Annise Parker speaks out on BARC

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A few months ago, several of us speculated that Annise Parker might be seriously eying a run for mayor of Houston, after White is term-limited out. Shortly after that, any suspicions I had on the matter were strengthened by the introduction of a regular City Controller’s Report, delivered to employee mailboxes periodically. The lead article of the first seemed quite topical at the time, focusing on HPD.

Well, the second issue has just come out and, perhaps not coincidentally, the lead article is also quite up-to-the-moment — if somewhat lacking in any mention of the reason for such topicality. The lead article “BARC Deserves the Best — At Long Last”, takes on (what else?) the city’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care. As this is a city publication, and may not be available to the general public, the full text is below the fold.

BARC deserves the best — at long last

It’s time to make the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) a first-class city service, City Controller Annise Parker announced.

“The unsettling news of BARC Director Kent Robertson’s resignation set off a tidal wave of even more unsettling news about a grossly underfunded operation that continues to euthanize more than 20,000 animals a year while failing to meet its stated mission of encouraging ‘spaying/neutering to control the unwanted animal population’,” Parker said. “And this week we learned about the tragic death of eight animals left in an un-airconditioned BARC truck.”

After a deluge of complaints, Mayor White and City Council seem committed to finally turning BARC around. In calling for public hearings and stakeholder meetings, the mayor stressed that all options are on the table. Council is also considering a mandatory spay and neuter ordinance, which would exempt breeders.

The controller encourages the Mayor to have BARC assessed by a respected outside consultant, such as Nathan Winograd, father of the no-kill movement; conduct a national search for a new BARC director; and “rethink our entire animal control process.”

“Are we best positioned to be an adoption facility, making a major investment of taxpayer dollars, or should we contract adoptions to one of the many non-profits that specialize in adoptions?,” she asked.

The BARC crisis and public outcry have been building for years. “For too long, the city treated BARC like an afterthought,”
Parker said. As an at-large council member, Paker requested that the National Animal Control Association (NACA) assess BARC. Among its 1999 major findings: understaffing and serious underfunding compared to other cities.

“Fortunately,” she said, “Mayor White boosted BARC funding somewhat and appointed an active advisory committee, on which I serve.”

The controller urges city officials to reexamine those committee reports, which included numerous recommendations and best practices.

Resigning after only two years, Kent Robertson cited personal reasons for stepping down. Under his leadership, BARC began to resemble a 21st century city animal services division. He expanded adoptions, upgraded BARC facilities, generated positive publicity and worked with Friends of BARC (

Robertson also made a public commitment to moving Houston toward a reasonable no-kill policy

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Ubu Roi is a local civil servant who sometimes writes about what he sees.