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One Hundred Thousand Hearts

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Houstonians’ quest to save pet lives

by Marene Gustin

See also other OutSmart pet articles:

Reagan Stevens Has a Passion for Pets

Friends of BARC

Soft and Cuddly Bedding for Your Soft and Cuddly Pets

Every pet lover knows the heartbreak of shelter animals. Just try to keep a dry eye when those Pedigree TV ads with David Duchovny’s voiceover come on. “Don’t pity a shelter dog, adopt one.”

If those ads make you tear up, just wait until you see the documentary One Hundred Thousand Hearts, filmed this summer by indie filmmaker and native Houstonian Gurukarta Khalsa. With a title that refers to the number of Houston animals euthanatized in the city annually, this film features interviews with Houstonians trying to make a difference, and a plethora of pet facts that will, or should, make you angry.

Five million dollars of your tax money is spent every year at Houston city

shelters.

Eighty-five percent of the animals in those shelters are killed. That’s 65 pe

rcent more than the national average.

“My mom was a great example,” says Khalsa. “She never turned a stray away. I learned from her that you help animals.”

So in 2002, when she found two little puppies hiding under her car during a rainstorm, she took them in. But when she tried to find a shelter to take them, she realized things weren’t like they were when she was young.

“I called everywhere, and every single place was full,” she sighs. “That’s when I realized there were too many abandoned dogs and cats in this city.”

Fast forward to 2010. Those two dogs, Tobey and ThunderBear, are still with Khalsa, and she says they are the best of companions. But thinking of what could have happened to them, and does happen to 100,000 other dogs and cats in our city each year, she decided to make a documentary about the problem.

“There’s no graphic footage in the film,” she explains. “There’s a place for that, but it’s not what I wanted. I want school children to see this film and I want to educate people about spaying and neutering. That’s the solution to stopping the killing.”

Khalsa spent two months filming the documentary during the summer, interviewing veterinarians and volunteers. “I met person after person working in the trenches. Most put in a full day of work and then go volunteer. The determination they have is just amazing, but the work is never-ending. You find a home for one dog and two more come down the road.”

Brett Chisholm (l) and Ryan Rice are elevating their devotion to dogs from the personal to the professional.

Photographer Brett Chisholm is one of the subjects interviewed in the film. He volunteers at the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) and is about to start publishing a new glossy monthly magazine called Life + Dog next year. His partner, Ryan Rice, a public relations expert, runs HoustonDogBlog.com. Their beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Isabella is the spokesdog for SNAP.

“We’ve been dog people our whole lives,” says Chisholm. “Overpopulation is an epidemic in Houston, and SNAP is the answer.” Rice adds, “By helping SNAP we’re helping all the shelters and rescue groups.”

SNAP provides free and reduced-cost spay-neuter and animal wellness services, which all three of Chisholm’s and Rice’s dogs use (Isabella is featured in the film getting her wellness checkup). SNAP’s mission is to prevent the suffering and death of cats and dogs due to overpopulation, especially in low-income areas in Texas. The nonprofit operates four mobile and stationary clinics in Houston and San Antonio. Since its founding in 1993, SNAP has sterilized more than 330,000 dogs and cats.

In 2006 Chisholm hosted a fundraiser  at his new photography studio to benefit SNAP, and it grew into SNAPshots, an annual event with an auction of designer and celebrity collars.

Collarsforacause

.org is collecting 229 creative and unique one-of-a-kind dog and cat collars. The number 229 represents the number of dogs and cats euthanized daily in the Houston area.

Joy Behar, host of The View, author Chelsea Handler, Texas artist Kermit Eisenhut, local celebs Roseann Rogers, Mary Benton, and Mayor Annise Parker have all designed dogware for the auction.

“And accessories designer Elaine Turner has made her very first leash and collar just for us,” says Chisholm. The fundraiser is December 2 at Winter Street Studios.

Besides featuring SNAP, the documentary also showcases many other organizations that are trying to stop the overpopulation of unwanted pets, and hence their destruction. The sheer number of organizations points to the breadth of the problem: Corridor Rescue, Spay Houston, Friends of BARC, Citizens for Animal Protection, Feral Cat Assistance Program, Pupsquad, Scout’s Honor Rescue, and No Kill Houston.

“She talked to so many different groups,” says Chisholm, “all them working so hard to solve this problem.”

Stopping the killing of unwanted animals is a labor of love for all involved. But turning Houston into a No Kill city can never be accomplished until pet owners become responsible for pet overpopulation. One Hundred Thousand Hearts has been shown twice in Houston, and Khalsa is hoping it will be shown in area schools. She plans to have it available on her website for all to see.

“We may enter it in some film festivals,” the director says of the 105-minute documentary. “But I didn’t do this to make money on it. That would be like blood money.”

For more information on the SNAP fundraiser SNAPshots on December 2 at Winter Street Studios, visit www.collarsforacause.org. For information on the film One Hundred Thousand Hearts, see www.gurukarta.com.

Marene Gustin is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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