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Change Brownsville, Texas animal welfare policies that kill 88% of shelter animals by implementing no-kill measures.

This petition had 6,879 supporters

Petition is on behalf of the Coalition of Animal Advocates from Cameron County to urge the city of Brownsville to save more companion animal lives. 

Recently the issue of the Brownsville shelter not working with rescues was covered by the news. Three other dogs targeted to be saved by rescues were killed in Jan 2015 and followed on FaceBook. Not too long after that a trap-neuter-return (TNR) cat advocate was threatened with a citation. 

Although animal advocates have been working with shelter management for years the documentation is scattered.  This petition is designed to provide solutions and centralize information. Please read further down for more information.

Please show your support for moving Brownsville in the direction of saving instead of killing thousands of adoptable shelter pets by signing and sharing this petition today!

  • Implementing the no-kill equation at the shelter to maximize life-saving would solve the problems that currently exist. Since Arturo Rodriguez, Public Health Director, attended a no-kill conference and is familiar with these tenets, rescuers know he can lead the shelter in a different direction. The No Kill Equation has been implemented successfully in many Texas communities just down the road in Austin and San Antonio.     
  • Shelter leadership needs to get the community excited and energized for the task at hand: saving the lives of shelter pets.  Many other Texas cities are witnessing immediate benefits of implementing live-saving programs such as a temporary foster care program and feline TNR (trap-neuter-return).
  • Animal Advisory Board must meet regularly to address concerns of rescue groups, the shelter to report ongoing project status, and to report progress of achieving a no-kill community.
  • Follow this 11-step program:

 I. Feral Cat TNR Program
Many communities throughout the United States are embracing trap-neuter-return (TNR) or shelter-neuter-return (SNR) where animal control drops off cats to be sterilized and returns them to where they were picked up.  These programs improve animal welfare, reduce death rates, and meet obligations to public welfare. Eventually, with no kittens being born, the colonies stabilize out and Brownsville would not have the huge unvaccinated stray cat population. 

II. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
Target low cost, high volume spay/neuter will quickly lead to fewer animals entering the shelter system, allowing more resources to be allocated toward saving lives. This program would be targeted to Southmost and Cameron Park where most of the animals are picked up.

III. Rescue Groups
An adoption or transfer (at no cost) to a rescue group frees up scarce cage and kennel space, reduces expenses for feeding, cleaning, killing, and improves a community’s rate of lifesaving. In an environment where thousands of cats and dogs are killed annually, there should be few occasions when a reputable rescue group should be denied an animal.

IV. Foster Care
Volunteer foster care is crucial to No Kill. Without it, saving lives is compromised. It is a low cost, and often no cost, way of increasing a shelter’s capacity, improving public relations, increasing a shelter’s public image, rehabilitating sick and injured or behaviorally challenged animals, and saving lives. 

V. Comprehensive Adoption Programs
Adoptions are vital to an agency’s lifesaving mission. The quantity and quality of shelter adoptions is in shelter management’s hands, making lifesaving a direct function of shelter policies and practice. The shelter could raise its low adoption rate by: promoting their animals and making their programs responsive to the needs of the community to include:  public access hours for working people, offsite adoptions, adoption incentives, and effective marketing, increase the number of homes available and replace killing with adoptions. Contrary to conventional wisdom, shelters can adopt their way out of killing.

VI. Pet Retention
While some of the reasons animals are surrendered to shelters are unavoidable, others can be prevented—but only if shelters are willing to work with people to help them solve their problems. Saving animals requires communities to develop innovative strategies for keeping people and their companion animals together. And the more a community sees its shelters as a place to turn for advice and assistance, the easier this job will be. Drop boxes are not conducive to pet retention.

VII. Medical and Behavior Programs
In order to meet its commitment to a lifesaving guarantee for all savable animals, shelters need to keep animals happy and healthy, and keep them moving through the system. To do this, shelters must put in place comprehensive vaccination, handling, cleaning, socialization, and care policies before animals get sick and rehabilitative efforts for those who come in sick, injured, unweaned, or traumatized.

VIII. Public Relations/Community Involvement
Increasing adoptions, maximizing donations, recruiting volunteers and partnering with community agencies comes down to one thing: increasing the shelter’s exposure. And that means consistent marketing and public relations. Public relations and marketing are the foundation of all shelters’ activities and their success. To do all these things well, the shelter must be in the public eye. 

IX. Volunteers
Volunteers are a dedicated “army of compassion” and the backbone of a successful No Kill effort. There is never enough staff, never enough dollars to hire more staff, and always more needs than paid human resources. That is where volunteers come in and make the difference between success and failure and, for the animals, life and death. 

X. Proactive Redemptions
One of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims. Sadly, besides having pet owners fill out a lost pet report, very little effort is made in this area of shelter operations. This is unfortunate because doing so—primarily shifting from passive to a more proactive approach—has proven to have a significant impact on lifesaving and allows shelters to return a large percentage of lost animals to their families. 

