Texas prides itself on being larger than life, and Harris County, the home of Houston and nearly 4.7 million people, is the third-most populous county in the United States. That many people also means many companion animals, and despite Houston’s reputation as an international business and cultural capital, our track record for animal welfare is woefully poor.
Harris County’s pets and people are served by the Harris County Animal Shelter (HCAS), a division of the county’s Public Health division. A decade ago, this shelter was among the worst in the country for providing live outcomes to the animals in their care, and as recently as 2012, just 15.5% of animals left the shelter alive—that means that more than 22,000 dogs and cats out of the 26,630 who entered died or were euthanized.2
Thanks to progressive leadership, support from the community, and strategic partnerships, the shelter’s hard work has paid off, and in March 2019 a whopping 95.7% of pets left the shelter alive, the shelter’s highest save rate ever!
Dr. Michael White became the director of Harris County’s veterinary public health division in 2013, and immediately leveraged his decades of experience as a veterinary leader and his true passion for helping animals in need to implement new shelter programming. Under his direction, the shelter has improved consistently year over year by prioritizing the animals in his care and seeking out support from the public and the animal welfare community.
Through partnerships with Banfield, Best Friends Animal Society, Houston Pet Set, Maddie’s Fund, Petco Foundation, Petsmart Charities, and other funders, Dr. White has created more and more opportunities for HCAS pets through progressive lifesaving programs. Through Dr. White’s direction, leaders in animal welfare from around the country have come to Houston to support the efforts to make the Harris County shelter a true resource to the community.
In addition to the programming support of these partner organizations, dozens of rescue groups have worked tirelessly to assist the shelter in moving urgent animals out quickly. These heroes swoop in when the shelter is out of options, and pull dogs and cats into foster, adoption, and transport programs where they have a second chance to find forever homes. In 2018, these committed partners took in around 34% or 6,158 of the 18,174 who entered the shelter.
But the group who made the most difference was people like you who stepped up as adopters, fosters, volunteers, donors, and advocates for shelter pets in need. You spoke loudly for these pets with no voices, and you made a difference for them. Day of the Dogs is committed to empowering people like you to get involved and make a difference for pets in need no matter where you live!
You worked together to value the life of every pet who entered the shelter, from the youngest orphaned kitten to the biggest Great Dane mix. You shared and networked the animals out of time, and helped them connect to the people who could open their homes to them. You donated $XXXXXX to animals in need through this Facebook page.
You should feel proud of what we’ve accomplished together as a community who values animals’ lives, but our work is far from done. Communities around the country are sustainably saving 98-99% of the animals in their care, including our Texan neighbor, Travis County (Austin). If we want to see Houston join their ranks, we have to keep pressing forward and saving more lives! We need more adopters, more foster homes, more volunteers, more donors, more advocates for the dogs and cats who have no place to call home.
Let’s keep raising the lifesaving bar and calling on more dog and cat lovers to get involved and make Houston a city that treats its pets like the family members they are! By working together and supporting our local shelters like Harris County, we will end the killing of pets in shelters.