April 18, 2012
NKLA is “a coalition of animal rescue organizations, city shelters and passionate individuals” working to end the killing of healthy/treatable animals in Los Angeles. The plan, according to a piece in the L.A. Times, is to combine a major ad campaign to increase public awareness, adoption incentive grants to rescues and neuter assistance to pet owners who need it:
As part of the NKLA effort, Best Friends has allocated more than $1.2 million to make grants to area rescue leagues to encourage more adoptions, and to provide financial assistance to help people who don’t have money to neuter their pets.
Nissan, a client of TBWA\Chiat\Day, donated a vehicle which has since been dubbed “The Neuter Cruiser” that will be used to ferry pets to the procedures.
What is your take on this project? Do you think it can work? Will Los Angeles be a no kill city by 2017?
February 14, 2012
On Wednesday February 15, Assembly Bill A05449A will be introduced in the NY state Ag Committee. This quick kill bill is expected to pass and we need to make our voices heard tonight to keep that from happening. This quick kill bill is of immediate concern to NYers because it affects their community pets but it’s also very worrying for pet owners everywhere because it sets a legal precedent for more needless shelter pet killing.
And once again, it falls upon “the irresponsible public” to stand up for the lives of pets because the multi-million dollar animal welfare groups won’t do it. Where is Alley Cat Allies, the nation’s largest group advocating for feral cats? They should be mobilizing their forces in opposition to this bill which will legalize instant killing for every feral cat in NY. Where is Best Friends? They ask people to donate so there will be “no more homeless pets” but this bill might as well be named “no more living homeless pets”. Why aren’t they mass e-mailing members to take action against this? HSUS? Tuh, I know better than to ask. And of course ASPCA is the group that is leading the coalition to get the quick kill bill made into law.
It’s up to you and me. Again. No matter where you live, please take action and voice your opposition to the ASPCA’s quick kill bill. Then pass this information on to your compassionate animal friends. Every voice counts.
As always, please keep your comments respectful.
With permission, I am sharing Nathan Winograd’s most recent post on the subject, complete with action items, below. This is the most succinct explanation I’ve seen. If you aren’t familiar with the quick kill bill and need more information, there are links at the end.
From Nathan Winograd:
If the ASPCA and Assembly Member Amy Paulin get their way, feral cats and scared cats can be exterminated immediately on intake in New York State shelters.
The ASPCA is pushing legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Amy Paulin that would allow New York State shelters to kill animals immediately if shelter staff determine that the animals are in “psychological pain.” There is no definition of what constitutes psychological pain and no standards to how it will be applied. For the first time anywhere in the U.S., shelters will be allowed to kill animals with no holding period of any time based on the animals’ perceived state of mind, giving regressive shelter bureaucrats unlimited discretion to immediately kill animals based on unenforceable, unknowable, and completely subjective criteria. Not only is this a real and immediate threat to shy and scared animals, as well as feral cats, but it is a very dangerous precedent to introduce in the animal control laws of our nation.
Whether you are from New York or not, please speak up for the animals:
- Email Ed Sayres: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Post comments on the ASPCA Facebook page: www.facebook.com/aspca
- Post comments to twitter: @aspca
- Email Amy Paulin: PaulinA@assembly.state.ny.us
- Post comments on Paulin’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/assemblywomanpaulin
- Post comments to twitter: @AmyPaulin
November 9, 2011
Francis Battista of BFAS does the right thing:
Instead of cooking up fevered fantasies about an Al-Qaeda-like no-kill operation that is on the loose and may be coming to a community near you, one would hope that the ASPCA would be rattling the cages of local SPCAs and shelters and using their considerable influence in those circles to get such organizations to address the actual cause of public unrest, which is not an extremist agenda, but the killing of healthy, treatable pets.
Will HSUS address ASPCA’s shameful attempt to strategically smear no kill advocates? Because silence sends a message too.
September 4, 2011
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) hates feral cats. As such, they are opposed to the only proven program – Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) – aimed at eliminating feral cats over time while minimizing costs. That does not make sense, but then The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service isn’t exactly known for applying common sense to feral cat management.
In November, The Wildlife Society will hold its annual conference in Hawaii. Among the workshops will be this one:
Influencing Local Scale Feral Cat Trap-Neuter-Release Decisions
Organizers: Tom Will, USFWS, Fort Snelling, MN Mike Green, USFWS, Portland, OR
In short, the USFWS is sending two staffers to Hawaii to conduct an all day workshop on how to combat compassionate citizens who are advocating for TNR in their communities. If you pay taxes in the U.S., you are paying for this. If you don’t like how your tax dollars are being spent here, Best Friends has an action alert all set up for you.
