Hawaiian Island on Path to Exterminate 20,000 Cats

Abby, member of a manged TNR colony in Alabama.  (Photo by Aubrie Kavanaugh)

Abby, member of a managed TNR colony in Alabama. (Photo by Aubrie Kavanaugh)

The county of Kauai, one of the Hawaiian islands, assembled a nine member Feral Cat Task Force to make recommendations regarding the management of the community cat population.  The county paid $30,000 for the report, issued in March 2014.  The task force excluded the president of Kauai Ferals and was primarily comprised of individuals wishing to exterminate cats.

The final report highlighted the Billions and Billions of Birds myth often touted by cat haters and estimated the county’s feral cat population at 20,000.  The 10 year goal, as stated in the report, is for the island to have “zero feral, abandoned and stray cats” which is obviously an unattainable and unrealistic goal.  Gee, maybe they should have let the guy who knows feral cats have some input.

Among the recommendations made by the task force:

  • Expand the cat licensing ordinance to include colony caretakers.
  • Outlaw cats on county property.  Trap any cats found on county property for adoption or killing.
  • Require licensed cat owners to obtain written permission (revokable with 10 days notice) from any property owner willing to allow cats on his property.  Any cats found on property without written permission from the owner will be deemed stray and subject to trapping.
  • Implement a TNR program in two phases:
    1.  For the first five years, TNR colonies must be registered and monitored to maintain at least a 90% spay-neuter rate.  Sick, injured and new cats, including kittens, must be removed from the colony for adoption or killing.
    2.  After the initial five year period, TNR colonies must be registered and will only be allowed on fully fenced, private property.  The county will no longer pay for maintaining its community cats and the financial burden will be shifted to private citizens.
  • The county must hire additional animal enforcement officers in order to conduct the increased cat licensing, monitoring, trapping and killing.

In effect, the recommendations target outdoor cats for extermination – potentially including indoor cats who escape their homes – and punish colony caretakers with licensing fees and unreasonable restrictions making it impossible for them to reduce the colony size over time. The TNR program as outlined is destined to fail by design. This is what you get when you commission a report from people who want to kill cats.

Judy Dalton, one of the token non-cat hating members of the task force, expressed some reasonable concerns in her comments at the end of the report:

If there is going to be a reduction in the numbers of community cats, it is absolutely imperative that spay/neutering services be affordable and accessible to all cats – both owned and unowned. The cost to spay and microchip a female cat at the Humane Society was hiked from $10 to $50 last year – 5 times more than it has been in the past. This is beyond the affordability of most residents on Kauai where a female cat and 4 female kittens and 2 males would cost them over $300,
when a primary concern is putting food on their tables. As a result, female cats didn’t get spayed and their kittens were abandoned. I rescued more abandoned kittens this past year than the past 18 years that I’ve been doing so.
[...]
The spay/neuter van needs to continue and be available to feral cats, as it has been in the past and not be denied to feral cats as it was this past year.

In addition, Ms. Dalton lamented that experienced TNR supporters were barred from participating during the decision making work session of the task force, resulting in a lop-sided set of recommendations favoring cat eradication.

It’s up to the Kauai Co Council to consider the recommendations of the task force and determine what action to take regarding its community cats.  Anyone wishing to contact the council with polite comments supporting TNR and opposing cat extermination and the criminalization of cat owners should email: Councilmembers@kauai.gov

(Thanks Nathan for sending me this story.)

Pets Go Missing After Animal Control Gets Involved

Doozie Bean, as pictured on The Evening Tribune's website.

Doozie Bean, as pictured on The Evening Tribune’s website.

Annie Allison and her family have owned their beloved cat Doozie Bean for 9 years. He’s been missing since May 7, when he was reportedly trapped in a neighbor’s yard by the ACO for Hornell, NY. Prior to setting the traps in the neighbor’s yard, Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan states the ACO was supposed to knock on doors of area homes to alert residents. In addition, any cats trapped are supposed to be held for 5 days in order to give owners a chance to reclaim them. The ACO in this case, Gary Hadsell, appears to have not followed procedures.

After Ms. Allison brought her concerns to Mayor Hogan, the mayor denied any knowledge of traps being set. He says he talked with ACO Hadsell who reportedly admitted losing one of the cats he trapped. The ACO also apparently denied ever trapping Doozie Bean, claiming he has the ability to immediately distinguish feral cats from owned pets based on their behavior in the trap. The article doesn’t say if he also pulls rabbits out of hats or whether he’s available for kiddie birthday parties.

Mayor Hogan says ACO Hadsell has resigned. This too is clear as mud:

When reached for comment on his resignation, Hadsell said, “I don’t believe I did (resign). If you have any questions, call Shawn Hogan.”

Mayor Hogan also says that because of what happened with Doozie Bean, his city is getting out of the trapping business.

In the meantime, Ms. Allison and her family are heartbroken. She continues to search for Doozie Bean, driving around for hours, whistling for him and shaking cat treats out the window.

