Update: HSUS in Indianapolis and More…


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.