March 26, 2011
I am so excited about the bill introduced in TX to protect shelter pets. It’s such a great piece of legislation and I really hope it gets passed. But the 6 o’clock news doesn’t care what my opinion is on TX CAPA. Typically, mainstream media outlets will contact the well known animal organizations who have national name recognition for their take on any pet related news. So this has me wondering, where will HSUS, ASPCA and BFAS come down on the TX bill?
Given their history of opposition to laws which limit the discretion of shelter directors as to which pets they can kill, I don’t expect HSUS to embrace CAPA in TX. Nor would I anticipate support for the bill from ASPCA, given that they oppose Oreo’s Law – which would grant rescuers the legal right to save pets from kill shelters – in their home state and in fact have offered a faux rescue access bill of their own in an attempt to quash Oreo’s Law. Best Friends – who disappointed so many of us by failing to support Oreo’s Law last year and this year asking for it to be watered down before they would consider supporting it – well I’m not sure what their reaction will be to the TX bill. Will they ring the hoarder bell and/or demand that the legislation be weakened before they could possibly support it? Or will they be the Best Friends of old – the group many of us supported and wanted to believe in for so long – and side with rescuers and the rights of shelter pets to be saved from death row?
Come on HSUS, ASPCA and BFAS – one of you step up and give me good news. The TX bill is too great to let slip away without getting major support from at least one of you.
From Nathan Winograd’s blog:
Versions of CAPA have been passed in California and Delaware.
And now a version has been introduced in TX. Noticing a trend? It’s becoming fashionable to oppose killing and support rescuers. Will HSUS, ASPCA and BFAS keep fighting CAPA forever – even if/when it gets introduced in more states? Or will they get on board finally and throw their support behind such bills? I’ll be keeping an eye out for a show of support or opposition from the Big Three on TX CAPA. Watch this space.
February 10, 2011
For those of you who work with or know of rescues, try this little exercise: Add up all the rescues you’ve worked with (or known) in your head. Hang on to that number. Now, of those rescues, add up the total number of them who are hoarders. Using those two figures, please share in the comments the percentage of rescues you have worked with or known over the years who are hoarders. I’ll start: Zero.
Now I’m certainly not saying it’s impossible for a rescue group to actually hoard pets, I’m just saying I haven’t known any personally. If I broaden my query to include the many rescues I’ve read about in doing research for this blog, I would come up with a different number. It would have to be an estimate, mind you but I’d suppose that figure would be less than 1%. I would say probably 99% of the rescues I’ve come across in the course of blogging appear to be legitimate groups, trying to adopt out pets saved from kill shelters.
So to my mind, the concern that if we don’t make rescues jump through enough hoops in order to pull from shelters, the pets will end up in hoarding type situations – is actually not a significant worry. I think reasonable screening is a good idea to make sure they’re not some kind of scammers trying to make a buck selling the dogs or people who’ve been convicted of cruelty, etc. But when it gets down to the point of this-pet-is-about-to-be-killed, frankly, I’d be willing to take the risk with an unscreened rescue and hope they fall into the vast majority category of legitimate groups. Not saying that would be my first choice but since we’re talking about life and death here in conjunction with an extremely small risk, I’d rather err on the side of life.
Oreo’s Law has reasonable standards set for rescues who want to pull pets off death row in NY shelters. In summary, the group can’t have an “officer, board member, staff member or volunteer” who is either facing dogfighting/cruelty/neglect charges or has been convicted of same. There is a provision for inspection when serious suspicions of neglect or cruelty exist. And the rescue has to be a 501(c)(3). That’s enough to my mind.
Best Friends is apparently worried that hoarders are going to establish themselves as 501(c)(3)s and beat a path to NY to collect more animals. Because that would be the easiest way for a hoarder to get more animals, right?
And so, immediately after the re-introduction of Oreo’s Law to the NY state assembly, Best Friends came out against it. Last year, they said they were against it because of the danger of – you know, hoarders. This year, they leave out the word hoarders but instead list demands for verbiage to be included in the bill before they would endorse it. The demands are things that all 501(c)(3) rescues already have unless they are – you know, hoarders.
