Michigan Humane Goes Rogue on Mandatory Holding Periods for Stray Cats Lacking Identification

The war on cats by so-called humane animal organizations continues.

Michigan state law regarding mandatory holding periods for impounded animals is clear:

Act 224 of 1969287.388 Disposition of dogs or cats; time; notice; record; exceptions.

Sec. 8.

A dealer, a county, city, village, or township operating a dog pound or animal shelter shall not sell or otherwise dispose of a dog or cat within 4 days after its acquisition. If the dog or cat has a collar, license, or other evidence of ownership, the operator of the pound or shelter shall notify the owner in writing and disposition of the animal shall not be made within 7 days from the date of mailing the notice. Each operator of a pound or shelter shall be required to maintain a record on each identifiable dog or cat acquired, indicating a basic description of the animal, the date it was acquired and under what circumstances. The record shall also indicate the date of notice sent to the owner of an animal and subsequent disposition.

This section does not apply to animals which are sick or injured to the extent that the holding period would cause undue suffering, or to animals whose owners request immediate disposal.

(Red font added for emphasis.)

On October 21, the long troubled Michigan Humane Society reportedly sent a mass email advising volunteers of its new policy for impounded cats lacking identification.  The portion relevant to the new policy:

Currently, there is no statutory hold for cats.  It has been MHS practice to hold stray cats for at least 4 days before placing them up for adoption. However, in order to save more cat lives, MHS, effective immediately, will maintain no hold time for stray cats who are immediately adoptable and do not have any form of traceable identification.

Cats with any form of traceable identification will be held for 7 days while we attempt to contact their owners.

(Red font added for emphasis.)

Despite the claim made by MHS that “there is no statutory hold for cats”, the law is clear.  Every animal is entitled to at least a 4 day holding period so their owners, if they have any, can find them.  MHS knows this.  And they know the holding period is crucial to allowing families to find their lost pets. Snipped from the MHS webpage entitled “What to do if you find a stray animal”:

Is this animal lost or abandoned?  Regardless of his appearance, start with the assumption that the animal may be a loved animal who is greatly missed by his family.  Even a normally healthy, friendly animal who has become lost may take on a “homeless” appearance and frightened demeanor.  The animal’s coat may become dirty and matted and he may lose weight rapidly or sustain injuries.  And the absence of a collar or tag does not always mean the animal left home without one.

[…]

The best chance for an animal to be reunited with his family is if you turn him in to the appropriate holding facility.

[…]

If you have found an animal without identification and wish to keep the animal:
you must make a report to the animal control organization responsible for your geographic area and you must take appropriate steps to locate the original owner.

[…]

Regardless of whether you hope to keep the pet or not, you must take appropriate steps to locate the original owner. This will prevent “property” disputes in the future if you do decide to keep the animal, and will give the pet the best opportunity to find his original owner whether you bring him to the shelter, or keep him at your home during your search.

[…]

FILE A FOUND REPORT ASAP with the local animal control or police in the city or county where you found the dog, cat or other animal. […] You may be given the option to keep the animal during the stray hold period; this is at the discretion of the shelter.

Despite the stance MHS has adopted on its website that lost, owned pets may not be wearing identification, that keeping them for the mandatory stray hold is legally required and that searching for the owner is an absolute must, MHS seems to have zero interest in practicing what it preaches.

Last year around this time, SB560 – a bill MHS crafted – was introduced in the state Senate.  The bill would have reduced the mandatory holding period for stray cats lacking identification from 4 days to 2 days, making it harder for families to reclaim their lost pets.  SB560 died in committee and the law mandating the minimum 4 day holding period remains.

So after failing to get the law changed to their liking, MHS has apparently decided to claim the law does not exist.  Assuming MHS has put into practice the policy change detailed in the email, it means they are putting stray “adoptable” cats who lack identification immediately up for sale.  This is a clear violation of state law.  Failing to obey the mandatory holding period law for stray cats means that families are needlessly and illegally being broken up by MHS.

