BARC Comes Up With Some Answers, Of A Sort

We've got updates on last week's BARC stories; the delays of which could have easily been avoided by proactive public relations, which is apparently anathema to the animal control department of the nation's fourth-largest city.

Last week's photo of exposed canine cadavers in the back of a city truck raised a few eyebrows. The photo was taken in February, and Hair Balls wanted to know if this was standard operating procedure, and if there were any health implications. (The problem surfaced again a few weeks ago, when an alarmed volunteer blocked another truck full of exposed cadavers from leaving BARC's lot). We e-mailed BARC spokeswoman Kathy Barton, who had to wait a few days to get an answer for two identical incidents that happened four weeks ago, and two weeks ago. Smoooooove.

Here's what BARC's new director, Ray Sim e-mailed her:

Due to meetings and being out of the office for an extended period yesterday, I have gotten severely behind on my email and responding to issues of concern.

I was made aware of the dead dogs hanging out of the COH dump truck leaving BARC facility the day following the incident.

Items that emerged from investigating this incident:
-Some animals may not have been properly bagged following euthanasia,
-The bags that are being utilized are not of consistent thickness. I have instructed that we purchase only bags of 3 mil thickness or greater,
-The loaded dump truck was not properly inspected by either BARC staff or the Driver prior to leaving the dock.

The volunteer that blocked the vehicle from leaving the facility was actually very helpful in drawing this to the attention of BARC staff (Earl Travis and LaJeane Thompson) so that action could be taken before the truck was actually on the public roads and freeway.

As for last week's story about a dog that seemed to have been confined for an unusually long time in a BARC trap: Barton informed us that animals caught in BARC live traps are a "priority three," meaning animal control officers try to collect the animals within 24 hours. However, she did explain in an e-mail that "They are moving trapped animals up to a priority 2 [within two hours] for the summer."

Late as they are, these answers are appreciated. However, BARC's problems are myriad. Fortunately, there are many animal welfare activists in Houston who are willing to take the time to try to change things, the newest of which is probably 23-year-old Ginger Rogers, who has just created Animals Are People, The group is holding its first meeting June 25; see the website for more information.

Rogers is hoping to plan an organized protest, based on the facility's continual problems. She says her first experience BARC raised a red flag; when she was looking at dogs to adopt, she says, a BARC employee actually tried to dissuade her from adopting a dog and instead tried to sell her an allegedly purebred boxer via one of his cousins. (Remember, per Bill White: BARC's problems are a "community" problem, and are in no way caused or exacerbated by poor employee screening).

"There's tax dollars going to Metro Rail, there's tax dollars going here, there's tax dollars going there," Rogers tells Hair Balls. "The tax dollars are there....I feel like there are resources, it's just that the resources are going elsewhere....I feel like the animals should be a priority."

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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow