Barrio Dogs of Houston is a not-for-profit organization on the overpopulation and neglect of animals in low-income neighborhoods. To this end, the education of residents of all ages is key. We aim to raise awareness of available low-cost sterilization for pets, responsible animal care, and prevention of crimes against animals under the State of Texas animal cruelty statutes. The diving force of Barrio Dogs is to instill the knowledge among low-income neighborhood residents that animal birth control, humane treatment and care of pets and zero-tolerance for animal neglect and abuse results in safer, healthier, higher-value property communities for themselves. The quality of living improves for people when it improves for their pets.
Barrio Dogs Educating and Raising Awareness with the Youth – Some of the educational activities by which Barrio Dogs reaches the youth of low-income areas are:
1) Visits to elementary, middle, and high schools featuring presentations, bilingual literature, guest speaker discussions, and occasional visits by a rescued and rehabilitated dog to demonstrate the ABC’s of proper handling and safety measures. In all our activities, Barrio Dogs’ principal messages concerning children are the do’s and don’ts of responsible pet ownership, including the need to prevent litters and the consequences of animal overpopulation.
2) Teaching youngsters to organize their own fundraising events. Children of all ages can have fun, learn civic duty, and improve their communities helping others help their pets, as in collecting donations to provide food for the pets of low-income families … building a dog house or repairing a neighbor’s fence to prevent dogs from roaming… organizing fundraisers for animal welfare organizations … and other activities limited only by their imagination.
3) Barrio Dogs “Tales to Tails Reading Program” is designed for children in low- income community schools who struggle with reading. As with other successful programs involving animals to help children gain self-confidence, the presence of rescued dogs enhances the children’s fluency in reading as the animal reduces their self-consciousness and distracts them from the fear of being “judged” by people. Question and Answer sessions may include both topics from the text being read and also the story of the visiting dog, pet care, etc. giving the children the “freedom” to direct the discussion and the automatic reward of having an unusual guest.
Barrio Dogs Therapy - Healthy, gentle-natured rescue dogs from giving back by visiting area nursing homes, children’s homeless shelters, and hospitals to bring comfort and encouragement to people in need. Therapy dogs help to reduce loneliness, anxiety, and depression; increase self-esteem; aid in short and long term memory; encourage responsibility and nurturance; distract from pain; and decrease the risk of certain health issues (e.g. high blood pressure). Barrio Dogs’ principal aim is to bring comfort, distraction, and hope mainly to young patients some of which may have never interacted or even petted an animal. This can be very therapeutic for a sick child and also create a positive association that will endure well after he or she is well again. To people of any age, listening to the story of how the visiting therapy dog herself survived extreme difficulties, disease, and dangers of all sorts, was rescued, rehabilitated, and became a loving service dog mirrors the patient’s difficulties and provides hope for a better future or, at the very least, a welcome distraction.
Barrio Watch Dog – Too many residents of low-income neighborhoods are ignorant to the fact that animal neglect and abuse are crimes. Barrio Watch Dog is a program that aims to educate about the difference between right and wrong treatment of animals. It is not right, for instance, to chain a dog to a tree; or not provide adequate shelter from the elements and fresh water at all times; or lock animals in crates for hours on end; and multiple other conditions found especially in low-income neighborhoods. We also stress that there is but a fine line between wrong and criminal animal handling, such as any type of animal fighting. The fact is that people sometimes feel helpless in the presence of animal abuse, especially when language is a barrier.
It is essential that residents of areas with high-incidence of animal neglect and abuse feel themselves empowered to help resolve such situations for the benefit of the entire community. Barrio Dogs has a Watch Dog dispatcher that can be contacted in Spanish to report cases of animal abuse. The dispatcher can provide essential information on how to handle the situation, on whether any Texas laws are being violated, and if so, coordinate reporting it to the proper authorities. The dispatcher can also educate on the Texas laws for animal neglect and abuse.
The high incidence of animal neglect and abuse, substandard animal enclosures, and abandonment in low-income areas cannot be resolved until its residents become part of the solution. Long-time residents, newcomers, and especially the youth must be reached so that they understand and embrace the fact that animal cruelty is a crime that cannot be ignored or tolerated, and that it is everyone’s responsibility to be a Watch Dog and report infractions for the good of their communities.
Barrio Dogs for Better Communities – People who love their animals may not, however, have the knowledge or the means to provide them with proper care and housing. Barrio Dogs will inform pet owners of local low-cost veterinarians, provide donated food and shelter or fencing building materials to those who cannot afford them, and any other resource that will improve the quality of life of pets and their owners. Two aspects of this program can make a huge difference in the quality of life in these communities:
1) Because animal overpopulation and negative ramifications are found mainly in low-income neighborhoods, Barrio Dogs will join forces with SNAP (Spay-Neutering Assistance Program) and other organizations dedicated to end the cycle of abuse. Surplus animals roam the streets and are one of the main indicators of a derelict neighborhood. To build better communities, compassionate animal care is essential.
2) “Freedom Fence” targets backyards with chained up dog(s) for lack of a fence that will hold them. Providing materials and labor to the resident makes it possible for the animals to run free within the confines of the property to live a more natural, happier life. Barrio Dogs conducts follow-up home visits to ensure the dog(s) is unchained and properly cared for after a fence is installed.
The procedure for “Freedom Fence” begins with a written application from the interested resident who then signs a contract that binds him or her to keep the dog(s) unchained. The beneficiary of the fence also agrees to receive education on proper animal care, consider sterilizing the dog if still intact, and the possibility of training the dog(s) to become an indoor pet.
Barrio Dogs for Better Communities also renovates facilities intended to house Barrio Dogs’ rescues. One of these installations is AC Boarding & Grooming, will soon feature a Doggy Playard area, with fresh grass, artwork on the concrete walls, and plenty of toys.
Barrio Dogs, like all charitable organizations relies entirely on donations –money and in kind — and volunteers. The pressing needs of animals and people cannot be addressed, nor plans put in motion without means. Limited existing resources are challenged daily by cases of extreme necessity for whom no one cares … but us.
Eventually, these are the dogs (and some special cats) who find the forever homes they deserve, or become therapy dogs … but it takes effort, perseverance, and money. And it’s worth it!
The vast majority of animals in distress live in inner-city and low-income neighborhoods. As we help those animals we also improve the quality of life and the education of the people … and this is the only way to end the cycle of abuse. Barrio Dogs is dedicated to help in places where others stay away. Please help us with a small (or big) donation, with fencing materials, with labor, opening your home for a foster dog, being a guest speaker in the schools we visit; we will find ways to use your talents and to invest your money in a better future for Houston. ¡Gracias! Thank you!