Pet Regulator Adopts Enlightened Agenda
Houston’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care has long been known as the enforcer of city ordinances. BARC is the local agency that enforces laws that require annual rabies vaccinations, dog licenses and the confinement of pets to yards or leashes. The organization is also the investigator of animal bites and the encourager of spaying/neutering to control the unwanted animal population. For all this, however, BARC is probably best known as the operator of “the pound.”
But things are changing. Recently, BARC has adopted a loftier vision emphasizing care over regulation. The organization is now aspiring to make Houston “a premier city for companion animals and the people who care for them, so that all residents are free from the dangers and nuisances of irresponsible pet ownership and…every pet born is assured of a good home and good care all of its natural life.”
Houston Euthanizes 15,000 a Year
One aspect of the group’s new mission is to make Houston a “no-kill” city, meaning that the city agency will no longer serve as a convenient tool for Houstonians who wish to dispose of unwanted pets.
BARC currently euthanizes animals at the rate of 15,000 a year, which equates to almost two animals every hour. The group estimates that 5,000 or more of these animals could be adopted every year, if the organization was as aggressive an advertiser as the Humane Society or Houston SPCA.
Jim Burwell, founder of Petiquette, serves as a committee member and spokesman for the group’s new initiative.
Stepping Up Education and Advertising
“BARC is in the mist of a cycle that needs to be interrupted,” says Jim. “Our city is experiencing an explosion in its pet population — Houston now has about a million dogs and cats — and a corresponding increase in irresponsible pet ownership. You can see it in the rising numbers of service requests BARC receives. The number is up to about 32,000 a year.
“About 23,000 pets are placed in the BARC shelter,” he adds, “and only 3,100 of these get returned to their owners or adopted by new owners. We are killing all the others, and this is unacceptable.”
BARC is responding to the situation by opening a new adoption facility, implementing a variety of new procedures, such as mandatory sterilization and “micro-chipping” of animals prior to adoption, and hope to launch new marketing and educational programs. Funding is the issue.
Short on Funds, But Long on Optimism
“We are moving forward in the belief that the funding is out there,” says Burwell “We have an important message to deliver to all Houstonians: Love and respect pet animals. We just need to get the message out.”
Houstonians wishing to support the BARC no-kill and educational initiatives, either by donating time or money, are asked to contact friendsofbarc.org.