BARC ANIMAL SHELTER AND ADOPTIONS

Frequently Asked Questions

The BARC Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is committed to transparency when it comes to our daily operations and procedures. Here are some frequently asked questions that address our current state of operations:

Has BARC changed any policies or operational procedures post-pandemic?

  • Adoptions: As of May 2021, potential adopters can come to the shelter to meet the pets in which they are interested, rather than only viewing them online. In addition, BARC is again participating in adoption events around the city to bring our animals out to the public. While the number of these events is fewer than pre-pandemic due to a shortage of employees and volunteers to assist with off-site adoptions, we participate in as many as we can staff. If you are interested in hosting the BARC mobile adoption trailer or team at your business or event, please email barcadoptions@houstontx.gov.
  • Animal Intake: BARC, like most public shelters around the country, is experiencing a shortage in frontline shelter staff. These are the employees who are responsible for the daily care of the animals and their shelter housing. Post-pandemic, BARC continues to require appointments to surrender owned animals to the shelter, to allow us to manage the space for the 34% higher intake of strays and animals collected by Animal Enforcement Officers during calls for service.
  • Fosters: As of July 1, 2022, BARC has more than 850 animals in foster care. While our process for vetting fosters has not changed, BARC is actively looking for more foster parents as many of our foster homes are at capacity and cannot pull additional animals from the shelter. Learn more about becoming a BARC foster here: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/foster_a_pet.html
  • Rescues: BARC understands that the pandemic created financial hardship for many of our rescue families. Post-pandemic, BARC piloted a program that allowed us to pay a stipend to rescues and fosters who pull animals with lengths-of-stay greater than 10 days in the shelter. Each rescue group plays an essential role in making an impact, and we are always looking for new partners. To become an official rescue partner, please complete the application linked her: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/Rescue2.html
  • Volunteers: Throughout the pandemic, BARC lost many of its dedicated volunteers. This has had a significant impact on some of our programs. While staff has managed to pick up in certain areas, we are in the process of attempting to rebuild the volunteer program by recruiting new partners to help accommodate our current needs. You can help save lives by getting involved. Visit the following link to find out more: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/volunteer.html
  • Mandatory microchipping: As of January 19, 2022, microchips are mandatory for all pets and replace the traditional tags that were issued by the shelter at the time of licensing. Microchipping makes it easier to return lost pets to their owners, allowing animal enforcement officers to reunite lost pets with their owners in the field, bypassing the need to bring them to the shelter for intake and care. Although the requirement is already in effect, BARC is conducting a year-long education effort on the new requirement and working with our third-party spay/neuter partners to include the service at the time of surgery. Houstonians can speak to their veterinarians or reach out to BARC’s wellness clinic for more information on how to get their pets microchipped. Register your pet here: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/Way_Home.html
  • Stray animals: The stray animal “hold” time has been reduced from 72 to 48 hours to expedite adoptions or transfers for animals without microchips. All animals will continue to be required to be spayed or neutered before leaving the shelter.
  • Spay/neuter services: The City has greatly expanded the availability of funding for third-party spay/neuter services for animals in Houston. Mayor Turner committed $1 million of American Rescue Plan funding to BARC for spay/neuter services over the next four years. In addition, in Fiscal Year 2022, BARC and Houston PetSet, a local nonprofit, partnered to offer free spay/neuter surgeries for Houston pets. BARC has also entered contracts for free spay/neuter surgeries through K-9 Angels’ "The Empty Shelter Project” and Houston Spay Neuter. Houston Spay Neuter assists the shelter by spaying and neutering BARC pets so they can immediately leave the shelter when adopted. BARC continues to offer free community-based spay/neuter services through our own Healthy Pets Health Streets initiative: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/healthy_pets_healthy_streets.html
  • BARC is still actively providing foster clinics; bite case/rabies quarantine services; and conducting cruelty investigations – all services that were being performed prior to the pandemic and with the same procedures as before the pandemic. We are also working with partners to provide low-cost and no-cost spay/neuter programs; host free pet pantry events to distribute pet medicine, food, and supplies to the Houston community; and free and low-cost wellness services.

