A Worthwhile Donation PLUS

From a No Kill Advocacy Center post on FB:

There is still time to make a year end gift to the No Kill Advocacy Center. Make a donation of $10 or more by midnight tonight PT and get a signed copy of Redemption by Nathan Winograd. (U.S. addresses only, please). Help us work to end the systematic killing of animals in shelters.

If you already have a copy of Redemption, why not provide a mailing address for your local shelter or a city official to receive a copy instead?  I’d file that under “can’t hurt, might help”.  But hurry, only 10 hours left to take advantage of this deal.

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

Tomorrow I will be posting an overview of 2011 no kill stories but today I wanted to take a moment to share a few personal highlights from this past year.

  • Tracking the Alabama 44 was an ongoing and challenging task and I appreciated all the help I received from readers.  I feel like we helped those dogs, in our own ways, even if it was just to honor their memories.
  • Saving Mari(o) from MAS was one of the most exhausting and rewarding experiences of the year and it would not have happened without a wide network of support from readers and rescuers.  I am so thankful for everyone who pitched in – whether you stayed up half the night networking for transport or stood by for moral support while the city tried to shoot us down – you are appreciated.
  • Bringing Surrey home from a pound in TN was possible because of help from readers.  I probably can’t type too much more than “thank you” without getting a bit sniffly.  I love her.

I feel very lucky to have such wonderful readers and I truly value your company.  I wish all of you a very happy 2012.  Thank you for participating in this blog.

How about you – do you have some personal highlights to share from 2011?




Question from a Reader

A reader posed an interesting question about whether one’s work in an animal related field affects one’s view of shelters and if so, in what ways.  So I thought I’d open this up to anyone who presently – or in the past – has held a job in a sanctuary, shelter, veterinary clinic, pet food plant, retailer or any other animal related business.  Please share your thoughts about how your line of work affects your perception of shelters.  Do you tend to give them a greater benefit of the doubt?  Do you hold them to a higher standard?  Did your opinion of shelters change after you began working in an animal related field?

Please tell us your job and your thoughts on the subject at hand.  You can remain anonymous if you wish.

I don’t know what’s going on at the Marion County shelter in SC

In November, a reader contacted me asking if I would consider doing a post on the shelter where she volunteers.  She explained that everyone involved with the Marion Co shelter in SC was working hard to turn things around and they had made significant improvements in saving pets’ lives.  This volunteer sent me some information about the shelter including this local TV news clip and an online article.  I was delighted to hear this good news and agreed that I would love to help promote this shelter.

I asked if the shelter stats were available online or if I could get copies of them for my post since I wanted to show the improvements the shelter had made over time.  The reader referred me to a couple of the staff with Paws to the Rescue – the group which holds a contract with the county to operate the shelter.  I explained to Paws to the Rescue that I wanted to help promote the shelter via the blog and that I needed the monthly stats.  They gave me the runaround and told me to file a FOIA request and to call the county.  This surprised me more than a little but I did as requested.  On November 28, 2011, under the SC Freedom of Information Act, I requested the Marion Co Animal Control shelter’s monthly statistics/reports, to include complete intake and outcome figures, for the months of January through October 2011.  The shelter director, Jen Nall, responded as follows:

Hi there – are you the one that called the county administrator asking for information?

The current statistics for this year to date are:

Intakes = 2,700
Adopted/Rescued = ~71%
PTS (Put to Sleep) = ~29%
RTO (Returned to Owner) = ~1%

Let me know if you have any other questions.
Thank you,

Since these estimated figures did not fulfill my FOIA request, I replied thusly:

Hi Jen,

Yes, I called the county administrator trying to find the custodian of records for the shelter.  They told me to contact you.  While I appreciate the numbers you provided below, I’m actually looking for the shelter’s detailed monthly reports, as specified in my FOIA request.  If your shelter does not maintain these monthly reports but instead just does one yearly detailed report, please let me know and I will refile the request for the 2011 report in January.

Thank you,

I received no response and so I sent the shelter director a status update request on 12-6-11.  Again, no response so I sent a second status update request on 12-12-11.  Yet again, no response from the shelter director.  SC law requires a response to FOIA requests within 15 business days.  Since the time allotted by law was close to expiring, I contacted County Administrator Tim Harper on 12-13-11 to see if he could assist.  After talking with him, I received some stats from the director but they did not fulfill my FOIA request which to reiterate, I had only filed at their direction in order to write a supportive post about their shelter.

I advised the director and the county administrator that the figures I received were incomplete.  I got more runaround from the staff.  I tried e-mailing the county administrator again – twice.  No response.  The FOIA deadline came and went and I waited nearly two more weeks to see if the stats might be sent.  Nope.