***

Blue, as depicted in a screengrab from the WREG website.

Blue, as depicted in a screengrab from the WREG website.

In West Memphis, AR a dog named Blue got spooked during a thunderstorm Saturday night and got lost.  A police officer took him to the West Memphis pound.  When Blue’s owner inquired at the pound Sunday, he was relieved to hear his pet was there.  But Blue’s cage was found empty.  Pound director Kerry Sneed says she personally locked the gate on Blue’s cage Saturday night and that it did not appear that he had escaped on his own.

For several hours Sunday morning, Sneed said there was a window of opportunity for people on the property to steal the dog.

Well gee.  Is that the sort of failure that taxpayers in West Memphis are supposed to accept?  What is being done to actually shelter animals from harm once they arrive at the so-called shelter?  Anything?

The owner, George Johnson, continues to walk the streets, calling for Blue.  He has made his e-mail address public in an effort to get any possible leads on the whereabouts of his pet: rjhealthfirst@yahoo.com

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Cats Beaten to Death, Displayed in Tree in NYC Suburb

Violence against animals has long been recognized as a trademark among criminals who commit serious violence against people.  That’s why it’s imperative that police find the person or persons responsible for bashing in the heads of dozens of cats then bagging their bodies and displaying them like ornaments in a tree in a NYC suburb.

The bagged remains of approximately 25 cats, some just skeletons and others killed as recently as three days prior, were discovered by a public works crew last week.  The Westchester County SPCA performed necropsies on some of the most recently killed cats and determined that blunt force trauma to the head was the cause of death.  A baseball bat, a metal pipe and two shovels were found near the scene and investigators are working to determine if they are connected to the killings.

One possible motive being considered:

[Ernest Lungaro, director of enforcement at the Westchester County SPCA] said there are many feral cats in the area and there has been some tension over feeding stations that some residents have established.

“Some people get frustrated with the people who feed them,” he said. He said it was possible the dead cats were put in the trees “to taunt the people that are feeding the cats.”

Investigators have yet to determine whether the cats were feral or owned pets.  Alley Cat Allies has nonetheless posted a reward for information on the case:

Alley Cat Allies is offering a cash reward of $750 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the deaths of at least 25 cats found in Yonkers, NY. Anyone with any information is asked to contact the SPCA of Westchester confidential hotline at 914-941-7797.

In the meantime, I think it’s generally good practice for colony caretakers to carry a cell phone, to feed by the full light of day, and to attend to colonies with at least one other person whenever possible.  No one wants to feel bullied into changing their routines because of some sick individual(s) but taking reasonable precautions in the face of such extreme violence seems sound to my mind.  I wouldn’t want anyone – colony caretaker or otherwise – to run into this person (or persons) all alone.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me this story.)

Vermilion Parish Pound Allegedly in Violation of Law, Local Politicians Shield Director

Vermilion Parish Rabies Control in LA does not adopt animals to the public.  It functions primarily as a pet killing facility while allowing rescue groups to save some animals – unless the director decides she feels like killing those animals too.  After a recent story about the killing of dogs tagged for rescue went viral, the parish placed a temporary halt on pet killing while the police jury came up with some new guidelines.  This week, those new guidelines were announced:

  1. Re-start killing cats deemed feral immediately.
  2. Hold dogs for 30 days in order to allow rescue groups to network them.
  3. Once the pound exceeds capacity (20 dogs), arbitrarily kill the dogs whose intake dates are the oldest to make space.

It seems to me that numbers 2 and 3 are going to conflict with each other unless rescue groups can consistently do the Vermilion pound staff’s jobs for them and keep getting dogs into homes before the 20 dog limit is reached.  Also, number 1 totally sucks.

And there’s more bad news:

KATC reviewed hundreds of parish euthanasia records and uncovered that last year, more than 21 percent of all dogs and cats were killed before [the mandatory holding period of] four days, some even dying the day they arrived at the facility.

The only sort-of-explanation for why the pound appears to have been violating parish law in such an egregious manner comes from an ex-staffer:

“Every Thursday was euthanasia day, and sometimes we would pick up the dog on Monday and by Thursday they were gone,” said Thad Savoy, a former animal warden of the Vermilion Parish Rabies Animal Control Center.

Right.  It’s Thursday.  And Thursday is kill day.  If the lost pet’s owner is looking for him or if an adopter might like to save him, that’s just not happening.  It’s Thursday.

“Most of the dogs that were picked up were able to be rescued. But they were not rescued or put online because of the color or the breed. … It’s kind of hard to say; it’s kind of hard to describe why,” Savoy said.

Wait, wut?  Prolly no owner would want their black dog back so no point posting her online.  Because black.  Plus it’s Thursday.

