May 10, 2013
I get a knot in my stomach when I hear that an advisory committee has been appointed to make recommendations about a pet killing facility. Nothing good ever seems to come from it. Add Mobile Co, AL to that list.
Yesterday Mobile County commissioners received their first report from the advisory committee charged with making recommendations about the deeply troubled pound. Here is my summary of the recommendations and seriously, I did not make these up:
- Use part of the county’s Maddie’s Fund grant to pay the Maddie’s Fund University of FL program for a shelter evaluation.
- Shorten the hold time for cats deemed feral (such as Porkchop) to 3 days so they can be killed quicker.
- Continue the “breed specific policy” that no puppy over 3 months old deemed a pit bull, chow or wolf hybrid will be allowed to live.
Bear in mind this is a place that kills many animals upon impound in violation of state law. They clearly can’t tell a well cared for pet from a feral cat and I can only imagine how well they do in determining dog “breeds”. (Pitbulls and wolf hybrids are not “breeds” and it’s nearly impossible to determine lineage for mixed breeds based on body shape.)
No doubt fans of Maddie’s Fund will be supportive of the idea of sending the county’s grant money to another Maddie’s Fund program in exchange for a shelter evaluation. I am not so excited. My thinking, wacky as it may be, is to clear out everyone committed to pet killing in Mobile Co and replace them with compassionate people committed to no kill – starting with a director. Once there is strong leadership in place, use the grant money to assist in implementing the programs of the No Kill Equation.
In other words, stop killing animals, start doing your jobs. The road map to success already exists and is available to everyone. No middle man required. Put that in your advisory committee pipe and smoke it.
(Thanks Clarice for the link.)
The Mobile Co pound in AL has been in the news a lot this year. First it was reported that the facility conducted a mass killing in response to one sick dog. Then we learned the pound killed a freshly bathed, neutered cat named Porkchop upon arrival before his owner could find him. The pound investigated itself to determine why the cat wasn’t held for the mandated holding period and decided the killing was A-OK because the pet was “feral”.
Now the local NBC affiliate reports that killing pets upon arrival appears to be commonplace at the Mobile Co pound:
We combed through nearly 600 pages of shelter records and policies and found that in the first two months of this year, 400 animals were euthanized. Nearly a third of them were put down on the same day they were brought in, and many within just a few minutes. The reasons given were varied: medical conditions, sickness and injury, aggressive animal, bite animal, feral animal, too young, too old.
I hate to nitpick but every one of the Mobile Co pound’s “reasons” for killing pets upon arrival is bullshit. Nearly all medical conditions are treatable. Aggression is impossible to determine upon arrival at a pet killing facility. The purpose of impounding bite animals is to hold them in quarantine to see if symptoms of rabies develop. Feral cats already have a place to live – the community. There is no such thing as being too young or too old – a pet is either alive, with an inherent right to continue living, or dead. And it’s mostly the latter after they get picked up by Mobile Co.
The shelter’s own policy states all stray animals are to be held for a mandatory seven-day period before any action is taken. Their policy also states the staff will explore “every option available before euthanization.”
Shelter records show many cases where the animal was never scanned for a microchip before being put down. Shelter policy states animals up for euthanization should be scanned not once, but twice for a microchip prior to the injection.
Everyone make sure you spell M-O-B-I-L-E C-O-U-N-T-Y correctly when submitting your nomination ballots for the Fail Awards.
The reporter went to county spokesperson Nancy Johnson with the above concerns and donchaknow – she had a pat answer for everything.
“If they are very sick, if they are suffering, for medical reasons,” Johnson says, “We get a vet to verify that they are in duress.”
[...] Johnson says the 7-day hold policy does not apply to cats deemed ‘feral’ because it’s inhumane to hold them.
“Feral cats, by definition, don’t have owners and can’t be owned,” Johnson says.
The county says some animals are too aggressive and unmanageable to be scanned.
Johnson says the county deals with an overwhelming number of stray and abandoned animals. They are required by law to pick up strays, unlike no-kill shelters.
I’m not sure which is more terrifying – the swiftness with which she offered these utterly lame/outright false explanations or the notion that she may actually believe them.
When asked by the reporter why the shelter is failing to follow its own policy limiting pet killings to 2 hours per day, 3 days a week, Ms. Johnson finally admitted there’s cause to change a policy – to open it up for more killing, natch. Mobile Co – all killing, all the time. (If the county commissioners are reading this and realize they are in need of a new tourism slogan, call me!)
“We do a big job,” Johnson says.
Yes. And you need a big shovel to manage it.
A rescue group called SouthBARK, which was banned from the pound last year, is currently suing the county for $500k. The group asked the court to put a halt on killings at the pound until the case is decided. The judge didn’t even wait for the county’s response before rejecting the request. A hearing has been scheduled for June 18.
(Thanks Clarice for the links.)
March 15, 2013
One of the most consistent and disturbing search terms I get on the blog involves cat killing and specifically, how to do it. One good thing about this otherwise depressing issue is that anyone who comes here is going to find nothing but love for our feline friends. Another good thing is that it continually reminds me that there are deranged individuals in the world who, for whatever reason, target cats. As such, I try to be careful not to feed the crazies by giving them a voice here. Comments about cat killing do not get approved and the commenters get banned.
I was deeply troubled to read that The Orlando Sentinel recently published an op-ed by Ted Williams, editor-at-large for Audubon Magazine, in which he calls TNR a failure and suggests that feral cats should either be poisoned with Tylenol or trapped and killed (presumably by some means other than Tylenol). Isn’t the Audubon Society a wildlife advocacy group? And yet they allow Ted Williams to submit for publication a piece calling for the killing of feral cats, who are a form of wildlife themselves? And The Orlando Sentinel printed it? Shame.
Feral cats have a right to live. For those deemed medically hopeless by a veterinarian, euthanasia by injection is the preferred method to relieve suffering. Poisoning would never be recommended. And the killing of any healthy/treatable cat is immoral and unacceptable.
Needless to say, the cat killing sickos of the world have delighted in the Ted Williams piece. And they are gleefully spreading the news that the Audubon Society says giving Tylenol to feral cats is yay. I wonder how many pet cats or other animals are going to be poisoned with Tylenol as a result of this irresponsible piece in the Sentinel?
Vox Felina posted about this outrageous op-ed piece yesterday. (There is a link to the op-ed in the Sentinel at Vox Felina, if interested. I won’t be posting that link here.) Alley Cat Allies has an action alert here.
Many of you likely remember the story of Porkchop, the lost kitten who was killed by the Mobile Co pound in AL just 9 minutes after a Good Samaritan brought him to the facility in January. Porkchop’s owner, Kaitlyn Hughes, has retained an attorney and is seeking justice for her pet:
Hughes’ attorney has sent the county a letter informing them he “plans to file suit against all of those at the County Animal Shelter responsible for the death of the kitten.” The letter claims the shelter committed wanton negligence and the “kitten was killed for no legitimate reason.”
The pound investigated itself to determine why Porkchop was not held for the state mandated holding period for strays. While I don’t know that the pound answered that question, they apparently did report that Porkchop was determined to be “feral”. Ms. Hughes says her neighbor who found her kitten and brought him to the pound did not witness any aggressive behavior:
“My neighbor said when [shelter employees] put [Porkchop] in the cage, [Porkchop] just sat down and looked up at him, completely calm,” Hughes said.
Bear in mind that Porkchop was healthy, neutered and freshly bathed at the time he was impounded. And I presume the neighbor handled him without special training or thick gloves. None of which excuses the pound killing any healthy/treatable cat who might be feral. Feral cats have a right to live.
To make a tragic situation worse, Ms. Hughes says the pound attempted to cover up the killing when she first sought to redeem her kitten:
Hughes said when she went to the shelter to pick up Porkchop, the shelter staff gave her the run-around and claimed they never admitted Porkchop. After putting pressure on the shelter, Hughes said an assistant manager “found” Porkchop’s file, brought her outside and told her what happened.
