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A handbook with resources and other information for building a movement to help the animals in your community

July 2013

INTRODUCTION As people throughout Houston learn about Barrio Dogs’ work, we are often asked for help with homeless, unwanted, neglected and mistreated dogs in different neighborhoods around the city. Since Barrio Dogs is a small, all-volunteer organization based in Houston’s East End where many of us live, our focus is on educating and working with our community. We are not a rescue group and do not have the resources to rescue animals or assist people in other parts of the city. Our hope is that this document will show people how to start their own independent efforts to help the animals around them. There is no secret to what Barrio Dogs does. We are simply a group of committed individuals who are compelled to do something to address and relieve the suffering of the animals we see around us daily. We realized early on that we could not be a rescue group; there are just too many animals on Houston’s streets to rescue. Instead, we try to focus on the main reasons why homeless and unwanted animals exist: 1) residents who are not able to and/or do not know how to take proper care of their animals, and 2) lack of accessible, low cost or free spay and neuter resources. Our annual FixIt Spay Neuter project where we fix pets belonging to low income residents free of charge is the beginning of what we hope will be more spay and neuter efforts in the East End. We encourage others to develop similar projects in their own communities. We have realized from working in our community that no external entity is going to come in and solve the animal overpopulation problem for us. If we want conditions to improve for the animals around us, we are going to have to make it happen ourselves. Nevertheless, we encourage residents to reach out to their local elected officials to tell them that the conditions under which unwanted and homeless animals must live in Houston is a disgrace and unacceptable. The problem is huge and is not just a concern for animal lovers; it is also a public health, public safety and public relations problem. As such, improving the lives of the animals around us will require cooperation and support not only from the city of Houston but also from many others including businesses and concerned residents. For more information about contacting elected officials, go to Our goal in presenting our story as well as information and resources we have gathered along the way is to encourage others to commence a similar journey to make a difference in the lives of the animals in their community. While it is at times a difficult journey, it is also very rewarding and very much worth the effort. Gloria Medina Zenteno Houston, Texas

BACKGROUND Houston has a huge overpopulation problem of homeless and unwanted dogs and cats. Some areas like Houston’s Greater East End, Fifth Ward, Sunnyside, Denver Harbor and Third Ward are hard hit; however, even relatively wealthier areas like the Heights and Garden Oaks are reporting problems with homeless and unwanted animals roaming the streets and living in parks and along the bayous. In addition to observations and anecdotal information, there is data to support the opinion that Houston has an animal overpopulation problem. According to BARC, the city of Houston’s animal control agency and shelter, there are 1.2 million homeless animals on Houston’s streets.¹ In addition, the University of Texas School of Public Health’s 2010 “Health of Houston” survey polled residents throughout the city about public health concerns. On the issue of homeless animals, over 50% of the residents consider stray dogs and cats a public health problem in East Houston-Settegast, Near Northside-Fifth Ward, Third Ward-McGregor-Gulfgate and Sunnyside. In the East End, the number was 61%; crime was a distant second with 33% of residents citing it as a big concern.² Animal welfare organizations like the Houston Humane Society and Houston SPCA have responded to the overpopulation by limiting their intake of animals and adopting out as many as possible. They also euthanize animals although the exact numbers are unknown. BARC, the city of Houston’s animal control agency and shelter, must accept all animals presented to it and picks up stray or loose animals in response to complaints from residents. BARC works closely with rescue groups to find homes for adoptable animals in its shelter and has regular adoption events to try to adopt out even more; however, BARC must regularly euthanize large numbers of animals. In the face of criticism about their facility and euthanization rates, BARC has worked to improve both. Nevertheless, BARC euthanized 13,226 dogs and cats in 2012.³ No-kill shelters and rescues are few and far between in Houston and generally require a foster before accepting an animal into their program. For the most part, there are very few humane options for people looking for help with a dog they rescued or a pet they can no longer keep. One long-term solution to Houston’s animal overpopulation is more spay and neuter of pets and stray dogs and cats, especially in lower income neighborhoods. The Spay Neuter Assistance Project (SNAP) offers relatively low-cost services at its clinics on Shepherd and IH-10 and in Pasadena. SNAP also has one mobile clinic that it operates under a contract with the city of Houston to offer free spay and neuter for dogs whose owners can present proof of government assistance; the mobile clinic can spay or neuter between 22-25 dogs per day depending on their size. There are also private vet clinics throughout Harris County that offer similarly priced spay and neuter services. However, for a city with Houston’s population and geographic area, there are very few free or inexpensive and accessible spay/neuter and vetting resources; that is undoubtedly one of the reasons we see so many unwanted and homeless animals on our streets. ¹ Statistic reported by Fox26 Houston, “A chorus of help for homeless animals in the Houston area,” 9/21/12 ² ³