  • How has the pandemic impacted BARC’s shelter capacity and live release rate?


    • As a publicly funded shelter, BARC has dual missions – seeking positive outcomes for animals while protecting the safety of human beings. While fulfilling our dual mission, BARC is also required to accept every animal that comes through our doors regardless of breed, temperament, condition (health), or circumstance. This means that, unlike non-profit animal rescue organizations and shelters, BARC cannot turn away an animal because the shelter is full or because the animal is aggressive, has a severe health condition, or is simply unlikely to be adopted. As a result, the shelter is “at capacity” most days, and shelter management begins to post animals to its Urgent Pets list to alert the public that pets are moving toward the Code Red, or euthanasia, list. Typically, BARC prepares this list six days a week, Monday through Saturday.


      In addition, in response to requests from our foster and rescue partners, BARC began posting the Urgent Pets list a full 48 hours before an animal is scheduled for euthanasia to allow both BARC and our foster and rescue partners more time to find a temporary or forever home for these pets. The Urgent Pets list can be found at: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/urgent-pets.html.


      Although BARC has been able to maintain a 90%+ live release rate for the previous two years, post-pandemic, the situation has become more critical for homeless pets as our foster and rescue partners tell us they are also at capacity. This is confirmed by our own data. Statistics at BARC tell us that our own capacity issues at the shelter are driven by a severe drop in adoption rates (26% decrease compared to pre-pandemic adoption rates), as well as a dramatic decrease in the number of animals transferred to foster/rescue (a whopping 39.8% drop this fiscal year compared to pre-pandemic rates).


    How do staffing levels at the shelter impact shelter capacity?

      The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters recommends that every sheltering organization establish a maximum “capacity for care.” Based on the standard, BARC’s capacity for care is 250-275 animals when we are fully staffed, but the shelter consistently houses almost 50% more than that number of animals, with 20% to 40% fewer staff members to care for them. The ratio is even worse at other public shelters. All of us are facing staffing challenges.

      As we have disclosed to stakeholders in our public meetings (at both virtual stakeholder Town Halls and with City Council), during Fiscal Year 2022, BARC has averaged a 20% to almost 40% vacancy rate among our critical frontline staff, specifically our Animal Care Technicians and Customer Service Representatives. Like other employers across the country, we are facing challenges with both recruiting and retaining qualified staff in this post-pandemic era. We have brought in outside contractors to assist with daily cleaning of the shelter and kennels to allow our remaining staff sufficient time to feed, care for, and interact with the animals.

      In addition, BARC lost one of our veterinarians in July 2022, bringing us to only two full-time staff veterinarians. Nationwide there is a shortage of shelter veterinarians, and as we are vacant two full-time veterinarians, we anticipate a drop in the number of wellness and spay/neuter appointments we can offer at the shelter. Our staff is visiting veterinary schools across the country to pursue partnerships for interns and design an incentive program to recruit graduating veterinarians.

      Job opportunities at the shelter can be viewed here:https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/houston?keywords=barc

      Are the staffing levels and capacity issues impacting the Urgent Pets lists?

      Capacity for care is a leading factor in the determination of the Urgent Pets list, but not the primary one. The Urgent Pets list mainly includes pets with medical and behavioral conditions, and longer lengths of stay. The Code Red list, specifically, includes all pets that are at immediate risk for euthanasia the following day. You can view these lists here: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/urgent-pets.html

      The staff at BARC does not make euthanasia decisions lightly. Illness, behavior, and shelter capacity are all considerations. For example, there are instances when a pet's behavior is such that it becomes a danger to the staff and any potential adopter or foster parent, and the pet will be placed on the Code Orange and Code Red list more quickly than an animal whose length of stay may be longer. In other instances, an animal may come into the shelter with a severe health condition or injury, and our dedicated shelter veterinarians will have to make the tough decision that euthanasia is the more humane outcome for that pet.

      Has BARC requested or received federal funds (such as ARPA) or additional budget or funding?