I wouldn’t like to see Oreo’s Law add much more by way of rescue requirements because I fear that some kill shelters might exploit any perceived deficiency in the list of requirements and use it as an excuse to refuse to release death row pets. Nothing in life can be guaranteed. Reasonable precautions can and should be taken. For the rest left to chance, I’d rather give more power to the rescuers who want to save lives than the so-called shelters determined to kill pets.
C’mon Best Friends. This is dumb. And NY’s shelter pets are being needlessly killed while you play your games.
October 19, 2010
Regarding the recent incident of a dog death at Best Friends, I contacted Patty Hegwood, Director of Animal Care at BFAS, for some clarifications on the information that has been put forth regarding the circumstances of the case. With her permission, I’m sharing the exchange below. My questions are in italics and her responses are in bold.
1. What is the standard of care for housing sanctuary dogs with known aggression issues? Is it double fencing? Something else?
Answer to No. 1:
All of our runs at Dogtown are designed to provide a secure environment and since we operate a sanctuary that houses upwards of 1,700 animals, we are always re-examining our facilities, including fencing and borders, to see if changes are needed. A dog with aggression issues may be housed in a variety of fencing environments, some of which include double fencing and some of which include single fencing in a variety of thicknesses. As a result of the incident, we are planning to take a close look at the enclosures that house our more aggressive dogs to see if we can make improvements.
2. While you did respond at length to Holly Smith’s comment on your blog, I felt you really didn’t answer her specific allegation that “The dog died because there was no double fencing and the care givers were warning the management that this could cause a serious problem.” Could you please clarify in a simple yes/no format whether Holly Smith’s assertion (that caregivers were warning the management that the lack of double fencing could be a serious problem) is true?
3. Regarding the comments on your blog from “Vicki McDog” (“I worked at BFAS and I know how hard it is to get a request for fencing or whatever for the dog’s completed.”) and “Marti” (“Many of us tried so hard to get double fencing put on all the lodges. But management said that there was no money to do so. Again and again, we saw dogs with chewed off ears, tails, legs-all wounds done thru fences. (Example: Nicole got her lip totally damaged because a dog in the next run pulled on Nicole’s lip and tore it to pieces.) We begged, we cried for double fencing, but the answer was always the same, “No money.”)
You responded to these in your post from yesterday by saying, “For the record, there has never been a request for fencing that has been denied due to lack of funds, period.” Could you clarify/expand on that? Are both of these people mistaken or lying or…? Has there ever been a request for double fencing for aggressive dogs that was denied for some reason other than lack of funds? Has there ever been a request for double fencing for aggressive dogs that was not denied per se but perhaps postponed for an extended period? I think you can see what I’m getting at here – basically trying to reconcile your assertions against these other assertions. If it’s a matter of wording, let’s clear that up. If it’s your contention that these people are lying, let’s call a spade a spade.
My answer to both 2 and 3 above
Some employees, both past and present, have differing views on the best way to house dogs and some have weighed in through the social media pipeline. While we always need secure environments for dogs with aggression issues, we also make it a point to keep in mind that we don’t want barriers to adversely affect the emotional well-being of our animals. So we are always trying to find that delicate balance in using the right materials for and combinations of fencing, but still allow our dogs, as much as possible, to interact and become more social.
Some ex-employees, I’m sure, are not aware of changes that have been put in place in recent years to monitor our animal care spaces. Many of these ideas for change came from the employees themselves through a mechanism that’s in place for such suggestions from caregivers all the way to upper management. For example, for quite some time now we’ve had regular bi-weekly team meetings to discuss various aspects of Dogtown, and what improvements might need to be made to address things like medical, training and maintenance needs, including fencing and enclosures.
Regarding your question on previous requests for additional fencing, in my blog last week, I said that there have never been any requests for fencing that have been denied because of lack of funds, and that’s true for all the years I have been at the sanctuary. It is possible that quite a few years back, under different management and budgeting levels, improvements may have been put on hold. But that certainly has not been the case in the last four and a half years.
The assertions “Again and again, we saw dogs with chewed off ears, tails, legs-all wounds done thru fences” and “We begged, we cried for double fencing…” are exaggerated misrepresentations. It is certainly true that there have been some injuries through fences, and it is those incidents that have given rise to changes to more secure fencing methods, but ‘again and again’ gives a completely erroneous impression.
