Why I Love CAPA – Reason 547

The Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) mandates shelters to make the killing of healthy/treatable pets a last resort.  I’m not talking about saying the words “We only kill as a last resort”, I’m saying shelters would literally have to exhaust all reasonable alternatives to save a healthy/treatable pet before killing.

One of my (many) favorite parts of CAPA:  If a shelter intends to kill a healthy/treatable pet, they must notify rescuers and the general public at least 2 business days in advance.  I like that.  A lot.  It gives pets who are currently being killed behind closed shelter doors a chance.

Specifically, kill shelters must maintain a registry of rescues and the types of pets each is willing to take. When a pet is placed on the kill list, the shelter must contact by e-mail and phone every rescue on the list that indicated they accept this type of pet at least 2 business days in advance.  If any rescue is willing to take the pet within those next 2 business days, the shelter can not kill the pet.

In addition, the shelter must let the public know which pets are on the kill list at least 2 business days in advance by stating plainly on the cage card what day each pet is slated to be killed and indicating the same on the shelter’s website listings for pets.

There are provisions for exceptions (such as for pets who are medically hopeless and suffering) and safeguards to protect pets (including requirement of the rescue to neuter the pet before adoption unless medically contraindicated).

Imagine how many more shelter pets could be saved if we only knew they were in immediate danger of being killed by their caregivers.  Imagine a legally mandated end to the practice of rescuer abuse by those shelters who currently send out solitary e-mail notices saying “If you don’t rescue this dog in the next 4 hours, we’re killing him.”  Imagine being able to share online photos and information about every pet on every kill list in the country and having 2 business days to do so.

If you live in Delaware, you are lucky enough to already have CAPA on the books.  If you live in any other state and would like to learn more about getting involved with the national movement to reform our shelters, visit Rescue50.org.

25 thoughts on “Why I Love CAPA – Reason 547

  1. I love the idea, however, I think requiring the shelters to either call or email each rescue is nuts and uses manhours that could be better spent. I think posting a full and complete listing and allowing the rescues and public to look through the list and contact the shelter if they have the space and resources to take the animal would be a better use of resources

    1. Hey, I’m willing to compromise on details.

      I’d also be willing to offer to make the calls to rescues if I was a volunteer at a kill shelter and making those calls could save lives.

    2. Calling rescues to save animals is nuts? Ever heard of volunteers? Also e-mailing is nuts? Ever heard of mass e-mails? Nonetheless, the current version of CAPA simply requires, at a minimum, verifiable electronic communication such as e-mail or even a facebook page. And there are shelter management software solutions available for free which can do this automatically so that shelter workers can go back to smoking cigarettes out back. Read more:


      1. There are shelters that already maintain a List of single-breed Rescue contacts–probably other sorts of Rescues as well. At least one in my home state. I know this because every so often I get an update call from an employee or shelter volunteer asking if we still want to be listed as a Borzoi Rescue contact. And indeed, if I got a call from this shelter I could quickly pick up the phone and call a toll-free number for Borzoi Rescue, I could get online and arrange for someone who lived close by to pick up the dog, or I could drive to the shelter myself and foster the dog for as long as it took for an official Borzoi Rescue organization to find a good home. No need for a Borzoi to take up ANY space in an Animal Shelter as long as those Shelters will work rescue organizations.

      2. Wouldn’t be wonderful if petfinder or some of the other pet adoption listing sites would offer to send out email alerts to rescues on the animals that they say they are willing to rescue — from whatever area or shelter that want to rescue from — local, regional, or nation wide?

        If all shelters are posting all their pets to these sites it seems like they could set up something like this. Sort of like Google Alerts.

        Maybe one of the large No Kill groups could talk to petfinder about this idea?

      3. I find that single points of contact are the most effective. The rescue community has become desensitized to the mass e-mails in my community, but expanding that reach of contacts by use of mass e-mails works too.

      4. Nathan if this is you I have real life logistic questions.

        While I understand “Redemption “, and I don’t need it quoted to me.

        My posts are to project, where do we go from here, reiterating the same quotes while discounting ideas or questions won’t help attain the goal of everyone here.

        There is an underground of no kill shelters that choose to not declare themselves, but instead do this work for the animals with integrity and respect for their rescue partners and community, but do not want to be involved with the national organizations infighting. There is incredible work being done, but their are real issues to be hashed out that reach beyond “Redemption ‘s” principles to even further progress.

