Sheltering News From Around the Country

April 25, 2009 by  

New Hope for Los Angeles

The tenure of Ed Boks as General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) has been marked by an agenda of punitive legislation and enforcement that saw dog deaths increase 24%, while cat deaths increased 35%. It has also been marked by (thankfully failed) efforts to abolish the low-cost spay/neuter voucher program and to institute cat licensing—which would have increased the killing rate even further. His resignation offers the Mayor an opportunity to move in a new direction, as the single biggest factor for lifesaving success or failure is who runs the shelters in any given community.

Despite taking in over three times the number of animals per capita than the City of Los Angeles, Washoe County, NV is now saving 90% of dogs and 86% of all cats. This followed the hiring of new directors passionate about saving lives and committed to implementing the programs and services which make it possible. In addition, a new director at Washoe County Regional Animal Services is working with community stakeholders to increase their already impressive 60% “return to owner” rate for stray dogs and 7% for stray cats.

For that level of success to come to Los Angeles, the job description must be as inclusive as possible. Rather than prior experience running a shelter, the job description should list skills which can be transferred to the shelter environment. Too often, prior experience running a shelter means a history of killing.

Second, the job announcement/description must put saving lives on at least equal footing with public health. If Los Angeles wants a new General Manager who is compassionate, dedicated to improving animal care, and committed to reducing killing, it must demand those characteristics in its recruitment.

Third, the Mayor must remember that while he is the elected steward, the shelters do not belong to him. Municipal shelters are doing what they are doing in our name: they are doing it with our taxes, with our donations, as agencies representing us, and they are even blaming us (and our neighbors) for doing it by claiming they have no choice because of the public’s irresponsibility. In short, they belong to the people. It is therefore incumbent on the Mayor to convene a committee of animal welfare advocates in the city to interview and help select the next candidate. The Committee must include a broad—not hand-picked by the Mayor—cross section of the animal protection community to interview candidates and recommend the next General Manager. When I was hired in Tompkins County, I was not just interviewed by those in power. I was also interviewed by volunteers, by rescue groups, by critics of the shelter. And that is what Los Angeles requires as well.

Fourth, although we are picking up the tab and these shelters are supposed to (but often fail) to reflect our values, we are not paying the ultimate price. That is being paid by the animals who are unfortunate enough to enter U.S. shelters and lose their lives as a result. And so any job description must include a commitment to the No Kill philosophy and a commitment to implementing the programs and services which make it possible.

Fifth, the Mayor must give the General Manager the authority to renegotiate a union contract that currently and unacceptably makes it incredibly difficult to fire those who harm animals and consistently underperform. No longer should the City Attorney have sole authority to negotiate (read: rubber stamp) union contracts for animal services, which are deemed less important than for those of other city services.

Finally, I’ve said this before but it bears repeating until someone in the community champions it. In order to achieve and sustain No Kill, we must move past a system where the lives of animals are subject to the discretion and whims of shelter leaders or government bureaucrats. Currently, No Kill is succeeding in those communities with individual shelter leaders who are committed to achieving it and to running shelters consistent with the programs and services which make it possible. Unfortunately, such leaders are still few and far between. And when that leader leaves, the vision can quickly be doomed.

For No Kill success to be widespread and long lasting, we must move past the personalities and focus on institutionalizing No Kill by giving shelter animals the rights and protections afforded by law. Every successful social movement results in legal protections that codify expected conduct and provide protection against future conduct that violates normative values. We need to regulate shelters in the same way we regulate hospitals and other agencies which hold the power over life and death. The answer lies in passing and enforcing shelter reform legislation which mandates how a shelter must operate.

Otherwise, activists in Los Angeles will be back to square one if the candidate the Mayor chooses is not progressive, but even if he or she is, if they then later choose to leave for other opportunities in the not-too-distant future.

Success Comes to the San Francisco Bay Area

Speaking of No Kill success, the communities of Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville and Piedmont, California are the first in California to save all healthy and treatable animals. According to recent press releases:

In spite of the fact that many of the animals awaiting adoption at Berkeley Animal Care Services are pit bulls and pit mixes, and that as many as 40-50% of the animals at Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society and Home at Last Animal Rescue are elderly, FIV positive, in need of extra socialization or have other treatable conditions, the live release for the coalition is 93%.

Success Comes to Kentucky

And for all the “San Francisco is unique, it can’t happen here” naysayers, I just received an exciting letter from Kentucky which reads,

I am pleased to be writing you to let you know that May 27, 2009 will mark the one year anniversary that the last adoptable animal in Shelby County was [killed] due to space. Shelby County Animal Shelter, like most animal shelters with open door policies, had a high [killing] rate.

After getting the right people on the bus, they decided to take that bus in a whole new direction. Using the programs model of the No Kill Equation, nine out of ten animals are leaving the shelter alive—a save rate of 89%. And No Kill advocates are working on increasing redemption rates and saving feral cats to raise it even higher.

Rethinking Our Approach to Adoption Screening

A recent adoption ad in Animal Sheltering, HSUS’ shelter magazine, tells potential adopters to put up with a list of questions which might seem invasive, but in the end are merely a method for the quality of the home to be screened. While I agree that there is nothing wrong with adoption screening, while I had adoption screening when I ran shelters, and in general, while I am an advocate of adoption screening, the ad nonetheless reveals a disturbing lack of vision at HSUS.

First of all, support for adoption screening is not absolute. When shelters, like Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care & Control or King County Animal Care and Control, neglect and abuse animals, I’d rather the animals have a chance with open adoptions where abusive staff does not have power to deny adoptions.

Second, too many shelters treat people as “guilty” until proven “innocent,” rather than the opposite, especially since these people are making an effort to “do the right thing” by adopting, despite the fact that many shelters are out of the way, lack public access hours, keep animals standing in their own waste, smell, are dirty, and have poor customer service. We can’t continue to sanction policies where people are treated like the enemy, turning away good homes because the questions are invasive or the policies draconian.

Here are some adoption policies currently in place around the country, while animals die:

  • “We don’t adopt out large dogs to families with children”
  • “We don’t adopt out dogs to people who do not have a doggie door installed”
  • “We do not adopt out dogs to people without fenced yards”—even though the dog is going to live in the house
  • “Do you have kids? Think again. Rabbits aren’t good with kids”
  • “Cohabitating couples who have not married need not apply to adopt our pets”
  • “Puppies and kittens under 6 months old are only adopted to families with children over 6 years old”

Third, while four million animals are needlessly killed, we need to rethink our approach. This does not mean lowering adoption standards, it means actively seeking out good homes through:

  • Offsite adoption events
  • Public access hours
  • Greater visibility in the community
  • Working with rescue groups
  • Competing with the pet stores & puppy mills
  • Adoption incentives
  • Marketing
  • Good public image
  • Thoughtful adoption policies
  • Thoughtful adoption screening

That is what Animal Sheltering should promote. Instead, despite all the pretty rhetoric, we get HSUS ignoring that while there is a nationwide crisis of uncaring, it is the shelters—not the public—which are the primary perpetrators. And thus we get HSUS continuing to ignore an irreconcilable contradiction: shelters will say “you are not good enough for these animals” and then turn around and treat the animals like garbage themselves: by allowing them to stand in their own waste, failing to provide adequate care, allowing them to suffer, turning adopters away, and/or then killing the animals before throwing their bodies into a landfill.

Like this not uncommon complaint I received from Philadelphia:

I tried to adopt from my local shelter, but they weren’t open on the weekend, it was almost impossible to reach them on the telephone and when I did, I was treated rudely. Nonetheless, I raced down there one day after work, and the place was so dirty. It made me cry to look into the faces of all those animals I knew would be killed. But I found this scared, skinny cat hiding in the back of his cage and I filled out an application. I was turned down because I didn’t turn in the paperwork on time, which meant a half hour before closing, but I couldn’t get there from work in time to do that. I tried to leave work early the next day, but I called and found out they had already killed the poor cat. I will never go back.

People might think I am picking on HSUS with this one. Like other Wayne Pacelle inspired gimmicks, the words may sound pretty, you might read it and say “it’s not that bad,” or even agree with its premise on first read. Nor is it my intent to ascribe to HSUS, the draconian policies of other shelters.

But the ad provides political cover and legitimacy to those draconian policies. And instead of giving shelters yet another tool to refuse to revisit failed models and policies, how about pushing them to rethink their approach? And, of course, I am left wondering why HSUS continues to choose for itself the role of defender of poorly performing shelters (and apologist for mass killing) as they have in places like Eugene, OR, Kings County, WA, Paige County, VA, Randolph, IA, Tangipahoa Parish, LA, and Wilkes County, NC? Regardless of the reasons, I am not willing to settle for crumbs. And from the largest, best funded animal protection organization in the country, we must continue to expect and demand more.

Update: With Maddie’s Fund spending millions of dollars an on ad council campaign to drive more adopters to shelters, HSUS should be at the forefront of trying to reform adoption practices if we are to maximize the potential that ad campaign promises to provide, not providing tools and gimmicks to defend them.

Further Update: I received this comment from a shelter director, which I found to be very compelling:

I read your blog and thought that you were charitable about that ad. One look at the image, which looked more like an interrogation room in Iraq than an animal shelter, and you would want to run the other way! If you want to build a defense for adoption screening, the answer lies in customer service — you know the pets in the shelter and are trying to find the best possible fit for them and for the animals. It says something approaching that far down in the ad, but who would make it that far after hearing that your privacy was going to be invaded and that they do think you are a good person but they are not going to treat you like one — but you should be the bigger person and not take it personally, because after all, an animal is counting on you!  Yikes! We are so eager to protect the animals that we are killing them. And does HSUS really think that if you turn them down that they are not going to be able to get a pet anywhere else? The adoption process should be focused on providing educational information about the animal and their care, explaining how the organization is there to help, etc.  I did find your examples to be very compelling. That quote from Pennsylvania — tragic.  And HSUS is producing an ad to help these shelters hide behind their own failures. Amazing.

No Kill Conference: Bringing Sheltering into the 21st Century

Next weekend’s No Kill conference promises to break new ground in our quest for a No Kill nation. In addition to some of the most innovative and shelter managers, No Kill advocates, and animal lawyers in the country, the event has received broad support from a diverse group of sponsors including Best Friends, Maddie’s Fund, Petfinder.com, and many others.

