Did the Houston SPCA Euthanize Pit Bulls at a Temporary Shelter?

Some of the more heartwarming images to emerge from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey were those of stranded animals being spared from drowning thanks to the efforts of good Samaritans in boats. Many of those rescued animals ended up at the Ford Park Arena in Beaumont, about 85 miles east of Houston.

But some people in the animal rescue community were concerned when the Houston SPCA (HSPCA) announced it was taking over the operation of the temporary shelter. (Incidentally, like most local SPCAs, the HSPCA is independently owned and operated, and has no affiliation with the national ASPCA.) Over the Labor Day weekend, rumors quickly spread via social media that horses and other animals were being euthanized at Ford – in particular, pit bulls.

Some volunteers said they weren’t being allowed inside the shelter to drop off supplies or help with the animals.

It didn’t help when Patti Mercer, the president of the HSPCA, declined an offer by Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) to take over operation of the temporary shelter. Long before Hurricane Harvey, the HSPCA had a reputation for euthanizing pit bulls or transferring them to high-kill shelters.

“The Houston SPCA has a history of a lack of transparency around consistent reporting regarding the outcomes for the animals entering their care,” BFAS wrote. “They have questionable policies regarding pit bull type dogs and have received continued criticism from the animal welfare community around these policies. So it’s understandable that the rescue community and other pet-loving members of the public, aware of the Houston SPCA’s history, would be worried about what was taking place with the pets in Beaumont.”

But were pit bulls really being killed at the temporary shelter?

“The Houston SPCA has been the subject of a vicious and false rumor that claims that we are euthanizing the very animals we are currently rescuing,” the organization wrote on its Facebook page Sept. 3. “This is unequivocally false. Our teams on are on the ground working tirelessly to rescue, care for and reunite pets with owners displaced by this catastrophe.”

That same day, Capt. Crystal Holmes of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office posted a statement on Facebook addressing the Ford Park Arena rumors. “The accusation about 30 pit bulls being shot and killed is a lie,” she wrote. “The accusation about ASPCA taking over the shelter and locking out the volunteers are a lie.”

More than 200 volunteers were caring for the animals, according to Holmes. Domestic animals were put in metal crates with fans attached, and were being given food, water and walks on a regular basis.

Although Mercer refused to comply with a request from BFAS to guarantee a positive outcome for the rescued animals – to promise that “all the animals in Beaumont are either reunited with their families; adopted into a loving home; or are transferred to an agency who will guarantee a no-kill outcome” – an HSPCA spokesperson told KTRK the rescued pets that aren’t claimed within 45 days will be relocated to foster homes “by local and regional veterinarians.”

Hopefully those pets will remain in those foster homes until their owners can reunite with them or they can be permanently adopted instead of suffering a fate they don’t deserve. “People are risking their lives to rescue Harvey pets,” BFAS wrote, “yet some may go to shelters where they may be killed.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Michelle Spradley
Michelle Spradley6 months ago

I was glad to see the author of this article differentiate the HSPCA from the ASPCA at the beginning of the article. So many people do not know or realize that they, and all SPCA organizations, are separate groups.

Michelle Spradley
Michelle Spradley6 months ago

Jennifer H: Do not lump all organizations that use SPCA in their names together. This is a specific report about allegations against the HSPCA. If there was any truth to the allegations I guarantee you that the ASPCA is at least as appalled as you, along with most of other SPCA organizations. (Each one has its own 501C3. If they were related they would all operate under the same 501C3).

Kathleen Pfeiffer
Kathleen Pfeiffer9 months ago

I really hate when groups supposedly existing to help animals aren't able to be trusted.

Na K
Na Khong9 months ago


Joy T
Joy T9 months ago

I don't trust Mercer.

Carl R
Carl R9 months ago


Jennifer H
Jennifer H9 months ago

Honestly, i have grown to distrust SPCA organizations. Too many lives lost to them.

M s
M s9 months ago

so what is the truth??????where is the evidence on either side??????????

Lori Hone
Lori Hone9 months ago