XI. A Compassionate Director
The final element of the No Kill equation is the most important of all, without which all other elements are thwarted—a hard-working, compassionate animal control or shelter director not content to regurgitate tired clichés or hide behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes.” Unfortunately, this one is oftentimes the hardest one to demand and find.

 Also, make the lines of authority clear.  This should work for anyone in those positions who is personally independent.  One should be able to plug in any person who is qualified to be the contractor, shelter manager, or city health director, and the job descriptions and lines of authority should prevail. For example, no one from the contractor’s office should be in the shelter reviewing the animals unless they are performing veterinary reviews.   The contractor (Brownsville Spay/Neuter Clinic, Inc.) works for the city of Brownsville. All of the shelter animals belong to the city of Brownsville and the contractor only provides the services requested for shelter animals.   A separate agreement or memorandum of understanding should be made with the contractor for providing shelter medicine for city animals. Give the shelter director the authority to make decisions, not to be micromanaged by the Public Health Director.

  • Brownsville kills up to 8,000 potential pets annually, and they could save 90% of them.
  • Brownsville built a new shelter named Brownsville Animal Regulation and Care Center but they neither regulate nor care for the animals.  They placed their shelter veterinarian under a private contract and moved animal control so that it is handled by the Police Department. 


  • Limited space
  •  People making decisions to kill animals appear to lack compassion  about  the high kill rate; they consider killing animals as the norm.
  •  Decentralization of animal welfare responsibilities makes oversight nearly   impossible.
  •  Funding resources


Observations and allegations:

  • The Brownsville veterinarian moved from the shelter to a private clinic that performs spay/neuter services, but provides little in the way of veterinary care for the sick or injured animals in the City shelter.
  • Contagious diseases in young animals are an automatic death sentence; no isolation and/or veterinary care is provided.
  • There is no evidence of shelter medicine – only a private clinic that has become a spay/neuter assembly line business that sells products and procedures.
  • The Brownsville shelter puts animals at risk and money in the contractor’s pocket.  They insist animals be sterilized BEFORE animals leave the shelter—incorrectly citing Texas law. This process puts compromised animals at risk: those that are underweight, not healthy enough to withstand surgery especially if they are going on transport, or that need heartworm, pneumonia, or other treatment before surgery.  See Texas law allows shelters to adopt out unsterilized animals with a signed agreement to have the animal sterilized.
  • Rescue groups must have the freedom to use the spay/neuter facility of their choice.  There is a great variance in pricing and the services provided. A one-size fits all spay/neuter clinic does not meet the needs of most animals. 
  • The procedures above, or lack thereof, and contracting out spay/neuter services are of no value to the City.  Decentralization of Brownsville animal welfare makes oversight extremely difficult, if not impossible.
  • The current veterinarian is not supervising shelter intake procedures where many animals are missing intake vaccines.  Other animals are given duplicate vaccines before spay/neuter surgery because of inadequate oversight of shelter operations.
  • Excessive citation payment with no payment plan discourages owners from picking up their animals.  It is cheaper for an owner to adopt their animal than to pay their fine.
  • All 501C3 rescue groups must be treated uniformly.  One rescue group has been using the shelter to board their animals.  A private rescue’s dog was kept at the shelter for six months  prior to adoption. How can the shelter kill animals for space while boarding dogs?


  • There is a lack of communication among the three animal welfare areas: City Shelter, private spay/neuter clinic, and BPD is evident when Animal Control is picking up trap-neuter-return (TNR) cats.  Although the clinic contractor states they support TNR, there is no evidence of this.  Their cat sterilization package is exactly the same for stray and pet cats with the exception of ear-tipping the strays.  Ear-tipped cats show animal control they are part of a program and should not be picked up.  However,  shows this policy is not being followed.
  • Customary practice is for 5013C rescues to pull animals from kill shelters at no cost to help free up cage space.  Brownsville staff policy supports killing instead of releasing animals to rescues.  The policy of charging rescues a pull rate of $86 even if the animal is not sterilized or the animal was already sterilized at another facility is totally against standard shelter practice.  Three dogs have been killed in 2015 that had rescues lined up to pull them. 
  • Brownsville leadership has not addressed animal welfare policies that are keeping the kill rate at 80% or higher at the shelter.

"By cooperatively working with each other and treating each life as precious, a shelter can positively transform its community." Austin Pets Alive

"The No Kill Equation is a program model which changes the way shelters operate and which gives the animal-loving public an integral role in that operation. If a community wants success, this is the way to go: nothing else has succeeded." - Nathan Winograd

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Letter to

The  Public Health Director of City of Brownsville, TX Arturo Rodriquez

We, the undersigned, respectfully request that you change the policies at the Brownsville Shelter and implement the no-kill equation which will allow 90% of the animals to live.  

We ask that you work with rescues to  give these animals a chance to be adopted out instead of killed.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

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