Speakers include yours truly, Bonney Brown, Mitch Schneider, Susanne Kogut, Abigail Smith and other current and former shelter directors who have saved at least 90% of incoming animals in open admission/animal control shelters. They include shelter managers who are turning their communities and states upside down. And they include a broad section of lawyers, activists, and other professionals who are helping revolutionize sheltering in the U.S. Richard Avanzino, the Father of the No Kill movement, and I will be giving the opening keynote.

To read an article about the conference, click here.

Does HSUS Ever Learn? And More.

April 20, 2009 by  

HSUS Backs Down in Indianapolis
As I reported earlier, the ink was barely dry on their Las Vegas agreement not to automatically seek the deaths of Pit Bulls following the Wilkes County massacre debacle, when HSUS was discovered to be supporting Breed Specific/Discriminatory Legislation in Indianapolis which would have meant a death sentence for some Indianapolis Pit Bulls. Every animal welfare agency in Indianapolis has come out against the legislation, including the Mayor who oversees the City’s animal control shelter. In fact, the Mayor’s campaign for election included an anti-BSL platform.

As reported,

HSUS staff has been involved in Indianapolis working on an ordinance labeling all “Pit Bull-type dogs” as “potentially dangerous dogs” requiring registration and a permit, mandatory sterilization, a million dollar insurance policy, signage posted at each door in the home saying that a “potentially dangerous dog” lives on the premises, and other restrictions. But because of initial opposition, there is talk of dropping some of the more inflammatory language about Pit Bulls by changing the name “potentially dangerous dogs” to “at risk dogs,” as if that would make a difference to whether they live or die, and dropping the insurance requirement. The bulk of the proposed law, however, remains on track.

When challenged, HSUS denied it is supporting it claiming they are just offering “input” on the legislation, but the ordinance’s author has been referring critics to HSUS in an effort to win their support. And HSUS has been citing a similar Little Rock, AR ordinance as a successful model. In fact, Little Rock officials have also been offering input into the Indianapolis law, and suggested that this could be considered a first step toward an outright ban.

In Little Rock, animal control officers have been going door-to-door confiscating Pit Bulls who aren’t registered and, according to KC Dog Blog, media reports show many smiling, tail wagging dogs (which are now “potentially dangerous dogs” under the law) being taken away, perhaps to their death. In response, HSUS commended enforcement officials in Little Rock for doing so, calling their efforts “meaningful.”

The director of the Humane Society of Indianapolis sent a scathing e-mail to Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of HSUS, demanding that he back off. In it, he stated:

I speak for a highly organized and focused animal welfare community in Indianapolis when I say we had this proposal and any type of BSL off the radar screen with local legislators. Even the Mayor’s office issued a statement opposing any sort of BSL. Now that HSUS seems to be involved in this, we have a much more difficult time making sure this does not pass. It will now take many more hours of work.

Additionally, if Councilor Speedy does have any backing from HSUS, you organization will be completely at odds with the entire animal welfare community in Indianapolis. In all of my dreams, I never thought I would face the prospect of fighting HSUS to protect dogs and dog owners in our community.

So I ask:

  • Does HSUS support any kind of legislation like this?  If so, please tell me why on earth you would.
  • Does HSUS NOT support this type of legislation?   If so, I respectfully insist on a statement to that regard to me within 24 hours before we issue our opposition statement to the City County Council.
  • Exactly why is [HSUS’ Arkansas representative] involved in matters in Indiana? Our issues are much different that the issues Little Rock faced.  Would someone tell her to stay in Arkansas?
  • It our collective position here that this ordinance be stopped and NOT re-written.  It is a knee-jerk reaction that has not involved any expertise from the animal welfare leadership.

As ususal, Indianpolis advocates are reporting that HSUS backed down by “clarifying” its position. They recently announced that,

In response to pressure from animal welfare advocates in Indianapolis, HSUS has withdrawn from the legislation process here. Apparently [the bill's author] has sent a rather angry letter to the city-county council about “us” having “strong-armed” the HSUS out of the process.

Does Pacelle ever learn? Ever?

Arizona Shelter Reform Legislation Introduced
An Arizona Senator has introduced legislation to help give animals in shelters a new chance at life. According to the bill’s author, he wanted to “create a statewide policy of no-kill animal shelters and county pounds, and prohibit the [killing] of animals that can be adopted into suitable homes.”

The Senator further stated that,

This is not a partisan issue, and killing is not the solution. With a little bit of effort and a lot of compassion, we can provide safe havens for lost or hurt animals, make spaying and neutering as affordable as possible and send more of [these] creatures to a loving home instead of an untimely death.

Read his editorial by clicking here.

Read the No Kill Advocacy Center’s letter to the Senator praising his effort and asking for amendments to make his proposed bill even stronger by clicking here.

Note to Wayne Pacelle and HSUS: Stay out of it. You’ll support the wrong side, you’ll condemn animals to death in deference to your regressive animal control cronies, we’ll challenge you publicly, you’ll back off by “clarifying” you position and promise to change, and then you’ll claim you’ve always supported the progressive policy. Let’s just skip the entire dance this time ok?

The No Kill Revolution Continues
Four cities in Alameda County (CA) are saving 93% of all animals entering their shelters. Two communities in Indiana have crossed the 90% threshold, and Tompkins County entered its seventh year saving out 90%. Meanwhile Reno is also saving 90% of dogs for the third year in a row, while the cat save rate is moving up toward that threshold – at 86%. The No Kill revolution continues…

Help me spread the message to other communities. I’ve already sent out hundreds of free copies of Redemption to animal control directors and city council members all over the U.S. I’ve also made the same offer to leaders of animal rights organizations. Shelter directors, city council members and other elected officials, staff reporters at newspapers, and directors of animal rights organizations just need to request a copy on their official stationary by April 30 and they’ll get a free copy of Redemption.

Click here for more information.

No Kill Conference Update
Thenokillnation.com has created an online community in advance of the No Kill Conference in May to provide a forum for attendees to network and share experiences. The community includes the opportunity to create personal blogs, participate in forum discussions, or share videos and photos.

If you would like to network with other attendees regarding hotel, travel arrangements or networking meetings, this is also the place to do it. Simply sign on and join one of the discussions or start a new topic.

Do you Twitter? Are you a blogger?
During the conference thenokillnation.com is inviting people to share their experiences via blogs and Twitter (using the hashtag #nokill). You can blog directly to the community or cross post your personal blogs. Coverage of the event will include a #nokill Twitter feed on the community home page.

Join today at http://thenokillnation.ning.com

Transforming Your Community

April 16, 2009 by  

The first step to building a No Kill community is rebuilding your relationship with the community. And that is done by showing them that you are true to your mission. Two years ago, in January 2007, as part of a top-down assessment of the agency, I did a series of Town Hall-type meetings and surveys to determine how the Washoe County (Reno) NV community felt about its shelter, the Nevada Humane Society.

Those efforts revealed deep dissatisfaction in the community, especially among animal welfare stakeholders (rescue groups, feral cat caretakers, No Kill shelters, and others) with the job being done. The vast majority did not believe the humane society was doing enough to save lives.

Rather than circle the wagons as too many shelters do, the Board of Directors promised the community they would do better, and they idealized that promise by embracing and launching an ambitious No Kill initiative despite a combined intake rate of 16,000 dogs and cats per year; three times the per capita rate of Los Angeles, five times the per capita rate of San Francisco, and over twice the national average. In other words, they didn’t just point the finger of blame at the “irresponsible public,” they said they would save the animals despite whatever irresponsibility existed in the community.

The following two years were marked by significant and substantial efforts in that regard. A new executive director committed to and passionate about saving lives was hired. The entire management team was replaced. And of nearly seventy employees, only three of the original group was allowed to remain. In other words, they got the right people on the bus. And then they took that bus in a whole new direction. That meant launching a series of programs and services in line with the No Kill Equation model of sheltering. And the results have been dramatic.

In 2007,

  • The Washoe County adoption rate increased 53% for dogs and 84% for cats (compared to 2006), a higher increase than any other community in the nation.
  • The Washoe County killing rate decreased by 51% for dogs and 52% for cats.
  • The countywide save rate was 92% for dogs and 78% for cats despite a per capita intake rate that is twice the national average.

In 2008, the agency increased dog and cat adoptions an additional 9% over 2007, decreased the number of dogs and cats killed in Washoe County by an additional 10%, and increased the save rate for cats to 83%. So far this year, 86% of cats are being saved. Nine out of ten dogs also continue to be saved.

Not surprisingly, public perception today stands in sharp contrast to what it was. With the help of the Reno Gazette Journal, a community survey in January 2009 revealed that:

  • 93% support the No Kill initiative;
  • 95% gave the humane society positive ratings on adoption efforts and results; and,
  • 93% say NHS has a good or great public image.

Open-ended public comments were overwhelmingly positive and coalesced around two major themes:

  • “We believe NHS does an excellent job for the citizens of Washoe County.”
  • “NHS does a great job of taking care of the animals in its care.”

That success can be every community’s success. And the only thing standing in the way of it is the vision, commitment, and follow-through of its leadership.

Read “How We Did It” by the Nevada Humane Society by clicking here. And make their success yours.

Update: HSUS in Indianapolis and More…

April 14, 2009 by  

***UPDATE***

I guess what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. So much for a “new” Pit Bull policy at HSUS.

The following letter was sent from the director of the Humane Society of Indianapolis to Wayne Pacelle of HSUS today:

From: John Aleshire
Subject: A critical Indianapolis issue

Dear Wayne and Colleagues:

…I bring to your attention a serious issue in Indianapolis that is being made much worse by the perceived support and encouragement from HSUS, most notably through Desiree Bender.  The facts are these:

  • A rogue member of the Indianapolis City County Council, Mike Speedy, is preparing to introduce an “aggressive dog ordinance” later this month during  a Council meeting.  He is targeting pit bulls ONLY for such things as mandatory spay/neuter, special permits, proof of liability insurance, and a limit of 2 such dogs per owner.
  • Councilman Speedy has spoken openly and directly to the president of our board citing the support and the encouragement of Desiree Bender… This implies the full support of HSUS.
  • Councilman Speedy has spoken on a recent radio program that he is “working with HSUS” on this ordinance and gives the impression your organization is helping him.  [To listen to this radio interview you should go under "Garrison" and click "4/13 Mike Speedy discusses dog legislation.  At 3 minutes 50 seconds into the interview he says HSUS is working closely with him to craft this legislation]

To say that we find this incredulous would be the understatement of the year.  I speak for a highly organized and focused animal welfare community in Indianapolis when I say we had this proposal and any type of BSL off the radar screen with local legislators.  Even the Mayor’s office issued a statement  opposing any sort of BSL.  Now that HSUS seems to be involved in this,  we have a much more difficult time making sure this does not pass.  It will now take many more hours of work.

Additionally, if Councilor Speedy does have any backing from HSUS, you organization will be completely at odds with the entire animal welfare community in Indianapolis. In all of my dreams, I never thought I would face the prospect of fighting HSUS to protect dogs and dog owners in our community.

So I ask:

  • Does HSUS support any kind of legislation like this?  If so, please tell me why on earth you would.
  • Does HSUS NOT support this type of legislation?   If so, I respectfully insist on a statement to that regard to me within 24 hours before we issue our opposition statement to the City County Council.
  • Exactly why is Desiree Bender involved in matters in Indiana? Our issues are much different that the issues Little Rock faced.  Would someone tell her to stay in Arkansas?
  • It our collective position here that this ordinance be stopped and NOT re-written.  It is a knee-jerk reaction that has not involved any expertise from the animal welfare leadership.

Here We Go Again
Well that sure didn’t take long, even for HSUS. The ink isn’t even dry on the “new” HSUS Pit Bull policy and HSUS is already working with anti-Pit Bull groups on breed discriminatory legislation in Indianapolis, which local rescue groups fear will lead to an increased killing in shelters.

HSUS staff has been involved in Indianapolis working on an ordinance labeling all “Pit Bull-type dogs” as “potentially dangerous dogs” requiring registration and a permit, mandatory sterilization, a million dollar insurance policy, signage posted at each door in the home saying that a “potentially dangerous dog” lives on the premises, and other restrictions. But because of initial opposition, there is talk of dropping some of the more inflammatory language about Pit Bulls by changing the name “potentially dangerous dogs” to “at risk dogs,” as if that would make a difference to whether they live or die, and dropping the insurance requirement. The bulk of the proposed law, however, remains on track.

When challenged, HSUS denied it is supporting it claiming they are just offering “input” on the legislation, but the ordinance’s author has been referring critics to HSUS in an effort to win their support. And HSUS has been citing a similar Little Rock, AR ordinance as a successful model. In fact, Little Rock officials have also been offering input into the Indianapolis law, and suggested that this could be considered a first step toward an outright ban.

In Little Rock, animal control officers have been going door-to-door confiscating Pit Bulls who aren’t registered and, according to KC Dog Blog, media reports show many smiling, tail wagging dogs (which are now “potentially dangerous dogs” under the law) being taken away, perhaps to their death. In response, HSUS commended enforcement officials in Little Rock for doing so, calling their efforts “meaningful.”

I have an idea, let’s have a meeting in Las Vegas and discuss this with HSUS and come up with a vague new policy. And we can do this again the next time HSUS tries to kill dogs, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time…

[While you read this, crank up the volume on your Abba CD: “the history books on the shelves, are always repeating themselves…”]

…and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time.

Dr. Hurley Tries to Derail No Kill Again
Dr. Kate Hurley, the anti-No Kill zealot from UC Davis, continues to take her anti-No Kill show on the road, trying to derail No Kill initiatives in places which are close to achieving it, such as Reno, NV and now San Francisco, CA.

In Reno, she proposed changing the term killing “for space” to “community overpopulation index” in order to take the onus off of the shelter and its then-regressive policies and point the finger of blame elsewhere. That term went over big with the (thankfully now former) director at animal control who had a policy of keeping 75% of cages intentionally empty even while threatening to kill animals “for space.” Apparently the killing doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that 75% of the cages are empty, it’s the public’s fault because of its “community overpopulation index.” (There’s a new director and a new policy and lo and behold: the community overpopulation index doesn’t exist!)

Last week, Dr. Hurley also tried to derail a No Kill campaign in San Francisco, where she testified that its achievement wasn’t possible because of “pet overpopulation.” But the numbers tell a very different story.

Thanks to Richard Avanzino’s implementation of the No Kill Equation when he was President of the San Francisco SPCA, San Francisco animal control impounds less than 6,000 dogs and cats annually. That’s 7.5 dogs and cats for every 1,000 human residents. Meanwhile, the national average is 15 dogs and cats for every 1,000 human residents. So San Francisco takes in half the national average. By contrast, Tompkins County takes in 26 per 1,000 and is saving over 90% and has been for seven years. Charlottesville also takes in 26 per 1,000 and is saving a greater percentage of animals than San Francisco. Washoe County, Nevada takes in 39 per 1,000—that’s five times the rate of San Francisco. It also takes in almost three times the actual total number: 16,000 per year. Yet they are saving 90% of dogs and 83% of cats and expect 90% save rates for both this year despite an 11% unemployment and a foreclosure crisis.

San Francisco is at the bottom rate of intakes nationally. It could take in five times the rate of animals it does now and should still be able to save a higher percentage of animals than it is. Even the San Francisco SPCA (which ironically asked Dr. Hurley to testify) admits this. They claim that they have no choice but to import thousands of animals from outside the City every year to meet adoption demand because of a shortage of animals. And therefore there can be only one conclusion: There is no overpopulation in San Francisco.

Apparently facts don’t really mean much to Dr. Hurley, who has made her career proselytizing a 19th Century sheltering philosophy grounded in killing. Not to limit herself to defending draconian shelter practices, Dr. Hurley has also consistently equated No Kill with hoarding. Hurley claims that No Kill “lead[s] to overcrowding, poor record-keeping, widespread disease and behavior problems.” As a result, Hurley concludes that a No Kill policy “virtually guarantees they will torture and kill thousands of animals.”

By denigrating No Kill as akin to warehousing and ignoring the protocols of shelters which have truly achieved No Kill, Dr. Hurley appears to be arguing for nothing more than a nation of shelters firmly grounded in killing—a defeatist mentality that is inherently unethical and antithetical to animal welfare. To imply that No Kill means warehousing is a cynicism which has only one purpose: to defend those who are failing at saving lives from public criticism and public accountability by painting a picture of the alternative as even darker. As to Hurley’s bizarre and absurd argument that No Kill leads to “poor record keeping,” I think that speaks for itself.

To make her point, Dr. Hurley showed San Francisco Animal Welfare Commission members slides of messy cereal box aisles in a supermarket to “show” what happens when you put too many animals/cereal boxes on a shelf arguing that, we have to “respect our animals just like we respect our cereal.” She also used the feeble analogy to impart the apparent importance of limiting consumer choice. While showing shelves jammed with cereal boxes, she explained why offering people too many choices resulted in no sales at all, although I think Kellogg’s would  take umbrage at her point.

According to a member of Fix San Francisco, “I like my cereal, but I don’t respect it. I do, however, respect precious lives enough not to reduce them to merchandise.” But apparently, Dr. Hurley believes that if you have too many animals/cereal boxes, you should just throw them away. Only, you don’t have to kill cereal before doing so, and that is the crucial difference.

How does this prepare her UC Davis students for sheltering in the 21st Century? As I’ve said before,

As a university and as a training ground for new veterinarians, the U.C. Davis program should be at the forefront of progressive shelter practices and of the dynamic and exciting changes occurring in the field of animal sheltering as a result of the No Kill movement. Instead, Dr. Hurley irresponsibly clings to the past by promoting methods of sheltering that are antiquated, inhumane, and lead to unnecessary killing. This would be the equivalent of a medical school continuing to teach its students that bloodletting and magical incantations are a valid treatment for pneumonia, in the face of proven alternatives like antibiotics, fluid therapy and rest. It is nothing short of bad medicine.

And what happened to the veterinary oath to “do no harm”?

Do No Harm
Speaking about veterinary oaths, I’ve posted this before but it was only up for one day because of the brooha over the Las Vegas HSUS Pit Bull meeting and it is well worth the read. Should veterinarians kill healthy animals in shelters? One veterinarian says “No,” because it violates the oath to “do no harm.” Are you listening Dr. Hurley?

Read the article by clicking here.

What’s in a Name?
PETA once again made headlines when it sent a letter—and a press release—asking the 1980s pop band, the Pet Shop Boys, to change their name to “Rescue Shelter Boys” to educate the public about puppy mills.

I propose that in return, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals change its name to “People for the Extermination of Terrific Animals” to bring awareness to the fact that PETA has sought out and killed over 20,000 animals in the last decade and continues to promote policies to kill animals in shelters including a nationwide ban on Pit Bulls and a lurid, deceitful campaign to undermine the No Kill revolution.

In a recent article, PETA argued that all No Kill shelters are nothing more than warehouses, where diseases and fighting are rampant; while all open kill shelters are compassionate places. According to PETA,

Open-admission shelters are committed to keeping animals safe and off the streets and do not have the option of turning their backs on the victims of the overpopulation crisis as “no-kill” shelters do. No one despises the ugly reality of euthanizing animals more than the people who hold the syringe, but euthanasia is often the most compassionate and dignified way for unwanted animals to leave the world.

Really? Is that why many of these shelters turn rescue groups away? Turn volunteers away? Won’t work with feral cat caregivers? Fail to investigate cruelty cases in a timely manner? Allow animals to sit in their own waste, while staff socialize? Refuse to do offsite adoptions? Have poor customer service? Pass punitive laws to impound and kill more animals? Fail to treat sick and injured animals?

Here’s just one example of one of these “compassionate and dignified” places: Click here.

In fact, PETA can probably find more of the same in, say, one of these states:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado,  Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming…

…and the dumpster in front of the supermarket where PETA staff disposed of the bodies of the animals they killed in the back of a van, including healthy, adoptable cats and kittens who were not in danger of being killed and who they promised a veterinarian they would find homes for.

Giving Away the Store
I’ve already sent out hundreds of free copies of Redemption to animal control directors and city council members all over the U.S. I will make the same offer to leaders of animal rights organizations. Send a letter on your official stationary by April 30 and you’ll get a free copy of Redemption. Learn more about the No Kill movement, stop promoting laws that are aimed at punishing the public but only end up hurting the animals, join the quest to save four million animals needlessly killed every year, and stop supporting PETA until Ingrid Newkirk is ousted and the death squads are disbanded.

Click here for more information.

My Letters with Wayne
I have been accused of not willing to work with others and only criticizing. I find this quite ironic since I’ve worked with a number of organizations, including many originally high kill rate animal control shelters which now have some of the highest save rates in the nation. I’ve worked with county commissions, county councils, city councils, and mayors. I’ve worked with feral cat groups, advocacy organizations, and private humane societies. And I’ve even tried to work with Wayne Pacelle, to encourage HSUS to get out of this vicious cycle they are in which I previously described as follows :

1.    There is a scandal in a shelter involving unnecessary killing (such as Tangipahoa Parish, LA or Wilkes County, NC) or animal lovers go public in their effort to reform their shelter (Fix Austin, Fix San Francisco, Coalition for a No Kill King County);
2.    HSUS defends or legitimizes the regressive shelter, undermining the efforts of animal lovers in that community;
3.    No Kill advocates publicly condemn HSUS;
4.    HSUS defends its actions, asks for a meeting which fails to result in comprehensive, substantive, and permanent reforms, or issues a vague statement only to violate its dictates at the next available opportunity;
5.    The whole process starts again.

On December 15, 2008, I sent the following olive branch to Pacelle, asking to meet with him in the hopes that we could work together:

Dear Wayne,

Your recent language in a Maddie’s Fund written adoption campaign announcement [embracing No Kill] is like nothing that has ever come out of HSUS on the companion animal issue. It is my most fervent hope that it will signal a permanent shift away from HSUS’ historical statements and positions on sheltering. In order to increase the likelihood of an HSUS firmly committed to and supportive of the No Kill philosophy, my hope is that HSUS and I can cooperatively work together and create a mechanism that allows the HSUS to speak positively with—as opposed to against—reform minded activists seeking to modernize their community shelters. Specifically, my hope is that before HSUS or I respond to the many sheltering hotspots around the country—at the next Tangipahoa, LA or Eugene, OR or King County, WA—we can develop a procedure/mechanism to work together and speak for reforms in as united a voice as possible. Because I do not have the resources of HSUS, what I propose is that you and I meet in the San Francisco area in a neutral location (a hotel meeting room?) with a third party that we both trust as a mediator or facilitator to begin a process of dialog/mediation…

And after a couple of e-mails back and forth—and after the Wilkes County massacre which followed a few months after his recent language should have prevented it—Pacelle told me to basically shut up and let HSUS continue to promote killing if I wanted to get along. He wrote:

I indicated I’d agree to meet, after receiving your letter. But I’ve reconsidered now in light of your actions last week…

So what were my actions? I responded to Pacelle as follows:

In referring to “my actions last week,” I assume you are referring to the hearing in San Francisco over our shelter reform legislation, which is a chief aim of the No Kill Advocacy Center. As you may know, I have long been involved in San Francisco and it was you who interfered in the effort to save lives there. Since you attempted to derail that effort, I had no choice but to respond to your allegations. If anything, it is I who should be complaining to you since you intentionally inserted yourself in my effort to bring the No Kill goal back to San Francisco. But I did not use that as an excuse not to meet, because that is the whole purpose of the meeting. We are far apart. This movement is crying out for reform and I have long stated that I would be the first to line up behind HSUS if it embraced, rather than undermined, the No Kill movement. Why not pursue that? Why not work toward an agreement so that HSUS would not consistently undermine lifesaving efforts by supporting actions that attempt to stall progress towards No Kill policies, such as Tangipahoa, Wilkes County, San Francisco, and other places.

Saying I will not work with people is also ironic because that is what my overture to Pacelle was—an attempt to work together—only to be rebuffed. In fact, that was not the first time I had written to Pacelle. I have been writing to Pacelle for fifteen years—starting when I was a law student and the Fund For Animals, his organization, was supporting legislation to kill feral cats—in the hopes that he would change policies he was advocating which favored killing.

Until the above e-mail communication, I have never once had the courtesy of a reply. What am I to do but to conclude that he isn’t interested in change? What choice has he ever left me but to challenge him publicly? It is not and never has been me that has refused to engage in constructive dialog. And still I reached out to him again.

I contacted Pacelle again the morning of the Las Vegas meeting giving him our hopes for a sustainable and comprehensive Pit Bull policy that was fair to the dogs, maximized lifesaving, while being cognizant of public safety. And once again, there was no reply.

Increasing Redemption Rates
Washoe County (Reno) NV takes in five times the number of animals per capita than San Francisco, three times the number of animals per capita than Los Angeles, and over twice the national average. So if this is an indication that people are irresponsible as some shelters claim, then one would expect them to have stray animal redemption rates that are lower than the national average.

Yet, while many shelters only reclaim 1-2% of cats, and roughly 20-25% of dogs, Washoe County reclaimed 60% of stray dogs and 7% of cats. Kat Albrecht of Missing Pet Partnership (MPP) wants to show you how they did it, and promises that shelters can do even better.

Imagine it this way: Say your shelter takes in 10,000 stray dogs every year. If that shelter reclaims the high end of the average, roughly 2,500 will be redeemed, and another 700 will not be savable (hopelessly ill or injured or vicious with a poor prognosis for rehabilitation). That leaves 6,800 stray dogs the shelter would have to find homes for (above and beyond dogs who are relinquished by their families).

If that shelter had Washoe County rates, 6,000 will be redeemed (and another 700 will not be savable). That means only 3,300 stray dogs will be looking for new homes – less than half. That’s a world of difference. And this is just a start. MPP says more can be accomplished, with even higher rates of return.

Join Missing Pet Partnership for weeklong training sessions for shelters and rescue groups:

May 4-8, 2009 – Washington D.C.
June 5-10, 2009 – Seattle, WA
August 7-12, 2009 – Seattle, WA
October 23-28, 2009 – Seattle, WA

For more information about the workshops or to register, click here.

For more information on the MPP approach, click here.

Off to Reno
Speaking of Reno, I am heading up there this week to help them reduce their “community overpopulation index.” Oh wait, that’s right, they are saving 90% of all animals. I guess I’ll help them with their No Kill initiative instead.

More News from Around the Country

April 13, 2009 by  

Here We Go Again
Well that sure didn’t take long, even for HSUS. The ink isn’t even dry on the “new” HSUS Pit Bull policy and HSUS is already working with anti-Pit Bull groups on breed discriminatory legislation in Indianapolis, which local rescue groups fear will lead to an increased killing in shelters.

HSUS staff has been involved in Indianapolis working on an ordinance labeling all “Pit Bull-type dogs” as “potentially dangerous dogs” requiring registration and a permit, mandatory sterilization, a million dollar insurance policy, signage posted at each door in the home saying that a “potentially dangerous dog” lives on the premises, and other restrictions. But because of initial opposition, there is talk of dropping some of the more inflammatory language about Pit Bulls by changing the name “potentially dangerous dogs” to “at risk dogs,” as if that would make a difference to whether they live or die, and dropping the insurance requirement. The bulk of the proposed law, however, remains on track.

When challenged, HSUS denied it is supporting it claiming they are just offering “input” on the legislation, but the ordinance’s author has been referring critics to HSUS in an effort to win their support. And HSUS has been citing a similar Little Rock, AR ordinance as a successful model. In fact, Little Rock officials have also been offering input into the Indianapolis law, and suggested that this could be considered a first step toward an outright ban.

In Little Rock, animal control officers have been going door-to-door confiscating Pit Bulls who aren’t registered and, according to KC Dog Blog, media reports show many smiling, tail wagging dogs (which are now “potentially dangerous dogs” under the law) being taken away, perhaps to their death. In response, HSUS commended enforcement officials in Little Rock for doing so, calling their efforts “meaningful.”

I have an idea, let’s have a meeting in Las Vegas and discuss this with HSUS and come up with a vague new policy. And we can do this again the next time HSUS tries to kill dogs, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time…

[While you read this, crank up the volume on your Abba CD: “the history books on the shelves, are always repeating themselves…”]

…and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time, and the next time.

Dr. Hurley Tries to Derail No Kill Again
Dr. Kate Hurley, the anti-No Kill zealot from UC Davis, continues to take her anti-No Kill show on the road, trying to derail No Kill initiatives in places which are close to achieving it, such as Reno, NV and now San Francisco, CA.

In Reno, she proposed changing the term killing “for space” to “community overpopulation index” in order to take the onus off of the shelter and its then-regressive policies and point the finger of blame elsewhere. That term went over big with the (thankfully now former) director at animal control who had a policy of keeping 75% of cages intentionally empty even while threatening to kill animals “for space.” Apparently the killing doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that 75% of the cages are empty, it’s the public’s fault because of its “community overpopulation index.” (There’s a new director and a new policy and lo and behold: the community overpopulation index doesn’t exist!)

Last week, Dr. Hurley also tried to derail a No Kill campaign in San Francisco, where she testified that its achievement wasn’t possible because of “pet overpopulation.” But the numbers tell a very different story.

Thanks to Richard Avanzino’s implementation of the No Kill Equation when he was President of the San Francisco SPCA, San Francisco animal control impounds less than 6,000 dogs and cats annually. That’s 7.5 dogs and cats for every 1,000 human residents. Meanwhile, the national average is 15 dogs and cats for every 1,000 human residents. So San Francisco takes in half the national average. By contrast, Tompkins County takes in 26 per 1,000 and is saving over 90% and has been for seven years. Charlottesville also takes in 26 per 1,000 and is saving a greater percentage of animals than San Francisco. Washoe County, Nevada takes in 39 per 1,000—that’s five times the rate of San Francisco. It also takes in almost three times the actual total number: 16,000 per year. Yet they are saving 90% of dogs and 83% of cats and expect 90% save rates for both this year despite an 11% unemployment and a foreclosure crisis.

San Francisco is at the bottom rate of intakes nationally. It could take in five times the rate of animals it does now and should still be able to save a higher percentage of animals than it is. Even the San Francisco SPCA (which ironically asked Dr. Hurley to testify) admits this. They claim that they have no choice but to import thousands of animals from outside the City every year to meet adoption demand because of a shortage of animals. And therefore there can be only one conclusion: There is no overpopulation in San Francisco.

Apparently facts don’t really mean much to Dr. Hurley, who has made her career proselytizing a 19th Century sheltering philosophy grounded in killing. Not to limit herself to defending draconian shelter practices, Dr. Hurley has also consistently equated No Kill with hoarding. Hurley claims that No Kill “lead[s] to overcrowding, poor record-keeping, widespread disease and behavior problems.” As a result, Hurley concludes that a No Kill policy “virtually guarantees they will torture and kill thousands of animals.”