Barrio Dogs has been working in Houston’s Greater East End since 2010 with the mission of educating, empowering and transforming our community by raising awareness about proper animal care and the importance of spaying and neutering pets. We carry out our mission by teaching residents that animal birth control, humane treatment and care of pets and zero tolerance for animal neglect and abuse will create safer, healthier, higher property value communities for themselves and their families. Our educational work takes place throughout the community in area parks, ice houses and local schools. Our message is consistent: the only solution to animal overpopulation in the East End is spay and neuter of animals. To that end, from 2010-2012 we spayed, neutered and vetted approximately 400 animals, including many rescued and sick homeless dogs, free of charge. Our fall 2012 FixIt East End Spay Neuter project fixed an additional 200 dogs and cats belonging to low income residents free of charge with money we raised from private donations. We signed up FixIt participants at local parks and had all the surgeries performed at Gulfgate Animal Hospital. We are repeating FixIt in 2013. While we are not a rescue group, we have rescued some street dogs that were in especially bad physical condition, nursed them back to health and found them foster or permanent homes. We also have a few dogs living in a boarding facility and are always trying to find them and our foster dogs permanent homes. We have implemented a program called “A Home for All” to bring volunteers in to work with our boarded dogs since animals living in boarding become less adoptable the longer they live there. Our Youth and Paws (YAP) programs where we go into area schools or community centers, usually with a therapy dog, are crucial to improving the future for the animals around us. We hope that teaching children to respect and take proper care of their pets and the animals around them will make them responsible pet owners later in life. Also, in many cases the lessons children learn at school about proper pet care are passed on to their parents and siblings at home. Barrio Watchdog is a program where we encourage residents to send us information about animal abuse or neglect in their neighborhood. We in turn forward the information to our contacts at the Houston Police Department and Houston Humane Society and follow up to see how the case was resolved. Our goal is to ultimately empower residents to take action when they see animal mistreatment. Barrio Dogs approach has resonated with many people, not just animals lovers. By focusing on the reasons why homeless and mistreated dogs exist, we hope to shed light on some of the community’s core problems and possible long-term solutions. Teaching children how to take proper care of their pets is one solution. So is urging people to spay and neuter their pets and assisting those who cannot afford it. Encouraging someone to pick up the telephone and call the authorities when he or she sees an abused or neglected animal can transform and empower that person to do something about other problems in the community. We are hopeful that all these small steps will eventually bring about a big change.

HOW TO BUILD A MOVEMENT TO HELP THE ANIMALS IN YOUR COMMUNITY This is a list of some of the things Barrio Dogs has done to establish a presence in our East End community and spread our message. This list is not comprehensive; we have no doubt there are other strategies you can implement in your community to grow your own movement.


Without a doubt, this is the most important part of the process. There is strength in numbers; find out who your allies are in this campaign. •

If you have not already done so, talk to your neighbors. They may be as concerned as you are about what is happening to animals in your neighborhood. Engage your civic association. Members of the civic association care about what happens in their neighborhood and can be a great help and resource. They may already be aware of the problem and trying to do something about it.

2. DOCUMENT THE CONDITIONS Whenever possible, take photos of dogs and cats that are roaming the streets, living in parks and chained up in people’s yards and record dates and general locations of the pictures. HOWEVER, NEVER ENTER ONTO PEOPLE'S PROPERTY TO TAKE PICTURES. That constitutes trespass and under no circumstances should you trespass on someone's property; always take pictures from the street. If you see an animal in danger or being mistreated, take a picture from the street and call the police.

3. USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO THE FULLEST EXTENT Once you have collected pictures and other information, it is important to disseminate them to neighbors and others. We have found that the best way to do this is by using social media. It is easy to start a Facebook page; do so and post updates, information and pictures you have taken of the animals in your neighborhood. Since there are so many Spanish-speaking people in our community, we also started a Facebook page in Spanish; you may consider doing the same thing if your community is similar to ours.