The current director of the pet killing facility – the one who threatened to call the police last time a reporter tried to ask her a question – is once again being shielded by the asshats who came up with the brilliant killing guidelines:

For now, the parish is not commenting on KATC’s investigation. On Wednesday night, the Vermilion Parish Police Jury unanimously denied KATC’s request for an interview with Animal Control Facility Director Pam Monceaux and Public Works Director Bill Nogel.

Instead of providing cover for monsters, maybe the Vermilion Parish police jury could hire some people willing to do the jobs taxpayers pay them to do and actually shelter animals in need.  Any vote on that?

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

 

West Fargo is Not a No Kill City

After reading a claim that West Fargo, ND was a “no kill city”, I checked online for information on the shelter.  It appears the West Fargo police department impounds animals and brings them to the West Fargo Animal Hospital.  I filed a FOIA request for shelter statistics for 2013 and received this response:

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: FW: pound animals
From: “Chris Y. Seidel” <Chris.Seidel@westfargond.gov>
Date: Wed, January 15, 2014 8:07 am
To: “eiderdown@yesbiscuit.com” <eiderdown@yesbiscuit.com>, “Marcy J.
Overby” <Marcy.Overby@westfargond.gov>

Good morning Shirley,

1/15/2014 9:07 AM

Sorry to inform you but our agency does not keep track of what you are requesting and we are unable to create a report for you.

Thank you
Chris

Chris Seidel
West Fargo Police – Office Supervisor
800 4 Avenue East, Suite 2
West Fargo, ND 58078
701-433-5590 (office phone)
701-433-5508 (fax)

I then requested detailed impound and outcome records for every individual animal impounded by the city in 2013.  After exchanging escalating pleasantries via e-mail, it was determined that the West Fargo PD could in fact produce some records. The records I received are here. Please look them over and see if you can shed any light on this jumble o’ heap.

Based on the records provided by the West Fargo PD, here are the 2013 intake and outcome totals for the pound:

  • Intake:  203  (You will notice the numbers start at 1 and end at 216 but there are only 203 animals listed.  Explanation to follow.)
  • Transferred to rescue:  90  (Three groups identified as Cat’s Cradle, 4 Luv of Dog and FMHS)
  • Adopted:  1
  • RTO:  1
  • Killed:  17 (mostly cats listed as feral)
  • Died in cage:  1
  • On hand at year’s end:  1
  • O rate:  91

I inquired as to the meaning of the outcome type listed as “O rate” since it is entirely unfamiliar to me.  I was told only that it indicates the city was not charged for that animal.  I specifically requested outcome records for each of the animals on this report but did not receive any.  I tried to press the issue in order to at least determine whether the “O rate” animals were live-released but the police department declined to answer my questions or provide the requested records.  I also do not know what type of outcome is indicate by the letters NPC (one animal in June is listed as outcome type “NPC”).  The city consistently worked with the same 3 rescue groups all year long according to the records.  If NPC is a rescue group, the city transferred only one animal to the group in 2013 which seems unlikely.  It could mean anything.

Astute readers will also notice a major discrepancy in the records between pages 9 and 10.  The sequential animal numbers skip from 84 to 98 and clearly 2 of the dogs listed as “held over from June” are among the missing.  Assuming there were actual animals attached to the missing numbers, their outcomes are unknown.

Not actually.

Not actually.

In summary, the West Fargo pound, such as it is, does not appear to do adoptions (the one for the year is indicative of an anomaly) and kills all feral cats.  Furthermore, there appear to be some serious transparency issues with the pound, including record keeping and the refusal to reveal what happened to nearly half the animals impounded last year.

West Fargo is definitively not a no kill city based on the fact that it kills all feral cats. Even if the city stopped killing feral cats as a matter of policy today, there is still insufficient information to substantiate any claim of it being a no kill city. There are not only missing animals but also numerous animals whose outcomes the city refuses to reveal. This goes against the transparency tenet of operating a no kill shelter.

No kill continues to grow in popularity among members of the public. With increased demand from compassionate people, there will be some who attempt to co-opt the term no kill without actually doing the work of saving lives. This type of deception is harmful to the movement as naysayers point out the killing and secrecy of these fraudulent “no kill” groups and claim they are representative of no kill as a whole. They are not. There are hundreds of open admission shelters across this country putting in the hard work to save the lives of their animals and doing it in a transparent manner. In order to keep the movement honest and in defense of those actually walking the walk, it is important to verify claims of no kill before celebrating them. In this case, the claim fell far short of the mark.

If there is anyone in West Fargo interested in working to reform the city pound, visit the No Kill Advocacy Center for a toolkit to get started. And let us know if you need help.

Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, OH: Success!

Regular readers know that I have been posting about shelter pet advocate Casey Post’s efforts to reform her local shelter in Medina Co, OH.  This week, Ms. Post again addressed her county commissioners but was forced to improvise a speech due to last minute developments on the reform front.  I asked her to talk about what happened at the meeting, provide details on the deal made to save cats in Medina Co to the best of her knowledge, and discuss her plans for the future.

