Court Orders Hocking Co to Stop Torturing Animals in its Homemade Gas Chamber

The Ohio SPCA has been trying to get Hocking Co to stop gassing animals for years.  But the county has fought, both in court and in the court of public opinion, to keep gassing.  After all, the county’s gas chamber is homemade and everyone knows homemade things are the best.

This month, the 4th District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Ohio SPCA and ordered the Hocking Co dog warden to stop gassing animals and start killing them via injection.  The dog warden is already certified to kill animals by injection, it’s just that he didn’t feel like it, because who would when you’ve got a homemade gas chamber to play with?

At issue in the ruling:  Ohio law requires that animals be killed humanely, including being rendered unconscious immediately and painlessly.  The Hocking Co homemade gas chamber leaked carbon monoxide and wasn’t actually the swell killing device the county made it out to be:

A former assistant Dog Warden and humane agent, Chris Vickers, testified that when they were in the gas chamber, he heard dogs “screaming like they had been hit by a car and injured”. Gassing took several minutes and was not always effective in causing death. He would see dogs struggling, fighting, urinating and defecating on themselves. He routinely found blood, bite marks, feces and urine on their bodies when he removed them from the chamber after gassing.

“Not always effective in causing death” sounds like some pets were still alive after being tortured in the Hocking Co gas chamber.  Those animals were presumably put back inside for more torture until they finally died.  Yeah, I can see why the county is so head over heels with this thing.

The county lawyer argued that killing animals by injection is stressful for both people and animals.  No mention was made of the stress from working in a place filled with carbon monoxide fumes and the sounds of pets being tortured to death.  Also:  homemade!  Like on Etsy!

Hocking Co has 30 days to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.  When contacted by the local news for comment, county officials hid.

The ruling may force other counties in Ohio to stop gassing pets as well since they too must comply with state law ensuring humane death for animals.  The gas chamber is not humane and the recent court ruling upholds that.

Let’s be clear:  Killing healthy/treatable animals for convenience is not in any way humane – even if it’s done by injection.  But for rare cases when euthanasia is warranted to end the suffering of a medically hopeless pet, the most current humane method should be used.  Thankfully, many communities have ended the practice of convenience killing in their open admission shelters.  Hocking Co could join them, assuming the dog warden and county officials have stopped crying in their beer over the loss of their beloved torture device.

(Thanks Arlene for sending me this story.)

F-Star-Star-Star Yeah Augusta Chronicle

Although many newspapers feel comfortable endorsing political candidates in the lead up to an election, most do not weigh in on the needless killing of dogs and cats at their local shelter.  Of those that do, the editorials tend at best to nudge the shelter director with a kindly worded request for improvement and at worst blame the so-called irresponsible public for the killing and demand MSN enforcement.  But in a piece published yesterday, the editorial staff at the Augusta Chronicle in GA has changed all that.  They go to eleven:

Augusta-Richmond County is needlessly killing animals – dozens a day, hundreds a week, thousands a year.

All because leaders at the county’s Animal Services department refuse to work with volunteer rescue groups who help find homes for the dogs and cats that turn up at the animal shelter.

Apparently, it’s simply easier for Animal Services Director Sharon Broady and her staff to warehouse, kill and dispose of the animals than to process the paperwork needed to get them into caring homes.

The piece goes on to question why the Augusta pound is killing 70% of its animals while turning away rescuers and volunteers and why the director refuses to adopt out intact animals with spay-neuter agreements when the only alternative she allows is death.

Why is Broady’s default setting on “kill”?

She told The Augusta Chronicle via email interview that she is open to exploring options of lowering euthanasia rates. We suggest she consult a dictionary if her idea of “open” is to refuse to cooperate with rescue volunteers and blindly adhere to a policy that sends dozens of animals to the county landfill each day.

About 6,500 dogs and cats were killed last year.

Broady says lowering the kill rate would require “a new facility, additional staff, to include another veterinarian, vet techs and a much larger budget.”

She needs more resources? We don’t buy that facile argument for a split second. Broady has volunteers practically kicking her door in, begging to take these animals off her hands.

There are likely plenty of policy changes she can make to cut the kill rate that don’t require a bigger budget.

I’ll have what they’re having.

