Valuing Animals

February 8, 2016 by  

Medlens-and-Avery

A few years ago, Avery, a beloved family dog, escaped from his yard and was picked up by an animal control officer. When the family went to claim Avery, they could not: the shelter had killed him. The family sued and as the No Kill Advocacy Center, my organization, unsuccessfully argued in court in support, while Avery’s family can find another dog; try as they might, they will never find another Avery. Tragically, the Texas Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that since Avery had no “market value,” he wasn’t worth anything.

Animals Are Not Mere “Property”

Given the profound nature of the relationships that often develop between people and their companion animals—the love, the mutual affection and often, the emotional dependence—is it too much to ask that our legal system recognize the importance of such relationships? That when others who have been entrusted to responsibly care for our animal companions fail to do so, that the loved ones negatively impacted or left behind as a result of that failure are compensated in a manner that adequately reflects the depth of their suffering or loss?

Tragically, the very industries which benefit most from the love and concern people have for their four-legged family members—veterinary medical associations, the pet food industry, pet product manufacturers, and others—have fought efforts to increase compensation for the victims of such harm by encouraging courts to rely on 19th century case law that held animals are mere property and by disingenuously claiming failure to do so will lead to skyrocketing costs that would preclude anyone but the rich from being able to pay for boarding, veterinary care, and other services. But this is nothing more than fear mongering and is designed to obscure their true motivation: profit.

Industry Fear Mongering

Thankfully, some courts have ignored the fear mongering and agreed that they should, awarding damages for sentimental value, mental anguish, and loss of companionship, holding correctly that when people fail to act with reasonable care, the persons whose animal companions are unnecessarily, improperly, and often illegally hurt or killed should be compensated. Despite these awards, the claims of the industries that have opposed such compensation have not come true. Contrary to their predictions of doom and gloom, veterinarians across the country, including those in states which do award these damages, are not facing particularly burdensome insurance premiums: for less than $500 a year, a small-animal veterinary practitioner can purchase $5,000,000 of coverage. In addition, the veterinary industry itself determined that if emotional damages for companion-animal loss were allowed up to $25,000, insurance premiums would rise by only $212 per year, which amounts to—on average—a mere 13 cents per customer. Even if rates “‘skyrocketed’ by 100 times their current level,” the average increased cost per pet-owning household would be $11.50. The sky is in no danger of falling.

Members of veterinary associations, and indeed all producers of goods and services for animal companions, owe their livelihoods to the animal loving public’s love of their companions. It is, therefore, the very sentimental attachment that people have for their animal companions that compels people to collectively spend $60 billion annually on those animals.

As long as these groups are shielded from liability, they have little incentive to provide better care or safer products. If anything, the availability of sentimental-value damages would encourage veterinarians, shelter workers, animal-control officers, pet food manufacturers, and other animal-service providers to act with reasonable care and thereby reduce—not increase—the number of injuries to or deaths of companion animals.

For further reading:

Friends Don’t Let Friends Kill Dogs

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Defining No Kill

February 6, 2016 by  

pit pups

Read “Defining No Kill,” My new article in the Huffington Post by clicking here.

There are some who want to simply reduce the killing to some consensus-based percentage, such as 10% or less. They claim a shelter or community achieves No Kill when it saves at least 90% of the animals. This is the kind of thinking that allows a city in Florida to claim No Kill despite a pit bull ban that condemns dogs based on the way they look. It is what allows a Michigan shelter to claim No Kill because of a save rate higher than 90%, while asking people to submit a “euthanize card” whenever they surrender healthy, community cats who are not social with people. It is what allows a California shelter to kill healthy animals so long as the save rate does not fall below 90%.

Although I celebrate the increasing success of cities who are saving 90%, when they use to kill more, claiming to have achieved No Kill suggests that they have crossed the finish line and are doing all that is medically and behaviorally possible to save animals animals when they are not.

The goal of the No Kill movement is not to reduce killing to some consensus-based level. It is to end killing for all animals who are not irremediably suffering physically, rigorously defined. Otherwise, the movement legitimizes the killing of animals who can and should be saved while betraying the very ethos at the heart of the term “No Kill.” Shelter staff should never feel okay about killing, regardless of whether the animals are healthy, have treatable conditions such as ringworm, are categorized as “feral,” happen to be of a species other than a dog or a cat, are banned because of their perceived breed, or because killing such an animal won’t affect statistics that still allow the shelter to post a 90% save rate.

