Empty Suits Running Animal Shelter in Cumberland Co

The people running the animal shelter in Cumberland County, NC need to get their heads on straight.  First off they recently had a problem with distemper.  And by “problem” I mean dogs suffered and died needlessly without veterinary care for months.  Although they shelter 14,000 pets every year, they have no Vet on staff or even one who drops by on occasion.

To be clear, the place is called an animal shelter.  It’s supposed to shelter animals.  That’s what taxpayers are paying for.  Of course nothing complements failing to do one’s job like a witty retort from your elected official:

County Commissioner Marshall Faircloth said the department’s priority is public safety, not animal welfare.

“With all due respect to animal lovers,” Faircloth said, “the animal shelter is not Club Med for animals. It is not an adoption agency, per se. It exists for the protection of the human public.”

Well since your shelter is killing 13,000 of the 14,000 pets you take in every year and letting the survivors suffer with distemper and who knows what else (no really, who knows, since there is no Vet around), I’d say you don’t have to worry about anyone thinking it’s “Club Med for animals”.  (By the way, who is protecting the human public from your smug superiority?)

The county asked two professors from the vet school at NC State for recommendations on how to prevent another distemper outbreak at the shelter.  The professors advised that (can you guess?) vaccinating all incoming pets would be the best preventive.  But of course the Animal Services Board thought that was just ridiculous:

Most of the animals coming into the shelter have to be put to sleep and inoculating them against disease would be a waste of money, according to [chairman of the board and veterinarian John] Lauby.

“To vaccinate 14,000 animals and then euthanize 13,000 of them,” said Lauby, citing annual statistics, “that’s not a prudent use of taxpayer dollars. At least, I don’t think so.”

Right.  I guess that would make sense if the sign on the place said Pet Slaughterhouse.  But since it says “animal shelter”, I can’t help wondering if the county couldn’t do that sheltering animals thing instead of killing 93% of the pets that end up there.  I get that it’s “not an adoption agency” but you know, maybe it could be?  I mean, has that thought ever crossed anyone’s mind?  Has any effort been made to do anything besides kill 13,000 pets every year?  It doesn’t have to be Club Med but I don’t see any reason it has to be Club Dead either.

Montclair, NJ Community Wants to Improve Shelter

The animal shelter in Montclair, NJ reportedly has a kill rate of approximately 11%.  That’s a pretty good save rate when compared to the national average.  Apparently some local pet advocates have complaints about how the shelter operates and are asking the shelter, which was taken over by the municipality last year, to become a no kill facility:

Montclair’s municipal government is denying accusations from local animal rights activists that there is a “crisis situation” at the Montclair Animal Shelter resulting in a high euthanasia rate for sheltered animals.

[…]

Sue Portuese, the municipality’s health director, said municipal officials and shelter employees are working to correct some of the problems raised by critics. The shelter, open two hours every weekday, has increased its hours to include one evening per week, as well as weekends, Portuese said.

In addition, the shelter is planning several off-site events to promote the facility and attract possible pet owners, she added.

Those sound like good improvements.  Frankly, if they are saving 89% of their pets by being open only 2 hours a day and without offsite adoption events, I’m very impressed.  But while the shelter seems to be on the right track, there’s nothing wrong with members of the community advocating for no kill.  After all, becoming no kill is a community effort and if that’s what the public wants, I think we should encourage them, not discourage them:

In an economic environment where teachers and police officers face layoffs, it is challenging for an animal shelter to obtain the amount of money it needs to run a shelter properly, according to John Snyder, a vice president of The Humane Society of the United States.

“And if [Montclair] had not been in this business and they just walked in, they might be in a learning mode,” Snyder told The Times.

Municipalities and other governmental agencies can’t “just warehouse animals” in shelters, he said. Running a shelter requires community involvement, a good foster network, behavioral training, and myriad resources, Snyder said.

“You can’t flip a switch and say you don’t want to euthanize animals anymore,” he said.

OK thanks Debbie Downer.  I started out feeling positive and encouraged about this shelter.  Now I’m all glass-half-empty.

Montclair is already saving most of its community’s pets – it’s not like it’s a giant leap to becoming no kill.  There is no need for HSUS to sound the old warehousing (pdf) alarm.  Montclair is already doing a good job.  They would probably appreciate some encouragement.  And maybe some cash, if you can spare it.  Oh that’s right – you totally can.

Take a Check, Mr. Vick?

When I was a teenager, I sometimes liked to get autographs from bands after the show.  I don’t know where any of those signed ticket stubs and sharpied napkins are now but it seemed important at the time.  I never got a professional athlete’s autograph so maybe that’s why it surprised me to read that Michael Vick will be selling his signature at a VA bookstore this weekend.  At $30 a pop, I assume Vick will make a hefty profit off this – even if he writes reeeeeally slooooowly.

The manager of the bookstore “said the current Philadelphia Eagle will be donating ‘a portion of the proceeds’ to a local charity”, adding that he hopes that local charity will be an animal shelter.

So how much would you be willing to pay for Michael Vick’s autograph, knowing that a portion of your money might be going to a local animal shelter?  I’d rather spend my time and money at the local animal shelter directly, so I know for sure what’s happening with my cash.  Plus the pets at my local shelter let me walk right up and fawn all over them anytime I like – for free.

Two Articles, Two Quotes

Two articles on shelter killing take very different approaches.  Which team sounds like it’s delivering a message of hope and leaves you feeling inspired and motivated to help your community?:

Team Adopt a Shelter Pet:

According to the No Kill Equation, “Adoptions are vital to an agency’s lifesaving mission. The quantity and quality of shelter adoptions is in shelter management’s hands, making lifesaving a direct function of shelter policies and practice. In fact, studies show people get their animals from shelters only 20% of the time.  If shelters better promoted their animals and had adoption programs responsive to the needs of the community, including public access hours for working people, offsite adoptions, adoption incentives, and effective marketing, they could increase the number of homes available and replace killing with adoptions. Contrary to conventional wisdom, shelters can adopt their way out of killing.”  Let’s repeat that last sentence because it represents a phenomenal discovery, but it is also the opposite of everything that we have been taught. “Shelters can adopt their way out of killing.”

Team Frowny-Face:

All the adoption promotions in the world will never solve the problem, said Virginia Keller, president of the Spay Neuter Action Coalition of Georgia.

“These people just don’t get it,” she said. “There will never be enough homes for all the animals that are produced at today’s rate. Never. The answer to this problem is strictly spay and neuter.”

[…]

“They think animal control is an adoption center,” Keller said. “No way. I don’t know how you get this idea across to people, unless they want to come and watch it happen.”

If you are killing thousands of healthy/treatable shelter pets a year and your animal control is “no way” an adoption center – umm, maybe it should be.

“Death into the World, and all our woe”

Here is a breakdown of the info contained in this sad story:

  • In July 2009, the owner of a dog called “Angel” in Carson, CA received a citation for failing to feed her dog.
  • A follow-up visit was conducted a week later.  The AC officer advised the owner to take Angel to the Vet.  No follow-up was done.
  • Phone records show that the owner “had made telephone calls in an effort to get medical attention for Angel” – no further details reported.
  • The owner then called AC for help but no one responded for 3 days.  When AC did show up, the owner asked them to take the dog to the shelter because she didn’t want her 9 year old to find Angel dead.
  • AC took Angel to the Carson Animal Shelter and left her to languish in a cage for 10 days without treatment.
  • A rescue group got the dog out at that point and took her to a Vet for care.  Angel was so emaciated, neither her age nor her breed could be determined.  She died a few weeks later.
  • The owner was charged with felony animal cruelty but prosecutors decided to drop the charge in light of the circumstances of the case.

It is presumed the owner could not afford veterinary care and that’s why she was reaching out for assistance.  I can’t help but wonder if someone, anyone involved with Angel prior to the rescue would have stepped up, followed up or done something besides let the dog deteriorate and suffer for all that time, maybe Angel’s life could have been saved.  Even if her medical problems were too overwhelming by the time the call for help went out, at least she could have been made comfortable in her final days.  And if there was no way to bring her comfort, she could have been euthanized to relieve her of her suffering.  All opportunities lost.  We are now a world with one less Angel.

*Title quote from Milton’s “Paradise Lost

Pamper Your Pet with a Luxurious Visit to the Gas Chamber

The Idaho Falls Animal Shelter’s gas chamber broke down beyond repair and they couldn’t come up with the $30,000 to buy a new one.  So the shelter is now killing pets by lethal injection.  Irene Brown is the shelter manager and while she recognizes that many pet advocates oppose the use of the gas chamber, she maintains that death by gas chamber is just as humane as death by lethal injection:

She said that although the animals do “vocalize” sometimes, it’s mainly because they feel tingly as they fall unconscious.

Ooh, they feel all tingly as they pleasantly drift off… sounds delightful – like a spa treatment!

“They don’t know what’s happening to them, so they vocalize. It’s not because they’re in pain,” she said.

She doesn’t share how she knows this (perhaps she’s an animal communicator who has talked with the spirits of pets she’s killed in the gas chamber?) but I would contend that an animal vocalizing because “they don’t know what’s happening to them” is an animal in a state of panic and fear.  Not exactly “humane” to my mind.

The entire process of gassing animals takes about 20 minutes, compared with just seconds using a lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital.

20 minutes.  I know the animals are not conscious for that entire time but I don’t know with any certainty how long it takes the average pet to reach a state of oblivion in the gas chamber.  And however long that takes, with the pet in a state of panic, choking on carbon monoxide and crying out – it’s too long.

Then of course you have pets who fall outside the “average” gas chamber victims:

Over two years ago a litter of kittens was brought into the Chubbuck Animal Control Facility in eastern Idaho.

The decision was made to euthanize the kittens, which were deemed too diseased and sick with distemper to be adopted out. The litter was dispatched in the shelter’s gas chamber – but there was a survivor.

“One kitten had crawled underneath the others,” said Officer Tim Hancock, director of animal control for the Chubbuck Police Department.

“He’s our shelter cat, Lucky,” said Hancock, explaining that a co-worker took the black-and-white tuxedo kitten home and nursed him to health.

“We figured if he made it, then there’s a reason he made it.”

Too sick to be sheltered but too vital to die in the gas chamber – does this make sense?