Houston City’s Proposed Site For New Animal Facility: A Very Bad Choice

City of Houston’s planned pet adoption facility will mean death to many animals in many ways by Bett Sundermeyer, No Kill Houston


For Immediate Release  February 22, 2010


832/242-5375 fax

The city of Houston recently announced plans to build an “animal campus”, including a 30,000 square foot pet adoption facility, at Gragg Park (2999 S. Wayside).  But, building in this location will mean death to many animals in several ways.  First, a pet adoption facility in this spot will not increase adoptions significantly because of its remote, out of the way location.  As noted in no kill expert, Nathan Winograd’s assessment, one of the reasons for BARC’s high kill rate is because BARC is in an area far removed from retail, residential, recreation, and other prime sectors of the city.  It was built in an area of the city with no foot traffic, no retail traffic, far away from where people live, work, and play, ensuring it would be ‘out of sight, out of mind’.  The Wayside location is very much like BARC’s current Carr location* which kills 27,000 pets per year.  Building an adoption center at the Wayside location will be a death sentence for pets who would otherwise find homes if they were housed and shown in high traffic, highly visible locations all over the city.

Second, this area is in a zip code where BARC picks up the most cats in the city and picks up the third highest number of dogs therefore residents of this area are not likely to adopt pets.  A pet adoption facility at this location will also make it easier for people in the area to dump animals.  Making it easy to surrender and hard to adopt will not result in lowering of the kill rate at BARC.

Third, this property is also entirely within flood plains**.  Covering the property with a 30,000 sq building and 2 parking lots will cause even more flooding in this area.  This will put the animals housed there at risk and it will also cause additional flooding to the residential neighborhood next door.

Fourth, citizens have seen Herons, which are a protected species, nesting in the area for years.  Although the city is within its legal rights to destroy the homes of these protected birds, it is not morally right or necessary to do so, especially when this construction is such a disaster for so many other reasons.

Animal advocates are against building in this remote location.  Residents of the area are also against building on this property, but they are being ignored, lied to or threatened. City council could fix this white elephant by voting to choose another location for the pet adoption center.

* Photos are available of several blocks surrounding the Wayside location and several blocks surrounding BARC’s Carr location as well as the trash filled bayou and onsite sewer treatment facility.

** Flood plain maps available.

8 Responses to Houston City’s Proposed Site For New Animal Facility: A Very Bad Choice

  1. No Kill Houston

    February 22, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks for posting.

    The city of Houston could easily vote to move the facility to a location that would make a difference in the adoption rate and would not endanger people and animals.

    If you care about saving animals, please go to our website to find out how you can make a difference.

    Bett Sundermeyer, President

  2. Tiffany Moore

    February 23, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I am speaking from personal opinion and not as the voice of the Houston Dog Park Association that I serve. I want to simply share my perspective and additional facts so that Houstonians can make their own determination. I am not calling for them to support or oppose the plan.

    It is true that I support dog parks and there will also be a sizable dog park built on the property of this new BARC animal campus. There will be an adoption facility and also a low cost Spay/Neuter clinic too.

    I also went and toured the site personally last week with a member of the community next door who opposes the construction and I have reviewed the online documents about construction and also the points of contention as noted above. I also spoke at a Feb 9 City Council Meeting in favor of the campus dog park in particular.

    Facts left out of the story above:

    The SPCA is in an out of site location with no foot traffic and no commercial traffic and they seem to do fine. I heard recently that the Texas Wildlife Rehablitation Commission also moved next to the SPCA – maybe the “off the beaten path” location has advantages. If the SPCA can do well in a remote location hidden from view then it stands to reason -so can BARC. Also when you zoom in on the Google map linked to below and pan to the current BARC facility you can see it is on a dead end road in industrial area with *truly no traffic* at all outside of employees probably. But I can tell you from my visit last week this is nothing like the new location. The new location is actually on a major intersection with A TON of traffic. We could barely walk across the street it was so busy, and the street has cross walk lights to tell us when to walk! This is the drive by traffic that will cross the path of the new complex daily. Quite a few potential adopters I would bet. A HUGE difference from the current BARC location for sure, and in this fact alone the article above is blatantly false. No the site is not on a hub of bustling upscale activity – it is not across from a Starbucks and LA Fitness – but the traffic it sees should not be discounted.