So how should we define No Kill?

In the most honest, most accurate, and most objective way possible:

“A shelter or community achieves No Kill when it ends the killing of all animals, except those who are physically suffering irremediably. Irremediable physical suffering means an animal who has a poor or grave prognosis for being able to live without severe, unremitting pain even with prompt, necessary, and comprehensive veterinary care, such as an animal in fulminant organ system failure.”

Following this very strict definition which serves each and every animal entering a shelter, and not just a certain percentage of them, will result in shelters making the same decisions for animals in their facility that you or I would make with our own animal companions. And only then would a shelter truly return “euthanasia” to its dictionary definition.

Read “Defining No Kill,” my new article in the Huffington Post by clicking here.

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Rejecting Arbitrary Labels

February 5, 2016 by  

clearcutting
 

Every day, my wife and I go for a walk with our dog in an Oakland Hills park. The entire path is lined with trees, creating habitat for animals, and an idyllic, shady trail for running, hiking or dog walking. We pass literally thousands upon thousands of trees that the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks District plan to cut down, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of stumps which will then be soaked in chemicals that will poison wildlife, people, and the dogs who visit this park. These chemicals are made by Monsanto and Dow and have been proven to cause severe birth defects when tested on poor animals including rats born with their brains outside their skulls. They are toxic to birds and aquatic species, and cause damage to the kidneys, liver and the blood of dogs. And yet the plan is being proposed by people who call themselves “environmentalists.”

Environmentalists, however, don’t advocate for the clear cutting of healthy forests. They don’t advocate for the spreading of cancer causing chemicals in public lands. They don’t seek to decimate and poison the habitat upon which wildlife depends. And in a world just beginning to understand and experience the cataclysmic results of climate change, they don’t seek to cut down over 400,000 carbon sequestering trees.

When an agenda has means and ends that are identical to timber and chemical companies, when it is based on methods which the environmental movement was formed to fight against, and when it calls for clearcutting trees and pouring poison on the stumps, you can call such a plan many things: foolish, short-sighted, dangerous, tragic, heart-wrenching, and cruel, but the one thing you can’t call it is environmentalism.

Why are they doing it? They claim the trees do not belong here because they are “non-native,” a false, short-sighted, arbitrarily label that ignores the one constant of life on Earth: change.

Read, “Rejecting Arbitrary Labels That Enable Great Harm: Fighting the Oakland, UC Berkeley & East Bay Regional Park District’s War on Nature,” a Huffington Post article by my wife and I, by clicking here.

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In Defense of “Keyboard Advocates”

February 4, 2016 by  

Cracked-Facebook-Logo
A couple of weeks ago, I posted how Best Friends is trying to reduce holding periods in Wisconsin, thus putting animals at greater risk for killing and killing more quickly. It is not the first time Best Friends has betrayed animals in shelters. They helped kill a rescue rights law in New York, effectively condemning 25,000 animals a year to death. Best Friends is not what it pretends to be. It is, at best, a mixed bag, doing some good things, doing some harmful things, but generally receiving unfettered and unquestioned allegiance because it buys supporters, much like the ASPCA.

In response to my post, people went on the attack, defending Best Friends by claiming that giving shelters the power to kill quicker is necessary to give them the power to adopt quicker, a claim that is singularly disturbing, internally contradictory, ethically dubious, and demonstrably false. I proposed a bifurcated holding period that would allow quicker adoptions, indeed allow shelters to transfer animals to rescuers the day they come in, while protecting the rights of families to reclaim their animals, protecting animals from being killed too quickly, and protecting animals from being killed without ever being offered for adoption.

Second, I previously showed how the claims that “holding periods do not save lives” are also demonstrably false and how the data is misused by those with either limited knowledge of sheltering, lack vision of what our movement can and should be championing, or simply put allegiance to Best Friends over minimal protections for animals in shelters.

