Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, OH: Success!

Regular readers know that I have been posting about shelter pet advocate Casey Post’s efforts to reform her local shelter in Medina Co, OH.  This week, Ms. Post again addressed her county commissioners but was forced to improvise a speech due to last minute developments on the reform front.  I asked her to talk about what happened at the meeting, provide details on the deal made to save cats in Medina Co to the best of her knowledge, and discuss her plans for the future.

Ms. Post writes:

I got to the meeting room early, as usual. I had planned to deliver an open letter to the Commissioners from a euthanasia expert who certifies techs and vets in our state. His letter listed all kinds of methods for killing that were used in the past (horrific) and then indicated that the gas chamber was among those we’ve advanced beyond. He encouraged the Board to “be leaders” and embrace the newer method of euthanasia by injection and assured them that anyone who is certified is capable of handling even feral cats both safely and humanely. I was then going to discuss the benefits of neutered/vaccinated feral cats and ask for a change in shelter policy of immediately killing ALL ferals, regardless of their neutered/vaccinated status. I knew that Commissioner Hambley had just seen a low cost s/n operation in our county and was now aware that the public was spending their own money to get these cats neutered and vaccinated, so I had hope that he would at least consider the private effort going on there.

The Clerk of the Board (she’s very nice, VERY professional, and a cat owner) walked in and asked me if I was happy with the deal that was made. I told her that no one had informed me of a deal! She tried to find a copy of the article in the paper that had just come out that morning for me, but someone had taken hers. Thank goodness for wifi and smartphones. I searched for the news on what had gone down and found that there was a tentative deal with the Medina County SPCA where THEY would take all friendly strays and owner surrender cats for the county, but would not be accepting feral cats.  [Ed. note:  Reader Lisa submitted this link which reports on the deal.] Ferals would be referred to the low cost s/n clinic (I’m assuming at the trappers’ own cost – $25, but they do have a “pay it forward” program for people who can’t afford it that others donate to) so that the cats can be TNR’d. The only segment of the public NOT being served in this deal would be the people who want ferals just GONE, who don’t want to TNR. But, the MSCPA intends to apply for a grant to do TNR in 2014 for the county and they may be able to include relocation in that program for those who demand it.

So this deal would get the cats out of the hands of the Medina County Animal Shelter (and their amazing less-than-50% survival rate) and away from any possibility of a gas chamber (MSPCA euthanizes by injection with an actual veterinarian and they say that they do it as little as possible – not sure how they’re going to work the space issue, but I do know that they use volunteers and fosters, which puts them light years ahead of the shelter which allows neither and there is talk of keeping a waiting list if needed). This deal has potential to address the issue of the feral population in a humane and sensible way. It also has the potential to get our gas chamber designated as “surplus equipment” to be dispensed with as is best for the county (I vote scrap metal!). Bonus – all the Kuranda cat beds that I donated to the shelter would end up at MSCPA, where they will be needed. So hell yes, I’m pleased with the deal.

By now, the meeting room is packed (no, not with anti-gas chamber people, alas, but with people there to discuss transportation funding) and the time is coming up for me to speak and I’m not sure what to say – all I have is questions and the letter I was going to read out was no longer needed! I got up to speak first (because hey, why not?) and tried asking some questions of the Board, but they will not answer questions during the public comment bit, so instead I asked for the shelter to stop killing vaccinated/neutered ferals. I explained that this policy was both counterproductive to the effort to control the feral population and it also removed the rabies buffer between people and wildlife that these cats provide. I figured since the county suddenly seemed to be embracing the idea of TNR, I would try to save the ear-tipped or microchipped ferals that are still going straight into the gas chamber at the shelter (and will continue to do so until the MSPCA takes over cat duties). One of the commissioners made a note, so hopefully something will happen there.

After me, a woman got up to speak to ask about the gas chamber – would it be removed? When? She was nervous to speak too, but also determined. She wants that gas chamber GONE. I spoke with her and apparently, she’s been trying to make one of these meetings for weeks now and told me that I’m “her hero” for fighting this and she is in until the gas chamber is on the scrap pile. She’s another one of us who had NO IDEA what was going on at the shelter and she’s been a frequent visitor and has adopted cats from there, so she too feels betrayed.

The discussion session was interesting because of the money – the MSPCA wants $13K to take the county’s non-feral cats. A commissioner asked how much money is in “the kennel fund” (this is the money used to fund the dog part of the shelter via licensing fees – it could not by law go to caring for cats at the shelter, but CAN be given to a “humane society” for the purposes of caring for cats, so that’s where the $13K would come from). The County Administrator stated that the kennel fund has “in excess of $300,000”. The collective gasp, then silence in the room was a thing of beauty. All I could think was, “I had to DONATE dog beds and pet safe salt to them because they didn’t have THE MONEY???” At this point, one commissioner said, “Well then. I have no problem taking thirteen thousand dollars from there.” There was a question about how the shelter staff felt about this plan – apparently, they’re fine with it. The commissioners then voted to proceed with the deal.

