City Council to Vote Wednesday on Controversial Pet Law
The Houston City Council is scheduled to vote tomorrow on an ordinance dictating when the city may take possession of animals that wind up in the city pound.
Courtesy Molly Dunn Hey -- who's my freakin' owner now?
Currently, the law provides a 30-day period for a prior owner to reclaim a pet, even if it's been adopted. Many in the rescue community, as well as officials with the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, want to eliminate the 30-day period and allow the city to assume ownership after the current intake-hold period.
That would mean BARC would legally own an unidentified animal after three days, and an identified animal (with a name-tag, microchip, rabies tag, etc.) six days after the first attempted contact of the owner. (BARC Spokesman Chris Newport tells us that those hold periods are the industry standard).
We'd love to explain to you why some people are opposed to this change. Problem is, the person who is most publicly leading a rally against the changes hates us, and won't talk to us.
That person is Zandra Anderson, self-styled "Texas Dog Lawyer," who once represented a woman who ran an alleged dog sanctuary called Spindletop, which turned out to be a den of neglect and death. Here's how much Anderson cares about dogs and their owners: she will not, to this day, let anxious pet owners and fosters know what became of the dogs they sent off to this very well-regarded and very expensive sanctuary. Thirty-eight dogs baked to death in a building there. Still others just vanished. Some of the owners never got to bury their dogs, and still don't know if they were really adopted by loving families, or had their corpses tossed in a mass grave.
Anderson and her lawyer pal, Jeff Shaver, have helped craft and push legislative efforts that support breeders. Now, in case you didn't realize this, one of the reasons the Houston Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care -- like most municipal pounds across the country -- is constantly overrun with animals is because there are too many of them.
There are irresponsible owners who don't neuter or spay. There's a certain breed of people who see dogs as dollar signs, and hope to crank out as many pups as they can. Some of these dogs will be adopted, sure. Some....well, they've got to wind up somewhere. (Breeder groups, such as the ironically named Responsible Pet Owners Alliance, are quick to claim that breeders have nothing to do with animal shelter overcrowding, since purebreds are rare in shelter. Which is true: But the offspring of whatever mutt a discarded purebred mounts can wind up there.)
So here we've got a municipal pound that was once a gulag, but which has made tremendous strides in the past few years -- largely because the new personnel appear to be people who actually care about animals' quality of life. Such a little thing, but it makes such a big difference.
One of the ordinance changes BARC wants to make is to eliminate a 30-day period owners currently have to reclaim pets that went missing and wound up at BARC, or with a rescue group. A hiccup in current law gives BARC the right to euthanize an unidentified animal after three days, and an identified one after six, even though the owner (if there is one somewhere) still has legal title. The new ordinance would give the city free and clear title after the holding period, so the city can transfer legal ownership to a rescue or an adopter.
The last thing we'd want to do is endorse a law that makes it easier for The Man to steal someone's pet. That's unconscionable. But we're also unsure how someone's pet could wait one, two, three, four weeks in a shelter (or in a foster/adoptive home) without the owner realizing.
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