Mayor's Office Press Release

BARC Closed Until Further Notice, Seeks Fosters for Low-Risk Pets
Select BARC Services Available During Closure Due to Illness Precautions

July 9, 2021 -- BARC, the City of Houston’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, will reopen for select services during its precautionary closure to address an unusually high presence of upper respiratory illness. BARC has confirmed six positive distemper cases and will remain closed to allow for additional testing of dogs that are considered high exposure to distemper. BARC will reopen for all services if incoming test results are confirmed negative. BARC is following safety protocols within the shelter and separating dogs that show signs of illness.

The following safety protocols are in place:

  • Identify, isolate, and treat infected animals
  • Carefully monitor healthy but exposed animals for future symptoms
  • Ensure that no animals are placed into the community until they are without symptoms or past the incubation period
  • Conduct a deep cleaning of shelter to reduce further contamination

Effective immediately, BARC will remain open for the following services:

  • Animal control and bite case investigations
  • Intake of sick, injured, or fading animals
  • Drive-through clinic assistance for foster animals
  • Heartworm treatment appointments for all pets scheduled prior to July 4th closure
  • Cat intake and adoptions. Potential adopters will only be allowed in the Don Sanders Cattery located at the BARC Adoption Center
  • Adoption of dogs categorized as low risk
  • Return to owner services, following proper sanitation protocols in place

BARC will remain closed for the following services:

  • Dog intake
  • Dog adoptions, except for dogs categorized as low risk
  • BARC wellness clinic
  • BARC spay/neuter clinic for dogs

BARC will contact partners and customers to reschedule appointments affected by the closures.

“This isn’t just a local issue; many states and animal shelters are currently encountering distemper outbreaks,” said BARC Shelter Director Greg Damianoff. “We urge Houstonians to please have their pets vaccinated to prevent the possible spread of illness among other pets in the community.”

BARC is committed to the highest standards of veterinary practices and has established an infectious disease protocol in conjunction with Dr. Cynda Crawford, Chair of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Distemper symptoms may include thick nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing and, in severe cases, may affect the neurological system, causing seizures, tremors, and death. Individuals who have adopted dogs from BARC that show potential symptoms are encouraged to contact the shelter for free medical treatment. BARC will also refund adoptions fees and accept returned animals from those who are unable or unwilling to care for potentially sick animals.

How you can help:

BARC needs foster and adoptive homes for dogs at the shelter that are categorized as low risk. Low-risk dogs are identified as pets that have received both doses of the distemper vaccination prior to BARCs intake of the infected animals. Dogs that are fostered or adopted must be monitored and isolated from other pets in the home for approximately two weeks.  If you are interested in fostering, please visit the BARC Foster webpage at https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/foster_a_pet.html. If you are interested in adopting, please visit the BARC webpage at https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/adopt_a_pet.html.

If members of the public are unable to foster or adopt, enrichment donations are needed and welcome at BARC. BARCs dedicated staff are providing extra enrichment to all dogs at the shelter. Supplies are running low. BARC will accept treat dispensing toys such as Kong’s, rawhides, lick-mats, and spray cheese. Donations may be dropped off seven days a week through the back entrance at BARC, located at 2700 Evella St. Additionally, members of the public may also donate items through the BARC Amazon Wish List and have items shipped directly to BARC. To view the BARC Wish List, please visit: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/donate_landingpage.html.

ABOUT BARC

BARC, the City of Houston’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, takes in between 25,000 and 30,000 animals annually regardless of behavior, breed, or medical condition.  BARC works each day to improve the health and safety of Houstonians and their pets by pioneering programs such spay/neuter services, mobile adoptions, transfer/rescue partnerships, and community outreach.  Through these programs and with support from community partners, BARC’s live release rate has improved from single digits in 2009 to an 95% in 2021.