Referring to the Augusta pound as a “sick, sad death house”, the Chronicle offers up examples of places such as Kansas City where the killing of healthy/treatable pets has been drastically reduced after compassionate animal lovers committed to lifesaving took charge of operations.

Look long and hard at all these other agencies that are correctly and humanely executing their duties without executing tons of animals. Start doing what they do. Check your pride at the door. The animals whose life or death depends on us deserve that much.

Augusta Animal Services’ problem isn’t financial. It’s about attitude. And this agency has precisely the wrong attitude to fulfill a successful mission of caring for and adopting out Augusta’s most vulnerable animals.

While the editorial staff does not mention the No Kill Equation or the fact that there are hundreds of open admission shelters saving more than 90% of their pets all over the country, they clearly get the idea that a shelter should shelter, not kill, animals and that the need for meaningful reform is urgent:

Augusta Commissioners have ultimate authority for this slaughter. They have the responsibility to put an end to it. Commissioners, a compassionate and caring community is looking to you now. Do your jobs, and either make Ms. Broady do hers, or find someone else who will.

Out with the old, in with the editorial staff at the Augusta Chronicle. Someone should send them a copy of Redemption and a link to the No Kill Advocacy Center so that they can see what’s achievable in Augusta.  Local animal advocates, you’ve got the newspaper editorial staff on your side.  No small thing.  Seize the moment and publicly demand an end to the killing of healthy/treatable animals at the pound.  And then keep demanding it, six ways from Sunday, loudly, until it happens.

(Thanks Jodi for the link.)

No Kill Advocacy via Media Outreach in Huntsville, AL

Following the recent news that the city of Huntsville, AL is researching the No Kill Equation for possible implementation at the pound, the group No Kill Huntsville is engaging the community by putting up some digital billboards:

No Kill Shelter astronaut

Image courtesy of Aubrie Kavanaugh

No Kill Shelter salon #2

Image courtesy of Aubrie Kavanaugh

No Kill Shelter girl  dog

Image courtesy of Aubrie Kavanaugh

Aubrie Kavanaugh of No Kill Huntsville writes:

No Kill Huntsville continues to push local elected and appointed officials to embrace no kill programs and to end the destruction of healthy and treatable pets using tax dollars. John Hamilton, the new city administrator, told a media outlet recently that the city is exploring the possibility of becoming a no kill community. This is a degree of forward progress in a city which has known about, but chosen not to implement, the No Kill Equation for more than five years.

Although the city’s recently stated position is seen in a positive light, the members of No Kill Huntsville plan to continue to push the issue in the community and to be the group which seeks to hold city leaders accountable. A huge part of that is reaching the public, many of whom either don’t know what happens at the local shelter or may not realize that there are other ways to function. The latest tool in the toolbox is a digital billboard campaign which is set to run during the months of July and August (thanks to some help from a local sponsor and an animal-friendly advertising company) and a new television PSA (below) getting air time on the local network stations. Although the group has a fully developed web site and is very active on social media, the members acknowledge that the key to change is connecting with the very people who can be educated on what is taking place using their tax dollars and then encouraged to speak out to local officials in support of change.

The hope is to reach a wider audience using visual content which goes beyond the computer screen. No Kill Huntsville is using a degree of humor to reach the community, but there is a method to the madness. Since Huntsville is home to the Marshall Space Flight Center and does, in fact, have a host of rocket scientists living in the community, the group is taking advantage of that. Here in Huntsville, we call ourselves the Rocket City and the Star of Alabama. This region is smart, proud, progressive and creative. If we can support the space program and the international space station, surely we are smart enough to learn from successful no kill communities and stop killing healthy and treatable pets.

Thank you Aubrie for the update. Keep going.


NJ Pound Kills Owned Dogs Upon Impound

Daphne and Rocko cuddling, as pictured on the News 12 website.

Daphne and Rocko cuddling, as pictured on the News 12 website.

When NJ pet owner Jennifer Arteta went on a trip out of the country this month, she left her beloved young dogs Daphne and Rocko in the care of her father.  For reasons unknown, Ms. Arteta’s father left Daphne and Rocko at the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on June 5.

