The shelter in Pueblo, CO, is in turmoil after 14 dogs died and the state took over operations. Adding insult to injury, anti-No Kill zealots are trying to exploit it to repeal a new law that mandates a 90% placement rate. The head of the Denver Dumb Friends League (DDFL), an organization that has long fought progressive sheltering policies and operates in a city that still kills dogs because of the way they look — one of only a small number of Colorado cities with a “pit bull” ban despite their racist origins and documented failure to increase public safety — is leading the charge.

But Pueblo’s problems are not the outcome of the new law. The new law explicitly authorized the “euthanasia” of dogs who were suffering. They died because of mismanagement and incompetence by the contractor. Doug Rae, who runs the municipal shelter for neighboring Fremont and Custer Counties, says that the problems in Pueblo have “nothing to do with the mandates of the Pueblo Animal Protection Act (PAPA).” He should know: he spent over 150 hours trying to clean up Pueblo’s mess after the State investigation uncovered numerous violations.

He notes that when he was hired as the director of the neighboring Humane Society of Fremont County (HSFC), it was also after a State investigation “uncovered a number of violations, including animals not being provided with timely veterinary care, euthanasia not being conducted in a humane manner, failure to follow mandated holding periods, and others.” He fixed them all by following the protocols outlines in laws like PAPA:

In my first 90 days as Director, we not only corrected all of them, we regained the complete trust of the community, elected officials, and the media… More importantly, we achieved a combined 94% save rate the first year. Year two, it was 96%. In my third year, it was 99%. Last year (2018), we placed 96%… even though HSFC is an open admission shelter that takes in all animals, including the very young, the very old, the very sick, the very injured, and the very traumatized. We accept every animal from all of Fremont and Custer County brought to us under contract with seven municipalities and the two counties.

He writes that his shelter,

[F]ollows the principles of PAPA as do communities across the nation. In 2010, Delaware passed CAPA, resulting in statewide placement rates of over 90%. The Delaware Office of Animal Welfare, the state agency that oversees Delaware’s shelters, writes that the law ‘has saved thousands of animals that would have otherwise been euthanized due to outdated policies and practices.’ Austin, TX, which takes in over 16,000 animals a year, did the same and now places 98% of dogs and 96% of cats. Muncie, IN, passed it and now places 99% of animals. None of them are suffering from the kinds of animal care deficits recently identified in Pueblo… In fact, PAPA compliance is the very reason for our success.

So why is Pueblo experiencing problems? Rae says the failure in Pueblo is because the shelter contractor “did not possess the capability to comprehend the magnitude of the job, possess the skills or rectitude to complete the job in a competent manner, or have the foresight to understand the dire consequences if they failed.” Moreover, he says, “After 15 years in this industry and having worked with and observing… [Pueblo] operations for one week, and spending hundreds of hours correcting all of the violations identified during the State inspection, I can confidently say that [Pueblo] is failing because of a dysfunctional… [contractor] that has no idea how to manage the Pueblo facility.”

In a letter to the City and County that jointly oversee the Pueblo Animal Shelter, he writes that if called upon, he and his team are willing to assist, follow PAPA, and give Pueblo the kind of placement rates that the animals of Fremont County now enjoy: “There is no reason why the Pueblo Animal Shelter cannot have the same success, the same prestige, the same trust of the community.”

Rae’s letter and analysis is here.

As for the anti-No Kill bashing, the Executive Director of DDFL says that Pueblo should not worry about placement rates and instead treat all animals as “individuals.” Exactly. That is the very core of the No Kill philosophy. The irony is that if you treat all animals as individuals, you end up placing 99% of them. It is also why communities with “breed bans” are so regressive. They don’t do that. Instead of claiming a false concern about what’s going on in another city about which they know nothing about, they should worry about their own city which continues to enforce racist, unethical policies that are are out of step with history, science, good sense and which destroy families by killing their pets. In short, they need to get their own house in order.

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