Houston SPCA

HSPCA is my topic but before writing of them, I think it only fair that you all know some of my personal philosophies that are pertinent.  I firmly believe that we will never see things truly improve for animals generally without a great deal more education.  More than that, I don't see how things can possibly improve for animals by being inhumane to humans in the alleged attempt to be humane to animals.  We know that there's a "pass along" effect.  When children are raised in abuse and neglect, they are likely to become abusers or victims as adults.  If we abuse humans as we attempt to save animals, we can expect those abused humans to react in a way detrimental to others, including animals.

Societies are designed primarily so we can all get along without too much chaos.  When we try to change anything too much, too fast, there is chaos.  One of those changes is in public care of animals and it is happening much too fast for society to keep up without chaos.

I see much written on the internet about what the standards for animal shelters should be and, mostly, I agree with what I see out there BUT I take exception to one thing and that's a rather deliberate attempt to confuse "shelter" with "animal control facilities" (aka "pounds").  Animal control is generally government funded and exists for the purpose of protecting human health and safety and for the additional purpose of returning foundling animals.  In my opinion, pounds should be pretty minimal facilities intended for very temporary but decent housing of animals pending return to owners or other disposition.  One possible disposition for unclaimed animals is an animal shelter of another kind.

This is where humane organizations and SPCAs traditionally fit in the system to most of our minds.  They are to step in to help these animals who are in need for whatever reason.  These are private and often non-profit groups who raise donations from others who care about saving animals.  I think we all need to carefully distinguish in our minds the difference between these shelters and the traditional AC pound.

I think government has gone berserk spending money and animal control agencies are included.  It would be wonderful if we lived in a world or even a country of unlimited means and we've been rather acting like we do for a couple of decades.  Well, as the current economy shows, we do not.

All around the country, communities are filled with humans going hungry and animals are also being deprived because their owners are in financial straights.  If people want to spend their private funds helping the animals rather than humans, that is their personal business but AC services and pounds should be cut back, as should nearly all government, to those basic services that government is intended to provide.  Now that you know my basic philosophy on pounds and animal shelters and that humane treatment starts with treating humans humanely, I'll move on to my real topic which is rather straight forward:  Houston SPCA.

The HSPCA touts itself as rescuing animals regularly on TV after it has participated in seizing animals from individual owners.  It is an NPO, in the business of sheltering animals with private donations amongst other activities, and it is a virtual black-hole when one attempts to obtain information about it or the animals passing through its hands.

Animal shelters and pounds in Harris County Texas.  These are the same folks primarily promoting the concept of seizing other peoples animals.  " *Statistics are from the 2005 Mayor's Task Force report. Current statistics are not available for some shelters as they refuse to produce their kill rate statistics to the public."

  • Houston SPCA (HSPCA): kill rate unknown, kills 20,500* every year.
  • Houston Humane Society (HHS): 86% - 89% kill rate*, kills 15,000+ animals every year.
  • Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP): 46%* kill rate, kills 6,300+ animals every year.

Area pounds:

  • City of Houston (BARC): 80% kill rate, kills 27,000 animals every year.
  • Harris County: 77% kill rate, kills 20,000+ animals every year.

Recently, there was an incredible opportunity to show off dogs available for adoption in about the most dog friendly of forums one could hope for, "one of the largest dog shows in the US.  Over the 4 day span, the show attracted more than 40,000 spectators and participants."  Of the foregoing groups, only one (HHS) brought 2 small dogs.  Clearly, it was about fund raising over attempting to find homes for the animals.

HSPCA of Animal Planet Animal Cops fame is the primary driving force behind animal seizures in SE Texas.  Charles Jantzen, Kristie Franks, Trischa Price, Shawna Sundberg, Debbie Michielson, Liz Pavlicek, Bob McClintock, Randy Farmer, Robert McCarty, Mark Lutkenhaus.  These are the 10 people they call "investigators".

In just 2 recent seizures, they have participated in seizing over 2,000 animals.  In the Boado seizure, we never did learn what happened to the animals after they'd raised funds from them.  In the Gracia seizure, they very recently refused to give an update on the number of animals that have died or that they have killed.  Even though HSPCA is the driving force (apparently with 2 Harris County Deputy Constables at their beck and call) in many (perhaps most) seizures, they are accountable monetarily or in any form of body count to NO ONE.

HSPCA can afford to employ 10 people to "investigate" cruelty allegations, perhaps even seek them out where they do not exist, yet they will not disclose their kill rate.  My guess is that their kill rate is upwards of 95%.  Killing is what these organizations tend to do best.  I wonder how many animal lives could have been saved if the salaries of these 10 "investigators" had been put into animal care.

