Mayor Annise Parker joined other officials in unveiling designs for a planned $12 million adoption center for the historically troubled Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care Tuesday.
Scheduled to break ground in October, the initial phase of the center will be funded by $4.1 million in capital improvement project money and will comprise free-roaming cat "display windows," and three separate units that can hold 128 dogs. One of the units is a dedicated nursery that can hold 64 mother dogs with their puppies. It will also include a courtyard -- part of a planned quadrangle for an exercise area and space for potential owners to get acquainted with the dogs. The center will be located adjacent to the existing facility, on 2.2 acres the city acquired for a cool $72,500 at a tax sale.
Parker announced the plans at the current BARC building, a Thunderdome-like structure with a long history of abject suckage -- something the Mayor alluded to by saying that "It was designed to take animals off the street and hold them until they could be euthanized. It was never really designed as a place for people to adopt animals, a place for the public to come and be comfortable. The new adoption center is designed to be exactly that -- a welcoming place for people who want a permanent companion adopted through BARC."
But one of the biggest obstacles to proper care of homeless animals is a local culture that doesn't place a "priority" on spaying and neutering their pets, she said.
"The reason that we have the challenges that we do in this facility is irresponsible pet owners. End of sentence," Parker said.
The city is seeking private funding for the $8 million needed for four subsequent phases, to include: additional dog and cat adoption areas, administrative/volunteer training space, and low-cost spay/neuter clinics.
The center will be designed with the animals' quality of life in mind, with guillotine doors (no, not that kind of guillotine) to let the dogs come and go into the courtyard; it will also have fans and skylights.
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Pointing out some of these snazzy details was BARC's operations manager Greg Damianoff, who has also assumed the daily operations role previously held by David Atencio, who quietly left BARC earlier this year for reasons unknown. (In a memo to Parker and City Council, the head of the department that oversees BARC, Alfred Moran, stated that Atencio "elected to pursue other opportunities outside the city of Houston.")
We must say, this is pretty dang huge, and we give props to Parker's administration, as well as the architects and designers involved, which include a design firm, PBK, that's working as a pro-bono consultant. Trees for Houston and Lauren Griffith Associates will donate trees and landscape architecture services. (We hear dogs like trees). Jackson & Ryan Architects is the architect of record, and Balfour Beatty is the construction manager at-risk.