“[The shelter] thought that I was just going to go away and never find out,” Hughes said.
Obviously the Mobile Co pound has underestimated the bonds of family. Animal services=family services. Mobile Co doesn’t get that – yet. Maybe they will learn it in court.
(Thanks Karen for the link.)
The city of Rockwood, TN recently enacted what sounds like a terrible anti-pet ordinance. I wanted to read the actual ordinance but was unable to find it online so had to rely on the summary provided by an area news outlet:
Pet owners and advocates in Rockwood said they are upset over a new city ordinance that limits the number of animals they can have to five, and allows animal control to trap feral cats and stray cats, and euthanize them after three days.
The local news spoke to a woman who cares for 11 cats, seven of whom are feral. She has trapped, neutered and vaccinated all but 2 of the ferals already. But under the ordinance, she will have to choose which ones she wants to live (up to 5 total) and even then, the feral cats she cares for will still be at risk for being trapped and impounded by AC. The only way for a Rockwood resident to own more than 5 pets is to obtain a kennel license and keep the animals on property in a commercial zone. She told the news she is going to move out of the city.
“Our goal is not going out and trying to roundup all the cats in Rockwood,” said [Mayor James] Watts. “I hope people don’t think the city of Rockwood is an animal hater. We’re not. We’re trying to put the responsibility back on the citizens.”
The city of Rockwood should be trapping, neutering, vaccinating and returning feral cats. They aren’t. Instead private citizens are doing it for them. Now the city wants to punish them and kill their cats. This is putting the “responsibility back on the citizens”?
Watts reassured people who take care of their animals properly would not be targeted.
Really? How can the mayor possibly reassure anyone of that? The lady with 11 cats is taking care of her animals properly but she would be targeted under the ordinance. As will any cat who walks into a trap set by AC, regardless of who owns or feeds him. Traps don’t know whose cats to target.
Punitive legislation doesn’t work. I hope the citizens of Rockwood demand that the city abolishes this anti-pet ordinance.
(Thank you Peter M. for the link.)
February 28, 2013
The Orange Co Register apparently likes to get readers’ hopes up and then cut them down. The title of the CA paper’s most recent piece on the local pound is “More pets survived at O.C. shelter in 2012“. Yay. But if you read past the first few sentences, you get to the sad truth of the matter:
The 54 percent overall death rate was pretty much the same as 2011.
The director of the pound, Ryan Drabek, told the paper via e-mail that in 2012 “1,868 stray animals total came into our shelter with some form of identification (license, microchip, ID tag, etc.).” The Register crunches the numbers:
Of animals that came into the shelter with some sort of identification last year, 61 percent were returned to their owners and 13 percent were euthanized.
Let’s be clear on the overall numbers. The Orange Co pound took in 29,723 animals in 2012 and returned 3346 of them to their owners. That is a RTO rate of 11%. Of the 1868 pets who were impounded with identification, the pound killed 243 or 13% of them. That’s 243 pets with tags and/or microchips, thrown into the dumpster by the people paid to shelter them.
And if you make it to the end of the article, there’s this horrifying tidbit:
Feral cats and kittens younger than 6 weeks old accounted for 70 percent of the total cats euthanized at the shelter in 2012, Drabek said.
Feral cats and kittens younger than 6 weeks old have the right to live. Being feral is no more a medically hopeless condition than is being newborn. If these basic truths are not self-evident to you as an animal shelter director, there is cause for concern.
The ASPCA is reportedly giving the pound $20,000 to start doing TNR for feral cats since trap-and-kill “has done little to decrease the number of wild felines in Orange County.” I hope the pound stops killing ferals but I’m concerned that the director does not seem to know it’s wrong to kill healthy/treatable cats. Further, since no one is giving them $20,000 to stop killing neonate kittens, I assume that slaughter will continue in 2013, which is tragic.
(Thank you Clarice for the link.)
February 3, 2013
If you read recently about the Smithsonian study that stated free roaming cats kill up to 24 billion birds and small mammals annually, you probably had questions. Some of those questions may have been:
- Where can I buy whatever the Smithsonian researchers are smoking?
