By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
The report also addressed measures that needed to be taken to increase public awareness of the need to spay and neuter pets, how to better team up with rescue groups, and increase other public outreach programs. Those were the components Mayor Bill White addressed in his response to the report — and here's one reason why, per his response: "The report should be shared with the animal welfare community, because the solutions recommended by the task force reach well beyond the scope of the city's resources, and will require support from all sectors."
There you have it: It was simply "beyond the scope of the city's resources" to fire any idiot who can't tell a German shepherd from a Chihuahua; it's "beyond the scope of the city's resources" to make sure shelter employees know how to operate the software that tracks the animals they tend to; and it was completely "beyond the scope of the city's resources" to allow the strongest volunteer base to actually set foot inside the shelter.
According to those in the "animal welfare community" who spoke to the Houston Press for the story, here's what BARC has done since the publishing of the report: Exactly nothing.
Two members of the "animal welfare community" who actually served on the task force told the Press they believed the mayor dreamed up the special committee solely as a way to momentarily pacify his biggest critics. But any parent knows they can only keep a toddler occupied with a shiny object for so long. Pretty soon, the "animal welfare community" got all hot and bothered when they saw that the task force was only lip service. (However, the committee report wasn't the only BARC review issued in November 2005. That same month, City Controller Annise Parker released the results of a performance audit she had requested on the shelter. See "System Failure" for a summary of the results.)
Four months after the report, a BARC vet tech named Michelle Haberland sent letters to White, City Council members and Stephen Williams, head of the Health and Human Services Department, pointing out additional concerns.
She never heard back, which is not surprising: She wasn't sticking to the rules. And the rules were: The mayor already went through the pageantry of a task force. That task force pointed out the problems. It turns out the problems were "beyond the scope of the city's resources." Now shut up.
But unlike the mayor, Haberland had actually set foot inside the Great Dome. Actually, she did it on a daily basis for quite a while, and she couldn't shut up about what she saw: Smaller animals were able to crawl into kennel drains. Once there, they'd either die, thus blocking the sewage system, or they'd get caked in shit and get sick. Sometimes, they'd wash clear away into one of the other kennels. "I witnessed two of these incidents, and I immediately reported them to my superior," Haberland wrote in her 2006 letter.
Haberland also suggested there might be a better way to clean the cages other than when the animals were still inside. The animals were being sprayed with a combination of cold water and chlorinated disinfectant. This gave some of the animals skin problems, and it also meant anyone who adopted an animal might be exposed to the chemical as well.
She also brought up the radical notion of making sure cage doors actually closed. Unsecured cages allowed for escaping animals, which might not be a huge deal, but, you see, the facility's doors were sometimes left open because, you see, even though BARC has such a beguiling dome that is the envy of the free world, the ventilation is horrible.
"I bring these matters up in the spirit of cooperation, and with an offer of volunteer citizen assistance to work towards remedy and change," Haberland wrote.
In speaking with the Press two years later, Haberland is more blunt.
"I've met with Stephen Williams on numerous occasions, and he could give a rat's ass about BARC," she said. "He could care less. It is a thorn in his side, and that's it. And he'll dance and perform a dog-and-pony show until people shut up, and then he'll go on his merry way and do whatever he wants."
And it of course doesn't stop there, she said.
"We have a city council and a mayor that does not care about BARC," she said, citing one time Bill White got up and walked out of the meeting while she addressed the council in 2006. "The day that I spoke, Michael Berry was on City Council at that time, he stayed on his BlackBerry and his cell phone the entire time that myself and one other person spoke about BARC. White left — he was gone. Three or four of the city council people weren't even present to begin with, and the rest of them chatted among themselves while we spoke. So nothing will ever get changed under those conditions."
Of course, Haberland didn't last too long at BARC. She soon found out what former volunteers told the Press: When you ask for change, you're asked to leave.
BARC stole my puppy, I called numerous times and left several messages to which none of my calls were returned, the Owner/Manager told me I had to pay $500.00 -which I did not--my puppy was stolen off my property and BARC left a note stating that the dog was taken from its home address, and then I found out re-sold my puppy to some one earlier today.
Has this happened to anyone else before?
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