When Ms. Arteta returned from her trip on June 7 and learned what had happened, she immediately went to the pound to reclaim her pets.  Workers denied that the dogs had ever been there.  Ms. Arteta noticed Rocko’s leash and collar at the pound and pressed staff on the issue but they continued to deny any knowledge of the dogs.  Finally, someone admitted the dogs had been killed immediately upon impound on June 5.

NJ state law is clear on the 7 day mandatory holding period required for animals surrendered to pounds:

d. A shelter, pound, or kennel operating as a shelter or pound receiving an animal from a certified animal control officer pursuant to subsection a. of this section, or from any other individual, group, or organization, shall hold the animal for at least seven days before offering it for adoption, or euthanizing, relocating, or sterilizing the animal, except if:

(1)the animal is surrendered voluntarily by its owner to the shelter, pound, or kennel operating as a shelter or pound, in which case the provisions of subsection e. of this section shall apply; or

(2)the animal is suspected of being rabid, in which case the provisions of subsection j. of this section shall apply.

e.If a shelter, pound or kennel operating as a shelter or pound is not required to hold an animal for at least seven days pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection d. of this section, the shelter, pound, or kennel operating as a shelter or pound:

(1)shall offer the animal for adoption for at least seven days before euthanizing it; or

(2)may transfer the animal to an animal rescue organization facility or a foster home prior to offering it for adoption if such a transfer is determined to be in the best interest of the animal by the shelter, pound, or kennel operating as a shelter or pound.

The Elizabeth Animal Shelter appears to be in clear violation of the law regarding the immediate killings of Daphne and Rocko. The staff presumably knows this and thus the reason for the repeated lies to the owner. And it’s probably why they are hiding from the local media:

Neither the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, the city health department nor the mayor have returned requests for comment.

Ms. Arteta is heartbroken and describes Daphne and Rocko as a bonded pair who were likely scared and confused during their last hours alive.  She has set up a Facebook page seeking justice for her pets and is planning to address the city council regarding the matter tonight.

Let’s all say it together:  Nobody wants to kill animals.  If we haven’t worked in a shelter, we have no right to criticize.  It’s the irresponsible public’s fault that shelters “have to” kill pets.

Now that the bullshit is out of the way, maybe we can have a real conversation about monsters and the evil that is done in the name of the word “shelter” in this country.

(Thanks Arlene and another reader for sending me this story.)

Input Needed Regarding Tethering Ordinances

Request from a reader:  A municipal animal control is researching the issue of tethering.  The unit is considering drafting a tethering ordinance and is trying to find relevant studies, as opposed to opinions.  Any ordinance they may come up with will be drafted with the following in mind:

  • They do not want to increase impounds.
  • They do not want to penalize low income dog owners.

Can you help provide links to any information you think might be useful regarding the issue of tethering?  Again, they are hoping to find actual studies, not opinion based articles.  Do you have a link to a tethering ordinance you believe to be a good model?  As a responsible tetherer, I am pleased to see a group researching this issue thoroughly in advance and not simply caving to the Chaining=Torture hysteria too prevalent in the animal welfare world.

Advocates Speak Out Against Killing in Lafourche Parish Pound

In November 2013, then Lafourche Parish veterinarian went public with allegations that the local pound director, Kelli Toups, was forcing suffering animals to linger without care in their cages.  There appear to have been no significant improvements since then.  The Louisiana pound remains closed on weekends and Wednesdays with kill days on Tuesdays and Fridays. There are reportedly no offsite adoption events.  This year, a local rescuer who says she has saved more than 1000 dogs and cats from the pound in the past 2 years cut ties with the facility, citing the “flat out lazy” staff and outrageous policies.

Area rescuers report that Ms. Toups regularly e-mails them a list of dozens of cats on the kill list, giving rescuers just 24 – 48 hours to save them.  The pound is undergoing renovations, making the cat room half its normal size.  Instead of using that as an opportunity to hold special cat adoption promotions and events, the pound is apparently sagging over it like a slug on a crutch, using it to justify continued failures.

Shelter critics say the issues boil down to three main problems: the size of the shelter, archaic rules and regulations, and a lazy staff.


Toups denies any wrongdoing and [...] would not discuss the staff and whether it’s lazy.

Last week, dozens of protesters went to the pound and voiced their concerns.