To which they responded: people who disagree with them have “zero experience running open admission shelters. These people are merely keyboard advocates…”

And there it is…

The ad hominem attack. When attacking the message fails, they attack the messenger. Ironically, those who champion this message are, by their own definition, “keyboard advocates” themselves or were at one time. Some of them have never actually worked in a shelter and have little to no history even volunteering, but the rules do not seem to apply to them; only to those with whom they disagree.

Of course, I have run shelters, I’ve done training and consulting with shelters all over the world, I currently do training and consult with shelters throughout the U.S. I write books, produce movies, write legislation, work with elected officials, rescue animals, litigate, run an organization, and more. And I oppose this legislation. Nor am I am the only one. Others who likewise object to this legislation also have rich, complex lives that define them more broadly than “keyboard advocates.” Like me, many of them rescue, lobby, run organizations, work in shelters, work outside of shelters, and more. But even if they, and I, did none of these things, what does it mean to be a “keyboard advocate” and is being one a bad thing?

When I posted about Best Friends’ embrace of quick kill legislation, I braced myself for what was to come, as I knew it would: the vitriol, the self-serving statements devoid of evidence, the thought police who declare that we should not even be allowed to have this discussion and that any questioning of the “wisdom according to Best Friends” amounts to heresy, regardless of what the evidence shows. Sadly, for such people, a misplaced trust and need to identify with such groups or the people who work at them at some point became more important than the professed values that presumably led them to support such organizations in the first place. The ideals that animals have rights and interests independent of humans—including the right to live—are casually discarded so long as those causing the suffering or death are self-proclaimed members of the animal protection movement. For them, it is not what is right that matters, but who is right—even when they are clearly wrong.

The No Kill philosophy, the No Kill movement, the No Kill Equation, and the focus on high-volume adoptions are ideas that require abandoning old ones. Without exception, these were once unilaterally opposed by our nation’s wealthiest “humane” groups. To win support for these new ways of doing business required abandoning deification of ideas, leaders, and groups that experience proved to be wrong. And in order for a bad idea to be abandoned, it must be directly challenged. We do that in several ways: direct action, litigation, legislation, education, and—last, but certainly not least—advocacy, the tools used by every social movement in American history.

Contrary to their assertion, we need more “keyboard advocates,” not fewer.

To bash the “keyboard advocate” is to bash Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Thomas Clarkson, William Shakespeare, Upton Sinclair, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and legions of newspaper reporters who spend most of their time advocating via keyboard. It is to deny the power of the written word and relegate the protection of a free press and free expression of ideas to the dust heap.

That the venue of such advocacy is increasingly on cyberspace—such as blogs and social media—rather than books and newspapers is of no moment. That we are debating and discussing remotely rather than in public squares is also irrelevant. The 17th and 18th century Europeans had their coffee houses, the colonists and early Americans had their taverns, we have Facebook. This is where we come to talk, debate, discuss, learn, and then go do.

But that is not what these people want. They simply want to dismiss anything they disagree with by demonizing people as “keyboard advocates” because they prefer to stay within the safety of platitudes. They do not believe they have anything to learn by looking at what the research shows and how experience is changing what we think we know or how our own myopia might cause us to misunderstand what we are seeing. Instead, they want us to defer to groups like Best Friends because they are a “solid organization” who deserve our “gratitude” no matter what they do.

If you see someone condemning “keyboard advocates,” you can rest assured those “keyboard advocates” are onto something. Bashing “keyboard advocates” is code for “I object because their assessment is devastating to my case.”

The power of Facebook does not lie in hand-wringing about problems while ignoring viable solutions or the perpetuation of white noise about how “people should spay and neuter their pets.” It does not lie in deification of the so-called “leaders” of the movement simply because they are large, wealthy, or because if you lionize them as they require, they write your group checks. And it does not lie in accepting false “either-or” propositions, such as holding periods have to be longer or shorter, but can’t be both.

It lies in truly talking: about what works, what doesn’t work, what needs reevaluation, and where we go from here. In other words, the power of the keyboard lies in collectively imagining the bright future we want for animals and then working to achieve it. Behind every revolutionary movement is an intellectual tradition. Behind every movement that has ever made our world a better place is a quill, typewriter, pen, or computer keyboard. Keyboard advocates change hearts, minds, laws, policies, and nations. With a keyboard, we can challenge our society to do better; to be better, arriving at the brighter future we are striving for; on the road we paved that led there.

