Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, OH: Success!

Regular readers know that I have been posting about shelter pet advocate Casey Post’s efforts to reform her local shelter in Medina Co, OH.  This week, Ms. Post again addressed her county commissioners but was forced to improvise a speech due to last minute developments on the reform front.  I asked her to talk about what happened at the meeting, provide details on the deal made to save cats in Medina Co to the best of her knowledge, and discuss her plans for the future.

Ms. Post writes:

I got to the meeting room early, as usual. I had planned to deliver an open letter to the Commissioners from a euthanasia expert who certifies techs and vets in our state. His letter listed all kinds of methods for killing that were used in the past (horrific) and then indicated that the gas chamber was among those we’ve advanced beyond. He encouraged the Board to “be leaders” and embrace the newer method of euthanasia by injection and assured them that anyone who is certified is capable of handling even feral cats both safely and humanely. I was then going to discuss the benefits of neutered/vaccinated feral cats and ask for a change in shelter policy of immediately killing ALL ferals, regardless of their neutered/vaccinated status. I knew that Commissioner Hambley had just seen a low cost s/n operation in our county and was now aware that the public was spending their own money to get these cats neutered and vaccinated, so I had hope that he would at least consider the private effort going on there.

The Clerk of the Board (she’s very nice, VERY professional, and a cat owner) walked in and asked me if I was happy with the deal that was made. I told her that no one had informed me of a deal! She tried to find a copy of the article in the paper that had just come out that morning for me, but someone had taken hers. Thank goodness for wifi and smartphones. I searched for the news on what had gone down and found that there was a tentative deal with the Medina County SPCA where THEY would take all friendly strays and owner surrender cats for the county, but would not be accepting feral cats.  [Ed. note:  Reader Lisa submitted this link which reports on the deal.] Ferals would be referred to the low cost s/n clinic (I’m assuming at the trappers’ own cost – $25, but they do have a “pay it forward” program for people who can’t afford it that others donate to) so that the cats can be TNR’d. The only segment of the public NOT being served in this deal would be the people who want ferals just GONE, who don’t want to TNR. But, the MSCPA intends to apply for a grant to do TNR in 2014 for the county and they may be able to include relocation in that program for those who demand it.

So this deal would get the cats out of the hands of the Medina County Animal Shelter (and their amazing less-than-50% survival rate) and away from any possibility of a gas chamber (MSPCA euthanizes by injection with an actual veterinarian and they say that they do it as little as possible – not sure how they’re going to work the space issue, but I do know that they use volunteers and fosters, which puts them light years ahead of the shelter which allows neither and there is talk of keeping a waiting list if needed). This deal has potential to address the issue of the feral population in a humane and sensible way. It also has the potential to get our gas chamber designated as “surplus equipment” to be dispensed with as is best for the county (I vote scrap metal!). Bonus – all the Kuranda cat beds that I donated to the shelter would end up at MSCPA, where they will be needed. So hell yes, I’m pleased with the deal.

By now, the meeting room is packed (no, not with anti-gas chamber people, alas, but with people there to discuss transportation funding) and the time is coming up for me to speak and I’m not sure what to say – all I have is questions and the letter I was going to read out was no longer needed! I got up to speak first (because hey, why not?) and tried asking some questions of the Board, but they will not answer questions during the public comment bit, so instead I asked for the shelter to stop killing vaccinated/neutered ferals. I explained that this policy was both counterproductive to the effort to control the feral population and it also removed the rabies buffer between people and wildlife that these cats provide. I figured since the county suddenly seemed to be embracing the idea of TNR, I would try to save the ear-tipped or microchipped ferals that are still going straight into the gas chamber at the shelter (and will continue to do so until the MSPCA takes over cat duties). One of the commissioners made a note, so hopefully something will happen there.

After me, a woman got up to speak to ask about the gas chamber – would it be removed? When? She was nervous to speak too, but also determined. She wants that gas chamber GONE. I spoke with her and apparently, she’s been trying to make one of these meetings for weeks now and told me that I’m “her hero” for fighting this and she is in until the gas chamber is on the scrap pile. She’s another one of us who had NO IDEA what was going on at the shelter and she’s been a frequent visitor and has adopted cats from there, so she too feels betrayed.

The discussion session was interesting because of the money – the MSPCA wants $13K to take the county’s non-feral cats. A commissioner asked how much money is in “the kennel fund” (this is the money used to fund the dog part of the shelter via licensing fees – it could not by law go to caring for cats at the shelter, but CAN be given to a “humane society” for the purposes of caring for cats, so that’s where the $13K would come from). The County Administrator stated that the kennel fund has “in excess of $300,000”. The collective gasp, then silence in the room was a thing of beauty. All I could think was, “I had to DONATE dog beds and pet safe salt to them because they didn’t have THE MONEY???” At this point, one commissioner said, “Well then. I have no problem taking thirteen thousand dollars from there.” There was a question about how the shelter staff felt about this plan – apparently, they’re fine with it. The commissioners then voted to proceed with the deal.

Now, the deal is not yet completed and could still fall apart. The MSPCA and the county have to sign off on it – I’m told that this will occur some time next week. How soon after that the MSPCA will be accepting cats, I do not know, but we all hope it will be sooner, rather than later. In the meantime, we are trying to get the current cats out of the shelter and away from the gas chamber (which they will keep using until they have no more cats to stuff into it, apparently). Two cats (that we know of – there were more that we don’t know about because of the kill-anything-we-think-is-feral-whether-it-actually-is-or-not policy) were gassed last week and it would be fantastic if we could make them the last.

The woman who spoke after me asked me if I was going to the next meeting. I told her that I didn’t think so, that I wouldn’t know what to say since the deal-signing would happen AFTER the meeting. She vows to go to the next one to continue to press them on the removal of the gas chamber. She’s feisty and I like her a lot.

Do I completely trust that everything will be sunshine and rainbows from here on out? Absolutely not. But I will definitely be keeping an eye on things – not just at MSPCA, but also at the shelter. And if I need to keep advocating for change, I will. If the MSPCA goes wrong with it, then it wouldn’t be the weekly meetings – it would have to be the MSPCA board that I would have to petition for change as they are their own entity. Fortunately, they don’t seem to be the sort of people who would be ok with killing more than 50% of the cats that come in.

I’m backing off the meetings while the deal goes through because it seems like a very good deal. Laura (the other speaker) is going to spearhead the “destroy that filthy gas chamber” movement and that I’m backing her up in that. I’ll be keeping an eye on how things go from here on out both at the MSCPA and at the shelter, but I have reason to be cautiously optimistic for the future of Medina’s cats.

Advice for others trying to advocate? Attack policies, not people. I didn’t want to get into a position where the commissioners felt backed up against a wall to defend shelter employees (which was why I explained that they were victims of this shelter model, too). Also, listen to what it is that they’re really saying – in my case, it was, “We’re not really concerned with the gas chamber itself because we think it’s humane. We just don’t want to be swimming in cats.” It took me a while to understand that while I was talking shelter policies, they were talking shelter-as-population-control. If you truly believe that the gas chamber is humane, and that your shelter killing over 50% of the incoming cats is doing the community a “service”, you would be resistant to the one lady standing up and saying that you’re wrong. That’s where even a little physical back up really helps. Mark stood up and said, “I think she’s right. This is bad for Medina and I don’t want it.” Suddenly, I’m not the lone voice. Combine it with the letters and emails that came in to the commissioners and now they start to think maybe something needs to change, after all.

***

Read how Ms. Post became motivated to advocate for shelter reform.

Read her previous speeches to the county commissioners:

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Ms. Post and her reform efforts which appeared after her second speech to the county.

The South Will Rise

While places like Union Co, NC continue to go moldy, communities all around the south are defying stereotypes and adopting progressive no kill protocols.

In Spartanburg, SC, city ACOs used to pick up cats and take them to the pound where roughly 8 out of 10 would be killed.  Area caretakers of feral cat colonies had a contentious relationship with the officers who would round up their maintained colony cats, along with other cats, and take them away for killing.

But late last year, Spartanburg Animal Services investigated trap-neuter-return for community cats and decided it was worth a try.  Funded by a grant, the city’s ACOs launched the program in January 2013.  They are on track to meet their goal of providing neuter and vaccination services to 750 feral cats this year.  The feline kill rate has dropped to virtually zero in 2013 thanks to TNR and the relationship with the community has bloomed into a supportive and useful one.  And Spartanburg Animal Services has been educating the masses via its Facebook page on which they document their outstanding TNR success.