“They say we’re a group of wishers wishing for the moon if we’re looking for a no-kill shelter, but that’s not what we’re looking for. We just want to see the least amount of euthanasia as we can possibly have. We’d like to have a shelter that doesn’t have to kill animals twice a week to make space for more animals,” [shelter advisory board member Gisele] Landry said.

No need to wish for the moon – we already have one. We also have hundreds of open admission no kill shelters all over the country where healthy/treatable animals are not killed but instead are sheltered. Lafourche Parish could have one too.  It’s entirely achievable with hard work and a commitment to lifesaving.

Advocates should not stop short of demanding that the shelter staff members do their jobs, just as those in open admission no kill shelters everywhere do.  No one has to kill animals for space.  Killing is a choice.  Lafourche Parish can choose to follow the proven programs that have ended the killing in other communities or can continue to make excuses.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

False Promises: Spay-Neuter is Not Magic

Stray neutered cat, recently taken in by a Good Sam who prevented him from ever going to a shelter.  (Photo by Casey Post)

Stray neutered cat with few teeth, recently taken in by a Good Sam who prevented him from ever going to a shelter. (Photo by Casey Post)

In general, the voluntary spaying and neutering of pets is a positive.  It reduces/eliminates the behaviors associated with reproduction, which most owners find undesirable qualities in a pet. This makes pet ownership easier to manage for many people.  It eliminates the birth of unintended puppies and kittens which again, is a plus for most owners.  These benefits show up in the community in the form of more owners being able to keep their pets and fewer homeless pets being in need of a shelter.

But spay-neuter falls short in two major ways:

  1. It does nothing to save the dogs and cats in shelters today.
  2. It’s of no use to pet owners who can not afford to pay for the services and/or get their pets to the clinic, or those who don’t know low cost services are available.

Contrary to what far too many shelter directors and killing apologists say publicly, spaying and neutering is not THE answer.  That is, voluntary spay-neuter is an important part of the solution but there are many other significant pieces to the puzzle.  Spay-neuter doesn’t stop shelter directors from killing any and all animals of their choosing.  Legislation is required to end that barbaric practice.  And voluntary spay-neuter is just one component of the No Kill Equation – the only set of programs proven to end the killing of healthy/treatable animals in shelters.  Spay-neuter alone has never ended the killing of healthy/treatable shelter pets anywhere.

In addition, those who blame the public for the killing and point to spay-neuter as the one and only solution often combine the blame with a threat:  Until everyone spays and neuters, we’ll keep killing animals.  The truth is that the day “everyone spays and neuters” is not going to be today, tomorrow, or next month.  That means that the pets in shelters today, tomorrow and next month are at risk of being needlessly killed which is unacceptable no matter how you frame it.

In fact, the day “everyone spays and neuters” will be never.  Some people choose not to spay and neuter for various reasons with which animal advocates may or may not agree.  But that is irrelevant since pet overpopulation is a myth and there are more than enough homes for every shelter pet in the U.S.  There are hundreds of communities all over the country that have ended the killing of healthy/treatable shelter pets and not one of them waited until everyone spayed and neutered their pets.  Puppies and kittens are still being born in those no kill communities, shelter directors are still doing their jobs, and the world is still turning.

In addition to failing to help the animals in shelters today, spay-neuter has serious accessibility issues.  Too many low cost spay-neuter clinics are mired in difficulties – both from within and without.  In Alabama for example, private vets are working to drive the few low cost spay-neuter clinics out of business – and they’re succeeding.  Other clinics in the U.S. have lengthy waiting lists  or don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you lists that discourage people from applying.  If more low cost clinics would start subsidizing fees (up to 100% if necessary) for low income owners who need assistance, offering transport for pets who would otherwise be unable to get to the clinic, and working with caretakers of community cats, their reach could be expanded.  And perhaps the most obvious and overlooked challenge:  making people aware that the clinics exist.

Nathan Winograd explains why spay-neuter is an important part of, but not the entire solution to, shelter pet killing since it helps reduce intake numbers:

[W]e want intakes low enough that even a lazy, bureaucratic, uncaring, inept director (in short, your average kill shelter director) can run a No Kill shelter with ease. In other words, we want to eliminate those communities with high intake rates (like Washoe County) needing thoroughly committed and hardworking leadership to succeed.

In other words, shelter pets can’t wait for all the Meisterburgers to die out and get replaced by heroic figures willing to commit themselves, body and soul, to stopping the killing of shelter pets. We have a proven road map and we need to force, through legislation if necessary, the existing shelter leadership to follow it. Reducing intake through low/no cost voluntary spay-neuter is one way to help make that happen.

Spay-neuter has not ever and will not ever eliminate shelter pet killing but even in the worst case scenario with a shelter director committed to killing, it can help deliver fewer victims to the facility’s front door.  The benefits of spay-neuter should not be underestimated nor should they be overestimated as a panacea for the myriad problems in our broken shelter system.  No kill starts with a commitment to protecting the lives of shelter animals and a willingness to do the hard work required to save them all.  Everything else is a tool in the toolbox.

Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and Dead Shelter Pet Profiteering

Access to no and low cost spay-neuter services for pet owners who need them is a key component of the No Kill Equation.  The No Kill Equation is the only set of programs proven to eliminate the needless killing of shelter pets.  Alabama, a state where roughly 1 out of 5 people live below poverty level, had four non-profit clinics which offered low cost spay-neuter services.  That is, until recently.

For the past few years, the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (ASBVME) has been trying to get the low cost spay-neuter clinics shut down.  The board has claimed that sub-standard care is being provided and that the clinics are trying to expand into full service vet hospitals.  The care is “sub-standard” because the primary function of the clinics is to perform low cost, high volume spays and neuters.  So yeah, this isn’t the place to get a complete diagnostic work up on your geriatric pet who doesn’t seem to be exhibiting her usual pep lately.  If it was, then the clinic would be guilty of attempting to expand its services.  But it’s not, so no.

The bottom line:  the ASBVME members want ALL THE MONEY that anyone in the state of AL is willing to spend on vet care.  As if one client at a spay-neuter clinic equates with one client who would utilize a full service practice if the low cost clinic wasn’t available.  Because hey, if all the WalMarts closed tomorrow, everyone would totally head on over to Saks Fifth Avenue to get their shopping done.

The ASBVME is currently targeting veterinarian William Weber, owner of the low cost spay-neuter clinic in Irondale. In hearings held by the ASBVME, Dr. Weber spoke for himself:

“You’re not gonna shut me up so you may as well not try. You can object until Kingdom Come. You can object ‘til your glasses fall off. You will not shut me up… The great majority of these people are people that would never, ever go into a veterinary clinic and pay $500 or similar to spay a cat that they’re lucky they can feed and catch in a trap and take it somewhere. They’re not gonna do that. Veterinarians are not losing money from spay and neuter clinics!  And if veterinarians would cooperate, they would make money from ‘em. You be nice to some of these people, and they’ll come back to you. And why people cannot see that is beyond me. How can a veterinarian go to school and learn surgery and come out of it with no compassion?! There are veterinarians in this state that have a hole in their brain where compassion ought to be and they’re trying to fill it up with money.“

And astonishingly, ASBVME vice president Sam Eidt offered that low cost spay-neuter clinics aren’t needed because pet overpopulation is a myth and the book Redemption says so.  Nathan Winograd, the author of Redemption, wrote to the ASBVME in response.  His letter, which can be read in full here, sets the record straight:

Any claim that [low cost spay-neuter] clinics are either unnecessary or should be restricted based on my work is categorically false. In fact, not only am I and my organization committed to the promotion of such services, when I ran shelters, we performed many such surgeries, as they were key to our lifesaving success. In one of those shelters, we did roughly 10,000 low-cost surgeries a year, 84% of which were free. None of the community’s veterinarians objected to this service. Indeed, as animal lovers who understood that we were serving people who could not afford their services, they welcomed it.


While it is true that nationwide statistics show that there are enough potential homes for the animals in shelters, this does not undermine the cost, public health, and lifesaving impact of such services. Indeed, regardless of the number of potential homes, the fact remains that the animals are not getting into those homes. Shelter killing currently claims the lives of three million healthy and treatable animals every year and shelter killing remains the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the U.S. Low-cost, high-volume spaying and neutering helps to decrease the number of animals entering shelters who would face an unnecessary and untimely death. Such programs are therefore essential to saving lives and should be encouraged and supported.