By denigrating No Kill as akin to warehousing and ignoring the protocols of shelters which have truly achieved No Kill, Dr. Hurley appears to be arguing for nothing more than a nation of shelters firmly grounded in killing—a defeatist mentality that is inherently unethical and antithetical to animal welfare. To imply that No Kill means warehousing is a cynicism which has only one purpose: to defend those who are failing at saving lives from public criticism and public accountability by painting a picture of the alternative as even darker. As to Hurley’s bizarre and absurd argument that No Kill leads to “poor record keeping,” I think that speaks for itself.

To make her point, Dr. Hurley showed San Francisco Animal Welfare Commission members slides of messy cereal box aisles in a supermarket to “show” what happens when you put too many animals/cereal boxes on a shelf arguing that, we have to “respect our animals just like we respect our cereal.” She also used the feeble analogy to impart the apparent importance of limiting consumer choice. While showing shelves jammed with cereal boxes, she explained why offering people too many choices resulted in no sales at all, although I think Kellogg’s would  take umbrage at her point.

According to a member of Fix San Francisco, “I like my cereal, but I don’t respect it. I do, however, respect precious lives enough not to reduce them to merchandise.” But apparently, Dr. Hurley believes that if you have too many animals/cereal boxes, you should just throw them away. Only, you don’t have to kill cereal before doing so, and that is the crucial difference.

How does this prepare her UC Davis students for sheltering in the 21st Century? As I’ve said before,

As a university and as a training ground for new veterinarians, the U.C. Davis program should be at the forefront of progressive shelter practices and of the dynamic and exciting changes occurring in the field of animal sheltering as a result of the No Kill movement. Instead, Dr. Hurley irresponsibly clings to the past by promoting methods of sheltering that are antiquated, inhumane, and lead to unnecessary killing. This would be the equivalent of a medical school continuing to teach its students that bloodletting and magical incantations are a valid treatment for pneumonia, in the face of proven alternatives like antibiotics, fluid therapy and rest. It is nothing short of bad medicine.

And what happened to the veterinary oath to “do no harm”?

Do No Harm
Speaking about veterinary oaths, I’ve posted this before but it was only up for one day because of the brooha over the Las Vegas HSUS Pit Bull meeting and it is well worth the read. Should veterinarians kill healthy animals in shelters? One veterinarian says “No,” because it violates the oath to “do no harm.” Are you listening Dr. Hurley?

Read the article by clicking here.

What’s in a Name?
PETA once again made headlines when it sent a letter—and a press release—asking the 1980s pop band, the Pet Shop Boys, to change their name to “Rescue Shelter Boys” to educate the public about puppy mills.

I propose that in return, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals change its name to “People for the Extermination of Terrific Animals” to bring awareness to the fact that PETA has sought out and killed over 20,000 animals in the last decade and continues to promote policies to kill animals in shelters including a nationwide ban on Pit Bulls and a lurid, deceitful campaign to undermine the No Kill revolution.

In a recent article, PETA argued that all No Kill shelters are nothing more than warehouses, where diseases and fighting are rampant; while all open kill shelters are compassionate places. According to PETA,

Open-admission shelters are committed to keeping animals safe and off the streets and do not have the option of turning their backs on the victims of the overpopulation crisis as “no-kill” shelters do. No one despises the ugly reality of euthanizing animals more than the people who hold the syringe, but euthanasia is often the most compassionate and dignified way for unwanted animals to leave the world.

Really? Is that why many of these shelters turn rescue groups away? Turn volunteers away? Won’t work with feral cat caregivers? Fail to investigate cruelty cases in a timely manner? Allow animals to sit in their own waste, while staff socialize? Refuse to do offsite adoptions? Have poor customer service? Pass punitive laws to impound and kill more animals? Fail to treat sick and injured animals?

Here’s just one example of one of these “compassionate and dignified” places: Click here.

In fact, PETA can probably find more of the same in, say, one of these states:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado,  Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming…

…and the dumpster in front of the supermarket where PETA staff disposed of the bodies of the animals they killed in the back of a van, including healthy, adoptable cats and kittens who were not in danger of being killed and who they promised a veterinarian they would find homes for.

Giving Away the Store
I’ve already sent out hundreds of free copies of Redemption to animal control directors and city council members all over the U.S. I will make the same offer to leaders of animal rights organizations. Send a letter on your official stationary by April 30 and you’ll get a free copy of Redemption. Learn more about the No Kill movement, stop promoting laws that are aimed at punishing the public but only end up hurting the animals, join the quest to save four million animals needlessly killed every year, and stop supporting PETA until Ingrid Newkirk is ousted and the death squads are disbanded.

Click here for more information.

My Letters with Wayne
I have been accused of not willing to work with others and only criticizing. I find this quite ironic since I’ve worked with a number of organizations, including many originally high kill rate animal control shelters which now have some of the highest save rates in the nation. I’ve worked with county commissions, county councils, city councils, and mayors. I’ve worked with feral cat groups, advocacy organizations, and private humane societies. And I’ve even tried to work with Wayne Pacelle, to encourage HSUS to get out of this vicious cycle they are in which I previously described as follows :

1.    There is a scandal in a shelter involving unnecessary killing (such as Tangipahoa Parish, LA or Wilkes County, NC) or animal lovers go public in their effort to reform their shelter (Fix Austin, Fix San Francisco, Coalition for a No Kill King County);
2.    HSUS defends or legitimizes the regressive shelter, undermining the efforts of animal lovers in that community;
3.    No Kill advocates publicly condemn HSUS;
4.    HSUS defends its actions, asks for a meeting which fails to result in comprehensive, substantive, and permanent reforms, or issues a vague statement only to violate its dictates at the next available opportunity;
5.    The whole process starts again.

On December 15, 2008, I sent the following olive branch to Pacelle, asking to meet with him in the hopes that we could work together:

Dear Wayne,

Your recent language in a Maddie’s Fund written adoption campaign announcement [embracing No Kill] is like nothing that has ever come out of HSUS on the companion animal issue. It is my most fervent hope that it will signal a permanent shift away from HSUS’ historical statements and positions on sheltering. In order to increase the likelihood of an HSUS firmly committed to and supportive of the No Kill philosophy, my hope is that HSUS and I can cooperatively work together and create a mechanism that allows the HSUS to speak positively with—as opposed to against—reform minded activists seeking to modernize their community shelters. Specifically, my hope is that before HSUS or I respond to the many sheltering hotspots around the country—at the next Tangipahoa, LA or Eugene, OR or King County, WA—we can develop a procedure/mechanism to work together and speak for reforms in as united a voice as possible. Because I do not have the resources of HSUS, what I propose is that you and I meet in the San Francisco area in a neutral location (a hotel meeting room?) with a third party that we both trust as a mediator or facilitator to begin a process of dialog/mediation…

And after a couple of e-mails back and forth—and after the Wilkes County massacre which followed a few months after his recent language should have prevented it—Pacelle told me to basically shut up and let HSUS continue to promote killing if I wanted to get along. He wrote:

I indicated I’d agree to meet, after receiving your letter. But I’ve reconsidered now in light of your actions last week…

So what were my actions? I responded to Pacelle as follows:

In referring to “my actions last week,” I assume you are referring to the hearing in San Francisco over our shelter reform legislation, which is a chief aim of the No Kill Advocacy Center. As you may know, I have long been involved in San Francisco and it was you who interfered in the effort to save lives there. Since you attempted to derail that effort, I had no choice but to respond to your allegations. If anything, it is I who should be complaining to you since you intentionally inserted yourself in my effort to bring the No Kill goal back to San Francisco. But I did not use that as an excuse not to meet, because that is the whole purpose of the meeting. We are far apart. This movement is crying out for reform and I have long stated that I would be the first to line up behind HSUS if it embraced, rather than undermined, the No Kill movement. Why not pursue that? Why not work toward an agreement so that HSUS would not consistently undermine lifesaving efforts by supporting actions that attempt to stall progress towards No Kill policies, such as Tangipahoa, Wilkes County, San Francisco, and other places.

Saying I will not work with people is also ironic because that is what my overture to Pacelle was—an attempt to work together—only to be rebuffed. In fact, that was not the first time I had written to Pacelle. I have been writing to Pacelle for fifteen years—starting when I was a law student and the Fund For Animals, his organization, was supporting legislation to kill feral cats—in the hopes that he would change policies he was advocating which favored killing.

Until the above e-mail communication, I have never once had the courtesy of a reply. What am I to do but to conclude that he isn’t interested in change? What choice has he ever left me but to challenge him publicly? It is not and never has been me that has refused to engage in constructive dialog. And still I reached out to him again.

I contacted Pacelle again the morning of the Las Vegas meeting giving him our hopes for a sustainable and comprehensive Pit Bull policy that was fair to the dogs, maximized lifesaving, while being cognizant of public safety. And once again, there was no reply.

Increasing Redemption Rates
Washoe County (Reno) NV takes in five times the number of animals per capita than San Francisco, three times the number of animals per capita than Los Angeles, and over twice the national average. So if this is an indication that people are irresponsible as some shelters claim, then one would expect them to have stray animal redemption rates that are lower than the national average.

Yet, while many shelters only reclaim 1-2% of cats, and roughly 20-25% of dogs, Washoe County reclaimed 60% of stray dogs and 7% of cats. Kat Albrecht of Missing Pet Partnership (MPP) wants to show you how they did it, and promises that shelters can do even better.

Imagine it this way: Say your shelter takes in 10,000 stray dogs every year. If that shelter reclaims the high end of the average, roughly 2,500 will be redeemed, and another 700 will not be savable (hopelessly ill or injured or vicious with a poor prognosis for rehabilitation). That leaves 6,800 stray dogs the shelter would have to find homes for (above and beyond dogs who are relinquished by their families).

If that shelter had Washoe County rates, 6,000 will be redeemed (and another 700 will not be savable). That means only 3,300 stray dogs will be looking for new homes – less than half. That’s a world of difference. And this is just a start. MPP says more can be accomplished, with even higher rates of return.

Join Missing Pet Partnership for weeklong training sessions for shelters and rescue groups:

May 4-8, 2009 – Washington D.C.
June 5-10, 2009 – Seattle, WA
August 7-12, 2009 – Seattle, WA
October 23-28, 2009 – Seattle, WA

For more information about the workshops or to register, click here.

For more information on the MPP approach, click here.

