The War on Cats: Arizona Edition

Portion of SB 1260 in Arizona

SB 1260 is currently awaiting the signature of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.  If signed into law, the bill would eliminate the mandatory holding period for cats lacking “discernable identification” who are found outdoors and brought to a county pound.  Those cats, including lost pets whose owners are looking for them and friendly, socialized cats who could be adopted, would be neutered, vaccinated, and dumped back on the street immediately after impound.

This bill serves to destroy the human-animal bond by breaking up families when owned cats get lost.  Taxpayer funded shelters are the very institutions which should be fighting to protect that bond, not trampling it.  It also endangers friendly cats who may lack the necessary skills to survive outdoors and should be adopted to a home.  The bill says eligible cats must be “living outdoors” but there is no way for a county pound to make this determination in most cases.  A friendly cat who is socialized to humans in fact may have lived indoors, even if he was found outside.  Further, the bill discriminates against cat owners by treating them as second class citizens behind dog owners, whose pets will still be protected by mandatory holding periods.

And finally, I can’t help but think of all the cats run through the spay mill at the Maricopa Co pound, who will be dumped back on the street after they wake up from surgery and potentially have their guts fall out in an alley somewhere.  They won’t be counted among Maricopa Co’s official dehiscence stats of course, since no one will ever know about the suffering deaths of these poor cats.

Cats deserve the same protections at our public animal shelters as dogs.  Cat owners love their pets just as much as dog owners love theirs.  Shelter staff should be required to do their jobs to reunite lost pets of all species with their owners and adopt socialized homeless pets to new owners.  It is a slippery slope to discriminate against cats while excusing shelter staff from performing their duties for an entire species.  Shame on the organizations who promote and defend this heinous practice.

If you are an Arizona resident and wish to contact Governor Ducey to demand equal protections for cats and dogs in public shelters, keep your comments respectful and visit this page for contact information.

(Thanks Anne for the link.)

14 thoughts on “The War on Cats: Arizona Edition

  1. I understand the reasoning behind this sort of policy. Too many cats come in, get sick, don’t get reclaimed, end up being killed. I get that. But there’s absolutely no provision to reunite lost pets with owners (photograph, document what and where cat was found/returned, etc.) and there’s no attempt to *change* the shelter model itself – just a means of bypassing the shelter because apparently the shelter is hopeless at saving cats and we’ve all thrown up our hands at it.

    I would much prefer to see AGGRESSIVE spay/neuter programs – and I mean fast and free with help transporting and attaboy positive reinforcement for owners utilizing it. Also I want to see EVERY, SINGLE cat who comes into a shelter (even if the cat seems “feral”) photographed and posted for an owner to find – and no, not just on their crappy website that no one knows exists, on social media where cross posting can happen and pet finder and such. Is that a pain in the ass? You bet it is. Get volunteers to do it. Ask for community help. Make it happen.

    Lastly, a discussion needs to happen within the community. People lose a cat and don’t even think to look for him – well, you know, he wanders, he’ll be back. Or, gosh, he’s been gone for a week, I wonder if a neighbor has him? THAT needs to change. So many cats die in shelters because people either didn’t know to look there or by the time they did, the cat is dead. Why is it when a dog goes missing, people start looking right away, but if a cat goes missing (particularly an indoor/outdoor cat), people don’t start seeking in earnest until far too much time has gone by?

    I know someone who adopted a cat from a local shelter. She had him for two weeks when he slipped out the door one of the kids left open (in winter). She didn’t even THINK to post the cat as missing for SIX DAYS. Why not? She thought he’d come back. She wasn’t very worried at first (even though he was an indoor cat, underweight and out in the snow – he had long fur, so he’d be okay, right?).

    The idea that cats are independent survivors works against them when it comes to human attitudes. And I can’t help but think that my Virgil would have met the criteria for being returned to the area where he was found – he was neutered, ear tipped, in good weight, and has his claws. Never mind that he has no teeth and was in that area because he’d been dumped there and has never (as far as I can tell) been outdoors in his entire life. He was completely unfamiliar with his surroundings, confused, and desperate for food and water. But yes, by all means, let’s dump him back out there because he’s a cat and he’ll survive, somehow.

  2. Cats do not deserve this kind of treatment and they should not be discriminated against. Only a small minded person would sign this bill.

  3. So disappointing to see Best Friends promoting this practice. And yet it’s not surprising. The real solution is for shelters to do their jobs better — but BFAS has shown, year after year, that they won’t challenge shelter managers. They’ll do anything but that . . . including endorsing a practice that puts cats at risk and treats cat-owners like second-class citizens.

  4. I have my cats with a chip and one got out and they called me to come get him so I think it will help to chip your animals but when I got there they wanted 80 dollars from me to get him out of the pound. I also think animals should be tested for parvo before you can adopt them I adopted a dogfrom dobson pound and they said it had a skin disease so I took it home I have a great vet. Well he died and killed two of my other dogs because it had parvo. They said they don’t test for that is wrong I think.

  5. Yes cats come into the shelter, get sick, get killed. I reject the notion that because this is true, shelter staff should not have to do their jobs to protect cats. It’s an absurd argument.

    The shelter where I got Wendy is a catch and kill facility that only does dogs AFAIK. The place isn’t open to the public, no website, zero vet care and the only way a dog might get out alive is via the effort of a vol who is allowed in periodically to photograph and network dogs on her own. I saw Wendy in an email fwd that was initiated by this vol. So it would be accurate to characterize this facility as: Dogs come in, get sick, get killed. The exact same argument which is used to justify relieving shelter staff of their obligation to do their jobs when it comes to cats. Should we apply it to dogs at the place where I got Wendy then?