Ms. Post writes:

I got to the meeting room early, as usual. I had planned to deliver an open letter to the Commissioners from a euthanasia expert who certifies techs and vets in our state. His letter listed all kinds of methods for killing that were used in the past (horrific) and then indicated that the gas chamber was among those we’ve advanced beyond. He encouraged the Board to “be leaders” and embrace the newer method of euthanasia by injection and assured them that anyone who is certified is capable of handling even feral cats both safely and humanely. I was then going to discuss the benefits of neutered/vaccinated feral cats and ask for a change in shelter policy of immediately killing ALL ferals, regardless of their neutered/vaccinated status. I knew that Commissioner Hambley had just seen a low cost s/n operation in our county and was now aware that the public was spending their own money to get these cats neutered and vaccinated, so I had hope that he would at least consider the private effort going on there.

The Clerk of the Board (she’s very nice, VERY professional, and a cat owner) walked in and asked me if I was happy with the deal that was made. I told her that no one had informed me of a deal! She tried to find a copy of the article in the paper that had just come out that morning for me, but someone had taken hers. Thank goodness for wifi and smartphones. I searched for the news on what had gone down and found that there was a tentative deal with the Medina County SPCA where THEY would take all friendly strays and owner surrender cats for the county, but would not be accepting feral cats.  [Ed. note:  Reader Lisa submitted this link which reports on the deal.] Ferals would be referred to the low cost s/n clinic (I’m assuming at the trappers’ own cost – $25, but they do have a “pay it forward” program for people who can’t afford it that others donate to) so that the cats can be TNR’d. The only segment of the public NOT being served in this deal would be the people who want ferals just GONE, who don’t want to TNR. But, the MSCPA intends to apply for a grant to do TNR in 2014 for the county and they may be able to include relocation in that program for those who demand it.

So this deal would get the cats out of the hands of the Medina County Animal Shelter (and their amazing less-than-50% survival rate) and away from any possibility of a gas chamber (MSPCA euthanizes by injection with an actual veterinarian and they say that they do it as little as possible – not sure how they’re going to work the space issue, but I do know that they use volunteers and fosters, which puts them light years ahead of the shelter which allows neither and there is talk of keeping a waiting list if needed). This deal has potential to address the issue of the feral population in a humane and sensible way. It also has the potential to get our gas chamber designated as “surplus equipment” to be dispensed with as is best for the county (I vote scrap metal!). Bonus – all the Kuranda cat beds that I donated to the shelter would end up at MSCPA, where they will be needed. So hell yes, I’m pleased with the deal.

By now, the meeting room is packed (no, not with anti-gas chamber people, alas, but with people there to discuss transportation funding) and the time is coming up for me to speak and I’m not sure what to say – all I have is questions and the letter I was going to read out was no longer needed! I got up to speak first (because hey, why not?) and tried asking some questions of the Board, but they will not answer questions during the public comment bit, so instead I asked for the shelter to stop killing vaccinated/neutered ferals. I explained that this policy was both counterproductive to the effort to control the feral population and it also removed the rabies buffer between people and wildlife that these cats provide. I figured since the county suddenly seemed to be embracing the idea of TNR, I would try to save the ear-tipped or microchipped ferals that are still going straight into the gas chamber at the shelter (and will continue to do so until the MSPCA takes over cat duties). One of the commissioners made a note, so hopefully something will happen there.

After me, a woman got up to speak to ask about the gas chamber – would it be removed? When? She was nervous to speak too, but also determined. She wants that gas chamber GONE. I spoke with her and apparently, she’s been trying to make one of these meetings for weeks now and told me that I’m “her hero” for fighting this and she is in until the gas chamber is on the scrap pile. She’s another one of us who had NO IDEA what was going on at the shelter and she’s been a frequent visitor and has adopted cats from there, so she too feels betrayed.

The discussion session was interesting because of the money – the MSPCA wants $13K to take the county’s non-feral cats. A commissioner asked how much money is in “the kennel fund” (this is the money used to fund the dog part of the shelter via licensing fees – it could not by law go to caring for cats at the shelter, but CAN be given to a “humane society” for the purposes of caring for cats, so that’s where the $13K would come from). The County Administrator stated that the kennel fund has “in excess of $300,000”. The collective gasp, then silence in the room was a thing of beauty. All I could think was, “I had to DONATE dog beds and pet safe salt to them because they didn’t have THE MONEY???” At this point, one commissioner said, “Well then. I have no problem taking thirteen thousand dollars from there.” There was a question about how the shelter staff felt about this plan – apparently, they’re fine with it. The commissioners then voted to proceed with the deal.

Now, the deal is not yet completed and could still fall apart. The MSPCA and the county have to sign off on it – I’m told that this will occur some time next week. How soon after that the MSPCA will be accepting cats, I do not know, but we all hope it will be sooner, rather than later. In the meantime, we are trying to get the current cats out of the shelter and away from the gas chamber (which they will keep using until they have no more cats to stuff into it, apparently). Two cats (that we know of – there were more that we don’t know about because of the kill-anything-we-think-is-feral-whether-it-actually-is-or-not policy) were gassed last week and it would be fantastic if we could make them the last.

