Culture / Newsy

For the Love of Animals — Identical Twins Take On Houston’s Shameful Stray Situation With a Movie That Packs a Punch

Why the Nation's Fourth Largest City Needs to Do Better

BY // 08.24.23

The welcoming committee at Tama Lundquist’s River Oaks abode includes not only the homeowner but also a trio of enthusiastic tail-wagging rescue dogs. The four-legged friends are a testament to Lundquist’s mission of promoting animal welfare. It is a mission she shares with her identical twin sister Tena Lundquist Faust, whose family also includes three rescue pups.

As co-presidents of PetSet, an umbrella organization that contributes funding to 70 Houston nonprofits dedicated to animal welfare and control, the duo is at the forefront of efforts focusing on public health and public safety centered around animal causes.

Over conversation in the Lundquist dining room, the sisters share that estimates of the numbers of stray dogs and cats in Houston and Harris County soar into the hundreds of thousands, many of them dangerous, abused or neglected, all of them starving and suffering.

“Because we’ve been doing so much for so long in this space and the problem is getting worse, we needed to take big strategic steps,” Faust tells PaperCity. “And we needed to attract national resources. And we needed our city and our county to understand that this is a citywide problem.

“Quality of life, public health, public safety problem.”

Their concerns led these animal crusaders to head the production of a documentary on the animal over-population crisis riddling Houston.

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Animal rights advocate State Senator John Whitmire joins Tama Lundquist, Sadhvi Anubhuti, Sadhvi Siddhali Shree, Tena Lundquist Faust at the premiere of ‘For the Animals.’

Working with co-producers and co-directors Sadhvi Siddhali Shree and Sadhvi Anubhuti, a Jain monk who the twins met while joining an effort against sex trafficking, the For the Animals movie became a reality.

“As Jain monks, our spiritual traditions have taught us the importance of non-violence and compassion towards all living creatures. We want to elevate the status of animals and foster a more compassionate society for all,” Shree, a member of the Jain Society of North Texas, says in a statement.

Actress Alyssa Milano joined the team as an executive producer along with Houston philanthropist Sue Smith.

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Tena Lundquist Faust and Tama Lundquist are the forces behind and the faces in front of the documentary film ‘For the Animals.’

Featuring Lundquist, Faust and a host of strays and abandoned dogs, the 73-minute documentary, which can be viewed on Amazon Prime and Apple TV, exposes the depth of the problem, which crusaders call “Houston’s dirty little secret.” The film also encourages viewers to act as individuals and groups, to raise awareness and funds, and become advocates for animal welfare in their own communities.

The documentary launched in Houston earlier this summer and to date has had 30 theater screenings with the twins introducing the film to audiences in Los Angeles, Austin and Dallas to name just a few of the cities. There has even been request for a screening from London.

“The response has been much more than we ever anticipated,” Lundquist says. “We hoped that it would have a widespread reach and an impact and it really has.”

The night before our visit, the duo were on a national podcast discussing the need for rescuing and rehoming strays. Requests for screening of the film continue to fill their inboxes.

Houston’s Animal Nightmare

Discussing the local situation, Lundquist and Faust pinpointed the I-59 corridor around Crosstimbers, known by animal activists as “the corridor of cruelty” as one of the worst areas. It is notorious for animal dumping. They noted that Sunnyside and East Side are areas also known for the burgeoning  population of strays.

Tena Faust, Sue Smith, Tama Lundquiest (Photo by Priscilla Dickson)
Chairs Tena Lundquist Faust, Sue Smith, Tama Lundquist at the 2022 Houston PetSet ‘Fierce & Fabulous Soirée,’ held at the Post Oak Hotel (Photo by Priscilla Dickson)

While their rescue dogs cavorted around the room, the twins shared stories of Houstonians afraid to leave their homes and children afraid of walking to school because of dangerous stray dogs roving their neighborhoods. Houston holds the unfortunate No. 1 ranking in nation for most US Postal worker dog bites.  And complaints of dangerous stray dogs on hike and bike trails are not uncommon. The number one complaint that Metro receives, they said, is the frightening number of stray dogs encountered on the way to the bus stop.

“The profit and nonprofit sector is doing most of the work. The budgets of the ones (animal welfare groups) we support are $67 million annually and the city and county budgets combined are only $19 million,” Lundquist notes, adding that Houston has one of the lowest per capita expenditures on animal welfare in the country.

The twins’ wish is that with an administration change in the city following the November election, more money will be directed toward animal welfare, including rescuing, neutering and spaying, and adoptions.

The Lundquist twins will also once again chair the PetSet “Fierce & Fabulous” gala, scheduled for September 8 at the Post Oak Hotel. Their crusading for better lives for animals never rests.

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