The Baytown Animal Control shelter is under investigation, following allegations which include illegal behavior and animal cruelty, and the organization Concerned Citizens for Change will be holding a protest for reform at City Hall on the evening of July 23. The group is seeking to organize a candlelight vigil following the protest for the animals that have been killed. A petition has also been set up at Change.org.

News coverage this month has brought to light disturbing information concerning activities at the Baytown shelter, and allegations that city administration failed to respond appropriately to initial reports of the inhumane practices. One Fox 26 report by Randy Wallace highlights these problems and abuses, as detailed by a former city worker who has produced photographic evidence obtained during her employment as an animal control officer. The video for this story contains graphic content.

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Cages at the Baytown Animal Control Shelter. Photo source: “Disturbing images, eyewitness accounts allege animal cruelty at area shelter.” Fox 26 News. July 20

The report describes animal cruelty and illegal euthanasia practices, which include animals being killed in front of each other, in groups, strangled, and even drowned in a nearby pond. The shelter is also alleged to have failed to adhere to the mandatory holding time prior to euthanizing the animals.

The reforms proposed to city council by Concerned Citizens for Change, as reported on July 22 by the Baytown Sun, include “the removal of Mike Lester, the city’s health director, and Marti Lechner, the shelter’s director. They also want city ordinances that hold pet owners responsible and spay, neuter and vaccination programs implemented at the site.”

Among the ten proposals listed in the petition at Change.org is the suggestion that the city should acquire a new shelter building large enough to accommodate all the animals. According to the author, Wanda Carter of Concerned Citizens for Change, 86 kennels were purchased but cannot be used due to a lack of necessary space.

The Peaceful Protest for Shelter Reform Facebook event page states:

“Baytown citizens, supporters, followers, neighbors, family, friends, rescuers, organizations, corporations, volunteers, and animal lovers near and far! We are calling out to everyone in order to support this next step!

Thursday, July 23rd at 6PM. Join us at the City of Baytown City Hall at 2401 Market St. Baytown, TX 77520 for a Peaceful Protest for Shelter Reform!

We requested to approach council once again during the planned city council meeting at 6:30PM, but our request was denied. So, instead we’ve organized this peaceful protest to show that we will be heard! We will organize outside of City Hall during their planned meeting… This is your opportunity to come together to make a difference! Grasp the chance! We hope to see you there!”

For those who are interested in adopting, some rescue organizations are working to help make shelter animals available to loving homes as best they can. According to the Change.org petition, “BAC is the only shelter that will NOT allow a rescue group to help an animal until 24 hours after that animal is made available to the public.” One such group is A Life To Live, which holds periodic adoption events at Petco and can also be reached through their facebook page.

The City of Baytown maintains a web page featuring animals available for adoption. This labrador puppy is among the animals listed as adoptable:

Yellow lab for adoption. Source: City of Baytown Animal Services Adoption Page. July 20, 2015.
Yellow lab for adoption. Source: City of Baytown Animal Services Adoption Page. July 20, 2015.

The city has also purchased a large “Emergency Evacuation Trailer.” According to Animal Services Coordinator, Marti Lechner, as quoted on the web page, “The trailer will also serve as a mobile adoption station to increase the number of shelter animal adoptions throughout the city and will be featured at city-sponsored events like Christmas on Texas Avenue.”

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