Best Friends Blog

One small step for Houston, one giant leap for no-kill 2025

Tri-colored dog from Houston going to a foster home
OK, that’s probably the last Apollo program reference I will use for our Houston work, but no guarantees!

This is exciting stuff and I’m jazzed to share the news that we are one step closer to opening a much-needed Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Houston to help achieve no-kill in Texas and the nation by 2025.

This is very important because we know that more shelter animals are being killed in Texas shelters than in any other state — approximately 220,000 per year at last count. So, building on the relationships we’ve developed with the Harris County shelter, the momentum within the community of Houston and the remarkable work done in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we have purchased a property with plans to open our lifesaving center in Houston.

This part of the country is ground zero for the no-kill 2025 campaign, and we have acquired an ideal property that will help us and our regional partners turn the lifesaving tide in Texas. Establishing ourselves in Houston is a major development.

For nearly a year now, we’ve been working to find a suitable place in the Houston area. The search was tough and the right space difficult to find because of the unique challenges of the community. We understood early on that we would need more than just an adoption center. In order to make an impact on the problem in this region, we would need a lifesaving center that could serve as a transport hub, a much-needed high-volume spay/neuter clinic, a kitten nursery, a foster/adoption center and a gathering space for community programming.

We took the opportunity to purchase a 24,000-square-foot space on one and a half acres within the Houston “loop,” which in time will allow us to do all of that and more for a region that needs it more than anywhere else in the United States. We will be renovating the property to become the Best Friends Lifesaving Center.

The building itself is centrally located in a great part of Houston known as The Heights and, yes, that means it didn’t flood during Hurricane Harvey! It will need significant renovation, which will begin soon, but meanwhile, the fantastic lifesaving programs that we have already started in collaboration with Harris County Animal Shelter will continue.

Houston has long been identified by Best Friends as a strategically important community and eventual regional center as part of our national no-kill campaign. Our involvement in the community as part of our commitment to the Hurricane Harvey animals served to advance our work in Texas and advance our timetable in Texas.

Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S. and the largest city in Texas. Of the 220,000 dogs and cats killed each year in Texas shelters, 44,000 of them are from Houston and the border counties, which include the cities of Edinburg, Harlingen and Brownsville. To put things in perspective, in 2016 a total of 5,600 animals were killed in the entire state of Utah.

Intake is a big issue in Texas. Last year, about 100,000 dogs and cats entered the shelters in Houston, and there are simply not enough spay/neuter providers or services in the Houston area to meet the need. Our new Best Friends Lifesaving Center will allow us to support not only the spay/neuter needs for the Best Friends community cat program that is already operating in Houston, but it will also allow us to offer free and low-cost services to communities in need. Additionally, we’ll be looking at developing community programming to help stem the flow of intake in the many underserved communities in the Houston metro area.

The center will also serve as a high-volume adoption and foster center, as well as a transportation hub to service south and west Texas. Solving Texas will get us a long way toward achieving our 2025 goals. Of course, this is not something that Best Friends or any single organization can accomplish alone, but a base of operations will enable us to help our partners throughout the region.

Our collaboration with Harris County Animal Shelter (HCAS) predates Hurricane Harvey, going back to 2016 when we conducted an assessment of HCAS operations and began to fund and execute the resulting recommendations. The Harris County team, led by Dr. Michael White, has welcomed us from the start and supported our efforts on behalf of the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

We now have two Best Friends staff operating a community cat program out of HCAS, and we have piloted a transformative staff embed program. I am very proud of our embed program, which involves placing Best Friends staff into shelters to work side by side with shelter staff at a full operations scale — not in an office, but right on the kennel floor. From what we’ve seen so far, this operational interaction has had a profound effect on both teams. We’ve expanded the embed program beyond Harris County into Edinburg, Texas, where we have two embedded staff members running operations at the Palm Valley Animal Center, and we have plans to expand even further in the near future.

The new Houston lifesaving center will have an impact across the region. However, we can’t do it alone and we will need the help and support of each of you if we are going to succeed in our goal of changing the face of animal welfare in the United States and leading the way to a time when healthy or treatable animals will no longer be killed in this country.

Please stay tuned. I’ll continue to keep you updated as we move forward with this exciting new lifesaving center. I can’t wait until it becomes a reality.

Together, we will Save Them All.

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Julie Castle with a cat

Julie Castle, CEO
Best Friends Animal Society

  • Tina Johnston

    I live in Pennsylvania, but this is such exciting news. I am saving my money to make a donation for this project. I am not wealthy, but every little bit will help right? I have to travel to Houston for work in November and I have been dreading it because I know what the situation for animals is there. I keep telling my husband we might come home with a new dog or two. Congratulations Best Friends for once again stepping up and doing the right thing. You are an amazing organization.

  • jmuhj

    Sharing this amazingly wonderful news on social media, with *Prayers* and hope for the cats and kittens of TX!

  • Rena M

    YES!!! Finally help for the animals !
    I adopted a dog from the El Paso shelter who was set to be killed. she had 2 days left. Found her on the DogsinDanger site. the sheer volume of animals at that facility was heart breaking. the number set to be killed keeping me up at night. The conditions of the animals left ALOT to be desired to say the least. THANK YOU Best Friends for making the future for thousands and thousands of animals much brighter.

  • April Courtney

    I just burst into tears. I volunteered during Hurricane Harvey, and have never seen so much devastation. But more so because there was so many abandoned and neglected animals before the hurricane even hit Houston!! This is an incredible opportunity and gift for Houston. I thank you Best Friends for working so hard on this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • louiseb

    Lucky Houston, would love to see something similar in DFW!

  • Edwina K Lewis

    Hi Shannon Raymond-Covington, my new friend and, of course, Best Friends. I am so very excited by all this news. Yes, not only is this a dream come true, but it’s also stated as “My Dream” on my FB page. Being a distributor in the health/fitness industry, my stated “dream” and goal is to be successful enough to build and maintain a sanctuary for homeless pets of any and every kind. I stay depressed because I can’t take them all in, and I hurt for each and every one of them, so I decided I needed to find a way to help all of them. I was so excited to find Best Friends. I am in the southeast part of Houston, close to Pasadena, Hobby Airport, going out toward Clear Lake. I’m not so young in age, but I am ageless in heart, so even if I can drive a lot and being on a fixed income, I can’t contribute a lot — YET, I’m here in anyway you can use me. And my prayers are with you and with all working with you. Thank you so much. And yes, Lindsey Edson, my first inclination was to work with the local policy makers to create change. One think I will mention is that I am a professional writer and editor and would most certainly be willing to do anything I can in that respect. So sorry this is so long. I just hope it is helpful. Gratefully, Edwina

  • Shannon Raymond-Covington

    This is a dream come true! This is something I know myself and the handful of people I work with have been praying for a group like Best Friends to come down here and shut down the back door policy exceptions, blanketed appropriations of funds and misleading numbers of intakes, adoptions and euthanasia. When people see how Best Friends works, how a shelter can truly care for each individual animal and do what it takes to get that animal well rather than casting them out, I think south Texas will be happily shocked and the support will poor in!

  • Lindsey Edson

    I might add… please also work with local policy makers to create change. Dogs are treated as property. Dog fighting is VERY present and not caught often enough. People mistreat animals and county officials do nothing about it.

  • Lindsey Edson

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! This are desperately needs your help. I know of hundreds of dogs across TX that were euthanized just yesterday, healthy and adoptable.

  • Kim LaRocca

    Thank you for this information. In the past I have supported Best Friends and their efforts at NK. I must admit that I did stop my support of your organization several years ago as no effort was made to launch a program in the nation’s fourth largest city. I do check your site periodically to see if any NK plans for the Houston area have been developed. Today I had a wonderful surprise! As a native Texan and 35-year resident of Austin, Texas I supported and volunteered in the NK effort in Austin, which has been a great success and model for the surrounding communities.

    At present, I have been a resident of the Houston area for the past 5 years and have seen first-hand the deplorable situation in the Houston metro area as I drive in and out of downtown on a daily basis. I have more than once given a lift to a dog stranded on the highway and found it a place of safety. Encountering that situation occurs more often than one would think–or I ever thought it would. As your statics show, the situation is indeed dire and an effort on any organization’s part is long overdue. The are animal welfare organizations work extremely hard, but are overwhelmed. As a Texan I am ashamed of the situation across the state.

    I am a paralegal by trade (and animal shelter volunteer part time) and work in down Houston each day, which is a short hop across I-10 to the Heights. I will be on the watch for postings for volunteers and I’ll be one of the first in line.

    Thank you again for your wonderful work and I will be reactivating my monthly donation to your fine organization.

    –Kim LaRocca
    Friendswood TX

    • Lindsey Edson

      You are an amazing person! Please keep doing what you can for the dogs in Houston. We need to change the laws for spay/neuter in Texas and animal rights.

    • Jessica Munoz-Roper

      Kim, I’m the volunteer volunteer and foster coordinator here in Houston and I’m just as excited as you are that Best Friends is here to stay— it’s an incredibly exciting time for pets in Texas!!

      Shoot me an email and I would be happy to plug you into an opportunity to help us move forward!

      • KatWrangler

        Please make sure that cats and kittens are included in every effort. From experience, and not to be provocative, but in TX it’s all about dogs and horses. YOU can change that! Cats need our help, too. Thank you for all you do.

    • Amy

      Hi Kim and all!! I am thrilled that Best Friends have come to stay. I want very much to part time volunteer – starting whenever you say. I love animals. I’ve had dogs, cats and parakeets. Such a joy! Please let me hear from someone about volunteering. Thanks – Amy Shadle from Clear Lake City, TX