Discussion: Tell Me How MSN Could Work

I have voiced my opposition to mandatory spay-neuter (MSN) laws many times but to recap, they don’t work.  MSN has never significantly reduced or ended the killing of shelter pets anywhere it’s been tried.  In some places, killing increased after MSN was enacted.  It’s a proven failure.

Yet there are still many animal advocates who believe that MSN will end shelter pet killing and so keep working to get it passed in more areas.  Here is an open forum to discuss MSN.  In practice, it’s never worked.  But in theory, how do you believe MSN could work to end the killing in shelters?  I will respond to all reasonable claims of how MSN could theoretically lead to no kill (if anyone offers any, that is).  Also, if you live in an area that already has MSN, please share how it has affected killing at your local shelter.

MD Court Ruling is a Step Back for Dogs and People

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled last week that Pitbulls and Pitbull mixes are inherently dangerous animals.  No proof required. The decision reads:

Upon a plaintiff’s sufficient proof that a dog involved in an attack is a pit bull or a pit bull cross, and that the owner, or other person(s) who has the right to control the pit bull’s presence on the subject premises (including a landlord who has a right to prohibit such dogs on leased premises) knows, or has reason to know, that the dog is a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull, that person is liable for the damages caused to a plaintiff who is attacked by the dog on or from the owner’s or lessor’s premises. In that case a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of negligence. When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.

The case is based on a Pitbull who escaped his pen and bit two children in 2007.  The family of one of the victims sued the landlord who rented to the Pitbull’s owner.  Under the new ruling, everyone who keeps a Pitbull or allows one to be kept on his rental property is liable for harboring a dangerous dog should any attack occur.  Landlords and shelters are now in the position of considering whether any dog who might have Pitbull in his family tree, regardless of temperament, is an insurance risk.

This arbitrary declaration of certain dogs as inherently dangerous will protect no one in MD from being bitten by a dog.  Here’s why:

  • Pitbull is not a dog breed.  It is a common term for mixed bully breed type dogs.
  • There is no breed of dog proven to be inherently dangerous.
  • There is no reliable method for determining what dogs qualify as Pitbulls or Pitbull mixes.
  • Landlords who tell their tenants they must either give up their Pitbull or Pitbull mix or move will be relying on visual characteristics/shape to identify dogs.
  • Shelters which refuse to adopt out Pitbulls and Pitbull mixes will be relying on visual characteristics/shape to identify dogs.
  • Other types of dogs can and do bite people.  Dog bites are rare in comparison to the number of non-biting dogs but when they happen, the breeds involved vary greatly and include all shapes and sizes.

While the court’s decision does not constitute a breed ban, there are already reports that both landlords and shelters in MD have begun discriminating against certain dogs based on shape.  When breed discrimination occurs, needless dog killing results.  In addition, some dog owners will feel obligated to “go underground” for fear of losing their pets.  These owners may not seek out services such as rabies vaccination and dog licensing in an effort to keep their pets under the radar.  This makes for an even less safe community.

I don’t know what the future may hold for MD Pitbulls but this ruling is decidedly a step back for all dogs and people in the state.

Updated: Whistleblowers Expose Parvo Coverup at Atlanta Humane Society

Atlanta Humane Society has 2 facilities, one of which cost 10 million dollars and was just opened in December 2011.

Three whistleblowers went to the local Fox affiliate to expose wrongdoing at the Atlanta Humane Society, prompting the reporter to investigate further and visit the facility to ask for the other side of the story.  The allegations involve a failure of the Atlanta Humane Society to report the occurrence of contagious diseases such as parvo to the state Department of Agriculture, as required by law.  The reporter found that the Department of Agriculture hadn’t received a single contagious disease report from the facility for at least 2 years.  Yet kill records from Atlanta HS for recent months indicate that almost all of animals killed have been puppies – for contagious disease.

There is a video of this great investigative piece at the link which I will describe in part for anyone unable to watch.

When visiting Atlanta HS, the reporter is met outside by Richard Rice, Vice President of Operations who, based on his response, has single-handedly lowered the bar for media crisis management for shelters.  When first asked about the shelter’s apparent failure to report contagious diseases, Mr. Rice looks like an immune compromised medical patient being asked for a hug by a plague victim.  As he dashes away, he promises to return with the records in question.  The reporter sits outside on the curb for ninety minutes before Mr. Rice shows his face again.  He doesn’t have the records but he does have a puppy.  In what looks like an attempt by Gilligan to avoid being bonked with the Skipper’s hat (You wouldn’t hit a guy with a puppy, would you?), Mr. Rice explains that they’ve done their jobs, are in compliance with state law, nothing to see here, etc.