    The location is next to several impoverished neighborhoods it is true, I saw dogs running loose as I drove around looking for the location (which I am not at all familiar with). But I also saw that within a few miles are several newly gentrified areas, quite a few upscale new developments in fact. These ARE the types of people who adopt animals from BARC and can easily drive a 5 or 10 miles or more to this new and beautiful upscale proposed facility.

    Also note that the University of Houston Campus is hardly 2 miles from the proposed location of the new BARC facility. It is my opinion that college students are also prime candidates to adopt the homeless pets: as they move away from mom and dad, establish their own living space, and typically fill it with a pet or two. It is not such a bad location in my opinion.

    Because it is near the impoverished families that statistically dump more animals, the new Animal Help Desk at BARC should be able to reduce the number of dumped animals in the area. The Help Desk was JUST recently established to deter as many animal drop-offs as possible at B.A.R.C. by A) Assisting the public locate options/resources B) Empowering the public with information on BARC-approved Fosters and Rescue Groups and C) Educating the public with information on multiple resources, such as low-cost spay/neuter clinics, wellness clinics, TNR, offering guidance with pet behavior issues, etc. In other words, offer the public options that most of them do not even realize exist. Pet Retention efforts, such as these, are a proven major player in saving animal lives.

    It is also for those same reasons that a low cost Spay/Neuter clinics in this area will be a resource for positive change. By reducing rampant breeding of stray and escaped pets in this area we reduce the overpopulation where it starts.

    We all can agree that Bayous are ugly. This is a tributary of Brays Bayou. Bayous carry trash downstream. A Bayou that is downstream of older streets that do not have underground drains and ditches will collect more trash blowing around than others. It is true that the bayous around the site are dirtier than in more upscale urban neighborhoods I am used to seeing. While I was touring the bayou I saw homeless people under the bridges too. That is likely to contribute to the source of the trash at that junction as well. Should these factors prevent the city or anyone else from building near the bayou?

    Additionally, the bayou is currently getting massive construction with big cranes and bulldozers down along the walls and trenches at the intersection of Wheeler and Wayside. I saw it when I was there last week. It is being leveled and graded and probably will get landscaped. I assume to improve drainage and appearance for various reasons. Across the Street is also the Houston Parks Dept building. By the looks of it, my guess is the construction would improve drainage for the neighborhood of Pine Valley, not worsen it. Take a look for yourself on the Google Earth map, use STREET VIEW to see an “as if you were standing right there view” of the site.

    You can also see the Cities concept drawing of the Gragg Park Animal Complex and make donations to the facility- which are needed to help construction costs (As is often the case with this type of community resource) here:
    <a href="
    http://www.houstonparksboard.org/projects/animal_campus_gragg_park.php&quot; title="Gragg Park Animal Campus – Houston Parks Board"

    Regarding flood plains – many dog parks are in flood plains, they simply close when flooded. If the building plat will be raised above flood level and drainage in the bayou is widened and improved to accept more drainage as they *seem* to be doing now, I see no issues with flooding, then again I am not an engineer.

    Now you have both views of the equation you can make your own decision on whether to support the new campus or not. If you do choose to support it, consider donating to the community fund through the Houston Parks Board here: <a href="http://www.houstonparksboard.org/projects/animal_campus_gragg_park.php&quot; title="Donate to Gragg Park Animal Campus Fund"

    Alot of what I say is my opinion. Make up your own mind, based on facts and your opinions.

  3. Dog Lover

    February 23, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    The Houston SPCA is not in a remote area. It is just outside the loop parallel to I-10 near the Marq*E Entertainment Center and across the way from Washington Avenue….which is a high traffic area. The SPCA is also near several higher income areas (e.g. Memorial, Memorial Park, River Oaks, the Heights, Camp Logan).

    BARC, however, is really out of the way and difficult to get to.

    Obviously space is limited in the city of Houston, hence the reason the new facility is proposed where it is. I’m all for more spaying/neutering clinics and adoption facilities but it has to be realistic as well. I just hope the people who need to get the message about spaying/neutering are the ones who are receiving it.

  4. No Kill Houston

    February 26, 2010 at 5:54 pm


    Regarding your statement on flooding. The situation when a dog park floods is entirely different from when an animal shelter, which HOUSES animals, floods. If the dog park floods, you just don’t go there. If the animal shelter floods, the animals are at risk. We saw this very thing happen during Hurricane Gustav. You are obviously not familiar with what has been going on at BARC for years, but I am.

    I also do not agree that all bayous are ugly. I live next to one and it is not ugly. It looks nothing like the trash filled bayou behind this property. It is also not next to a sewage treatment facility as this property is.

