A Wildlife-Friendly, Pet Free Sanctuary at Edith L. Moore
Maintaining a wildlife sanctuary in the middle of an urban area poses unique management challenges. At the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary, we attempt to create an environment that is both friendly to wildlife and visitors alike. This is not an easy task. What is enjoyable for some visitors is not necessarily beneficial to wildlife or appreciated by others.
One issue that has been particularly challenging has been our policy regarding pets, specifically dogs. The presence of dogs can create distress and evasive behavior for birds and wildlife. We know that community members enjoy walking dogs in a natural environment. At the same time, nature enthusiasts with a passion for birding may be disappointed if there are no birds to see because they’ve been scared away, and guests with small children may be uneasy with large or aggressive animals present, even on leash.
Recently, an incident occurred where a leashed dog lunged for a baby in a stroller. This was a close call which prompted us to thoroughly review our policy to re-examine what was best for the safety of our visitors as well as for the wildlife that enjoys a safe place to live in the middle of the city. This review included thoughtful discussions with staff, Houston Audubon members, volunteers and the board of directors who all agreed that allowing pet dogs at a nature sanctuary just didn’t make sense.
This is what it came down to:
- Our stated mission is to “provide an urban wildlife sanctuary for native plants and animals and to provide education about the natural environment to Houstonians of all ages.”
- Research shows that wild animals are negatively impacted by the mere presence of dogs (even well-behaved ones), which they perceive to be predators.
- In a city that is increasingly urbanized, in a region that is critically important to birds, the importance of undisturbed wildlife habitat has only become more valuable.
- Taking everything into consideration, we made the difficult decision to discontinue our dog permitting program. Moving forward, we will no longer allow pets of any kind in the sanctuary. Dog owners with current permits will be allowed to bring their dogs (with permit) only until they expire.
This announcement will come as a disappointment to some and as a relief to others. We hope that nature lovers and dog lovers alike can understand that as we put the needs of our mission and the safety of all visitors first, we do not take the impact of this decision lightly. The Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary is a well-loved “hidden gem” in Houston, which we will continue to protect for the enjoyment of many generations to come.