In North Carolina, Lincoln Co animal advocates successfully lobbied their county commissioners for shelter reform.  Citing the will of the people to save shelter pets instead of killing them, commissioners unanimously voted this month to adopt the programs of the No Kill Equation:

“We are excited about leading the way in the state of North Carolina, through our commitment to become a no kill municipal shelter,” said Alex Patton, chairman of the county commissioners. “It is the right decision and one shared by the majority of our citizens.”

In Calhoun Co, AL, an advisory board was formed after concerns were raised about animal cruelty and botched killings at the pound.  The county is now slated to turn pound operations over to a non-profit group with goals for significant improvements:

 “I kept hearing from the previous board that it’s impossible to be a no-kill shelter,” [board member and attorney Tom] Wright said. “That’s not right to me, because that should be your goal. That’s what we want to work towards.”

Makes sense to me.

So even as many old-think shelter directors and politicians in the south remain mired in the killing ways of decades gone by, more and more southern communities are throwing off the yoke of archaic practices and starting to look at what makes sense:  Animals shelters should shelter animals. The public does not want animals in shelters killed.

No kill is not only possible, it’s happening in hundreds of communities all over the country.  Regressive directors and their enablers will continue to see their stranglehold on shelters eroded as more advocates take political action and the public continues to be educated about lifesaving alternatives.  And when history reflects upon those who fought to keep killing in the south and elsewhere, they will find themselves a mere Meisterburger footnote at the end of the chapter entitled “Compassion and Common Sense”.

Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, OH – Week 3

Medina County animal advocate Casey Post once again addressed the public meeting of her county commissioners this week, this time with visual aids – enlarged, mounted photographs which she held up during her speech.

Ms. Post writes:

People who gather for these meetings regularly are starting to recognize me and I’m getting some nods and smiles from them. Before the meeting started, one of them turned around and spoke to me this week, telling me that he had to euthanize his old dog and it was very, very hard on him and he could understand how the compassion fatigue I spoke about last week could affect a man. But he cautioned me that “the powers that be” tend to be ok with “someone doing the dirty work” as long as it isn’t them. I assured him that there doesn’t have to BE dirty work if the shelter is run properly.

I was a little less nervous this time and highly recommend blasting your favorite “brave heart” music in the car or headphones just before you go in. Keep it playing in your head while you walk up to the podium. I also had a “relax word” that I started my speech with. I have to give my name and address before I start speaking, so I did that, took a breath, and said, “Okay.” That not only reminded me to unclench my buttocks, but also gives me a moment to take a breath before I launch into it. I think it helped with the timing of my delivery, too because in my head, it’s “Okay, let me explain this to you in small words with pictures…”.

Having photos worked out well. They were a decent size for the room (16×20, I think) and mounted on foam board, so easy to hold up and show around. Everyone had to look at them – even if they didn’t want to, they seemed compelled to look, so that may be helpful for anyone who is looking for ideas to help avoid being ignored during a presentation like this. Pleasant photos of cats seem to go over well. If the room were bigger or if the podium were bigger, I would have had bigger photos (OfficeMax does a nice job of printing and mounting), but these were plenty fine for the purpose. I had a copy of my speech taped to the back of each one, so I didn’t have to worry about keeping it in front of me, it was always there.

I couldn’t get any feedback from Commissioner Hambley, as he had to leave early in the discussion session for some appointment. But Commissioner Geissman informed me that “the shelter issue” is already a planned topic for next week. I think she meant next week’s discussion session, not the actual meeting (where things are voted on), but at least it’s some kind of starting point. I thanked her and assured her that I’ll be there.

Another reporter asked for my phone number and one of the local tiny papers has picked up the story. They didn’t contact me, but they did have a nice picture of a cat in the article, so I think that’s helpful. One of the reporters took photos of me during this speech, too. I guess they’re starting to realize that I’m not going away.

My concern right now is that the commissioners may be seeing this from the “every stray is a feral, every feral is a nuisance, all nuisances must die” point of view. I’m working to keep the focus on “how our animal shelter fails the community”. As far as I’m concerned, feral cat management is a different discussion entirely.

Speech text, including photos:

This is Percy.  Percy is my cat.

Percy is a vaccinated, neutered male, indoor-only cat.  Percy has a medical condition that means that he not only has his regular vet, but he also has an internal medicine specialist.  I have poured thousands of dollars into Percy.

I have a painter coming to the house today.  If the painter drops his ladder in the doorway and scares Percy out the door, he may panic at being outside and run away.  If my neighbor, being a good Christian man who is terribly allergic to cats finds him, he will want to do the right thing.  He will take Percy to the shelter and wanting to keep him safe, he pays the ten dollar surrender fee and signs the paper.

Now the shelter owns my cat.

They may or may not scan him for a microchip with a scanner that may or may not detect certain types of chips.  They will not take his picture and put it up on the web.  They will not hold him for a period of time so that I can reclaim him.

They will sell him to the next person who walks through the door.

Or they may try to put him in a cage, not knowing that his medical condition causes pain – pain that may make him lash out at being handled.  Now he’s labeled “aggressive” and is gassed to death.

My cat, my expensive, wanted cat, is now either living with someone who does not know about his medical needs or he is dead.  Because that is how our shelter operates.

This is Jack.

Jack is an ugly, battle scarred feral cat.  But Jack has a caretaker who has made certain that he is neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped.

This is Jack’s little yellow house that his caretaker built to protect him from the weather.  In the winter, the caretaker puts an insulated box in it with a deep bed of clean straw so Jack will stay warm and dry.

But Jack is no freeloader – he’s a working feral.  Jack earns his keep the old fashioned way as rodent control.  Jack’s caretaker values both his mousing skills and his quiet company.

Two teenage boys screwing around, throw firecrackers onto the caretaker’s property.  Jack panics and runs away.  He ends up in a trap that had been set out for a skunk.  The man who set the trap doesn’t check it until two days later.  He then throws the trap into the back of his pickup truck and drives it to the shelter.  Unsecured, the trap is bouncing and sliding around in the back.

Arriving at the shelter, normally quiet Jack is now out of his mind, lunging and snarling.  Shelter staff take one look at him and label him aggressive.

They do not put him in a quiet room and cover the trap to give him time to calm down.  They do not use a trap divider to keep him still so they can safely scan him for a microchip through the bars.  They do not use a pole syringe to sedate him so that they can safely take his photo and put him in a darkened cage with food and water.  They stick him in the gas chamber and they kill him.

We will never know how many wanted, owned cats ended up in the gas chamber at Medina County Animal Shelter, but as a cat owner I say that ONE is too many.  I want MY animal shelter to function as a safety net for our community’s cats.

I want proactive redemption policies in place.

I want the shelter to use scanners that pick up all three frequencies of microchips.

I want every, single cat scanned for a microchip on intake and I want that scan documented.

I want a photo taken of every, single cat on intake and I want that photo posted online.

I want every, single stray cat to have a stray hold of three business days, starting after the photo is posted.

I want every sick or injured cat immediately sent to the Medina County SPCA or taken to a vet for evaluation and appropriate treatment.

I want the shelter to physically accommodate the needs of the pregnant, the very young, the very stressed, and feral cats and to post these with a designation of URGENT and allow such animals to be transferred to a qualified rescue group within the stray hold period and to keep documentation of such.

If these VERY BASIC protocols are beyond the resources of the Medina County Animal Shelter, then they need to get out of the cat business.

Finally, I want the gas chamber dismantled and destroyed.  It is a blight on Medina County and a symbol of regressive policies.  It is offensive that this board tolerates its continued use.

***

Read how Ms. Post became motivated to advocate for shelter reform.

Read her previous speeches to the county commissioners:

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Ms. Post and her reform efforts which appeared after her second speech to the county.

Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, Ohio

In last week’s post on Medina County’s pride over the gassing of cats, I mentioned local advocate Casey Post.  Ms. Post told me this week she spoke at a public meeting of her county commissioners about cat killing at the shelter.  She wrote:

I was so nervous, I was shaking. When my voice started to shake, I took a breath and plunged on. I had practiced this speech a lot (while out walking dogs – surprisingly good time to practice speeches) and did fine on autopilot. It’s very hard for me to speak publicly as I am a serious introvert and never comfortable in any situation more formal than grocery shopping. But I did it.

A reporter asked me for my phone number afterwards and two men out in the lobby thanked me for speaking. One said that he was impressed and that what I said was important. The other said “people need to know”. The representative from the Treasurer’s office also thanked me and told me about the two kittens found in a ditch she’s just taken in. I told her that I was super nervous, but that I would get better with practice and I’m coming back every week until I get what I want.

Thank you for speaking publicly on behalf of the cats at the Medina Co pound, Ms. Post.  We need more people willing to speak at public meetings of elected officials about ending the killing of shelter animals.

Here is the text of the comments delivered to the Medina Co commissioners by Casey Post this week:

I’ve supported the Medina County Animal Shelter.
Every dog bed in the shelter, I donated.
Every cat bed in the shelter, I donated.
I’ve filled my car with food, litter, cleaning supplies and toys and driven it out to the shelter to donate it all.
I’ve donated collars, leashes, and carriers.
In the winters, I donated giant buckets of pet safe ice melter so shelter workers and dogs would not slip on their way to the outside kennels.
I’ve gone to Beuhler’s and gotten a giant circle sub along with 24 gourmet muffins and brought it all to the shelter staff to thank them for their work in our community.
The Medina County Animal Shelter was on my tithing list and got $100 a month, every month, from me.
I supported Medina County Animal Shelter. It’s important that you understand this.
The Medina County Animal Shelter is mismanaging over 250 cats per year to death.
When a stray dog enters the shelter, he is scanned for a microchip, his picture is taken and put up on PetFinder, and he is held for a period of time to allow his owner to reclaim him. The live release rate for dogs at our shelter is 92%.
When a stray cat enters the shelter, he is put into a cage and made available for immediate adoption. He is not scanned for a microchip, his picture is not taken, and he is not advertised in any way. The live release rate for cats at our shelter is 45%.
The shelter staff says that they do not have time to market their cats.
If they did not have time to feed their cats, and cats were dying from lack of food, you would say that it is irresponsible and unethical for them to continue to take in cats.
There are cats at the shelter RIGHT NOW who would survive their shelter stay without food. They will NOT survive their stay without marketing.
Given the fact that marketing is at least as important to the cat’s survival as food, I contend that it is irresponsible and unethical for the shelter to continue to accept cats in any way, shape, or form.
Let Medina County Animal Shelter go back to doing what they do best and be a DOG ONLY shelter.
Otherwise, I would propose that we change the name of the shelter to better reflect their function within our community. We can call it, “Medina County Dog Shelter and Cat Disposal Facility.” Because right now, that is how our shelter is run.

Another Reason We Need Shelter Reform

On Tuesday of last week, I was driving home when I saw an emaciated dog running on a rural road.  As I slowed my car, she attempted to approach so I took it she was friendly.  I was very close to home at that point so decided to go get her something to eat.  We don’t personally have the resources to do the job our taxpayer funded shelter is supposed be doing, but we always try to help as best we are able.

At the house, I grabbed a hunk of cornbread that was ready for the dogs’ dinner and Billy grabbed a raw meaty bone.  We drove back to the area where we had seen the dog.  She was still there and walked right up to gently take the cornbread from my hand.  Her tail was wagging like mad when we left her with the bone.  On the very short drive back, Billy suggested we should leave her some kibble.  So he scooped up a gelato container full of kibble at the house and we returned to the dog eating her bone.  Lying down, she was hardly recognizable as a dog, looking merely like an oddly stacked pile of bones under a towel.  She was again super friendly and devoured the kibble, although she was willing to leave it in order to return to our car for some love.  On the way home, I said we should have thought about bringing her water since kibble makes dogs thirsty.  Billy went inside the house and emerged with a container full of water.

This time when we returned to the area, the dog was nowhere in sight and her bone was at the roadside.  There were two cars stopped in the road ahead, the drivers talking to one another.  One of them had a Dalmatian puppy in the cab of his truck but I couldn’t see inside the other vehicle.  They drove away and we left the water but never saw the dog again.  The only thing I could imagine that would make that starving dog leave her bone was the opportunity for human affection.  I assume one of those stopped drivers picked her up.

My heart sank when Billy said, “Oh no.  I hope they didn’t take her to the animal shelter.”  It was a real possibility because so many compassionate people believe their local animal shelter is the proper place to take animals in need and that the people who work there love animals.  The truth is that our local pound, like so many others across this country, is little more than a pet slaughterhouse.  They kill 3 out of every 4 pets in their care and the only effort that seems to be expended is in covering up the killing and hiding it from the public.  They like to promote how, instead of doing their jobs, they ship the dogs they are supposed to be caring for up north, where animals in shelters are also killed.  Our local public shelter is no safe haven and if this dog was brought there, she would have very little chance of survival.

I’ve been thinking of this poor dog every day since Tuesday.  My hope is that she was picked up and brought home by someone who was in a position to care for her.  I am clinging to that hope.  If it weren’t for the actions I hear about every day from the so-called irresponsible public, whom pound directors blame for the killing they do, I would have no such hope.  Thank you irresponsible public for defying the labels hung on you by shelter pet killers everywhere.  I will keep working for shelter reform so that one day, my local shelter will truly be a safe haven for dogs and cats in need.

Report: Long Beach Pound in Dire Need of Reform

A California no kill advocacy group called Stayin’ Alive Long Beach recently published a report analyzing hundreds of documents obtained from Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) via FOIA requests.  The report summarizes findings from these documents and makes a number of recommendations for increased lifesaving at the pound.  Last year’s numbers at Long Beach ACS indicate the facility is killing more than half of the animals in its care according to the report.

In 2012:

  • Long Beach ACS took in nearly 10,000 animals.
  • The kill rate for kittens was 78%.
  • The kill rate for adult cats was 75%.
  • The kill rate for puppies was 18%.
  • The kill rate for adult dogs was 32%.

Puppies were killed at the lowest rate and measurably less often than adult dogs.  With kittens however, it was the opposite.  Not only were they killed slightly more often than their adult counterparts, they were the group most likely to be killed at the pound.

Also in 2012:

  • Long Beach ACS took 0 animals to offsite adoption events.
  • Long Beach ACS placed 8 kittens and 5 puppies in foster homes while officially maintaining no foster program.
  • 104 animals were transferred to 16 rescue groups.
  • 28 volunteers worked at the pound which serves the city of Long Beach, population 450,000.  These volunteers were allowed only to walk dogs and read to the animals.

The primary reason Long Beach ACS isn’t killing every animal under its roof is because of the nearby SPCA LA facility.  Long Beach ACS relies on SPCA LA to take animals for adoption, transferring 28% of its animals to SPCA LA in 2012. Long Beach ACS itself adopted out just 35 cats, 36 puppies, 41 kittens and 212 dogs last year – an adoption rate of roughly 3%.

In response to the report, the Long Beach ACS manager told the Long Beach Press Telegram:

Ted Stevens, manager of Animal Care Services, defended his agency, calling the report’s claims “unfair and false.”
[…]
“We’re [sic] adopted more in nine months of this year than all of last year,” he said.

Just to be clear, he is bragging about exceeding a three percent adoption rate.

Among the recommendations for Long Beach ACS included in the report:

  • A comprehensive adoption program
  • Large scale volunteer program
  • Large scale foster program
  • TNR program
  • Expanded rescue program
  • Increased high volume, low cost spay-neuters
  • Increased owner redemptions

It will be interesting to see if city officials take action in response to the report or simply maintain the killing status quo. It seems like the manager’s position is clear. But 2014 is an election year in Long Beach and Stayin’ Alive Long Beach is hoping to capture the attention of voters by highlighting the positions of elected officials and challengers regarding reform at the city pound.

(Thanks Anne T. for alerting me to this story.)

Miami-Dade Pound in Shambles

Dog ID #1532160 at the Miami-Dade pound, as pictured on Petharbor,com.

Dog ID #1532160 at the Miami-Dade pound, as pictured on Petharbor,com.

The Miami-Dade pound killed roughly 40% of the pets in its care in 2012 according to a local news report.  The figure represents approximately 12,000 dead dogs and cats of the more than 31,000 taken in by the pound last year.  Miami-Dade kills animals every day of the week, 365 days a year.  Unborn puppies are commonly killed while still in the belly of the mama dog.  Owner surrenders are killed upon intake.  Pets are killed and bagged within view of live animals.  Some rescue groups have been banned.  Pound employee Kathleen Labrada blames overcrowding:

“Generally, the shelter population far exceeds the number of cages that we have,” said Kathleen Labrada.

Gee if only there was some proven way to effectively reduce intake while increasing live outcomes for animal shelters.

And she blames the public:

“With more than 30,000 animals coming into this shelter every year, we have more animals right now than we have homes. Until we get our community behind us and supporting the shelter and only adopting, I don’t see things getting better.”

Glad to see Miami-Dade is still waving that old-school “The Killings Will Continue Until Morale Improves” banner.  Because that’s worked out great so far.

Not surprisingly, shelter pet advocates have a different take on the killings at Miami-Dade:

“We don’t have a shelter, we have a killing facility,” said Ailyn Deno of Coastal Boxer Rescue.

[…]

“We literally have to fight with the shelter,” she said. “We have to beg them, ‘Please let me take this dog today because it needs help.'”

Deno says she has documented at least five animals her rescue promised to take that were killed before they were supposed to be, and before her group could get them out of the shelter.

This seems like a good time to underscore the point that if Miami-Dade would release pets to rescue groups willing to save them, it would reduce overcrowding in the shelter.  If anyone cares about a little thing like that.  I mean, I realize killing also frees up cage space but I just wanted to mention the possibility of live release, in case anyone at the pound might be interested.

When the reporter asked about the recent firing of a veterinarian who was reportedly sacked after oops-killing a cat with a rescue hold, Ms. Labrada laughed and denied there was any connection.  She did however concede that the pound had thrown rescuers one teeny tiny bone this year:

Animals used to be put down starting at 7 a.m. — too early for some last-minute hold requests to be processed. As of late January, cats and dogs are now put down starting at 11 a.m.

“That was in direct response to the complaints from rescue that the holds weren’t being processed,” Labrada said.

Miami-Dade must be so proud.  We gave our kill techs the morning off!  Now don’t ask for anything else or you’ll really be sorry.

The Miami-Dade County Commission will hold a final vote on Tuesday, June 4 on a shelter funding referendum which was passed overwhelmingly by citizens last November. The initiative will provide nearly $20 million in annual taxpayer funding for programs aimed at reducing shelter intake, such as low and no cost neuter, as well as programs aimed at increasing live release such as an expanded foster program.  The meeting is open to the public.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Major Reform Needed in Chatham County

The situation involving Savannah-Chatham County Animal Control and Friends of Animal Control Team Savannah (F.A.C.T.S.) – a non-profit rescue run by Diane Abolt, the wife of Chatham county manager Russ Abolt – is a good ol’ boys cesspool.  The pound has been in trouble with the state in the past for holding animals for Diane Abolt indefinitely while killing other pets for “space” as soon as their holds expire.  The state has also raised concerns about improper housing leading to the spread of disease at the pound.  Russ Abolt and his buddies in leadership positions in the county have stuck their heads so far in the sand over these issues,  only their asses were available for biting when inevitability came calling.

So it was that the Georgia Department of Agriculture issued a temporary shutdown order for the F.A.C.T.S. “shelter” – a.k.a. the Abolt’s unventilated garage at their house – after the state inspector found numerous violations consistent with Diane Abolt’s track record:

The inspection report reveals F.A.C.T.S. pulled four dogs from Savannah-Chatham County Animal Control on May 15 while that facility was under quarantine.

During the inspection, two of those dogs were at Abolt’s home, where they weren’t supposed to be.

One of the dogs was coughing while the inspector was there.  When the local paper called Diane Abolt for comment, she offered up some half-baked explanation for the coughing dog that even the best screenwriters in the porn industry would have to reject as implausible.  She also told the paper she “wasn’t really sure” how many dogs she had and mentioned the number 11 although the state seemed to think it was about 40.  The inspector noted that records were in disarray in some cases and non-existent in others.  The unventilated garage – er, shelter is shut down at least through May 31.

Just prior to this mess, Diane Abolt says she had put a hold on a dog named Barkley at the pound.  She failed to pick the dog up in the Time Allotted for Everyone But Diane Abolt under shelter policy.  So AC adopted him out to the next comer, Savannah-Chatham County AC Shelter supervisor Jodi Lewis, who took the dog home to her family.  The family had Barkley for a week when apparently Diane Abolt noticed the dog wasn’t at the pound anymore and ran to hubby who ran to the police chief.  Ms. Lewis was ordered by the police chief to give Barkley to Diane Abolt and her job was threatened.

faye dunaway as joan crawfordJodi Lewis parks her AC truck at the county line every day because the county will not allow the truck to be driven over the county line to the Lewis home.  But in order to take Barkley away from his new family, the county made an exception and allowed an ACO to drive the truck to the Lewis home to get the dog.  Barkley was getting a bath from the family’s 6 year old girl at the time.

Chatham Co manager Russ Abolt has described his wife Diane as “the Mother Teresa of dogs and cats”.  Swap out Mother Teresa for Mommie Dearest and perhaps he’s onto something there.

The Savannah Morning News obtained copies of Barkley’s records and ruh-roh:

An open records request produced no written indication that Abolt had put a hold on the dog.

Was Barkley in the unventilated garage with the 11 40 dogs at the time of the state inspection?  Is he still there?  Is he coughing now too?

This is a travesty of the highest order.  Not only is the county corruption impacting families and individual dogs, but the pound is still needlessly killing pets amidst all the playground politics.  Area advocates need to band together in order to give the community’s dogs and cats a voice.  Reform will obviously be a difficult challenge in the face of this kind of political corruption.  But what other choice is there?  There is strength in numbers.  I only hope the numbers are sufficient and the commitment to saving pets from these monsters is enough to sustain a long term push for reform.  The county is counting on the opposite.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Hart Co Considers First Animal Control Ordinance

Hart Co has never in its 160 years had a law on the books regarding homeless pets, even though GA law requires the county to have some sort of animal control in place.  This month, county commissioners plan to discuss enacting an AC ordinance.  But if you are excited at the prospect of Hart Co implementing a CAPA type law to protect the lives of the community’s dogs and cats, you need to reign in your hope-and-change horses right now.

These are the areas of concern for Hart Co:

  1. Zero tolerance for “the dumping of animals.”
  2. A simple method to determine which loose animals are strays.
  3. Hiring an ACO to pick up stray dogs and cats.

People who abandon their pets in Hart Co are quite possibly doing so because the county has no shelter.  Commissioners don’t plan to build one either which frankly, is just as well unless they are willing to commit to no kill.  By not providing a safe haven for stray and unwanted pets, Hart Co is driving people to less desirable alternatives.  The new ordinance won’t change this.

The county’s idea of determining which loose pets are strays is ridiculous:

[County administrator Jon] Caime said if approved by the county commission, the county will require all dog owners to put a collar with a nametag on each of their pets.

“You can get these (tags) at Wal-Mart and PetSmart,” Caime said. “It will have the owner’s name and phone number on it. That way, the sheriff can identify which animals belong to someone and which are strays. Then if he finds an dog that doesn’t have a proper nametag on it, it will be considered an abandoned or stray animal, and he can do something legally in that regard.”

*shudder*

But what if your cat or dog loses his collar?  What if you can’t afford a collar and personalized nametag (or replacements) for your pets?  What if your cat or dog is unable to wear a collar and nametag for medical reasons (such as a neck injury) or safety concerns?

And Hart County’s plan for hiring an ACO is just as dumb:

In terms of an animal control officer, the county likely will hire a part-time person who will work only when the Northeast Georgia Animal Shelter in Lavonia is open, so animals can be taken directly there, Caime said.

Problem not solved.  Hart Co will only offer services when the Northeast GA facility is open which is from 11am to 4 pm, Tuesday – Saturday.  And that place kills animals so again, no safe haven for people who have pets needing to be rehomed or who find strays or who want to help a lost, stray, feral or injured dog or cat.

As far as I can tell, Hart County’s plan will simply route additional pets, stray and owned, to a place that states on it website that it kills dogs and cats deemed sick, injured, feral or wild.  It will do precious little to discourage people from abandoning pets in need in the county.

I would ask the commissioners this:  Have you ever considered that the reason people are abandoning dogs and cats in Hart Co is because there is no pet killing facility there?  Most people don’t want to see homeless pets killed.  They want to see them truly sheltered until they can be adopted, fostered or rescued.  The answer to Hart County’s stray animal issue may be the building of a no kill shelter and the legal protections to support it, in the form of a CAPA type law.  Just a suggestion.

But if we look at Hart County’s track record on dealing with the issue of animal control, it looks like the end result of all the talk is typically nada:

“Every time this subject has been brought up over the past eight years, they get overwhelmed with all the different components,” Caime said about the county commission response to the topic of stray animals. “It just seems to them that there’s too much to be done, so they just table it.”

Doing your job.  It’s just too hard.

Why We Need Shelter Reform: Reason #44

This search term, which appeared in my WordPress stats this morning, says it all:

where can i take a stray dog and not have it put down

Directors, staff and apologists for pet killing facilities often blame the public for the killing, claiming you and I are guilty of myriad transgressions which “force” them to kill dogs and cats.  The truth:  The so-called irresponsible public does not want pets killed in “shelters”.  We want shelter directors and staff to do their jobs and provide true shelter to pets in need until they are reclaimed, rehomed, rescued or fostered.  We want no kill.