City of Irvine Takes Action to Improve Conditions at Shelter after Community Complaints

After shelter pet advocates went public by bringing their concerns about the Irvine Animal Care Center to the City Council last month, changes are afoot.

The chief veterinarian at IACC, Dr. Lawrence Kosmin, whom shelter pet advocates allege has been botching surgeries and refers to himself as “Dr. Death”, will be leaving at the end of the month.  A vet who worked under Dr. Kosmin will take his place.

City officials plan to establish a clear euthanasia policy that ensures no treatable animal is euthanized. A policy will also be set to create an atmosphere in which shelter staff and volunteers can come forward about issues without fearing retribution from their management.

A number of other changes are in the works as well:

  • A behaviorist will be hired to evaluate pets and get them ready for adoption.
  • Staff will be given one day’s notice on the kill list.
  • The Third Chance program, which advocates allege has been misused resulting in the needless killing of “rescued” pets, will be re-evaluated.
  • A veterinarian who trained in shelter medicine at UC Davis was slated to begin an independent evaluation of the Irvine facility this week.

The mayor says it will take 4 – 6 months to fully implement the changes.

Former shelter staff and volunteers are encouraged by the city’s plans but worry the independent evaluation will rely on information provided by current shelter management, who deny wrongdoing.

That’s always a challenge.  But any reasonable shelter evaluation is going to include input from community stakeholders.  In this case, since the city only took action after the community dropped the problems on its doorstep, I would think the evaluation would have to include input from those who got the ball rolling.

We’ll be watching.

One last noteworthy bit from the article, regarding “Dr. Death”:

Kosmin is serving as president-elect for the California Veterinary Medical Association during 2014-15.

The CVMA must be so proud.

(Thanks Arlene and Clarice for the link.)

NC Ends Routine Gassing of Shelter Animals

The gas chamber at Henry Co AC Shelter, 2005

A gas chamber for killing shelter pets, no longer in use.

On December 4, 2014, the Animal Welfare Section of the NC Department of Agriculture issued a policy statement regarding the use of gas chambers to all licensed euthanasia technicians and registered shelters.  The letter can be read in full here.

In summary, the letter states that because the last major animal welfare organization still endorsing the gassing of pets, the AVMA, revised its position in its Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals:  2013 Edition, the state too is revising its position.  The letter states that all shelters should immediately stop the routine gassing of animals and gives a compliance deadline of February 15, 2015.  Exceptions for killing animals in the gas chamber will be allowed, in keeping with AVMA recommendations:

  • “Unusual or rare circumstances”
  • “Natural disaster”
  • “Large-scale disease outbreak”

Licensed euthanasia technicians are requested to contact the Department of Agriculture prior to gassing in order to explain the circumstances and see if the director of Animal Welfare agrees that the case qualifies as an exception.

Any facility which anticipates it won’t be able to stop gassing pets by February 15, 2015 has until January 7 to file a one-time extension request.

Paws Up to the NC Department of Agriculture for taking action to drastically reduce the conditions under which it will be legal for shelters to gas animals to death.  It’s not as good as a ban, but it’s a solid step.

Paws Down for only doing it after the AVMA, the gas chamber’s last champion, finally arrived in the 21st century on the issue and stopped endorsing it for routine pet killing.  No other major animal organization approves of gassing shelter pets.  How many more years until the AVMA crosses the gas chamber off its list permanently?

(Thanks Lisa for sending me this letter.)

Capital Area Humane Society Increases Lifesaving for Cats by Engaging Public

It’s been depressing watching these so-called animal shelters and consultants announce they are going to “save more cats” by turning lost, owned cats back out into the street and/or selling lost, owned cats immediately upon impound.  Reuniting lost pets with their owners is not only part of the job at any shelter, it’s one of the best parts of the job to my mind.  I guess that’s why these groups feel compelled to lie about their reasons for failing at it so egregiously, blaming the “irresponsible” public even as they themselves violate the law and their own ethical responsibilities as temporary caretakers of the community’s pets.

