Annise Parker Running From Her Promise To Increase Spay-Neuter Programs, Critics Say (UPDATED)

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(Updated with a statement from BARC on the jump).Three Houston animal rescue groups are accusing Mayor Annise Parker of going against a plan to tackle animal overpopulation she came up with in 2007, when she was still the city's controller.

Calling themselves Unity for a Solution, the groups -- Corridor Rescue, Forgotten Dogs of the 5th Ward Project, and Barrio Dogs-- issued a press release citing a 2007 press release in which she stated that spaying or neutering animals "could save taxpayers much of the $15 million in taxes and private donations spent each year to operate the five major local shelters," and that spay-neuter "is not only kinder than destroying them, it's much less expensive the long run."

The group says the city needs to devise a plan to focus on free or low-cost spay-neuter.

But Unity for a Solution says that "under Parker's administration, the city of Houston has attempted to control overpopulation by focusing on adoptions and euthanasia, a strategy that has failed to reduce the numbers of homeless and unwanted animals throughout the city."

The group claims that "the city maintains an unacceptably high euthanasia rate at [the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care], where between January and September 2012, 10,371 dogs and cats were euthanized."

Parker's communications director, Janice Evans, told us in an e-mail that "This group's news release ignores clear improvements at BARC. Our live release rates are up, we have expanded staff outreach, the quantity and quality of adoption events held at off-site locations has been improved and expanded, and BARC had the second highest number of live releases in the recent ASPCA Rachel Ray Challenge. No animal leaves BARC without being spayed or neutered. Adoptions, spay and neuter, and education need to all be part of the city's goals for reducing the number of stray animals on our streets. We always welcome additional help in achieving this."

We've also since heard from BARC Spokesman Chris Newport, who told us in an e-mail:

BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions works closely with over 130 rescue organizations, Spay neuter Assistance Program (SNAP), Barrio Dogs, Corridor Rescue, Red Collar Rescue, Lucky Dog Rescue, Friends of BARC and many others to place stray animals into rescue care, foster care, and adoptive homes. With the current resources at BARC, we perform an average of 550 spay/neuter surgeries per month, and additionally outsource some surgeries to SNAP, and fund the SNAP mobile spay/neuter clinic to provide these valuable surgeries for free to citizens wit hcertified assistance. Agreeably, there is more that can be done. To that end, BARC has entered into discussions with Emancipet of Austin, TX to discuss expansion into Houston

Specifically, BARC held meetings and discussions with Barrio Dogs regarding their FixIt East End spay/neuter project and brought them together with SNAP to coordinate regularly scheduled mobile clinic visits to community centers and parks in the East End area. Barrio Dogs was looking to provide free spay/neuter to any members of that community, not limited to only those with certified assistance. SNAP's grant for their mobile clinic restricts them to qualified certified assistance, or the mobile clinic can be funded at $2,500 per visit. Further, BARC put Barrio Dogs in touch with Amy Mills of Emancipet to discuss strategy and tactics for increasing spay/neuter.

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