Houston’s East End is basically ground zero for perhaps the worst stray pet problem in the country. City officials estimate there are 1.2 million stray dogs and cats. What I have personally seen in Houston should be unacceptable in any U.S. city. The problem, especially with stray dogs, who live in packs and are increasingly aggressive towards people, is out of hand. These animals are suffering, and people are legitimately scared.
A chronic lack of spay/neuter resources in low-income areas caused this problem, and it’s not going to be solved overnight. Emancipet’s approach to reducing the population of homeless pets is unique in several ways. Our safe, high-volume process for performing spay/neuter operations has been used as a model for other clinics around the nation. Emancipet has also been successful in reaching pet owners who are not seeking out spay/neuter services, primarily in lower-income areas where cost and lack of information are barriers. Our philosophy is that all pet owners want to do what’s best for their pets, and will do so when given the information and opportunity in a non-judgmental way.
In May, we opened our first Houston clinic, which is also our first location outside Central Texas. Emancipet Houston operates in a customized 48-foot semi-permanent trailer in the East End, a low-income neighborhood where the stray animal problem is the most dire. Emancipet will be able to spay/neuter 7,000-8,000 animals per year, and provide approximately 10,000 preventive care visits.
And in a few months, Emancipet will move into a brick-and-mortar space in the same neighborhood, and move the semi-permanent trailer to a new location. Our plan is to open three Emancipet clinics in neighborhoods with the greatest need in Houston over the next few years, and to work with city and county officials to address the homeless pet population challenge.
These efforts are aided by a $1 million gift from the ASPCA that will help Emancipet expand its low cost spay/neuter and preventive veterinary services in the city’s underserved neighborhoods, and in other cities in the future.
Emancipet is in Houston thanks to the persistence and leadership of Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez, and Council Member Oliver Pennington who approved $260,000 in funding to help us start a clinic.
But we’re committed to helping transform Houston’s underserved neighborhoods into humane communities, in partnership with the City of Houston, and an army of animal welfare organizations committed to change.
Solving animal homelessness is a movement that everyone can be part of in their community. To learn more, visit www.emancipet.org.
Images via Emancipet and Houston Chronicle