Eventually, Atlanta HS produces a bunch of fax forms which contain no identifying information about the reporting agency – an obvious requirement – which it says were used as an alternative to phone reporting to the state.  The state says they never received a single one of these forms by fax.  The fax machine at Atlanta HS prints out a record of every number ever dialed and the Department of Agriculture’s number appears zero times.  Even if the faxes had been sent and received, they would not have brought Atlanta HS into compliance.

Apparently 10 million dollars does not necessarily buy plausible deniability.

Update:  Atlanta HS has a response to the investigative report on its website.  And the response is:  You know that lame story we concocted about generic faxes that there is no evidence of ever having been sent or even existed prior to the news showing up?  Well yeah – that, still.  Also:

It is our hope that the perspectives of former employees do not overshadow the exceptional work that our team performs every day.

The “perspectives” of your former employees come with proof, Atlanta HS.  Your “exceptional work”, not so much.


Since Thursday came and went with no response from the city of Memphis regarding the missing video from our FOIA request, an additional e-mail was sent today to follow up.  The city replied that, due to our “rather extensive” video request (it was less than half of the prior request), “the operator missed some of the files” (this would be the operator who gets paid $50 an hour to copy DVDs I assume).  Lo and behold the city has an additional 33 discs for us!  Once the discs are in hand, I will of course review them and let everyone know if they cover the missing video.  Stay tuned.

Name That Animal

The only rule is: no researching.  If you don’t know, just post your best and/or Loliest guess in the comments.  Answer will be posted in the comments later today.

Healthy Pup Was Wanted by Adopter But MAS Killed Him

Dog # A239241, as pictured on the PetHarbor website.

On Wednesday April 11, a potential adopter named Rob says he contacted the Memphis pound about a precious little mite he had seen online and wanted to save.  He was told the pup had been exposed to parvo and to call back in 2 days. He called back on April 13 and found out MAS had already killed the dog. This is the story he told me via e-mail:

I saw his pic on FB, fell in love & wanted to adopt him, called the shelter & talked to a man named Leslie, who was nice and he told me about the pup being exposed to parvo, that the VET recommended euthanizing, and that the pup would be available in two days. Leslie reemphasized that the pup would need to be cleared by the vet in order to be adopted due to the parvo exposure, and I said that I understood. The pup at that point had no symptoms of having contracted parvo. He said to call back in 2 days. I called back 2 days later, talked to a female and asked if this pup was still available for adoption, she put me on hold for a minute or two, then she came back on the phone & told me the pup was no longer available because he was put down the previous afternoon. I told her that I previously talked to Leslie two days earlier about wanting to adopt the pup, she just said that the pup was exposed to parvo and was put down the previous day, which means they killed the pup the day after I called, before it was available for rescue or adoption. I was livid but kept my cool, asked her if she could confirm if the pup had contracted parvo, and she said she didn’t know.

I wanted to pull this pup’s records to see if any questions could be answered.  Was there any notation made that an adopter was interested in this pup?  Was the pup tested for parvo?  Was any dog in the supposed exposure area tested for parvo?  Was the pup symptomatic at the time he was killed?  It would appear from the information contained in the records that the answer to all these questions is NO.

On April 7, there is a note from Dr. Coleman that some dogs in the intake room had “clinical signs consistent with parvo”.  I interpret that note to mean no dogs were tested.  Further, there are no notes that indicate at the time this puppy was killed on April 12, he was exhibiting any symptoms of illness.  There are no notes indicating this pup was wanted by someone.

What a tragic waste of life.

Petition to Bring the Webcams Back to MAS

The city of Memphis removed the public webcams after images of what appeared to be abuse and neglect were revealed to the public. Interim director James Rogers has indicated that the public can still see what’s going on by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for security camera footage. These very costly requests are sometimes ignored by the city or delivered with significant content missing. An expensive FOIA request that may or may not be fulfilled is not the equivalent to public access to the webcams. Further, the city says requests must be filed quickly as the data is overwritten within days. If the public had access to the webcams, viewers could notify the city of a FOIA request for a specific camera view and targeted time period before the footage is overwritten. Without the public webcams, filing a FOIA request for the security camera footage is a shot in the dark.

The animals at the Memphis pound deserve the protection afforded them by the public webcams. How many more employees have to be charged with animal cruelty before meaningful reform, including transparency, is instituted at the pound?

Please sign and share the petition.  If you opt to leave a comment on the petition, please keep it respectful.

Gee, I’m glad we didn’t pay $800 for this…

I received the discs today provided by the city of Memphis in response to the FOIA request for MAS security camera footage from 7am to 7pm on April 10 and 11. Just as I did last time, I performed a spot check of the discs upon receipt. Unfortunately, there appear to be some significant problems.

For the April 10 discs:

  • 4 cameras are missing entirely. No footage, no discs, no explanation.
  • 1 camera contains just 1 hour and 4 minutes of footage instead of the 12 hours requested.
  • 1 camera contains a 20 minute gap in the middle of the day.