- Are there 24 billion bird and mammal skeletons weighed down with wee cement shoes at the bottoms of every river in the United States?
Thankfully, Peter Wolf at Vox Felina has answers to all these questions and more (well, not the second one actually). His post entitled Garbage In, Garbage Out looks at the research in detail and brings to light various flaws. Serious flaws. For example, he notes that the studies referenced in the paper are, in various cases, outdated, imprecise, misrepresented and counted more than once. Using these studies to extrapolate such things as the number of cats with access to prey and the number of birds and small mammals killed by these cats results in even greater imprecision. Thus the title of Vox Felina’s post. And then there is the issue of agenda, specifically to undermine TNR, and the authors’ apparent bias:
[Peter] Marra (a vocal critic of TNR) served as Nico Dauphiné’s advisor at the Smithsonian until October 2011, when she resigned after being found guilty of attempted animal cruelty. And [Tom] Will, also an outspoken critic of TNR, helped Dauphiné land her post-doc fellowship there with a letter of recommendation.* (Her position was funded by USFWS, just as [Scott] Loss’ is today.)
While I am grateful there are smart minds like Peter Wolf willing to put in the work to debunk this study, I think many people will simply apply the common sense test to the outrageous claims made in the paper. Which is to say, a quick glance at the sky, the trees and the ground reveal that indeed, bird and small mammal populations are thriving. And cats are not the wildlife mafia.
As one commenter put it on Gawker (Warning: bad language alert):
right. it’s not fucking encroachment by archer-daniels midland, or death by monsanto poisoned seeds or bayer or ortho pesticides and herbicides, oh no, it couldn’t be those things. it couldn’t fucking be from air, water and soil pollution, fuck no; everyone knows those things are *good* for billions of birds.
it’s frisky the cat. only cats. cats are to blame.
+1 for common sense.
October 16, 2012
Today is National Feral Cat Day. One of the many risks that cats face from shelters is the risk of being determined feral. In too many shelters, this is an automatic death sentence. Truly feral cats should not be impounded by animal control unless it is for neuter and vaccination with the intention of prompt return of the cat to the area where he was trapped.
One of the numerous problems associated with the impound of trapped cats is that the shelter takes on the responsibility of categorizing the cat for disposition (feral, semi-feral, friendly). There are no nationally accepted standards for making this determination and practices vary from evaluation by shelter staff after an adjustment period to immediate disposition decisions made in the field by the officer on call while the cat is still in the trap.
From a 2010 paper entitled “A survey of the methods used in shelter and rescue programs to identify feral and frightened pet cats” and published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery:
When any cat enters an unfamiliar environment such as an animal shelter or other welfare agency, however, it is prone to displaying fearful behavior. Even well-socialized pet cats can become fearfully aggressive or motivated to withdraw or escape. As a result, it can initially be very difficult to accurately determine which cats are feral and which cats have the potential to be reclaimed or adopted as a pet. There are currently no validated methods of differentiating the various categories of cats upon intake to animal sheltering or other welfare agencies.
While fearful pet cats can, upon shelter intake, experience high stress levels and, therefore, appear behaviorally similar to feral cats, they may begin to display more characteristic behavior after several days or weeks in the shelter when their stress levels begin to subside.
Of the 288 respondents [of the roughly 500 total] who indicated that a cat they previously thought to be feral was subsequently found not to be feral, this discovery was most frequently cited as due to: the cat’s behavior changing after it had time to settle in or acclimate (mentioned by 144 or 50% of respondents), the cat began to display tolerant, social or affiliative behavior in response to human contact or handling (65 or 23%), the cat began to offer social behavior when humans were nearby (vocalization, blinking, solicitation, approach) (56 or 19%), and the cat’s behavior was different when it was assessed in a quieter, less stressful or more familiar environment (40 or 14%).
The problem with a policy of death for all feral cats at a shelter is that it violates the cat’s most basic right: the right to live. The problem is compounded when friendly cats are incorrectly identified as feral when they are behaving normally in response to the stress of being trapped and impounded.