Off to Reno
Speaking of Reno, I am heading up there this week to help them reduce their “community overpopulation index.” Oh wait, that’s right, they are saving 90% of all animals. I guess I’ll help them with their No Kill initiative instead.

Las Vegas, Round 3

April 11, 2009 by  

Yesterday afternoon, just before they released the new agreement with HSUS on the issue of seized Pit Bulls, I spoke on the telephone with Best Friends. In trying to be fair to Best Friends and what they hoped to accomplish, I agreed to remove my prior posts on the issue and to judge the agreement on its merits.

I am grateful that Best Friends challenged HSUS on this and tried to come up with a “win” for the Pit Bulls. I welcome the involvement of Best Friends in helping set HSUS policy and have very high regard for Best Friends employees working in this field. But, in the end, I have serious reservations about whether this will truly signal a substantive shift in HSUS policy and a lot of what HSUS said at the meeting is still very disturbing.

For example, John Goodwin, HSUS’ Dog Fighting Czar, started the meeting defending HSUS’ actions in Wilkes County by reiterating his past statements that if we ask more of shelters, they will do less. In other words, we shouldn’t ask shelters to try to save the dogs, otherwise they won’t get involved:

It’s a deterrent to going after dog fighting what you do with the animals. If they can euthanize them, it facilitates prosecution…. Why should these dogs get to the front of the line?

In addition, HSUS initially said it would not change its law enforcement manual that recommended all dogs be killed saying that “We cannot take back what is out there” even though Best Friends indicated that they had to. HSUS continued to resist, claiming that “only 2,000 people read their [law enforcement] manual, so that is not a big impact,” ignoring that the number of people is less relevant than who those people are (in this case, those with the power of life and death over the dogs). But it appears that Best Friends carried the day in subsequent negotiations on this issue as reflected in the final policy statement.

During the meeting as well, HSUS—the richest humane organization in the country which an annual budget in excess of $100 million per year—claimed that saving these dogs was a resource issue and that the public would not embrace these dogs, even as the Michael Vick dogs proved otherwise. And, once again, to their great credit, Best Friends chastised them for “their language [which] did contribute to the [public’s] perception” and urged them to take a “a leadership role in changing the language and perception rather than just giving in to it.” And as Best Friends further stated—and as HSUS fundraisers are no doubt well aware—“resources are not the problem they at first appear, ask the public for support,” to which HSUS responded that the “rhetoric” of No Kill advocates was hurting their effort to raise funds.

And, in the end, HSUS did not even want to issue a new policy statement, but was pushed to do so by Best Friends:

Best Friends: As to a policy change, is there anything we can take away?

Wayne Pacelle: We wanted to have a meeting first before we make any decisions.

Best Friends: Are we anticipating a statement?

Wayne Pacelle: No, no statement.

Best Friends: This meeting is not a secret so there needs to be some agreed upon … [trails off]

Wayne Pacelle: We can work with you bilaterally on that.

After continued negotiations, HSUS agreed to two issues and a subsequent working group to continue the dialog:

  • The HSUS has a new policy of recommending that all dogs seized from fighting operations be professionally evaluated, according to agreed upon standards, to determine whether they are suitable candidates for adoption. Dogs deemed suitable for placement should be offered as appropriate to adopters or to approved rescue organizations. The HSUS will update its law enforcement training manual and other materials to reflect this change in policy.
  • The groups agree that all dogs should be treated as individuals, and they are the true victims of this organized crime. They also agree to support law enforcement and animal control agencies when decisions must be made regarding the dogs deemed unsuitable for adoption and in cases when rescue organizations and adopters are unable, within a reasonable timeframe, to accept dogs from such raids that have been offered for adoption.
  • The organizations will form a working group to develop future protocols for cooperation in addressing the needs of dogs seized in raids, such as how to assist with the housing of fighting dogs, how to conduct professional evaluations, and how to screen potential adopters.

Wayne Pacelle posted his interpretation of the agreement on his blog, where he admits the outcome for many of the dogs may be the same:

In the past, animals seized from these operations have been routinely euthanized. This may still be the outcome for the animal victims of dogfighters, but we agreed as a number of groups that all of us should do our best to evaluate dogs seized from these operations and adopt those dogs who can be saved.

It’s all vague. The agreement. Pacelle’s statements. They are vague. And, as a matter of course, vagueness isn’t enforceable. Vagueness doesn’t help assure outcomes. Vagueness allows for differing interpretations. Vagueness gives plausible deniability. Vagueness dissipates anger, but does not live up to the hopes of animal lovers. As such it stifles criticism, without offering anything really bankable and concrete in return. And that really bothers me.

I want to be wrong. I want to believe that the new policy will signal a radical new shift in HSUS policy over these dogs—a policy which will, in fact, result in lifesaving, rather than continued killing. And if it does, I will be the first to admit it. That is, after all, what we are fighting for.

But I don’t think that is likely to happen though, because for it to happen, I have to ignore that HSUS claimed to give the Michael Vick dogs individual consideration and determined—falsely—that they were some of the most vicious ever seen.

In order for the policy to be significant, I have to believe that even if the vague promises have teeth I can’t quite fully see, that those reforms will be fully and faithfully implemented by the same HSUS team which has time and time again broken promises and championed killing: Wayne Pacelle, John Goodwin, and those two HSUS staff who told the court in Wilkes County that all of the dogs were a threat to public safety, including nursing puppies.

I have to ignore a continuing pattern where HSUS says one thing, does another, makes promises, and then subsequently breaks them as follows:

  1. There is a scandal in a shelter involving unnecessary killing (such as Tangipahoa Parish, LA or Wilkes County, NC) or animal lovers go public in their effort to reform their shelter (Fix Austin, Fix San Francisco, Coalition for a No Kill King County);
  2. HSUS defends or legitimizes the regressive shelter, undermining the efforts of animal lovers in that community;
  3. No Kill advocates publicly condemn HSUS;
  4. HSUS defends its actions, asks for a meeting which fails to result in comprehensive, substantive, and permanent reforms, or issues a vague statement only to violate its dictates at the next available opportunity;
  5. The whole process starts again.

I also have to accept, like at least one of the rescue groups present, that it is acceptable that dogs may be evaluated and adopters and rescue groups may only have a small number of days to pick these dogs up or HSUS will be able to say they’ll “have to” kill them. Why is killing the automatic default if rescue groups can’t save them? HSUS is the largest, best funded humane organization in the country, with the largest number of animal loving members. Why can’t HSUS save them? It is, after all, not only what their supporters would expect of them, but what HSUS leads them to believe they in fact do.

But during the meeting, one of the other group representative (not Best Friends) responded that “no one is asking for HSUS resources for these dogs,” which I simply do not understand. And yet another stated that, “There are limited resources, we are not trying to save them all.” Referring to a dog fighting bust in Oklahoma, where roughly 130 dogs were killed, they stated: “Thirteen out of 145 were saved. But we were happy with that outcome.” Happy with that outcome?

Sure, it will mean the world for those dogs who make it. Sure, thirteen is better than none. But are we to sweep the rest under the rug? Why is up to rescue groups—limited by foster homes and resources—to do most of the saving and not the richest animal protection organization in the country which actually participates in the dog fighting bust and ostensibly raises the most money from the fundraising which inevitably follows?

In order to embrace the policy, I also have to ignore that the 2004 Asilomar Accords were also released by HSUS to great fanfare and billed as the future of sheltering that would help us “reach the ultimate goal of ending the euthanasia of healthy and treatable companion animals,” but their vagueness allowed for policy after policy which revealed that, in fact, the opposite is true. I have to ignore that the 2006 “pro-TNR” statement of HSUS was then followed up with HSUS fear mongering about feral cats over bird flu (telling people not to rescue cats but to call animal control—agencies with a history of killing—when they see a stray) and a statement from HSUS that it did not have a problem with rounding up and killing stray cats in Randolph, IA in 2008. I have to ignore that despite their 2008 statement embracing No Kill in conjunction with Maddie’s Fund, that HSUS then asked the court to slaughter each and every Wilkes County dog, including nursing puppies. I have to believe the following were aberrations that do not accurately reveal the “real” HSUS:

  • In 2002, HSUS rallied around the New York City animal control shelter even after the comptroller’s audit found “a number of allegations of animal neglect and abuse.” The report found that not only were animals wrongly killed, but “many animals didn’t have regular access to water and were often left in dirty cages.” Despite nearly 70 percent of dogs and cats being killed, HSUS defended the shelter, which called those statistics “useless.”
  • In 2003, HSUS supported an animal control shelter at a time when a No Kill agency was poised to take over sheltering operations in Rockland County, New York, even after an auditor substantiated allegations of high rates of shelter killing and other deficiencies that were not corrected after a year. According to No Kill advocates, HSUS excused the failure of the agency “to correct the worst deficiencies noted by an outside inspection the year before [despite that such] deficiencies [also] violate[d] each and every one of Defendant HSUS’ own published program and policies for ‘Every Animal Shelter.’”
  • In 2003, HSUS also opposed a rescue group’s efforts to get pre-killing notification from animal control in Page County, Virginia, so that they could save the dogs, calling the request “unreasonable.”
  • In a September 27, 2006, speech at a Eugene, Oregon, town hall meeting on the issue, HSUS sent a representative who claimed No Kill was a sham, killing was necessary, and the blame belonged with the irresponsible public.

I have to ignore the August 2008 slaughter in Tangipahoa where shelter leadership decided to kill all dogs and cats for what was ostensibly a mild, self-limiting coronavirus (which cats cannot get), but which HSUS legitimized by blaming the public. I have to ignore the 2009 Wilkes County massacre.

And I just can’t do that. It would not be rational.

On the morning of the Las Vegas meeting, I sent an e-mail to Pacelle informing him of what I hoped would come out of it:

  • All dogs have the right of individual evaluation. Dogs shall not be deemed dangerous without an independent evaluation.
  • No Kill shelters and rescue groups have a right to conduct independent evaluations of the dogs, rather than rely on the results of others.
  • Puppies will not be killed.
  • Rescue groups and No Kill shelters have the right of access to save the animals, and it shall not be permitted for a dog to be killed if a rescue group or No Kill shelter is willing to accept the dog into their sanctuary or adoption program.
  • Shelters shall make non-aggressive dogs available for adoption.
  • HSUS shall assist in the adoption of dogs, through finances, boarding the dogs when necessary to avoid killing them “for space,” and utilizing its vast media and donor resources.
  • Legislation that will give all of these principles the force of law shall be pursued. It should be illegal for a shelter to kill a dog if a rescue group is willing to save him (as it is in California).

