Alabama Animal PAC Pushing Bill Which Will Save Zero Shelter Pets

My view that animal shelters can and should stop killing pets immediately is regarded by some as extreme.  There are many people who believe some period of time is required (months or years) in order to fully implement all the needed programs, personnel  and funding which will secure no kill for the long term.  During this transition period, pet killing continues, with a goal of steady reduction, and is regarded as a necessary evil.  I refer to this as transition killing.  And I wholly reject it.

There is an even more watered-down philosophy embraced by many animal activists which says that, “No kill can not be achieved until [insert your killing apologist claim-du-jour here].  Some of the many claims offered to extend the killing indefinitely are:

  • No kill can not be achieved until everyone spays and neuters their pets.
  • No kill can not be achieved until puppy mills are shut down.
  • No kill can not be achieved until we accept that we are all on the same team.

This tactic is nothing more than a carrot on a stick and it results in even more permanent damage than transition killing because there is no end in sight.  The date when any of these stated goals will be accomplished is never.  So when an animal activist embraces one of these indefinite delay tactics, what they are really saying is what they really believe, and what they hope to convince you to believe too:  No kill can not be achieved ever.  Again, I reject this philosophy entirely.

In Alabama, a political action committee called Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation (AVRAL) is lobbying for a mandatory reporting bill (HB 238) which would require shelters to submit annual intake and outcome numbers to the state. Failure to report is a Class A misdemeanor under the bill.  There has been significant objection to the bill from shelter pet advocates for several reasons, which I will cover in due course.  But suffice to say that the premise put forth by AVRAL seems to be yet another carrot on a stick:  No kill can not be achieved until we know exactly how many animals are in the system in the state.  From a recent mass e-mail sent out by the group:

In an effort to determine how many homeless animals need assistance in our state, [AVRAL] wrote the shelter and rescue reporting act, which simply asks for a tally of how many animals enter shelters/rescues annually, whether they are strays/owner surrenders, are adopted, euthanized, etc. The purpose is to define the scope and nature of the homeless animal problem in Alabama, it is a starting point from which we hope to assist shelters and rescues with their efforts. As I made clear, shelters/rescues didn’t create the problem, they are the ones left to clean it up. I urged everyone not to demonize shelters in particular: they are easy targets, but people tend to forget they didn’t put the animals there.

We knew shelters might resist releasing their numbers. What we did not realize was that certain groups—animal welfare groups included—would spread such overt lies and misinformation about our bill that we are left dumbfounded.

Although my gut reaction is to tell AVRAL to take its blame-the-public BS and shove it, I have to ask the logical questions which come to mind:

  • Who is going to pay to enforce compliance with this mandatory reporting which will make criminals out of any non-profit or municipal facility which fails to submit numbers?
  • Even if the funding for enforcement is obtained, there are still likely to be some non-compliant shelters so the true state totals may never be known – do we have to put off no kill even longer because of this?
  • For the sake of argument, let’s say every shelter in the state reports how many animals they are killing.  So what?  We already know shelter pets are being needlessly killed in AL, why do we need to pinpoint an exact number?  How will having that number change the need for an immediate end to the killing of shelter pets?
  • Why is AVRAL pushing a bill which does nothing to help save the lives of pets in shelters?
Dog #406248 at the Huntsville pound in AL, as pictured on PetHarbor.

Dog #406248 at the Huntsville pound in AL, as pictured on PetHarbor.

The Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) has a reporting requirement for shelters but it primarily outlines specifically how shelters must make lifesaving their primary function.  Minimum standards of care and access to the pets by groups willing to save them are key elements of CAPA.  If AVRAL wants to spend resources on pushing a bill, why is it ignoring CAPA in favor of HB 238 when its bill will not save the life of a single shelter animal?  Even if AVRAL doesn’t believe AL is prepared to enact the full CAPA, there is a modified version available, if what the group truly seeks is “a starting point from which we hope to assist shelters and rescues with their efforts”. CAPA clearly defines those efforts as saving the lives of shelter pets.  This is in stark contrast to AVRAL, which appears to define the mission of animals shelters as cleaning up after the so-called irresponsible public.

