City Council Stakeholder Input Just Political Theater

City Hall Makes Aggressive Push for Animal Ordinance

When I became aware of this proposal last fall, by chance really, I thought there would be some opportunity to engage BARC managers and Administration executives to help shape and mold this ordinance. I could not have been more mistaken!

It’s important to remember that BARC was placed under the Regulatory Affairs Department (ARA), which is the group that issues permits and regulates various entities. There should be no surprise that the proposal creates a number of new permits, and for the first time in 100 years, residents will be required to have a permit for a horse or cow.

Think about that.

In our city of 600 square miles, a city in Texas by the way, there has never been a city permit requirement for a horse.  This isn’t the north side of Chicago, this is Houston, Texas, and it’s already unlawful to keep a horse or cow (or any livestock) within 100 feet of a residence. But, the new law creates a new permit to deal with some unreported, unsubstantiated number of complaints.

My first clue about the hard ball tactics I would encounter was when I went down to City Hall in October and spoke to City Council about the proposed changes. There are many, many, many modifications to this law, and it’s fair to call it a major rewrite. It is a wish list come true for BARC, as they attempt to regulate and permit themselves out of a major public health and safety issue. I had been assured by ARA’s Chris Newport that there would be plenty of time for submitting ideas and modifications. Yet, while I was speaking before City Council, Mr. Newport was outside on the city hall steps telling Drew Karedes with KHOU how badly BARC needed the changes so they could tackle the stray, dangerous dog problem.

SNIP - KHOU11- stakeholder meeting












Note that the headline is inaccurate, but it begins the story BARC has peddled successfully. The new definition of “aggressive dog” almost mirrors state law for “dangerous dog”. If a reasonable person feels that a dog is about to bite or attack it can be declared dangerous, and impounded without the owners permission. There is no requirement that the dog bite someone first. It is simply BARC’s policy to wait, as they have limited resources.

But back to the story. Later that evening as I sat in the second public stakeholder meeting at the ARA office, Karedes and KHOU shot video of the back of my head, (RED CIRCLE: I’m on the left and Elizabeth is on the right) and included footage from that meeting in their 10 pm broadcast, without interviewing one single attendee. People who are all happy and in favor of these proposals do not attend these meetings! Yet, the Administration got their side on the news, with no public dissent. Karedes responded to my emails, agreeing to listen to my view, but in the end would never call or make contact.

In fact, the foster-rescue and hobby breeder folks have been mostly carved out of any changes that would be a problem for them. They will get to keep as many dogs as they wish at their homes, and anyone with an AKC card will get a hobby breeder permit and can breed as many dogs as they wish (at their home).

Neighborhoods get the short end. NO LIMIT on dogs or cats. Nuisance complaints which are unenforced now, will remain as such, even with new aggressive dog and nuisance dog classifications.

BARC fails to respond to over 37,000 calls for service every year. Why would we think they’ll suddenly dispatch for a barking, nuisance dog? It will never happen, even if they triple funding.

So we’ll pass another ordinance that sounds good on paper, but will have no positive impact on our residential community. The City of Houston already FAILS  to enforce, noise, heavy trash, yard parking, auto sales, and dog limit violations today, and it will be no different next week after the Chapter 6 changes are approved.

There is no urgency, or accountability, and all the meetings, calls, and appearances are designed to make us THINK we have input, when really City Officials could care less what’s important to us.

It’s time we demand better.

I’m starting that effort today!


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