New Hampshire and No Kill

Dug, ID #19254, as pictured on the NH SPCA website.

Dug, ID #19254, as pictured on the NH SPCA website.

Transparency is a hallmark of the no kill movement.  All shelters claiming to be no kill should either have their annual statistics posted online for everyone to see or provide them without delay upon request.  Questions regarding the shelter’s policies should be answered in a timely manner.  Anything less is unacceptable.

Although I have come across occasional claims that New Hampshire is a no kill state, I have never seen any evidence to back up this claim.  Given that this blog is dedicated to no kill and that any state in our country becoming no kill would be monumental news, I have tried repeatedly to substantiate this claim on my own.  Sadly, I’ve never come close to doing so because most of the shelters do not have their stats posted online nor will they provide them to me upon request.  But since the claim persists, I again attempted last month to obtain the stats and get questions answered from a number of NH shelters.  I’d like to share what I’ve learned.

On February 19, I contacted the New Hampshire Federation of Humane Organizations to request statistics from its member shelters.  I received a response from Marylee Gorham-Waterman which reads, in part:

We do not have the 2013 statistics noted on the actual website, if that is what you are looking for. There is complete transparency form those that report – you can click on the members and go directly to their individual websites for annual reports which will have all the information you seek.

As instructed, I clicked on several of the groups at random but did not find any stats on any of the sites I visited. I decided to directly contact the eight shelters listed as founding members of the NHFHO. Between February 23 and February 25, I submitted inquiries (mostly email, two were website contact form inquiries) to the following shelters:

Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire (formerly Manchester)
Pope Memorial SPCA (formerly Concord SPCA)
Eastern Slopes Animal Welfare League
Monadnock Region Humane Society
Nashua Humane Society
New Hampshire Humane Society
New Hampshire SPCA
Upper Valley Humane

I requested the same information from each shelter:

Would you please send me your comprehensive annual stats (detailing all intakes and outcomes, including feral cats and all other animals) from your most recent year on file? I also have some specific questions I’m hoping you can answer:

What is your shelter’s feral cat policy? Are healthy/treatable feral cats ever euthanized?
What is your shelter’s policy on cats/kittens with URI? Are cats/kittens with URI ever euthanized?
What is your shelter’s policy on euthanasia? Are healthy/treatable animals (any type – e.g. dogs, rabbits, wildlife, etc.) ever euthanized?
What is your shelter’s policy on spaying pregnant animals? Are pregnant animals ever spayed?

Jen Corbin of the NH SPCA promptly responded to all my questions and provided me with the stats I sought (2013 incoming animals here and 2013 outgoing animals here). Here is her email in its entirety:

Subject: RE: Request for statistics report
From: “Jen Corbin” jcorbin@nhspca.org
Date: Thu, February 26, 2015 4:37 pm
To: eiderdown@yesbiscuit.com

Hi Shirley,
Thank you for your inquiry. We’re happy to hear from a fellow animal lover! Our current ‘Year End’ statistics for 2014 are about to go to print and you can access them through our Newsletter on our website www.nhspca.org when they are published, which will be in the next few weeks. Let me know if you have any trouble with that.

In the meantime, I have attached our most recently complied statistics from 2013. Let me know if you need any clarification or have further questions. We are proud of our successes in NH but they are hard won and not without struggle and daily determination to save and improve lives. At the NHSPCA our goal is a loving home for every pet and we care deeply for those in our care. In addition to our dedicated staff, we support and are aided by a pet-loving community and a thriving volunteer/foster parent program; an active humane education department; and diverse pet training/retention program.

Our live release rate is currently 94%, we are an ‘Open Admission-Unlimited stay’ facility. The pets we have lost to euthanasia or death fall into two basic categories of aggression and/or extreme illness/suffering unlikely to recover.

I have answered your more detailed questions below in blue.

Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Jen

Jen Corbin
Director of Animal Services
NHSPCA
PO Box 196
Stratham, NH 03885
(603)772-2921 x115
http://www.nhspca.org

What is your shelter’s feral cat policy? Are healthy/treatable feral cats ever euthanized? We believe that the shelter environment is no place for a feral cat so for the most part we refer those cats to local ‘community cat’ support groups who do TNR. That being said, when we are brought feral adult cats we do spay/neuter/vaccinate and either transfer them to one of the ‘community cat’ groups or keep them until we find a ‘barn home’ for them. We also readily take in and socialize many feral kittens through our foster program where they learn about life in a real home environment (I am a feral kitten foster myself-they’re my favorite foster opportunity). Most feral kittens become loving ‘inside only’ pets. A healthy/treatable feral cat is never euthanized, with time we can find an appropriate placement for every cat. That’s what we mean by ‘unlimited stay’.

What is your shelter’s policy on cats/kittens with URI? Are cats/kittens with URI ever euthanized? URI is an unfortunate consequence of the sheltering environment when you’re trying to save every life you can have a lot of cats in close quarters. We have an isolation unit where we quarantine and treat cats who contract URI. Very occasionally a geriatric cat or underage kitten will become so ill that they cannot recover and it becomes kindest to euthanize, but that is rare now since we’ve upgraded our ISO unit; for the most part, once they recover they are returned to the adoption floor.

What is your shelter’s policy on euthanasia? Are healthy/treatable animals (any type – e.g. dogs, rabbits, wildlife, etc.) ever euthanized? Our euthanasia rate is about 5%. We spend a great deal of energy, time and resources bringing surrendered and rescued pets to a healthy, or manageable adoptable state. We treat every animal in our care as an individual. No pet passes through our doors that we don’t develop an attachment to.

What is your shelter’s policy on spaying pregnant animals? Are pregnant animals ever spayed? Known pregnant animals are placed into foster care to birth and raise the off-spring. Rarely, a very early stage pregnancy is spayed when it is only discovered on the operating table.

It sounds like the NH SPCA is doing excellent work and the transparency is impressive.

I also received a response from Beth Brayman at the Upper Valley Humane Society on February 26. She directed me to the 2013 annual report posted on the shelter’s website and I have grabbed the relevant info to share here:

uvhs2013

Screengrab of a portion of the Upper Valley Humane Society’s 2013 annual report, as posted on its website.

Ms. Brayman stated she had forwarded my email to her senior managers to get answers to my questions. I have not heard anything further from anyone at the Upper Valley Humane Society.

I received no response of any kind from the following shelters:

Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire (formerly Manchester)
Pope Memorial SPCA (formerly Concord SPCA)
Eastern Slopes Animal Welfare League
Monadnock Region Humane Society
Nashua Humane Society
New Hampshire Humane Society

Note:  The executive director of the New Hampshire Humane Society is Marylee Gorham-Waterman, who responded to the inquiry I made to the NHFHO.  I did write to her again and specifically requested the NHHS stats and asked my questions.  She did not reply.

Glass half-full: There is one open admission shelter in NH that I feel confident in standing behind as no kill: NH SPCA. There may be others. If there are, I would love to blog about their success but can not in good conscience make any claims about what is happening in open admission shelters and/or NHFHO member shelters without having the information to back up those claims.

There are many shelter directors in this country who do not believe no kill is possible, simply because they haven’t reviewed the available data that proves otherwise.  There are a small number of extremists who continually look to discredit the no kill movement.  Donors in the internet age are very interested in performing due diligence before making donations to shelters and want to know their donations will not be used for killing animals.  For these reasons, and primarily because it’s the right thing to do, transparency is a key component of no kill sheltering.  And it follows that it is irresponsible and damaging to claim a shelter, let alone an entire state, is no kill without having the documentation to back that up.  To the best of my knowledge, NH is not a no kill state.

Another photo of Dug from the NH SPCA website because obviously.

Another photo of Dug from the NH SPCA website because obviously.

Leave a comment

25 Comments

  1. From what I’ve seen, folks in NH love to claim no kill, but NEVER have anything to back that up. It’s very… strange. If you are truly no kill, you’ve got the numbers to prove it. If you aren’t…well, stop saying that you are.

    Kudos to NH SPCA, who seems to be doing things competently and compassionately!

    Reply
  2. Susan

     /  March 4, 2015

    Is there a list of no-kill facilities whose stats demonstrate compliance with no-kill guidelines? Recently (and I don’t know where) I saw an article listing a number of facilities claiming to be no-kill but failing to meet those standards, with purported documentation. I believe Austin TX was on that list. I have not seen a corresponding list of successful no-kill facilities

    Reply
    • sarahjaneb

       /  March 4, 2015

      Austin Animal Center is “no kill” by the 90% standard, and their statistical reports are available on their website. However, they do kill for space, meaning they’re not No Kill as far as I’m concerned.
      http://www.austintexas.gov/department/animal-services/reports

      Reply
      • db

         /  March 4, 2015

        Absolutely – killing for space is definitely not NO KILL! Shame on them for misleading the public and taxpayers of Austin. I would also be interested in facilities that are proven NO KILL (which means they have the records to back up their claim).

      • Susan

         /  March 4, 2015

        db that was my question. Is there a source for info on no-kill facilities that actually meet those guidelines?

    • I’d be happy to compile a list if readers want to post the links to the shelters’ stats (such as what sarahjaneb did in her comment).

      Reply
  3. AllLifeMatters.Org

     /  March 4, 2015

    Reblogged this on All Life Matters.

    Reply
  4. Linda

     /  March 4, 2015

    If a “no’kill” shelter turns away animals is it still considered no-kill? I have always argued no they are not even if their no kill rate is 95%. If you are turning away animals then you are putting animals at risk to be killed or dumped or abandoned. Having said that, I know that some shelters do not have the space or capacity to take in every animal so I am wondering if there is a no-kill definition that allows for refusing animals due to lack of physical space.

    Reply
    • Your question raises a good point and it’s why I try to remember to modify no kill shelter descriptions with “open admission” or “limited admission”.

      Reply
      • What about “managed intake” with waiting lists? I consider that open admission, just trying to control the flow…

      • I think if the place regularly makes exceptions for emergency situations, the wait time is not unreasonable and they offer assistance to help the owner keep the animal, that’s good. When the neighbors brought us a puppy they said they found in the street, I called a shelter and was told I’d have my name placed on the waiting list. That was about 4 or 5 years ago. I’m still waiting, lol.

      • Ha! That’s a bit of a wait.

      • I carry the phone with me to the bathroom, just in case.

  5. ares1942

     /  March 5, 2015

    The blog Out the Front Door lists No Kill shelters and reports on the progress of NK.
    http://outthefrontdoor.com/news-bit/

    Reply
  6. Kathy

     /  March 5, 2015

    How awesome is Jen Corbin? I hope she inspires the others to follow her organization’s model. It is disheartening to read of the non responses but we have to cheer for Jen and the NHSPCA! Also digging the Dug!

    Reply
    • I agree. I was originally just planning to post the shelter’s stats and write a brief summary of the answers (“Cats with URI are treated”, etc.) but I thought she represented her shelter so well in her response and that it really added something to the story so decided to post everything she wrote.
      I want to leave a lipstick kiss on Dug’s head.

      Reply
  7. I’ve requested this information from the New Hampshire Federation of Humane Organizations on two occasions and never even received a response.

    Reply
  8. Cat

     /  March 5, 2015

    As a volunteer at a shelter, reading about people with holding donations based on no kill status is worrisome. The shelters didn’t create the problem of these stray, unwanted or surrendered animals. People are at the root of this. Most shelters run with limited staffing and supplies. Constantly seeking new ways of raising large amounts of money to provide shelter, food, heat, bedding and medical care. Can we look at the legal side of it for a minute? If I adopt fido or fluffy and they attack little Timmy, are the parents just going to go “Well that animal was from a shelter so it’s okay”. Hell no they are going to speed dial a lawyer and seek restitution ASAP. All shelter animals are given medical and behavioral assessments. Problem behaviors are worked with and ongoing assessments are done. It is not as simple as you think, for a shelter to decide what animal to put down. It is heartbreaking. If you don’t want to give money for fear of the money being used to euthanize a dangerous or terminally ill animal, than contribute in another way. How about cases of kitten formula or food? Paper towels, Dawn dish detergent, laundry soap, bleach, simple green, windex, dog food wet and dry, cat food, cat liter, leashes, dog treats, hot dogs and string cheese, garbage bags and office supplies. This is only a sample of the many things that donations go toward. Stop focusing on the negative and join in the solution. I fundraise, Foster, train, walk, kennel clean and participate in animal training and enrichment. Oh and I donate even though there have been a couple of animals that didn’t make it out of the shelter to a happy home. It breaks my heart and many others that I work along side.
    To quote Dr. Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

    Reply
    • Euthanizing animals because they are medically suffering and cannot be helped, or because of unresolvable behavior problems that make the animal unsafe around people, is not what No Kill is intended to prevent.

      No Kill is about not killing for space, or because an arbitrary time limit has “expired.” No animal should ever be killed for such reasons, and doing so is not “euthanasia.”

      No Kill is also about making real efforts to get animals adopted into appropriate homes–good marketing, and training and enrichment so that they learn the skills to be successful pets, and don’t go cage crazy while they wait. And being willing to transfer animals to other organizations if that will be better for them. It’s a pathetically simple example, but while Greater Derry didn’t have fosters able to take cats, we referred them to Feline Friends, and we refer very senior dogs to Libby’s Haven, with whom we also share the food donations we receive from stores for whom Greater Derry is a better-known name.

      And we’re just a dinky little local rescue group. We have no paid staff, no public funds, and we are coming back from organizational near-death after the death of our longtime president and the loss of some previously important volunteers.

      High-profile organizations with both tax dollars and a greater ability to fundraise should be able to do at least as much. They shouldn’t be killing for space or because “time’s up,” while not posting all animals online, and turning away volunteers are trying to control what they’re allowed to say, or killing an animal a rescue wanted to take, whether because it’s a Bad Breed, or someone from the rescue criticized the shelter.