      Yes. BARC received more than $500,000 in CARES funding, which provided needed services and supplies to pet owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. The Pandemic Relief for Pets program ran through December 2021 and included the following:

    • BARC/Houston PetSet Free Mobile Emergency Veterinary Services – December 15, 23, 30
    • BARC/Houston PetSet Spay/Neuter Services - December 16-17
    • BARC Drive-thru Pet & Supplies Food Bank - December 19, 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.
    • Best Friends Adoption Weekend Event in partnership with BARC & RPM – December 18-19, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
    • BARC’s Free Pet Wellness Weeks – December 20 - 23 and December 26 - 30, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

    • BARC applied for ARPA dollars in 2022 and was granted $1M for expansion of spay/neuter services for the community. BARC’s budget in FY2023 includes additional funding for free pet microchipping and wellness events.

      How does BARC compare to similar shelters?

      Except for litter mates and maternity cases, BARC has no plans to place multiple pets in the same kennel as it increases the chances for the spread of infectious diseases; causes unnecessary stress to shelter pets; increases the risks of animals fighting and seriously hurting each other; and increases the risk of bites to staff, volunteers, and/or other animals.

      How can residents schedule an intake appointment? Is the process different if the animal is sick or injured?

      Houstonians should call 311 to report any stray animal that is injured, sick, or abused. Please note that BARC will never turn away any sick, injured, or underage animals. In general, BARC does not encourage members of the public to handle stray animals due to public health and safety concerns. However, those who decide to pick-up a stray animal should be prepared to care for the animal until an intake appointment can be scheduled.

      BARC also recommends Houstonians try the following before attempting to bring an animal to the shelter:

    • First and foremost: Take found pets to any local veterinary clinic, animal hospital, pet store, or animal shelter (including SPCA, Houston Humane Society, Special Pals, Harris County, and BARC) to have the pet scanned for a microchip to identify the owner. Many pets do not wear collars and are found within blocks of their home. Having the animal scanned for a microchip allows him/her to be returned to the owner without ever being brought into the shelter.
    • Schedule a Deferred Intake appointment, which allows for the pet to receive a free vaccination at BARC, and then to be taken home by the rescuer until they can return for the intake appointment.
    • Create a found animal profile on 24PetConnect (https://24petconnect.com) to post a picture, details of the pet, and contact information. This allows owners to easily search, find, and be reunited with lost pets.
    • Post the found pet on social media platforms and community networks to help contact the owner.

      Has BARC considered keeping owner turn-ins appointment-based, but returning to open intake for strays?

      Intake restrictions are in place to protect BARC staff and our current shelter animals while adhering to capacity for care standards. The risk of disease transmission is the same whether the animal is owned or a stray. However, BARC will never turn away sick, injured, or underage animals; thus, it is important to contact 311 or BARC management if you need to bring in an animal that meets these criteria.

      BARC is committed to protect Houstonians from potentially aggressive and dangerous animals in the community—as evident by the 34% higher intake of strays and animals collected by Animal Enforcement Officers during calls for service, when comparing data between the first six months of 2021 and 2022. An appointment-based intake system assists with keeping enough kennels open each day to accommodate the animals being brought in from the field daily by our enforcement team.

      Since BARC is practicing deferred intake by appointment, owners may be unable to find their lost animals because other people are holding them (instead of having them in the shelter, a central place which they could locate them). How will owners find their lost pets?

      As discussed in Question above, there are several options if an animal is picked up by a member of the public while waiting for an appointment to surrender the animal to BARC:

    • Any local veterinary clinic, animal hospital, pet store, or animal shelter (including SPCA, Houston Humane Society, Special Pals, Harris County, and BARC) can scan the pet for a microchip to identify the owner. This should be the first step anytime a member of the public picks up a stray.
    • Any person that locates an animal can create a found animal profile on 24PetConnect (https://24petconnect.com) to post a picture and details about the animal, as well as contact information for the rescuer.
    • Anyone who locates a lost animal can also share information about the animal on social media platforms.

