Solving the animal overpopulation crisis
for the benefit of the health, safety, and
quality of life of Houstonians
and homeless animals.
about Big Fix Houston,
the Unity program
to address Houston's animal overpopulation crisis
Animal Welfare Fact Sheet
Houston has an animal welfare crisis. Homeless and unwanted dogs and cats wander the streets and live in parks and along the bayous, especially in low income areas. Inevitably, dog attacks have occurred, one of which was fatal.1 Worsening the problem are the seemingly increasing number of cases involving animal cruelty, mistreatment and neglect. Houston’s animal welfare groups regularly encounter abused or neglected animals2 and the Houston SPCA reports over 9,000 animal cruelty cases in 2014 alone.3 Not only are our animal welfare issues a concern for animal lovers, they are a public health, public safety and public relations problem for Houston and its residents.
1) In addition to anecdotal information, there is data.
2) Funding for Animal Welfare
a) BARC budget 8
i) FY 2014, $8,922,478, per capita $4.16.
ii) FY 2015, $12,212,355, per capita $5.69. The increase funded the hiring of more animal control officers and purchase of vehicles. However, even with this increase, Houston provides less funding to animal welfare than any other metropolitan area in Texas, as compared below.
b) Per capita budgets of other Texas cities (FY 2014)9
i) Austin, $9.98
ii) San Antonio, $8.03
iii) Ft. Worth, $6.60
iv) El Paso, $6.08
v) Dallas, $5.85
3) The Rescued Pet Movement (RPM) began working with the city in 2014 to transport dogs from BARC to out-of-state shelters and in the process, increase BARC’s live animal release rate. RPM’s strategy has made a short term difference and is touted as a viable option for improving BARC’s numbers. However, while shipping animals out-of-state does save some lives, many more animals are left behind on the streets or in Houston’s shelters.
4) One Potential Solution: Additional Spay and Neuter
a) Caveat: while stray cats may be fixed and re-released, city ordinance prohibits picking up homeless dogs for sterilization surgery and re-releasing them afterwards.
b) Emancipet opened in May 2015 and offers low cost, high volume spay neuter and animal wellness services at Ripley House, 4410 Navigation. Emancipet emphasizes community outreach, an approach that can potentially reach larger numbers of pet owners. They hope to expand to other locations in 2016.
c) Healthy Pets, Healthy Streets: beginning in 2014, this BARC initiative offers free spay, neuter, vaccines and microchipping at monthly events around the city. Residents must present proof of residency to participate.
d) Other options:
i) Fixin’ Houston Spay/Neuter Clinic @ BARC: city-operated clinic that opened in 2015 to offer low cost surgeries and wellness services.
ii) Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP): offers relatively low-cost services at its clinics and at a mobile clinic.
iii) The Humane Society of Houston.
iv) Private vet clinics throughout Houston and Harris County.
e) Importantly, even if affordable, many the above-listed options are not accessible to residents living in the low income areas where animal overpopulation is the worst and where transportation to and from the vet is not always available.
5) Another Potential Solution: Education and Enforcement
a) Most Houston residents are unaware of city leash laws, tethering laws, and laws regulating the breeding and sale of domestic animals. Additionally, enforcing these laws is a low priority for BARC officers who must focus on animal control, not code enforcement.
b) Educating residents about existing laws, spay-neuter options and proper pet care is a low cost but potentially effective way to begin to address the problem.
c) There are presently no widespread educational efforts on these issues. However, the city of Houston is in a good position to leverage existing resources and work with community partners to provide this type of education, especially to children.
Without additional action being taken by our city government, Houston’s animal welfare crisis will continue, and in all likelihood, worsen. That is why it is important for future city leaders to be aware of the issue and to be familiar with its basic facts and data. To learn more, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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