      5. dogedog – maybe you should go on to read “Irreconcible Differences” – might help you a little better!

  2. I will try to approach this with the most tact and approach this with the belief that there are many shelters that are substandard, but even the best shelters will have a problem with CAPA without some further revision.

    I have to ask this question about the science of herd health. While many disagree with the shelter vets that state every other cage should be empty (I disagree as well),there is much to be said about disease spread in a shelter environment when filled to the brim. Regardless of the vaccination protocol this is a struggle under the best of circumstances. Fomites traveling on the clothes, even foot wash stations and order of rooms visited from healthy to ill do not prevent the spread of disease.
    Please note that vaccinations are not immediately effective either and are only one measure to help. There is a period of time prior to it being effective that exposure may occur.

    There needs to be some requirement other than 501c3 that (which is a non-profit status not an inspected or regulated status) will provide checks and balances of the rescue partners.

    I can only speculate that Best Friends now disagrees with CAPA laws because they have had to rescue numerous rescues in CA that were ill equipped to handle the animals they removed from kill shelters.

    Some criteria for handling aggressive animals needs to be in the legislation, there needs to be some form of credentials by which aggressive animals are released to rescue or the public safety aspect of Animal Care and Control is null and void.

    TNR is great, but not as written in this legislation. Spay/Neuter, vaccinate and return to its habitat??? They are not wildlife and require help to survive which is why a caregiver is needed. Once again a specified group approved to do this is necessary, also the cats need to be revaccinated against rabies for their booster, unless feral cats are being designated as “wildlife”

    Also, where oh where is the public health aspect of this legislation. Where are the rabies vaccination protocols.

    This legislation needs work. Also, where is the funding source to facilitate the new mandates, the fines alone will not fund these initiatives.

    My tag name should be devils advocate.

    1. There is so much wrong with this e-mail and throwing words around like “fomites” doesn’t change the fact. But rather than rewrite Redemption, I’ll do my best to respond to the Naysaying as succinctly as possible:

      1. Operating a shelter at capacity, and even doubling up those cages, doesn’t necessarily increase disease rates. In fact, the most successful shelters do that, and still have managed to reduce illness and DIK rates by as much as 90%. When I started as director of an animal control shelter, I approached the local College of Veterinary Medicine. My request to them was to create vaccination, cleaning, and treatment protocols that would allow us to keep every cat cage and dog kennel occupied, doubling up if necessary, and also treat sick animals who would have been killed outright prior to my arrival. I wanted to increase the number of lives saved, while decreasing disease rates, rates of animals dying in kennel, and animal stress levels, even as I ran the shelter at “capacity-plus” if needed. I told them killing as a management tool was unacceptable. When presented with the opportunity to create a life-affirming model that took killing off of the table, the veterinary team accepted the challenge, and the results were dramatic.

      Working with a committee made up of one private veterinarian in the community with experience in shelter medicine, a staff member from the university’s feline heath center, a veterinary epidemiologist from the college faculty, and the staff and faculty of the Companion Animal Hospital, my administration created a sheltering model that reduced killing by 75 percent, reduced the return rate for adopted animals to negligible levels, reduced the number of animals dying in kennel by 90 percent, reduced both the frequency and severity of illness, and reduced length of stay to an average of eight days.

      We brought accountability and results to an “industry” that did not historically value these because there was a built in excuse (“too many animals, not enough homes”) and a built in scapegoat (the “irresponsible public”) that allowed shelter directors to avoid them. Because of these blame-shifting excuses, shelters have lost sight of their mission. The fundamental mission of a humane society is to save lives. Everything a shelter does should be a means to stop killing. But too many shelter directors and shelter veterinarians have forgotten this core principle; killing has simply become one more tool in the “medicine cabinet” of these managers. It sits beside the vaccinations, the parvocides, and the antibiotics. But all those other things are tools to keep animals alive.

      Shelters should vaccinate, clean, disinfect, socialize, foster, and implement all those other programs so they don’t have to kill animals. Everything they are claiming to try to achieve is a means to the end of not killing. And so while vaccinations, parvocides, and antibiotics help us reach the goal of not killing, killing—by its very act—does not. It is an inherent contradiction to use “killing” as a means to “not killing.” When you reduce the number of cages to house animals that would preclude killing, you don’t get closer to the goal; you move further away. If we could kill our way out of this problem, we would have been a No Kill nation many generations ago.