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Hope for Maryland Shelter Animals

January 30, 2016 by  

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The Maryland Animal Shelter Standards Act would, among other things, end convenience killing in shelters, including making it illegal for shelters to kill animals when rescue groups are willing to save them. It would also bring transparency to shelter operations.

According to its chief sponsor Christian Miele:

“Today Delegate Shelly Hettleman and I introduced the Animal Shelter Standards Act of 2016, the most comprehensive animal shelter reform bill in the history of Maryland. Co-sponsored by 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats in the House, this bill is a truly bipartisan effort that will save countless animal lives, and bring about greater transparency and accountability in taxpayer-funded shelters throughout the state.”

If you live in Maryland, please contact your local legislator and ask them to cosponsor and support HB 494.

If you live outside of Maryland, please share with those who do. You can also bring similar legislation to your state using the No Kill Advocacy Center‘s free guide on how to get it introduced.

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FL Animal Control Association: ‘Using the Internet Too Onerous’

January 29, 2016 by  

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Taking photos and using internet deemed too onerous to save thousands of animals despite a one-time $12.99 cost.

HB 71/SB 1108, the Companion Animal Protection Act, is pending in Florida. The bills would make it illegal for shelters to kill animals if there are empty cages or kennels, if animals can share a cage or kennel with another animal, if a foster home is available, if a rescue group is willing to take the animal, if an animal can be transferred to another shelter, if the animal can be sterilized and released, and more. Similar laws in other states save nearly 50,000 animals a year, have reduced killing statewide by 78%, have led to save rates of 94% and higher, and have cut millions of dollars in wasteful spending. Such a law is not only necessary, reasonable and an effective means of saving lives, its passage would also bring Florida’s sheltering procedures more in line with the humane, progressive values of the American public. But the Florida Animal Control Association (FACA) is trying to kill it.

Among other facile complaints, FACA claims that the legislation’s requirement that shelters post photographs to the internet to allow people to find their lost animal companions without having to miss work is unfair because some shelters do not have the resources to do so.

The only “resources” required to meet this requirement are a digital camera and access to the internet. A 3.0 megapixel digital camera is selling on Amazon for $12.99 and is a one-time expense. In 2016, all shelters have access to the internet and all cities and counties have websites. Moreover, Facebook is a free service and would satisfy the posting requirement. No additional staffing is required and claiming that taking a photograph as part of an intake procedure which is already being done is onerous shows how desperate FACA is to criticize a well-thought out and fairly written bill.

In fact, those shelters that post animals to the internet have doubled and, in some cases, tripled the percentage of reclaimed dogs and increased significantly the percentage of lost cats reclaimed. More to the point, when these shelters exist to serve as a taxpayer funded bailee for people’s lost animals, a place where the community which funds the shelter can go to search for their lost pets, the claim that it is onerous to mandate that the shelter do something as central and essential to that purpose as posting a photo of impounded pets on a website for public review is, in fact, proof that sensible laws to ensure that common sense lifesaving measures are taken are needed. Posting photos of found pets not only saves live, it increases revenue from reclaim fees, saves taxpayer money associated with killing animals and disposing of their bodies, and frees up kennel/cage space for animals who truly need it. It also keeps families together and prevents heartache for those whose animals are killed before they have an opportunity to reclaim them; indeed in many cases, before they even know they are missing.

Perhaps most important of all, it brings our shelters into the 21st century. Allowing members of the public to search online for their lost pet rather than have to visit the shelter on a daily basis, something that for many people who are busy with jobs, family and other obligations may be difficult to do, especially if the shelter is in a remote, out of the way location as they often are and with hours that make it difficult for working people to visit, is fair and reasonable.

Animals needlessly die because people cannot get to the shelter regularly, or give up searching too soon, the latter being something that they would be far less inclined to do if searching meant doing so from any computer or smartphone. Given the innumerable and comparatively insignificant ways our lives are enhanced and made more convenient through the use of technology, how can FACA make the absurd claim that being expected to use the internet in this most obvious and common sense way to better serve the taxpayers is an onerous expectation?

If you live in Florida, please contact your local legislator and ask them to cosponsor and support HB 71/SB 1108.

If you live outside of Florida, please share with those who do. You can also bring CAPA to your state by following this step by step guide on how to get it introduced in your state.

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Where Hope & Animals Go to Die

January 28, 2016 by  

Dallas

Dog is trapped in Dallas. He has a six in 10 chance of being killed.

Dallas Animal Services (DAS) already kills better than one out of every two animals who enter the shelter and recently announced it will round up even more. Apologists for the pound’s director are falling all over themselves to avoid admitting the obvious: most of the animals rounded up are going to be killed. They write how they “hope” they will be adopted or how they “hope” they will be transported somewhere or how they “hope” that the large, national groups will step in to help. But this is nothing more than willful blindness. Dallas Animal Services is where hope and the animals go to die.

How do we know? Past experience for one. DAS has a long history of killing in the face of alternatives, even with rescue groups en route. Even a “bucket full of kittens” who just needed TLC. Even allowing a cat to starve to death in its facility. One city council member even suggested shooting strays from helicopter gunships.

Second, the Public Records Act of Texas. A local advocate asked for all records of outcomes for animals seized as a result of the round up campaign: 66 animals have so far been impounded. Only 7 were adopted, 4 were reclaimed by their families, and rescue groups stepped in to save 15 which DAS intended to kill. The majority, 58%, DAS did kill. So far, Dallas taxpayers have spent $33,000 to do so, money DAS could have used to either find them homes (or, since they seem to have little interest in that, to sterilize hundreds of them instead).

But if you criticize the shelter for killing, you will be vilified on the Facebook page of the shelter’s “social media coordinator.” Name calling – such as referring to a rescuer as a “skank” – and fantasizing about rescuers getting mauled – that their faces get “chewed off” – is encouraged by city officials.

And if you try to do the job Dallas Animal Services is being paid to do but doesn’t – in other words, if you show compassion to a stray, hungry animal and feed him or her – you will be considered guilty of “littering” and subject to citation and prosecution by DAS.

Tragically, Houston has also announced it is going to follow Dallas’ lead and round up (and kill) dogs.

Compare Dallas and Houston to Austin, which is saving 95% and as high as 97% of animals.

(Note: Some people criticized my past suggestion that Dallas should sterilize and release dogs IF they are not going to find them homes and IF they are going to kill them instead. Since they are killing six out of 10 of them, I believe that sterilization and release is the better and more humane approach).

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Hope for Rhode Island Shelter Animals

January 26, 2016 by  

baba

Orphaned animals need TLC, not killing.

Rhode Island animals need your help. A new bill, H 7083, has been introduced to end convenience killing in shelters. H 7083 would make it illegal for shelters to kill animals if there are empty cages or kennels, if animals can share a cage or kennel with another animal, if a foster home is available, if a rescue group is willing to take the animal, or if an animal can be transferred to another shelter.

Similar laws in other states save nearly 50,000 animals a year, have reduced killing statewide by 78%, have led to save rates of 94% and higher, and have cut millions of dollars in wasteful spending.

If you live in Rhode Island, please contact members of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare and urge a “Yes” vote.

In addition, contact your district legislators and ask them to cosponsor the bill.

If you live outside of Rhode Island, please share with those who do.

You can also bring similar legislation to your state using the No Kill Advocacy Center‘s free step-by-step guide on how to get it introduced.

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A Capital City

January 22, 2016 by  

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With Socks at Austin Pets Alive. Her motto: “It’s great to be alive!”

I just returned from reviewing shelter operations in Austin, Texas. The city shelter, Austin Animal Center, has been running save rates of 95% or better, despite an intake of roughly 18,000 animals a year. Last month it hit 97%. I also spent time at Austin Pets Alive visiting, among the many dogs and the cats, its FeLV and FIV+ cat ward, ringworm ward, and parvo ward.

I met playful dogs who showed me their balls (tennis balls!):

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And funny, little cats with curious noses:

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But in all seriousness, it was a very important trip for me, and for the movement, for primarily two reasons. First, the row after row of dogs commonly referred to as “pit bulls” are finding homes. The FeLV/FIV cats are finding homes. The ringworm cats are finding homes. The parvo puppies are being saved and finding homes. The dogs with behavior challenges are finding homes. Although it sometimes takes some time, all of these animals, including rabbits and others, are (say it with me): finding homes.

When a shelter says “no one will adopt pit bulls” and keeping them alive would lead to “suffering,” what they are saying is that it is more convenient to kill them.

The results put the lie to the claim that “no one will adopt them.” The conclusion: shelters should not be in the business of determining which animals people are allowed to fall in love with by killing them without giving the public a chance to do so.

Second, it is well past time to reject the absurd notion that death does not harm animals, even though such a view is endemic to sheltering, to the “animal protection” industry in general, and to many in the veterinary community. Indeed, it is central to the philosophy of the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, animal control associations and shelters across the country, the AVMA, and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. And, as Austin proves, it is a lie.

Although Austin still has operational challenges, it is very successful. And no matter how successful a community is, there will always be a loud, vocal minority calling for killing. The more successful the shelters are, the more extreme their “euphemisms” become. In Austin, that euphemism is “suffering.”

The word “irremediable suffering” has a very specific definition. “Irremediable physical suffering” means an animal who has a poor or grave prognosis for being able to live without severe, unremitting pain even with prompt, necessary, and comprehensive veterinary care. (There is no such thing as irremediable psychological suffering.) As used by many No Kill Naysayers in Austin (and increasingly elsewhere), however, the term “suffering” has been corrupted and become little more than a euphemism for convenience killing.

Austin success, it’s decline in killing, is tremendous. At one time, the city shelter was itself committing animal cruelty. At another, it was ignoring the rights of its neediest animals by killing them, while attacking Austin Pets Alive, the agency doing the lion’s share of the work of saving them. Today, it has a robust partnership where both agencies are true partners in lifesaving who put animals first. Yet people are still complaining, still casting aspersions, still casting about looking to return the community to the days of true suffering: mass killing.

For me, operational challenges aside, I found Austin a revelation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Austin now has the leadership it deserves.

And Austin Pets Alive finally has city shelter leadership that respects and appreciates, rather than condemns and undermines, their immense contribution to No Kill in the city.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not also mention the tremendous work of the rescuers, staff, volunteers, and everyone else making a lifesaving difference in the city.

I would also be remiss if I did not also mention the vegan donuts:

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The delicious veggie burgers:

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The seitan sandwiches and lots and lots of French fries. With its commitment to animals in and increasingly out of shelters, Austin, TX, is truly one of the finest cities in America.

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Best Friends Drops the Ball in Wisconsin

January 16, 2016 by  

Seeks to weaken protections for shelter animals.

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Best Friends is asking its supporters in Wisconsin to help pass AB487/SB450, a law reducing protections for stray animals in shelters. Although the bill makes it possible to place dogs seized in fighting raids (which should be supported), it also reduces the holding period (which should not be). Best Friends says the legislation “would reduce our state’s antiquated stray-hold period for animals in the shelter systems from seven to four days. We currently have the longest such period of any state in the country — a dubious distinction that needs to change” and claims that, “Experience has taught us that reducing the time that animals languish in the shelter can significantly increase the chance that they’ll leave alive.”

This is not true. Holding periods were passed by prior generations of animal activists to protect animals. Why? Because for many animals entering Wisconsin shelters, the holding period is the only thing standing between them and a lethal injection. Holding periods buy shelter animals the most precious of all commodities—time. Time for their families to reclaim them, time for them to be adopted, time for them to be saved by a rescue group.

Indeed, rather than shortening the stray holding period, we should be adding a holding period for “owner relinquished” animals who have no holding period of any kind. Right now, such animals can simply be taken directly from the front counter where they are surrendered to the killing room without ever being offered for adoption. And we should make both holding periods smarter. In other words, Wisconsin can achieve the same outcome Best Friends claims to be seeking—shorter length of stay and more lifesaving—without sacrificing the lives of animals by enabling those looking for reasons to kill them more quickly.

In fact, an advocate who is fighting this legislation notes that the Saulk County Humane Society in that state is run by a director who “believes that ‘killing is kindness’ [and] will kill animals on Day 5.” In other words, shelters are just, if not more, likely to kill animals faster than using the shortened holding period to get them out quicker, a point not lost on people dedicated to increasing redemption rates such as Lost Dogs of Wisconsin.

