Pasco Co, FL opened a $3 million adoption center last year but pets who arrive at the pound don’t go there. They go to Building C – a place with no windows, no air conditioning, and no insulation. Some animal activists say the dogs are not fed daily and end up covered in their own feces.
Michael Cox, a former county commissioner who founded a “Friends” group to help pets at the pound, says there is $150 grand left sitting in the bank after the adoption center was paid for and suggests the money be used to improve conditions in Building C. The assistant county administrator who oversees the pound says that is not at all feasible as it will cost $50,000 just to design the renovations.
Animal activists are upset – they want improved conditions at Building C, they want the county to go no kill, and they are willing to help. Dozens of compassionate people attended the county commissioners’ meeting this month to speak for the animals at the pound.
Among the issues raised at the public meeting was the killing of pets while half the cages sit empty. The director, John Malley, has an explanation for that:
Malley said that is a nationally accepted practice to reduce the chance of a disease outbreak.
While some pet killing facilities do leave half their cages empty at all times, it is not a practice in any of the dozens of open admission no kill shelters to my knowledge. It’s one of those things that sounds good in theory but isn’t practical in today’s shelter environment.
Another concern was an alleged 15 percent live release rate:
Malley said that’s just not true. A few years ago, the county’s live release rate was 19 percent. Now about 55 percent of the animals leave the shelter alive.
I FOIA’d a copy of the pound’s stats to look at the actual numbers. For the 5 month period covering January through May 2012, Pasco Co killed about 42% of the pets in its care which indicates a live release rate of 58%. For comparison purposes, I looked at the 2 preceding 5 month periods. From August through December 2011, the pound killed approximately 54% of its pets (46% live release rate). From March through July 2011, Pasco Co killed about 69% of its dogs and cats (31% live release rate). These figures represent an improvement over time. But while less killing is better than more killing, it’s still killing. And the improved numbers are not indicative of sustainable progress in my opinion. In other words, I don’t see how Pasco Co will ever get to no kill under the status quo.
In reviewing the Pasco Co report for year to date 2012, the most striking figures are the increase in fosters and transfers. For example in May, cat fosters are up 2175% and transfers are up about 329%. Cat adoptions for the month are only up about 20%. This says to me that the pound is relying heavily on fosters and rescues for its increased live release rate while failing to match the public’s contribution to lifesaving with similar increases in adoptions. While fosters and rescues play an important role in any shelter’s long term success, they can not be expected to do the shelter’s job. Keeping your local foster homes and rescue groups in crisis mode (If you don’t take these animals, we’ll “have to” kill them.) eventually results in burnout. And then the shelter director, never having done his part, throws up his hands and says, “We tried but the irresponsible public just wasn’t committed to helping so we have to kill pets.”
If Pasco Co is serious about saving pets’ lives, the shelter needs to demonstrate that by stepping up its adoption efforts, opening itself up to fair criticism from the public (this is one way shelters improve) and spending the money that’s collecting dust at the bank. Most importantly, the county needs to implement the programs of the No Kill Equation if it wants to create a no kill community that is sustainable. Accepting help from the public is only one piece of the puzzle. The pound needs to stop making excuses and start saving lives. The public can not be expected to do the shelter’s job.