    For those who would like to see what this area really looks like I have posted pictures on our website. I have also posted a map that is more accurate than the “rose colored” map that the city has been passing around. It reflects where flood plains are and where the sewage treatment facility is etc. http://www.NoKillHouston.org

    Regarding your statement that the SPCA “seems to do fine”, perhaps you should do some research into kill statistics for Houston’s five kill shelters before making these blanket statements. According to the 2005 Mayor’s Task Force Report, the Houston SPCA kills at least 58% of the animals entering its shelter. We do not know their kill rate to date because, oddly enough, they refuse to release this information. We’ll assume their kill rate is in the same ballpark. I don’t know about your definition of “fine”, but killing 58% of animals that enter a shelter is not fine to me. Not when we know that there is a way to stop the killing entirely. Other open admission shelters are doing it.

    You clearly do not know what it takes to adopt out the large amount of animals necessary to stop the killing. It takes more than being off the beaten path and just “hoping” enough people remember BARC and will show up to adopt all 27,000 animals that enter BARC every year. (This is very, very different from your Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Commission example) It takes aggressive “marketing” to get these animals out to the public so that the public will see them, fall in love and adopt them. You absolutely cannot rely on the public remembering about BARC in some remote location when you have this many animals to adopt out, especially when not getting them adopted out means they are killed.

    Some of us know what it takes to stop the killing in shelters and that is what we want for all shelter animals. Since your goals appear to be quite different, perhaps you should limit your comments to dog parks only, especially since it appears that you are not familiar with the programs and services needed to stop the killing in shelters. I have studied what other shelters are doing to stop the killing and the city’s plan is far from it.

    BTW: I will be happy to send you a copy of Nathan Winograd’s book Redemption which is a step by step guide on how other shelters have stopped the killing. You can see for yourself how this is absolutely the wrong location for a pet adoption facility if we ever hope to stop killing 27,000 animals at BARC every year.

    I would also urge everyone to read Nathan Winograd’s 200 page assessment of BARC. He explains in great detail what will stop the killing at BARC. A copy is posted on our website as well.

  5. Buy a clue

    March 1, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Tiffany –

    College students are THE WORST adopters. For one, most campuses do not allow college students to LEGALLY have pets ON CAMPUS. Secondly, college is a period of transition where folks are deciding what to do with their lives. While some college folks ARE mature enough to realize that pets are life long commitments, there’s an awful lot of people who casually get pets and then ‘dump them’ when they move on to their first real job, or go off to med school….or whatever. That’s why a lot of rescue groups won’t adopt to people under 25. It’s not that these people are bad, it’s just the return rate of pets is astronomical.

    And as someone has pointed out, the Houston SPCA is in a VERY well located area. So is the Citizens for Animal Protection.

  6. Tiffany Moore

    March 1, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    I stand corrected on the location of the SPCA, apparently they may have moved since I last went there. Ouch. Our board and myself will be doing much more research in the coming months to learn more about BARC and the Gragg Park plan so that we can speak about it even more factually. I will not keep my comments to just dog parks but thank you for the suggestion. My statements here are not the official stance of HDPA, but my own.

    Please note- The HDPA Board would like to have a tour of any animal welfare organizations in Houston because as it happens we are seeking one to partner with to promote responsible pet ownership. We will be visiting HHS next week. Please contact me by email if you would to invite the HDPA Board to visit and learn about your facility.

    Back to BARC- My stance is that while I do agree no euthanasia would be grand, I feel any step towards improvement of the life of the animals at BARC and towards adopting more of them out is better than no change at all. I do not disagree that no killing is attainable but I feel it is not the norm for it to happen as quickly as you are calling for. Possible- yes, that is proven, but very difficult in even the best of situations. I also agree that Houston groups people like NoKillHouston in order to light the fire under BARC and the City to end the killing.

    Here is some new information I learned about the Gragg Park project that may be of interest.
    The project is “of BARC, and for BARC, but NOT BARC”. It will be operated by an independent 501c3 (not by the City, and not by BARC, HDPA already knew this, did you?) and it will have a contract with the City to get animals from BARC. In this way the City (BARC) will provide healthy and adoptable dogs/cats to the Gragg Park facility for adoption. It will also have a low-cost spay and neuter clinic on site to combat over population which is desperately needed in that area.

