“Compromised Feline Welfare” at Hillsborough Co Pound

Screengrab from the Hillsborough Co pound's PetHarbor listings

Screengrab from the Hillsborough Co pound’s PetHarbor listings

It sucks being a cat at the Hillsborough Co pound in Florida.  Way.

Although the pound’s TNR program was officially sanctioned by local politicians on May 1, not one action has been taken to implement the program:

“I’m not [a] patient person,” said Sherry Silk, director of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. “Come on; it’s been six months and we haven’t saved a single cat.”

Not only has Hillsborough Co failed to save a single cat via its TNR-INO (In Name Only) program while citing colony caregivers for feeding TNR’d cats, its cat killing machine continues to mow down nearly every feline in its path.    In fiscal year 2012, the live release rate for cats was 18.9%.  The pound is currently killing 600 adult cats and kittens every month.

In August, the Maddie’s Fund Shelter Medicine Program issued a report detailing recommendations for the Hillsborough Co pound.  Some of the findings:

  • Nursing mama cats who are impounded as strays are automatically sent to the kill room after their mandated holding period expires.
  • Some kittens designated as available for adoption are housed in rooms which are off limits to the public.
  • Animals’ records – both computer and paper – regularly contain incorrect age, sex and holding period data.
  • Cats are often housed in tiny holding cages with the access door to the other side of the cage kept closed, even when the other side is empty, leading to “compromised feline welfare”.
  • Cats are left in uncovered traps and carriers in a high traffic hallway while awaiting cage placement, putting them at increased risk for illness due to stress.

One of the recommendations from the Maddie’s Fund consultants is to designate a feline advocate at the facility:

This person should assure individual cats are housed in the appropriate ward, have no unnecessary holds, and are tracked appropriately for foster, transfer, or adoption.

And by “unecessary holds”, Maddie’s Fund includes any holding period for stray cats who lack identification. A key recommendation from the report:

Eliminate the required hold period for stray cats. Stray cats lacking identification are extremely unlikely to be reclaimed by owners and are at high risk for shelter – acquired disease and euthanasia. Eliminating even a few days in the shelter may be the difference between life and death for them. The shelter can simultaneously have an option for immediate live release paired with a required hold period of 3 days prior to euthanasia.

So lost cats with their sex/age/holding period information data possibly entered wrongly by Hillsborough Co staff, possibly housed in rooms which are off limits to the public and possibly designated in advance as Straight to Kill Room are unlikely to be reclaimed by their owners?  And the recommendation is to eliminate the unidentified stray holding period entirely because they might get sick at this “compromised feline welfare” facility?  Snaaaaaap.

The No Kill Advocacy Center weighed in on the elimination of stray holding periods when HSUS suggested it in its recent white paper on California shelters:

[I]f a dog or cat comes in as a stray, and he does not have identification, he can be adopted to someone else immediately without giving his family any time to reclaim him. This is unfair to families who deeply love their animal companions. […] Accidents happen; animals get lost and end up at shelters. Since the choice presented — immediate adoption or sickness/death — is a false one, breaking up families by having them lose all rights in their animal with no reclaim period of any kind appears draconian.

If Hillsborough Co accepts the Maddie’s Fund recommendation to eliminate the state mandated 5 day holding period for unidentified stray cats, it will not only cause undue harm to owners of lost cats trying to find them, it will fast track cats to the kill room – the most likely outcome for cats at Hillsborough Co.  What Hillsborough Co needs is someone to run into the cat ward and yell, “Iceberg – dead ahead!”  Instead, Maddie’s Fund is busy re-arranging the deck chairs.

Screengrab from the Hillsborough Co pound's PetHarbor listings

Screengrab from the Hillsborough Co pound’s PetHarbor listings

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

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19 Comments

  1. mikken

     /  November 29, 2013

    “County Commissioner Ken Hagan, one of the first political supporters of the Community Cats program, said the animal advocates’ concerns are valid.

    “I agree 100 percent,” Hagan said. “The good news is the county administrator is personally committed to turning this thing around. He’s already made some changes and I believe further changes are in order.””

    Ya think?

    Reply
  2. And people wonder why I don’t like Maddie’s Fund. Hmmm.

    Reply
  3. How is that possibly legal? I thought most states set a min. hold time.

    Reply
  4. Debbie Tucker-Smith

     /  November 29, 2013

    Hi, Shirley!! I think you need to read the report. Unless I am mistaken, they recommended not holding strays with no ID but advocated GIVING them to rescues in order to not keep them in the shelter and possibly get sick and then killed when their time is up. The report said: “. Eliminating even a few days in the shelter may be the difference between life and
    death for them.” Also in the report: ” All cats should be given a chance at adoption or transfer…” And THIS: “Transfer to pet placement partners should not be reserved as a last option. Although it is rewarding to adopt dogs and cats directly from your facility, it must be recognized that any life saved is a victory for the shelter and, more importantly, for that individual animal. Transfer to pet placement partners is an essential component of live release and is the component of live release with the most room for growth at this time.”