Despite Best Friends attempt to portray a seven day stay in a shelter as “languishing,” it is less than the time than many animals spend in boarding kennels while their families are on vacation. Indeed, the average length of stay for animals at the best performing shelters in the country is roughly 14 days; in some, it is longer. Should those animals be killed instead so they do not “languish”? Or is seven days not too much to ask to try to get animals out alive and give them as much as 15 years in a loving home?

If even our nation’s most successful shelters need an average of two weeks to launch animals into their new lives, it is deeply irresponsible, even reckless, to overturn existing protections for shelter animals on the naive assumption that the average Wisconsin kill shelter will do better than the average No Kill shelter and use the evisceration of such protections to save lives, rather than to enable faster killing.

Moreover, this bill uses a sledgehammer to fix a problem that can be cured with a scalpel. If the goal of this legislation is to further quicker positive outcomes for Wisconsin’s shelter animals, that end can be achieved through a bifurcated holding period that allows animals to be returned to their family, transferred to rescuers, or adopted sooner, while protections that would prevent them from being killed are kept in place.

To eliminate the harm presented by this legislation and on behalf of my group, the No Kill Advocacy Center, I contacted WI lawmakers to propose an amendment (below) that prevents shelters from killing animals before their families can find them, while at the same time allowing sterilization and release, transferring animals to rescue groups right away, and adopting animals out as quickly as the proposed bill. Further, it requires them to use some of the holding period to make animals available for adoption instead of keeping them in the back and killing them as soon as it is over. What it does not allow is for shelters to kill animals out of convenience as Best Friends would give them the power to do. That is the true “dubious distinction that needs to change.”

Holding periods do not have to be an “either-or” proposition: either they are longer or they are shorter. They just have to be smarter, offering the best of both worlds without further imperiling already vulnerable animals. Don’t the animals of Wisconsin deserve that?

Of course they do.

Proposed Amendment to Wisconsin’s AB487/SB450:

(a)  The required holding period for stray animals shall be seven business days, not including the day of impoundment, subject to the following:

(1) Animals impounded without identification shall be held for owner redemption during the first four days of the holding period, not including the day of impoundment, and shall be available for owner redemption, transfer, and adoption for the remainder of the holding period.

(2) Shelters may transfer an animal impounded without identification at any time after impound to an IRC Section 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that is a (i) animal rescue group, (ii) private animal shelter, or (iii) organization formed for the prevention of cruelty to animals, as long as potential owners are afforded the same rights of reclamation as if the animals were still in the shelter.

a. Whenever an animal is transferred pursuant to this provision, a photograph  of the animal and all information pertaining to the animal’s impoundment and transfer (including the location where the animal was found, the date of impoundment, the date of transfer, and the name of and contact information for the receiving organization)  shall be maintained in electronic, searchable and publicly reviewable form at the shelter and  on the shelter’s website at least until the end of the reclamation period.

(3) An owner that satisfies a shelter’s reclaim requirements before the expiration of the holding period is entitled to reclaim the animal even if the animal has been transferred pursuant to subsection (a) (2) and is no longer physically in the shelter’s custody. At the owner’s discretion, the owner has the right to physically redeem the animal at the shelter.

(4) An IRC Section 501(c)(3) organization which receives an animal pursuant to subsection (a)(2) must return the animal for reclamation pursuant to subsection (a)(3) and is liable to the owner for failure to do so.

(b)   The required holding period for an owner relinquished animal shall be seven business days, not including the day of impoundment.

(1)    The animals shall be available for owner redemption, transfer, and adoption for the entirety of the holding period.

(c) The holding periods required by sections (a) and (b) of this provision do not apply to cats who are impounded solely for the purpose of sterilization and are then returned to the location where they were found.

(d) An animal who is irremediably suffering physically shall be euthanized without delay, upon a determination made in writing and signed by a veterinarian licensed to practice medicine in this state. “Irremediable physical suffering” means an animal who has a poor or grave prognosis for being able to live without severe, unremitting pain even with prompt, necessary, and comprehensive veterinary care.

Note: This isn’t the first time for Best Friends. It should, however, be the last.

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