An extremely handsome cat named Bill, listed as adoptable on the Capital Area HS website.

An extremely handsome cat named Bill, listed as adoptable on the Capital Area HS website.

It would be easy enough for any shelter to look at this trend of treating stray cats as second class pets and say “Works for us – let’s join in!”  After all, cats are harder to shelter than dogs and if you’re lazy and don’t care about keeping families together to being with, why should you bother coming up with actual solutions to the myriad issues surrounding cat sheltering?  But the staff at the donor funded Capital Area Humane Society in Ohio didn’t take the easy way out when it came to revamping their cat protocols.  They didn’t blame the public, they embraced the fact that most people who bring cats to a shelter are trying to do the right thing.  They didn’t break up families for personal profit, they gave surrendering parties supplies to keep families together, even if just temporarily.

Staff at the Capital Area Humane Society used to spend 3 hours a day killing cats and had a live release rate of just 32% for cats.  They knew their cat protocols needed an overhaul.  On September 1, staff began implementing new admission protocols for all surrendered animals but cats, including strays, have particularly benefited:

With the new protocol, an animal that is brought in to the Humane Society near Hilliard receives an exam, vaccinations and necessary medications for a nominal fee, which might be waived if the client dropping off the animal can’t pay. The client is then offered supplies, such as food and litter, and the option of fostering or keeping the animal.

The shelter also slashed adoption fees on cats and is now selling kittens for $25 and cats over 6 months of age for $10.  And a new partnership with five area rescue groups is allowing the community to step up even more.

By October 23, the kill rate for cats at the shelter had dropped by 58% and the killing of healthy, friendly cats for space dropped by 93%.

An example of how the new system works for stray cats:

Caity Waites of Huber Heights, near Dayton, said she and her roommate received assistance with three stray kittens under the new system, turning to the society when a number of other shelters said they couldn’t help.

After the veterinary exam, the women agreed to foster the animals until the society could take them. They ended up finding homes for two themselves and keeping the third.

[…]

“It was just the easiest thing in the world,” Waites said. “They just genuinely wanted the kittens to get homes. The whole experience was completely seamless and friendly and caring from start to finish.”

I’m so glad these people were able to foster and find homes for two of the kittens and decided to give the one kitten a permanent home.  These are good people, as are most people who turn to a shelter for assistance with pets.  I only hope their kitten never gets lost and if she does, she isn’t picked up by one of the lazy shelters with a policy of either putting the kitten back out on the street or immediately selling her for profit.

Improvements can and should be made in poorly performing shelters.  Taking a fresh look at how cats are sheltered is a good idea.  Breaking up families, putting owned cats back on the street and blaming the public have no place in any shelter.  It’s the opposite of why we have shelters in our society.  Good on the Capital Area HS for putting in the hard work to save more cats.  Keep going.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Sonoma Co Shelter Decides to Stop Blaming Owners, Start Reuniting Families

Cat ID #309183 at Sonoma Co Animal Services, as shown on PetHarbor.  (Click link to read the fabulous bio.)

Cat ID #309183 at Sonoma Co Animal Services in CA, as shown on PetHarbor. (Click link to read the fabulous bio.)

Instead of shelter directors and staff continually spewing the tired old mantra that the public is irresponsible and if their lost pet got loose, they don’t deserve to have him anyway so let’s not bother doing our jobs, how about this?

“It’s moving away from that old-school thinking that owners are irresponsible,” [Sonoma Co Animal Services director Brigid] Wasson said. “Every grieving pet owner who is looking for a lost pet deserves the same level of high customer service.”

*sits up straight, pays attention*

“Why would we want to find a new home for an animal that already has a good home?” Wasson said.

Hey, yeah… that.

Sonoma Co reportedly returned 55% of its stray dogs and 20% of its stray cats to their owners in the 2013-14 fiscal year which is not too shabby.  And Wasson wants to do even better.  She has instructed her ACOs to spend more time scanning for microchips, making phone calls and knocking on doors around the neighborhood when they find a stray pet.

In addition to doing their jobs to return lost pets to their owners, Sonoma Co ACOs are re-examining their own biases against the public which typically lead to unnecessary impounds:

[ACO Shirley] Zindler said officers tended to assume the worst about people who didn’t make an effort to find their missing pets, which in turn often resulted in the animal being whisked away to the shelter. But she said that attitude is changing.

“Some people don’t realize their animal’s gone yet,” Zindler said. “They’ve been at work, the animal dug out. Certainly every effort would be made to return the animal in the field.”

More, please.

(Thank you Daniela for the link.)

 

The Irresponsible Public Strikes Back – Times Two

The Wisconsin Humane Society took over shelter operations in Racine Co one year ago.  In comparing 2012 to 2013, the Wisconsin Humane Society reports a number of changes:

  • Animals are no longer killed as a means of population control.
  • The number of live released animals nearly doubled.
  • Financial donations were 14 times greater.
  • All animals are neutered prior to their placement on the adoption floor so that new owners can take their pet home as soon as they fall in love with him.
  • Fee waived adoptions for adult cats.
  • A flexible adoption policy allowing more people to adopt shelter pets.
  • Increased promotion of animals and evening adoption hours.
  • Establishment of a spay-neuter assistance program.

When asked about the turnaround at the shelter, WHS communications director Angela Speed told the local paper:

“I think there’s something to be said for community trust[.]”

[…]

“We’re really excited to see such improvement in just our first year of operation, which is totally due to the community’s support,” Speed said.

“We’re very pleased with the first full year of operations. … We have more volunteers, more donors, more adopters. We hope to continue on this trajectory.”

***

This notice was sent out Sunday by the Breckinridge Co shelter in KY:

noname

When the public trusts the local shelter to do its job, they will come out in droves to support it.  When all the public hears from its shelter staff and volunteers is that they are irresponsible animal “dumpers” who “force” the staff to kill healthy/treatable pets, we see the opposite effect.  Which description best fits your community?

The South Will Rise

While places like Union Co, NC continue to go moldy, communities all around the south are defying stereotypes and adopting progressive no kill protocols.

In Spartanburg, SC, city ACOs used to pick up cats and take them to the pound where roughly 8 out of 10 would be killed.  Area caretakers of feral cat colonies had a contentious relationship with the officers who would round up their maintained colony cats, along with other cats, and take them away for killing.

But late last year, Spartanburg Animal Services investigated trap-neuter-return for community cats and decided it was worth a try.  Funded by a grant, the city’s ACOs launched the program in January 2013.  They are on track to meet their goal of providing neuter and vaccination services to 750 feral cats this year.  The feline kill rate has dropped to virtually zero in 2013 thanks to TNR and the relationship with the community has bloomed into a supportive and useful one.  And Spartanburg Animal Services has been educating the masses via its Facebook page on which they document their outstanding TNR success.

In North Carolina, Lincoln Co animal advocates successfully lobbied their county commissioners for shelter reform.  Citing the will of the people to save shelter pets instead of killing them, commissioners unanimously voted this month to adopt the programs of the No Kill Equation:

“We are excited about leading the way in the state of North Carolina, through our commitment to become a no kill municipal shelter,” said Alex Patton, chairman of the county commissioners. “It is the right decision and one shared by the majority of our citizens.”

In Calhoun Co, AL, an advisory board was formed after concerns were raised about animal cruelty and botched killings at the pound.  The county is now slated to turn pound operations over to a non-profit group with goals for significant improvements:

 “I kept hearing from the previous board that it’s impossible to be a no-kill shelter,” [board member and attorney Tom] Wright said. “That’s not right to me, because that should be your goal. That’s what we want to work towards.”

Makes sense to me.

So even as many old-think shelter directors and politicians in the south remain mired in the killing ways of decades gone by, more and more southern communities are throwing off the yoke of archaic practices and starting to look at what makes sense:  Animals shelters should shelter animals. The public does not want animals in shelters killed.