In reading the new joint statement, there is no right of evaluations. There is no stated commitment to save all the underaged puppies. There are no independent evaluations. Rescue groups do not have a right to save these animals, regardless of what the HSUS evaluation shows. And there is no commitment for HSUS to use its significant resources in order to expand the adoption opportunities of these dogs. Instead, we got, what reads to me, to be more HSUS equivocations: “recommending,” “should be,” “approved” rescue groups, “reasonable” time frame, and “future protocols.”

We got a policy that says, in essence, that these dogs should not automatically be killed, but that HSUS will recommend that they be given individual consideration and equal opportunity. But what does that mean? Does it change the outcome for the dogs? Does it mean they live instead of die? Are we really going to settle for an unenforceable promise of equal opportunity, which in too many communities means little more than an equal opportunity to be killed? Are we really going to trust that the same people who brought you HSUS’ defense of killing in Tangipahoa, LA and Wilkes County, NC are going to fully champion the dogs going forward, especially since they resisted a new written policy and began the process by defending their actions?

I am not blind. I realize what has resulted is better than the automatic kill policy, and that is certainly progress. But I also know that doing better is true by definition. You couldn’t do worse. It isn’t possible. If only one dog is saved going forward, that’s improvement over automatic destruction. And by an automatic destruction standpoint, 13 of 145 dogs in Oklahoma is significant. It certainly is better than the zero who made it out alive in Wilkes County. But it is not enough.

And but for the fact that HSUS simply refuses to give more, we don’t have more. There is simply no reason why we shouldn’t have gotten all those guarantees requested. Instead, we hold back comprehensive progress because Wayne Pacelle won’t allow for more, and we accept it for no rational, financial, or practical reasons other than Pacelle refuses. It doesn’t have to be this way. It is only this way because we let it be. The power he has is the power we give him.

And so, as to whether the new policy actually results in dogs being saved, rather than killed while Wayne Pacelle, John Goodwin, and the others are still in charge of implementation, I’ll say this in a moment of diplomatic self-restraint: I’ll believe it when I see it.

News from Around the Country

April 10, 2009 by  

Increasing Redemption Rates

Washoe County, NV takes in five times the number of animals per capita than San Francisco, three times the number of animals per capita than Los Angeles, and over twice the national average. So if this is an indication that people are irresponsible as some shelters claim, then one would expect them to have stray animal redemption rates that are lower than the national average.

Yet, while many shelters only reclaim 1-2% of cats, and roughly 20-25% of dogs, Washoe County reclaimed 60% of stray dogs and 7% of cats. Kat Albrecht of Missing Pet Partnership (MPP) wants to show you how they did it, and promises that shelters can do even better.

Imagine it this way: Say your shelter takes in 10,000 stray dogs every year. If that shelter reclaims the high end of the average, roughly 2,500 will be redeemed, and another 700 will not be savable (hopelessly ill or injured or vicious with a poor prognosis for rehabilitation). That leaves 6,800 stray dogs the shelter would have to find homes for (above and beyond dogs who are relinquished by their families).

If that shelter had Washoe County rates, 6,000 will be redeemed (and another 700 will not be savable). That means only 3,300 stray dogs will be looking for new homes – less than half. That’s a world of difference. And this is just a start. MPP says more can be accomplished, with even higher rates of return.

Join Missing Pet Partnership for weeklong training sessions for shelters and rescue groups:

May 4-8, 2009 – Washington D.C.
June 5-10, 2009 – Seattle, WA
August 7-12, 2009 – Seattle, WA
October 23-28, 2009 – Seattle, WA

For more information about the workshops or to register, click here.

For more information on the MPP approach, click here.

Should Veterinarians Kill Healthy Animals in Shelters?

One veterinarian says No, as it violates the veterinary oath to “do no harm.”

Read the post by clicking here.

Mission Changes in Houston TX

The mission for animal control in Houston has changed from its original public health mandate. The new mission statement makes clear where this city (and the country) is moving:

To develop, implement and enforce the policies and programs that will make Houston a no-kill city, encourage compassionate and responsible behavior toward animals through public outreach and education and reposition BARC as a recognized state and national leader in the field.

There is still a long way to go beyond mere statements, and recent press reports continue to allege serious problems at the agency. But No Kill starts as an act of will, and the revolution marches on…

One Nation Under Dog

Michael Schaffer’s new book is “One Nation Under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog-Park Politics, and Organic Pet Food.” It’s the next book on my nightstand pile but I like it already. Bored with my current read, I picked it up and was skimming it last night and found myself saying “yes” “yes” “yes” as I skipped around. And then I found this little gem on p. 227. In discussing the move to end shelter killing, Schaffer writes that society is moving in that direction “aided by enthusiastic no-kill champions like Nathan Winograd, the Stanford-trained attorney whose book, Redemption, serves as a gospel for the movement.”

You had me at hello…

Upcoming Blog: “We’re on the Same Team”

In an upcoming blog, I am going to ask the question: “Can the animal rights community on the one hand and, on the other, the animal welfare and No Kill communities, come together to stop PETA’s campaign of extermination?” And I am going to answer it as follows: “Yes, on the issue of companion animals, we are on the same team.” In fact, not only are we on the same team, we have the same goals. I am not naive. I don’t make this claim lightly and I fully expect to get clobbered from “both sides” for saying that.

Mention “animal rights” and rescuers and some No Kill advocates run for cover, because they see that movement as the opposition. To them, the term “animal rights” (at least as it relates to companion animals) means the extermination of animals, it means the end of sharing one’s life and home with a companion animal. It means mass slaughter of dogs and cats. In short, it means PETA.

But PETA’s is not a philosophy grounded in philosophy. It is not rational. It is not compassionate or ethical. It will never have widespread appeal. It in no way represents what most people who believe in animals rights want for companion animals. And when this ugly, tragic chapter in the movement’s history is finally brought to an end, their actions will be seen for what they are and always have been—nothing more than the views of a deeply disturbed individual.

On the other side, mention animal sheltering, and the knee-jerk reaction by some in the animal rights community is punitive laws, apologia about killing, and a lack of appreciation that that there are millions of animals alive today who owe their lives to the tireless work of people in the No Kill movement who share their love of dogs and cats and actively demonstrate that devotion through hard work and commitment, even if they do not subscribe to the larger animal rights platform.

But all of this is a distraction grounded in misinformation. And not only can we work it out, we must. Today, PETA will likely kill animals. Tomorrow, some family may surrender their dog to PETA falsely believing that the animal will find a “good home” only to have him be killed in the back of a van. PETA statistics show that a scenario not unlike this has the potential to occur five times a day. We have to stop just talking about this. We have to actually stop it from happening. And I believe our best hope for that is for animal rights activists and No Kill advocates to come together to stop the Butcher of Norfolk.

You don’t have to agree, but all I ask is that you hear me out. Stay tuned…

Giving Away the Store

In light of my comments above, I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve already sent out hundreds of free copies of Redemption to animal control directors and city council members all over the U.S. I will make the same offer to leaders of animal rights organizations. Send a letter on your official stationary by April 30 and you’ll get a free copy of Redemption. Learn more about the No Kill movement, stop promoting laws that are aimed at punishing the public but only end up hurting the animals, join the quest to save four million animals needlessly killed every year, and stop supporting PETA until Ingrid Newkirk is ousted and the death squads are disbanded.

What Happens in Vegas…

April 8, 2009 by  

Today is the day of the meeting between Wayne Pacelle and Pit Bull advocates in Las Vegas, ostensibly designed to avoid a repeat of the Wilkes County Massacre. We are all watching to see who will continue to give voice to our values and aspirations, and who will prove themselves irrelevant as we continue our march toward a No Kill nation.

Sadly, it is hard to believe that anything substantive and lasting will come out of the meeting that will actually save Pit Bulls from HSUS, given Pacelle’s two-faced approach to the massacre through spin and misinformation. Indeed, the release of the court transcripts showed that HSUS responded to the court’s serious question (‘why is it humane to kill dogs?’) with a dismissive Orwellian retort (‘for their own good’) and with statements that, in my opinion, came very close to perjury (‘nursing puppies are a threat to public safety’).

Nonetheless, the meeting should go on and we continue to hope that HSUS will ultimately change in deed, as well as word. While it is my hope that something positive that actually saves dogs comes out of it, caution should rule the day. In the past, No Kill advocates stopped the pressure on HSUS in similar campaigns and celebrated victory, only to have discovered they had been hoodwinked by carefully crafted statements and Pacelle’s penchance for meaningless pretty words.

Nor is it enough, as some groups have suggested, for HSUS to only agree that dogs will get individual consideration going forward. We don’t need an agreement that takes the pressure off HSUS to change in earnest, when the end result of such an approach is going to be more killing. And that is exactly what would occur if this was what came out of the meeting. In the Michael Vick dog fighting case, Pacelle told us that the dogs were individually assessed and were some of the most aggressive HSUS had ever seen—a bald faced lie.

In the end, what matters is whether savable dogs live or die. Not whether they have been temperament tested with a pre-determined conclusion and killed anyway. Not whether they are evaluated and pass, but then are killed because HSUS hides behind the myth of pet overpopulation. Not whether the dogs are held hostage by HSUS which refuses to assist in their adoption and simply says that unless rescue groups can take them, they will be killed. This would not be victory.

I tried to meet with Pacelle to discuss these and other concerns, but he refused my request. So I presented what I believe are minimum recommendations for any agreement on this issue through others:

  • All dogs have the right of individual evaluation (not merely a recommendation as HSUS has suggested). Dogs shall not be deemed dangerous without an independent evaluation.
  • No Kill shelters and rescue groups have a right to conduct independent evaluations of the dogs, rather than rely on the results of others.
  • Puppies will not be killed.
  • Rescue groups and No Kill shelters have the right of access to save the animals, and it shall not be permitted for a dog to be killed if a rescue group or No Kill shelter is willing to accept the dog into their sanctuary or adoption program.
  • Shelters shall make non-aggressive dogs available for adoption.
  • HSUS shall assist in the adoption of dogs, through finances, boarding the dogs when necessary to avoid killing them “for space,” and utilizing its vast media and donor resources.
  • Legislation that will give all of these principles the force of law shall be pursued. It should be illegal for a shelter to kill a dog if a rescue group is willing to save him (as it is in California).