The woman who spoke after me asked me if I was going to the next meeting. I told her that I didn’t think so, that I wouldn’t know what to say since the deal-signing would happen AFTER the meeting. She vows to go to the next one to continue to press them on the removal of the gas chamber. She’s feisty and I like her a lot.

Do I completely trust that everything will be sunshine and rainbows from here on out? Absolutely not. But I will definitely be keeping an eye on things – not just at MSPCA, but also at the shelter. And if I need to keep advocating for change, I will. If the MSPCA goes wrong with it, then it wouldn’t be the weekly meetings – it would have to be the MSPCA board that I would have to petition for change as they are their own entity. Fortunately, they don’t seem to be the sort of people who would be ok with killing more than 50% of the cats that come in.

I’m backing off the meetings while the deal goes through because it seems like a very good deal. Laura (the other speaker) is going to spearhead the “destroy that filthy gas chamber” movement and that I’m backing her up in that. I’ll be keeping an eye on how things go from here on out both at the MSCPA and at the shelter, but I have reason to be cautiously optimistic for the future of Medina’s cats.

Advice for others trying to advocate? Attack policies, not people. I didn’t want to get into a position where the commissioners felt backed up against a wall to defend shelter employees (which was why I explained that they were victims of this shelter model, too). Also, listen to what it is that they’re really saying – in my case, it was, “We’re not really concerned with the gas chamber itself because we think it’s humane. We just don’t want to be swimming in cats.” It took me a while to understand that while I was talking shelter policies, they were talking shelter-as-population-control. If you truly believe that the gas chamber is humane, and that your shelter killing over 50% of the incoming cats is doing the community a “service”, you would be resistant to the one lady standing up and saying that you’re wrong. That’s where even a little physical back up really helps. Mark stood up and said, “I think she’s right. This is bad for Medina and I don’t want it.” Suddenly, I’m not the lone voice. Combine it with the letters and emails that came in to the commissioners and now they start to think maybe something needs to change, after all.

***

Read how Ms. Post became motivated to advocate for shelter reform.

Read her previous speeches to the county commissioners:

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Ms. Post and her reform efforts which appeared after her second speech to the county.

Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, OH – Week 3

Medina County animal advocate Casey Post once again addressed the public meeting of her county commissioners this week, this time with visual aids – enlarged, mounted photographs which she held up during her speech.

Ms. Post writes:

People who gather for these meetings regularly are starting to recognize me and I’m getting some nods and smiles from them. Before the meeting started, one of them turned around and spoke to me this week, telling me that he had to euthanize his old dog and it was very, very hard on him and he could understand how the compassion fatigue I spoke about last week could affect a man. But he cautioned me that “the powers that be” tend to be ok with “someone doing the dirty work” as long as it isn’t them. I assured him that there doesn’t have to BE dirty work if the shelter is run properly.

I was a little less nervous this time and highly recommend blasting your favorite “brave heart” music in the car or headphones just before you go in. Keep it playing in your head while you walk up to the podium. I also had a “relax word” that I started my speech with. I have to give my name and address before I start speaking, so I did that, took a breath, and said, “Okay.” That not only reminded me to unclench my buttocks, but also gives me a moment to take a breath before I launch into it. I think it helped with the timing of my delivery, too because in my head, it’s “Okay, let me explain this to you in small words with pictures…”.

Having photos worked out well. They were a decent size for the room (16×20, I think) and mounted on foam board, so easy to hold up and show around. Everyone had to look at them – even if they didn’t want to, they seemed compelled to look, so that may be helpful for anyone who is looking for ideas to help avoid being ignored during a presentation like this. Pleasant photos of cats seem to go over well. If the room were bigger or if the podium were bigger, I would have had bigger photos (OfficeMax does a nice job of printing and mounting), but these were plenty fine for the purpose. I had a copy of my speech taped to the back of each one, so I didn’t have to worry about keeping it in front of me, it was always there.

I couldn’t get any feedback from Commissioner Hambley, as he had to leave early in the discussion session for some appointment. But Commissioner Geissman informed me that “the shelter issue” is already a planned topic for next week. I think she meant next week’s discussion session, not the actual meeting (where things are voted on), but at least it’s some kind of starting point. I thanked her and assured her that I’ll be there.

Another reporter asked for my phone number and one of the local tiny papers has picked up the story. They didn’t contact me, but they did have a nice picture of a cat in the article, so I think that’s helpful. One of the reporters took photos of me during this speech, too. I guess they’re starting to realize that I’m not going away.

My concern right now is that the commissioners may be seeing this from the “every stray is a feral, every feral is a nuisance, all nuisances must die” point of view. I’m working to keep the focus on “how our animal shelter fails the community”. As far as I’m concerned, feral cat management is a different discussion entirely.

