According to the No Kill Equation
, "one of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims. Sadly, besides having pet owners fill out a lost pet report, very little effort is made in this area of shelter operations.” This is deplorable because when shelters aggressively pursue this opportunity they are able to return a large percentage of lost animals to their families.
A prime example of the enormous impact that reclaims can have on life saving is Washoe County, (Reno) Nevada whose shelters reunite approximately 60% of dogs with their owners. In fact, Washoe County has one of the highest returned-to-owner rates in the nation. They accomplished this by being proactive in their efforts, rather than blaming the community.
Let's compare Washoe County to BARC (Houston’s animal control facility). At the time of Nathan Winograd’s assessment of BARC in September 2009, it had 1% redemption rate for cats and a 7% redemption rate for dogs. Repeat:That’s a 60% redemption rate for dogs in Washoe Co. but only 7% in Houston. The following story is a perfect example of why BARC returns only 7% of lost dogs to owners. Unfortunately, this example is repeated every day.
On March 14, 2010, Brian Simon lost his Chihuahua, Nino. On March 15, Mr. Simon went to BARC to search for Nino. He did not find his dog so BARC’s kennel supervisor told Mr. Simon to leave his "Lost" flyer on BARC's bulletin board.
Mr. Simon was told that BARC employees looked at the bulletin board regularly to match up lost pets. He relied on BARC’s assurances and unfortunately that was a big mistake. Those familiar with BARC know that the bulletin board is rarely, if ever, reviewed before animals are killed.
Even if BARC employees were checking the bulletin board regularly, it is absurd to think that anyone could match up animals against the mountain of paper hanging there. See picture to the left. It is more sickening that Nathan Winograd’s assessment report includes instructions on how to set up a lost and found program that actually works (see page 37-39), yet BARC has not even attempted to institute this program.
On March 17, two days after Mr. Simon reported Nino lost, a Chihuahua matching Nino’s description was brought to BARC. (See below. Nino is on the left. The Chihuahua brought to BARC is on the right) The Chihuahua at BARC had been picked up very close to the location where Nino was last seen, yet no one contacted Mr. Simon to tell him that a Chihuahua matching Nino’s description was at BARC.
On March 21, four days after arriving at BARC, the Chihuahua was killed. It is appalling that no one attempted to find his owner and he was never considered for adoption. Watch the news report here.
Below is a picture of the bulletin board taken by Winograd in September 2009. Compare it to the bulletin board above. With BARC’s measly 1% redemption rate for cats and a 7% redemption rate for dogs, why has absolutely nothing changed in the last 8 months?
If we take Washoe County’s 60% percent reclaim rate for dogs and apply it to BARC’s intakes, it would translate to a staggering 8,100 dogs that are killed at BARC who are actually lost with families who want them back.*
That is 8,100 cages that are being used that could instead be freed up so truly homeless pets would have more time.
This means BARC would kill 8,100 fewer animals which would also save $972,000 because it costs roughly $120 to house an animal for 3 days then kill him/her and dispose of the body.
The only reason that those 8,100 lost dogs (and many more thousands of lost cats) are being killed each year is because BARC has not instituted an effective program that would reunite these animals with their owners even though instructions for an effective program are literally sitting at BARC and at city hall.
So, when shelter directors or city politicians tell people that there are "too many pets and not enough homes" or claim that shelters “must” kill because irresponsible people have caused pet overpopulation, remember this story. Remember little Nino and the other 8,100 dogs just like him with families who want them back, but who will be killed at BARC this year .
As I’ve said in previous articles, whether a shelter stops killing depends on the shelter director. So, I have to ask, when will the Mayor and city council hire a shelter director for BARC who will pursue every avenue that has been proven to save lives?
Please speak up for the animals at BARC and demand leadership who will work hard to save lives. See our website for more information.
For more information on No Kill Houston: Read our Blog. Also, follow No Kill Houston on Facebook and Twitter.
*Half the 27,000 animals killed at BARC is 13,500 animals. Sixty percent of 13,500 is 8,100.