      How successful is BARC’s contracted relationship with Rescue Pets Movement?

      Thanks to their vast foster network, since Rescued Pets Movement (RPM) RPM began working with BARC in 2013, RPM has rescued over 50,000 BARC animals from BARC. As evidenced by the table below, most of the animals pulled by RPM from BARC were animals with health or behavioral conditions – including heartworms.

      RPM Transfer Report 2019 % 2020 % 2021 %
      No Behavior/ Health Conditions 1863 22% 4663 45% 3368 43%
      Behavior/Health Conditions 6586 78% 5592 55% 4392 57%
      TOTAL 8449 - 10255 - 7730 -

    What is the status of the City’s Animal Shelter Advisory Committee?

    Pursuant to Chapter 6, Section 131 of the City of Houston’s Code of Ordinances, the City’s Animal Shelter Advisory Committee’s role is to render advice and assistance regarding the City's compliance with the requirements of Chapter 823 of the Texas Health and Safety Code.

    The City works with the Advisory Committee to review local and national best practices for shelter operations and how they could be applied at BARC. The Committee has provided much-needed assistance during emergencies at BARC, including setting up on-site shelter operations at Hurricane Harvey evacuation shelters and establishing cleaning and testing protocols during a distemper outbreak at the shelter in 2018.

    Existing Committee members resigned or became inactive during the pandemic, requiring replacement of all six members. In July 2022, the Mayor and Council Members nominated and appointed six new members to the Committee:

  • Position 1 DR. AMY CRUM
  • Position 2 JASON CISNEROZ
  • Position 3 DR. LLOYD JARMON
  • Position 4 BECKY BEST
  • Position 5 GWENDOLYN CONDOLEO-CRAWFORD
  • Position 6 MADELINE GARVIS SMITH

  • Any member of the Committee or the public may contact BARC at any time with questions about BARC or shelter operations. Visit www.houstontx.gov/ara for contact information.


How does BARC’s animal enforcement team prioritize calls for service?

    BARC has a legal mandate to protect public safety. Pursuant to this mandate, BARC must take in any animal brought to the shelter as well as remove dangerous, sick, and stray animals from the community. However, with a limited number of Animal Enforcement Officers and limited space at the BARC shelter, BARC must prioritize responses to calls received, as explained below.

    BARC is required to investigate allegations of animal cruelty; animal bite cases; calls for service involving sick/dangerous/aggressive/nuisance animals at schools and on public property; calls regarding loose livestock and dangerous wildlife; and requests for assistance from local, State and Federal law enforcement. This means BARC receives more calls for service than can be answered in any given day. BARC must prioritize these service requests based on the severity of the situation. Threats to public health and safety are the first priority, while non-threatening strays are the lowest priority.

    Here is how BARC’s current animal enforcement staffing levels compare to other Texas agencies:

    San Antonio (Oct-Sep) Houston(BARC)(July-June) Dallas(Oct-Sept)
    FY 2022 Budget $18,500,000 $13,684,685 $16,068,520
    Authorized Positions (FY 2022) 164 112 162
    Animal Enforcement Positions 54 32 90
    Temporary Positions (in FTEs) 11 - 45
    Population Served 1.5 million 2.3 million 1.3 million
    Square Miles 465.4 sq mi 669 sq mi 383.6 sq mi

What is BARC doing to address the stray population crisis within the community?

    According to experts, low cost and free spay/neuter services are the primary means of lowering the stray animal population in any city. Another tool is microchipping, which allows animals to be found even when they are not wearing collars or identification. In May 2013, BARC created the Healthy Pets, Healthy Streets initiative (HPHS) to provide free spay/neuter and microchipping services to all Houstonians, while specifically targeting those Houston communities with the highest stray animal calls, dog bite complaints, and overall calls for stray animal services. Funded each budget year at a minimum of $520,000, the HPHS program allows BARC to work in conjunction with our local spay/neuter partners – the Houston Humane Society, Emancipet, and the Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) – to provide all these services for at least 3,500 animals, separate and apart from BARC’s other spay/neuter programs, described below.

