldn’t you demand better? At the very least, wouldn’t you demand transparency from these businesses on behalf of your constituents?
This hasn’t happened.
Lest you think that no one asked Parker, what, if anything, she has done during her term to keep her No Kill campaign promises, No Kill Texas Advocates did ask her point blank “What have you done specifically to move Houston towards your stated goal of a No Kill community?”
To date, Parker has not responded.
This seems to be a pattern with Parker… citizens ask her direct questions about her No Kill promises and receive no response. But, the lack of response speaks volumes to me.
So why does Houston still have five kill shelters, within its city limits, that are still killing as many animals as they were 2 years ago?
The answer is simple. Mayor Parker did not keep her No Kill promises.
On November 8th, Houstonians will have the opportunity to decide whether they want to continue with the same failed promises in Houston or if they want to try a different candidate. They will do this with their votes.
No Kill Texas Advocates has sent Candidate Questionnaires to all candidates running for mayor and city council. The candidates responses, if provided, will be posted on the Houston page of No Kill Texas Advocates’ website and they will be rated.
Visit their site to find out which candidates are more likely to work to protect shelter pets in Houston. Tell your animal loving friends and family to do the same.
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