      2. Rescue oversight. Nothing in the law requires shelters to give animals to any rescue groups. Nothing in the law requires them to give animals to a particular rescue group. It simply says they can’t kill the animal if there is a lifesaving alternative provided by that rescue group. And that is good public policy. If they do not want to work with any rescue group, they can adopt the animal themselves. If they do not want to work with a particular rescue group, they can work with a different one. Suspecting this isn’t good enough for Devil’s Advocate, for additional information on what the law requires, including oversight of rescue groups and why a 501(c)(3) is a minimum necessary and good standard, see: http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=2414

      It should also be noted that Devil’s Advocate does not cite any proof for her allegations. Statements are not facts just because s/he throws words around like “fomites” or “checks and balances.” Instead of advocating policies that allow killing based on the unfounded beliefs of devil’s advocate and her apologia over Best Friends’ hypocritical position, let’s focus on experience. For an 11-year look at the rescue access provision of the Hayden law which only required a 501(c)(3), go to: http://www.rescue50.org/pdf/haydenreport.pdf.

      3. Aggressive animals. CAPA excludes animals who have been declared dangerous under statutorily defined dangerous dog laws. As to those animals an ill-equiped, untrained shelter worker claims is “aggressive,” see the article I wrote for Best Friends when they were actually advocates for animals, rather than apologists for killing shelters: http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/pdf/Temperament%20Testing.pdf

      And once again, despite the unfounded beliefs from Devil’s Advocate, 11 years of Hayden Law experience also show the fear mongering has not come to pass.

      4. TNR. Cats have flourished outdoors for 10,000 years and as a subspecies of the African Wild Cat for 100,000 years. And cats are thriving today, even without a caretaker: http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/pdf/feralcatissue_000.pdf

      5. Rabies vaccinations. Existing state laws already address rabies vaccinations. And some states, including NYS Public Health regulations, explicitly exempt feral cats from boosters because they have determined that an initial rabies vaccination as part of a TNR program, which is already part of state law, is enough and the public benefits of spay/neuter of these cats outweighs any risk. Moreover, there has not been a cat to human rabies transmission case since the 1970s, and there is not a single documented case of a cat getting rabies who has had at least one vaccination. When so-called self-proclaims animal advocates are less progressive and offer more fear mongering that state health departments, you know you are on shaky ground.

      6. Funding. The vast majority of provisions are revenue neutral. The modified version of CAPA is revenue neutral. Some provisions, like rescue access, are revenue positive. TNR saves money over impoundment and killing. Public-private partnership do the same. Taxpayers have a right to have shelters use tax money to save the lives of animals, rather than kill them.

      1. Why the negativity and name calling?

        Compassion towards people and the struggles they face in animal rescue are paramount to saving animals. I am not sure your defensive stance is warranted. There is a common goal and you you have identified the enemy as “ALL” Shelters which definitely does not coincide with the philosophy of judging each individually. It is essential to allow the same courtesy that is alotted to each animal to each person that is addressed.

        You are judging every shelter from what seems a small pool of your own personal bad experiences.

        I address the Asilomar Accords with skepticism because it discounts whole categories of animals that were at some point pets, or TNR’d cats whose life have great value but it is a starting point for a shelter that has not before tracked any information to use as an initial tool to identify the issues.

        Solving the issues requires collaboration of differing views that include life saving initiatives, public health and public safety.

        I am neither naysaying nor apologizing, but instead being the devils advocate by bringing forward what this legislation will face as stumbling blocks.

        It seems that you have converged this legislation with the NKE, and they are not one in the same. The NKE is revenue neutral, but this legislation is not.

        I am being sincere when I ask what your views are about dogs that have bitten the face of a child severly but do not have a guardian and cannot be deemed dangerous in a court of law. Do you investigate the trigger or do you judge the act itself. Or an aggressive dog that a behaviorist can explain “the why” of the aggression, but after searching far and wide is unable to find a rescue willing to manage or provide sanctuary. And does it matter if the agency is charged with public safety or a humane society that serves as adoption only?

        Who is blaming the public, that seems way out of left field, that isn’t what is going on here, and I have great compassion for everyone and their pets. I do not jump in any situation blaming, let’s all sit at the table and accomplish this life saving goal for each community.