The low cost spay-neuter clinic in Huntsville abruptly closed its doors a couple weeks ago, due to fear of being next on the ASBVME’s hit list. Although I haven’t seen any support for AL’s low cost spay-neuter clinics from HSUS or ASPCA during this legal battle, Francis Battista of Best Friends recently blogged about the issue:

The ASBVMA, under the leadership of Robert E. Pittman, DVM, is charging Weber with fraud and lack of supervision, and it maintains that the clinic, which performs low-cost, high-volume spays and neuters, provides substandard care. It should be noted that Dr. Pittman owns and operates his hometown kill shelter on a contract with the city. The shelter is attached to his Athens, Alabama, veterinary clinic. It might be an oversimplification to frame it this way, but this looks for all the world like a case where a vet who has a vested interest in not reducing the number of homeless pets using his institutional authority is going after a vet who is working to reduce the number of homeless pets. Hmm.

Put me down for a hmm too.

For those who scrolled to the end of this post because words, here are your takeaways:

  • Access to no and low cost spay-neuters is a key program utilized by hundreds of communities which have ended the killing of healthy/treatable shelter pets.
  • Closing the low cost spay-neuter clinics in AL will result in an increase in the number of unintended litters of puppies and kittens, not an increase in gold bullion for private practice vets.
  • There are enough homes for every shelter pet in the United States.  That does not mean we should work to create more pets likely to end up in shelters.  In fact, that’s the wrong direction entirely.  Especially given the fact that most shelter directors are failing to get their pets into homes and are killing them instead.  So providing these directors with more is a terrible idea.  They’re failing the ones they already have.
  • Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham has been trying to get a bill passed to protect the state’s spay-neuter clinics but hasn’t been successful to date.  Seems like a missed opportunity for HSUS and their legislative inclinations.  Their support, were they to offer it, might tip the balance in favor of the bill.

(Thanks to readers Tip and Aubrie for the links and transcript of Dr. Weber’s remarks.)

Augusta Pet Killing Facility Director Blames Public for Her Failures, Public Responds

I often skip the comments section of articles I read online (not the comments that readers post here of course, because you guys are strong, good looking and above average).  But after reading this depressing article on the consistent 70% kill rate at the Augusta pet killing facility in GA and the director’s blame-the-public excuses, I was just hoping I might find something redeeming.  So I started scrolling through the comments and was pleased to find several people questioning the killing.  A commenter called Navy Gary wrote:

How can these places just kill healthy animals? I guess they think God put them in charge of cats and dogs. I could maybe understand if they were old or diseased but to kill them just because it’s cheaper than feeding them.(?) That is just plain wrong. What are these people thinking? How can they reconcile that certain death for these animals with a needle is better than getting hit by a car or whatever fate might befall them had the “animal shelter” not intervened? We should all be ashamed that it is funded with our tax dollars.

Another commenter replied:

Navy Gary, I know you mean well when you think the animal shelter employees are bad people by killing these animals. Do you have a solution when 150 dogs come in the door unwanted, 15 get adopted, and the pens are full. But wait, 100 more just came in the door. Now what? stack them on top of each other? Pretend they aren’t there? They don’t want to euthanize these animals. It is the irresponsible people that are to blame for their deaths. Do the math.

In fact, the math has been done. It shows that there are more than enough homes for every shelter pet in America. And the great thing about math is, it continues to be true no matter how many killing apologists deny it. I don’t know if Navy Gary has seen the math but I’m guessing that like many people, he has not. Even so, he knows killing healthy/treatable pets is wrong, as he says in his response:

Just don’t kill them, find food, find homes. Let them go wild. Anything is better than killing them. Don’t build an “animal shelter” and kill 70% of the pets. It just isn’t right. Geez, the dogs at Michael Vick’s house had a better mortality rate than the “animal shelter” and he did prison time.

Thank you Navy Gary for making my day. If you happen to find this blog and would be interested in reading Nathan Winograd’s book Redemption, please let me know so I can mail you a copy.  I think you’ll appreciate it and maybe it will inspire you to take action in your community.  Because you are right, killing shelter pets is not the answer.  And there are plenty of homes for all of them.  We just need shelter directors to stop making excuses and start doing their jobs.

