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National Animal Shelter Reform Week

A dying and uncared for kitten at the New York City pound. The Humane Society of the United States says we should spend this week celebrating this and other similarly cruel and barbaric facilities.

November 6 is the official kick off of “National Animal Shelter Reform Week.” It is a week dedicated to educating the American public about neglect and abuse that is rampant in U.S. “shelters,” the systematic killing that goes on there, and what we can do to bring this tragedy to an end. It is also a week dedicated to celebrating the many animal advocates across the country who are fighting to reform our shelters and winning, so that others can be inspired to emulate their success.

The week is being launched by the  No Kill Advocacy Center  in response to the call by the Humane Society of the United States to “celebrate” those shelters and turn a blind eye to the neglect, abuse, and killing of animals in their custody. In a Georgia shelter, for example, abusive workers bury shelter animals alive. But there is no word of concern from HSUS,  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and individual shelter killing apologists. In a Washington shelter, abusive workers drown a cat in a bucket of bleach as punishment for being skittish (and thus “difficult” to handle), but PETA and HSUS actually publicly defended the shelter, telling County Council members not to pass shelter reform legislation to mandate lifesaving improvements.

In its call to celebrate shelters, HSUS claims to be the nation’s top cheerleader for shelters, rather than the animals’ top advocate. And PETA has vilified me and others working to reform our broken shelter system, promoting and defending some of the worst abusers in the country. It is this very mentality of celebrating shelters and fighting reformers in the face of epidemic uncaring that has allowed shelters to remain  unregulated  and has given them the hubris to neglect, abuse, and systematically slaughter four million animals a year without a hint of remorse.

From  the No Kill Advocacy Center:

No Kill Advocacy Center Launches “National Animal Shelter Reform Week”

Every day during National Animal Shelter Reform Week, the first full week of every November, the No Kill Advocacy Center will confront poor and neglectful conditions at shelters around the country and contrast them with progressive and innovative No Kill shelters. We will also honor No Kill activists working to end the systematic killing of animals, so that others can be inspired by their efforts. Finally, we will strive to give animal advocates the tools they need to succeed.

In Georgia, shelter workers bury animals alive.

In Mississippi, a shelter starves animals to death.

In North Carolina, an animal control officer shoots a beloved family dog because he did not want to spend the time trying to catch her after she got out of her yard.

In New York State, shelters refuse to work with rescue groups and then kill the very animals those groups offer to save.

In California, an animal control officer beats a puppy with a baton and is not fired, his manager then returns a dog set on fire back to the abuser to avoid the costs of boarding pending trial.

In Texas, puppies are drowned by being flushed down a trench drain.

In Washington, a shelter employee punishes a cat who is fearful of being handled by drowning her in a bucket of bleach, while the whistleblower who brought the incident to light must be transferred to another department fearing retributive violence by shelter employees.

In Pennsylvania, shelter workers neglect and abuse animals, but a whistleblower is outed by the Health Department, only to have his car vandalized and be threatened with violence by other employees.

In other shelters: Prison inmates who work at a shelter throw animals in the incinerator alive for amusement; Cats are left without food or water during a long holiday weekend; and, Rabbits are not fed and forced to cannibalize one another.

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. Rarely a day goes by that another incident of shelter mismanagement, killing, neglect, and/or abuse isn’t brought to our attention, highlighting and substantiating an epidemic crisis of neglect and cruelty, followed by systematic killing, in our nation’s so-called animal “shelters.” In fact, the first time many animals experience abuse and neglect is in the very institution’s which are supposed to protect them from it.

These are  your  animal shelters; the ones that blame  you  for the killing.

The Nation’s Cheerleader Says We Should Celebrate Them

But rather than hold these “shelters” accountable, the Humane Society of the United States asks us to celebrate them. For the last several years, HSUS has promoted a campaign they call “National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week” which occurs the first full week in November. According to HSUS, which describes itself as the nation’s “strongest advocate” for shelters, we owe a debt of gratitude to the “dedicated people” who work at them. They claim that leadership and staff at every one of these agencies “have a passion for and are dedicated to the mutual goal of saving animals’ lives.” They tell us, “We are all on the same side,” “We all want the same thing,” “We are all animal lovers,” and criticism of shelters and staff is unfair and callous because “No one wants to kill.” That is why groups like HSUS can boldly publish, without the slightest hint of sarcasm or irony, a picture of a puppy—a young, healthy, perfectly adoptable puppy—put to death with the accompanying caption: “This dog was one of the lucky ones who died in a humane shelter: Here caring shelter workers administer a fatal injection.”

The Nation’s Watchdog Says We Should Reform Them

Roughly four million animals are needlessly killed at these institutions every year, while an epidemic of neglect and abuse goes largely unacknowledged and unchecked by the very organization that has the power and resources to do something about it: HSUS. That is why we are launching “National Animal Shelter Reform Week.”

National Animal Shelter Reform Week is designed to confront the tragic truth about how most shelters in this country operate and to increase public awareness about how animal lovers can fight back. Despite the uphill battle many shelter reformers face, they are succeeding through ingenuity, perseverance, and because the American public loves animals. The No Kill Advocacy Center would like to support their reform campaigns and honor their tireless effort.

We Deserve Better

We are a nation of animal lovers. We spend $50 billion every year on our animals. We miss work when they are sick. We cut back on our own needs during difficult economic times because we can’t bear to cut back on theirs. And when it is time to say good-bye for the last time, we grieve. We deserve shelters that reflect our values. And we deserve large national organizations to fight for, not hinder, reform of our nation’s regressive and cruel animal shelter system.