From the AVRAL mass e-mail:

HB 238 is a first step toward understanding exactly what we are dealing with, what we are paying for, when it comes to the tragic problem of companion animal homelessness. It is one of the most “common sense” bills ever introduced in the legislature.

I am not a PAC but common sense tells me that animal shelters should shelter animals, that instead of shelter directors doing their jobs they are killing the animals in their care, and that I don’t need to know the exact number of dead pets in order to demand an immediate end to the killing.  One is too many.  And since I know there is at least one, that’s all the information I need.  Common sense tells me that if I continually chase the “No kill can not be achieved until…” carrot, I will keel over before the lives of shelter pets are protected.  CAPA, or a modified version, would include the annual reports AVRAL desires but primarily would ensure that animal shelters do their jobs.  CAPA takes away shelter directors’ discretion to kill animals.  Common sense tells me that is a bill I would support.

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11 Comments

  1. mikken

     /  April 7, 2013

    Bureaucratic self-gratification. Would I like to have all the numbers? Sure. I like some numbers, me. Data good.

    But will they really tell you “what you’re paying for”? Visit some of Alabama’s shelters and tell me that the tax payers are paying for THAT. Hang out with the ACO’s who shoot dogs for fun. See how often the cages are cleaned, how fresh the water is, how dedicated they are to conscientious and humane animal care. Be sure to note the welcoming attitude towards the public they serve and how very dedicated they are to posting every found pet online in an effort to reunite lost animals with owners. Also note please how thoroughly animals are marketed in an effort to get them out of the shelters alive. Not going to do that? You’d rather have numbers as your “first step”? First step towards what? Making shelters actually function as shelters?

    But they’re not looking for shelter reform, are they? No. They’re looking for excuses to have MSN, to have pet limitation laws, to find more ways to punish the poor for wanting to have the companionship of a kitty with licensing and regulations…

    You get to a point where you just want to say something rude like, “STFU and get your heads out of your asses. Blaming the public for being irresponsible HASN’T WORKED. Doing it harder isn’t going to make it work better. The key to turning this horror show around is to CHANGE THE WAY THE SHELTERS WORK. Expect and demand accountability for THEIR actions. Make them part of the community, invest in the community, educate the community, work with the community, stop wasting the vast resource that is the pet loving (and voting) community. And stop f-ing making excuses for shelters that function as slaughterhouses. They don’t have to work that way, they CHOOSE to work that way. And THEY’RE the problem, not the “cleaners up of other people’s messes”. That’s bullshit and I’m sick to the teeth of it.”

    Which is why I didn’t go into public speaking as a profession.

    Reply
  2. Two thoughts.

    #1) I’m one that thinks that your “rejection” of “transition killing” is setting people up for failure, and that a great number of people with the talent, passion, and skill to get to no kill are being undermined by the unrealistic expectation. Let’s get this straight. Austin didn’t get to no kill overnight. Neither did Reno. Neither did Charlottesville. Not that it CAN’T happen, because it has. But not every shelter is starting in the same place in terms of programs and building all of them does take some time. Overcoming political and financial barriers sometimes takes time. And overcoming people trying to undermine your mission takes time. I’m not saying 10 year plans, but to “reject” the notion of it, when no large shelter has ever met that expectation, is setting people up for failure. And that’s a shame.

    #2) I’m all for AVRAL’s bill. While there are a lot of things in CAPA that make it very hard to pass at the state level (which is why it exists in one state), AVRAL’s bill should be easy to pass. The idea that they’re struggling to get this passed just shows how far we have to go politically in this country to get to no kill when it’s hard to get very basic tenents passed. As for the transparency, I think it’s essential. One of the big problems is that in order to make real change, you need public support. In order to get public support, you need to show the problem. It is very hard to show the public the problem when you can’t get access to the data you need.

