July 11, 2007
Better times at BARC

I've read this story on Kent Robertson, the new boss of the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC), and it occurs to me that I just hadn't realized how bad things had been there.

"We hear it all the time. They say we're not going down to that nasty place but it's not nasty anymore," Robertson said. "We need to get the word out that this is not a bad place to come."


The department has had a reputation for low adoption rates, poor animal treatment and killing too many animals. Animal welfare workers criticized the agency for being understaffed and underfunded. A measure to get six additional animal control officers in the new budget beginning July 1 was not funded. The department enforces animal licensing and vaccination ordinances, investigates animal bites and operates the city animal shelter.

Using a folded sheet of paper with scribbled notes as a guide, Robertson recites a list of the department's accomplishments:

Animal adoptions are up, euthanasias are down. BARC's volunteer base is growing. City ordinance changes he promoted have been approved. The staff -- he calls them team members -- is more responsive to the public.


Stephen Williams, the city's Health and Human Services director who recruited Robertson, credits him with bringing stability to BARC.

Williams cited one indicator of improvement -- far fewer public complaints about loose dogs and poor treatment of animals. And at a recent meeting with BARC volunteers at the shelter, he had a difficult time finding a parking space because of the number attending.

"He's been able to bring some structure to it. We're doing a lot of stuff," Williams said. "We're in a process of establishing a foundation. He's doing what I want him to do."

Some news stories you follow obsessively, some just sort of float past without really getting noticed. Having read this article, I now recall seeing some stuff before about bad stuff at BARC, like this and this. Can't say why I didn't pay more attention to this before, but I hope what we're seeing now represents the kind of real progress that we've been promised before. We'll see. Meanwhile, since it was the Houston Press that broke those earlier stories I linked to, I'll be curious to see if HouStoned has any comment. What say you, fellas?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 11, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston