Kern Co Pound Director’s Manifesto of Blame

In a 14 page Blame the Community manifesto, the director of the Kern Co pound in CA, Jen Woodard, details the needless killing of pets and blames everybody but those doing the killing.  Ms. Woodard previously worked for Best Friends in L.A. before taking the Kern Co job in October.

In the document, Ms. Woodard states that Kern Co kills any puppy who has parvo-like symptoms and tests positive on a snap test as well as all other exposed puppies less than 6 months of age.  This practice is not based in science and should be discontinued immediately.  Treatment of parvo puppies is possible in a shelter environment and that option should be fully explored by all shelters.  Killing exposed dogs based solely on age, dogs who may in fact be immune, is cruel for the sake of cruelty – it serves no purpose.  A compassionate director would have written 14 pages about that.

Instead, Ms. Woodard runs through a laundry list of members of the community to blame for the killing, including:

  • Local vets, who all suck apparently and are only in it for the dough
  • Mexicans, who don’t care about their pets because of “cultural beliefs”
  • Local animal organizations, who do nothing but bicker
  • The weather, which also sucks
  • Pet owners in general, who don’t want to know how to protect their pets from diseases

And while blaming everybody else for their ignorance, Ms. Woodard demonstrates her own lack of understanding regarding disease prevention.  For example, she states:

And furthermore, most puppy owners don’t know they need a series of 3 of the vaccines to be fully effective in preventing parvovirus and distemper. A pup with 2 vaccines is still susceptible.

This is not based in science.  The number of vaccines a puppy receives is not what confers immunity but rather the timing of the vaccines relative to the presence of maternal antibodies.  Before a shelter director goes blaming the Mexicans, it would be nice to see her demonstrate a meaningful understanding of vaccine conferred immunity in puppies.

The report offers a number of solutions to the killing and improper disease management protocols at the pound but none of them include “Stop needlessly killing animals and start using science based disease management strategies”.  Instead, the report focuses on educating the public about the importance of vaccination, among other things, and includes a volunteer team to walk the streets and another team to call Craigslist ads for puppies to educate the ad placers.  This is a puzzling strategy because earlier in the report, Ms. Woodard notes that one of the problems in the community is ignorance of “basic pet responsibility” which she attributes to the fact that “much of the community is uninterested in hearing this message”.  Will the unwashed masses suddenly become interested if they get a call from someone telling them about spay-neuter in response to their Craigslist ad for puppies?

I am very disappointed in Ms. Woodard’s report, which was apparently not intended to be read by the public.  I can see why.

Related:

Local news outlets react to the report: The Bakersfield Californian , Bakersfield Now, and KGET

Koret Shelter Medicine Program:  Canine Parvovirus and Canine Distemper Virus

Maddie’s Fund:  Redefining Vaccination on Intake

(Thanks Clarice for sending me links on this story.)

Updated: Whistleblowers Expose Parvo Coverup at Atlanta Humane Society

Atlanta Humane Society has 2 facilities, one of which cost 10 million dollars and was just opened in December 2011.

Three whistleblowers went to the local Fox affiliate to expose wrongdoing at the Atlanta Humane Society, prompting the reporter to investigate further and visit the facility to ask for the other side of the story.  The allegations involve a failure of the Atlanta Humane Society to report the occurrence of contagious diseases such as parvo to the state Department of Agriculture, as required by law.  The reporter found that the Department of Agriculture hadn’t received a single contagious disease report from the facility for at least 2 years.  Yet kill records from Atlanta HS for recent months indicate that almost all of animals killed have been puppies – for contagious disease.

There is a video of this great investigative piece at the link which I will describe in part for anyone unable to watch.

When visiting Atlanta HS, the reporter is met outside by Richard Rice, Vice President of Operations who, based on his response, has single-handedly lowered the bar for media crisis management for shelters.  When first asked about the shelter’s apparent failure to report contagious diseases, Mr. Rice looks like an immune compromised medical patient being asked for a hug by a plague victim.  As he dashes away, he promises to return with the records in question.  The reporter sits outside on the curb for ninety minutes before Mr. Rice shows his face again.  He doesn’t have the records but he does have a puppy.  In what looks like an attempt by Gilligan to avoid being bonked with the Skipper’s hat (You wouldn’t hit a guy with a puppy, would you?), Mr. Rice explains that they’ve done their jobs, are in compliance with state law, nothing to see here, etc.