Speech text, including photos:

This is Percy.  Percy is my cat.

Percy is a vaccinated, neutered male, indoor-only cat.  Percy has a medical condition that means that he not only has his regular vet, but he also has an internal medicine specialist.  I have poured thousands of dollars into Percy.

I have a painter coming to the house today.  If the painter drops his ladder in the doorway and scares Percy out the door, he may panic at being outside and run away.  If my neighbor, being a good Christian man who is terribly allergic to cats finds him, he will want to do the right thing.  He will take Percy to the shelter and wanting to keep him safe, he pays the ten dollar surrender fee and signs the paper.

Now the shelter owns my cat.

They may or may not scan him for a microchip with a scanner that may or may not detect certain types of chips.  They will not take his picture and put it up on the web.  They will not hold him for a period of time so that I can reclaim him.

They will sell him to the next person who walks through the door.

Or they may try to put him in a cage, not knowing that his medical condition causes pain – pain that may make him lash out at being handled.  Now he’s labeled “aggressive” and is gassed to death.

My cat, my expensive, wanted cat, is now either living with someone who does not know about his medical needs or he is dead.  Because that is how our shelter operates.

This is Jack.

Jack is an ugly, battle scarred feral cat.  But Jack has a caretaker who has made certain that he is neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped.

This is Jack’s little yellow house that his caretaker built to protect him from the weather.  In the winter, the caretaker puts an insulated box in it with a deep bed of clean straw so Jack will stay warm and dry.

But Jack is no freeloader – he’s a working feral.  Jack earns his keep the old fashioned way as rodent control.  Jack’s caretaker values both his mousing skills and his quiet company.

Two teenage boys screwing around, throw firecrackers onto the caretaker’s property.  Jack panics and runs away.  He ends up in a trap that had been set out for a skunk.  The man who set the trap doesn’t check it until two days later.  He then throws the trap into the back of his pickup truck and drives it to the shelter.  Unsecured, the trap is bouncing and sliding around in the back.

Arriving at the shelter, normally quiet Jack is now out of his mind, lunging and snarling.  Shelter staff take one look at him and label him aggressive.

They do not put him in a quiet room and cover the trap to give him time to calm down.  They do not use a trap divider to keep him still so they can safely scan him for a microchip through the bars.  They do not use a pole syringe to sedate him so that they can safely take his photo and put him in a darkened cage with food and water.  They stick him in the gas chamber and they kill him.

We will never know how many wanted, owned cats ended up in the gas chamber at Medina County Animal Shelter, but as a cat owner I say that ONE is too many.  I want MY animal shelter to function as a safety net for our community’s cats.

I want proactive redemption policies in place.

I want the shelter to use scanners that pick up all three frequencies of microchips.

I want every, single cat scanned for a microchip on intake and I want that scan documented.

I want a photo taken of every, single cat on intake and I want that photo posted online.

I want every, single stray cat to have a stray hold of three business days, starting after the photo is posted.

I want every sick or injured cat immediately sent to the Medina County SPCA or taken to a vet for evaluation and appropriate treatment.

I want the shelter to physically accommodate the needs of the pregnant, the very young, the very stressed, and feral cats and to post these with a designation of URGENT and allow such animals to be transferred to a qualified rescue group within the stray hold period and to keep documentation of such.

If these VERY BASIC protocols are beyond the resources of the Medina County Animal Shelter, then they need to get out of the cat business.

Finally, I want the gas chamber dismantled and destroyed.  It is a blight on Medina County and a symbol of regressive policies.  It is offensive that this board tolerates its continued use.

***

Read how Ms. Post became motivated to advocate for shelter reform.

Read her previous speeches to the county commissioners:

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Ms. Post and her reform efforts which appeared after her second speech to the county.

Medina Co Animal Shelter is Proud of Gassing Cats

Warning:  Bad language ahead.

These words are featured prominently on the Medina County Animal Shelter brochure:

We are proud of our department and want to keep up our good image and public relations.

The Ohio shelter has indeed been very public about its better than 90% save rate for dogs.  But the shelter’s “good image” and “public relations” have both been on the ropes recently.

Local pet advocate Casey Post wrote the county commissioners in July about the disappearance of the shelter’s Facebook page where people had been clamoring for photos of cats – the majority of whom are killed at the Medina Co facility – so they could network them.  She received a response from county commissioner Steve Hambley in which he indicated he had spoken with dog warden Del Saffle about the yanked Facebook page.  Mr. Saffle advised that using Petfinder alone is sufficient as far as online marketing goes and “that our successful adoption rate provides evidence that is is still a very efficient and effective tool for encouraging placements.”  In other words, killing more than half of the cats who come through the front door is so fabulous, why try harder?  In fact, why even maintain the current level of effort?  Let’s yoink the Facebook page and get rid of all those comments from pesky animal advocates in one stroke.

