City Council to Vote Wednesday on Controversial Pet Law

Categories: Spaced City

Courtesy Molly Dunn
Hey -- who's my freakin' owner now?
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.

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.

This story continues on the next page.

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You need to realize, Mr. Malisow, that there are many people in town who are well aware of your reputation as a lying weasel and THAT'S the real reason they won't return your calls.


I can only speak to my personal experience, but the 6-day rule is scary. I love my cat. He is chipped and I have spent thousands of dollars on him, with boarding, illnesses, etc. He went missing in 2010. I did everything I could to find him, to no avail. I visited my cousin for nine days in Barcelona four months after he went missing. The day that I got to Spain, my sister called and said that my cat had been found north of the Beltway (I live by 59 and 610 inside the loop). Luckily, the chip company allows for three phone numbers as the first two were my cell and work number. I was not going to check either phone while in Europe. The third number was for a family member who went to pick him up. If that weren't the case, I would have come home from vacation to find out that my cat had been put to sleep. It still makes me sick to think that could have happened. There are definitely circumstances beyond your control that make the 6-day rule beyond cruel.


As a guiding principle, we should be working toward a no-kill policy. I acknowledge that this is an unrealistic goal at this time.


@SomethingOfANeerDoWell  I hate the way this story seems to support the idea that the pet should die because its owners were irresponsible. But I can also see the ways in which this can go so wrong. Every dog owner has had the experience of having their pet find some unknown escape from the yard, or forgetting to close the garage door and the mutt somehow getting out that way (which has happened to me and my Basset on a couple of occasions). I can see a responsible and desperate dog owner calling BARC, looking for their hound, and some clueless clerk over there not having any clue about what dog they're talking about. So the dog is supposed to die because all these people messed up? And taking the owner's rights away isn't fair, either.

1972houston @Anse @SomethingOfANeerDoWell  It is very easy to cast a judgment and say what one feels a "responsible owner" should/would do, Some folks in this world do not realize that they need to actually physically go and look within the animal shelters daily. Folks who do realize this, usually have done so because of personal experiences. Having volunteered at a few shelters, BARC included, I can honestly say even when people do come and look they do not always find the animal they are looking for the first couple of trips. A 72 hour window is an extremely short period of time, if your animal has tags--those can easily come off.  Most of the animals that are picked up off the streets as "strays" are owned, but they do not have microchips so they end up "strays". You also cannot tell someone to just look at the shelter's website, because searching by a "breed" may not always turn up your animal. The breed is a guess with the majority of animals by intake shelter staff unless obviously a pure breed. I've seen people miss finding their animal because it was listed as a Lab mix when in their view it was a Shepherd mix. Or it listed as a Pit when it was a boxer mix or an American Bulldog. There is no easy resolution to the problem. Folks who do give a crap, need to make sure that all animals are microchipped, that the chips are REGISTERED, and that the contact information is and remains current. That is the ONLY way that your animals will have any level of protection if lost/stolen/missing. $30 investment for the possibility of saving a life. 

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