The city of Houston's animal shelter and adoption program has received its share of criticism. But now, it's BARC-ing back.
Mayor Annise Parker and several Houston City Council members joined officials with the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care on Monday to celebrate the progress of construction on a new shelter and adoption center.
"It doesn’t look much like now," Parker said, referring to the construction underway, "but in a short amount of time it will be a first class adoption center."
“In less than five years, BARC has completely transformed from a mismanaged and unorganized shelter to an organization managed and staffed by business-minded people that care deeply about animals,” Parker said at a sweltering outdoor press conference near new facilities that are scheduled to open in spring 2015.
In January and February, BARC celebrated its highest monthly live release rate in history with just under 72 percent of more than 2,300 animals brought in during the two-month period. Parker credited the Rescued Pets Movement, a group that has transferred over 2,600 animals from BARC to Colorado since September 2013, for much of the success.
BARC also partners with SNAP, Friends for Life and others to create the Healthy Pets Healthy Streets initiative which provides free spay/neuter surgeries and other wellness services for dogs and cats in a targeted area of the city. More than 275 dogs and cats have been spayed or neutered for free through the program.
BARC is required by law to take in every animal that comes through its doors. Every year, the city takes in approximately 25,000 animals.
The new center will enable BARC to develop a branded and customized experience, Parker said, with a separate area for adoptions. "It doesn’t look much like now," she said, referring to the construction underway, "but in a short amount of time it will be a first class adoption center."
The city of Houston contributed $6.1 million to complete the storefront as Phase I of the project. It will house a cat adoption facility, two dog adoption kennels and administrative offices. The new adoption center be open seven days a week from noon to 5:30 p.m.
Additional phases, projected to cost about $10 million, will include five additional dog kennels, the cattery, a meeting and education center and a spay/neuter clinic, if private funding can be found.
BARC officials also revealed a new blog with updated information on adoptions, news on upcoming events, opportunities to get involved, Mayor's Pets of the Week and much more.