The Michigan Political Action Committee for Animals is asking concerned citizens to contact the state Department of Agriculture:

[C]ontact the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and file a complaint that our state’s largest and wealthiest private shelter is violating state law by ignoring mandatory stray hold times for cats, denying owners the opportunity and the right to reclaim their lost cat.

(Thanks Clarice and Anne for the heads up on this story.)

Leave a comment

33 Comments

  1. izzyvanover

     /  November 5, 2014

    It sounds like we’re making progress, if they only obey the law!

    Reply
  2. Well, you know, cats don’t really count. It’s not like people can actually love them or consider them family members or anything. I mean, they’re not *dogs* for heaven’s sake.

    So if your neighbor brings your lost cat in and we can’t find the microchip or whatever, we’ll sell it to the next person through the door, okay? After all, you should be happy we didn’t kill your cat. And there are plenty of others, so just pick one of those, okay? Heck, we bet you can find one that looks just like your cat that we just sold to some stranger even though we only had the cat for ten minutes. See? Everyone’s happy!

    Reply
  3. db

     /  November 5, 2014

    Matt Pepper is the “new CEO” of MHS now. Did you really expect to see life-saving changes there? Same $hit different place.

    Reply
  4. Jody

     /  November 5, 2014

    db – I was thinking the same thing (again) – we seem to be on the same page alot! :)

    Reply
  5. s wright

     /  November 5, 2014

    Thank you for this! Did you see on their Facebook page that this change will “save thousands of lives”? Can we discuss how a four-day hold, on what they say are “immediately adoptable cats”, causes the death of thousands of cats at MHS? What exactly are they doing to these “immediately adoptable cats” during their hold time to cause their death?

    Let’s presume “immediately adoptable” means I am a healthy cat who came through the door without sickness or injury and I am one of those “bomb proof” cats that isn’t phased by shelter life. I don’t need treatment and I don’t need time to get over my fear that might make me behave aggressively, stop eating or using litter box, or just cower in the corner avoiding all human contact. I am “immediately adoptable”.

    Technically, I should sail through a short hold time without problem. Right?

    Getting animals adopted out as soon as possible is an important goal. Most shelters are very poorly funded and struggle to provide basic humane care to animals and cats often become sick and then are killed in these shelters. Getting out alive relies on high quality care combined with an efficient process.

    MHS made this change while bragging that they haven’t euthanized a healthy animal in five years. So, why is the change even needed?

    I can only guess because perfectly healthy animals that are held at MHS for a mere four days are treated so poorly that they quickly become unadoptable/unhealthy and then are “justifiably” euthanized.

    Shouldn’t alarm bells be going off? MHS is a large and wealthy organization. They have many executive staff making six figures. That would be fine if they were doing an outstanding job. But for far too long they have been not much more than a killing machine with a great marketing department.

    Shouldn’t they have the resources to keep their cats healthy and happy without compromising the law or denying a bereft owner the chance to find their beloved pet? What are they doing with that $14 million annual budget?

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t brag that you haven’t euthanized a healthy animal in five years and then say that not holding “immediately adoptable” cats is going to save thousands of lives.

    Reply
    • Anne

       /  November 6, 2014

      s wright – superb post

      Reply
    • db

       /  November 6, 2014

      You make a lot of sense – wish you you share it with MHS folks. You nailed it:
      “killing machine with a great marketing department” That’s who they are!

      Reply
  6. Wonder if the new building will have cameras?

    Reply
  7. KateH

     /  November 5, 2014

    And since the key word is ‘adoptable’ what are the odds that 50 – 80% of the cats that come in are just going to be killed anyway? Michigan Humane is a joke and now it looks like they’ve got the ultimate court jester in charge. No animal that ends up there is safe.

    Reply
  8. Clarice

     /  November 6, 2014

    “This facility is going to do an incredible amount for the city, both the citizens and the animals. Animal welfare is not just an animal issue. It’s a community issue,” said Matthew Pepper, MHS president and CEO. “This is a quality-of-life issue. This is our commitment to the City and the animals we share it with.”

    http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-humane-society-breaks-ground-new-animal-care-center-detroit

    Reply
    • db

       /  November 6, 2014

      I call BS on this!