    The City of Houston has also greatly expanded the availability of funding for third-party spay/neuter services for animals in Houston beyond our core HPHS program. Beginning with supplemental funding approved in BARC’s FY2022 budget, through June 30, 2022, BARC and Houston PetSet, a local nonprofit, partnered to offer free spay/neuter surgeries for Houston pets through PetSet’s mobile spay/neuter program.

    With the supplemental funding – which was also approved for the FY2023 budget – BARC has also entered contracts for free spay/neuter surgeries through K-9 Angels’ "The Empty Shelter Project” and Houston Spay Neuter. Houston Spay Neuter assists the shelter by spaying and neutering BARC pets so they can immediately leave the shelter when adopted. In addition, Mayor Sylvester Turner recently committed an additional $1 million of American Rescue Plan funding to BARC for spay/neuter services over the next four years.

    BARC believes it is also a priority, especially during these tough times, to assist residents and their pets with services and supplies that may help them to keep their pet rather than releasing it into homelessness. BARC hosted several free pet pantry events throughout the pandemic with federal CARES Funds to offer Houstonians free dog and cat food, litter, crates, leashes, dog houses, etc. We have received supplemental funding to continue these projects, as well as funding for free wellness and microchipping events and heartworm treatments to make keeping an animal more affordable for families experiencing financial hardship.

Does BARC report animal cruelty to law enforcement when abused animals are brought to the shelter?

    BARC is a founding partner of the Harris County Animal Cruelty Taskforce. BARC’s Animal Enforcement team has two staff dedicated to investigating claims of abuse and neglect citywide. In 2019, BARC investigated a total of 1,909 cases of animal abuse/neglect resulting in 482 citations, 194 animals seized, 321 animals voluntary surrendered to BARC custody, and 174 criminal charges filed.

    BARC is a founding partner of the Harris County Animal Cruelty Taskforce. BARC’s Animal Enforcement team has two staff dedicated to investigating claims of abuse and neglect citywide. In 2019, BARC investigated a total of 1,909 cases of animal abuse/neglect resulting in 482 citations, 194 animals seized, 321 animals voluntary surrendered to BARC custody, and 174 criminal charges filed.

Does BARC pick-up contained dogs like Harris County?

    BARC prioritizes service requests based on the severity of the situation. Threats to public health and safety are BARC’s priority.

    In calendar year 2021 (January through December), BARC Animal Enforcement Officers picked up 7,073 stray animals from the streets of Houston and had a total intake of 27,048 animals. In calendar year 2019, Harris County had a reported total intake of 18,025 animals. The City of Houston spans 665 square miles and is densely populated. Harris County Animal Control is responsible for 750 square miles of those portions of Harris County where there are no incorporated cities with their own animal control services.

What steps are being taken at BARC to enforce proper breeding practices in Houston? What is BARC doing to proactively bring illegal animal breeders to justice?

    When a BARC Animal Enforcement Officer encounters illegal breeding during an investigation, those violations are addressed immediately. Random illegal breeding is typically difficult for our team to pinpoint since it is often done outside of the public view – hence the term, “backyard breeding.” Roadside sales are prohibited within the city limits of Houston. It is important to note that these violations are currently classified as Class C Misdemeanors.

How does BARC market its shelter animals?

    BARC proactively markets our shelter pets. BARC has been operating with a greater than 90 percent live release rate for several years through these efforts. We have made great strides in improving outcomes for our pets, and in the past year alone, we have greatly improved transparency and timing regarding those pets that are most likely to be euthanized by creating an Urgent Pets list, which can now be viewed on our website here: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/urgent-pets.html. In addition, the email that is sent to our rescues providing kennel cards and behavior notes for all pets on the Code Red list is shared a full 48 hours in advance of euthanasia.