No kill is not only possible, it’s happening in hundreds of communities all over the country.  Regressive directors and their enablers will continue to see their stranglehold on shelters eroded as more advocates take political action and the public continues to be educated about lifesaving alternatives.  And when history reflects upon those who fought to keep killing in the south and elsewhere, they will find themselves a mere Meisterburger footnote at the end of the chapter entitled “Compassion and Common Sense”.

More Misery for Animals in Merced County, CA

On June 26, 2013, Merced County authorities served a search warrant at Last Hope Cat Kingdom – a pet sanctuary in California.  Merced County Spokesman Mike North was on site during the raid and later talked to the local ABC affiliate:

He said many of the animals were severely emaciated, some had their eyes swollen shut, and others were infected with diseases. A team of veterinarians from across the state evaluated the pets and euthanized about two hundred of them on site.

Approximately 100 additional pets were removed from the property.  North indicated that Merced Co AC had been monitoring the sanctuary and that prior inspections had all been satisfactory:

County officials said they have received past complaints about the non-profit, but inspections never revealed any problems, until last week.

“Spot checks were done by Merced County animal control and confirmed the poor conditions of the facility and the animals that were housed in them,” said North.

But on September 20, reporting in the Merced Sun-Star painted a very different picture:

A Sun-Star review of Animal Control records revealed the agency transferred close to 2,000 kittens to Last Hope Cat Kingdom over a five-year period, nearly four times the number allowed by the rescue’s county-issued permit.

[…]

Last Hope Cat Kingdom’s permit allowed a maximum of 125 cats, but the county’s Animal Control sent 1,969 kittens to the facility through its foster group from 2009 to 2013, an average of 393 animals per year.

According to the Animal Control foster and rescue reports, the agency continued giving kittens to Last Hope Cat Kingdom’s volunteers up until the day of the search, June 25. Six kittens were transferred to the rescue group on the same day authorities raided the facility.

The average age of the cats given to Last Hope by Merced Co AC was 2 weeks.  Last Hope was reportedly the only group that would accept bottle baby kittens and it was widely known that if Last Hope didn’t take the kittens, AC would kill the them.  The pound would call Last Hope to pick up bottle babies an estimated 4 times a day during kitten season each year.  Last Hope co-founder Renate Schmitz faced the same predicament as many other overburdened rescuers in areas where the local shelter doesn’t do its job:

Schmitz said her rescue sometimes stopped taking animals from the public, but said it was hard to say “no” to Animal Control. “If you don’t take them, you know they will be killed or euthanized,” she said.
[…]
Animal Services Manager Rick Blackwell acknowledged using Last Hope Cat Kingdom as the agency’s main rescue group for bottle babies, but said the nonprofit could have stopped accepting more animals.

Or the shelter could have stopped killing baby cats and started doing its job.  Expanding the foster network jumps to mind, as does issuing pleas to the public on social media as bottle babies arrive at the shelter.

Dave Robinson, county Animal Control director, said in a recent interview that he was unaware the agency was sending that many kittens to Last Hope.
[…]
“One thing you have to remember about bottle babies is you probably have about 8 percent of them surviving,” Robinson said.

Say what now? Maddie’s Fund has rather different figures:

The veterinary literature reports intimidating mortality rates for orphaned kittens up to 12 weeks of age, ranging from 15% to 40%.

15, 40, 92 – whatevah, whatevs.  It sounds like the director is attempting to whitewash his pound’s failure with orphaned kittens by implying they were going to die anyway but that is outright false.  Many good shelters scramble during kitten season to get fosters and rescuers lined up for bottle feeding duty because it’s their job and because most of those animals survive.

And remember those “spot checks” and inspections the county spokesman had said AC was conducting at Last Hope?  In light of the fact that the Sun-Star exposed AC had been giving the sanctuary kittens hand over fist, including the day of the raid, I wondered if the county was going to walk those inspections claims back:

“We would never knowingly create a problem,” Blackwell said. “If we had knowledge there was an issue, we would stop sending animals there.”

