More (Somewhat Meandering, But Nevertheless Entertaining) Tales Of BARC Incompetence

We're pretty sure the dude who coined that phrase about a hard task being akin to "nailing jelly to a wall" wasn't referring to getting news out of BARC, but he could've been.

For one thing, Health and Human Services did not tell the media when BARC hired its new chief, Ray Sim. Of course, this information had been known by local animal activists for weeks. And of course, Sim's hiring actually doesn't matter yet, as BARC has had problems with or without a chief. For example, we don't know if Sim would've approved of the hiring of vet John Bernal, who cannot under state law administer controlled substances, which is sorta one thing you might want in a vet working at a big-city animal care facility. See, a much-respected vet named Gil Costas got canned for that exact same reason. But then again, Costas was not a popular dude at BARC, because he ruffled feathers.

And speaking of ruffling feathers, we're not sure if hiring Sim would've prevented the deaths of 12 fighting birds stuffed into a single cage. And we're not sure if having Sim aboard would've prevented BARC from not assigning a weekend veterinarian last month.

But in addition to keeping mum on Sim's hire, Health and Human Services also wasn't forthcoming with the make-up of its new "Incident Command Team," which is managed by Judy Harris. She was brought in to replace Barbara Sudhoff-McGill, who was brought in to replace Kent Robertson, who was poached from Dallas and subsequently went back to Dallas.

Hair Balls was finally told that the Navy SEALS-sounding Incident Command Team's job is to identify BARC's problems and come up with solutions.

Apparently, BARC's problems have been a secret to the people on the ICT. Although, maybe the ICT could've taken a gander at the 2005 audit on BARC conducted by City Controller Annise Parker, or the Mayor's Task Force report on BARC issued that same year. Or maybe they could have used that fancy "Google" thing everyone keeps talking about.

The latest head-scratcher Hair Balls was made aware of involves an ICT member named Jamie Moody, who hasn't returned our messages. (We were just able to confirm -- sort of -- that Moody is part of the ICT. Kathy Barton, who is the person who is paid money to give Health and Human Services Department information to the media, has told Hair Balls that she's had trouble getting information from the higher-ups, which include people like department director Stephen Williams. Hair Balls has actually had to resort to reading and/or publishing Williams's third-party e-mails to find out exactly what in tarnation is going over there at that thar animal shelter. This is because they won't tell Barton anything worthwhile, which means she can't answer media questions, which makes both sides very frustrated).

So anyway, the latest news comes from Examiner website reporter Nicole Sica, who's done a really outstanding job of covering the gaping vacuum of reason and logic that is BARC. And it involves Moody.

(We must preface this with a cute anecdote: A few weeks ago, Sica tried to adopt a mother cat and her litter. Turns out the mother was then euthanized, and the BARC folks still don't have an explanation. Here's what Moody e-mailed Sica:

"The cat WAS euthanized, but I don't know why. I'm so sorry. Kim Grieff is working on the foster programs, and I am sure that under her direction things like this won't happen anymore."

But here's the kicker: "I know the timing is bad," Moody continued, "but.....We are hosting an adoption event next weekend (May 16). Friends of BARC is providing hot dogs, veggie dogs, and drinks. Do you think you could mention this in your column?"

Isn't that just downright hilarious? We fucked up and killed your cat. Sorry. Say, can you write something up about hot dogs?)

So two weeks ago, Sica ran her usual "Sunday's Urgent Pets" column, which included a pic and bio of a dog named Cookie.

Here's what Sica explained to Hair Balls: "After the story went live, I got two inquiries on Cookie the same day. So I called and left a message with Jamie. She never called back, but [a volunteer she knew] was at BARC that day, and Jamie pulled her aside and said that Cookie was adopted.  

"The following Sunday, Mother's Day, [the volunteer] went to BARC to take this week's pics for the feature. Cookie was still in his kennel. Again, I called Jamie, but got her voicemail. Kim Grieff, an employee at BARC, then brought a sign hanging in the BARC breakroom out to [the volunteer] while I was on the phone with her. The sign had been hung the weekend previously by Jamie and had a printout of Cookie's kennel card, with a big 'ADOPTED' written across the front in red sharpie.....[The volunteer called and] lo and behold, Jamie picked up her phone. Apparently, Jamie was at her Mother's house in BFE Texas, but explained that yes, she had fucked up by telling everyone Cookie was adopted, no, she didn't know why no one had noticed the little dog was still there."

Sica adds that Moody explained to the volunteer she was still not familiar with BARC's computer system, called Chameleon. (Apparently, the Incident Command Team is too busy commanding incidents to deal with such trivial fodder).

Sica continues: "I went on hyperdrive, sending out pleas and requests for fosters, plastered the shit all over emails, rescue group boards and Facebook. Cookie was sinking into a depression, and I considered it urgent. Sunday night, [a rescue group] responded and said they would tag Cookie and pick him up Monday afternoon."

However, Moody subsequently contacted the rescue group to say the dog was possibly dangerous -- despite the fact that Moody had previously said the dog had been adopted. And despite the fact that a dog trainer and rescuer had previously tested Cookie's temperament. (The trainer said she gave Cookie the ASPCA-devised SAFER test, which tests dominance/submission, social skills, fear levels, aggression, lack of bite inhibition, etc.).

Here's what that trainer told Hair Balls: "Cookie passed all points with flying colors. I believe he was an A or B in all categories and [I am] very sure he is neither an aggressive or fear-biter. I should mention that I did the assessment when he [first] came in, and only later formed an attachment to him (which is very easy to do). He is really just darling....I would like my name not be used, please. Volunteers have a way of being made to feel very unwelcome (if not just banned) if they speak of what happens at BARC. I love volunteering my time and don't want to lose that."

Fortunately, Cookie has now found a foster home.

Anyway, this has just been a very long way of saying this: Friends of BARC is providing hot dogs May 16. Go Incident Command Team!

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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