    I guess there are a lot of people out there doing it wrong, but at least AVRAL’s bill will be productive (if it wasn’t productive, why would it be a part of CAPA, right?) If they are pushing something productive, sure seems like supporting the effort would be in order. If they’re struggling to get this passed I’d be stunned if here was political will to get CAPA passed. Sure seems like supporting someone who’s trying to overcome government obstacles in baby steps would be in order…they already seem to have enough obstacles.

    Reply
  3. suju bala

     /  April 8, 2013

    What you say is perfectly logical and above that, compassionate… you don’t need numbers to decide to stop the killing and definitely one is far too many.. CAPA is very good and can stop much of the dysfunction of the present day shelters in the USA.. but the sheltering system is broken because it cannot ensure the safety or happiness of the shelter pets, they should be sheltering.. the sheltering system focuses on keeping the strays off the roads but does not recognize that they have a life and deserve to be safe and happy.. this is the main issue, here… am from bangalore, india and here strays are permitted to live on the streets as long as they cause no problems.. and i have never seen they cause any issues in 55 years i have spent here.. they are quiet, demand nothing, eat whatever they find, sleep wherever they find some shelter and runaway from people unless they trust them… they are harmless and they generally get to live their life.. i find rural people are more animal-friendly than urban, here…
    Killing of shelter pets should stop now.. there is no doubt about that.. CAPA is good as a reform for the present sheltering system but Shelter Revolution’s ( http://www.shelterrevolution.org/ ) ideas of communal housing and cage-free living of shelter pets appeal to me…they eradicate the suffering, shelter pets have of isolation and neglect and fear, from day one… and killing is not an option which is a wonderful thing..

    Reply
  4. kelevee

     /  April 8, 2013

    No, you are not a PAC, but why would you fathom that AVRAL wouldn’t be working for Alabama animal facilities/shelters to shelter animals rather than act as assembly line killing factories?
    Whose – what resources, might I ask, do you accuse AVRAL of spending in pushing HB 238?

    How could AVRAL be ignoring CAPA, as you say, “in favor of HB 238”, when no CAPA bill exists in Alabama legislation currently? What makes you think AVRAL would not support CAPA, or that minimum standards of care and access to pets by rescue groups are not major goals of AVRAL? It’s puzzling how you promote No-Kill and not be privy to the need for transparency in AL animal control system, beginning with the numbers made available to tax-paying citizens. Oh,…. but you don’t recognize that this bill is indeed the first step to Accountability?

    Are you aware that Alabama has NO state regulations, oversight, laws, policies or standards of care for animal control system/facilities? (with exception of euthanasia methods in “Registered” Animal Facilities, barely regulated by Alabama State Board of Veterinarians). To the contrary of your accusations, AVRAL appears to make no excuses for the murky – ambiguous – daily operations within animal control facilities. They are attempting to break that barrier – and have the first source of accountability and transparency enacted in legislature. Unfortunately, it does take one step at a time, up the rung of neglected (for decades) animal laws and non-existent regulations governing the animal control system.

    The severity of abandonment, cruelty cases, the number of owner surrenders and strays picked up by animal control lead to the logical conclusion that our shelters and rescues are in crisis. If you were involved in rescue of animals dumped and starving on the streets and/or saved from death in animal facilities, perhaps you would be more informed that these cases absolutely involve human irresponsibility and cruelty, and are rampant.

    Alabama has no formal system by which shelters and rescues report important data about homeless animals, so there are only ”guesstimates.” Until accurate data is collected and analyzed, the myriad of problems within the animal control system can’t begin to be addressed. In addition, the public would be more informed regarding the tragic number of animals euthanized, and will, more likely, respond, resulting in saving more animals from this undeserved fate. Without public awareness, how would they recognize the crisis?