Building an audience for and increasing “Likes” on your Facebook page(s) is important and not always easy. To build interest, you should try to update your pages at least once a day if not more often. We have found that having two or more Facebook administrators helps keep the Facebook site fresh with new updates throughout the day. There is some good information online about building and maintaining a Facebook presence. One resource that was especially helpful is by Houstonbased Schipul Marketing and can be found at this link: Another option is to open a Twitter account so you can tweet not only new information but also tweet each time you update your Facebook page. You can also build a website or establish a blog and share it with your neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members. A website is useful for sharing phone numbers, links and other resources. We strongly recommend not posting actual addresses of mistreated animals on Facebook or elsewhere. We also strongly discourage people from going into yards and rescuing dogs that are living at a home or have an owner. Entering onto someone’s property and taking an animal constitutes trespass and theft. For cases of neglect, mistreatment or abuse of dogs living at a house or having an owner, we suggest you contact law enforcement and/or the Humane Society R.A.I.D.E.R. program. A resource sheet with additional information is attached.

4. REACH OUT TO THE COMMUNITY AND BEYOND Contact your city officials, including the mayor, your city council member and at-large council members. A list of current Houston city council members and their contact information is attached. Also, reach out to local businesses. They may be concerned about stray animals interfering with their business and customers and may help you with donations or other support. If you are a member of a local church, talk to you fellow church members about the problem. When doing public outreach, Barrio Dogs’ message is consistent: we need more low cost or free spay neuter resources in our area! We suggest that you develop a consistent message as well so that everyone is clear about what you are trying to accomplish.

We have been fortunate to be able to visit local schools, often with a trained therapy dog, to teach students about proper animal care and the importance of spaying and neutering animals. In Houston’s East End, dogs are often dumped near schools so students, teachers and administrators are very familiar with the animal overpopulation problem. They provide a welcome and ready audience for our message. In addition, working with children not only helps them learn to love, respect and not be fearful of animals but enables them to bring these lessons home to their parents and siblings.

5. DON’T GIVE UP! Helping homeless, hungry and sick animals or just looking at pictures of them can be extremely difficult at times. It is depressing to witness the suffering of animals around us and most of us occasionally feel overwhelmed by the situation we face. Our advice is to build a community of friends and colleagues who love animals and who are similarly motivated to help them. Together, you can provide comfort and support to each other. Also, while the work is important, be sure and take time to get to know each other, socialize and have some fun. Pace yourself and don’t get burned out. The most important thing to do is to take action and do something about the problem. Although the problem is huge, you will feel better knowing you are part of the solution and are doing what you can to make things better. Most importantly, when you see the beautiful and happy faces of the dogs you have helped, all your hard work will be worth it.

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE ! ATTACHMENTS Spay/neuter resources in Houston, January 2013 HELP US MAKE A DIFFERENCE – What you can do to help Responding to animal abuse, mistreatment and neglect in Houston Did you find a dog? Are you wondering what to do? “No Chains” flyer “Before You Take Me Home” flyer “Don’t Dump You Dog” flyer “Welcome to Houston” flyer


Barrio Dogs often gets asked for information about low-cost spay/neuter and vetting in Houston. Here is a list of some relatively low cost resources. We have used some of these; others were referred by friends or we found on the internet. If you know of any good low cost vets or vet clinics in the area or have comments about the list, please let us know. Spay and Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) and Animal Wellness Clinic ( 1801 Durham, Houston 77007 713-862-8001 Pasadena Spay-Neuter and Animal Wellness Clinic 913 Shaw, Pasadena 77506 713-343-1700 Spay/Houston ( 412F N. Sam Houston Parkway E, Houston 77060 281-260-0015 Houston Humane Society Spay/Neuter Clinic ( 14700 Almeda Road, Houston 77053 713-433-6421 The Greater Good ( 1195 Katy Freeway, Houston 77079 281-496-5983 Gulfgate Animal Hospital 216 Winkler Drive, Houston 77087 713-643-5723 Long Drive Dog & Cat Hospital 7327 Long Dr, Houston 77087 713-643-0633 Petworks Express ( 11326-C Westheimer Rd, Houston 77077 281-870-0570 The KAAWS Clinic ( 17259 FM 529, Houston, TX 77084 281-200-2325 Texas Litter Control ( 24627 I-45, Spring TX 77380 832-510-7622

H E L P U S M A K E A DI F F E R E N C E Houston, Texas and surrounding Harris County have a terrible problem with homeless, unwanted and neglected animals. It is difficult to walk or drive through some areas or neighborhoods without seeing animals that are homeless, hungry, suffering and in need. Others have a home but are unspayed, unneutered and producing unwanted litters that may end up homeless on the street. Some caring residents try to help by giving them food and water. Animal rescuers try to save others but there are just too many to save. We cannot continue to live like this. It is time for a change.