        I am posing questions to debate so solutions can come to light.

        As for rabies, that is another topic all together. This public health threat regardless of legislation needs to follow the science to protect public safety, and titers over the years fail when challenged.

        So many have been insulted in this response, I hope you are not so entrenched in this bitterness that you are not able to participate in the positive change that is flourishing one shelter at a time.

      2. “dogedog”–do you even realize how utterly silly your particular combination of ignorance, nonsense, killing apologia, and condescension directed at the one person who knows more about this stuff than anyone else on the planet is?

      3. Hi Valerie
        I question whether the post is actually Nathan Winograd. The post isn’t logical and tries to claim credibility by quoting another opinion based blog. The post is so unprofessional and insulting to so many, that couldn’t be Nathan Winograd.

      4. Regarding item #1- where can I get a copy of the vaccination,cleaning, treatment protocols that were developed? I have seen too many empty kennels “prevents spread of disease” and too many animals killed ” they were from the same litter ” or ” they were right beside the sick one”.

      5. dodgedog:
        what REALLY is your agenda here? Your questions and answers seem very, shall we say, apologetic (for killing) and what the hell are you always harping on HERD HEALTH for? Yes, I understand the phrase and what it means, but what – does your main experience take place in a dairy? What’s with you? I am sorry to have to say this, but you make me very suspicious of your motives here. I simply cannot take your stuff seriously because you sound so much like a provocteur and NOT a devil’s advocate. Are you a spook for one of the “biggies”????

      6. doghedog – says he/she is a shelter director…IF that is the case I am beginning to wonder about how his/her shelter is run. Some of the info posted by dogedog just doesn’t sound like a shelter director that I would want to work with. Calling out Nathan Winograd? Seriously? Just doesn’t make sense!!!

  3. I love the idea of CAPA and hope that it in some form is put into law in each state.

    We will still need to figure out a way to make sure that the shelters are following the law. Many good animal laws are already on the books but are not enforced.

    Also just wondering about the places that already have the CAPA — how are they doing? Like are the shelter kill rates dropping and if so how fast?

    1. That is a great question. I believe Hayden’s law in CA has been in effect the longest. I have found contradicting data though. There are well written laws on the books, but you are right in that not enough are currently enforced. What makes this legislation different is providing recourse and accountability from traditional shelters, but I believe there is a need for there to be checks and balances for the rescues too to ensure the animals are cared for.

      1. I have to say that I am a bit tired of this argument, mainly because it is twisted logic. Yes, there are some hoarders posing as rescues, but just like “pit bull” attacks, these are sensationalized by the media, while the hard working, level headed, volunteer rescue group is never mentioned. Do they have anything in the paper about the rescue group that successfully saved 300 animals this year? And multiply that by 100’s of rescues and you get 30000 animals that are saved, yet the only press comes when their is the hoarding case in a rescue gone wrong.

        Using this logic, we might as well never adopt out another animal, because there is the possibility that the animal will end up in a bad situation. While these situations are heartbreaking, it doesn’t discount the thousands of successful adoptions.

        As far as the time issue, let me ask you this – how much time does it take to kill an animal? 5 minutes – 10 minutes – more? How much time does it take to email a rescue. 1 minute – 30 seconds? Seems the time to do the right thing would come from not killing animals in my opinion.

        In our area, we had a case of a rescue that was closed down for unsanitary practices – it was covered by the media for weeks with quotes, press releases and big news headlines by the local shelter. Several weeks ago, there was a Maine Coon breeder that had 50 cat confiscated, most were very ill and the private vet community stepped up to take these cats in – 2 here, 3 there. There was a one paragraph news feed on the local news website, that was it. So you see where the occurrences of rescues being closed down for unsanitary conditions is skewed by the media.

        Ask yourself this – if you had a choice of 100% being killed or 1% ending up in a bad situation, would you choose death or a 99% chance at life?

  4. While I do not have time to read all this right now – I know of CAPA and absolutely LOVE the idea of having asimilar version for EVERY shelter to follow – including those “pounds”….I have often wondered WHY something like this wasn’t in place across the board. Makes so much more sense then having a zillion little NoKill groups running around trying to change each little shelter in their state/area.

