Who is Pat Dunaway?

January 15, 2009 by  

During a visit to Austin, a reporter lashed out at me for questioning the city’s effort and those of the shelter and posed questions of an inflammatory and defamatory nature. No effort was made to simply report the news; investigate fairly; or pretend to be professional and lack bias.

Given our national politics of the last decade, and universal condemnation of the media’s failure to hold government agencies accountable, this outcome is distressing and disturbing, although perhaps not surprising. But that does not make it any less intolerable. That the press has taken on the role of cheerleader, rather than government watchdog, and that it falsely vilifies dissent, is a tragic reminder of the struggles of our time, made worse in our movement by the fact that those seeking reform are smeared while shelter directors who would keep our movement shrouded in darkness are given a free pass. In the end, however, it is the animals who have to pay the ultimate price.

But as I prepare to be vilified by an Austin reporter, I have discovered the source of the reporter’s inflammatory questioning: Patricia “Pat” Dunaway. Who—or more accurately, what—is Pat Dunaway?

The Enigmatic Naysayer
They exist in every community. They claim to be animal advocates but they are promoters of death. They cannot be swayed by logic, facts, or alternative points of view. They seek out that which fits their beliefs and reject everything else to the point of taking facts out of context—and in many cases, making up “facts”—to fit the story. The Naysayers are those who have a predetermined agenda of support for animal control, regardless of how many animals the local shelter kills or how otherwise dysfunctional the agency is. Pat Dunaway is the worst kind of Naysayer. She is an “Enigmatic Naysayer.”

What makes the Naysayer here such an enigma is that they wear the mantle of animal lovers (e.g., they volunteer at their local animal control shelter, they support spay/neuter efforts), but they defend the status quo of killing regardless of how poor, neglectful, or abusive conditions are at the local shelter. Despite the existence of three reports—one from a 15-member citizens advisory committee, one I did, and one from a veterinary team at U.C. Davis—showing that conditions at King County Animal Control were “deplorable,” they support the agency. Despite the fact that Los Angeles County shelters allowed animals to languish and die because of poor care, they support the shelter. Despite the fact that the San Bernardino County animal control facility did not want to hold a severely injured dog who was doused with gasoline and set on fire by a malicious owner so they subsequently returned the dog to the abuser pending the trial, they continue to support that agency.

As a result of proclaiming to be an animal welfare advocate, Enigmatic Naysayers confuse what should be a clear-cut issue for the media and the public, and as a result sow seeds of doubt and confusion about shelter reform efforts. They create the question: “If a spay/neuter advocate and shelter volunteer does not think reform is necessary, is it?” And they accomplish their goal by trying to paint reformers as extremists.

When I was asked to assist the City of Rancho Cucamonga, I was publicly challenged by Pat Dunaway. Dunaway was closely associated with then shelter management which was not only killing animals which rescue groups were willing to save, but was also violating numerous other California laws regarding care and treatment of sheltered animals.

This is the same shelter which claimed it satisfied state law mandating exercise for dogs when it walked the dogs from the front counter to the kennel, and then five days later after the holding period passed, to the “euthanasia room” to be killed. This is the same agency which ultimately returned the burned puppy back to his abuser. This is the same agency with algae covered water bowls for the dogs. This is the same agency which killed specific animals rescue groups called to say they were coming to get—killing them while the rescuers were en route! When the animal control provider was fired, Dunaway was kicked out. She has since become my cyber-stalker.

Whenever an article appears about me, Dunaway calls the reporter and/or using an anonymous posting or a false name, she prints variants of the same thing: I am a militant animal rights extremist; I was fired by Richard Avanzino from San Francisco; Charlottesville, Virginia failed to meet their quota; Tompkins County, New York is failing; more animals are dying in Rancho Cucamonga, California; Reno, Nevada’s numbers are suspect at best; and, because I oppose mandatory spay/neuter, I am in league with puppy mills.

In Austin, Seattle, Reno, and elsewhere, she has posted “anonymous” online comments after articles in which I appear. But all the comments are coming from the same IP address and all involve the same inflammatory and histrionic language. Until this particular reporter in Austin, no one has taken Dunaway seriously because most people are smart enough to see past the inflammatory invective. Nonetheless, if there is a lesson in our national politics of the last decade, it is that we cannot and should not remain silent in the face of a “swift boat” campaign.

