The Fido Solution

The ultimate answer to too many strays, cash-strapped budgets, animal shelter abuses and starving people

If, as Einstein once said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then there was a whole lot of craziness going on recently in a nondescript conference room near Reliant Stadium.

The craziness wasn't exemplified by the slightly manic edge of nervous energy that always seems evident in people who really love pets and are stuck in a conference room without them, although that crackle was present. Instead, the insanity came with the droning monotone of committee reports being read and "action recommendations" being solemnly announced.

Why was this insane? Because the subject of the meeting was the City of Houston's animal pound. And suggestions were being made for improving the department and the facility. And people were actually believing something good will result.

Bring out the dead at the city pound.
Mark Dean
Bring out the dead at the city pound.
BARC workers show a stray who's boss.
Mark Dean
BARC workers show a stray who's boss.

"I think this is absolutely wonderful -- it's a great start and I can tell you all are very sincere and I know this is going to be implemented," says Kappy Muenzer of Citizens for Animal Protection.

To which Einstein might reply: Dream on, Kappy. Efforts to improve the Houston pound have been put forth for decades. Nothing happens.

Two years ago, the Houston Press took a look at the dismal conditions and incompetence at BARC, the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care. (See "In the Doghouse," by Wendy Grossman, November 7, 2002.) Officials pounded their chests and promised corrections would be made. Two years later, it seems none have.

"It's gotten to the point where it's very obvious that they're not going to do anything," says Kelly Cripe, who's headed an effort to reform BARC. "There are clear indications [the city] is not serious about solving problems at BARC."

Cripe and other critics who volunteer at the facility have detailed the misuse and even abuse of animals in the past few months, providing stories that could have been told five years ago, ten years ago, even 15.

It's not just Houston -- news stations across the country regularly air tearjerkers showing dirty facilities filled with sad-eyed, hungry, impounded hounds scratching fleas. It's a sweeps-month staple.

But Houston holds a special place -- more than 90 percent of the animals taken to the pound don't come out alive. A few subcommittee reports aren't going to change that. A new facility, scheduled to open in a few weeks, won't change that (especially when BARC head John Nix admits the construction project "has been kind of a Keystone Kops movie almost"). More spaying and neutering won't change much either.

So let's end the pretense. Let's just kill the damn dogs. Oh, and the cats, too.

We're not talking about offing your beloved Fluffy or Rover. Christ knows it would be terrible to kill the family pets. So keep on being part of the group of Americans spending more than $34 billion a year on pet food, care and supplies -- including more than $2 billion annually on grooming and boarding.

Continue buying the expensive name-brand products from companies tapping into this lucrative market. If you think your dog deserves Paul Mitchell hair care supplies, Omaha Steak Co. meat or Old Navy clothing, don't let your conscience bother you for a second.

If you want to imagine that your cat actually cares for you beyond your can-opening ability, go right ahead. If you enjoy cleaning up feces from an animal who enjoys drinking toilet water, that's your privilege.

But facts need to be faced -- There Are Too Many Damn Dogs. Oh, And Cats, Too.

If you have 28 dogs penned in a small yard, you're not doing those "pets" any favors. If you have enough cats that you've ever -- even momentarily -- wondered whether you have too many, then you have too many.

The world, and specifically Houston, needs to thin the herd.

Now there are a couple ways you can go about it. You could make it a fun thing: Declare open season on unleashed little yapper dogs and enjoy some father/son bonding as you roam the remaining ungentrified streets of the Heights, hoping some hanger-on grandma has mistakenly let Puddles out.

But that's only going to work with the yapper dogs. Ain't no hunter gonna pull a trigger on one of them bigger dawgs -- they'd tear up like they's watching Bambi.

So you could do it the City of Houston way -- spend a lot of time, effort and taxpayer money pretending you actually give a rip about these animals before you put them down.

No one knows for sure how many dogs and cats are euthanized in Houston each year -- activists accuse officials of fudging the numbers greatly, but it's thought to be about 60,000. The killing gets done at five facilities: those operated by the city, the county, the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Houston Humane Society and the Citizens for Animal Protection.

Public and private agencies can come up with a myriad of sub-categories to make it seem like they kill fewer pets than they do. Some don't include aged pets brought in by owners specifically to be put down; some don't include pets that come from other facilities.

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