4. Can you clarify the housing the three dogs were in the night of the incident? Were they each in regular dog runs similar to other dogs at the sanctuary who do not have aggression issues? What preventive measures were in place that night and were they the same as every night or, for example, is there usually a nightwatchman who patrols specific areas but he was out sick that night? In other words, did BFAS have 3 dogs with aggression issues in runs w/out double fencing, left unsupervised at night so that if they got out, serious injury or death might result?
Answer to No. 4:
The dogs were in their regular, separate runs with fencing of various kinds that has always been adequate for our needs. As you know we’ve had 22 of the Michael Vick dogs in our care since early 2008. They are part of a canine population that is usually between 400 and 500 dogs. We use many types of fencing, depending on the dog, the type of housing (individual or group), the terrain, and other factors. It is also true, despite some ill-informed postings to the contrary, that the holes that were made in the fencing that night could also have been made through double-fencing. That being said, although we couldn’t have predicted it, something here was clearly inadequate, so we are in the process of determining what changes are needed. One possible solution would be to reinforce areas that house our aggressive dogs with thicker, stronger wire. Should we find this to be necessary, we will make the immediate changes and send out an update.
Running an animal sanctuary as large as Best Friends (more than 1,700 animals on any given day) is no small task and our experience tells us that there is no such thing as being incident free. Most of our animals come to us from abused and abandoned backgrounds. They have emotional or medical issues that challenge us every day. Our constant is keeping the safety and well-being of our animals and staff at the forefront, and at the same time striking a comfortable balance between absolute physical safety and enriching opportunities for social interaction and a strong emotional life.
I want to emphasize that checking fencing and barriers is something that’s a constant process. Beyond the approximately 50 caregivers at Dogtown, we have three dog experts who live right beside the dog areas at the sanctuary. In addition to this, we now have an all-night patrol as an extra security measure.
October 15, 2010
A blog posting regarding the death of a dog this week at BFAS elicited some comments from ex-staffers who basically stated that double fencing had been requested for certain dogs but denied due to cost. In a post dated October 14, BFAS responds to this allegation directly:
For the record, there has never been a request for fencing that has been denied due to lack of funds, period.
So I guess that’s that? The former staffers who spoke out to the contrary are all mistaken or perhaps dishonest?
My impression after reading the post is that there does seem to be a certain spin, including the title, to cast Beans (the dog who was killed by one or both of the Vick dogs) as the primary responsible party. Your take may be different but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
October 14, 2010
Best Friends reported on their blog this week that 2 of the Vick dogs and a 3rd dog were involved in a dog fight that apparently occurred when the dogs busted out of and into each other’s kennels at a time when they were unsupervised. The dog who wasn’t one of the Vick Pits was found dead and the other two were injured.
Several things about this story struck me as very odd, starting with the housing situation:
All three dogs were housed alone and in separate buildings so it took a huge effort for them to interact.
When I play out this scenario in my mind, it almost seems like some sort of choreographed, tag team dog fight. While obviously the three dogs would be incapable of planning such an event, I’m wondering how often does this sort of thing naturally occur? I’ve never heard of anything like this but of course I don’t work at a sanctuary with a number of highly dog-aggressive dogs.
Another aspect of the story that sounds very implausible to me – although again, perhaps it is plausible and my lack of experience/knowledge simply makes it seem unlikely to me – is that Best Friends theorizes that deer passing through the area might have triggered the chain of events. I would have thought deer running around is seasonal there, like it is here, and the dogs are accustomed to it.
Finally, I’m confused as to the safety measures in place. I would have guessed that any dogs too dog-aggressive for adoption would be housed in double fenced runs. But maybe that’s not the standard of care, I don’t know. If it isn’t, wouldn’t there be some other preventive protocol in place such as a nightwatchman to patrol the areas which house the highest risk dogs? Or maybe surveillance cameras mounted in the areas with the highest risk dogs so someone could monitor activities when the place is closed?
Since I don’t have experience in this area, I read through the comments on the blog posting. Most of them are from people expressing sorrow, offering condolences and the prevailing attitude seems to be “accidents happen”. But there are a few from people who apparently work at BFAS, either presently or in the past, and I wanted to pull those out:
You have to be kidding me. The dog died because there was no double fencing and the care givers were warning the management that this could cause a serious problem. Once again, a problem has been caused because the powers that be refused to listen to the people who know. A dog had to die and the issue made public for double fencing to go up.
