Some awesome news coming out of the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care today: The City has secured $3.3 million to vastly improve the dilapidated buildings that process more than 20,000 animals each year. But that's not all -- BARC's also planning the construction of a new facility, complete with an adoption program, vet clinic, and a dog park.
According to a press release issued today, a new "modular facility for cats will be in place within 30 days," and renovations to the nearly 20-year-old north building -- to include 200 new cages -- will kick off June 2010. The north building will also see a renovated and enlarged surgery area, which will accommodate up to 50 spay/neuter procedures a day. The grounds will also be getting a new parking lot.
Preliminary plans for the new facility, to be named the Ann Young Animal Center (after its benefactor), call for a 30,000 square-foot building and dog park on 5.5 acres in Gragg Park (2999 South Wayside at Wheeler).
Elena Marks, director of health and environmental policy for the Mayor's Office, stated in the release, "We are committed to progress at BARC, and these plans, coupled with changes we are making in how the facility operates, will help make a positive difference."
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We assume this will be welcome news to most people who've been interested in BARC's woes, but some folks Hair Balls spoke with today were skeptical, or perhaps cautiously optimistic.
No Kill Houston President Bett Sundemeyer, an outspoken BARC critic, said the improvements were much needed. But she told us in an e-mail that offsite adoption locations should remain a priority -- they're "critical to substantially lowering BARC's kill rate, especially for cats." (We must point out that, according to BARC's latest numbers, adoptions were way up in August).
Volunteer Margaret Gondo, another vocal critic, explained in an e-mail that, "Historically speaking, BARC has always had big plans on paper. The problem has always been making these plans reality. The second floor of the north kennel, for example, was supposed to be built out to be a low-cost spay/neuter area -- that didn't happen. I'll be happy if the City's General Services Department can finally get the hot water working in all of BARC's buildings."
We reached out to other volunteers, but some declined to comment, and we haven't heard back from others yet. We must say, though, that this is an extremely encouraging bit of news -- a bit of news that happened extremely quickly once BARC was removed from Health & Human Services. Sorta makes us wonder why this didn't happen years ago.