My hopes in outing her, therefore, are three fold:

1. to defend myself against her lies;
2. to ensure that reform efforts to save sheltered animals are not sidetracked by her maliciousness; and, most importantly,
3. to take away the power she believes she has by hiding behind anonymity.

Here are my responses to her baseless allegations:

Pat Dunaway has stated that I am a militant animal rights extremist with ties to violent people.
Fact: I am a Stanford University trained lawyer who believes in the rule of law. I spent the first four or so years of my legal career as a Deputy District Attorney prosecuting a wide range of cases: domestic violence, murder, gangs, drugs, robbery and more. I was also the chief animal control official in the county I worked in, ensuring the vigorous investigation and prosecution of neglect and animal cruelty cases. During a short stint, I was also an attorney doing products liability class actions in U.S. automobile defect cases, helping ensure that automakers were held liable for producing knowingly faulty cars, which resulted in people becoming severely injured and even killed. During my work with the No Kill Advocacy Center, I worked on a model law to reform shelters within the legal system and have been involved in litigation to ensure that shelters which break the law are forced to follow it. In short, my whole career has been spent protecting people and animals from harm.

I renounce violence in all of its forms, which is why I strive to make ethical choices in all that I do: from my work as a lawyer protecting and defending victims of crimes, to my work in corporate law on automobile defect cases, to my work at the No Kill Advocacy Center trying to end the systematic killing of animals in shelters, to my own life and consumer choices as an ethical vegan. I am also a family man with small children who teaches them tolerance and fair play and an author who believes in the power of the pen, not the sword.

Pat Dunaway has stated that I was fired by Richard Avanzino at the San Francisco SPCA.
Fact: I was not fired. I left to pursue a career in the law. Rich asked me to stay (and predicted I would be back to animal sheltering!) Nonetheless, I maintained close contact with Rich over the years, did a project or two for him on a consultant basis, and at his request and with his recommendation, did come back to work at the agency, this time under a new President when Avanzino left to head Maddie’s Fund.

I did subsequently resign from the San Francisco SPCA for several reasons: I disagreed vehemently with the direction in which the SF/SPCA was moving, the SPCA was scaling back/closing down the nuts and bolts programs which brought lifesaving success to national all-time-lows under Avanzino, and I opposed the $20-million fee-for-service hospital it was planning to build because I saw it as an unnecessary and costly boondoggle that would strain existing programs for homeless animals.

As I stated in my book, Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America:

When Avanzino left the San Francisco SPCA, he handed his successor one of the best-funded, most successful humane societies in the country. With an infrastructure that included a state-of-the-art pet adoption center and spay/neuter clinic, an animal hospital, a fundraising program that included a bequest stream of over three million dollars per year, a car donation program that was inching its way toward revenues of one million dollars annually, property values in excess of fifty million dollars and over forty million dollars in the endowment, the San Francisco SPCA was at the peak of its success. It not only had achieved a level of financial success which was the envy of SPCAs nationwide, it was saving homeless animals at two and three times the national average, resulting in the lowest death rate of any major urban city and the only one which guaranteed to save all healthy dogs and cats.

The new president, however, was not interested in day-to-day operations, and had different priorities than his predecessor. Moving away from the programs that had made it so successful, the San Francisco SPCA replaced nuts-and-bolts programs that were the underpinning of the SPCA’s lifesaving efforts at an astonishing clip. In their place, partnerships with the University of California at Davis for fee-for-service behavior counseling, as well as architectural plans for a twenty million dollar fee-for-service specialty veterinary hospital were drawn up. And esoteric conferences on animal spirituality and telepathically communicating with animals, which catered to a more affluent, “new age” San Francisco crowd, were held at great expense—in luxury hotels or in posh vacation places like Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Within a few short years, the SPCA’s feral cat program was virtually abolished. The spay/neuter clinic, the core of San Francisco’s No Kill accomplishments, restricted its hours, significantly raised fees and, at one point, even closed its doors. On a day that came to be called “Black Monday,” the legions of feral cat caretakers who made their regular pilgrimage to use the services of the spay/neuter clinic were turned away. Many of the cats brought in that day were likely re-released unspayed or unneutered into parks and alleyways. Plans to phase out programs in the animal hospital for indigent clients and homeless animals were in full swing. Entire departments, including those which protected the city’s wildlife, worked to find apartments for renters with pets, and advocated for stronger protections of animals, were eliminated. The crown jewel of the No Kill movement quietly passed into obscurity.

When my efforts to keep the San Francisco SPCA on track were rebuffed by the President, I chose to leave.