Thank you for voicing your concern so that I can address it. Please know
that we have a comprehensive fencing protocol. Our caregivers meet
regularly with Dogtown management to point out any maintenance needs and to draw attention to any concerns about a given dog’s fencing requirements. Our Team Leaders in Dogtown check all maintenance requests that are turned in and insure their proper completion.
Many of the dogs that we manage require special considerations. Our primary concern is the animal’s safety and welfare as well as their emotional
health. In conjunction with the physical requirements like fencing, our
caregivers work diligently to meet the emotional needs of each individual
Caregivers do express concerns as the needs change for different dogs. If a
dog needs a different type of fencing than it currently has, the decision is
made to either move the dog to a run that already has the appropriate
fencing or to add the appropriate fencing to the dog’s current run. We have
runs that have normal fencing between runs, we have runs that have double
fencing between runs and we have runs that have cement board visual barriers between runs. All of these types of fence lines meet specific needs for the dogs.
In most circumstances it has not been necessary to have double fencing on
fence lines that are not shared with other dogs. Obviously in this case we
were tragically mistaken and work has already begun to prevent this from
happening in the future.
Director Animal Care
I worked at BFAS and I know how hard it is to get a request for fencing or whatever for the dog’s completed. We worked soooooooooooooo hard to get barrier fencing in dog run’s where dogs were redirecting on each other out of barrier frustration. So, I for one beleive [sic] Holly Smith’s blog reply.
Like Vicki, I used to work as a caregiver at Best Friends. (Hi, Vic!) Many of us tried so hard to get double fencing put on all the lodges. But management said that there was no money to do so. Again and again, we saw dogs with chewed off ears, tails, legs–all wounds done thru fences. (Example: Nicole got her lip totally damaged because a dog in the next run pulled on Nicole’s lip and tore it to pieces.) We begged, we cried for double fencing, but the answer was always the same, “No money.” If Beans and Tug and Denzel HAD been in double-fenced runs, none of this would have happened. None of it.
What do you make of the story? Have you heard of this type of tag team dogfighting before where a dog breaks out of his own kennel, goes to another building, breaks into another dog’s kennel and then the second dog does the same thing? Could deer passing through the sanctuary be to blame? Is double fencing for highly dog-aggressive dogs not the standard of care for sanctuaries who handle these types? And if it’s not, what is the standard of care to prevent incidents like these? Lastly, is this type of event foreseeable and/or preventable or is the “accidents happen” philosophy appropriately applied to this case?
Additional blog posts on the subject:
Safety is Too Expensive – Exfriender
Best Friends Dog Fight Death – For the Pitbulls
September 6, 2010
The Better Business Bureau (BBB), among other activities, reviews charities. They have 20 Standards for Charity Accountability:
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability were developed to assist donors in making sound giving decisions and to foster public confidence in charitable organizations. The standards seek to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, to promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations and to advance support of philanthropy.
In June of this year, the BBB reviewed Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) and found they met 17 of the 20 standards. Specifically, BFAS did not meet the following:
Standard 4: Compensated Board Members – Not more than one or 10% (whichever is greater) directly or indirectly compensated person(s) serving as voting member(s) of the board. Compensated members shall not serve as the board’s chair or treasurer.
BFAS does not meet this Standard because:
- 5 members out of the 10 member board of directors (50%) are compensated either directly or indirectly. One of the compensated board members is the chair of the board.
Standard 16: Annual Report – Have an annual report available to all, on request, that includes: (a) the organization’s mission statement, (b) a summary of the past year’s program service accomplishments, (c) a roster of the officers and members of the board of directors, (d) financial information that includes (i) total income in the past fiscal year, (ii) expenses in the same program, fund raising and administrative categories as in the financial statements, and (iii) ending net assets.
BFAS does not meet this standard because the most recent annual report did not include:
- Total expenses for each major program in the same categories that appear in the organization’s financial statements.
In addition, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance requested but did not receive complete information on the organization’s solicitation materials and is unable to verify the organization’s compliance with the following Standard for Charity Accountability: 15.
Standard 15 reads as follows:
15. Have solicitations and informational materials, distributed by any means, that are accurate, truthful and not misleading, both in whole and in part. Appeals that omit a clear description of program(s) for which contributions are sought will not meet this standard.
A charity should also be able to substantiate that the timing and nature of its expenditures are in accordance with what is stated, expressed, or implied in the charity’s solicitations.