Troubles gone? BARC hopes swanky new center will create "the greatest animalshelter" in North America
After decades of internal troubles, charges of animal cruelty and plenty of bad press, BARC — the animal shelter run by the City of Houston — is hoping to get back on its feet with the unveiling of a rather swanky new $10 million adoption center that will be built adjacent to its aging headquarters in north Houston.
"Our mission is not only to fix BARC," Alfred Moran, Houston director of administration & regulatory affairs, said at a Tuesday morning press conference at the BARC facility. "Our mission is to create the greatest animal shelters and adoption centers in North America."
Only steps from the original domed concrete facility off Collingsworth, a complex of buildings will be built around a leafy green central square where families can get better acquainted with their potential animal companions.
"The reason we have the challenges that we do in this facility is irresponsible pet owners," Parker said. "Period, end of sentence."
Phase one of the project, funded by $4.1 million in city dollars, includes a central adoption facility that will feature a welcome lobby with free-roaming cat "display windows," two dog adoption suites and a "nursery" for puppies available for adoption. Officials expect the first building to break ground later this year, with additional shelters and administrative offices to be built around the courtyard depending on fundraising efforts.
Speaking over a small dog barking from the kennel area, Mayor Annise Parker didn't mince words when it came to the many issues leading to the city's overcrowded shelters and a damaged (but greatly improved) BARC system.
"We have a culture that, as hard as we try, really does not believe that spading and neutering pets is a priority," Parker said. "The reason we have the challenges that we do in this facility is irresponsible pet owners. Period, end of sentence."
BARC is required by law, she noted, to accept every animal picked up off the streets or dropped at the shelter. The average cost of board and veterinary care for the first 24 days averages out to about $500 per dog or cat.
"We have more that 300,000 stray or abandoned animals across the city," she said. "It's the taxpayers of Houston that pick up the burden. And, ultimately, it's the animals that have to pay the price."
After the speeches, CultureMap spoke with council member Ed Gonzalez, who has been involved in the restructuring of BARC since he took office in 2009.
"We've all read the horror stories about the agency for a long time," he said. "We decided to move it from health and human services to become its own entity. Ever since, we've been able to make much-needed systemic changes. This is a much more customer-oriented, humane organization."
And what architectural style has BARC chosen for its new lease on life? Interestingly, architects at Jackson and Ryan have channeled the red-tiled roofs and porticos of Renaissance Italy for a design that would make Andrea Palladio (1508–1580) blush.