"I keep dog food and stuff in my car because I always see animals, so if I can at least leave them some food and water."
Gloria Zenteno buckles herself into her SUV for a ride around the East End. She's with Barrio Dogs, a grass-roots nonprofit started a couple of years ago after she moved back to the neighborhood where she had grown up.
"I started noticing all the homeless, roaming dogs and dogs on chains, pregnant mommas. And then I would drive to my really nice job in the Galleria and see responsible pet owners walking their dogs on leashes with little outfits and all the animals are healthy. I'm like, how is this happening? Houston is such a great city, but 15 minutes away it's like a third world city with all these homeless animals."
Zenteno says her neighborhood is notorious as a place where pet owners get rid of unwanted animals. Bait dogs used in fighting and dogs that have run away from home also wander the streets.
"We have seen a lot of dogs dumped in our neighborhood and we've actually witnesses this. In Greater East End, that happens a lot in the parks. I live near Broadmoor Park, but also Mason Park and Hidalgo Park are also known for dumping."
Barrio Dogs has rescued and treated 300 homeless or abandoned dogs over the past couple of years. Many of the animals have serious medical issues. She says there are a number of factors that have created the problem.
"Lack of education is the number one, on proper care. I think it's a cultural thing. I think it's a generational thing. I think it's economical. I mean, it's expensive to vet your animals and take care of your animals, but these residents that take on that don't know how and then they don't have the means of how to do that."
Barrio Dogs, along with two other local rescue groups, are joining for a fundraiser on Sunday from 2-6 at Rockefeller Hall on Washington near Heights Blvd. Live music and a silent auction will be part of the show.
"It's an event where Corridor Rescue, The Forgotten Dogs of 5th Ward and Barrio Dogs are uniting together to raise an awareness about this problem in Houston. It's overwhelming and something needs to change."
For more information about the event, visit the Music for Mutts fundraiser.