    Exactly who or what are the “shelter pet advocates” you mention, who have “significantly objected to HB 238”? Surely – not the “sheltering community”, as animal control prefers to be called, and has vehemently opposed this bill.

    “Embracing” the No-Kill Solution is commendable, but demeaning an AL grassroots PAC’s effort in taking a step forward doesn’t sit well with those of us who actively support “striking at the roots” of a system in dire need of reform and transparency. It’s clear in Your version of the No-KILL Solution – that you think should magically take place immediately – is attempting to KILL a critical first step in Alabama.

    Reply
    • “Kelevee”, you ask a lot of questions of me while hiding behind a fake name and failing to disclose your own affiliations. If you can’t be open and honest in your attempt to defend the bill by attacking someone who disagrees with it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

      Reply
  5. angelpaw

     /  April 8, 2013

    As an AL resident and member of AVRAL, I do understand where you’re coming from – and even agree with you. But the reality is that the AL legislature has consistently shown they have no real desire to protect the animals of AL.

    We’ve had to fight tooth and nail for every small piece of legislation passed. Last year they refused to pass (and in one case didn’t bring it to the floor for a vote) bills to save our low-cost S/N clinics, make bestiality a crime, and increase the seriousness and penalties for cockfighting. This session a new bill to close or severely limit the S/N clinics was introduced.

    I would love to see CAPA, either the full or modified version, passed in AL, but we are so far away from that happening it is not funny. Until such time as legislators see the realities of animal welfare here in AL – which this bill will help achieve – victories in animal welfare legislation will be few.

    AVRAL’s grassroot effort was responsible in large part to keeping the S/N clinics open. Their efforts are raising awareness of the problems in our state – and without that awareness there cannot be change.

    There are very few progressive areas and shelters in AL. Local ordinances are very minimal in most areas, and many areas do not have an ACO or shelter of any sort. Many of the shelters do not deserve to be called such, and officials turn a blind eye to any problems. The number of animals without adequate food, water, shelter, and basic vet care is mind boggling. The number of animals forced to live their entire lives on a chain is mind boggling. Backyard breeding is rampant. Attitudes of the people in regards to animals is frightening.

    Changes are badly needed here. Unfortunately, the state legislature is not yet willing to make these changes.

    Reply
  6. I just can’t get behind this one and my main differences are pretty much philosophical. I have received mass mailings which have explained the basis for the bill and they refer to the fact that the public has created the problem (as if all animals are surrenders), that shelters didn’t create the problems and that people who stand in opposition to the bill do so maliciously. Alabama has a law already which requires that shelters with more than 5k people have a shelter. About 1/3 which are required to have a shelter do not and no one seems to care. The law gathers dust. Even if this law was passed, is the threat of criminal prosecution going to assure compliance? I don’t think so. Even if it did and we learn that 200k are killed a year instead of 120k, does that help us? I am told the bill as currently written has enforcement at a local level. So we are prepared to spend money to make sure people submit numbers? I just don’t see this as getting to the heart of the matter at all and in Alabama, once a law is on the books, trying to get it changed is very difficult. If we seek shelter reform, I would like the existing law requiring shelters to be enforced and would like to see some legislation that sets some basic standards. One person told me that he follows this PAC because they are the only one in the state. I just can’t do that when I feel as though we are worlds apart in terms of beliefs. Punitive legislation is always a bad idea from where I sit. But that is just my opinion as a resident of Alabama.

    Reply
    • Enforcing the shelter law already on the books – to provide shelter for pets in communities w/over 5000 people – sounds like common sense to me. And if it could be combined with CAPA, to force the shelters to actually do their jobs – common sense tells me that lives would be saved.

      Reply
  7. As a shelter professional I support mandatory reporting but agree that there is an associated cost and people can always couch their statistics in any categories they like. However, raw numbers that show how many animals get out alive can be used to understand where to apply new money and where efforts are wasted. Accountablity for sheltering is a must.

    Reply

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