    All our communication channels—the website, social media, press releases, and media alerts—are focused on promoting BARC’s pets and our services to Houstonians, with the additional intention of growing our audience and therefore the number of potential adopters, fosters, and rescuers for our shelter pets. By the time an animal reaches the Code Red List, we have already exhausted multiple shelter resources to market the pet, including sending pleas to individual rescues and rescue organizations, and posting the pet on 24PetConnect to give potential adopters the opportunity to ask and receive questions about the pet. We are constantly evaluating our social media strategy and meet weekly to discuss our calendar of content. Staff have been increasing the amount of promotion for the Urgent Pets page, which is also linked via the homepage of our website.

    BARC’s official channels are:

  • Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/BARCHouston
  • Twitter - https://twitter.com/BARC_Houston
  • Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/barc_houston/
  • BARC is also active on Nextdoor: https://nextdoor.com/agency/city-of-houston/?i=dhzljhtkrtfgtmpsthjp

How does BARC distribute and publicize its Code Red list among rescue partners?

    Active rescues working with the BARC outreach team can select what type of information on BARC animals they would like to receive. For example, groups can opt for information on all BARC animals, or can choose to receive information only about certain breeds, ages, bottle babies, pets with medical needs, etc. Rescues who wish to be notified about animals on the euthanasia list should contact BARC directly at barc.aid@houstontx.gov to be added to the distribution list.

    The determination for euthanasia is primarily driven by the animal’s health and/or behavior. For example, an aggressive or dangerous animal will not be put on an adoption, foster, or transfer list. BARC will not knowingly endanger the health and safety of the public or other animals.

How many active rescue animal organizations are in BARC’s network?

    Approximately 150 rescue groups have renewed their applications to continue to work with BARC. BARC is actively recruiting and accepting new applications year-round for foster/rescue partners. It should be noted that BARC has seen a decrease in the number of foster/rescue transfers (39.8% drop in fiscal year 2022 compared to pre-pandemic rates); thus, identifying additional partners is particularly critical at this time. To see a list of approved BARC rescues and apply to become one, visit the BARC website here: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/Rescue2.html

How can potential adopters view adoptable pets online? Is it necessary to go to the BARC shelter to see available animals?

    It is not necessary for a potential adopter – or foster/rescue – to visit the BARC shelter to view available pets. All BARC animals that are available for adoption, including those in foster care, are featured on 24PetConnect. This does exclude animals with extreme medical needs or behavioral concerns, owned bite cases, court holds and cruelty cases. BARC also proactively shares pets on our Urgent Pets page, including Length of Stay animals and those pets at risk for euthanasia: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/urgent-pets.html. Adoptions are, however, only done in person, so potential adopters must visit our adoption center at 3300 Carr St., anytime from noon – 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to complete an adoption.

How can I send pledges for a specific animal?

    BARC does not own the pages that collect pledges for these animals, nor is the money pledged collected by, or given, to BARC in support of the needs of the specific pet. Ideally, owners of pages that raise money for pets should tag the animal and pull it from BARC since they have received pledged resources for the care and maintenance of the pet. Residents who wish to donate money or purchase items from our wishlist can do so here: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/donate_landingpage.html

Does BARC grant extensions to pets on the Code Red list?

    BARC does grant extensions as spacing and staff safety allows.

In May 2021, intake was 2,204 and live release was 94.1%. In May 2022, intake was just 1,647 but live release was only 82.09%. Why is live release lower if intake is lower? Shouldn’t the opposite be true?

    Intake is not the only factor that affects the live release rate, nor can the live release rate be understood by looking at any specific month. To understand what drives the live release rate for any given period, we need to look at the types of pets received by BARC, as well as the trends in outcomes, over time. For example, comparing the source of intake between the first 6 months of 2021 and the first 6 months of 2022 (January 1 through June 29), we see that it is true that in the first 6 months of 2022 overall intake was down by 15% or 1,603 animals. However, the source of the animals was dramatically different. BARC received 32% or 2,462 fewer pets surrendered by their owners. This is significant because owner-surrendered pets tend to be more adoptable than pets that come into the shelter from other sources.