[…]

Blackwell confirmed that animal control officers visited Last Hope only when there was a complaint. The most recent complaint was filed in 2010, so it had been almost three years since a thorough inspection.

[…]

Robinson acknowledged that Animal Control hadn’t inspected the rescue annually. “I think going forward we realized we do need to have a role in the process,” he said.

[…]

Robinson said it’s possible that Animal Control officers were unaware Last Hope could have no more than 125 animals since the permit was issued in 2003 and by the Planning Department.

“Back in 2003, Animal Control knew what that number was, but over the midst of time, I think the number got lost,” Robinson said.

Oh please.  More like:  We weren’t doing our jobs but instead foisting our failures onto an overburdened rescue group.  We tried to kill our way out of it with 200 on site kitten kills and lie our way out of it with claims of inspections and ignorance but then we were exposed by the local paper.  So now, uh The Midst of Time and stuff.

No charges have yet been filed against Renate Schmitz or anyone at Last Hope Cat Kingdom.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

The Public Steps In to Help Neglected Shelter Pets in Comal Co

A Jack Russell Terrier stands in a filthy kennel at CLASS in Comal Co, TX. (Image via Facebook)

A Jack Russell Terrier stands in a filthy kennel at CLASS in Comal Co, TX. (Image via Facebook)

In Texas, volunteers documented conditions at the Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society (CLASS) and posted the allegations and photos on Facebook.  They also shared the information with CLASS board members who promptly resigned.  The employees were fired and issued criminal trespass warnings by the county sheriff’s office which is conducting an investigation to determine if the alleged neglect warrants criminal charges.

The allegations include pets being left in filth, without food or water in some cases, missing pet food, and the killing of animals. Gina Archer, the former executive director who worked at CLASS for 14 years, says animals were only killed due to illness.  She and her husband were 2 of the 3 employees fired on Monday this week:

The Archers deny any of the allegations and say none of the animals were covered in their own filth.

“There might have been that on Monday morning,” said Gina Archer. “That was not the case when we walked out of there at five in the afternoon on Saturday.”

This sounds to me like an admission that animals were neglected at CLASS from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning.  Did Ms. Archer routinely leave shelter pets without care for more than an entire day?  Several photos posted on the Facebook page maintained by volunteers depict buckets of undrinkable water.  This one appears to be a trash bin with trash inside when it was filled with water and placed inside a dog kennel:

trash water

In addition to allegations of neglect, the volunteers who have taken over the shelter say there is no air conditioning, no computer and thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.

“Yesterday, we had no food, no cat litter and a half a gallon of bleach,” said new board member, Angie Gilstrap.

More than 100 cats and dogs were left in deplorable conditions.

But once word got out about the desperate need for help at the shelter, the public stepped up – big time.  Donated food and supplies filled the office on Tuesday, dozens of people showed up to volunteer for cleaning duty and adopters arrived to take pets home.  Assistance is still needed:

There is no way to currently donate online or via credit card, but Gilstrap expects that to be available by the end of the week.

Anyone who would like to donate money, time or items can do so at the shelter at 2170 Old Sattler Road in Canyon Lake, or call CLASS at 830-899-2527.

Thank you once again to the so-called irresponsible public for helping shelter pets get the care they need.  I’d hate to think of a world without all you damn irresponsible people in it.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Private Citizens Save Dozens of Cats at CT Shelter

On July 29, a local TV news report indicated Bridgeport AC in CT was threatening to kill cats due to being over capacity.  A rescue group offered to pay the adoption fees for the cats in an effort to encourage people to adopt.  The next day, the same TV station reported that people waited in line for a chance to adopt the free cats:

Yesterday, the shelter had about 75 cats.

The shelter says all but one of the cats have now been adopted, but they get new cats in all the time.

Thank you to the so-called irresponsible public, yet again – both the rescue group that paid the fees and the adopters who opened up their hearts and homes.