If you find yourself unable to care for a pet, HSPCA will take your animals, for a nice fee that is:

Q:  Is there a fee to admit an animal?
A: Yes. The Houston SPCA does charge a fee to admit an owned or stray animal. The admissions fee structure is as follows, effective Saturday, April 25, 2009:

$35:  Adult dog
$20:  Adult Cat
$15:  Puppies and kittens under 6 months old (Maximum of $50 per litter.)
$35: Medium to large parrots
$15: Small to Medium Birds
$3: Small Birds
$15: Rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, goats, pigs, sheep
$3:  Small rodents
$3: Poultry, waterfowl
No fee if individual opts to take animal home again
$100:  Horses, donkeys, mules
-Must have all vaccinations (rabies, west nile, equine encephalitis, tetanus)
-Must have current worming (within 1 month)
-Must have current Coggins test (within 6 months)
-Males must be gelded

(If you're actually broke, don't call HSPCA.  I'm sure they'd rather take your animals through seizure and you'd only be tipping them off to come visit you!)

HSPCA also sells the animals, including the ones they were paid to take.  They call it "adoption":

Adult Cats - $65.00
Kittens - $75.00
Adult Medium to Large Breed Dogs- $95.00
Medium to Large Breed Puppies (6 months or less)- $150.00
Medium to Large Breed Purebred dogs- $150.00
Small Breed Puppies-$150.00
Small Breed Adults Mixed or Purebred dogs- $150.00
Dogs with Medical Issues, Golden Paws Program or Heartworm Positive- $75.00
Ferrets- $75.00
Rabbits - $30.00
Guinea Pigs- $15.00
Small Rodents- $3.00
Cockatiel- $35.00
Parakeets- $10.00
Finches (common)- $5.00

HSPCA publicly bashes dog breeders but note how they charge more for some dogs and puppies, of course.  You'll pay even for sickly animals and, of course, all the medical costs will be on you rather than them.  They have a page on spay/neuter but apparently no clinic.  I seriously suspect they cherry pick the adoptable ones and summarily kill the rest to optimize profits, oh, oops, "revenues" over expenses (yes, terminology counts in the non-profit organization [NPO] world).

HSPCA can afford to employ 10 "investigators" to go out and actively seize animals owned by others, they charge for animals coming in, they sell animals going out, they fund raise for all of these animals and actively seek out publicity and donations for seizures.  HSPCA couldn't be bothered to get animals to a huge adoption venue.  They have an undisclosed kill rate that is probably astronomical.

By way of public disclosure, HSPCA provides one single document on its website and that is its 2007 IRS Form 990.  When were the 2008 and 2009 forms due?  They paid their president, Patricia E. Mercer, nearly $180,000 (plus perks, no doubt) in 2007.  Bet she's had a couple of raises since then too.  Yeah, we're not talking about an organization that feels any public accountability obligation at all!

I'm quite sure they have some kind of contract with Animal Planet.  The terms of that contract?   How much do they get paid?  We don't know.

I'm quite sure they have contracts with the government, surely they have one with Harris County, TX.  The terms of those contracts?  How much do they get paid?  We don't know.

We do know that they tout themselves as heroes while killing thousands and thousands of animals every year.  Is that "rescue" to you?  Sure as hell isn't "rescue" to me.  In fact, it sounds like pretty deplorable conditions.  I wonder what Meera Nandlal is thinking right now.  My what a PR spin she does for the media!

Meera: "I'm using my voice to be a voice to the animals of the Houston SPCA and I can't think of a better way to utilize my broadcasting and writing skills. I love my job!!!!"  Well, how about a few words of acknowledgment for the dead Meera?  Don't they deserve mention?  Just how many/what percentage does HSPCA KILL?  What becomes of the seized animals once they are no longer useful for fund raising?  Where are the 161 dogs you so recently seized and rehabbed in about 16 days?

HSPCA is the current custodian of the Gracia animals and HSPCA was the instigator of the raid after trespassing at length upon their property.  In the Gracia case, they have claimed less than $20,000 in care costs so far but the judge set the appeal bond at $44,000.  (Yes, I need to amend some figures in a prior entry and will do that in a future one; I misunderstood how the bond amount was set and it's more absurd than I initially thought.)  In HSPCA's last raid taking of over 1,000 animals, it claimed care costs in excess of $250,000 for about the same types of animals over the same amount of time as the less than $20,000 in this case.  The county coerced the victim of that prior raid into signing over his real estate.

Am I the only one raising my eyebrows at the concept that animals cost about 10% to tend of what they allegedly cost to tend just a few months ago?  HSPCA appears to be charging about $2/day/animal.  That would show an incredible inefficiency of care if one is talking about 800 birds.  Oh, yeah, we are talking about 800+ small birds.

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