    So, what I see is that they are GENTLY making recommendations to killing apologist Ian Hallett to change his ways. But he does not want to. So until he is GONE, the things that would have been put into place the first MONTH any rescue-hearted, No Kill person was in charge will simply not happen. Don’t blame Maddie’s Fund on this; it’s all Mr. Hallett.

    Reply
    • If removing hold-times from strays is part of being a ‘rescue-hearted, No Kill person’, I have a rather large problem with it. I could see it if transferred animals were kept track of perhaps, and had a min. hold time when they arrived at the next rescue. People have to have a fair chance to find their pets, and any system that doesn’t take this into account is being rather cruel, IMO.

      Reply
      • Debbie Tucker-Smith

         /  December 2, 2013

        Absolutely! That SHOULD be part of a GOOD system….now, they can’t even keep the cats healthy in order to save their lives for adoption.

    • I read the report prior to posting Debbie. I stand by my comments.

      On Fri, Nov 29, 2013 at 10:37 PM, YesBiscuit!

      Reply
  5. Debbie Tucker-Smith

     /  November 29, 2013

    The care of cats is so ridiculous there, they would be far better off at the rescues. And the rescues network their cats, so owners could still find them. However, even with the mandated hold (after which Mr. Hallett prefers to kill the cats so that his schedule and planning for cages is not interrupted, and he mocks rescuers trying to save cats at the last minute, saying that they get some kind of ’emotional satisfaction’ from this), very few cats get reclaimed. Let’s keep them ALIVE first, which is not happening now.

    Reply
  6. Debbie Tucker-Smith

     /  November 30, 2013

    Perhaps when real cat people run the cat ward and have proper protocols in place so that the cats are properly cared for, holding them at the shelter would then be practical, but right now, the only way to save their lives may be to get them into the rescues ASAP.

    Reply
  7. jean morlando

     /  November 30, 2013

    why is this happening ?, why isn’t there a petition to sign ?, where is peta ? things need to be changed at this place, this is awful and disgusting, these poor kitties deserve a chance to live and have a good life and to be loved by someone. why isn’t anything being done to change things and enforce a no kill policy ? what about the a.s.p.c.a. shouldn’t they be doing something to help these animals ? too much killing and cruelty, i’m angry, and disgusted. this needs to STOP !!!!!!

    Reply
    • KateH

       /  November 30, 2013

      Oh, Jean, Jean, Jean, please don’t ask where peta is. It’s wonderful when Peta is NOT involved in anything concerning live animals – because what they like to do more than anything else, is kill animals. If you scroll all the way down (it goes down a ways, so just keep scrolling), on the right, past the blogroll and other things, you’ll find a link to The Truth About Peta (and one about the HSUS), which you need to read. The ASPCA is just another one of the big takers of money, too.

      Reply
  8. Kittypurr

     /  December 1, 2013

    So why is IAN Hallet still there. Fire HIS ass!! Why does the county still put up with him?? Taxpayers should be at AC with pitchforks and torches. And send him packing. Or better yet destroy his credibility which is zilch anyway- I’m sure he will then qualify for a job with PeTA.
    How is this person still sucking off the taxpayer?

    Reply
  9. Debbie Tucker-Smith

     /  December 2, 2013

    Whoo hooooo!!! Ian Hallett is now OUT, so we will be working for a REAL No Kill person or people to take charge. News this morning: http://tbo.com/news/politics/embattled-hallett-out-as-hillsboroughs-animal-services-director-20131202/

    Reply
    • Major development. I didn’t realize the job pays over $100 grand. The memo from the county sounds good except for the part which says “ensure continued implementation of best practices” – because that would mean that they have best practices already implemented.

      Reply
  10. I’m certainly not going to comment on the Hillsboro County Situation (I’m certainly not qualified to do so), but I will defend the California Shelter Group’s recommendations on hold times. Nationwide, a very small percentage of cats that come into shelters are ever returned to their original owners (less than 2%). That number goes down to almost zero if the cat lacks any identification.

    In a shelter environment, the two biggest factors working against shelter animals are time and space — which is why minimizing length of stay is so important. If an animal has a statistically zero percent chance of having an owner found, then moving them more quickly is essential to no kill success. Instead of pushing for “mandatory hold” times, so these animals are kept for 5 days with almost no chance to be “returned”, why not push that they cannot be KILLED for 5 days, but can be moved to rescue or adopted out.

    I just feel that in our desire to stop shelters from killing animals, we are also making it much more difficult for shelters to save them.

    Reply
    • But how much of that statistic is due to poor practices that make it difficult or impossible for people to retrieve their pets? If the shelter doesn’t allow owners to view ALL animal, has limited hours, requires large pay-offs to claim an animal, doesn’t scan for a chip, etc. etc. etc…how can you use statistics from such shelters to justify sweeping policy changes that make it even harder? It’s the same excuse shelters use to justify killing.

      Reply
      • Casey Post

         /  December 3, 2013

        Exactly, Triangle. Medina County Animal Shelter used their RTO rates as an example of how people “reclaim lost dogs, but don’t reclaim lost cats”. Yeah, well they were only taking photos of the dogs (not cats), only scanning dogs (not cats) for microchips, and never advertised that they had cats at all, so gosh, how do you think that might affect RTO rates for cats? Really low, were they? Huh. How about that?

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