Then on September 23, Plain Dealer reporter Donna Miller showed up at the county commissioners’ meeting to ask for specifics about the pound’s little known gas chamber.  Mr. Hambley admitted the county had modified the killing protocols for dogs to allow for injection only but that cats were still being killed in the gas chamber.  He used the go-to excuse relied upon by every gasser in the country – the fact that the AVMA still endorses it as a killing method.  He touted the county’s high adoption rate – which is for dogs, though he failed to mention that.  And in typical killing apologist fashion, Mr. Hambley attempted to turn the tables on the person questioning the killing by asking if she had ever handled feral cats.  Not only is that question irrelevant, it implies that every cat killed in the gas chamber is feral which is baseless and unjustifiable even if it was accurate.  Most importantly, the question is nothing more than a diversion tactic used by those who know what they’re doing is wrong.

Mr. Hambley noted that feral cats are going to be stressed out with any sort of handling.  So I guess what the heck, stuff them in the gas chamber, amirite?  He also pointed out that he has done some checking and that the only alternative for handling feral cats is to “take a giant fork and pin the cat down.”  So again, gas chamber, obviously.  And the coup de grace from Mr. Hambley:  He noted than many counties in Ohio won’t even accept cats so Medina is completely awesome for opening its (gas chamber) doors to the beasts.

Three days later. Donna Miller published an article in the Plain Dealer exposing Medina County’s filthy secret:  The animal shelter which brags about its canine save rate without ever mentioning what it does with cats is in fact stuffing more than half of its cats into a gas chamber:

The Medina County Animal Shelter used carbon monoxide to euthanize 247 cats last year and 221 cats so far this year, shelter records show. It is one of four county kennels in the state still using a gas chamber to kill unwanted pets.

The other 84 county kennels are using sodium pentobarbital injections, which is recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Humane Society of the U.S., American SPCA, National Animal Control Association and Association of Shelter Veterinarians as the most humane way to euthanize pets.

And the money quote:

“The cats killed in Medina County’s gas chamber were healthy,” said Dog Warden Dell Saffle, who runs the kennel.

I swear to popsicles these people do not even hear themselves anymore.  Where is my giant fork?

After learning that her local shelter, the one she thought needed some assistance in cat marketing, was actually gassing the cats they were failing to market, advocate Casey Post again contacted county commissioner Hambley.  This time, she wasn’t encouraging him to reconsider networking pets on Facebook.  Ms. Post flat-out told the commissioner the pound needed to stop accepting cats immediately and that the gas chamber should be dismantled.  She suggested the Medina Co pound sell its cat cages and supplies, using the proceeds to fund lifesaving efforts as a dog-only shelter.  From her letter:

To continue to accept cats under current circumstances is both unethical and contrary to the will of the community.

Ms. Post, who has adopted from the Medina Co pound herself, wrote to me about her cat Clifford:

I see my sweet Clifford. My perfect little grey cat who gets along with everyone, who is super adaptable and completely inoffensive, who was described to me by the shelter worker as “doesn’t like to be held”…and knowing that if I hadn’t taken him that day, he would have been fucking stuffed in a fucking gas chamber?

I get it Casey.  We all do.  There are such things as monsters in this world.  But there are also compassionate people willing to put themselves into uncomfortable situations and fight for what is right.  There are more of us than there are of them.  And we have sweet souls like Clifford to motivate us.  That’s how I know we can’t lose.

Keep going.  Let us know if you need help.

Shelters’ Feral Cat Policies are Indicative of Their Commitment to Lifesaving

A shelter policy which requires workers to determine whether a cat is feral upon impound is inconsistent with best practices. A cat impounded by a shelter is often going to behave in a fearful and defensive manner, to varying degrees, which doesn’t mean he is a wild cat but rather that he is behaving normally for his species under the circumstances. And many, many owned cats are not microchipped so the lack of a chip in no way suggests a cat is feral. Further, when a shelter takes the stance that cats deemed feral are deserving of nothing except death, there is needless killing – sometimes of feral cats, other times of owned pets who have been misidentified by staff.

Today is National Feral Cat Day and while the outlook remains gloomy in regressive killing facilities and communities which harass colony caregivers, there are signs of hope for feral cats, sometimes in unlikely places.

  • Lake Norman Realty in NC has a TNR program for local community cats and is hosting a fundraiser to benefit its Lucky Cat program today.
Photo from the UPAWS Barn Buddies webpage.

Photo from the UPAWS Barn Buddies webpage.

It’s great to see the general public supporting feral cats and their right to live. What would be even better is to see more shelters doing their jobs and protecting dogs and cats, including ferals.  Shelters such as UPAWS in Michigan not only provide humane care for feral cats brought to the shelter, they adopt them out via their “Barn Buddies” program.  The neutered and vaccinated cats are placed as outdoor “rodent control technicians” for a $10 fee.

