BARC Sucks

The city's animal shelter just can't get its act together

Of course, he had some help. Tompkins County is home to Cornell University, which runs one of the best vet schools in the country. One of Cornell's alums is David Duffield, founder of Maddie's Fund, one of the largest philanthropical foundations in the country devoted to animal care. A lot of Duffield money flowed into the Tompkins County SPCA. (Also, the Tompkins County SPCA takes in around 3,000 animals a year, about one-seventh the volume of BARC.)

Winograd told the Press he left Tompkins County in order to move his family back to California to be close to his wife's dying father. Four years after his departure, the Tompkins County SPCA is struggling with what many other shelters are facing in this economic crisis — a spike in animals. This is coupled with the fact that, for years, the shelter had been dipping into reserves and using donations to help subsidize its animal control contracts with surrounding municipalities. Until the current director, Abigail Smith, came along, no shelter director wanted to address the fact that the shelter's municipal animal-control contracts were not covering costs: In 2002, for example, the average national cost for animal control was $4-$6 per capita. But Tompkins County residents were paying $1.76. That meant the shelter had to subsidize the difference with money in its reserves, and from donations. A 2007 article in the Ithaca Journal quoted Smith as saying, "We've depleted million-dollar reserves over the last ten years."

Because he's not a director, Winograd never has to wrestle with bureaucracy, or shifting economic cycles, or state mandates. He can make suggestions based on extremely limited experience and then simply blame any subsequent failings on poor management. Sweet work if you can get it.
_____________________

Although exact numbers are hard to pin down...
Photos by Daniel Kramer
Although exact numbers are hard to pin down...
...BARC receives more than 20,000 animals a year.
Photos by Daniel Kramer
...BARC receives more than 20,000 animals a year.

"Mr. Robertson, it is extremely unpleasant to have to expose a colleague," Gil Costas wrote then-BARC Director Kent Robertson in his complaint of Rundell's euthanization of Albert.

"However, not reporting these facts would constitute an act of complicity on my part. I have an ethical obligation to inform you. More often than not, employees at BARC tend to not want to be involved. There have been examples in the past where the messenger ends up suffering the consequences. What I am reporting is based on real facts. There is no room for 'spinning' or 'excusing' this type of behavior. There is no room for interpretation. Unnecessarily and willfully prolonging the suffering of a patient constitutes an act of 'cruelty.'"

Reading Costas's complaint, it becomes easier to understand why Robertson wanted to return to Dallas, and easier to understand why Robertson didn't want to talk to the Press. Houston's animal shelter isn't his problem anymore.

In fact, BARC doesn't seem to be anyone's problem, except for the animals who live the last weeks, days and hours of their lives there. Right now, the best thing is to imagine that it's an anomaly that a sick dog at BARC might have to wait for hours on a cold concrete floor before it can be put out of its misery. Right now, the best we can do is hope for change. It's kind of like hoping your truck's air-conditioning unit is working and that the dogs in your car aren't slowly suffocating. You know it should work. You know the people in charge should have these things checked.

So in the meantime, the only thing you can do — the only thing Houstonians can do — is eat your lunch and hope that by the time you wipe the crumbs from your mouth, the dogs are still alive in order that they can be killed.

craig.malisow@houstonpress.com

SYSTEM FAILURE
Taking BARC to task

November 2005 was a tough time for BARC. Not only did the Mayor's Task Force on Animal Control issue a critical assessment of BARC's failures, City Controller Annise Parker released the results of a performance audit of the facility. (The entire audit can be found on the Office of the Controller's Web site, www.houstontx.gov/controller/.)

Findings included the following:

• Widespread employee dissatisfaction with compensation and lack of training

• A computer network that allowed any employee who logged in to have access to "all information in the database, including cash and accounting information"; furthermore, "all case activities can be updated by any employee without restriction and there are no tracking records of access, except for the first and last entries."

• A nine-month backlog of pending low-priority dispatch calls — low priority including "animals in traps; injured or sick animals."

• "Continuing education is not offered to ACO's (animal control officers) to maintain certification status."

• "New ACO's are trained by inexperienced officers."

• "Some ACO's have not received training to use tranquilizer guns."

• "Favoritism is practiced among staff and supervisors."

Parker told the Houston Press that while the city has made some improvements to BARC, it has historically been a low budget priority. During her stint on City Council, she said, "We didn't really do anything to change how we look at animal control in the city of Houston, and really didn't invest in top-quality personnel."

Parker was a proponent of bringing "no-kill" expert Nathan Winograd in for an assessment of the facility.

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My Voice Nation Help
4 comments
ihandwtrucking
ihandwtrucking

this man needs to lose his license to practice vet medicine ANYWHERE. LEAVING A DIEING DOG LAY ON THE FLOOR FOR SEVERAL HOURS, HAVING SEIZURES,REALLY.  he is a pig. i could tell you what to do with that cigar he was having.  on matters of BARCS, we have BARCS here, and i  find them to be abit  off base. to many :bad" dogs have left there. and i know of 1 case where a girl thought maybe a found dog was her's and when she tried to get an answer to a question, she was told  she had to fill out an adoption form.  that is not right.  she was out of state. everything matched perfectly and according to their post, it was last call for the dog. i believe they treated her badly.  in all fairness, they did finally get in touch thru email and answer her. they claimed it was not her dog, but how do we really know that was the truth. they will get more money by adopting that dog out then returning it to the owner. sad thing is our major league ball teams here)orioles and ravens  are  supporting these people) i have heard.  they need to support the shelters in the communities instead that REALLY need help and are struggling and  barely making it thru.


JaneSmith
JaneSmith

Stop stealing other people's puppies off their own property.

Yo-Yo
Yo-Yo

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?

ihandwtrucking
ihandwtrucking

@Yo-Yo   they dont return calls or emails unless pushed. this is nothing new. sorry about your dog. i at least hope it went to a loving home.

 
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