Cat ID #09122012-256 was trapped and impounded by animal control in Columbus, GA on September 12. While the pound claims to follow the 5 day stray holding period law, it was determined within 24 hours that this trapped cat was too aggressive to live, despite a volunteer describing him as “easy to pet”. He was killed on September 13 for exhibiting typical behavior seen in trapped cats.
Two months ago in South Dakota, an owned cat named Poobs was trapped by a cat hating neighbor. She was healthy and current on her vaccinations. But she was understandably upset in the trap. The officer who picked her up from the cat hating neighbor determined on the spot that she was too aggressive to live. He shot her to death in the trap.
Last month, a municipality in PA hired an ACO to trap feral cats for killing. Area cat owners began noticing their pets going missing. Apparently the ACO was killing all cats caught in traps, including residents’ pets. Outraged owners attended the Borough Council meeting for answers but the ACO was a no show, which was fine with community leaders:
“I had asked him to come and he declined his appearance,” said Christine Cardinale, the North Charleroi Borough attorney. “He’s not here tonight.”
Instead of discussing the fact that both feral cats and owned pets have the right to live, the council appeared defiant when faced with angry cat owners:
“If you were so interested, you would have found out about why we’re starting to trap,” said one council member.
As a compromise, the council said it will pass an ordinance giving owners 10 days to reclaim their pets. But that does not address the fact that feral cats have a right to live nor does it address the ACO’s apparent lack of interest in even attempting to determine whether the cats he’s trapped are feral or owned pets.
Cats deserve better. Any cat brought to a shelter in this country should be afforded basic protections – including protection of the right to live. Decisions on whether to designate an impounded cat for TNR or adoption should be made only after the animal has had sufficient time to adjust to the shelter environment. Not every cat in a trap is feral but every cat deserves to live.
(Thank you Clarice for sending me links, as always, to Stefani for alerting me to the cat killed at the Columbus pound and to Vox Felina for the study on identifying feral cats in shelters.)
October 11, 2012
At a public meeting last month, Kim Alboum, the NC director for HSUS, told a group of Person Co citizens concerned about the fact that the local pound was gassing roughly 7 out of 10 of the pets in its care:
“I can’t tell you just how far it goes to just stop at the shelter with some cupcakes or cookies if you have an issue and say ‘let’s just chat’.”
Totally. Because people who stuff puppies, kittens, dogs and cats into a gas chamber hand over fist instead of doing their jobs should be rewarded with baked goods and social activity. Then, when they hear your ideas on how they could stop killing pets and start saving them whilst downing your culinary delights, they reform themselves.
Maddie’s Fund seems to have jumped on the idea of advocacy through confections and has this tip for those wanting their local shelter to stop killing community cats:
Email or call the animal control director and ask if you can come by for a short talk. He won’t answer your call or email? Stop by with a couple dozen donuts and see if you can catch him in his office. If you get to talk to him, great; if not, leave your business card with your cell phone number asking him to call you. Leave the donuts and spend some time talking to whoever you can, taking care not to get in the way of their work.
Yeah, don’t get in the way of their work and make sure you are not blocking the aisle in front of the gas chamber because that is a heavy traffic area.
If you are wanting to save the community cats currently being killed by your local shelter director and he refuses to even reply to your e-mails or take your calls, you should definitely run right out and get a couple boxes of Krispy Kremes to personally deliver to the pound. But why stop there? Wouldn’t a bouquet of daisies be really sweet? How about a heart shaped box of assorted chocolates? Because remember, you are really asking a lot from your paid public servants here. You are asking your shelter director to start doing his job when he’s already clearly indicated to you that he is not interested in what you have to say. But of course a box of savory deep-fried pastries will have him reforming the pound in no time.
(Thank you Ryan for the link.)
July 22, 2012
When this photo of a cat in Orange Co, FL was posted on Facebook, some people complained about it and others offered to help. I snipped out some of the comments to give you the gist of the overall discussion. (Click any image to enlarge it.) I don’t know what happened to the cat but if this was the only group advocating for him, I imagine he’s in the landfill.