    This effort is complemented by $3.3M in funding being put into improving the situation at the current BARC facility by the city and 1.5 mil left from a donor estate specified to be used for a “new BARC facility” (Gragg Park). The old BARC will remain in its current location -where they will continue doing uethenasia on unadoptables- euth. will not occur at this new facility as we understand it– plus there will be new management, and a radical overhaul of personnel at the current BARC as a part of this whole project.

    Additionally, all of Houston is in some type of flood plain.
    It is also reported that the City is working with some fantastic structural engineers and cutting edge architects who know how to make the most of the land, and landscape architects who will do even more to ensure the integrity of the facility and thus the safety of the animals.

    With the new trail system in place, and the renovation of the Parks facility across the street as well, it will indeed be a destination. I am also told that all of the project team is committed to passionately marketing the center and to fulfilling the mission of moving many healthy animals out of BARC and into forever homes.

    HDPA is still actively working to learn whether it will officially be supporting the Gragg Animal Campus fully -or just the dog park. As it stands this is all just my personal opinion and not the official statement of the Houston Dog Park Association. You can learn more about and get involved with HDPA on our Facebook page, on Twitter, and on Meetup.com.

  7. Stephanie

    March 4, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    BARC kills 27,000 pets a year! That’s CRAZY! ANYTHING that could possibly make that better seems like a great idea to me. Somehow the idea of killing over 2,200 pets a month doesn’t sit right with me. Even if this isn’t in a great location, if people want to adopt, they’ll get there. I don’t know of any shelters that I would happen to drive by and just decide to drop in and adopt a pet.

  8. No Kill Houston

    March 4, 2010 at 11:49 pm


    You really need read Nathan Winograd’s book, Redemption, and do some more research on successful no kill shelters. You should start with http://www.NoKillAdvocacyCenter.org and http://www.NathanWinograd.com.

    The fact is that, with leaders who are NOT satisfied with the status quo of killing and who are determined to stop the killing, they have in fact stopped the killing. Not only have they done it, but they have done it very quickly as in within about 1 year.

    Bonney Brown, the director of the Nevada Humane Society turned a high kill shelter, just like BARC, into a no kill shelter in about a year. This is despite having an animal to human per capita intake rate much higher than Houston and despite being hit by the economic downturn MUCH harder than Houston or any place else in the country. Bonney Brown did it by throwing out all the programs that did not prove to stop the killing. (Read more about Bonney’s work here: http://www.examiner.com/x-16635-SF-Animal-Shelters-Examiner~y2010m2d25-Reno-leads-the-pack). She is but one of many who have stopped the killing.

    One of the things that does NOT help get animals out of shelters alive, and therefore prevent their killing, is when shelters are located in remote locations such as the Wayside location. This was one of the problems with the San Francisco SPCA when it was a high kill shelter… it was in a remote location and the public simply did not go there in large enough numbers to adopt enough animals to stop the killing. In order to get the pets adopted so he could stop the killing, Richard Avanzino took those animals to high traffic, highly visible locations all over the city every single day. He got the animals out to the places where the people/potential adopters were so they would be seen. This is one of the programs he started so he could stop the killing. It is cornerstone of the No Kill Equation. http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/nokillequation.html

    All the marketing in the world will NOT cause enough people to go to the Wayside location in order to adopt out 27,000 animals every year so that BARC can stop killing. It just does not work that way. If you had done any research at all on no kill sheltering, you would know this. But it is clear that you have not.

    You really need to educate yourself on what has been done in other communities to stop the killing, before you continue speaking on this subject, because by advocating for a pet adoption facility at Wayside, you are advocating for a project that WILL cause more animals to die. For you to keep speaking on this topic that you know nothing about, and to continue passing along false information, is irresponsible to say the least.

    Additionally, to say all of Houston is in a flood plain is absurd. Please visit FEMA’s website and you will see that this is not true. You can look at the maps on our website and see that this is clearly not true. But, I’ve heard a city employee say this same thing so I am assuming that someone at the city told you this lie in an another attempt to cover for their bad decision.

    And, the statement that this project is “of BARC, and for BARC, but NOT BARC” is also absurd. The city is spending money from Ann Young’s estate that was left for BARC on this project. They will also be spending CIP funds on it which are our city tax dollars. It is all city/BARC money funding this whether a non-profit later runs it or not.

    The bottom line is this is a disaster waiting to happen. It is a huge waste of money on a project that will not save lives. The one and only goal of building a pet adoption facility for BARC animals should be to increase adoptions exponentially so the city can stop killing. This location will not accomplish this.