Now, the deal is not yet completed and could still fall apart. The MSPCA and the county have to sign off on it – I’m told that this will occur some time next week. How soon after that the MSPCA will be accepting cats, I do not know, but we all hope it will be sooner, rather than later. In the meantime, we are trying to get the current cats out of the shelter and away from the gas chamber (which they will keep using until they have no more cats to stuff into it, apparently). Two cats (that we know of – there were more that we don’t know about because of the kill-anything-we-think-is-feral-whether-it-actually-is-or-not policy) were gassed last week and it would be fantastic if we could make them the last.

The woman who spoke after me asked me if I was going to the next meeting. I told her that I didn’t think so, that I wouldn’t know what to say since the deal-signing would happen AFTER the meeting. She vows to go to the next one to continue to press them on the removal of the gas chamber. She’s feisty and I like her a lot.

Do I completely trust that everything will be sunshine and rainbows from here on out? Absolutely not. But I will definitely be keeping an eye on things – not just at MSPCA, but also at the shelter. And if I need to keep advocating for change, I will. If the MSPCA goes wrong with it, then it wouldn’t be the weekly meetings – it would have to be the MSPCA board that I would have to petition for change as they are their own entity. Fortunately, they don’t seem to be the sort of people who would be ok with killing more than 50% of the cats that come in.

I’m backing off the meetings while the deal goes through because it seems like a very good deal. Laura (the other speaker) is going to spearhead the “destroy that filthy gas chamber” movement and that I’m backing her up in that. I’ll be keeping an eye on how things go from here on out both at the MSCPA and at the shelter, but I have reason to be cautiously optimistic for the future of Medina’s cats.

Advice for others trying to advocate? Attack policies, not people. I didn’t want to get into a position where the commissioners felt backed up against a wall to defend shelter employees (which was why I explained that they were victims of this shelter model, too). Also, listen to what it is that they’re really saying – in my case, it was, “We’re not really concerned with the gas chamber itself because we think it’s humane. We just don’t want to be swimming in cats.” It took me a while to understand that while I was talking shelter policies, they were talking shelter-as-population-control. If you truly believe that the gas chamber is humane, and that your shelter killing over 50% of the incoming cats is doing the community a “service”, you would be resistant to the one lady standing up and saying that you’re wrong. That’s where even a little physical back up really helps. Mark stood up and said, “I think she’s right. This is bad for Medina and I don’t want it.” Suddenly, I’m not the lone voice. Combine it with the letters and emails that came in to the commissioners and now they start to think maybe something needs to change, after all.


Read how Ms. Post became motivated to advocate for shelter reform.

Read her previous speeches to the county commissioners:

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Ms. Post and her reform efforts which appeared after her second speech to the county.

18 thoughts on “Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, OH: Success!

  1. Brava Casey! I would LOVE to read the letter written by the euthanasia expert. I could be very helpful to share with local advocates here in NC who are trying to get rid of their counties’ gas chambers.

    1. Lisa B, I’ve written to the author of the letter to ask his permission. If he agrees, I’ll send Shirley a copy and she can post it for all.

  2. This series has been really enlightening for me, and so happy things seem to be moving in the right direction. This is a group of posts that I will come back to, inspiring and helpful to those of us wanting to do something but too timid or too angry to be effective. Thank you .

  3. Sorry, hit enter too soon, also very hopeful by the fact that others joined in once you’d stood up. It’s the “someone has to start it” saying illustrated.

    1. Thank you, Vida! Yes, someone asked me why I kept going back even though it was so hard for me to do. I guess the answer is that it had to be done and it didn’t look like anyone else was going to do it. But as soon as you make that stand, people who agree with you will say so! Maybe they won’t all come out to the meetings, but you hold on to the fact that they’re backing you up and that you’re *right* in wanting better for your community. I can’t tell you how many people told me that they absolutely could not believe that we had a gas chamber at our shelter. OUR shelter! They used words like “shocked” and “horrified” over and over again.

      But yesterday I was at the post office and the woman behind the counter looked at me and said, “You’re the one fighting for the cats!” Yes, yes I am. (And that means that everyone opposing me is fighting *against* the cats in her view, I think!) Then she told me about how she worked at a shelter in a neighboring town and then she caught the eye of the man in line behind me and asked him if he was an animal lover too, and he started talking about his shelter experiences…

      People care. Even if they aren’t at the meetings, they care. And that helps get you through.

  4. bravo , Casey! Your story is truly an inspiration for the rest of us fighting for change. The insights on attacking policy , not persons .. something I struggle with daily.
    Thank you.

  5. Casey, you did it! Please let Laura know that we are with you in this continuing fight. I am pretty sure that all of us here have “connections” and resources to help you with educating your community on shelter reform, and feral cats!