    All the same arguments apply: Owners are not reclaiming these dogs, they certainly don’t do well being housed in the sub-standard facility, they come in sick and/or get sick while there, then they get killed. So neuter and dump them back on the street where they might have a chance? And should we go ahead and make this SOP at every shelter where dogs aren’t being reclaimed in large numbers, are getting sick and getting killed by staff? Why should shelter staff be held accountable for doing their jobs with dogs but not cats? Why should anyone demand the shelter reform and function as intended? Just neuter and dump everything that comes in the door.

  6. I know some people defend these types of policies due to the extremely low owner redemption rate of stray cats. But I never see a lot of discussion about how to increase that rate. We know that lost cats behave much differently than do lost dogs and so the procedures we use to recover lost cats have to be different. Of course many shelters also have abysmal reclaim rates for dogs because their policies for them are terrible, too.

    I personally know of two cases where lost cats were found a month or more after they went missing and luckily in one case the cat still had his collar and the person who found the second cat had seen a story in the newspaper about the lost cat (owner was conveniently the editor of the newspaper) and realized one of the “strays” hanging out was the one missing. If cats like these had ended up at the shelter the owners would likely not be looking there anymore because it had been so long. So there needs to be a good way to match lost animals with found animals that doesn’t consist of a shelter employee thumbing through a book of written descriptions over the last 2 days of animals.

    Does anyone know if there is software that can perform a visual match and search of lost and found animal pictures? That would be awesome and an amazing way to search back through old records that people may not think to look at anymore. I would think that shelter computer systems (if they have them, which they should) would do a written search like, “male, cat, black” and pop up all the relevant animals which meet that criteria. Of course that would require shelter employees (or volunteers) manage the database appropriately which, in some shelters wouldn’t happen.

    So, basically, it’s a terrible policy that treats cats as if they don’t have a right to be returned to their family in the same way dogs do.

    1. There are apps available that use facial recognition software to flag possible matches. I don’t know how widely they search, but it strikes me as a promising avenue. Just search ‘facial recognition for pets’ on Google, it’ll pop up numerous articles.

    2. Facial recognition for animals is not going to happen for so many years it’s not even something to plan for in any sensible way. Fur obscures too much, and because the head shapes are SO varied – imagine the huge differences just in the general shapes of a Great Dane, a English bulldog, and a chihuahua, let alone between a chihuahua and and a ‘regular’ domestic shorthaired cat, and then throw in a Persian cat. The variance in head shapes for humans is actually fairly small and the needed forensic mix of science and artistry to allow for the use of early Identi-Kits, and then the computer database building through fairly formal ID photos taken for licenses and arrests is never going to be funded to allow for its use with animals.

      Sadly, the only semi-sure ways to identify an animal are microchips, tattoos, or branding, but the latter two can be defaced, and the first can migrate, but the biggest problem is not in the use of any forms of id – it’s in the lack of end user follow up to match the id the animal has to the owner. And the end user I’m referring to is at the shelter. Sure, there are reasons always cited for why many shelters can’t do much about matching ids, but when the amount of trying is less than, well, what could be done by kids playing a simple card-matching game, then of course, throwing up their hands and either immediately killing or waiting until the animal gets sick and killing or neutering and dumping, or maybe adopting the animal out certainly are all easier to do, right?

      1. I DID put the work snark at the end of that post, but it didn’t show up.

    3. How about a program (or app, as the kids say) that allows owners to report their lost pet to the shelter and sign up for email alerts when a pet is impounded who matches the general description? So I am a cat owner whose pet is lost. I report my lost black female adult cat to the shelter online, using the shelter’s website and sign up for the email alerts. I get an email every time the shelter impounds a female black cat over the age of 8 weeks. That email includes a link to the pet’s listing online which has a photo. I decide based upon what I see in the listing whether I need to leave work and hurry down to the shelter to see if this is my cat or if, for example, I see this cat has white toes and I know she’s not mine. I stay on the list to keep receiving emails until I find my cat.

      1. That’s a very intriguing idea. And should be really easy to implement (I think) (with support from she shelter). It would also have to include animals who are found but are held onto by the finders so that might only have a written description. I know that descriptions can be misleading because some people call dogs different breed mixes than the owners would and lots of people have no idea how to sex a cat so it wouldn’t be perfect but would be a really good start. And if the surrounding shelters had the same program you could sign up for alerts, too, so you weren’t having to drive to each shelter to check. I wonder if that’s something I could help implement for my local shelter(s)? Hmmm…. They don’t check microchips or collars in the field like a reasonable animal control would do so there might be resistance but it’s worth a look.

        Microchips are great, but they aren’t always found during a scan. My dog ended up with two because the shelter said his chip didn’t scan so I got a second one and now they both scan. Go figure. And around here until very, very recently the shelter didn’t microchip outgoing animals and the only way to get a chip was to go through a vet for $50+ dollars and so the % of animals with microchips was very low. It’s increasing because the shelter now includes that in adopted animals and the low-cost vaccination group now offers low-cost microchipping but it’s still not as common as it might be in some areas. And people who find lost animals don’t always know they can get the animal scanned for one.

        I hate the idea of animals with homes not being returned. It seems like such an injustice.

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