      Reply
  9. Linda

     /  March 6, 2015

    @ Cat:
    “To quote Dr. Seuss, ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’ ”

    You equate people who are critical of high kill shelters as not caring. You have no idea what critics are doing to help animals in other capacities. Blaming people who want shelter reform is like blaming people who want prison reform for high prison rates.

    The problem is most high kill shelters have little to no interest in reform. This is clearly the case with the tax subsidized shelter in my town with over 50% of the animals being killed. They also have no transparency or accountability to the community.

    The no-kill formula works, but the high kill shelters have to change their perspective about animal sheltering and see that making changes can and will save lives. The fact that many of these shelters (such as the one in my town) refuse to implement the no-kill protocols which are proven to save lives, makes them complicit in their own killing policies. And, Cat, being an apologists for people who promote killing healthy and adoptable animals is never going to solve the problem.

    Reply
  10. KateH

     /  March 7, 2015

    ” All shelter animals are given medical and behavioral assessments.”

    Maybe at your place, but trust me, that’s not the norm. And, in many of the places that say they do behavioral assessments, they have no f’ing clue what they’re doing. They cause so many perfectly nice animal’s deaths because they test too soon, before the animal gets to settle in – and a huge percentage of animals are so stressed while at the average ‘shelter’ they aren’t able to calm down and show they have a good temperment. Most of the so-called tests are just ridiculous, being as artificial as possible (stupid AssHand and Scary Chuckie Doll being the most egregious), causing unneccessay fear and then punishing a dog for being afraid or defensive. Hell, Sue Sternberg says her test is MEANT to let places have reasons to kill most of the dogs its used on.

    ” Problem behaviors are worked with and ongoing assessments are done.”

    Again, maybe that happens at your place, but that’s not what happens across the board, not by a long shot.

    ” The shelters didn’t create the problem of these stray, unwanted or surrendered animals. People are at the root of this.”

    When you show so strongly that you blame ‘people’ for this you mean the good old ‘irresponsible public’ not you or anyone you work with – they are some kind of special, perfect people who do everything right, every second of the day, and their animals are perfect too, right? They’d never get out of their yards, ever, never, and if they did, they would turn around and come right home before they lost sight of their house.

    When you show that you don’t like ‘people’ please remember that those people are the ones you need to get on your side to support you, if and when you actually want to get animals out the front door, alive. Asking for help instead of blaming and shaming them would be the fourth step in helping the animals in your facility. Step one is committing to actually changing how your place is run, from making sure animals are given proper medical care (vaccinate on intake, other treatment as needed) to changing hours to be most convenient for ‘the public’ to get in, to insisting that all staff stop disliking ‘people’ and learn how to actually help the clients (the animals) and the patrons (shoppers/owners). Step two, making sure you show them every animal you’ve got, so they can find lost pets and choose new ones; don’t hide animals any away (medical/behavioral isolation doesn’t mean you can’t take pictures – photographs are vital and easy with digital devices. Then, step three make sure your adoption and redemption fees and policies aren’t ridiculous. Step five is making sure to get the word out about the changes you’re making, and how much you want ‘people’ to come in and see, adopt, volunteer, and donate needed items. This means getting involved in social media, putting out flyers, taking out ads in all sorts of places, and making sure the sign(s) for your place are large, legible, and friendly. When you have some volunteers, you can go to adoption events and keep the good stuff going all around. But if you just sit there and say “We can’t do any of those things, because…” blahblah excuse after excuse, then the problem isn’t ‘the people’ as much as you want it to be – it’s with you.

    Reply
  11. Harnett Hawk

     /  March 8, 2015

    “All shelter animals are given medical and behavioral assessments. Problem behaviors are worked with and ongoing assessments are done.” Cat, what shelter is this? Not the one here! No vet = no medical assessment. No behavioral assessment at all. If it scratches, hisses, growls or snarls, kill it.

    Reply
  12. Here is a good resource. It lists all shelters that report a 90% or better save rate. It doesn’t necessarily mean these shelters are no kill, but it provides a good starting point for those wanting this info:
    http://www.saving90.org/

    Reply
  13. Lisa Phelps

     /  April 29, 2015

    It sounds like these other shelters could use some education in how to create a true “no kill” shelter. This is a monumental task involving many levels of cooperation. When it comes to transparency, who holds these organizations accountable? Sometimes looking at your own track record makes you realize how bad it is. But knowing that it can be done and having access to programs that work for information/education could turn some of these other shelters around. Perhaps the NHSPCA (which is in my personal experience an outstanding program) could provide some form of education to move these other shelters along.

    It’s fine to cast aspersions when you aren’t involved. How about we come up with some solutions to bring NH to it’s goal of truly being ‘no kill’ across the board?

    Reply

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