I just love that irresponsible public. They give me hope.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)


Discussion: Letter from Greenville Pound Vet Responsible for Kitten Killing Policy

In the past week, since I posted about the Greenville Co pound’s horrific policy on kitten killing, readers have been sending me e-mail exchanges they’ve had with the pound’s veterinarian, Teri Worl.  Dr. Worl is the person reportedly responsible for the decision to take newborn kittens of certain weights away from their mothers to kill them.  I am sharing one exchange here, sent to me by Diana Riglet, director of Foster Paws Rescue.

Ms. Riglet told me she forwarded an e-mail she had received from Austin Pets Alive celebrating three years of no kill and wrote her own letter along with it. This e-mail was sent to Paula Gucker, assistant county administrator, Shelly Simmons, division manager of the Greenville Co pound, and board members of Foster Paws Rescue. The e-mail was then apparently forwarded by someone to Dr. Worl. Here is Ms. Riglet’s original e-mail:

On Thursday, February 20, 2014 11:14 AM, Diana Riglet wrote:

Hi Paula:

As you can see GCAC doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel”, but simply model their life saving efforts after a successful shelter.

When I see a situation unfolding at the shelter as I write this e-mail I wonder how dedicated to No Kill GCAC actually is. The cat sick hold kennels are full and there are several cats with ringworm. Rescue groups have been advised to pull these cats or they will lose their lives. I don’t understand why the shelter isn’t also reaching out to the cat loving public for help. I posted on the shelter FB pet rescue page, not the shelter, me personally, for foster homes for these cats. I also posted on Foster Paws Rescue FB page. So far this week my group has pulled seven cats and we are trying to secure foster homes to pull more. FYI four of the sick hold cats we thought well enough to go into the adoption center at Pet Smart. Why then were these cats not in the adoption kennels where they could be seen and possibly adopted by the cat loving public?

Why doesn’t the shelter have a ring worm ward and a URI ward? The cat loving public will adopt these cats!

The question also begs to asked, if the shelter is vaccinating on intake and has revamped its cleaning and medical protocols why are we still seeing so many cats with URI and ring worm?

Finally it seems that some momentum has been lost in terms of moving toward increasing the live save rate at the shelter. I’ve seen your 2013 stats. If accurate, a 50% live cat save rate is unimpressive. If all the programs and services of the No Kill Equation had been implemented with gusto you would have a 90% or better live save rate by now. Many shelters have achieved just such a live save rate within a year or sooner of implementing all the programs/services. It doesn’t take five years! In fact those who say they’ll be No Kill in five years never achieve No Kill.

Diana Riglet

This is the response she received from Dr. Worl who, to reiterate, was not one of the intended recipients:

On Friday, March 7, 2014 8:39 AM, “Worl, Teri” <> wrote:

Dear Diana,

I would love to respond to your concerns regarding the veterinary care of our animals. It would be much easier for me to do that if you would direct your questions to me, a veterinarian, rather than asking someone without veterinary training to comment on veterinary questions. With that said, I will address each of your points.

A question I would like answered about the “successful shelters” to which you are referring is how many healthy cats do they have awaiting adoption? While we would love for all of our cats to find loving homes it is very difficult to justify using more resources to rehome sick cats when healthy cats are being euthanized due to space constraints.

But more to the point, we do reach out to the public for help rehoming sick animals. In fact, all you have to do is walk around our shelter to see signs pleading for foster homes for sick animals. There are hundreds of animals in our foster care program, most of them there because they are ill. We don’t, however, adopt out sick animals to the general public as that would not only be very irresponsible of us, but sick animals cannot undergo surgery and should not receive vaccinations. Instead, we encourage customers to foster-to-adopt, as many of them plan to adopt the animals when they return to health. The foster-to-adopt program has been very successful; in fact nearly 100 cats have been saved by it in just the last two and a half months that might otherwise have had to be put to sleep. This is in addition to our regular cat adoption efforts.

