You may have noticed new billboards springing up around town and ads in magazines promoting adoptions of homeless pets at BARC. The ads are courtesy of the American Advertising Federation-Houston, which awarded a full-blown public service ad campaign to the nonprofit organization Friends of BARC earlier this year. While most cities have a “dog pound,” Houston’s is called the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, or BARC. The name itself is confusing enough, since part of BARC’s “care” includes having to kill between 12 and 20 thousand homeless companion animals per year. It’s a nightmarish situation for the animals, city employees, elected officials, taxpayers, and pet lovers alike. Friends of BARC is a nonprofit group of volunteers who work with the city to find solutions to this huge problem by assisting with pet adoptions, comforting animals waiting at BARC for death or adoption, and generally assuming the role of citizen animal advocates inside the facility.
Last year, nationally renowned no-kill shelter expert Nathan Winograd visited BARC, and one of his recommendations was to promote animal adoptions by making the adoption process more accessible to the general public. This, coupled with an aggressive spay and neuter education campaign and a low-cost spay and neutering service, completes the formula for a lower kill rate and a more manageable and humane city animal control program.
When Friends of BARC applied for the free ad campaign along with 20 other nonprofits, Dwight Douthit, with the American Advertising Federation-Houston and owner of Douhit Design Group, said the advertising organization felt no other group presented a more urgent need than the Friends of BARC. “Through all of the ups and downs at BARC, Friends of BARC has stayed true to their mission of saving innocent animals,” Douthit says. Friends of BARC vice-president Ria van Dright says the ad campaign provided by Douthit’s group is already getting results. Recent donations have come in directly as a result of a television spot on Great Day Houston. According to van Dright, dealing with Houston’s animal problems is overwhelming, and people do get confused. “Some people think Friends of BARC is the city department.” She hopes that the campaign will raise awareness and understanding.
Through the ads and public relations spots, Friends of BARC invites Houstonians to adopt, as well as to volunteer and donate to their cause. Some of the ads also promote spaying and neutering. Douthit says that hundreds of hours have been donated toward the radio, television, print, outdoor, web, and corporate sponsorship campaign for BARC. The targeted campaign is being produced in English and in Spanish for specific zip codes where strays and abuse are most prevalent. These marketing strategies, provided free of charge to the charity, are ones that businesses or political groups would pay big bucks for. In fact, Douthit is hoping that with the November election over, more airtime will be freed up for additional public service ads for Friends of BARC.
While the ads focus on the gravity of the animals’ situations, they also offer solutions and hope. Like any good ad campaign, they motivate with something precious—the unconditional love of a wonderful furry companion who could go home with you today.
To volunteer, donate, or find out more about adopting a homeless pet, go to friendsofbarc.org. To find out more about Houston’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) or to view statistics on the monthly intake, adoption, and euthanasia numbers at the city facility, go to houstontx.gov/barc/index.php.
Karen Derr, a Houston-based Realtor for over 20 years, writes and speaks about home and small-business topics. She is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.