Houston, Texas – animal advocates are scrambling after a sobering email was sent out about a dire situation at Rescue Pets Movement (RPM), a nonprofit organization that has specialized in taking animals from Houston’s high kill, municipal shelter and transporting them to Colorado, a practice that has earned them both praise and criticism. The email read, in part:
“We get funding from the City of Houston that covers about 1/3 of our operations—it basically just covers RPM getting the dogs to you in Colorado. It is a set amount each year, and we have used up almost all of the money for the 2015/2016 Fiscal Year (which ends June 30). Also, we spend an average of approximately $200 per dog or puppy during their stay with us. We do not have adoptions and have no other source of income except for donations. With such a huge operation, it is truly a massive amount of money that we must raise to stay afloat. The bottom line is RPM is insolvent.”
The email caused a stir, particularly because RPM had been credited with increasing, for a not-so-small-of-a-fee, the save rate at Houson’s BARC shelter to the 80% range. However, opponents of large-scale transportation of pets are quick to point out that Colorado is not a No Kill state, and tens of thousands of pets are killed annually in shelters there. They also say that funds paid by the City to relocate dogs could be more effectively spent locally to make longer-term, more strategic changes to end killing in animal shelters.
Rescue One Dog pointed out that while the number of animals leaving Houston certainly seems good from the perspective of Houston, no one is measuring the impact of these transports on Colorado shelters and rescues.
“If Colorado is killing 25,000 pets, how many are because of homeless pets being transferred into the state? And how many shelters kill to make room for them? How many homeless pets are not pulled by local rescues because they are full with dogs from Houston’s BARC shelter and other out of state organizations?”
“About 12,000. That’s how many.”
In addition to saying they were insolvent, RPM indicated they were immediately reducing the number of animals taken from Houston’s shelter, which underscores two important points made by opponents of these transports. All along they have said the transport system is unsustainable and that they may prevent the City from making more important system-wide changes needed to improve the save rate at the shelter, without dumping their problem on other cities and towns.
While RPM says they can't cover their expenses with the funds paid to them by the City, Houston has allocated about $2.4 million to RPM to export animals in recent years.
It is unclear whether or not this announcement from RPM will generate some urgency at the City to begin implementing more sustainable shelter reforms. What will happen to the animals at BARC not being shipped to Colorado now? Can BARC engage people in their local community to save them? We can only hope they do.