      Reply
      • Clarice

         /  November 6, 2014

        When I read this, I was glad I was at home so no one could hear what I said.

      • db

         /  November 7, 2014

        I think he really meant a quality of life issue for him and for his minions who pull in big bucks while killing way too many of the animals they are supposed to be sheltering.

  9. Kim Adams

     /  November 6, 2014

    The claim rate on cats is very low. MHS is following a national trend to not hold cats for long periods because for whatever reason people don’t come in and claim cats. It’s a sad but true fact. So to keep the cats in hold for extra days is not much benefit but might be more of a determinant as the longer the cat is in the shelter the more likely it is to get sick.

    While it’s wonderful to want the animals re-united with their owner, many times cat owners take longer then 4 days to even figure out the cat is gone, they often think the cat has wondered away. I have no knowledge of the shelter director and I have no opinion on him and what he is doing, I only know that this is what several national organizations are recommending.

    Reply
    • Part of the responsibility for returning lost pets to their owners falls on the shelters who take in the animals. If the RTO rate is “very low”, the shelter needs to look at other facilities whose RTO rates are higher and start copying their work. But the notion that because RTO rates on cats are “very low”, it’s ok to sell lost pets immediately upon impound is bogus. Pets are family. Devaluing them like this is cruel.

      Reply
    • db

       /  November 7, 2014

      Sorry, but the argument that other national organizations recommend this does not bode well with me. Many of them are high kill and believe that there are too many animals and not enough homes so we “kill the excess”. There are places that are doing a wonderful job of both educating owners and making it possible for owners to be reunited with their pets. Agree that those who have low RTO rates need to look to those who have high RTO rates and make some changes.
      Cats are already devalued and not given the same care and consideration as dogs in many places. This needs to change and it’s up to the facilities that have them to start that change.

      Reply
  10. The best place for a stray cat is NOT in a county shelter! If a cat is in good condition, 5/9 body score, that cat should be spayed/neutered, vaccinated and RETURNED to the original location. The chances of a cat being reunited are slim when in a shelter, but significantly increase when they are returned.
    Additionally, feral cats have no place in any shelter. They are wild animals that should be altered and RETURNED to their”home”. This strategy saves money, resources and lives!!

    Reply
    • The fact that the county shelter does a crappy job and is a bad place for cats does not mean we should dump them all back on the streets. Shelters need to do their jobs and become a safe haven for cats, and all animals in need.

      Reply
      • Anne

         /  November 7, 2014

        I’m sad and worried to see so many jumping on this “SNVR” bandwagon, including people who honestly believe they are advocating for cats. Shelters will love this support. It takes the responsibility off shelters to take good care of cats, return them to owners, adopt them out. It puts a burden on community cat caregivers that is unfair. It is unjust and not compassionate for non-feral cats to have to fend for themselves outdoors.

      • Anne

         /  November 7, 2014

        Excerpted from: An Embrace of SNR, With Caveats

        October 23, 2014 by Nathan J. Winograd

        http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=14422

        But admittedly, SNR for friendly community cats isn’t what we did when I ran an animal control shelter. When they were not reclaimed, we found them homes. All of them. Moreover, if the cats are truly lost or abandoned, shelters should not forget that they have a mandate to help reunite families. Since the choice presented—SNR or death—is a false one, breaking up families by simply releasing animals back on the streets without trying to find their existing home is at odds with that mission. This view loses sight of what, in fact, is one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them. And if the family does not show up, if cats are truly without a human home and they are social with people, they should be given one. In fact, the shelter is obligated to find them a loving, new one. That’s their job. In other words, the reason cats are more likely to find their original home or a new one from the streets is because most shelters are run ineffectively and inefficiently, not because people aren’t looking for their cats or homes are not available. Those shelters that do a good job at both have been able to increase—by 20-fold and more—the percentage of cats reclaimed by their families, at the same time that they maintain adoption rates that allow them to save as high as 99% of all cats entering the shelter. If shelters did a better job at being shelters, therefore, not only would they have realized their mission, but SNR would not be the difference between life and death for cats it is today precisely because most shelters are poorly performing.