Eventually, Atlanta HS produces a bunch of fax forms which contain no identifying information about the reporting agency – an obvious requirement – which it says were used as an alternative to phone reporting to the state.  The state says they never received a single one of these forms by fax.  The fax machine at Atlanta HS prints out a record of every number ever dialed and the Department of Agriculture’s number appears zero times.  Even if the faxes had been sent and received, they would not have brought Atlanta HS into compliance.

Apparently 10 million dollars does not necessarily buy plausible deniability.

Update:  Atlanta HS has a response to the investigative report on its website.  And the response is:  You know that lame story we concocted about generic faxes that there is no evidence of ever having been sent or even existed prior to the news showing up?  Well yeah – that, still.  Also:

It is our hope that the perspectives of former employees do not overshadow the exceptional work that our team performs every day.

The “perspectives” of your former employees come with proof, Atlanta HS.  Your “exceptional work”, not so much.

CAPA Modified – Parvo is Not a License for Shelters to Kill

Just as it is unfair to punish a shelter dog based on breed, so it is unethical to kill shelter pets based on the name of a disease.  In this post, I’m talking about canine parvovirus but the statement can apply to other diseases as well.  Euthanasia to end the suffering of medically hopeless pets must be based upon the veterinary prognosis, not just the diagnosis of disease.

I was recently excited to learn that the No Kill Advocacy Center’s model legislation piece, the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) has been modified and the following provision removed from the document:

(2) Symptomatic dogs with confirmed cases of parvovirus or cats with confirmed cases of panleukopenia may be euthanized without delay, upon a certification made in writing and signed by a veterinarian licensed to practice medicine in this state that the prognosis is poor even with supportive care. Such certification shall be made available for free public inspection for no less than three years;

Nathan Winograd of the No Kill Advocacy Center explained that the language was removed in order “to move away from disease-based to prognosis-based legislation”.  I fully support this change.

Parvo is preventable and treatable and every animal shelter has an obligation to both prevent and treat this disease.  Parvo in shelters is prevented through the practice of vaccination prior to or immediately upon intake, good housing practices and standard disease prevention cleaning protocols.  The disease is further prevented by ensuring the community’s dog owners have easy access to low cost vaccinations for their pets.

Treatment options for parvo dogs include in-house care if sufficient resources exist to provide isolation and appropriate veterinary care.  If the facility is not equipped to provide treatment, parvo dogs may be transferred to another shelter with appropriate facilities or to a private veterinary clinic.  Donations may be solicited from the public if necessary.  The media can help in educating the public and spreading the word about the shelter’s efforts to save lives.  The days of blanket killing of shelter dogs for parvo or exposure to the disease are over.

Killing dogs who have tested positive for parvo without providing treatment is unacceptable.  Killing dogs who have not been tested or treated, who have been “diagnosed” by someone other than a veterinarian, who are asymptomatic but have been exposed or who are merely “suspected” of having the disease is also unacceptable.  What are your local shelter’s protocols for handling parvo dogs?

Austin Pets Alive has a ward set up for parvo dogs, run by volunteers.  The save rate is approximately 85% and dogs are usually back on their paws after a week.  Disease free dogs are then put on the adoption floor so they can find loving homes and live normal, happy lives.  How does that compare to your local shelter’s parvo protocols?

Shelters who fail to vaccinate all animals prior to or immediately upon intake are failing to prevent the spread of disease.  Shelters who fail to utilize standard disease prevention cleaning protocols and/or maintain good housing practices are failing to prevent the spread of disease.  These same shelters are often the ones who kill based on disease (or suspicion of disease) instead of veterinary prognosis and then blame the public for failing to vaccinate their pets.

All shelters need to bring their parvo protocols in line with current veterinary standards.  Prevention and treatment are not luxuries.  They are the minimum that every shelter pet is entitled to and the least we should expect from our municipal facilities.

Thank you to the No Kill Advocacy Center for modifying CAPA to reflect veterinary advances in the diagnosis and treatment of parvo and the duty of shelters to meet those standards.  No disease diagnosis, exposure or suspicion should be an instant authorization to kill shelter pets.  Further evaluation by a veterinarian is always appropriate and in most canine parvo cases, treatment is likely to be successful.

Further information:

Free webinar by Dr. Ellen Jefferson on the parvo dogs ward at Austin Pets Alive.  Type “Ellen Jefferson” in the search box and tick the “show past sessions” box to bring up the one hour webinar titled “Treating Parvo”.

Controlling Parvo:  Real Life Scenarios by Dr. Kate Hurley

Disinfection 102:  Beyond Cage Cleaning by Dr. Kate Hurley

Redefining Vaccination on Intake – Maddie’s Fund