W H AT Y O U C A N D O T O H E L P 1. Help us spread the word that spay and neuter of dogs and cats is the only answer to Houston’s animal overpopulation. Spay and neuter your own pets and encourage everyone around you to do the same. Encourage the city of Houston to offer free and/or low cost spay neuter services in communities that are hardest hit with stray and unwanted animals. 2. Help a homeless and unwanted animal; in most cases, you are the only person who will. Rescue groups and no-kill shelters are full and each day, adoptable animals are euthanized at other shelters to make room for more. If you see an approachable dog or cat, give it food and water. Take it to the vet, get it spayed or neutered and find it a home. Encourage others to do the same.You can do so much more than you realize; find out just how much by helping a homeless animal. 3. Reach out to your elected officials. People from around the country ask how unwanted animals can live in such terrible conditions in a city as wealthy as Houston. We often ask ourselves the same thing. It is time to ask our elected officials that question. We need to let them know that we expect and desperately need a humane solution to animal overpopulation in certain parts of Houston that focuses on free and low cost spay and neuter services. We will no longer accept the status quo. It is time for a change. C I T Y O F H O U S T O N E L E C T E D O F F I C I A L S, 2 0 1 2 - 2 0 1 3

Mayor Annise D. Parker Phone: 713.837.0311

Mike Sullivan, District E Phone: 832.393.3008

Helena Brown, District A Phone: 832.393.3010

Al Hoang, District F Phone: 832.393.3002

Jerry Davis, District B Phone: 832.393.3009

Oliver Pennington District G Phone: 832.393.3007

Ellen Cohen, District C Phone: 832.393.3004 Wanda Adams, District D Phone: 832.393.3001

Ed Gonzalez, District H Mayor Pro-Tem Phone: 832.393.3003

James G. Rodriguez District I Phone: 832.393.3011 Mike Laster, District J Phone: 832.393.3015 Larry Green, District K Phone: 832.393.3016 Stephen C. Costello At Large 1 Phone: 832.393.3014

Andrew C. Burks, Jr, At Large 2 Phone: 832.393.3013 Melissa Noriega, At Large 3 Phone: 832.393.3005 C.O. "Brad" Bradford, At Large 4 Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Phone: 832.393.3012 Jack Christie, At Large 5 Phone: 832.393.3017

RESPONDING TO ANIMAL ABUSE, MISTREATMENT AND NEGLECT IN HOUSTON Updated July 2012 Here is a list of resources compiled by Barrio Dogs for reporting animal abuse, mistreatment, neglect and chained dogs. The list is not exhaustive but contains the best information we have available. 1. HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: Officers are supposed to investigate any report of animal abuse or neglect. Contact HPD through Dispatch; they will assign the report to an officer to investigate and follow up. To make a report, call HPD Dispatch: 713-884-3131 (do not call 911) 2. HARRIS COUNTY PRECINCT 6 AND THE HOUSTON HUMANE SOCIETY R.A.I.D.E.R.: In a partnership between Harris County and the Houston Humane Society, several Pct. 6 deputies spend 100% of their time responding to and investigating complaints of abuse and neglect. To contact, call Precinct 6 Dispatch: 713-923-9156 Humane Society R.A.I.D.E.R.: 713-433-6421, ext. 396 R.A.I.D.E.R. Officer Sgt. Guerra: Online Cruelty Submission form: 3. HOUSTON SPCA: Has an investigations department staffed by nine full-time cruelty investigators; also provides an injured animal ambulance and rescue service 24 hours a day every day of the year. Unfortunately, the SPCA euthanizes many of the animals it takes in. SPCA main number: 713-869-SPCA (7722) Online Cruelty Reporting form: 4. HOUSTON CRIME STOPPERS: Dog fighting and animal cruelty are illegal in Texas. You can report cruelty and dog fighting by calling Crime Stoppers, which pays up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and charging of any felony suspects. All callers will remain anonymous. For more information or to make a report, call 713-222-TIPS (8477) or go to TEXAS CHAINED DOG/UNLAWFUL RESTRAINT OF DOG LAW: In Texas, it is illegal to: 1) chain your dog from 10 PM to 6 AM; 2) chain your dog in extreme weather, and 3) chain your dog on a short leash [TEXAS HEALTH & SAFETY CODE §821.077]. If you see a dog that is chained in violation of state law, call Houston Police or the Houston Humane Society. Please remember that once law enforcement authorities become involved, there are several possible outcomes for the animal. In some instances, its owners may agree to address the problem, improve its living conditions or move it to a better location. In other instances, a rescue group may step up and take in the animal. However, there is also the possibility that the animal will be confiscated and taken to a potential kill shelter. In this situation, we are at a loss as to what is better for the animal: removal because of cruelty or neglect and allowing it to suffer the entire length of its short life. If we all report it, something will happen. There is strength in numbers!

