Medina County animal advocate Casey Post once again addressed the public meeting of her county commissioners this week. Her comments, along with the text of her speech, are below. I have been sharing them each week so that readers can see shelter reform advocacy in action, as it unfolds. I hope it may inspire others to speak to their local commissioners about bringing no kill to their own community.
Ms. Post writes:
This speech was my “Captain Longfellow” speech. You see, Captain Longfellow is the name of the cat that the shelter failed on Christmas Eve last year. He was the only animal left in the shelter and they made zero effort to get him out alive. They never took his picture and never called a rescue group. I will always regret leaving Captain Longfellow behind that day, but that was back when I thought that their 92% live release rate was for ALL of the animals, not just the dogs. Now I know that their live release rate for cats is 45%. So I felt that I owed Captain Longfellow at least some acknowledgement. His story is representative of the failings at Medina County Animal Shelter.
But the part of the speech that seemed to surprise at least one of the Board members was the part about how gas chambers are being phased out around the country. This was apparently new information for some. Commissioner Hambley seems to think that it’s some kind of nutty movement by animal rights activists with too much time on their hands. He is still convinced that it’s completely humane and that the shelter workers are telling the truth about how the animals “just go to sleep” and they’ve never ever seen any sort of struggle or thrashing or heard any howling or vocalizations and how cats are too dangerous to handle. Poor Commissioner Hambley doesn’t seem to realize that in trying to make things nice and easy for the shelter workers, they are actually throwing his political career under a bus for him. I don’t think he realizes that he’s truly on the losing end of this argument and that holding on to the gas chamber is not helping his image at all. For a man who wants to run for state representative, this is not a good idea.
The good news is that after I spoke, a local man named Mark spoke after me, saying that he was there to support me and that he wants the gas chamber eliminated. He was very straightforward and matter of fact and said that even if you didn’t care about cats at all, you have to think about what this does to our county’s reputation. We’re a growing community and it’s time we joined the 21st century with the rest of the world.
I had only communicated with Mark briefly by email and did not know he was going to show up for the meeting, so it was a fantastic surprise to have him there. Mark has two rescue cats he loves and is very active in the community (unlike me, who is a hermit), so he is perfect for this.
The discussion session after the meeting was … active. The shelter apparently has been too generous with their resources, taking in all and sundry cats from all over the county. Now they will limit themselves to 14 cats at any given time. Owner surrenders get a photo online and have seven days to find a home. Friendly strays get a photo online and three day stray hold and then may get four more days to find a home. Unfriendly strays/ferals/anything else they don’t feel like dealing with get no stray hold, no photo, and straight into the gas chamber (or may be refused at the door – not really sure how that’s supposed to work with the 14 cat limit – does it really count for space if you’re only taking up space in the gas chamber? Don’t know).
It has been decided that the shelter will continue to use the gas chamber on cats because apparently, cats are sharp and the safety of the employees is paramount. This was followed by reassurances that the employees are fully trained and qualified, it’s just that they cannot safely handle the cats for euthanasia by injection. I said that it was amazing that so many other shelters in the nation somehow manage to handle cats without a gas chamber. The representative from the Medina County SPCA was there to explain how her board was going to put together a proposal for what it would cost the county for the MSPCA to take in some of the county’s cats. When she was done, I asked her if the MSPCA had a method for dealing with fractious cats that didn’t involve a gas chamber. She said, “Yes, we do.” To which I said, “Good. Maybe you can teach the shelter, then.” The room was already contentious since Mark asked the Board straight out if they intend to continue gassing cats and finding that the answer was, “Yes.” Things broke up after that.
The Board seems to understand that the tide of history is against them on the gas chamber, but they still aren’t keen to move forward on the issue. I had really hoped to prevent this from escalating to an unpleasant social media campaign, but that seems like it’s going to have to be the next step. If we have to fill that meeting room with angry people, then that is what we’ll do. Shouldn’t be hard…it’s not that big a room.
Around this time last year, a man in the Weatherstone development in Wadsworth found a cat.
This cat was friendly, neutered, and declawed. The man thought that the cat must belong to someone nearby, but because it seemed hungry, he fed the cat. He thought that the cat would eventually go home, but three weeks later, he’s still feeding this cat. It’s now getting very cold at night and he’s worried about the cat. He calls the Medina County Animal Shelter to ask what to do.
Knowing that this is a person concerned for the safety of an apparently healthy animal and knowing that this person has been feeding this animal for a period of time, they had the opportunity to prevent this cat from ever entering the shelter. They could have asked the man to send them a photo of the cat, so that they can post it online and get it networked in case an owner was looking for the cat. They could have told the man about how if he brings the cat to the nearest vet, the vet will scan the cat for a microchip for free. They could have told him how to build an insulated shelter for the cat that would cost him less than the $10 surrender fee and would keep the cat safe until the owner could be found or until online networking got the cat to a new home.
But they missed this opportunity and simply said, “Bring him in”.
Now the shelter has the cat.
At this point, they have an opportunity to market a highly desirable animal, especially to renters who must have declawed cats to comply with their rental agreements. All they had to do was take a nice picture of this cat and post it online.
But they missed this opportunity and they did nothing.
A few days go by and now it’s Christmas Eve and this cat is the ONLY animal left in the shelter. There are three workers on duty, two hours to closing, and one cat who needs a home on Christmas Eve. At this point, the shelter had an opportunity to get this cat a home for Christmas.
All they needed to do was take his picture, post it online with an urgent plea –
TWO HOURS to closing and just one cat left! Will you please give him the gift of a home? He’s already neutered, declawed, and doesn’t want to spent his Christmas stuck in a cage. Hurry to the shelter and be this lonely cat’s Christmas miracle!
But they missed this opportunity and instead, they did…nothing. Then, they killed the cat.
Time and time again, the shelter fails to seize the opportunities to do better. This lack of vision, lack of innovation has been pervasive at the shelter for a very long time, now. And that is why the shelter insists on continuing to use the gas chamber on cats, despite the fact that there are cheaper, and more humane methods immediately available to them. Despite the fact that it gives Medina the shameful reputation as the cat gassing capital of Ohio.
What we have here, is an opportunity.
An opportunity to finally shake off the dark ages of the gas chamber.
An opportunity to reform the shelter so that it that functions as shelter and is a source of pride for the community.
An opportunity to change.
Because change is inevitable. Medina County will get rid of its gas chamber. Gas chambers are being phased out all over the country, now. Seventeen states have already made it illegal to use on dogs and cats. Even Ohio is down to only a handful of counties that still use it at all.
So the REAL question is, “How hard do you want to fight to keep an antiquated piece of equipment left over from a less civilized time?”
Medina County deserves better.
Take this opportunity. Get rid of the gas chamber. Reform the shelter. Do Medina proud.
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.