Help Me Prevent Dogs & Cats From Ending Up in Research Labs

April 15, 2014 by  

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As I posted here and here, Jennifer Fearing, a lobbyist for HSUS, is proposing a bill which threatens to take cats from their families and give them to for-profit companies, including potentially, companies who sell animals to research labs. If passed, AB 2343 (the Fearing Bill) would allow (and in some cases require) shelters to give dogs and cats to for-profit companies to sell for any reason whatsoever. In the case of cats entering shelters without ID, shelters can adopt them out or give them to individuals who sell them the very moment the cat enters a shelter, the very day that animal becomes lost, and before a family even has the opportunity to recognize that their cat it missing.

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How does it do this? Sec. 31752(b)(1)(B) of the proposed bill says that stray cats without identification can be adopted or transferred to a “rescue group” immediately. Subsection (g) then changes the definition of a “rescue group” to be for-profit or nonprofit. It can be a 501(c)(3) or an “entity” or a collaboration of individuals who sell dogs and cats. There is no requirement that the sale be for purposes of companionship. There are no standards of any kind for these for-profit individuals. What might they sell animals for? According to one legal analysis, since state law preempts local laws, the Fearing Bill would potentially undo local laws that prevent shelter animals from being sold to research labs, thus allowing “bunchers” to do so.

Fearing and her enablers at HSUS claim California law already allows this, but this is just profound ignorance. What Jennifer Fearing did was take a definition from the Vincent bill passed in 1998 to ensure animals were neutered before placement and placed it into her bill which addresses the right of rescue groups to animals in shelters. The purpose of the definition was to make sure all animals were sterilized before they were placed by anyone if those animals came from shelters. It was not part of the Hayden bill passed the same year for purposes of giving animals from shelters to non-profit rescue groups. Fearing is now proposing that the spay/neuter definition be applied to the “rescue” provision which would mean, for the first time ever, anyone who calls themselves an “entity” or two or more people who sell dogs and cats “for profit” (and for any reason whatsoever) will be given the right to take animals out of shelters. Currently, that specific law empowers only non-profit animal adoption or rescue groups. As any lawyer can tell you, you cannot take a definition from one law and place it in another law without consequences.

As I write in my letter on behalf of the No Kill Advocacy Center and as explained in the analysis by the UCLA law professor, as it is now written, California law mandates the transfer of animals on death row at shelters only after the holding period (given families an opportunity to reclaim their animal companions) and only to non-profit organizations recognized under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). These organizations must have a mission of prevention of cruelty to animals and be adopting animals for purposes of adoption. Such requirements serve important policy considerations. For one, the requirement that they have a mission of animal protection and adoption speaks for itself. Without such a provision, animals could be sold to others for potentially harmful purposes. Second, the IRS requirement provides oversight by promoting professionalism. For example, they must register with the federal government, and with several state agencies, including the Department of State and Attorney General, as well as requiring that they have an independent Board of Directors. Moreover, experience in California has shown that it results in more individual rescuers incorporating and in fact, statewide surveys in two states found that virtually all rescuers who want to save animals from shelters but are not 501(c)(3) organizations would become so if a similar law were enacted, effectively increasing the professionalism, capacity, and oversight of rescue organizations. This is good for those organizations and it is good for animals.

Yet, under the Fearing Bill, the following would also be considered “rescue groups” for purposes of this law and thus have a mandatory right of access: any individual calling himself an “entity” or two or more individuals, whose purpose includes “the sale or placement of any dog/cat.” Under the express terms of the language, they could be non-profit or for-profit. There is no requirement that the individuals be licensed, have any sort of corporate status, or have standards of any kind. As written, they do not even have to sell animals to be companions, but can be in the business of selling dogs or cats for any purpose whatsoever. If passed, for the first time, companies which sell animals for any purpose would have rights to animals in California shelters. Moreover, it would give them more rights to cats than the families of those cats. That is not only dead wrong, it is pernicious.

While I consider many provisions of the Fearing Bill to be potentially disastrous, that is to say, there are many harmful aspects of the law above and beyond the changes to rescue access that is now the focus of so much attention, and while I believe that these other changes were entirely deliberate, I do not believe that the rescue access change was. I believe it was a giant, unintended blunder by Fearing because she’s in over her head, ignorant of basic legal principals, ignorant of California’s shelter laws, has never worked in a shelter, and is not an attorney. Nonetheless, the blunder is one she now simply refuses to correct because to do so would be to admit to a mistake so potentially mortifying that she would rather continue to argue that her language doesn’t do exactly what it does in order for her to save face. In other words, she values her own reputation more than the lives and well being of animals. She’d rather keep a dangerous law in the California legislative hopper than face the consequences resulting from her own incompetence. But even if this aspect of the Fearing Bill is amended, it should still be opposed. The Fearing Bill places holding periods at risks and is unfair to families who deeply love their cats. Coupled with the fact that California’s stray holding period is already among the lowest in the nation, breaking up families by having them lose all rights in their animal with no reclaim period of any kind is draconian. The Fearing Bill loses sight of what, in fact, is one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them.

That this must be pointed out to groups like HSUS which have grown astronomically wealthy trumpeting the value of the “human-animal bond” adds another layer of absurdity to the already bewildering necessity of this discussion, one based on their astounding assertion that the citizens of California should immediately lose claims to their animals—often cherished family members—should they ever accidentally end up at a shelter they fund in part expressly for such purpose.

To read the analysis by a UCLA law professor, click here.

To read the No Kill Advocacy Center letter, click here.

Call to action: Please email the following legislators and implore them to reject AB 2343 (cut and paste the following to your “to” line of your email and ask for a “No” vote):

Assemblymember.Achadjian@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Levine@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Alejo@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Bradford@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Gordon@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Melendez@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Mullin@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Rendon@assembly.ca.gov; Assemblymember.Waldron@assembly.ca.gov

Here is sample language you can use (please feel free to cut and paste to your email):

I am writing to urge you to vote No on AB 2343. AB 2343 loses sight of what is, in fact, one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them. Since their taxes pay for these services, families with cats deserve the same amount of time as families who share their homes with dogs to reclaim their companions. At the same time that the bill immediately divests a family of their cat, it allows shelters to immediately give these cats to others who could then sell them for a profit and sell them for any reason whatsoever, not just for purposes of companionship. This will put animals in harm’s way. Thank you.

As wrong as it is to talk of cats as “property,” given their current legal status as such and without the benefits that would come with having other legally guaranteed rights at this time in history, in this limited circumstance, their legal status as property confers a protection where no others currently exist: the express intent of the proposal being put forth is to divest a person of his “title” without any reasonable proceeding for that purpose and would manifestly be a taking of property without due process of law. Under the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and of Section 1, Article 1, such taking would not be within the power of the state or municipality, and the statute purporting to provide therefore would be void. Currently, approximately 7,818 families a year reclaim their cats from California shelters. Consider that unless those cats have identification, the Fearing Bill would potentially divest that number of Californians from their “property” without due process of law. Given that these animals are often beloved family members, it is naïve to assume that none of those people will step forward to challenge the constitutionality of that law. In fact, it is fair to assume that many of them are likely to do so. To help them, the No Kill Advocacy Center will file a lawsuit against any shelter, any municipality, and any receiving organization which illegal takes a family’s beloved companion to give to others.

The Humane Society of the United States.AB2343_0001

Please note: You may have received an alert from Wayne Pacelle of HSUS asking you to support the bill. He either sent that alert without reading the bill or he is more uncaring than any of us could have imagined, which is saying a lot given his many misdeeds and his embrace of the most notorious dog abuser of our generation. For more information about Pacelle’s alert, click here.

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

AB 2343 Seeks to Eviscerate Protections for Dogs/Cats in CA Shelters

April 13, 2014 by  

dog

April 12, 2014

The Hon. Katcho Achadjian, Chair, and
Members of the Local Government Committee
Assembly Local Government Committee
1020 N Street, Room 157
Sacramento, California 95814

Re: AB 2343

Dear Chairman Achadjian and Members of the Local Government Committee,

We are writing in opposition to AB 2343 as it now stands and believe it should be amended. First, it proposes that stray cats with no identification at the time the cat enters a shelter—either because the collar was taken off, fell off, a microchip scan failed to find a match or the animal never had one—be adopted out or transferred to “rescue groups” and others immediately, with no right of redemption by the cat’s human family. This is unfair to families who deeply love their cats. Coupled with the fact that California’s stray holding period is already among the lowest in the nation, breaking up families by having them lose all rights in their animal with no reclaim period of any kind is draconian. AB 2343 loses sight of what, in fact, is one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them. Since their taxes pay for these services, families with cats deserve the same amount of time as families who share their homes with dogs to reclaim their companions. Second, at the same time that the bill immediately divests a family of their cat, it allows shelters to immediately give these cats to others who could then sell them for a profit and sell them for any reason whatsoever, not just for purposes of companionship. This will put animals in harm’s way. As a former deputy district attorney, animal control officer, and animal shelter director, I speak out of experience. I also speak out of experience with these particular provisions of the law.

In 1998 and subsequent years, as an attorney for what was the state’s most successful shelter, my organization worked with Senator Hayden to pass and protect the 1998 Animal Shelter Law—the law AB 2343 seeks to weaken, even though it has since come to be regarded as one of the most vital laws protecting homeless dogs and cats in our state’s shelters.

Among other things, the purpose of the 1998 law was two-fold. One of those was to empower the California animal rescue community to save the lives of animals on death row in our state’s shelters. It was an attempt to eliminate the discretion which allowed shelter directors to kill animals other non-profit groups had requested to save, a problem that proved to be epidemic statewide.

Second, it sought to protect people from heartache; the heartache that comes from having beloved animal companions killed or given to others because California, the country’s wealthiest and arguably most progressive state, had a holding period—a paltry 72 hours—that was the second lowest in the entire country. In fact, by increasing it to four days, California retained the second lowest holding period in the nation. But at 72 hours, by the time people were able to miss work and get to the shelter, their animals were often already dead.

Though the bill was enacted into law with overwhelming bipartisan support, it faced fierce opposition by regressive shelters in the state and their mouthpiece, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which is also spearheading AB 2343. Among other things, they argued that these changes would lead to overcrowding and would put animals in the hands of dog fighters and hoarders, a claim that 14 years of experience proved a lie. Wisely, the legislature and governor then, as should occur now, did not listen to HSUS. The rescue rights provision alone, which makes it illegal for shelters to kill animals when non-profit rescue organizations are willing to save the animals, has led to the direct saving of over 46,000 animals a year. The number of animals transferred to rescue groups rather than killed went from 12,526 to 58,939—a lifesaving increase of over 370%, animals who would have been killed had the Legislature listened to HSUS.

One of the reasons their fear mongering failed to materialize is because two vital protections for animals were written into the law, provisions that AB 2343 now seeks to strip away. As it is now written, California law mandates the transfer of animals on death row at shelters only after the holding period (given families an opportunity to reclaim their animal companions) and only to non-profit organizations recognized under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). These organizations must have a mission of prevention of cruelty to animals and be adopting animals for purposes of adoption. Such requirements serve important policy considerations. For one, the requirement that they have a mission of animal protection and adoption speaks for itself. Without such a provision, animals could be sold to others for potentially harmful purposes.

Second, the IRS requirement provides oversight by promoting professionalism. For example, they must register with the federal government, and with several state agencies, including the Department of State and Attorney General, as well as requiring that they have an independent Board of Directors. Moreover, experience in California has shown that it results in more individual rescuers incorporating and in fact, statewide surveys in two states found that virtually all rescuers who want to save animals from shelters but are not 501(c)(3) organizations would become so if a similar law were enacted, effectively increasing the professionalism, capacity, and oversight of rescue organizations. This is good for those organizations and it is good for animals.

Yet, under AB 2343, the following would also be considered “rescue groups” for purposes of this law and thus have a mandatory right of access: any individual calling himself an “entity” or two or more individuals, whose purpose includes “the sale or placement of any dog/cat.” Under the express terms of the language, they could be non-profit or for-profit. There is no requirement that the individuals be licensed, have any sort of corporate status, or have standards of any kind. As written, they do not even have to sell animals to be companions, but can be in the business of selling dogs or cats for any purpose whatsoever.

At the No Kill Advocacy Center, we believe that the life of an animal is paramount and when facing a guaranteed death, every effort should be extended to give animals an alternative. But AB 2343 would make an unjustified and potentially disastrous leap which has not proved necessary in those communities across the state and country that have already ended the killing of healthy and treatable animals. To save more animals, we do not need to eliminate existing protections that also safeguard their welfare. Moreover, modifying the provisions of an already proven, effective law that does not require a “fix” to the point that it can potentially undermine, rather than further, the laws’ singular purpose—to protect animals from harm—may needlessly place the larger law itself in jeopardy.

As an attorney involved in the original law who has since worked to pass similar provisions in other states through The No Kill Advocacy Center, I am deeply disturbed by the dangerous precedent introduced with AB 2343, a move that seeks to “fix” a law that is not broken by weakening the protections that it currently affords to our state’s homeless animals. With no analogous licensure requirement or even a requirement that those claiming animals be in the business of selling animals as companions, this law has the potential to lead to tragic outcomes that would not have occurred if the law was kept intact. This not only harms animals, but any disasters resulting from HSUS’ proposed change will no doubt be erroneously misinterpreted as resulting from the law in general, and not the addition of the dangerous provision HSUS is now proposing. This, in turn, may result in the possibility that the Legislature may curtail all rescue access in California, access that now saves the lives of tens of thousands of animals every year by non-profit SPCAs and other adoption organizations. It would certainly kill any hope for responsible rescue access in other states, causing long term damage to the effort to save more lives by empowering non-profit rescue organizations.

Second, at the same time that it empowers people who can sell animals for any purpose, it thoroughly divests families of any rights to their cats if the cat enters the shelter without identification even though the public funds this service and has a right to expect it. This proposal not only undermines the relationship people have with their animal companions and causes them emotional suffering, but it is also illegal. As wrong as it is to talk of cats as “property,” given their current legal status as such and without the benefits that would come with having other legally guaranteed rights at this time in history, in this limited circumstance, their legal status as property confers a protection where no others currently exist: the express intent of the proposal being put forth is to divest a person of his “title” without any reasonable proceeding for that purpose and would manifestly be a taking of property without due process of law. Under the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and of Section 1, Article 1, such taking would not be within the power of the state or municipality, and the statute purporting to provide therefore would be void. Currently, approximately 7,818 families a year reclaim their cats from California shelters. Consider that unless those cats have identification, HSUS’ proposal would potentially divest that number of Californians from their “property” without due process of law. Given that these animals are often beloved family members, it is naïve to assume that none of those people will step forward to challenge the constitutionality of that law. In fact, it is fair to assume that many of them are likely to do so. (Even if they don’t, our legislators should not be in the business of seeking unconstitutional laws.)

Despite its unconstitutional overreach and ethical concerns, HSUS is no doubt arguing that most cats are not reclaimed and so it will affect few families. But this is dishonest, with 7,818 families annually proving otherwise. It is also based on a flawed understanding of why more cats are not reclaimed. It is not because the cat lacks a family, but because shelters kill them too quickly before their families can find them. In California, the existing holding period is already far from generous: a paltry 72 hours before animals can be killed. Only one state has a holding period lower than California. The answer here is to increase the holding period, not shorten it. Second, there are many reasons why cats end up at shelters as strays, but a number of them are not even lost. Frequently, they are taken to the shelter by neighbors or others who assume they are lost when they are not. Once again, these cats are killed because of the inadequate holding period. Third, low return rates for cats are also caused by misguided lost and found techniques on the part of an uninformed family, because shelter staff are often ignorant of proper techniques to search for lost cats and thus fail to educate families in a manner that will lead to fewer impounds and greater reclaims, because some cats do not enter shelters for several weeks after a family has already stopped looking (fearing the worst), and also because of the failure of shelters to match lost reports with the found cats entering their facilities. The answer to the various reasons as to why more cats are not reclaimed by their families is not to strip families of their rights by eliminating a reclaim period altogether, but by regulating shelters and mandating training so they do a better job. In fact, shelters which do a better job at these things vastly increase their reclaim rates for cats: 22% across all shelters in Colorado (about the same as the dog reclaim rate nationally), and even higher in other North American communities. HSUS’ proposal not only counters compelling evidence which disproves the perceived “need” for it, but would in fact exacerbate, rather than fix, the causes of the currently low reclaim rates of cats in California shelters.

In other words, the fault for low reclaim rates for cats lies with the shelter and HSUS is using the poor performance of those shelters as a reason to undermine protections that people in California have a right to expect of their tax-funded institutions. Finally, regardless of the numbers, that not allowing people any time to reclaim their cats is an obvious threat to the deep and meaningful relationship between people and their cats must be pointed out to HSUS which has grown astronomically wealthy trumpeting the value of the “human-animal bond” adds another layer of absurdity to the already bewildering necessity of this discussion, one based on HSUS’ astounding assertion that the citizens of California should immediately lose claims to their animals—often cherished family members—should they ever accidentally end up at a shelter they fund in part expressly for such purpose.

Finally, AB 2343 is dishonest in its scope and impact. We agree that shelters should be holding animals for longer than 72 hours. And but for a Commission on State Mandates ruling, which HSUS urged, and the Governor’s refusal to fund animal welfare, they would be. But while AB 2343 claims to incentivize the lengthening of holding periods for dogs and cats by eliminating a mandate claim, it will only do so for one year. The legislation promises a one-time budget allocation of $10,000,000 to be shared among all cities and counties which agree to do so. If the Governor or Legislature fails to fund it in the future, and given the history of reimbursement such a scenario is likely, the holding periods will no longer be enforceable, meaning they will either revert to 72 hours or, worse, not exist all, while the harmful aspects of the law will remain on the books, meaning shelters will continue to take cats from the families who love them and give them to those who sell them for undisclosed purposes at a profit, even after other animals lose the benefit of a longer holding period.

As such, AB 2343 does not seek to strengthen or even protect the 1998 Animal Shelter Law; in respect to and as it relates to cats without identification, rescue rights, animal welfare, and holding periods, it seeks to weaken it, not surprising given HSUS’ opposition to it then and HSUS lobbyist Jennifer Fearing’s blind defense of Governor Brown’s failed attempt to repeal it in 2012. Fearing, who has never run a shelter, incredulously told the Sacramento Bee that the law was no longer needed, while using HSUS political muscle to defeat progressive shelter reform laws like it in other states throughout the nation. When it comes to the two dangerous provisions proposed in AB 2343, HSUS is, as it was in 1998 and 2012, on the wrong side of history, the animals, and the people who love them.

Very truly yours,

Nathan J. Winograd

Jennifer Fearing, HSUS Lobbyist: ‘Take cats from the families who love them and give them to those who sell them for undisclosed purposes at a profit.’

April 11, 2014 by  

lauraFanny43

“As used in this section, an ‘animal rescue or adoption organization’ is a for-profit or nonprofit, as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, entity, or a collaboration of individuals with at least one of its purposes being the sale or placement of any dog/cat that has been removed from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, or humane society shelter, or that has been previously owned by any person other than the original breeder of that dog/cat.”

Two weeks ago, I warned about a possible attempt by Jennifer Fearing, HSUS’ California lobbyist, to seek legislation eliminating the right of families to reclaim their cat. You can read that article by clicking here. I was right. But it gets worse: AB 2343, as amended yesterday, will not only tear families apart, it will allow for the transfer of California’s shelter dogs and cats to individuals who want to sell them for undisclosed purposes. Yes, sell them.

If HSUS succeeds, stray cats who enter California shelters with no identification either because the collar was taken off, fell off, a microchip scan failed to find a match or the animal never had one, could be adopted out or transferred to individuals and companies that sell them for profit, with no right of redemption by the cat’s human family and no requirement that the individuals disclose what they plan to sell those animals for. If you live in California and HSUS has its way, your lost cat could not only be immediately given to others on the very day he or she becomes lost, but she or he may be given to people who sell them to others for unknown, even potentially harmful, purposes.

As I argued in the other article, this is unfair to families who deeply love their cats. Accidents happen; animals get lost and end up at shelters, yet HSUS proposes breaking up families by having them lose all rights in their animal with no reclaim period of any kind. In suggesting this disturbing proposal, HSUS has lost sight of what, in fact, is one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them.

But AB 2343 is worse than I could have envisioned. Not only does Fearing want to take your cat from you, she proposes to allow shelters to immediately give these cats to others who could then sell them for any reason whatsoever. In addition, she proposes that if shelters do hold the cats for a holding period but then decide to kill them, those individuals would then have a legal right to take those cats, and dogs, and sell them for any purpose.

Currently, California law makes it illegal for tax-funded and other shelters to kill animals after the holding period (and thus after their families have had an opportunity to reclaim them) when qualified non-profit shelters and rescue groups are willing to save them. The law has been an unqualified success. The number of animals transferred to rescue groups rather than killed went from 12,526 to 58,939—a lifesaving increase of over 370%. (Not surprisingly, HSUS opposed the law.) As it is now written, California law mandates the transfer of animals on death row at shelters only to non-profit organization recognized under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). These organizations must have a mission of prevention of cruelty to animals and be adopting animals for purposes of adoption. Such requirements serve important policy considerations. For one, the requirement that they have a mission of animal protection and adoption speaks for itself. Second, the IRS requirement provides oversight. For example, they must register with the federal government, and with several state agencies, including the Department of State and Attorney General, providing a number of checks and balances. It also requires that they have an independent Board of Directors. Moreover, experience in California has shown that it results in more individual rescuers incorporating and in fact, statewide surveys in two states found that virtually all rescuers who want to save animals from shelters but were not 501(c)(3) organizations, would become so if a similar law passes, effectively increasing the professionalism, capacity, and oversight of rescue organizations. This is good for those organizations and it is good for animals.

Jennifer Fearing now proposes to eliminate these safeguards. Under AB 2343, the following would also be considered “rescue groups” for purposes of this law and thus have a mandatory right of access: any individual calling himself an “entity” or two or more individuals, whose purpose includes “the sale or placement of any dog/cat.” Under the express terms of Fearing’s language, they could be non-profit or for-profit. There is no requirement that the individuals be licensed, have any sort of corporate status, or have standards of any kind. As written, they do not even have to sell animals to be companions, but can be in the business of selling dogs or cats for any purpose whatsoever.

Just one month ago, HSUS helped kill a provision in a Minnesota bill which would have empowered non-profit shelters, like SPCAs and humane societies, as well as non-profit rescue groups in that state to save animals who shelters were intent on killing. The bill required that these groups have a mission of animal protection and adoption. It required them to be an incorporated non-profit organization. It excluded groups if “any of the organization’s current directors, officers, staff, or volunteers have been convicted in a court of competent jurisdiction of a crime consisting of cruelty to animals or neglect of animals; or if such charges are pending; or if that organization is constrained by a court order that prevents the organization from taking in or keeping animals.” And it required those groups report “the total number of animals the organization has taken from the agency who have been adopted, died, were transferred, were killed, and are still under the organization’s care.” HSUS joined shelters in opposing this law by claiming that this law would put animals in the hands of dog fighters and hoarders. Similarly, HSUS either failed to support or helped kill bills in other states that went even further by including inspection by the shelter if there was probable cause to believe neglect or cruelty. In one of those states, over 100,000 animals have been killed as a result. Yet, HSUS is now willing to give animals to anyone who sells them at a profit in California, while taking those cats from the families who love them. Why? For one reason and one reason only: They will do whatever shelters ask them to do.

In fact, an HSUS official admitted to me that HSUS would never take a position in opposition to what the law’s leading opponent in Minnesota, the Animal Humane Society, a kill shelter, wanted, because of their relationship, admitting that HSUS is a lobbying organization for shelters, rather than the animals those shelters kill. As such, moral consistency, logical consistency, the best interests of animals, what facts or experience have demonstrated to maximize lifesaving and animal welfare are simply of no consequence to HSUS and its lobbyist, Jennifer Fearing. Instead, HSUS operates by a simple maxim, uncomplicated by matters relating to its professed mission of promoting animal welfare: whatever shelters want, shelters get. Not only does the Minnesota debacle prove this, so does AB 2343 in California, a law which directly counters every assertion made by HSUS in their opposition to rescue rights bills in other states. In Minnesota, they joined forces with AHS which opposed the law by disparaging the motives of rescue groups. In California, HSUS has swung the pendulum in entirely the opposite direction, arguing that anyone, for any purpose, should be allowed to claim and even sell California’s lost and abandoned dogs and cats, even for purposes other than companionship.

Of course, I believe that the life of an animal is paramount and when facing a guaranteed death, every effort should be extended to give animals an alternative. But Fearing and HSUS ask us to make an unjustified and potentially disastrous leap which has not proved necessary in those communities across the state and country that have already ended the killing of healthy and treatable animals. To save more lives, we do not need to eliminate existing protections that also safeguard their welfare. Moreover, modifying the provisions of an already proven, effective law that does not require a “fix” to the point that it can potentially undermine, rather than further, the laws’ singular purpose—to protect animals from harm—may needlessly place the larger law itself in jeopardy.

With no analogous licensure requirement or even a requirement that those claiming animals be in the business of selling animals as companions, this law has the potential to lead to tragic outcomes that would not have occurred if the law was kept intact, at the same time it eliminates rights for the families who dearly love their cats. This not only harms those animals and causes pain for people, any disasters resulting from HSUS’ proposed change will no doubt be erroneously misinterpreted as resulting from the law in general, and not the addition of the dangerous provision HSUS is now proposing, resulting in the possibility that the legislature may curtail all rescue access in California, access that now saves the lives of tens of thousands of animals every year by non-profit SPCAs and other adoption organizations. It would certainly kill any hope for responsible rescue access in other states, causing long term damage to the movement to empower non-profit rescue organizations to save more lives.

In short, you do not have a right to your cat if he or she gets lost and ends up at the shelter, but a for profit company does. For HSUS, it is whatever shelters want, shelters get, the animals and people who love them be damned.

The bill has been assigned to the Local Government Committee. To send an email urging them not to accept those two amendments, click here.

 

 

AB 2343: Tearing Families Apart

March 31, 2014 by  

catandgirl

March 31, 2014

The Hon. Mike Gatto
California State Assembly
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0043

Re: AB 2343

Dear Assembly Member Gatto,

We are writing to express our concerns regarding AB 2343, introduced at the behest of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). As it stands, the bill suggests it will make a non-substantive change to the holding period for dogs and cats in California. We’ve read the bill as introduced and realize it serves no purpose, except as a “spot bill.”

We now understand from your office that the current language of AB 2343 will be amended. As we understand it, contrary to the current council digest that the bill “would make nonsubstantive changes in those provisions governing the holding period for stray dogs that are impounded by a public pound or shelter,” HSUS proposes to insert language that will in fact make very significant and very substantive changes to the stray holding law in California. For example, we understand from your office that HSUS proposes that stray cats with no identification at the time the cat enters the shelter either because the collar was taken off, fell off, a microchip scan failed to find a match or the animal never had one, be adopted out or transferred to rescue groups immediately, with no right of redemption by the cat’s human family. This is unfair to families who deeply love their animal companions. Coupled with the fact that California’s stray holding period is already among the lowest in the nation, the goal of increasing lifesaving in California shelters can be met while still giving families a reasonable period of time to reclaim their companion animal. Accidents happen; animals get lost and end up at shelters. Since the choice presented—immediate adoption or death—is a false one, breaking up families by having them lose all rights in their animal with no reclaim period of any kind is draconian. In suggesting this disturbing proposal, HSUS has lost sight of what, in fact, is one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them.

The public funds this service and has a right to expect it. This proposal not only undermines the relationship people have with their animal companions, but it is also illegal. As wrong as it is to talk of cats as “property,” given their current legal status as such and without the benefits that would come with having other legally guaranteed rights at this time in history, in this limited circumstance, their legal status as property confers a protection where no others currently exist: the express intent of the proposal being put forth is to divest a person of his “title” without any reasonable proceeding for that purpose and would manifestly be a taking of property without due process of law. Under the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and of Section 1, Article 1, such taking would not be within the power of the state or municipality, and the statute purporting to provide therefore would be void. Currently, approximately 7,818 families a year reclaim their cats from California shelters. Consider that unless those cats have identification, HSUS’ proposal would potentially divest that number of Californians from their “property” without due process of law. Given that these animals are often beloved family members, it is naïve to assume that none of those people will step forward to challenge the constitutionality of that law. In fact, it is fair to assume that many of them are likely to do so. (Even if they don’t, our legislators should not be in the business of seeking unconstitutional laws.)

Despite its unconstitutional overreach and ethical concerns, HSUS is no doubt arguing that most cats are not reclaimed and so it will affect few families. But this is dishonest. For one, low return rates for cats is not because the cat lacks a family, but because shelters kill them too quickly before their families can find them. In California, the existing holding period is already far from generous: a paltry 72 hours before animals can be killed. Only one state has a holding period lower than California. The answer here is to increase the holding period, not shorten it. Second, there are many reasons why cats end up at shelters as strays, but a number of them are not even lost. Frequently, they are taken to the shelter by neighbors or others who assume they are lost when they are not. Once again, these cats are killed because of the inadequate holding period. Third, low return rates for cats are also caused by misguided lost and found techniques on the part of an uninformed family, because shelter staff are often ignorant of proper techniques to search for lost cats and thus fail to educate families in a manner that will lead to fewer impounds and greater reclaims, because some cats do not enter shelters for several weeks after a family has already stopped looking fearing the worst, and also because of the failure of shelters to match lost reports with the found cats entering their facilities. The answer to the various reasons as to why more cats are not reclaimed by their families is not to strip families of their rights by eliminating a reclaim period altogether, but by regulating shelters and mandating training so they do a better job. In fact, shelters which do a better job at these things vastly increase their reclaim rates for cats: 22% across all shelters in Colorado (about the same as the dog reclaim rate nationally), and even higher in other North American communities. HSUS’ proposal not only counters compelling evidence which disproves the perceived “need” for it, but would in fact exacerbate, rather than fix, the causes of the currently low reclaim rates of cats in California shelters.

In other words, the fault for low reclaim rates for cats lies with the shelter and HSUS is using the poor performance of those shelters as a reason to undermine protections that people in California have a right to expect of their tax-funded institutions. Finally, regardless of the numbers, that not allowing people any time to reclaim their cats is an obvious threat to the deep and meaningful relationship between people and their cats must be pointed out to HSUS which has grown astronomically wealthy trumpeting the value of the “human-animal bond” adds another layer of absurdity to the already bewildering necessity of this discussion, one based on HSUS’ astounding assertion that the citizens of California should immediately lose claims to their animals—often cherished family members—should they ever accidentally end up at a shelter they fund in part expressly for such purpose.

As to the other substantive changes to the stray hold law that HSUS is proposing in AB2343, we also take issue with one other: eliminating the ability of someone who surrenders an animal to change their mind and reclaim that animal. The purpose of the holding period for relinquished animals is three-fold: 1. It gives the surrendering party the opportunity to change their mind and reclaim their animal, 2. It provides protection in the event the animal did not actually belong to the surrendering party, as may happen in cases involving divorce or neighbor disputes, and 3. It gives the animal a chance at adoption.

When the choice is death or reclaim by the surrendering party, the life of the animal is paramount and the surrendering party should be given the opportunity by law to reclaim that animal rather than have shelters needlessly kill the animal since he/she has a place to go. Under no circumstance should the holding period for “owner relinquished” animals be amended to remove the ability of the owner or the true owner to reclaim their animal. We do not object to the animal made immediately available for adoption or transfer to a rescue group, and in fact that is already allowed by current law, but failing that, the animals should be returned to the surrendering party if requested, but not killed, even if that killing occurs after 72 hours.

These are very weighty issues and if you are going forward with this scheme, we believe the public should have ample time to discuss and debate it. We are dismayed that your office is waiting until the last possible moment to amend the bill, but have little doubt that this is being done at the request of HSUS lobbyist Jennifer Fearing in anticipation of opposition so as to do an end run around public comment and participation. This is very undemocratic, especially given the perception that to do so is necessary as the proposal is likely to meet with grave public opposition. But while we are profoundly disappointed that this course of action is being taken, given HSUS’ history of duplicity, we are not surprised. Indeed, HSUS fought against the very legislation that is the subject of your bill which they now seek to amend, asking the legislature not to pass the 1998 Animal Shelter Law and denigrating it in their publications, despite the fact that it has been proven to save tens of thousands of animals every year. Although HSUS claims they now support the California legislation, they continue to fight it in other states. This year, HSUS sought to table similar legislation in Minnesota. It is why both Fearing and HSUS have such a poor reputation in the humane movement.

We also find it completely tragic that rather than working to increase shelter regulation, to increase protections for cats, to give them greater rights, and to protect the integrity of their human families, we have to spend our time trying to prevent what often amounts to the one and only protection animals have in shelters–holding periods–from being eviscerated by HSUS. In short, rather than expect shelters to do the job they are paid to do by the animal-loving taxpayers of California humanely or live up to the expectations Californians have in their tax-funded institutions, HSUS is asking us to accept either a system of mass killing or to give shelters the ability to tear families apart. Do you really want to go on record with that view? To propose legislation that does so? Assembly Member Gatto, our state is better than that.

To that end and because we regret that your office is being used to promote such an agenda by HSUS, we are enclosing model holding period language that will improve lifesaving in California shelters, but without the draconian step of breaking up families. In addition, our proposed language does not abrogate the right of people to change their mind after surrendering an animal, thus preventing shelters from killing animals who have a place to go: back to their home. If we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Very truly yours,

Nathan J. Winograd

Enclosures-2

Model Holding Period Legislation
What’s In a Name? A Guide for Legislators & Policy Makers

HSUS Lobbies for Animals to Die

March 3, 2014 by  

Violating Commitment to the No Kill Advocacy Center That It Would No Longer Do So

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Part two in a three-part series on the No Kill Advocacy Center’s Companion Animal Protection Act (by Nathan & Jennifer Winograd).

For Part I, click here.

This week, a committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives will vote on HF 391, the Minnesota Companion Animal Protection Act. The bill would ban the use of the cruel gas chamber, ban the excruciatingly painful method of killing by heart sticking, prohibit shelters from killing animals when there are empty cages, make it illegal to kill animals when rescue groups are willing to save them, and end the practice of killing “owner surrendered” animals within minutes of arrival without ever giving them a chance at adoption.

Introduced at the behest of Minnesota’s oldest No Kill Shelter, Animal Ark, this bill provides legal protections for animals that are already saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of animals in two states where similar provisions have already been put into place. In California, just one provision of the shelter reform law saves the lives of over 46,000 animals in that state every year, while the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act, passed in 2010, has reduced killing in that state by 78%. (HSUS did not support either of these efforts.) Yet despite its vast lifesaving potential and support from the most progressive animal protection groups in Minnesota, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) asked the legislative sponsor to table the bill. Why? For one reason and one reason only: their relationship with the regressive Minnesota-based Animal Humane Society which does not want a bill regulating shelters to pass in their state.

In doing so, HSUS has once again shown that when it comes to animals in shelters, they are first and foremost lobbyists for the directors of kill shelters and not advocates for the animals those shelters kill. Although the opposition in Minnesota is tragic, it is still somewhat surprising in light of recent assurances to me by HSUS that it would no longer seek to curtail shelter reform legislation. Despite the fact that HSUS had worked to kill similar bills in Texas, New York, Florida, and elsewhere, I was more optimistic about shelter reform legislation succeeding in Minnesota because two HSUS representatives—a Board member and Jennifer Fearing, the person in charge of sheltering policies for HSUS—personally assured me at a meeting in San Francisco just over a month ago that the days of HSUS claiming “neutrality” (a sham in and of itself given it benefits the status quo) but then working to kill shelter reform legislation were over. They shook my hand, looked me square in the eye, and promised it would come to an end, only to violate that promise a few weeks later at the first opportunity, stabbing the animals straight in the back.

Under direct orders from Fearing and in violation of the agreement she made with the No Kill Advocacy Center, Howard Goldman, senior director for HSUS in Minnesota, urged the sponsoring legislator to drop the bill. In hopes of getting some relief for the animals being systematically killed in Minnesota shelters, the House legislative sponsor asked for a meeting with HSUS to better understand the source of HSUS’ opposition. HSUS entered the meeting side by side with a representative of the Animal Humane Society, a kill shelter committed to defeating CAPA. Representative Benson asked HSUS for suggested amendments to the language to get their support. They declined. He asked them to pick any parts of the bill they could support, such as the gas chamber and heart sticking ban, and he would strike the rest of the provisions and proceed with those sections only. Again, HSUS declined. Instead, they asked that the bill be tabled.

Publicly, HSUS has stated that it is against the gas chamber, against heart sticking, for rescue rights, believes in transparency, supports bifurcated holding periods, and that all animals should be held for a period of time. Collectively, these are the very changes mandated by Minnesota CAPA, which they oppose. Of course, those public statements are designed for just that: public consumption. And public consumption means donation dollars. But when it comes to its private actions, when it comes to meetings behind closed doors with legislators where taking a stand has a life and death difference, HSUS sides with those who want to continue killing with impunity. And if they get their way in Minnesota, that is exactly what will continue to happen: animals will continue to die and die cruelly. They will continue to be killed when there are empty cages and despite rescue groups willing to save them. And they will continue to be marched from the front counter where they are surrendered straight to the kill room and then into garbage bags to await transport to a landfill.

Read my letter written on behalf of the No Kill Advocacy Center in support of Minnesota CAPA by clicking here.

For a copy of CAPA, click here.

For a guide on how to pass humane legislation, click here.

Next Up, Part III: Delaware is on the verge of ending the systematic killing of animals in all its shelters. But not everyone is happy. Delaware Naysayers are claiming CAPA is a failure despite the massive reduction in the kill rate. Why? One of their primary arguments is that shelters are no longer able to round up and kill cats. Yes, you read that right. I will explain why this and other criticisms of CAPA misrepresent the provisions of the bill and its outcomes.

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Holding Period Legislation

December 17, 2013 by  

From the No Kill Advocacy Center:

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In September 2013, the No Kill Advocacy Center issued a position paper in response to the California Sheltering Report written by the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, and other shelter lobbying organizations and shelters, warning of the dangers associated with many of those recommendations: http://bit.ly/184Rlm9. That report, while at long last finally admitting to the efficacy of various lifesaving programs which these organizations opposed for many years, stated that whether or not shelters chose to implement alternatives to killing should be left up to the discretion of the individual shelters; in their own words: they “remain at the discretion of each community to choose whether and how to implement.”

At the same time, these groups made several recommended changes to current, widespread shelter policies such as the reduction and, in some cases, elimination of holding periods which, without the lifesaving infrastructure and philosophical reorientation of shelters away from killing in favor of lifesaving, would prove deadly. We predicted that many shelters would cherry pick which recommendations issued in the report to follow, choosing to implement those which expand their powers and discretion to kill while entirely ignoring those which would save lives. Specifically, we wrote,

Communities are not free to cherry pick some while ignoring others, as to do so leaves particular groups of animals entering shelters with no protections or alternatives to killing… As a result, regressive shelters are likely to adopt only those provisions, like the licensing scheme, which empower them to impound even more animals. After being told they need not also implement the programs that provide an alternative to killing for the additional impounded animals, this proposal has the potential to exacerbate, rather than lessen, shelter killing; while shielding shelters from public scrutiny as they acted within the guidelines of the stakeholder group.

Tragically, this dire prediction has come to pass.

Right now, and as a direct result of the California Sheltering Report, shelters nationwide are seeking to eliminate or reduce holding periods for cats, one of the report’s recommendations, even though holding periods are often the one and only protection cats have in shelters. Ignoring those parts of the report which suggest the implementation of lifesaving policies and procedures, shelters are seeking not to include them, as we describe in a subsequent report: http://bit.ly/1kgJNxK.

Although billed as an effort to get cats adopted faster, experience proves it would have the opposite effect: allowing more cats to be killed and to be killed quicker. In fact, cats would be killed before their families actually begin looking for them; in some cases, before a family even knows he/she is missing. Nothing in the proposal requires shelters to make cats available for adoption after the shortened (and in some cases eliminated) holding period, but it will give the shelters full authority to kill them and that is what it will do. How do we know they will do this? Because that is what these shelters are already doing to animals who are not subject or no longer are on holding periods such as cats surrendered by their families and stray cats after their holding periods expire. Eliminating this protection would not only seriously limit and even eliminate the opportunity for people to reclaim their lost animals, for many animals, it would mean quicker and often immediate killing the moment they enter a shelter. This is not only a betrayal to animals, but to their families and to the taxpayers who fund these institutions in order to provide a safety net of care for stray and lost animals.

Holding periods are important. They allow people the opportunity to reclaim their missing animals, one of the primary purposes of shelters. Nationwide, animal lovers are seeking to lengthen, not reduce, their state’s mandated holding periods, on the understanding that doing so is vitally important to protect lost pets. Indeed, it is a fundamental precept that holding periods should never be shortened. To the contrary, they need to be longer in many states. However, we can address the professed rationale of quicker adoptions by making holding periods more flexible without simultaneously placing cats in greater mortal peril. By bifurcating holding periods, cats can be adopted out more quickly, without eviscerating the minimal protections cats and their human families have in holding periods.

We also suggest additional language that would give shelters the discretion to transfer animals to a rescue group immediately upon impound, with the same rights of reclamation for the “owner” as if the animal was still in the shelter. This frees up scarce kennel space, without giving pounds a “quick kill” provision as current proposals do. It also shifts the cost of care from taxpayer to private philanthropy. In other words, the animals would remain in the “constructive” custody of the pound while being held in a foster home, private shelter, or rescue group during the reclaim portion of the state mandated holding period; but taxpayers would incur none of the cost. Finally, we suggest that the holding period not come into play in cases where cats are taken in for purposes of sterilization and are then returned.

Excluding laws imposed by health departments regarding the use of controlled substances, the disposition of rabid and potentially aggressive animals and mandated holding periods, shelter directors in this country have essentially unlimited discretion as to how they operate their facilities. If a shelter director decides to kill each and every animal even if there are empty cages, it is legal for him to do so. If a non-profit rescue organization wants to save an animal on death row at a shelter, the shelter director has the authority to deny the group the ability to do so, and they frequently do. Likewise, shelter directors can kill orphaned kittens and puppies rather than work with volunteers who want to provide foster care. They can ban volunteers from walking dogs and socializing cats. And they can limit the number of hours they are open to the public for adoptions, or have hours that make it difficult for working people to reclaim their lost animals or adopt new ones. In short, there are very few checks and balances to ensure that our shelters are run in line with the most up-to-date sheltering policies and procedures. Instead, our shelters are run on the honor system, and it is a discretion shelter directors abuse time and again by failing to implement readily available lifesaving alternatives or to work cooperatively with those who want to help them save lives. To shorten holding periods in this environment is a death sentence. In many shelters, holding periods are often the only thing standing between life and death for an animal.

A mandated, bifurcated holding period, by contrast, will help increase reclaims, rescues, and adoptions. Combined with a very narrow exception for irremediably suffering animals, rigorously defined, it will accomplish the stated goals, without also imperiling the lives of animals. In fact, it would save lives and it would save money—a “win” for taxpayers and a “win” for the animals. In other words, it would solve problems rather than just create new ones.

That these shelters are rejecting these compromises suggests that they are not sincere in their desire to save more cats. Without protective language, these proposals should be opposed.

Legislation:

The required holding period for stray animals shall be five business days, not including the day of impoundment: animals shall be held for owner redemption during the first two days of the holding period and shall be available for owner redemption, transfer, and adoption for the remainder of the holding period. The holding period expires once the animal is redeemed, transferred or adopted, except as follows:
(a) The requirements of this provision do not apply to cats who are impounded for purposes of sterilization and are then returned.
(b) Shelters may transfer animals at any time after impound to a non-profit rescue group, a private shelter, or an organization formed for the prevention of cruelty to animals as long as potential owners are afforded the same rights of reclamation as if the animal was still in the shelter.

The required holding period for an owner relinquished animal impounded by public or private sheltering agencies shall be the same as that for stray animals. The holding period expires once the animal is redeemed, transferred or adopted as follows:
(a) The animals shall be available for owner redemption, transfer, and adoption for the entirety of the holding period.
(b) The requirements of this provision do not apply to cats who are impounded for purposes of sterilization and are then returned.

To download a copy, click here.

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Legislating a Double Standard

December 6, 2013 by  

To some animal protection groups our relationships with our animals don’t matter; only theirs do.

This is our cat, Kenny. He is the Mayor of Kenny Town, our home:

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He was found on the streets of Oakland as a 10-day old kitten and we bottle fed him:

I’m his mama. In fact, all I have to do is say “come to mama” and he starts purring, wraps his paws around my neck, and sticks his little face into my chin. I love him. I love him. I. Love. Him.

Many of you have your own Kenny, too. A cat who means the world to you. Now imagine that through carelessness or accident or a small child, a door to the home or yard where you live is left open and your cat gets out and somehow ends up in the shelter. Now imagine that you get home from work and immediately go to the shelter to look for him, only to find out that she or he has been adopted to someone else and you can never get him back. In fact, you will never be allowed to see him again. Why? Because the law in the state where you live has been changed to allow shelters to adopt them out right away, with no redemption period whatsoever to allow you the time to notice your animal is missing, and to go to the shelter to get him safely back home.

Think about it, before you are even afforded the opportunity to realize that your cat is missing, indeed before you even got home from work that day, your cat is no longer yours. That is what Maddie’s Fund, HSUS, the ASPCA, shelters across California, and even some rescue groups are proposing in this state. That is what Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program is proposing for a Florida community. That is what Dr. Kate Hurley of the UC Davis Shelter Medicine Program is advocating. And other shelters are picking up the call to deny you the right to reclaim your animal from the local shelter, as well.

That this is an obvious threat to the deep and meaningful relationship between people and their cats must be pointed out to groups which have grown astronomically wealthy trumpeting the value of the “human-animal bond” adds another layer of absurdity to the already bewildering necessity of this discussion. Yet here we are.

David Duffield started Maddie’s Fund as a way to honor the love and companionship of his little dog, Maddie. If you asked the head of the other organizations, they would also offer similar stories about their own animal companions. We all have our Maddie’s. Animals who mean the world to us. Animals who help us through difficult or challenging times. Animals who teach us the meaning of unconditional love and who’s passing will leave us with an empty hole we can never fill. But to them, our relationships with our animals don’t matter; only theirs do.

HSUS, Maddie’s Fund, the ASPCA, UC Davis, the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, and other cat “protection” groups and cat “advocates” believe your love and your relationship with your cat are meaningless and are not worth even a single day to find him/her if she gets lost. It is obscene, tragic, and wrong.

There is a parallel effort to shorten holding periods to kill them quicker. Here are their proposals: http://bit.ly/1kgJNxK

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

The “Deeply Superficial” Views of HSUS

September 27, 2013 by  

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After opposing many of the programs of the No Kill Equation for decades, the Humane Society of the United States finally admits that those programs are necessary to save lives. But they then turn around and tell shelters they don’t have to implement them if they do not want to. And they tell activists not to seek laws that will force shelters to do so. In effect, they are telling shelters to go ahead and kill animals if that is what they want to do.

Read “HSUS Tells Animal Shelters: Go Ahead and Kill Animals if You Want,” my latest article in The Huffington Post by clicking here.

Photo: The “feral cat” pen at a GA shelter. HSUS now says that programs like TNR are vital, but they should “remain at the discretion of each community to choose whether and how to implement.” This shelter “chose” not to implement TNR and killed these cats.

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Pacelle: Open Admission is Inhumane

September 24, 2013 by  

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For the second time this month, HSUS admits that “open admission” is inhumane for healthy cats when the end result is killing. In a blog about community cats by Wayne Pacelle, it is claimed that if shelters are going to take in healthy cats and kill them, it is better not to take them in. The truth is that there is no such thing as an “open admission” kill shelter as they are CLOSED to people who love animals, CLOSED to people who might have lost their job or lost their home but do not want their animals to die, CLOSED to Good Samaritans who find animals but do not want them killed, and CLOSED to animal lovers who want to help save lives but will not be silent in the face of needless killing. And so they turn these people and their animals away. Nonetheless, it is an important step forward because, at least for healthy cats, one of the great lies of the kill shelter industry, that “open admission is more humane” even when it results in killing, has fallen. The change in rhetoric is more evidence that the No Kill movement has so successfully changed the terms of the debate, HSUS is finally starting to admit that the problem lies with the shelters themselves—a literal about-face from the positions HSUS has unequivocally and historically advocated. If the current blog is a shot across the bow to killing shelters that HSUS is moving away from defending shelters that kill animals to defending animals who shelters kill, I welcome it. Unfortunately, it is too soon to say that it is. And Pacelle’s blog is still wrapped in some antiquated dogma about cats, still far behind where the No Kill movement is today, and is notable as much for what it refuses to say, as it is for what it has no choice but to finally admit. I review and comment on his blog below, a copy of which was mailed to Pacelle.

Are We Herding and Hurting Cats?
Wayne Pacelle
September 12, 2013

Every now and then our movement has an “aha” moment – when new information emerges or new thinking causes us to question long-held assumptions, or even how we approach the complex challenges facing animals in our society.

Wayne, since nothing here is “new information,” you are either being dishonest or admitting that you have failed to keep pace with 20 years of dynamic and exciting changes that have occurred in the field of animal sheltering as a result of the No Kill movement. As I do not believe you will ever admit you have chosen to sacrifice the lives of animals while remaining willfully ignorant, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the former. The truth of the matter is that while your shift in positions is welcome, it is not the result of “new” information. These are views and arguments No Kill advocates have been making for decades and imploring you to adopt for just as long. What has changed is that the position you have historically taken on this issue is no longer tenable in light of the fact that the grassroots rescue community and hundreds of shelters nationwide have moved ahead without HSUS, embracing these views in spite of your opposition and therefore no longer regarding HSUS as an “expert” who should be deferred to for guidance. Claiming to be an organization that represents the best interest of animals while tenaciously supporting a century-old form of animal sheltering entrenched in killing cannot be reconciled with an American public that rejects that killing. With three out of four Americans already believing it should be illegal to kill animals in shelters unless those animals are suffering or dangerous (and the fourth likely confused by the claim you have historically made that killing is both necessary and proper), any organization hoping to maintain a “leadership” position on this issue must, by sheer economic necessity, evolve their position.

 

The issue is not complex. Killing a healthy or treatable cat has never been an act of love, kindness or necessity. It has always been an act of violence.

We had one such moment at The HSUS a few years ago, when during the Hurricane Katrina crisis, we saw so many intact dogs and cats in the Gulf Coast states. Rather than presume “pet owner irresponsibility,” we instead dug in to find out why – deploying researchers to conduct surveys and focus groups and to gather and examine data. What we learned from that research – notably that socioeconomics, resources and access to services were at the heart of the problem – ultimately formed the core principles behind our pioneering Pets for Life program. People in neighborhoods with high numbers of stray animals are as receptive as anyone else to responsible pet ownership and the importance of spaying and neutering. Giving them the tools to act on their beliefs is the key to better outcomes.

Since the 1970s, when the City of Los Angeles established the first municipally funded spay/neuter program in the U.S., we have known that the biggest barriers to sterilization are cost and convenience. In fact, despite four municipal clinics running full time due to overwhelming demand, private vets were still performing 87% of all neutering in the City because the clinics were being used by poor people who could not otherwise afford to sterilize their animals. Since that time, numerous studies have come to the same conclusion: cutting the cost of sterilization increases the number of people who sterilize their animals. Are you seriously suggesting that you only figured this out in 2005? That would be an admission that HSUS only pretended to be an “expert” all those years. Or, as I suspect, are you simply employing a sophomoric rhetorical device to introduce a change in your historically regressive positions, rewriting history without an admission of wrong doing?

Our movement may be at the front-end of another “aha” moment with regard to how we respond to the un-owned outdoor cat population. When these so-called “community cats” arrive in shelters – whether brought there by nuisanced or well-meaning neighbors – their fate is often predetermined, and it’s not a good one. What’s more, the volume of cats coming into shelters isn’t enough to reduce the size of the cat population, and the only conclusion is that we aren’t doing much to help curb nuisances (You should not legitimize human intolerance by ascribing ill-motives to cats), cruelty (non sequitur), or predation on wildlife. The notion that cats are decimating wildlife populations has been thoroughly debunked for decades. Do we have to wait another 40 years until HSUS has an “aha” moment about this? When you ignore the data and continue to unfairly blame cats for predation on wildlife, you validate the ends of various anti-animal agendas which already exist, including those interest groups which currently scapegoat and call for mass extermination of community cats by unfairly blaming them for the environmental degradation caused by humans. The only time you should mention predation and cats at the same time is to debunk that agenda.

Dr. Kate Hurley, a veterinarian and the director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, joined me and several other sheltering leaders on stage at this year’s Animal Care Expo to take a deeper look at this situation – questioning whether the goals of animal shelters are met by the intake of otherwise healthy stray cats (Dr. Hurley penned the cover story in the current edition of Animal Sheltering magazine and recorded a Maddie’s Fund webinar on the same topic, which I recommend to you for further investigation).

I asked Dr. Hurley and her colleague, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, veterinarian and co-president of the San Francisco SPCA, to help me answer a few of the most common questions that have come up as we navigate toward a new paradigm for community cats – one that holds the potential to be better for cats, wildlife, and people.

Wayne Pacelle: Though total numbers have gone down over the last 40 years pretty dramatically, we are still euthanizing too many healthy and treatable dogs and cats in our country. Euthanasia rates vary by region, but increasingly, there is a widening gap between dogs and cats, in terms of outcomes for them. Cats are dying in shelters in big numbers, and especially so as a percentage of intake of cats. What’s behind this phenomenon?

Jennifer Scarlett: When we look at statewide data in California from 1998 to 2010, we see a trend of dog intake going down and dog adoption and transfer to rescue going up. The result is a 22 percent drop in dog euthanasia over that period. For cats, their intake was slightly higher in 2010 with negligible change in adoption or transfer to rescue. So with more coming in and fewer leaving, and a euthanasia rate of around 70 percent, the situation has not improved. We’ve applied the same techniques for dogs and cats in shelters and what we’re learning is that not only do we need to treat them very differently once they enter a shelter, but we also need to look at different methods for keeping healthy cats out of the shelter in the first place.

It is no coincidence that it was higher right after the Governor suspended the 1998 Animal Shelter Law that increased holding periods for cats so that they could be reclaimed and adopted before they were killed. Now, largely thanks to HSUS and its partnership with regressive California shelters, cats are killed within 72 hours of impound.

Kate Hurley: A lot of it likely has to do with ownership. The population of un-owned cats in the United States is estimated to be approximately the same size as the population of owned cats, yet historically shelter programs such as low-cost spay/neuter, public education and adoption programs have targeted animals with owners or those that could be placed into homes. Because the un-owned population of dogs is relatively small in the U.S., this strategy has been quite successful in many communities. However, for feral and un-owned cats, we need a different strategy.

Statements are not evidence. Admittedly, I used to believe this also, but the truth is that this is made up, like the HSUS statement that two unaltered cats results in 420,000 in seven years. The best data we have is that the number is probably closer to 15,000,000, a far cry from the 90 million companion cat population.

We have HSUS to blame for this as you have historically argued, and in fact continue to argue, that shelters should not be regulated and that they have a right to kill animals even in the face of readily-available, common-sense lifesaving alternatives they simply refuse to implement.

WP: What shelter policies need to be revamped to turn this around? 

JS: The vision for shelters must be to provide a temporary safe haven for animals in need. The policy to get there is to balance our optional intake of animals (owner surrenders, healthy stray cats) with our ability to provide them with good care and positive outcomes.

While we agree that shelters should not take in healthy cats only to kill them and so we embrace the view that “open admission” is not better when the end result is killing, this view, while an improvement, is also based on outdated thinking. The fundamental lesson from the experiences of the now hundreds of cities and towns across the nation is that the choices made by shelter managers are the most significant variables in determining whether animals live or die. Several communities are more than doubling, and in some cases tripling, adoptions and cutting killing by as much as 75 percent and more—and it isn’t taking them five years or more to do it. They are doing it virtually overnight (the vast majority of communities with save rates between 90% and 99% achieved it in six months or less). They are proving that communities can quickly save the vast majority of animals once they commit to do so. In other words, shelters do not have to choose between killing cats or not taking them in as you suggest. They can take in cats and also save them. But since many prefer killing in the face of readily-available lifesaving alternatives, a “right” to kill you yourself have said shelters have, we’d rather they not take them in. Let’s not, however, continue to pretend they have no choice but to kill if they do. It’s as dishonest as your “aha” moments. 

KH: For years, shelters have struggled to control the un-owned cat population primarily through euthanasia. Now that we have better estimates of the size of the un-owned cat population, we realize that shelters have only been impacting a tiny fraction of the total population through euthanasia, not nearly enough to reduce the overall population size, not enough to protect public health, wildlife, reduce the cat population or serve any of the other goals we might have hoped to realize through this practice. Now that we understand this, shelters can set euthanasia aside as a tool to control cat populations and focus on other alternatives – most notably, shelter/neuter/return – where healthy un-owned cats that would not be candidates for adoption are sterilized, vaccinated for rabies, ear-tipped and returned to the same location where they were found. Shelters can also help community members find strategies to co-exist with cats peaceably, just as we do with other creatures such as raccoons and opossums that might make an unwanted appearance in somebody’s back yard.

WP: Where do we start in making these changes, and what obstacles do you expect in trying to implement these ideas?

JS: There isn’t a ‘one-size fits all’ solution. (This is not true. Every community that has ended the killing of healthy and treatable animals has done so by implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. Once again, please do not make us wait several decades while animals continue to die needlessly for you to have an “aha” moment about this.) To begin, each shelter has to take an objective look at their capacity to provide positive outcomes for the animals that enter their facility. The common thread is to reduce intake, but the tactics for change can run the spectrum from managed intake to diverting all healthy cat intake to neuter and re-release, depending on the community. I believe the first obstacle to tackle is within our profession. Making the shift to control shelter populations at the front door may be a huge cultural change for some communities. Leaders who decide this is the best solution for their community have to be ready to invest a lot of work and communication to get their staff’s buy-in, respond to the public’s concern, and be willing to work with local wildlife advocates. The good news is that results will be worth it.

See note above. While I agree that responsibly reducing intakes, such as through a pet retention program and TNR for community cats, is important, it should be implemented as part of a comprehensive embrace of the No Kill Equation. In other words, this is just one part of the total picture. You cannot continue to ignore what shelters can but are not doing to save cats once they are in their custody. Specifically, you fail to focus on three of the most important programs to save lives: increasing adoptions, getting more lost animals home (through proactive reclaim efforts), and keeping cats alive long enough to do both.

KH: I agree with Dr. Scarlett. One of the biggest obstacles for me, and I suspect for many others – both within the sheltering profession and for animal lovers and advocates in general – will be getting past the idea that admission to a shelter is always the best option for a cat who is homeless or whose owner can no longer keep him or her. For so long, it was commonly felt that shelters had to take every cat presented, as soon as it was presented, regardless of the shelter’s ability to provide humane care or ensure a good outcome. Anyone who has worked a summer in a shelter can tell you this is stressful for staff and volunteers, as well as cats! Instead, we need to consider each cat’s unique circumstances and balance these with what is happening at each shelter on any given day. When admission of a cat would cause over-crowding, poor conditions for cats in the shelter, or result in euthanasia of the newly admitted cat or another already in the shelter, then cats, shelters and communities are better served by finding alternative solutions. This could range from simply scheduling an appointment rather than immediately admitting the cat; to admitting the cat for sterilization, vaccination, and return to its habitat; to offering a community member or owner other alternatives to shelter intake, such as utilizing low-cost spay/neuter resources in the community, using non-lethal deterrents to resolve nuisance problems, behavioral counseling, neighbor mediation, or any number of solutions we can offer when systems are not overwhelmed. 

Wayne, I welcome the philosophical orientation away from the notion that in order to reduce shelter killing, we must reform the public rather than those who are actually doing the killing. I also welcome the admission that “open admission” is not better when the end result is the killing of cats. Better late than never. However, you are claiming that your thinking has changed based on “new” information and since you know that isn’t true, it continues a pattern of duplicity.

Second, you are still speaking from both sides of your mouth: on the one hand saying outdoor cats should be left alone rather than impounded and killed, and, on the other, implicating outdoor cats as a “nuisance,” suggesting that it is cruel for community cats to live outside, and blaming cats for impacting wildlife populations, none of which is true or based on evidence.

Third, you are making the claim that it is better for shelters not to take in healthy community cats because if they do, they will have no choice but to kill them. That is not the choice presented. Shelters can take them in and also save them, as hundreds of communities across the country have proved.

Fourth, you need to stop pretending that a solution to shelter killing does not already exist. It does. See the No Kill 101: http://bit.ly/13EOPQU

Finally, it isn’t enough to quote others who say these things as a means of insulating yourself from any backlash by your regressive shelter colleagues. We need to hear it from your mouth. Say it Wayne: “shelters should never kill healthy and treatable cats.” Let it be your words, not just Kate Hurley’s.

Despite all these shortcomings, if this, and the companion California Sheltering Report (see http://bit.ly/184Rlm9), are a shot across the bow to killing shelters that HSUS is moving away from defending shelters that kill animals to defending animals who shelters kill, I welcome it. I would just ask that you not make us wait 40 years to do so, like your Katrina “aha” moment about spay/neuter, because the longer you wait, the higher the body count.

Wayne, the truth is that the No Kill movement has moved beyond the superficial and defeatist hand-wringing of HSUS to recognizing that shelter killing is not an inevitability imposed onto helpless shelters, but a problem with a real solution. And we also recognize that if you were truly sincere and willing to take a principled stand, you’d stop speaking from both sides of your mouth. In other words, this isn’t the blog you would have written. What would you and HSUS do differently?

For one, you would report to the public and shelter administrators that No Kill has been achieved, require full implementation of the No Kill Equation nationwide, and demand the removal of shelter managers who refuse to do so. You would celebrate the communities that have achieved levels of No Kill success so that others could emulate their achievements. You would argue that No Kill is the only legitimate standard for animal sheltering and must be immediately embraced by all shelters. You would assist activists trying to reform their shelters rather than fighting them–even when doing so means confronting a shelter director who may be your friend or colleague. You would stop rewarding failing shelter directors with speaking engagements, with features in their magazines, with national awards, or with hundreds of thousands of dollars to be squandered. And you would invest some of your huge resources in lobbying for codification of No Kill into law, rather than fighting those efforts as you currently do.

That is how a leader, truly committed to the cause he is supposed to be championing, would behave. Instead, we get a modicum of progress swathed in a blanket of antiquated dogma that is still far behind where the No Kill movement is today: a statement that is notable as much for what it refuses to say, as it is for what it has no choice but to admit.

For further reading:

The Life of a Wild Cat

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

What if We Just Gave Them Away?

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

September 9, 2013 by  

CAdog

The times they are a-changing. A stakeholder group made up largely of kill shelters throughout California and national groups like HSUS and the ASPCA which have long defended them (and continue to do so in many states) have written a white paper where they concede that,

  • “Open admission” is not better: That shelters should not take in healthy cats only to kill them. If they are going to kill them, it is better not to take them in. That shelters should switch to an appointment-based surrender system, rather than make surrendering animals a free-for-all.
  • That shelters should provide humane care and treatment, an admission that this is not the norm. In other words, the stakeholder group implicitly acknowledges that shelters do not treat animals kindly and they should.
  • That shelters should work with rescue groups rather than kill those animals.
  • That shelters should provide necessary medical care so that animals are not left in their facilities to suffer.
  • That shelters should embrace of neuter and release for cats as an alternative to catch and kill.

Overall, what is most encouraging about this paper is its philosophical orientation away from the notion that in order to reduce shelter killing, we must reform the public rather than those who are actually doing the killing. Because the No Kill movement has so successfully changed the terms of the debate, these groups are finally admitting that the problem lies with the shelters themselves—a literal about-face from the positions that these groups have unequivocally and historically advocated.

The white paper can be found by clicking here.

While we should celebrate this change in rhetoric as evidence of the incredible pressure these groups are now under as a result of our efforts, these proposals are rendered paper tigers. As has been historically been the case, these groups continue to act as lobbying organizations for shelter directors, rather than for the animals. Though the will and desire to end shelter killing already exists among the California public, a love and compassion that HSUS and the ASPCA should be harnessing to codify No Kill into law and thereby save the lives of millions of animals every year, these groups continue to ignore that potential and its inherent mandate, choosing instead to perpetuate the fiction that the way we reform our shelters is not through the force of law as every other movement for social justice has done, but by merely suggesting to those who are harming animals that they stop doing so.

In fact, the group turns around and tells shelters they are free to ignore their program recommendations; that they “remain at the discretion of each community to choose whether and how to implement.” Our shelters are already run on the honor system: these alternatives to killing are already available and are being widely ignored by most shelter directors in California. To save lives, we must work to remove the discretion that allows shelter directors to avoid doing what is in the best interest of animals and to kill them needlessly, not allow that discretion to continue. In addition, the groups continue to ignore the hundreds of No Kill communities across the county and the model they use to achieve it. Pretending otherwise, the groups cherry pick which programs they like and ignore others, even though No Kill success, their alleged goal, is not possible without comprehensive implementation of the missing programs.

A critical assessment of this issue and the other ways in which their white paper falls short written by the No Kill Advocacy Center can be found by clicking here.

Moreover, while they advocate working with rescue groups, neuter and release, and public disclosure of kill rates for California, HSUS and the ASPCA continue to fight similar provisions in other states. Why? HSUS and the ASPCA have local reps in different parts of the country who are given free rein to pursue their personal, regressive agendas while receiving little to no oversight from their organizational leaders. Wayne Pacelle and Mike Markarian of HSUS continue to be absentee landlords, at best (in reality, they are harmful empty suits).

Finally, the report focuses almost exclusively on limiting intakes. Except for neuter and release for community cats and working with rescue groups (which is already the law in California), they ignore what to do with the animals once they are in their custody. Specifically, they fail to focus on two of the most important programs to save lives: increasing adoptions and getting more lost animals home, through proactive reclaim efforts.

Ironically, in one area, they swing the pendulum too far. While I have long advocated for a bifurcated holding period for stray animals—where animals are held for reclaim during a short period of time, and then reclaim, adoption or transfer for the remainder, during which period they cannot be killed—the group called for allowing shelters to skip a reclaim period altogether and allow shelters to adopt or transfer even stray animals right away. In other words, if a dog or cat comes in as a stray, and he does not have identification, he can’t be killed which is good, but he can be adopted to someone else immediately without giving his family any time to reclaim him. This is unfair to families who deeply love and will lose their animal companions. Coupled with the fact that California’s holding period is already among the lowest in the nation, there is no reason why families cannot be given a reasonable period of time to reclaim an animal during the first part of the holding period, before the animal is then held for reclaim, adoption and/or transfer. Accidents happen; animals get lost and end up at shelters. Since the choice presented—immediate adoption or sickness/death—is a false one, breaking up families by having them lose all rights in their animal with no reclaim period of any kind is draconian.

But to pro-killing holdouts like PETA, to shelter directors who still peddle clichés to justify the killing while refusing to implement readily-available lifesaving alternatives, and to those who put their allegiance to these groups even when they betray the animals, the change in rhetoric is a harbinger of things to come. The veneer is peeling off the edifice of shelter killing as never before.  As such, the white paper is an important step in the right direction.

That it is still too many step backs from what the No Kill movement has already achieved simply means they still have a long, long way to go to catch up. But the message this paper sends to all of us in the No Kill movement is crystal clear: we are winning and must continue to mount the pressure that has so obviously left these groups with no choice but to try and evolve.

Read the California Shelter Report by clicking here.

Read the No Kill Advocacy Center’s response and alternative by clicking here.

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Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

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