Did you find a lost or stray dog? Are you wondering what to do? We encourage people who find stray or lost dogs to take them in; the street is a dangerous place for any animal. Also, animal overpopulation is rampant in Houston and chances are if you don’t help the dog, no one else will and it will live an unpleasant and short life on the streets. 1. If you see a homeless or abandoned dog, approach it carefully. If the dog is friendly, take it in, get it cleaned up and give it food and water. If it is unfriendly, it may be injured or sick; call the SPCA at 713-869-SPCA (7722) and report the dog’s location so they can pick it up; the dog may be euthanized but at least it will not be left to suffer on the streets. 2. Take the dog to a vet to check for a microchip and to get a checkup. Most street dogs will have fleas and may have ticks. Some may be injured; others may have skin conditions, heartworms or malnutrition. If the dog is still in good shape, it may be lost or recently dumped by its owner. 3. If there is no microchip, post the animal as found on Houston Lost and Found Pets Facebook page, the SPCA, BARC, Humane Society and Craigslist. Some areas like the Heights have a neighborhood “Lost and Found” pet page so check around. Sometimes an animal that appears to be dumped may be part of a crime like a car theft or a house break-in; the thieves don’t want the pet that just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and dump it. 4. If no one claims the dog, get it vaccinated and treated for any conditions it may have like heartworms or mange. Get it spayed or neutered. Assess the dog around other animals, on a leash and indoors to see how it behaves. If you have kids, dogs or cats, assess how the dog interacts with them. 5. FINDING THE DOG A HOME. If you cannot keep the dog, you will need to find it a home. Barrio Dogs is not a rescue group and cannot take the dog. From our experience, there is nowhere in Houston to take the dog and leave it. No-kill shelters are full and in any event, they do not take animals without a foster. CAP, SPCA and Humane Society may take it but they are known to euthanize. BARC, the official city of Houston shelter, takes in all animals but euthanizes over 50% of them. 6. TO FIND THE DOG A HOME YOURSELF, first create a flyer. Take some good, cute photos of the dog and use them for a short bio with basic information like the dog’s approximate age and breed, size, demeanor, vetting status and spay or neuter status. Describe how it gets along with other dogs, children and cats. Then network, network, network! You can use Facebook or informal networks to distribute the bio. Send to friends and ask them to forward it to their friends. If you know someone who works for a large company, ask them to spread the word at their workplace. If you go to church, distribute the flyer there. 7. IF YOU FIND AN ADOPTER, please check them out thoroughly. Barrio Dogs uses a detailed application for potential adopters; it’s available on our website and you can borrow the questions. One idea is to ask the entire family to come over and meet the dog and to bring their dog(s) if any. Ask about security in their yard, whether the dog will be kept indoors, where it will sleep, etc. If you can, do a home visit. Trust your instincts; if the situation doesn’t feel right, don’t leave the dog behind. Ask for photos of the dog once it’s settled into its new home. If the adoption doesn’t work out, please offer to take the dog back. Once an animal is rescued off the streets, the last thing it needs is to go back. 8. GOOD LUCK AND THANK YOU! The only way to make a difference for the animals in need around us is if we each step up to help. It may be inconvenient to help a homeless animal but for that animal, you have changed its life. For more information, please contact us at or go to

You Can Make a Difference, July 2013  

A handbook for people who want to help the homeless and unwanted animals in their community. The information is based on Barrio Dogs' work i...

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