I am sure others will have more. And so, before the agreement is signed, it should be adopted as a draft and then widely circulated to the larger humane and pit bull community for comment. After those comments are received, a final policy which addresses those concerns can be agreed upon, with the rationale for excluding recommendations fully explained.

In short, the agreement must reflect the desires of those in the grassroots. This is our country, these are our shelters, these are our values, and this is our will. And we will no longer allow HSUS to pursue policies and promote practices which are contrary to our mandate for a No Kill nation.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (and Other Sheltering News)

April 5, 2009 by  

That Damnable Wayne Pacelle

As others have reported, the transcripts of HSUS’ testimony in Wilkes County, NC over the fate of some 150 dogs and puppies have been released. And they show a continuing pattern of anti-animal vitriol that cost the dogs their lives.

When news of the HSUS-inspired Wilkes County massacre first broke, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS—through John Goodwin, his dog killing apologist—responded to the furor over the massacre by accusing dog lovers of wanting to steal the media from HSUS. Then, he claimed that these dogs were more vicious than the Vick dogs, which were proven to be rehabilitatable. Of course, this is contrary to what he stated when he tried to get the court to kill the Vick dogs because he claimed they were some of the most vicious dogs HSUS had ever seen. (Several are now in loving homes, and at least two are providing animal assisted therapy for cancer patients.) Then he stated that there was no choice but to kill the Wilkes County dogs by virtue of state law, which turned out not to be true. And, finally, he distanced himself from the cruel slaughter by stating that the court ordered the dogs killed, not HSUS.

Once again, facts have a strange way of exposing Wayne Pacelle for the two-faced opportunist that he is. The transcripts reveal that the court was struggling with what to do with the dogs and at one point asked HSUS why killing them, as HSUS was recommending, was humane? Not only did HSUS representatives mislead the court about the Vick dogs (falsely claiming none were rehabilitated), the cost to rehabilitate the Vick dogs (falsely claiming it cost $190,000 for each dog!), and about Best Friends offer of help (they offered to evaluate and then help get the dogs into rescue which was not conveyed to the court), they also lied to the court saying all the dogs posed a danger. To say that nursing puppies are a threat to public safety is very close to perjury in my view, and one that cost the little puppies their very lives. In fact, in a moment of Orwellian duplicity, HSUS stated that the killing was “for the dogs” own good.

Pacelle seems committed to having HSUS vilify the animals they are pledged to protect, and urging their slaughter in the face of reasonable lifesaving alternatives. Last year, he legitimized the slaughter of virtually all the animals in the Hammond, LA shelter (including cats for a mild virus that causes diarrhea only in dogs) and now we find out he asked the Wilkes County court to order the slaughter of all the dogs including the puppies claiming it was for their own good.

So how do you know if Pacelle is lying? Apparently, it is when there are words coming out of his mouth.

For further reading:

Transcript of Proceedings
The Death of Hope at HSUS
HSUS Defends Wilkes County Massacre
Wayne Pacelle Under Siege

PETA Defends Slaughter

Speaking of liars, PETA defended its 2008 animal slaughter by posting photographs of irremediably suffering animals and saying that all the animals they kill are suffering. Don’t believe it for a second. As I noted in my post, The Butcher of Norfolk:

PETA has argued that all of the animals it kills are “unadoptable.” … But this claim is a lie. It is a lie because the numbers historically come from the State of Virginia’s reporting form which only asks for data for animals taken into custody “for the purpose of adoption.” It is a lie because PETA refuses to provide its criteria for making that determination. It is a lie because rescue groups and individuals have come forward stating that the animals they gave PETA were healthy and adoptable. It is a lie because testimony under oath in court from a veterinarian showed that PETA was given healthy and adoptable animals who were later found dead by PETA’s hands, their bodies unceremoniously thrown away in a supermarket dumpster. And it is a lie because Newkirk herself admitted as much.

In a December 2, 2008 interview with George Stroumboulopoulos of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Stroumboulopoulos asks Newkirk: “Do you euthanize those pets, the adoptable ones, if you get them?” To which Newkirk responds: “If we get them, if we cannot find a home, absolutely.” In short, Newkirk admits that PETA “absolutely” kills savable animals. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.

In 2008, PETA found homes for only seven out of 2,216 dogs and cats, killing 96%.

For further reading:

The Butcher of Norfolk

American Dog Magazine Honors Tompkins County

Tompkins County has saved at least 92% of animals for the last seven years, even though it is an open admission animal control shelter. This is just one of the achievements highlighted in the latest issue of American Dog magazine. It also cites that the agency built the first “green” animal shelter in the U.S. back in 2003, earning the coveted LEED certification. But the most exciting part of the article comes from the TC SPCA itself: “[T]he truth is that every community can come together and end the needless [killing] of healthy animals” Yes, it is.

A Recap of Houston

I just returned from a trip to Houston, TX where I gave an all day No Kill seminar. Several hundred people showed up, including health department and animal control directors from half a dozen Texas communities.

After the eight hours I spent going through how to comprehensively implement the programs and services of the No Kill Equation, I was getting coffee when I overheard the group of health department directors and animal control directors talking amongst themselves. What did I hear? “We can do this.” “This will work.” The revolution marches on…

Speaking of which, Houston’s Bureau of Animal Regulation & Care recently hired the shelter manager from Montgomery County (TX) animal control who was responsible for the massive decline in killing there (in February, they saved 98% of the animals). That is bad news for Montgomery County but potentially good news for the animals of Houston.

Spreading the Gospel

What do Gaston County, NC, Beaufort, SC, Red Bluff, CA, Sharpsburg, GA, Independence, OH, DeLand, FL, Mesilla, NM, and hundreds of other counties have in common? They’ve taken advantage of my free offer to give a free copy of Redemption to any animal control director, city council person or other elected official in order to get them to see beyond the “adopt a few, kill the rest” philosophy being peddled by the large national organizations. The offer is good through April 30.

For more information, click here.

Charlottesville in Difficult Renegotiation Over A/C Contract

How much have county taxpayers in Charlottesville VA paid for the implementation of the No Kill Equation, which has given them 90% level save rates for the last three years?

These achievements have not cost taxpayers a penny. All of the costs have been borne by private donations. The SPCA is not asking for taxpayer dollars to support its No Kill mission. The SPCA simply seeks compensation for pound services at the same rate paid to pounds that are still [killing] animals. As a nonprofit organization, the SPCA should not be subsidizing the legal obligations of our local government.

The SPCA, which runs animal control, is trying to renegotiate the paltry $1.60 per capita it receives in animal control funding, because that amount is well below the $5 per capita other communities are paying for killing programs and does not cover the legal mandates the County is imposing.

Even HSUS has supported the idea of kill-oriented shelters leaving animal control work when, “humane organizations end up in tenuous financial positions that threaten their standards of operation” because of insufficient government funding. HSUS suggests that shelters should “never want to get to the point where [their] private programs or [their] real mission is undermined by the public health needs [which are the responsible of local government, not private humane societies.].”

HSUS says that municipalities should pay $5-7 per capita for killing programs, and the Chartlottesville SPCA is offering No Kill animal control for less than that. Ironically, once they stop contracting, many municipalities end up taking over the function themselves only to find that they have to pay two or more times more than the modest contract amount requested by humane societies.

While I’ve long argued that philosophically, private SPCAs should not be in the killing business, I realize the transition needs to be worked out over time. In an imperfect world, choices have to be made based on what scenario is likely to save the most animals in a particular community given imperfect circumstances. As a result, the calculus isn’t cut and dry.

And the answer to the question as to whether a private humane society should administer animal control in any given community is not absolute at this time in history. The ideal, which should be our ultimate goal, is for private SPCAs to do truly humane work, and for local government to humanely administer public health and safety programs so as not to interfere with that work, and for the two to work in concert to save all the lives at risk.

For further reading:

Rethinking Animal Control Contracts

Gina, the cat

gina

And last, but definitely not least, thank you to all the well wishers about Gina, our cat. She spent the weekend in the emergency room. She is home now, and up to her old mischief. She made it through thanks to the efforts of our veterinarian and the emergency clinic. Her prognosis is still poor, but at 19 with cancer, we already knew that. And we are grateful for whatever time we still have with her.

No Kill Day- April 1

April 2, 2009 by  

Dear Friends,

I meant to run this yesterday but my cat crashed and we spent the entire day in the emergency room with her. She is a 19-year old we found on the streets of San Francisco about 17 years ago. She is in the advanced stages of cancer, and her blood sugar dropped to the mid-20s. She’s back up to almost 70 and moving in the right direction. We hope to have her home tonight.

No Kill Day- April 1

clip_image002

Today is April 1. In my humble view, it is one of the most important days in the history of animal sheltering, right up there with the day Henry Bergh founded the first SPCA in North America. Fifteen years ago today, after months of negotiation, Richard Avanzino, then President of the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals signed the Adoption Pact, a memorandum of understanding between the SPCA and the city shelter that guaranteed a home for every healthy dog and cat in San Francisco. Each and every healthy dog and cat who entered the city’s pound would be saved – no matter how many there were or how long it took.

And what virtually every animal shelter in the country kept saying was an impossibility became a reality for the fourth largest city in the country’s most populous state. After the first year of the Adoption Pact, the deaths of healthy animals in San Francisco shelters dropped to zero, and the deaths of sick and injured animals dropped by close to 50%.

But the real treasure for San Francisco dogs and cats was the formalization of an adoption agreement that saved the lives of 2,500 additional animals every year that the city shelter could not place – effectively putting them on death row without Avanzino’s intervention. With a huge groundswell of support, Avanzino took an SPCA on the verge of bankruptcy in a city that took in over 20,000 animals per year, most of whom were killed, and turned it into the then-safest urban community for homeless pets in the United States.

And for other communities with an eye toward San Francisco, what was thought impossible, become possible, and what was possible came to be. And it is my hope that some day, we celebrate No Kill day the way our country celebrates other seminal events in our nation’s history, because I truly believe that our cause is every bit as noble and worthy in our human march to growing compassion as any movements that have come before.

I hope you take a little time today to reflect on what we are doing, and join me for a nationwide toast to how far we have come. Roughly 4 million dogs and cats who will face death in shelters every year depend on us. And thanks to what transpired 15 years ago, I have every faith that, as we continue our noble quest, we will not let them down.