We had the good fortune of connecting with Gloria Zenteno and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gloria, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Houston’s East End is where I was born and raised, and I felt compelled to make a change after I saw the abuse and neglect of animals in the community I called home. It was the inspiration I needed to create Barrio Dogs.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The story of Barrio Dogs begins almost a decade ago when I moved back to my East End roots. I witnessed a considerable amount of abuse and neglect among the animals in my neighborhood, and I wanted to change that – not only for the animals but also for my neighbors’ well-being. As a result, Barrio Dogs, an education-focused nonprofit created to address pet homelessness and overpopulation, was built in 2010.
Over the years, the organization has evolved to become the pre-eminent resource for bilingual health education in the City of Houston, and the face for pet health advocacy in the East End.
Our dedicated team of volunteers educates and empowers our East End neighborhoods, imparting to them the responsibility of taking care of animals. These volunteers:
- Host education presentations for school children.
- Organize free/spay, neuter, vaccination, and microchipping events in area neighborhoods, serving 4,400 pets to date.
- Ensure all educational materials are bilingual – a vital need in the East End, where Spanish-speaking households are a majority.
There is no question that animal rescue groups are vital, and they play a role. What makes Barrio Dogs different is our dedication to education and community outreach. Our mission is to work with our neighbors in the East End and instill a belief that both humans and their four-legged companions deserve health equity in their communities. It is this diligence, along with forging key relationships and building our community, that spurs us to lay the groundwork for a long-term solution to East End’s pet health challenges with more than 85,000 volunteer hours logged since the organization’s inception.
Throughout the last decade, Barrio Dogs has been recognized and achieved several awards, including the 2018 City Hall Proclamation for Big Fix Houston through Unity for Solution-a collaborative I co-founded to support animal advocacy nonprofits across the city; the 2015 Hispanic Heritage Award in Education; the 2012 Mayor’s Volunteer Houston Award; the 2012 City Hall Proclamation for World Spay Day, and most recently the 2019 Good Neighbor Award from the Houston East End Chamber.
Day to day, I manage my time between serving as the president of Barrio Dogs and acting as the chief of staff for The Center of Pursuit. This nonprofit organization promotes the pursuit of choice, growth, and independence for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
As president of Barrio Dogs, I oversee all aspects of its administration and liaise with the board of directors. Under their guidance, I lead the organization’s strategic goals and define its annual objectives.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Houston’s East End reflects a piece of Houston’s culture with it’s eclectic restaurants and colorful murals. I would take them to some of my favorite eateries, including the infamous taco trucks. I’m married to a musician, so I would make sure we catch a few performances to submerge them in East End Music, which is such a big part of my story. Also, as a board member of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, it would be fun to take them on tour via pontoon boat along Buffalo Bayou as it’s a great way to see the city and tour the Buffalo Bayou Cistern.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to dedicate this shout out to Angelita Sampaio, the vice president of Emancipet, a low-cost, high-quality pet clinic that services residents who cannot afford to get services for their pets. An animal advocate and community champion for low-income Latino communities, Angelita was instrumental in opening Emancipet’s second clinic. I consider her an angel for fostering animals that otherwise would have been euthanized.
Photo by Paul Carrizales