For the April 11 discs:

  • 4 cameras are missing entirely. No footage, no discs, no explanation.
  • 1 camera contains just 2 minutes of footage instead of the 12 hours requested.

Basically, it looks like we were shorted about half the requested video.  I hope the missing footage can be recovered. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem right to me. I’m not saying that the city intentionally defrauded us of our money or that the footage was edited by the city before they sent it to us. But I think it’s worth noting that the person tasked with copying this footage gets paid $50 an hour to do it. The person is obviously not some sleep-deprived teenager dropping by after school but more likely an expert in the field. And he/she spent more than 16 hours copying the discs so it’s not like it was a rush job.

I believe we deserve an explanation and considering the circumstances, “oops” isn’t going to cut it for me. The city needs to provide the missing footage promptly. Contact was made with the city attorney’s office this afternoon requesting an explanation. I will update this post if a response is received on Thursday.

Name That Hazard

How many hazards can you count in this photo?

Puppies in a kennel at the Memphis pound. Click to enlarge.

CAPA Modified – Parvo is Not a License for Shelters to Kill

Just as it is unfair to punish a shelter dog based on breed, so it is unethical to kill shelter pets based on the name of a disease.  In this post, I’m talking about canine parvovirus but the statement can apply to other diseases as well.  Euthanasia to end the suffering of medically hopeless pets must be based upon the veterinary prognosis, not just the diagnosis of disease.

I was recently excited to learn that the No Kill Advocacy Center’s model legislation piece, the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) has been modified and the following provision removed from the document:

(2) Symptomatic dogs with confirmed cases of parvovirus or cats with confirmed cases of panleukopenia may be euthanized without delay, upon a certification made in writing and signed by a veterinarian licensed to practice medicine in this state that the prognosis is poor even with supportive care. Such certification shall be made available for free public inspection for no less than three years;

Nathan Winograd of the No Kill Advocacy Center explained that the language was removed in order “to move away from disease-based to prognosis-based legislation”.  I fully support this change.

Parvo is preventable and treatable and every animal shelter has an obligation to both prevent and treat this disease.  Parvo in shelters is prevented through the practice of vaccination prior to or immediately upon intake, good housing practices and standard disease prevention cleaning protocols.  The disease is further prevented by ensuring the community’s dog owners have easy access to low cost vaccinations for their pets.

Treatment options for parvo dogs include in-house care if sufficient resources exist to provide isolation and appropriate veterinary care.  If the facility is not equipped to provide treatment, parvo dogs may be transferred to another shelter with appropriate facilities or to a private veterinary clinic.  Donations may be solicited from the public if necessary.  The media can help in educating the public and spreading the word about the shelter’s efforts to save lives.  The days of blanket killing of shelter dogs for parvo or exposure to the disease are over.

Killing dogs who have tested positive for parvo without providing treatment is unacceptable.  Killing dogs who have not been tested or treated, who have been “diagnosed” by someone other than a veterinarian, who are asymptomatic but have been exposed or who are merely “suspected” of having the disease is also unacceptable.  What are your local shelter’s protocols for handling parvo dogs?

Austin Pets Alive has a ward set up for parvo dogs, run by volunteers.  The save rate is approximately 85% and dogs are usually back on their paws after a week.  Disease free dogs are then put on the adoption floor so they can find loving homes and live normal, happy lives.  How does that compare to your local shelter’s parvo protocols?

Shelters who fail to vaccinate all animals prior to or immediately upon intake are failing to prevent the spread of disease.  Shelters who fail to utilize standard disease prevention cleaning protocols and/or maintain good housing practices are failing to prevent the spread of disease.  These same shelters are often the ones who kill based on disease (or suspicion of disease) instead of veterinary prognosis and then blame the public for failing to vaccinate their pets.

All shelters need to bring their parvo protocols in line with current veterinary standards.  Prevention and treatment are not luxuries.  They are the minimum that every shelter pet is entitled to and the least we should expect from our municipal facilities.

Thank you to the No Kill Advocacy Center for modifying CAPA to reflect veterinary advances in the diagnosis and treatment of parvo and the duty of shelters to meet those standards.  No disease diagnosis, exposure or suspicion should be an instant authorization to kill shelter pets.  Further evaluation by a veterinarian is always appropriate and in most canine parvo cases, treatment is likely to be successful.

Further information:

Free webinar by Dr. Ellen Jefferson on the parvo dogs ward at Austin Pets Alive.  Type “Ellen Jefferson” in the search box and tick the “show past sessions” box to bring up the one hour webinar titled “Treating Parvo”.

Controlling Parvo:  Real Life Scenarios by Dr. Kate Hurley

Disinfection 102:  Beyond Cage Cleaning by Dr. Kate Hurley

Redefining Vaccination on Intake – Maddie’s Fund