Pat Dunaway has stated that Charlottesville did not meet its quota.
Fact: Charlottesville achieved No Kill success at its open admission animal control shelter in 2006, repeated that achievement in 2007, and is well on pace to do so again in 2008.

Separately, I have argued that No Kill success is achieved when shelters save roughly 90 percent of all impounded animals, as a small percentage (roughly at or less than one in ten) are irremediably suffering, hopelessly ill or injured, or vicious dogs with a poor prognosis for success. This is based on the most rigorous interpretation of healthy and treatable animals and is summarized in an article I wrote for the No Kill Advocacy Center called “The 90% rule.” Charlottesville has consistently met that.

Dunaway’s false insinuation that there was some quota which was not met (leaving the reader to believe that they have strayed from their No Kill goals) stems from the fact that in one year, the cat save rate in Charlottesville dipped to 88%, just shy of 90%. What Dunaway does not say was that no healthy or treatable cats were killed. What Dunaway does not say is that the 88% save rate was higher than any other municipality in the nation that year. In short, Charlottesville was the safest community in the nation to be homeless cat, but Dunaway insinuates failure. Rest assured, unless there is great self-loathing, if Dunaway were a homeless cat, Charlottesville is where she would have wanted to be that year.

Pat Dunaway has stated that Rancho Cucamonga failed.
Fact: When the City of Rancho Cucamonga fired the animal control service provider—which Dunaway worked with and was associated with—I helped Rancho Cucamonga take over operations by assisting in the development of job descriptions, training for staff, budgeting, construction, and policy recommendations. As to the latter, I recommended strongly that they follow the No Kill Equation model of sheltering. They implemented some programs and not others. That was their choice—one made against my formal recommendation as to what was necessary to achieve true No Kill. As a consultant, I could only recommend, not require.

Because I was not involved in hiring the new Director, in writing their operations manual, or in implementation of programs once the facility opened, I have not followed their progress as I do other agencies which I still work with, nor have I been to the shelter since that time. Periodically, however, I have asked them for their statistics. The last time I received a report, the number of cats saved increased from four out of ten (under Dunaway’s shelter) to six out of ten, the number of dogs saved increased to eight out of ten, and the number of other animals (rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, etc.) saved increased from two out of ten to seven out of ten. Under the shelter Dunaway supported, a cat had more of a chance of being killed than saved and seven out of ten bunnies were being put to death. Is that what she considers success?

Pat Dunaway has stated that Tompkins County is failing.
Fact: Tompkins County has been an open admission animal control No Kill shelter for six years running. It has saved roughly 90% of all animals every year. In addition, Tompkins County had tops-in-the-country save rates in 2007. I spoke to the Director of the agency (the third since my departure) and she laments the double standard about animal control funding in Tompkins County and the misrepresentations about the state of the shelter noting that “the issue of [animal control] contracts continues to be both misunderstood and used against the shelter, and folks are writing fiction about our finances because they don’t bother to ask.” She then asks the right questions: “Why wouldn’t I insist on fair market value for state mandated animal control services? It would be irresponsible of me not to.”

Recently, the new Director approached the local municipalities and informed them that they needed to pay their fair share for animal control services on a cost recovery basis. All of the additive programs above and beyond what the law required would be provided at no cost by her agency. What she has been asking for is fair compensation for the animal control services they are providing under contract and which they have been subsidizing—services which are the legal responsibility of the municipalities, not a private not-for-profit. Currently, the towns are paying about $1.70 per capita—far less than any surrounding municipalities are paying for shelters which kill. The Humane Society of the United States recommends that towns pay $5 to $7 per capita—and that is for a program reliant on killing!

By contrast, for $3 per capita (less than half of what HSUS recommends on the high end and almost half of what they recommend on the low end), she was offering them No Kill animal control. Some decided to opt out of their contracts because they did not want to pay the $3. If this was any other shelter, groups like HSUS and people like Pat Dunaway would have rushed to the shelter’s defense and condemned the municipalities. But because it is a symbol for No Kill, they attack (Dunaway and HSUS’ representative in King County)—sacrificing the animals in the process. It is beyond hypocritical. It is unethical and obscene.