So this is my post on the Marion Co shelter.  It’s not what I had hoped it would be.  They might be doing good work there as far as saving pets’ lives but I couldn’t get the monthly stats to verify that and to show how things have improved (assuming they have).  To the reader who initially asked me to help promote her shelter – I’m sorry.  I tried.  I’m not planning to sue over the unfulfilled FOIA request but the county and the shelter director might take note that the next person who files a FOIA request and gets the runaround could be inclined to pursue the matter in the courts, as allowed by law.

The FOIA is there for a reason – because the public has a right to know what agencies are doing with taxpayers’ money.  Beyond that, if someone comes knocking on your door asking to help promote your shelter, it’s just good manners to oblige a reasonable request.

Name That Animal

No researching, just post a guess if you don’t know.  Answer will be posted in the comments later today.

Open Thread

It’s ok to talk about your feelings.

Keep it animal related, otherwise it’s anything goes.


Arizona Humane Society – A Problem Like This

My most recent follower on Twitter is Stacy Pearson, part of a public relations firm in Arizona which lists the Arizona Humane Society as a client on its website.  The AP reports that Ms. Pearson was hired by the Arizona Humane Society specifically to handle the media after the killing of Scruffy was revealed this week.

On the one hand it’s good to know the Arizona Humane Society has enough extra cash in the bank to cover an emergency expense such as hiring Ms. Pearson in an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging of donations from the outraged public.  But on the other hand, if the Arizona Humane Society is indeed flush with cash – the group’s website indicates a yearly budget of roughly 12 million bucks – it seems all the harder to stomach the attempted justification of Scruffy’s killing due to financial concerns.

The statement regarding Scruffy’s killing posted by the Arizona Humane Society director reads, in part:

We are heartbroken that need continues to overshadow resources available[…]

Yet there are immediate resources available to hire Ms. Pearson when donors realize they’ve been hoodwinked and have been giving money to a place that kills pets.

Ms. Pearson told the AP that “the Arizona Humane Society at the time didn’t accept credit card payments over the phone because of possible fraud”.  Apparently the Arizona Humane Society does not want to run the risk of possible fraud when it might mean they don’t get paid for lifesaving services but they don’t mind perpetrating a fraud against the public by calling themselves a “humane society” while needlessly killing pets.

Astonishingly, Ms. Pearson ramps up the rhetoric by making what sounds to me like a thinly veiled threat:

“Pulling funding is only going to make a problem like this worse.”

Worse than death?  Because that’s the issue at hand, or as Ms. Pearson terms it, “a problem like this”.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society killed Scruffy.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society refused to accept the payment offered for her care.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society deceived the owner into relinquishing ownership of his pet on the promise of prompt veterinary treatment.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society gave the owner the runaround for 3 weeks instead of telling the truth about killing Scruffy.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society cites a lack of resources as a reason for killing Scruffy then immediately hires a PR firm to try to spin the media on the story.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society calls itself a “humane society” when in fact they have a $12 million yearly operating budget and kill more than 70% of the cats and dogs in their care.

Spin that, PR lady.

Arizona Humane Society Kills Beloved Kitten

A 49 year old Phoenix man named Daniel Dockery bottle fed a kitten from birth whom he named Scruffy.  He raised enough money to get her spayed when she was old enough, fed her tuna, and slept next to her on the pillow at night.  Mr. Dockery credits Scruffy with helping him to remain sober for one year after battling a lifelong addiction illness.

Earlier this month, 9 month old Scruffy apparently cut herself on fencing and Mr. Dockery took her to the Arizona Humane Society for treatment.  Unable to come up with $400 on the spot, Mr. Dockery asked if the facility would accept his mother’s credit card by phone (she lives in MI) or be willing to accept payment the next day after his mother wired him the cash.  The Arizona Humane Society would do neither.  In fact, they reportedly advised Mr. Dockery that the only way for Scruffy to receive treatment was for him to sign over ownership.  He reluctantly complied.

For the next 3 weeks, Mr. Dockery searched area shelters and repeatedly asked staff about Scruffy.  He kept getting the runaround.  Finally this week, Mr. Dockery learned that Scruffy had been killed shortly after he signed ownership over to the Arizona Humane Society:

Humane Society spokeswoman Stacy Pearson said the agency took Scruffy intending to treat it and put it in foster care, but when she was taken to a second-chance clinic with three other cats, doctors were only available to treat two of them.

So Scruffy was killed and then the owner was lied to for 3 weeks.  Needless to say, Mr. Dockery is distraught:

“Now I’ve got to think about how I failed that beautiful animal,” Dockery said. “I failed her. … That’s so wrong. There was no reason for her not to be treated.”

No sir, you didn’t fail Scruffy. The so-called “Humane Society” failed to do their jobs by protecting her from harm.  You tried to help Scruffy.  The Arizona Humane Society killed her.

Mr. Dockery’s mother too is very upset:

“Don’t you have enough animals in the shelter that you would not want to take a beloved pet from someone who clearly cares for it?” she asked.

A good question.

What changes is the Arizona HS making in light of this highly publicized killing?

The Humane Society said it is reviewing its credit-card policy because of what happened to Scruffy.