    If we look at the same period, then, we see that the number of strays collected in the field or cruelty intakes were greater by 964 pets than the same period in the previous year, and total Animal Enforcement activities were 17% higher, across all activity types. The animals retrieved through enforcement activity generally have more health and behavioral problems than owner-surrendered animals, which are often easier to adopt, foster, and transfer. Thus, although overall intake was down for this period in 2022, the outcomes for the animals that were received by BARC were also less favorable because many of these animals were sick or had serious behavioral issues.

How long will BARC attempt to contact the owner listed on a pet’s microchip before being placed on the Code Yellow, Orange, or Red list?

    Any pet that comes into the shelter with a microchip is held for 6 days. During this time, a Customer Service Representative will contact the microchip company to locate the pet’s owner information. We attempt to make contact via a phone call first, and if there is no answer and we are unable to leave a voicemail, a certified letter is mailed to the pet owner’s address. This is the process for any animal that comes into the shelter, not just for Urgent Pets.

If a pet on the Code Red list is tagged by an animal rescue organization, how quickly will that dog be removed from the list?

    Once the Rescue Coordinator receives an email from an approved rescue organization to tag an animal, the Rescue Coordinator inputs this change in the BARC database, which will then appear in the list’s next scheduled update. The Code Red list is automatically updated every 15 minutes.

If a pet on the Code Red list is tagged by an animal rescue organization, how long does it take for BARC staff to contact the organization to arrange for pick-up of the pet?

    The Rescue Coordinator assigned to the BARC Aid email for that day will confirm the tag and work with the rescue partner to schedule the pickup of the pet. We urge our rescue partners to pick up an animal the same day to assist with space.

How many pets are placed on the Code Orange list before they are placed on Code Red list?

    There is no threshold associated with the number of pets that dictates when the pets are moved to the Code Red list. Factors such as behavior, medical condition, and capacity concerns as addressed in question 4 are determining factors for how a pet may transition onto a list and be escalated or removed.

Why are adoption events taking place and not including pets from the Code Orange or Red list?

    All available pets are included in all adoption events. Any pet that is on the Code Red or Code Orange list is available for adoption unless otherwise marked as a “rescue only.” Pets are designated “rescue only” due to behavioral or medical concerns that can be more easily addressed by an experienced rescue organization. However, if an adopter is interested in a pet marked “rescue only,” BARC staff will talk with the potential adopter to ensure they understand the behavioral issues or special needs of the pet that may arise after leaving the shelter. Additionally, while some pets may be moved to buildings on property that are not accessible to the public, they are not hidden, and our adoption coordinators and animal care staff will happily assist anyone interested in meeting an urgent pet.

How do I register to be a foster with BARC? What are the requirements?

Residents in our approved foster boundary area can register by following these instructions:

  1. Fill out BARC’s Foster Application HERE.
  2. View pets available for foster: Browse Adoptable Pets
  3. Email barcfoster@houstontx.gov for additional information about the pet and its availability. Please note, pets that mention FOSTER in their bios or kennels are already in foster care.
  4. Once a foster pet has been selected, schedule an appointment to pick up the foster pet at https://waitwhile.com/welcome/fosterpickups
  5. Come to BARC (2700 Evella Street) at your scheduled time.
  6. Park in a numbered space and sign in at https://waitwhile.com/welcome/fosterpickups & wait for your foster to be brought out to your vehicle!

How does BARC verify the reputability of a partner animal rescue organization?

    Rescue and transport partners play an integral role in saving the lives of BARC’s animals. During fiscal year 2021, a total of 12,509 pets were transferred to partner organizations. Organizations wishing to partner with BARC must submit:

  • An IRS form confirming non-profit 501(c)(3) status
  • A mission statement for the organization
  • Adoption standards and contract
  • Sterilization policies
  • Social media handles and website URL
  • We work closely with our dedicated network of fosters and rescues to ensure that these partners are in good standing with City ordinances and our own policies. We monitor the frequency with which certain rescues pull animals and investigate specific groups as necessary. As a founding member of the Harris County Animal Cruelty Task Force, we do our due diligence to follow up on tips and concerns submitted anonymously or from our other partner agencies.

Does BARC have a dedicated Foster Program coordinator?

