Federal funding to go toward spay and neutering services for BARC

City councilmembers said the need for spay and neutering is a public safety issue.

Dog enjoying some outdoor time at Houston's Bureau of Animal Regulation and Control
Mauricio Zepeda/BARC
A puppy at the BARC shelter

The City of Houston is allocating nearly $1 million in federal funding to local animal organizations to provide spay and neuter services.

Nearly $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding will be divided between Houston PetSet and the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program, or SNAP, to provide spay and neuter services to the BARC division.

Councilmember Karla Cisneros said at Wednesday’s city council meeting that the need for spay and neutering is a public safety and a public health problem.

"It's a huge issue. I mean, we've all been hearing in the news lately, you know, about some vicious attacks," she said.

Cisneros said only two bids were received of nearly 80 prospective bids to be considered for funding. Councilmember Robert Gallegos raised concerns about where the money is going.

"SNAP basically did the most spay and neutering last year, and the second in line was Barrio Dogs. And then you have BARC," Gallegos said.

Barrio Dogs is an East End-based organization that spayed and neutered 1,200 dogs last year, and usually does 700 to 800 a year, according to Gallegos. The city said the solicitation was posted on the city's e-bidding website, and reached out to potential bidders before the solicitation as well.

Gallegos said SNAP has one location in Northwest Houston and one location in Pasadena.

"What guarantees do we have knowing that it's not gonna be Pasadena residents taking their dogs to get spayed and neutered out of the 700,000 that we're approving today?" Gallegos said.

Another council member was concerned about whether residents would be able to receive service in a timely manner. Council Member Edward Pollard recently provided vouchers for his residents to receive free spay and neutering. He said residents are now telling him they haven't been able to use the vouchers because there are no appointments available.

"The dialogue really needs to be on if we're spending the money, is the money being spent to where our residents can get the services in a prompt fashion?" he said. "If not, then I think we're just continuing to spend money without getting the bang for our buck."

Gallegos added that while spay and neutering is important, funding won't make a difference if there aren't enough veterinarians to provide mass spay and neutering.

"[These organizations] only have a limited number of vets," Gallegos said. "BARC has a limited number of vets. Barrio Dogs had to go to the Gulf Gate Clinic, which ... they might get a little bit of a discount, but nothing like BARC or Emancipet would have done."