April 2017  


Making a Difference in Homeless Pets' Lives

The Harris County Animal Shelter (HCAS) serves the residents and pets of unincorporated Harris County, home to more than two million people. The Animal Shelter takes in an average of 60 to 80 unwanted animals every day. Unlike many shelters, the HCAS cannot close its doors even if it is full. As a county shelter, it is mandated to take in all homeless/unwanted animals, as difficult as that may be. The HCAS staff is committed to finding homes for as many animals as possible. However, the shelter receives more animals than it can adopt out, because our community has an animal overpopulation problem. How can you help? Make sure your pets are spayed/neutered and become a HCAS Volunteer or Foster!
Join our Shelter Volunteer Team!
Volunteers can make a big difference to the lost and abandoned pets of Harris County. Volunteer your time to help with animal care and pet adoption. All volunteers are required to attend an orientation about the organization. HCAS provides individual training to each volunteer according to responsibility and assignments. For information on orientation times/dates visit vphvolunteer@hcphes.org to reserve your spot and click here to check upcoming Volunteer Orientations.

Join the Foster Team!

The county shelter has a great need for foster homes. As a foster volunteer, you temporarily care for an adoptable animal in your home while the shelter staff seeks a permanent home for it. While many pets in foster homes are adopted locally, some are transferred to other places to be adopted. Fostering can be flexible. Fosters can be short or long term (two to four weeks), then it may be transferred, adopted or transferred to another foster home.


Other animals need special care because of medical conditions or bottle-feed needs like puppies and kittens until they are old enough to adopt. If you love animals and have a little extra space and time, you can help animals find loving forever homes. For additional information or to sign up, send an email to foster@hcphes.org.

Harris County Opens New, State-of-the-Art Building
for the Institute of Forensic Sciences

Officials from Harris County, the Texas Medical Center and construction/design teams cut the ribbon
on the new Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences (HCIFS) recently cut the ribbon symbolically opening its new facility constructed on a 3.2-acre site in the Texas Medical Center. Funded by a voter-approved bond in November 2007, construction of the new facility began in July 2014. HCIFS began full operations in the new building on Monday, March 6, 2017.
"The County Commissioners have provided true leadership through their support of the planning, funding and construction of this facility," said Dr. Luis A. Sanchez, HCIFS executive director and chief medical examiner. "This facility will serve as a national model and will ensure that Harris County is second to none in the realm of forensic science."
The 210,000 square foot, nine-story tower, totaling $75 million, is equipped with the latest technology as well as integrated clinical, laboratory, administrative, public and teaching/training areas.
The new facility features:
  Space for the following forensic expertise: pathology; investigation; anthropology; neuropathology; entomology; emergency management; morgue services; histology; toxicology; drug chemistry; trace evidence analysis, including fire debris, gunshot residue and paint analysis; firearms; quality management; evidence handling; imaging, design and photography; administrative and operational support services
  Dedicated consultation rooms throughout the facility for hosting private meetings with families, attorneys and law enforcement, as well as specially equipped conference rooms to facilitate multidisciplinary consultation and collaboration
  A multipurpose training room for hands-on teaching
  An ADA-compliant auditorium, with seating for more than 200, for academic endeavors
Established in 1957 as the first medical examiner system in the state of Texas, HCIFS marks its 60th year serving the residents and justice system of Harris County.
"In our 60-year history it's important to recognize that the role of the medical examiner has expanded," said Dr. Dwayne A. Wolf, HCIFS deputy chief medical examiner. "Never has there been a more pressing need for mortality surveillance, to identify trends in violent deaths, to identify trends in drug-related deaths, and to be vigilant for emerging infectious diseases. Likewise, there has never been a more pressing need to apply scientific rigor to death investigation, or to incorporate expertise from other disciplines into our specialty. This facility was designed to provide a place to optimize all those activities, while continuing to excel at our core responsibilities," Wolf said.
The HCIFS crime laboratory began to take shape in 1986 when the medical examiner's office established a laboratory to analyze confiscated pills, powders and leafy substance to identify controlled substances.
"Today, as we dedicate our new home, the Institute has proven the value of the integration of the crime laboratory service with the medical examiner service," said Roger Kahn, crime laboratory director. "With all forensic disciplines in one location, we promote a collaborative environment, both internally and within the Texas Medical Center that fosters innovation, and encourages the development of new techniques and the improvement of existing ones. The citizens of Harris County can be confident that the Institute's crime laboratory is a leader among crime laboratories nationwide."
The construction of the HCIFS building also serves as an example of collaboration between Page (architecture & engineering), Crime Lab Design, Vaughn Construction and the Harris County Engineering Department as well as the inclusion of the HCIFS staff in creating highly functional work and laboratory areas.
"Today we make a solemn pledge to all Harris County that we will deliver on the monumental promise of this center," said Sanchez. "We pledge to you that in this facility, science will be the devoted servant of justice."

Emergency Preparation Supplies Tax Free Weekend, April 22 – 24

This coming weekend is the 2017 Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday. This year's holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, and ends at midnight on Monday, April 24.
"We cannot predict when the next disaster will strike, but we can prepare," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. "This emergency supplies tax holiday helps everyone save money on the items we need to be ready for the next storm and the upcoming hurricane season."
The following emergency preparation supplies qualify for tax exemption:
  Portable generators less than $3,000
  Emergency ladders less than $300
  Hurricane shutters less than $300
  Batteries, single or multipack (AAA cell, AA cell, C cell, D cell, 6 volt or 9 volt)
  Can openers - nonelectric
  Carbon monoxide detectors
  Coolers and ice chests for food storage – nonelectric
  Fire extinguishers
  First aid kits
  Fuel containers
  Ground anchor systems and tie-down kits
  Ice products - reusable and artificial
  Mobile telephone batteries and mobile telephone chargers
  Radios - portable self-powered (including battery operated) - includes two-way and weather band radios
  Smoke detectors
  Tarps and other plastic sheeting
The following supplies do not qualify for tax exemption:
  Batteries for automobiles, boats and other motorized vehicles
  Camping stoves
  Camping supplies
  Extension ladders
  Repair or replacement parts for emergency preparation supplies
  Services performed on, or related to, emergency preparation supplies
Download the ReadyHarris app, from the Apple Store or Google Play, and use our step-by-step guide to building a personalized family disaster plan. Go to ReadyHarris.org to sign up for emergency alerts and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.