Gee.  Color me underwhelmed.

The Prevalence of Kill Shelter Speak in Media

Both national and local media have historically done a poor job reporting on pet related stories.  While sensational stories about animal hoarding, puppy mills and cruelty frequently attract media attention, journalists working for national outlets often rely on soundbites from groups like HSUS, ASPCA, and PETA – all of whom have sketchy records when it comes to actually saving pets’ lives.  In the case of PETA for example, the group saves such a tiny percentage of the pets it records as being taken into its “shelter”, the state of VA reconsidered its shelter license in 2010.  The PETA “shelter” is little more than a pet slaughterhouse and the state of Virginia’s records prove it.  Members of the national media however are quick to ring PETA for comment when reporting on a pet related story, never apparently researching as to whether the group’s record actually reflects “ethical treatment” for pets.

Journalists who don’t do their homework but merely regurgitate the info provided by killing apologists – whether from national groups or local shelters – continually allow those responsible for the killing to frame the conversation.  This is not only irresponsible but this type of reporting misleads the public into believing that shelter pet killing is a necessary evil.  Let’s look at some specific examples.

It’s not uncommon to come across local and national variations of this sentiment in media:  There are X number of pets being killed in shelters every year.  Here’s what you can do to help.  This is typically followed by a to-do list of pleas including such mainstays as neuter your pets, donate, volunteer and “adopt, don’t shop”.

This is kill shelter speak.  It implies that the needless killing of pets in shelters is your fault if:

  • You can’t afford to neuter your pet, lack transportation to get your pet to a spay-neuter clinic or simply do not want to neuter your pet at this time.
  • You don’t want to donate money to a pet killing facility.
  • You don’t want to volunteer at a pet killing facility.
  • You chose to get your pet from someplace other than a shelter.

While promoting spay-neuter, shelter donations and adoptions are all very good things, they are not the reasons why healthy/treatable pets are being needlessly killed in shelters.  The truth is, friendly pets are being killed in shelters because shelter workers are killing them instead of doing their jobs to shelter and protect these pets from harm.

In this sad piece detailing an 88 year old NC man’s forced separation from his 11 year old dog due to housing issues arising from poverty, the paper sought comment from ACO Belinda Harper, who picked up the gentleman’s dog – named Koal:

Shelter policy allows an owner-surrendered dog to be euthanized right away, but Koal stayed at the shelter for more than a week until someone could rescue him, Harper said.

Rather than expressing outrage that a healthy, owner surrendered pet can legally be killed without even being offered for adoption, the paper paints the shelter staff as heroes because they allowed Koal to live for a whole week before a local volunteer stepped up to save him.  Again, this is kill shelter speak.  Making an exception for a dog they could have killed immediately is hardly praiseworthy.  Instead, there should be questions as to why any healthy/treatable pet would be immediately killed without being offered for adoption.  The journalist should be asking, when there are proven lifesaving programs being utilized to save more than 90% of shelter pets in other communities, why is this community still stuck on the old catch and kill model of sheltering?

The Boston Globe offers the Massachusetts SPCA all kinds of outs for their needless killing of thousands of shelter pets each year in this recent article.  Instead of inquiring as to why the MSPCA has a paltry 56% live release rate, the journalist offers to take a sizable chunk of dead animals off the top, explaining them away as “either wild animals or sick animals brought in by their owners to be euthanized”.  No questions are raised as to whether a veterinary consultation confirmed any of these animals were medically hopeless and suffering – and therefore in need of euthanasia – or if alternate options such as treatment and/or foster care were exhausted before killing was considered.

Carter Luke, president of the MSPCA was interviewed for the article:

In the end, not every animal can be helped and some will be euthanized, Luke acknowledged.

“Not every animal can be helped” is kill shelter speak.  It implies that the pound tries to help every animal but some are beyond help.  With a live release rate of only 56%, the MSPCA is clearly not on par with communities like Reno, NV and Austin, TX where they truly are helping – and saving – better than 90% of the animals at their shelters.  The journalist has an obligation to raise these questions in my opinion instead of simply accepting the platitudes offered by the group’s president.  Even the title of the piece, “Pet shelters struggle with glut of cats, dogs” gives readers the impression that shelters are going above and beyond the call of duty when in fact, those such as the MSPCA are failing to perform even the minimum requirements of their jobs.  Their job being of course to shelter and protect pets from harm.

The next time you across a news item about pets in which the journalist doesn’t appear to have performed due diligence, call him out.  It’s not necessary to be mean-spirited about it, just send him a brief note advising him of a question you wish he’d asked (e.g. “Why is this shelter killing 44% of its pets instead of saving 90% like many other shelters?”) and include one helpful link (e.g. a link to this no kill primer).  If we begin to ask the questions, we might prompt members of the media to seek out answers.  After all, they have inquiring minds!

Mental Health Break: Drawing

demotivational posters - MEANWHILE