The four cats in sick hold to which you referred were not on the adoption floor because a trained veterinarian had examined them and determined that they were not yet healthy enough to return to the adoption floor. There are many very subtle signs of illness displayed in cats and dogs which typically go unnoticed if not specifically checked for. In addition, if full courses of medications are not completed the animal is at higher risk of relapse. Furthermore, cats continue actively shedding viruses beyond resolution of clinical signs so we take extra precautions in our sick animals. Taking an animal straight out of sick hold and putting them into a stressful environment such as PetSmart is highly unadvisable as it increases viral shedding by 60% and puts other animals at risk.

We would love to have specific wards for different illnesses. But we do not even have enough wards to house all of the healthy animals we have here, much less the sick animals.

Illness in cats is a multifaceted issue. It takes several days for a vaccine to prime the immune system of an animal. Generally speaking, it is a minimum of 5 days before a vaccinated animal would respond well enough to a vaccine for it to be effective. Depending on age, an animal may require between 1-3 booster vaccines given every 2-4 weeks to be considered immune to the disease against which we vaccinate. This is best case scenario and assumes a healthy animal. Cats and dogs are vaccinated prior to entering the general population, however, since the vaccine will not be effective for several days the cats may still be susceptible to any disease to which they are exposed. Unfortunately, this is the least of our challenges with cat illness.

While vaccines are important in preventing illness in cats stress reduction is infinitely more important. About 60-75% of cats coming into the shelter will already be harboring viral diseases. This is the same percentage of cats harboring illness in the community. They are in carrier states. However, they do not shed these viruses consistently and do not show signs of illness until and unless they become stressed. Stress suppresses the immune system and allows secondary bacterial infections to take hold. This is when cats start to show signs of illness.

The same is true for ringworm. Many cats will be in a carrier state and never show clinical signs of the disease. But when they become stressed they may start losing hair. Once ringworm spores are shed an entire room can be quickly infected. To give ringworm the opportunity to spread in our shelter by keeping infected cats in adoptable areas would not only be unfair to unaffected cats but, as a zoonotic disease, is also a public health risk to those individuals entering our facility. Should we someday have a ringworm ward, where special precautions can be made when entering/exiting the area to protect healthy cats as well as people visiting, adoption opportunities may then be a conceivable option.

We have taken many steps to help reduce stress in our cats. In my last correspondence with you I invited you to come in and discuss the efforts we have made but you did not respond.

Finally, I will leave you with the following:
Animals being euthanized in shelters indicates a problem in the community.

In the two emails I have read from you there has been considerable criticism and negativity. Constant badmouthing by rescue groups and other individuals in the community is not only detrimental to the shelter but it directly harms the animals you say you want to help.

The animals here get sick because we are overcrowded. Not because we don’t care properly for them. If you want to save the cats then help us get the healthy cats out of here BEFORE they get sick. Pull healthy, highly adoptable cats quickly and get them into homes. It is a chain reaction. If you take a healthy cat you will get it rehomed much more quickly and use fewer resources. Once that cat is rehomed then pull another cat and do the same. If you can place two cats in the time that it would take you to get one cat healthy enough to adopt then you have saved double the number of cats. And if you’ve pulled double the number of cats from the shelter then that reduces the number of cats in the wards which, in turn, lowers the level of stress and illness in the cats and fewer cats are at risk of euthanasia due to illness or space constraints.

Every person in this shelter is here because they love animals. We have the same goal that you do: to save the lives of these innocent animals! So instead of criticizing us why won’t you get behind us and listen to some of our ideas about how to help? We could certainly use your help.

Dr. Teri Worl
Shelter Veterinarian
Greenville County Animal Care Services
328 Furman Hall Rd
Greenville, SC 29609

Ms. Riglet states that she replied by e-mail that she would be happy to meet with Dr. Worl. Further, she says she stopped by the pound one day and asked to see Dr. Worl but was told she wasn’t there. Ms. Riglet says she left a greeting card with a note requesting a meeting, plus a bound copy full of material on no kill. She never received a response.

I am opening up the floor for your impressions. Does reading this letter from Dr. Worl make you feel better, worse or the same about her policy to take newborn kittens of certain weights from their mothers to kill them? If you are a rescuer, foster, or other shelter pet advocate, how does Dr. Worl’s letter make you feel as far as partnering with her to save lives? Based upon this letter, what do you believe is the likelihood of the Greenville Co pound achieving no kill under Dr. Worl’s leadership? If you were advocating for no kill in Greenville Co, what might be your next steps?


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