  6. Thank you, all. But I’m not counting it a win until the papers are signed and all the cats at the Medina County Animal Shelter are out of danger.

    Laura is awesome and I can’t wait to see a photo of that filthy gas chamber on the scrap pile.

  7. I agree, the letter is very interesting, and I wish Casey and Laura the best of success!

    But, is there a reason why it is formatted in Microsoft Office (docx)? When I clicked on the link, right away I received a prompt to install MS Office WordStarter 2010 on my (Windows 7 desktop) computer. I see where it has now (unfortunately) become the “default” program for my already existing text files which were previously associated with WordPad (and displaying just fine therein). :( There is also advertising in it, as it is a “free” program; and privacy policies/EULAs/consent to receive automatic updates that the user has to agree to in order to view the file. In addition, from the description of some of the menu options, I suspect that it may have made undesirable changes to the Windows update settings for my computer’s OS; which is not something I would’ve chosen to authorize on my own.

    All of this, just to read a few paragraphs … From what I saw of the letter posted here, there is no special page headers, signatures, identifying watermarks or text formatting — not even a paragraph indent — that would require MS Office in order to view it. It’s basically just plain, simple text.

    Why not just have used a “copy/paste” to put the text of the letter contents in a more accessible, web-friendly format that would be readily viewable, and not require the running of a separate program? Not everyone has this software — indeed they may even be running non-Windows operating systems. This, to me, has just created unnecessary roadblocks for some of those whom you are trying to reach with your animal-friendly message.

    Thanks for listening.

      1. Okay, after a bit of experimenting this is what worked for me; so it might help someone else if they’ve also had trouble accessing the letter file:

        –Right-click the link.
        –Choose, “Save Link As…” The file should download (save) to a local folder on your PC (note the location)
        — Navigate to the appropriate folder, right-click the filename and choose, Open with –> WordPad.

        Voilá! The letter should then be visible. Ignore any yap about the file format not being completely compatible with the program, blah-blah; as the letter appeared the same to me in both programs.

        Of course it’s always a good idea to run a malware scanner on any files you download from online, before opening them. I sort of made an exception for YesBiscuit’s blog site, since I’m familiar with the source; plus I was in a hurry. But it’s probably just that which got me in trouble with the MS Office adware proggie, because I was too lazy to look for a workaround and just wanted to read the letter right then. :)

        Having acknowledged this, however, I still feel it’s good courtesy to keep things online as accessible as possible for those with whom one wishes to communicate information and ideas.

        Oh, and by the way, I’m using Firefox web browser. Anyone using Internet Explorer, Mac or Linux, etc., the right-click menu options might read a little differently; but it should work about the same. (Of course anyone using Linux is quite techno-savvy and would have no use for this mini-tutorial, lol).

    1. Here is a copy/paste of the original –

      To the Medina County Board of Commissioners:
      The issue of euthanasia of shelter animals can be controversial, and is further complicated by the varying techniques and humane animal-handling issues. I have taught the two-day, state- approved Euthanasia By Injection Certification course for over 10 years, and have worked in the animal care and control field for nearly 35 years. I also practiced medicine as a Physician Assistant for over 40 years.

      Over the years, the approved methods of euthanasia have ranged from drowning in the late 1800s, to the current method of euthanasia by injection using sodium pentobarbital. In between there have been various methods using electricity, curare type drugs, gunshot, high altitude chambers, carbon monoxide chambers and other assorted approaches. Each was thought at the time to be the current best method.

      Without going into the meaning of all the terms involved, the goal is always to handle the animal gently and humanely, and accomplish death with no pain, stress, suffering or fear. Some feral animals cannot be “euthanized” in the true sense of the word because the simple process of handling the animal produces stress and fear. Therefore, those animals are actually given only a humane death.

      For our purposes, we are talking about the current best practices in animal shelters that care for mostly dogs and cats. Today, all major animal welfare and animal control/sheltering organizations state that euthanasia by injection using sodium pentobarbital is the current best practice. Among those organizations are American Humane Association, Humane Society of the United States, the National Animal Control Association, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, and others. Even the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2013 Edition, gives only qualified approval to the use of carbon monoxide, meaning that there is an entire page of issues surrounding its use, with complications that are both cruel to the animals and sometimes dangerous to the operators.

      Since Medina County is already using best practices on dogs, it is unclear why there would be hesitation to use the same procedure for cats. The drugs are available, and the handling techniques for both friendly and feral cats are taught to the technicians. It has been established that euthanasia by injection is not only more humane, but is more cost effective and safer than the use of a chamber. It is likely that the chambers will be illegal at some point in the coming years, just as many of the other methods listed above have become. Why not be one of the leaders rather than resisting the inevitable passage into a more humane future?

      David A. Balz

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