    BARC currently has an employee managing both the foster and volunteer programs. We are currently interviewing for a new Volunteer Coordinator, which, when filled, will allow for a dedicated Foster Coordinator to focus solely on the foster program.

Does BARC have existing SOPs for the Foster Program?


How does BARC evaluate and treat animals with behavioral issues to improve their chances of adoption or rescue pick-up?

    BARC follows the guidance of Maddie’s Fund and the ASPCA for gathering data and creating notes on all our pets. BARC managers train staff to collect information by reading an animal’s body language at all possible interactions (upon intake, daily walks, play groups, etc.). The observed information is recorded in our shelter software and the notes are shared with rescue partners and our foster network through plea emails and on all Urgent Pet webpage lists.

    Our policies, procedures, and staff training are developed from the following resources:

  • “Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior modification of Dogs and Cats” by Sophia Yin, DVM, MS
  • “Animal Behavior for Shelter Veterinarians and Staff” by the ASPCA
  • In-person classes by a certified behaviorist in utilizing positive reinforcement
  • Fear Free Certification

What is the process for medically evaluating animals at BARC?

    Upon intake, BARC staff will note any visible medical issues and alert the veterinary technicians immediately. The veterinary technicians will assess the immediate medical issues before a veterinarian conducts a more detailed medical examination. The veterinarian will order X-rays and/or prescribe medications as needed.

Does BARC ensure all dogs/cats adopted are spayed/neutered? Does BARC follow up on dogs that are adopted and in need of heartworm treatment?

    By ordinance, all pets that are adopted from BARC must be spayed/neutered before they leave the facility. The only exceptions are animals that are too young or underweight for the surgery, which qualifies them for BARC’s “early adopt” program. In these cases, an animal’s surgery is scheduled before leaving the facility for the early adopt home, and the animal’s adoption is made final the day of surgery at the time of pick-up. An assigned team member is responsible for contacting individuals who are in breach of contract. The only exception to this is if it is medically inadvisable due to age or declining health.

    Any adopter that adopts a heartworm positive dog is eligible for free heartworm treatment and medical services through BARC.

Some pets at the shelter are listed with behavior issues at BARC, but once they leave the shelter those reported behavior issues are no longer present. Why are these pets labeled as possessing behavior issues if they do not?

    As discussed herein, BARC staff are trained to assess animal behavior according to guidelines set by Maddie’s Fund and the ASPCA. Staff collect and record information about an animal’s body language and behavior during staff interactions with the pet (upon intake, daily walks, play groups, etc.). Those notes are shared with our rescue partners and foster network, as well as online in adoption/foster/rescue please and the Urgent Pet webpage lists.

    BARC understands that behavioral problems often manifest in animals in a shelter setting due to heightened stress and anxiety. These behaviors sometimes resolve when the animal reaches the security of a forever home. However, BARC must provide to the public the most accurate assessment of the pet’s behavior based on our observations in the shelter environment.

Does a Foster Clinic appointment include X-rays if the pet shows signs of pregnancy or fluid retention? What other medical procedures are included in a Foster Clinic appointment?

    Foster clinic appointments vary based on the needs of the pet. X-rays are only performed if deemed medically necessary and recommended by the BARC veterinarian on duty.

Does BARC provide late term spays under special circumstances? The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has determined that there is no rule on how late into a pregnancy a dog can be spayed.

    Yes, BARC does provide late term spays.

Why do some animals get spayed or neutered, only to be later added to the Code Red list?

    By Ordinance, all animals must be spayed or neutered before they are released from BARC. Therefore, shelter medical staff alter pets shortly after arrival so that when an adopter, foster, or rescue is interested in the pet, it can leave the shelter the very same day, providing much needed capacity for the pets that will be taken in that day. In many instances, the spay/neuter is performed while the animal is sedated for other medical procedures, limiting the number of times the pet is subjected to sedation and preventing the unnecessary stress of multiple procedures.

BARC Information

3200 Carr Street,
Houston, TX 77026
Call 3-1-1 for more information

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