Is your local shelter or anyone in your community doing anything special for free-living cats on National Feral Cat Day? Tragically, my local shelter is just doing the usual: killing. Or to put it more accurately, killing and trying their best to hide their actions from the public. If only shelters such as this put as much effort into saving lives as they do into ending them and hiding the evidence, we might truly be able to celebrate feral cats today instead of having to beg for their right to live.

Shelter directors should consider protecting feral cats as part of their jobs – specifically:

  • Allowing newly impounded cats a quiet period of adjustment before assessing their status
  • Neutering, vaccinating and returning truly feral cats to their outdoor lives
  • Taming kittens born to feral mothers and offering them for adoption
  • Partnering with the community in order to provide foster care and to maintain feral cat colonies

If directors refuse to do their jobs, they should be replaced by compassionate people who will.  In the interim they should not be allowed to accept any cat they are determined to kill and instead be required to direct concerned citizens to animal groups willing to provide humane care.   In too many cases, shelter directors’ policy on feral cats results in a violent and permanent betrayal of the animals the facility is supposed to be protecting.

We have a long way to go in terms of shelter reform. How shelters treat feral cats is indicative of their commitment to lifesaving. These are animals who pose unique challenges in handling and care, who are unlikely to generate much, if any, adoption revenue and who some people consider to be nuisance wildlife. When an animal shelter isn’t fighting to protect these cats from harm, it reflects a fundamental mission failure.

 

“How to Make a Problem Way Worse” by the Portsmouth Humane Society Board President

Nearly four years ago, the former executive director of the Portsmouth Humane Society, Christie Chipps Peters, started a TNR program for the feral cats received at the VA shelter. The program was a success in that it saved the lives of feral cats and the staff maintained the colony created by the release of the neutered, vaccinated cats in the woods behind the shelter. The problem was that the records for each of the cats involved in the TNR program were intentionally miscategorized as “adopted” with the adopter in each case being a shelter employee. In addition, the state of Virginia does not have a law on the books that officially addresses the practice of TNR:

The law dictates that animals brought into shelters can either be adopted, returned to their owners, transferred to another agency or euthanized.

To complicate matters further, it seems as if the city, which contracts with the Portsmouth Humane Society for animal control, views the obligation to accept feral cats differently from the HS board president, Rebecca Barclay:

The city’s contract with the Portsmouth shelter remains in question. City officials believe dealing with feral cats was part of the deal.

“We’re disappointed,” City Attorney George Willson said.

Barclay contends the animal shelter was never equipped to handle feral cats and that its staff should never have accepted them.

“Because feral cats are unadoptable,” Barclay said. “They do not have the potential to become pets.”

When shelter officials worked out the contract with the city, Barclay said, it was made clear the shelter would not accept feral cats.

Willson and City Manager John Rowe could not confirm that, but noted that the shelter has been accepting them from the beginning of the five-year contract, in 2010.

It appears that the city and the HS board president have been operating under opposing assumptions for years.  And that the executive director of the HS was given free reign to address the issue as she saw fit.  When Jenn Austin took over the ED position at the shelter in February 2013, she continued the existing TNR program.

On May 31, 2013, a former Portsmouth HS employee filed a complaint with the state about the miscategorization of records for cats involved in the TNR program.  The state investigated and issued a fine:

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has handed Portsmouth a $1,250 fine for several “critical failures to provide adequate care” at the shelter located at 4022 Seaboard Court.

In response, the city reacted in a reasonable manner:

Portsmouth City Manager John Rowe said Friday that he wasn’t aware of the shelter’s practice, but is reserving judgment on the matter. He said he plans to let the shelter and the state resolve it.

“They’re saying they’re in compliance with the law,” he said. “I’m not a judge.”

The HS board president however, claiming she was “shocked and appalled”, went Matrix on the shelter, firing the executive director, ordering the staff to stop accepting feral cats immediately and hiring a team of lawyers to defend the HS.  Amidst this kind of hysteria, PETA was bound to smell blood in the water and their spokesman inserted herself into the melee in order to promote their Yay for Killing Cats agenda.  PETA, which actively seeks out homeless cats and dogs and kills nearly every one they get their hands on, supports TNR – when it’s for deer.  But the practice they call a “humane alternative” for controlling deer populations somehow doesn’t apply to wild cats.  Cats must die.  All die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11!!!

I hate to bring reason back into the picture here but I’m wondering if this whole issue couldn’t simply be solved by the city putting an ordinance on the books that addresses TNR.  (Virginia is a home rule state.)  Then the city could still have a place to bring its feral cats and the shelter could provide care for them while correctly categorizing the cats’ records as TNR.  The board president lady and PETA can still have their pearl-clutching tea party where they can hyperventilate to Polly Prissypants about the horror of community cats being neutered, vaccinated, and allowed to live.

In the meantime though, the Portsmouth Humane Society staff will still be allowed to maintain the colony established in the woods behind the shelter.  Recommendations on how to remove the colony without killing the cats are reportedly being sought.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

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