Pat Dunaway has stated that Reno’s numbers are suspect at best.
Fact: Statements are not facts (Especially those made anonymously by a rage filled person with an axe to grind.) Where is the proof of this? In fact, the statistics from Reno do not come from me, they come from two independent sources: The Nevada Humane Society and Washoe County Animal Services. Moreover, the director of WCAS is hostile to No Kill which would tend toward wanting to downplay the extent of the success of the effort, thus making the statistics even more trustworthy. Facts are facts and the facts show a resounding success in Reno. Furthermore, they are cross checked against each other to ensure that impounds and outcomes are not counted twice, and have been verified by a reporter from the Reno News Gazette.

Pat Dunaway has stated that I am opposed to mandatory spay/neuter so I am in league with puppy mills.
Fact: Spay/Neuter is one of the cornerstones of the No Kill Equation and a program I offered for free in both San Francisco and Tompkins County. My opposition to mandatory spay/neuter laws is because they increase the power of the animal control bureaucracy to impound and kill animals for violations, and that is what has occurred in municipalities which pass them. This is not an anomaly. It has happened time and time again. It also causes animal control to divert scarce resources from programs which save lives (e.g., TNR for feral cats) to enforcement of ordinances that result in higher rates of killing.

I’ve written extensively about this in several articles/blogs. And I am not alone in this. According to the kcdogblog.com:

Primarily, they are barriers to our life-saving cause because they actually increase the killing in our shelters. To say they make building a No Kill community more difficult is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong. I support spay/neuter. Voluntary spay/neuter programs have been wildly successful and should be implemented in every city across the nation. Unfortunately, many want to take it one step further, mandating that pets must be altered. While most of the proponents of these laws have the right end goal in mind, the unintended consequences of punitive legislation makes them counter-productive to what they are trying to accomplish…

In 2006, Kansas City passed MSN of all “Pit Bull”-type dogs. Since the ordinance was passed, Kansas City has seen an 80% increase in the number of “Pit Bulls” killed in their city shelter. Many of these dogs are getting confiscated from homes because they were not in compliance with the spay/neuter ordinance. Young puppies are being killed because they look too “Pit Bull” and are not altered by the time they reach eight weeks of age. They’re killed only because they have not been spayed or neutered.

Many other cities have seen similar results with their mandatory spay/neuter ordinances—of both “Pit Bulls” and of all types of dogs. Los Angeles passed their mandatory spay/neuter in February of 2008, and has seen their kill numbers go up 31% this year, after more than five years of steady decline in shelter killings.

Similarly, other cities have struggled with their mandatory spay/neuter ordinances. Problems range from decreased licensing (pushing these people underground and making them harder to reach with low cost services), significant increases in animal control costs, and an increase in shelter killing rates due to the ordinances. Simply put, mandatory spay/neuter ordinances have never led to No Kill success anywhere, ever.

Moreover, I’m not a puppy miller or large scale breeder. I am not even a small scale breeder. I’ve never bred an animal. On top of that, I regularly speak out against puppy mills such as when I blogged “that buying from pet stores who feed the puppy mill industry [fuels] overbreeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor quality of food and shelter, lack of human socialization, overcrowded cages and the killing of animals by those facilities when they are no longer profitable.”

In fact, I am putting together No Kill Conference 2009 on behalf of the No Kill Advocacy Center with a workshop on puppy mills described as follows: “Legislating and Litigating an End to Puppy Mills Strategies to overcome institutionalized cruelty. This workshop will explore legal definitions of “puppy mills,” and offer both legislative strategies through anti-cruelty law reform and litigation strategies to combat this institutionalized form of cruelty…”

Countering the Swift Boat
Since these Enigmatic Naysayers exist in many communities, we are duty bound to challenge them because they wear the mantle of animal protection, yet pursue an agenda—based on lies and vilification—that seek to protect an animal control bureaucracy focused on poor care and overkill. As a result, they can potentially sidetrack reform efforts. We have seen in our national politics that failure to challenge swift boat tactics emboldens these people to further misrepresentations and attacks. We owe it to the animals whose killing they champion and to the reform efforts they seek to prevent to meet them head on and to respond to their allegations no matter how outrageous.

In the end, we can never know what motivates the Enigmatic Naysayer. In late 2006, however, I received two letters about Pat Dunaway. I subsequently had a conversation with a rescuer in Rancho Cucamonga who indicated to me that she and others received them as well. It seems that Pat Dunaway has made enemies of others. If what they say is true, perhaps they provide some insight into who Pat Dunaway is and why she attacks me and the No Kill paradigm I champion. (I’ve redacted information relative to where she lives.)

To read the first letter, click here.

To read the second letter, click here.

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