Only when shelters stop neglecting, abusing, and killing animals in their care will we will have something to truly appreciate and celebrate. But until then, we can celebrate the many animal advocates working to make a lifesaving difference in their cities and, more importantly, give them the tools they need to succeed.


These are YOUR animal shelters, the ones that blame YOU for the killing:

A dead dog, atop a pile of dead animals, is teeming with maggots and blood at the Associated Humane Societies in Newark, NJ in 2009. The white specks on the floor are maggots in a pool of blood. The shelter takes in $8,000,000 a year but has a long, sordid history of animal neglect.

A puppy as he enters Memphis Animal Services. The same puppy near death from starvation after weeks in the shelter’s custody. They refused to feed him.

The “feral cats only” kennel in Collier County, FL’s animal shelter. Terrified cats were forced to watch other cats be killed and many of them defecated in fear as staff hunted them down with catchpoles. They were then lined up dead in neat piles after a mass kill. The director did not believe in TNR because cats “might” suffer on the street.

A kitten lies near death in a filthy carrier at Houston’s BARC. The shelter “lost” this kitten and found him a day or so later, near death.

This photograph is not “graphic” but it speaks volumes. An empty plate, a bone-dry water bowl, a filthy cage: A cat reaches out, begging for food and water. Staff at King County Animal Care & Control outside of Seattle, WA did not provide food or water over a three day weekend.

A 10-month old dog enters Los Angeles County’s animal shelter healthy, and slowly begins to die of pneumonia and starvation. She was subsequently found dead after a period of several weeks. Staff claimed no one noticed that she was not eating.

The feral cat pen in Henry County, GA. Aside from being filthy, cats were found poisoned with antifreeze. Only shelter staff had access to the pen and advocates believed it was retaliation for demanding better conditions for them.

A kitten before and a kitten after. Yet another animal who goes unfed and uncared for while in the “care” of a shelter mandated to protect animals from harm. Sad to say, I can’t even recall what shelter this was.

A rabbit furiously tries to drink water from an empty container in Los Angeles. This follows promised reforms after what has become known as “Spinal Monday.” Staff did not take care of the rabbits who began cannibalizing other rabbits in the face of starvation. When they were discovered on Monday, one of the rabbits had an exposed spine as other rabbits began eating him alive.

A dog owner cries as he recounts how his dog was kicked to death by an employee of the ASPCA in New York. The dog was in the ASPCA’s veterinary hospital getting care. It was not the first time the ASPCA abused an animal, which they tried to cover up.

Blood stains all over the kennel of a puppy who was beaten by an animal control officer with a baton in Devore, California. The officer was not fired or reprimanded.

A puppy left to die on her own, her body covered in urine, nothing soft to lay on, unable to hold up her head, in Houston, TX.

A dog found buried in Chesterfield, SC after staff of the shelter used him for target practice. They also used dogs for fighting and beat cats to death with pipes.

Dead animals thrown in garbage bags in Philadelphia, PA. Sometimes it took an hour for animals to die because of untrained staff and improper “euthanasia” techniques. And more than one staff member admitted that they have seen the bag still moving while en route to the landfill.

Sick puppies huddled just outside of Houston in a Texas shelter. They came in healthy, they were kept in filthy conditions right next to sick dogs, and would eventually die of or be killed for parvo caused by shelter neglect.

It looks like a nice picture: a cat in a spacious “showcase” room at the Shreveport, LA shelter. What made this so tragic is that despite killing 92% of cats and claiming to do so because of “pet overpopulation,” this was the only cat available for adoption when I visited. Every other cage was kept empty so staff did not have to clean them. Even this room could have easily held a half dozen cats.

A puppy languishes in Los Angeles County. Unable to hold his head up, he lays it on filthy and cold concrete. He would ultimately die, while indifferent staff walked by and ignored his plight. He was not the first in the litter to die without care.

A dilapidated, tiny kennel, some of the most inadequate I have seen, in Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation. The dogs could not even stand in them, turn around freely, or lie down comfortably. Many of the kennels had open drains and staff admitted that when the dogs get their legs caught in them, by the time staff finds them in the morning, their legs are so swollen, they cannot be extricated. The dogs are killed on the spot before the leg is sawed off.

A dog ate half of his tail because NYC’s animal shelter did not provide the care he needed for an injury.

A dog’s kennel and the dog covered with fecal matter at the Associated Humane Society in Newark. In 2009, state inspectors found, among other things, “severe fly and maggot infestation,” “overwhelming maladorous smell,” “large amount of blood : splattered on the floor, walls, and viewing window,” as well as sick and injured animals “not being treated.”

In our homes, our dogs and cats are part of the family. We are devoted to them. We give them food and fresh water, a safe, warm place to sleep, needed medical care, and our love and attention.   In the “shelters” we fund with our tax-dollars and our philanthropic donations, animals are routinely denied the most basic of necessities. They are frequently the victims of neglect, and often, of cruelty. In fact, the first time many animals are neglected or abused is in the very shelter that is supposed to protect them from it.

It is time to take our shelters back. It is time to regulate them to ensure that not only are animals no longer needlessly killed at these facilities, but that they are also treated with compassion and decency. We have the right to expect that our shelters reflect our humane values.

But what we do not need are more promises that shelters will do better. We already have such promises and as the above photographs show, and as 4 million dead animals every year prove, those promises are not sincere. What we must demand are strict laws that regulate shelters; laws that force them to live up to their names and mission statements. In short, we must pass the Companion Animal Protection Act in all 50 states.

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