Monday, December 21, 2009

BARC & $11 Million (with a sprinkling of political grandstanding)

So the Houston Bureau of Animal Regulation and Control Care is on the cusp of construction for a new, $11 Million dollar pet adoption facility. Mike Snyder provided the details and, on the political blog, offered up this little tid-bit from Houston's Senate-Candidate outgoing Mayor:
I would encourage those to whom I've passed the baton to use words that I've used in many other contexts, whether it be with our parks, our libraries, our historical preservations, our building of our arts and cultural institutions. Talk is cheap and advocates come a dime a dozen. Ooh, did I just say that? I did. And there's a role for advocacy. But real advocates are those who are willing to donate both their treasure and their time to accomplishing the goal that they seek. They're not so into taking credit as they are taking individual responsibility for making sure change takes place.
Ignoring for a moment the irony of a politician using a public event, designed to get him some positive press coverage as he continues with his campaign, to question the motives of advocates and volunteers who have been complaining about BARC, I think it's important to look at whether or not this is $11 Million dollars that has to be spent in the first place....

1. Should BARC be in the adoption business to begin with? My gut answer is "no". To understand why we need to look at BARC's core mission. In its original iteration BARC was designed to contain and prevent the spread of disease that could be transferred from stray animals to humans. Running a "no-kill" shelter and tackling the considerable expense and time of adopting out animals is something the agency is not equipped to do. Are we setting BARC up for failure to score a few political points with voters?

2. Can the business of pet adoption be successfully farmed out? Yes, it can. Without much difficulty at that. Were I King of BARC (pay attention new BARC director) the first thing I would do is work on fast-tracking local charity organizations that handle pet adoptions. The second thing I'd do is to ensure that spay/neutering became a priority, and the third thing I would do is consider spay/neuter & release policies for feral cats. Why spend $11 Million for BARC to handle what other organizations are currently doing better? The "key" here is to reduce the kill rate at the shelter. What better way to accomplish this than to use existing resources to handle pet adoptions, and apply the majority of BARC money to veterinary services?

I guess, according to Senate-candidate Mayor White this is just another example of "false advocacy". Fair enough, for your sake I won't re-hash my pet rescue bonafides. This isn't about me however, it's about an animal control system that's rapidly running off the rails.

In Houston there's always a lot of talk about being world-class. It's almost to the point of comedy. I'm sure that, at some point, someone at BARC is going to suggest that this adoption center is world-class and other such nonsense. As an alternative, might I humbly suggest trying something that is truly world-class instead of reeking of world-classiness....

Why not set up a first-of-its-kind partnership between BARC and local animal rescue/pet adoption services? Yes, I know this is done in other cities, but what BARC could do is aggressively court these charity groups at a level we haven't seen before. It could be a working partnership between charity and gov't. What we're being offered is a top-down authoritarian bureaucracy which is doomed to, eventually, collapse under its own weight.

1 comment:

  1. I have been in rescue here for 23 years and this post makes a lot of sense.
    What Bill White is proposing, as he departs, is a joke.
    The first thing the city needs to do is get down on its knees and beg Gil Costas to return and promise to treat him as the incredible animal person that he is.
    Janet Huey


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