Community Conversation with Dawn Tongish: Meet James Bias, president and CEO of the SPCA of Texas, the leading animal welfare agency in the North Texas Region. Bias oversees the operation of two shelters and three spay/neuter clinics and manages a variety of educational programs and services designed to bring people and animals together to make life better.
From the instant you meet Bias, he radiates his desire to help animals find loving homes. It is evident in his work history. Before joining the SPCA of Texas ten years ago, Bias was the executive director of the Humane Society SPCA of Bexar County in San Antonio. We wanted to know more about the SPCA Texas and Bias and he was kind enough to answer a few questions:
Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about the SPCA of Texas.
James Bias: The SPCA of Texas is the leading animal welfare agency in North Texas with two shelters and three spay/neuter clinics located in Dallas and McKinney, and serves as an active resource center providing an array of programs and services that bring people and animals together to enrich each other’s lives.
Though many people know who we are, some may not know that the SPCA of Texas is:
• A private, non-profit 501(c)(3) charity, supported almost entirely by donations, that is not a subsidiary of any other animal welfare group (we are separate from all other animal welfare organizations); and
• A comprehensive animal welfare agency that does not receive general operating funds from North Texas cities, the State of Texas, the federal government or any other humane organization.
DT: What are your duties at the SPCA of Texas?
JB: As President and CEO of the SPCA of Texas, I oversee all aspects of the management and operation of the organization. Prior to becoming President of the SPCA of Texas in 2004, I was Executive Director of the Humane Society SPCA of Bexar County in San Antonio. I also served as Regional Coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States Southwest Regional office, Animal Services Manager for the City of Albuquerque Animal Services, Executive Director for the Humane Society of North Texas in Fort Worth and Operations Director for Citizens for Animal Protection in Houston. I am a current Board member and Past Board Chair of the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators, was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Council on Pet Population and am on the Board of the Lone Star Business Park Association.
DT: There has been a lot of effort poured into reducing the pet overpopulation problem. Do you think it is working? If not, what needs to change?
JB: I think that there has been a wonderful effort by the North Texas community to help reduce pet overpopulation; however I do believe we have a long way to go before the problem is solved. It is estimated that it would take every person in the U.S. adopting seven pets every day for the rest of their lives for every pet in this country to have a home, so that kind of gives an overall picture of the enormous problem of pet overpopulation. I believe that continued education of spay/neuter, as well as programs offering free or low-cost spay/neuter procedures will continue to help this issue.
For example, this year, as a part of the Big Fix for Big D initiative—which offers free spay or neuter surgeries, vaccinations, City of Dallas registrations and more to animals from 8 zip codes in south Dallas—we’ve come together with three other groups (the Spay Neuter Network, Dallas Animal Services and the Dallas Companion Animal Project) to offer the community a website and Facebook page that engages people, urging them to help us spread the word about this fantastic program, sharing important information about the importance of spaying and neutering companion animals and debunking myths and mysteries relating to spaying and neutering animals.
DT: The SPCA of Dallas is a no kill shelter, but do you think that most animal lovers are aware of how many unwanted cats/dogs are euthanized each year because of overpopulation?
JB: At the SPCA of Texas, we actually consider ourselves a managed intake shelter. This means that we take in only the animals we can care for without euthanizing for lack of time or space. We have no time limits and we do not euthanize animals for lack of space, but we do, however, euthanize animals for aggression and for untreatable and/or contagious illnesses based upon available treatment space and SPCA of Texas policies. Once a reservation is secured, an animal will not be turned away because of looks, breed or non-contagious, treatable health conditions based upon available treatment space and SPCA of Texas policies. The only factors that determine whether an animal is adoptable are the results of the health and behavior evaluations.
For decades, animal welfare organizations have worked hard to elevate the status that companion animals hold in our lives. We are now reaching that level and animal welfare is becoming a topic of discussion for non-profit as well as government organizations. The Animal Welfare Community’s focus has shifted to saving as many lives as possible through prevention (education and spaying/neutering), rescue and investigation along with animal adoption. I think that we will continue to see more private/public partnerships to adopt animals, particularly in non-traditional shelter settings such as retailers and shopping malls.
DT: It can be difficult for any non-profit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat?
JB: Our biggest challenge continues to be achieving sustainable funding and obtaining other, non-financial recourses that are absolutely critical to allowing us to meet the needs of North Texas people and pets. The SPCA of Texas is able to respond to animals in need only through the generous support of private individuals, corporations and foundations. We help over 50,000 animals receive the love, attention and medical care they need each year. We need our community’s help to continue providing the wide array of programs and services that we offer to the people and pets of North Texas. Giving to the SPCA of Texas is an investment in the North Texas community because our donors’ gifts go directly toward helping animals in need in our immediate area.
DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs?
JB: Our biggest challenge continues to be achieving sustainable funding and obtaining other, non-financial resources that are absolutely critical to allowing us to meet the needs of North Texas people and pets. Again, the SPCA of Texas is able to respond to animals in need only through the generous support of private individuals, corporations and foundations. We help more than 50,000 animals receive the love, attention and medical care they need each year. We need our community’s help to continue providing the wide array of programs and services that we offer to the people and pets of North Texas. Giving to the SPCA of Texas is an investment in the North Texas community because our donors’ gifts go directly toward helping animals in need in our immediate area. Our community can help with donations and volunteer support, including working in the shelters and fostering animals. I urge everyone to get to know us and learn more about how they can help us help animals by visiting www.spca.org.
DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at SPCA of Dallas?
JB: Truly, three moments stand out equally to me. Going chronologically, our response efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, our seizure of 26,411 exotic animals from U.S. Global Exotics in 2009/2010 (an exotic dealer that was found to be cruelly treating the animals) and the opening of our state-of-the-art, industry-leading Jan Rees-Jones Animal Care Center in Dallas in 2012. All three were monumental in scope, and all three allowed us to live our mission, to provide every animal exceptional care and a loving home.
DT: I can't let this profile end without revealing a bit about your amazing personal story. Your deep caring goes well beyond animals. You are also an adoptive father. Can you talk about the decision to open your heart and home and adopt children?
JB: My wife and I are indeed blessed with a wonderful family. I have a very passionate wife, and both of us are guided by our faith, so we decided to add to our family through adoption. Our family includes five boys and six girls, ages 6 to 19.
If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.