  11. Just this morning, one of our shelter cats was reunited with his owner.

    He was lost in early August (wearing a collar). Found in the next town over late October (without a collar). The shelter posted him as found and held for reclaim, but got no leads. So he was vaccinated (already neutered) and put up for adoption. Someone saw the FB photo yesterday and recognized him. The owner was contacted last night. She posted her photos of her cat and it did look like a good match. Today, she picked him up from the shelter and finally has her cat back, almost four months after he was lost.

    If this cat had been turned out onto the street where he was found, he would still be lost. No one knows how he got as far as he did, but he was no where near home when he was found. Not to mention that winter is coming and cats without adequate shelter are very likely to suffer or die from exposure in this part of the country.

    You MUST assume that EVERY tame cat who comes in is a loved and wanted cat. You MUST act on that in good faith EVERY TIME. To do less is to risk breaking up a family.

    Reply
  12. Linda

     /  November 7, 2014

    To the person that says cat are not pets anyway…. You need to get out more,because you don’t no what the hell your talking about. Do your homework!!!! These are the small minded people. I have had dogs my all my life.But when I rescued my first cat,I have cats ever since along with my dog. And I think animals that end up in shelters should all get 7 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  13. I think the MHS statement they have not killed a healthy animal in 5 years is bullshit. I’ve tracked the Dept of Ag statistics for years. For some mysterious reason in 2013 their intake dropped by 50%. Pretty suspicious don’t you think? Where did the other 10,000 animals go that used to come through their doors? I posted on their FB page but you never get an answer unless it is direct criticism, their PR machine goes rolling.

    Reply
    • db

       /  November 9, 2014

      They won’t even respond to a direct criticism. I wrote one of the higher ups about their claim to kill no adoptable animals and was told that they aren’t about to change what they are doing to “pad statistics”. One of the best PR campaigns going . . . although when several of the board members left because of the high killing (er, they call it “euthanasia” there were some folks who changed their minds about MHS. They are no better than some of the biggies. In fact, I think they are now one of the biggies. Having Matthew Pepper in charge does not give me warm fuzzy feelings, either.

      Reply
  14. Oh how little ye know. I work at mhs and this policy change is actually helping to lower the feline euthanasia rate, not raise it. Cats that sit on a 4 day stray hold are much more likely to get sick sitting in a shelter, and sick cats then have to be treated usually for an additional 2-3 weeks before they can go up for adoption. There is limited room to house sick cats and only so many fosters, so sick cats are much more likely to be euthanized. Less than 1% of stray cats are ever claimed by thier owners in our facility with 4 day stray hold. Cats that arent placed up for adoption immediately are still held for 4 days. There are things that could change to make our programs better, this, however is actually helping, not hurting, so id pick a different battle

    Reply
    • db

       /  January 9, 2015

      Sorry, An, not buying what you’re selling. With the facilities you have and the multi-million dollar budget, there is no reason for you to be such a high-kill facility! What you need is a director committed to saving lives and the community to embrace that choice. Right now, what you do best is to create (or pay to have created) glossy PR to convince the public that you are saving 100% of adoptable animals’ lives (and the kicker here is that you get to decide what you think “adoptable” means). Not a fan!

      Reply
      • mikken

         /  January 9, 2015

        Exactly, db! And for EVERY shelter that says, “Our cat RTO rate is 1 or 2%”, I have to ask, “What exactly have you done to RAISE that number?” If your RTO rate is low, that’s on YOU, not the owners! Are you microchipping? Do you have low cost s/n? Do you post found cats immediately in a place where people can actually see them? Do you try to match founds against lost reports? WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO GET OWNED CATS BACK HOME???

        If the answer is “sticking them in a cage and hoping that the owners come in some time when we’re open” then you suck at what you do.

        FIX IT.

  15. These inhumane ba$tards are “humane” in name only.

    Reply
  1. How the U.S. shelter system is failing cats | The Best Friends Blog

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