    But I do agree that there does need some issue worked out with it – AND it would be wonderful if we had a singular point of access like PetFinder that ALL shelters/pounds use that can mass generate the e-mails to the appropriate places. But even without it – it would be an easy “job” for a volunteer – and something that can be done from the comfort of the volunteers home if they have all the software and info at their fingertips to do it.

  5. I have a question. When your community doesn’t seem to care about animals, what do you do? I am having a discussion with somebody who’s municipal shelter already implements most, if not all, of the points of the no-kill equation, and they still kill a lot of animals. They told me this:

    “But that’s the thing…we do tell people that, for black puppies, they are going straight to “E.” What do we get? A shrug, a “that’s life,” and a new litter of puppies from the same mom in a couple of months.

    It’s sickening. I’ve had little kids tell me their dog is “gonna have to die” because it licks them. That’s the kind of world we have here in Mississippi. Dogs and cats aren’t worth anything. We JUST NOW made it to where animal cruelty is a felony, and people are GOING INSANE about that around here, saying how animals aren’t worth jail time over.”

    A major problem for them seems to be that community doesn’t put much value on the lives of animals. How do you combat that attitude? (Btw they are in Mississippi, if it makes a difference)

    1. Cristy I empathize with your plight, I will offer more info. tomorrow, but can your shelter participate in the transports to the Northeast, and other areas that are in need of adoption dogs. The most important part of legal transport is due diligence of the vet check certificate and appropriate vaccinations to prevent the spread of disease.

      1. They question is not “can” they – but “WILL” they? It’s not rocket science – either they are willing to work with transports or they aren’t. Period. This is not a gray area – completely black and white.

  6. Delaware’s CAPA has only been fully in effect since January 2011. The high-kill Kent County SPCA’s Director was quoted in a local newspaper as saying the save rate for dogs is now 85%. The 2009 save rate was less than 50% (2010 statistics not published yet) The 85% save rate has not been confirmed in statistics officially published by the SPCA. However, we believe it may be true because when the kill list emails are sent out to the rescue registry, many dogs are being pulled. Delaware’s two No-Kill shelters have been saving a huge % of the dogs on the kill lists: Faithful Friends in Wilmingotn and Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in Sussex County. Other rescue groups are also pulling dogs.

    One problem is that not enough time is given. The law does not specify how much time to give the rescues and Kent County SPCA is allowing 2 days before the dogs are killed.

    Another problem is that the descriptions of the dogs declare most of the dogs to be “aggressive.” This is most likely done to make the killing seem less horrible. Once Faithful Friends and Safe Haven pull these so-called “aggressive” dogs, they find that the dogs are just terrified and are good & friendly dogs when they calm down a little. However rescue groups are not as willing to take these so-called “aggressive” dogs.

    The other major problem in Delaware is that the SPCA automatically declares that pit bulls are “aggressive,” which Faithful Friends and Safe Haven are both finding is not true either.

    The Kent County SPCA Director has consistently refused to put more than one dog in a kennel, even though the law requires it be done whenever possible. If the SPCA complied with the law, many lives could be saved.

    There have been no emails sent out by the SPCA about the cats that are being killed. Most likely the reason is that the SPCA believes that no rescue groups want cats, but the law requires that notice be given for every animal to be killed.

    For several months the SPCA did not send out the dog kill lists as required by law, but instead just sent every rescue group a link to their petfinder page. We pushed hard for the kill list notices to be sent for every animal to be killed, as required by law. After several months, the notices are now being sent out for dogs. With email, it is not at all hard for them to do. But they have failed to send out the notices for cats so we will continue to press for that.

    One huge problem is that Kent County SPCA Director has been there for over a decade killling 8,000+ animals every year. He still justifies the killing with arguments of overpopulation and irresponsible pet owners. The current Director and his staff are just too used to killing. They don’t implement any of the strategies in the No Kill Equation. They don’t bother with pet retention counseling. They trap and kill feral cats. The staff is rude to people who come in looking for lost pets or for pets to adopt. We get horror stories from employees about abuse of the animals but they refuse to go public because they need their jobs. There will have to be a new Director and new staff before there will be any meaningful change at the SPCA.

    But the law makes a huge difference because the kill list notices open the door to the rescue groups. Many dogs’ lives have been saved by the rescue groups because of the notices. The SPCA must comply with the law and send out the notices for the cats. We will keep up the pressure.

  7. “To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime.”
    Romain Rolland, Nobel Prize 1915

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