With an estimated homeless pet population of anywhere between 800,000 to 1.2 million animals, Houston is without a doubt one of the toughest cities for animal advocates to work in — and one of the cities that needs them most. Rescued Pet Movement is one of these groups working hard to help homeless animals and strays find homes. In less than three years, they have saved an incredible 15,000 animals! However, the cost of doing this has racked up some incredible debt as well, forcing them to shut down parts of their operation while they catch up.
Since their beginning in September of 2013, Rescued Pets Movement has taken a less–utilized approach to rescuing animals while they work to reduce the overpopulation. Instead of finding animals homes only in proximity to their city, they transport many of them out of Texas to other states and rescues that have more space and less animals to adopt.
Part of what makes Houston (and other southern areas) a hot bed of breeding is just that — heat! They have warmer climates that lead to longer breeding seasons for unchecked strays, giving them extra months to keep poppin’ out those babies. RPM began building relationships with rescues and shelters in nearby states like Colorado that had more space with fewer strays coming in, and decided to focus their efforts more on transporting Houston rescues out so they would have a better chance at finding homes.
This still costs a ton of money, between the number of animals coming in, medical treatment for each one, transport, food, and various other expenses. Though not a shelter themselves, RPM works frequently with BARC, Houston’s government funded animal shelter. In working with BARC, Rescued Pets Movement got a 5–year–contract through the state that helps them pay for some of these costs — approximately $75 per animal. However, their average cost per animal is closer to $225 — three times the amount they’re receiving.
It’s hard when so many groups up north want animals that we have to send them. These are animals that would otherwise be put to sleep because we don’t have the same amount of space and interest here that other states do. We want to save as many as we can, but we end up spending far more than we have to do that. That’s where we got into trouble.
To give you an idea of how many lives RPM saves, these are just some of the animals transported in June:
Many of the northern states have spay and neuter laws for “releasing agencies” (aka shelters, animal control, etc.) that helps keep the unwanted pet population down. When asked if Houston has anything like this, Carlock answered with an emphatic “NO,” although many are trying to get something passed.
Be that as it may, BARCS does take care to sterilize all animals that come through their shelter in addition to offering educational programs and spay/neuter initiatives like “Fixin’ Houston” to lower income residents. This also includes driving a truck out to places like the 5th Ward and another area known as “The Corridor Of Cruelty,” neighborhoods known for having a high rate of homeless animals.
RPM told us that the number of rescues they work with is “a moving target,” but it falls in the neighborhood of 75 per 1–3 month time frame. According to Carlock, many of these shelters are only 25% occupied by dogs at most times, but have a budget of $20 million to work with that is being wasted without more pets to be saved in their direct area. As of now, these rescues are located primarily in Colorado with others in Wisconsin and Toronto. When asked why so many of their dogs are being shipped to Colorado, VP Timothy Lambert told us that in addition to their smaller pet population due to climate and shorter breeding seasons:
The pet ownership mentality is different up there. It’s cool to own a rescue dog. You see people with their rescue dogs everywhere. At cafes, in parks, river rafting, hiking — it’s beautiful there! I love the idea of dogs leaving our city shelter and living with all that fresh air and romping through the woods.
This is also in part to do with PACFA — the Pet Animal Care Facilities Act in place by Colorado’s Department of Agriculture that regulates via licensing and inspections how animals are cared for by any animal–related business. Says Timothy, “It’s like an extra layer of protection to know that our rescue partners must meet certain state requirements and be licensed to operate, or they’ll be shut down.” They go through the same scrutiny from PACFA so that they can bring their animals to CO, and hold their rescue partners in other states and provinces to the same standards.
Truthfully, there are many amazing checks and balances put into place to ensure these animals are being taken care of both near and far. But back to the main issue at hand currently, which is how RPM going to continue to save the enormous amounts of animals they have with the not–enormous–enough budget to go with it. For starters, Carlock told us that they have called in a financial manager that has them on a strict budget. Second, they are heightening their fundraising efforts, which includes the CrowdRise “Saving Pets Challenge” sponsored by Michelson Found Animals.
“Saving Pets” is an annual competition that encourages rescues and shelters to compete with fundraising by offering up to $150,000 in grants to the top earners. So far Rescued Pets Movement is in the lead after raising an impressive $91,000. They won the first round to receive an extra $10,000 from the foundation, but they have their eye on the final first place prize — $50,000. Carlock told BarkPost that these donations will go solely to the cost of saving and transporting animals, while another campaign started by Timothy Lambert will be used to take care of repairs needed and paying off their debt.
Some people see large numbers of donations and think a rescue shouldn’t really need all of that, but the truth is they do. 15,000 animals at $225 per animal means they have already spent over a whopping $3 million dollars on animals alone in the past three years. With saving so many animals and having so many still that need help, Rescued Pets movement needs all the financial help they can get. Carlock explained that any money they receive that isn’t used immediately will be saved for a “rainy day.” She then went on to say:
Truthfully though, every day is a rainy day.
Carlock conveyed that people can’t even imagine the severity of Houston’s problem until they see it for themselves. She included herself in this statement, explaining that she also found it hard to believe until she went to some of the overpopulated areas like the Fifth Ward and the “Corridor of Cruelty.”
When asked if they are doing anything to help curb the overpopulation, Carlock told BarkPost:
[We did try to work in other areas like spay/neuter and education when we first began, but this is part of what got us into trouble. We tried to do more than we could handle instead of letting organizations that are specifically dedicated to these areas of rescue do their jobs. We now do transport only, while supporting these other organizations in every way that we can.]
Carlock says she understands that what they’re doing right now is a “band–aid,” but a much needed one while Houston figures out how to handle this situation. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Houston is seeing a slight change in their homeless pet population with more spay/neuter/education programs. With the addition of transport teams like Rescued Pets Movement taking animals to less crowded shelter and rescues, BARC has had a significant rise in their animal “save rate.” And RPM is just happy that Houston is starting to take its pet population problem more seriously.
Please spare what you can to help Rescued Pets Movement continue to do their amazing work in saving animals. The “Saving Pets” challenge will be running until August 4th, so keep up those donations and let’s help them win that $50,000 grant. Carlock explained that their fundraising goal of $150,000 will allow them to save approximately 2,665 animals. And don’t forget their campaign dedicated specifically to paying down their debt and fixing up their facility so that they can reopen. Every little bit helps and you will be directly contributing to saving the lives of nearly a million homeless animals.