Dog ID #A1296681 at BARC, as pictured on PetHarbor.
This week, the Houston Press took an in-depth look at the issue of transporting dogs from the city’s BARC shelter to CO. A well funded group called Rescued Pets Movement (RPM) pulled more than 4300 dogs from the Houston city pound in 2013 and shipped them to rescues in CO. What happened to the dogs later is unknown:
No one can say with certainty what will happen to all of this shipment’s animals, nor can every other animal transferred to the groups be accounted for.
It’s no matter, though, because neither Mayor Annise Parker nor BARC Director Greg Damianoff appears to be concerned where the animals wind up, as long as they’re not Houston’s problem anymore.
Feel notfree to ask questions:
The Press learned quickly that asking questions about Houston dumping thousands of animals on another state is a bit of a sore spot. Neither Parker nor Damianoff would talk to us for this story, and BARC delayed the release of public records for 14 days. We had asked for the names of groups RPM partners with — information we believe the public has the right to see, since the public is footing part of the bill.
If you in any way question RPM’s practices, you are branded a dog-killer.
When the Houston Press contacted one of the receiving rescues to ask for numbers on the dogs imported from Houston, they got the runaround:
[Becca] Orin said she didn’t have exact numbers at the ready for how many RPM dogs Farfel’s [Farm Rescue] received and adopted out in 2013, but that she could probably get them. But, she said, “I’ll have to talk to RPM and see what they want us to say.”
But RPM and BARC are quick to cite numbers regarding the dogs Houston has sent out of state while shining up their PARTICIPANT trophies:
On a recent Facebook post, RPM congratulated BARC — and technically itself — on a January 2015 live release rate of 80.6 percent.
The numbers are impressive. Hundreds of dogs have been saved from death row. Hundreds more will need saving next month. And RPM will transport those to Colorado. Hundreds more will need saving the month after, and the month after that.
RPM will continue to congratulate BARC on those fabulous percentages. And percentages are math — you just can’t argue with them. On paper, those percentages are damned impressive.
On paper, those percentages don’t point out the obvious: Those dogs and cats are going to Colorado because no city in Colorado is suffering animal overpopulation like Houston is. Those cities, like the cities that Rescue Waggin’ partners with, tackled those problems years ago. And they did not tackle them by sending thousands of animals to Texas or anywhere else.
While it’s true that Colorado is not killing as many shelter pets as Texas, Colorado does still kill animals. And many of them might have been saved had resources not been directed toward animals imported from other states.
If we take a look at the 2013 statistics (the most recent year available at this time) for all of Colorado’s registered shelters and rescues, we see the state started out the year with roughly 5000 dogs already in the system. Over the course of the year, shelters and rescues took in roughly 79,000 additional dogs and imported more than 17,000 dogs from out of state. Of the total reported dogs in the system, about 2000 were listed as DOA leaving roughly 82,000 dogs as potentially savable, excluding those imported from out of state. We know that not every dog is savable but there are a number of open admission shelters in the United States saving 99% of their dogs. In comparison, approximately 9% of the dogs in the CO system were killed or died in shelter care in 2013, excluding the imports. Instead of saving 99%, CO only saved 91% of its own dogs (and that’s including roughly 4000 dogs listed as “missing, stolen, etc.”), and then imported 17,000 more from other states.
I asked Davyd Smith of No Kill Colorado how both the importation of dogs and breed specific legislation (BSL), the discriminatory practice of banning dogs based on body shape, contributes to the needless killing of dogs in the state:
Colorado imported 17,000 dogs from out of state in 2013 and killed 7,000. Now even assuming that half of these dogs were truly euthanized, that means we passed an opportunity to save 3,500 because we imported too many dogs from other states.
BSL is still a problem in Colorado. Because of BSL there are many communities, including the single metro area of Denver, where Pit Bull types are not legal. 4,800 of the 7,000 dogs killed were Pit Bull type dogs. Clearly, they are not being assessed for temperament or health to land on the kill floor.
By shipping dogs to CO, Houston will not solve its shelter killing problems, which stem not from pet overpopulation (which has been debunked), but from a failure to fully implement the proven model used by successful open admission no kill shelters all over the country. And Colorado will presumably continue to kill its own dogs who are being displaced by dogs imported from out of state.
Colorado is in a position to help shelter pets in its neighboring states but has no right to take the lives of healthy/treatable dogs already in its shelter system while importing more. Colorado needs to get its house in order by saving every shelter animal who can be saved statewide, regardless of body shape. This might mean reducing the number of imported dogs in order to redirect resources toward those already in CO shelters, waiting for help. And it most certainly means directing resources toward the elimination of breed bans. Likewise, Houston could redirect the vast resources being spent on transport toward implementing the programs of the No Kill Equation in order to save its own shelter pets.
An unwavering commitment to saving the lives of every healthy/treatable animal in the shelter is the foundation of no kill. Start there.
(Thank you Clarice and Davyd for the links.)