I hope next time Bridgeport AC needs help from compassionate people, it won’t resort to threats of violence against the pets in its care.  The public wants to save pets and will respond to pleas for assistance but any shelter wanting to build a lasting relationship with supporters needs to do its job and avoid threats to hurt animals.

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

The Long Arm of Restrictive Shelter Policies

The Humane Society of Marshall County in Benton, KY (aka The Benton Marshall HS, as listed on Facebook) says on its website it is a private, limited admission shelter in need of donations.  A reader recently sent me a list of the group’s requirements for accepting dogs and cats:

  • We can ONLY ACCEPT animals from Marshall County
  • We can ONLY ACCEPT owner surrenders which means we CANNOT accept strays
  • Bring ALL vet records when surrendering an animal
  • DOGS:
  • MUST HAVE PROOF: Current rabies, Negative heartworm test and a negative fecal test.
  • CANNOT ACCEPT: Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Chows, Dobermans, Akita or Mastiff
  • PUPPIES:
  • MUST HAVE at least one set of puppy shots and negative fecal test
  • Parents CANNOT be related

When accepting dogs, the staff will look at the adult dogs skin conditions, sores, behavior problems, eye or ear problems. Accepting puppies the staff will look for vomitting, diarrhea, nasal, eye discharge, skin condition, itching and umbilical hernia.

  • CATS:
  • MUST HAVE PROOF:  Negative Leukemia FIV test, negative fecal test and rabies
  • KITTENS:
  • MUST HAVE PROOF:  At least one set of kitten shots, Negative Leukemia FIV test and negative fecal test

When accepting cats, the staff will look for skin problems, eye discharge, nasal discharge, ears, sneezing, and diarrhea.

***

Shorter:  Vetted white & fluffies only.

I was curious, since the HS clearly doesn’t intend to spend much in the way of veterinary care for its pets and since they adopt out intact pets with a $50 refundable deposit (so they are not paying for neutering themselves), how much do they sell dogs and cats for?

The website states cats are $65 (plus the $50 refundable neuter deposit) and dogs are $75 – $200 (plus the $50 refundable neuter deposit).  The adoption application states that after you buy the pet, if you fail to have him neutered by a certain date, the HS has the right to take your pet back.  In addition, there are a list of annual expenses for which the adopter is expected to be prepared to pay for 20 years, including $30 – $100 a year for neutering.  Dang, I guess neutering doesn’t last as long as it usta.

At any rate, having recently read through a bunch of different shelter and rescue policies, I find too many of them failing to effectively fulfill the stated mission of getting homeless pets adopted.  Picking out the vetted white and fluffies from the community and selling them intact for up to $200 creates another problem too:  resentment on the part of the municipal facility.  The Marshall Co pound accepts all the unvetted Pitbulls and goopy-eyed cats.  Naturally this is going to cause some bad blood, as was evident last year when the county voted not to accept the Humane Society’s offer to merge:

The county shelter and Humane Society used to be competitors of sorts and for years, county leaders and Humane Society leaders haven’t always agreed.

[…]

After big changes from new leadership at the county shelter, the number of adoptions soared, euthanasia rates subsequently went down and the price to adopt went down, too.

[…]

Due to low euthanasia rates and high adoption rates, the county shelter is operating with a surplus.

Meanwhile, the Humane Society is losing business. Their adoption fees are higher and more people are taking animals and donations to the county shelter.

Look at how well the county shelter was doing in February 2012 (pdf).  Increased lifesaving=decreased expenses.  I was unable to find any more recent stats but hopefully the shelter is continuing to succeed in its mission.

The impact of restrictive shelter policies reaches well into the community – potential adopters, donors and officials are all affected.  As are the pets, sadly.  Why not consider throwing off the shackles and offering a hand to the county in a meaningful way – not just a oh-gee-you-guys-have-a-surplus-and-we-are-in-the-red-let’s-be-friends kind of way?  There is a potential win-win situation in Marshall Co but not as things stand.  Will the private and the public sectors ever be able to work together for the benefit of the community’s pets?

 

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