May 23, 2013
Hart Co has never in its 160 years had a law on the books regarding homeless pets, even though GA law requires the county to have some sort of animal control in place. This month, county commissioners plan to discuss enacting an AC ordinance. But if you are excited at the prospect of Hart Co implementing a CAPA type law to protect the lives of the community’s dogs and cats, you need to reign in your hope-and-change horses right now.
These are the areas of concern for Hart Co:
- Zero tolerance for “the dumping of animals.”
- A simple method to determine which loose animals are strays.
- Hiring an ACO to pick up stray dogs and cats.
People who abandon their pets in Hart Co are quite possibly doing so because the county has no shelter. Commissioners don’t plan to build one either which frankly, is just as well unless they are willing to commit to no kill. By not providing a safe haven for stray and unwanted pets, Hart Co is driving people to less desirable alternatives. The new ordinance won’t change this.
The county’s idea of determining which loose pets are strays is ridiculous:
[County administrator Jon] Caime said if approved by the county commission, the county will require all dog owners to put a collar with a nametag on each of their pets.
“You can get these (tags) at Wal-Mart and PetSmart,” Caime said. “It will have the owner’s name and phone number on it. That way, the sheriff can identify which animals belong to someone and which are strays. Then if he finds an dog that doesn’t have a proper nametag on it, it will be considered an abandoned or stray animal, and he can do something legally in that regard.”
But what if your cat or dog loses his collar? What if you can’t afford a collar and personalized nametag (or replacements) for your pets? What if your cat or dog is unable to wear a collar and nametag for medical reasons (such as a neck injury) or safety concerns?
And Hart County’s plan for hiring an ACO is just as dumb:
In terms of an animal control officer, the county likely will hire a part-time person who will work only when the Northeast Georgia Animal Shelter in Lavonia is open, so animals can be taken directly there, Caime said.
Problem not solved. Hart Co will only offer services when the Northeast GA facility is open which is from 11am to 4 pm, Tuesday – Saturday. And that place kills animals so again, no safe haven for people who have pets needing to be rehomed or who find strays or who want to help a lost, stray, feral or injured dog or cat.
As far as I can tell, Hart County’s plan will simply route additional pets, stray and owned, to a place that states on it website that it kills dogs and cats deemed sick, injured, feral or wild. It will do precious little to discourage people from abandoning pets in need in the county.
I would ask the commissioners this: Have you ever considered that the reason people are abandoning dogs and cats in Hart Co is because there is no pet killing facility there? Most people don’t want to see homeless pets killed. They want to see them truly sheltered until they can be adopted, fostered or rescued. The answer to Hart County’s stray animal issue may be the building of a no kill shelter and the legal protections to support it, in the form of a CAPA type law. Just a suggestion.
But if we look at Hart County’s track record on dealing with the issue of animal control, it looks like the end result of all the talk is typically nada:
“Every time this subject has been brought up over the past eight years, they get overwhelmed with all the different components,” Caime said about the county commission response to the topic of stray animals. “It just seems to them that there’s too much to be done, so they just table it.”
Doing your job. It’s just too hard.
May 15, 2013
This search term, which appeared in my WordPress stats this morning, says it all:
where can i take a stray dog and not have it put down
Directors, staff and apologists for pet killing facilities often blame the public for the killing, claiming you and I are guilty of myriad transgressions which “force” them to kill dogs and cats. The truth: The so-called irresponsible public does not want pets killed in “shelters”. We want shelter directors and staff to do their jobs and provide true shelter to pets in need until they are reclaimed, rehomed, rescued or fostered. We want no kill.
April 1, 2013
Many pet lovers are shocked to learn that most municipal facilities that call themselves animal shelters do not actually shelter animals. In fact, these so-called shelters kill pets rescuers are willing to save, because they can. More still are astonished when they learn that some of the private non-profits calling themselves humane societies or societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals are guilty of the same crimes against pets as the municipal facilities that kill pets who are wanted.
In the case of public facilities, pet advocates can and should petition their government for a redress of grievances. But historically this has been a mixed bag of results with far too many elected officials blatantly thumbing their noses at taxpayers who call upon them to force animal shelter staff to do their jobs. Our public servants delete animal advocacy comments from their Facebook pages, ignore e-mails and petitions, and refuse to meet with advocates in person. When they do address the issue publicly, it’s usually to give the pet killing facility a pat on the back while wagging their fingers at the “irresponsible public”.
When it comes to the private HS/SPCA organizations, well-meaning advocates sometimes believe they should report the needless killing of pets there to the “national” HS/SPCA, meaning the Humane Society of the U.S. and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The sad truth is that neither of these organizations is affiliated with your local shelter, even if the names are similar. Furthermore, HSUS and ASPCA are primarily fundraising organizations and will likely not intervene to prevent wanted pets from being killed by your local non-profit organization.
But there is a solution that addresses the needless killing of wanted pets, and offers numerous other protections for shelter animals, at both public and private shelters. It’s called the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA). CAPA has already been passed in DE and has been introduced by legislators in MN, RI and WV. Modified versions have been introduced in NY, TX, IL and FL. More states will be announcing modified versions of CAPA on their legislative agendas soon.
CAPA lays out a number of important requirements for public and private shelters that include lifesaving, transparency and community participation. Specifically, neither public nor private shelter directors would have the discretion to kill pets under CAPA without giving public notice nor would they be allowed to kill pets that a rescue is willing to take.
Too often on this blog, we hear from pet advocates who have been shafted by shelter directors committed to killing for arbitrary reasons and, in some cases, in retaliation for shining a light on their dark secrets. Here is a way to do something about that. Augment your existing animal advocacy (fostering, rescue, networking, etc.) with some political advocacy that will not only save pets’ lives, but help the people who love them too.
Do you want accountability, transparency and legal access to the animals in your shelter’s care? If so, you want CAPA. Talk to your state or local legislators about getting CAPA introduced to protect your community’s pets from those who are needlessly killing them, because they can. CAPA would make needless and secretive shelter pet killing illegal, regardless of whether the shelter is public or private. Under CAPA, we would not only protect the lives of shelter pets but the hearts and minds of pet advocates who currently suffer at the whims of directors, standing by their cabinets of Fatal Plus and scoffing at the so-called irresponsible public’s attempts to actually shelter animals.
February 8, 2013
The Halifax Co pound in NC is a catch and kill facility that is not open to the public for adoptions. A well intentioned but obviously misinformed pet advocate recently wrote to the county in an attempt to get them to open their doors to adopters:
A recent email from N.C. Advocate Jane Tzilvelis, of N.C. Abandoned and Homeless State Pets, threatened the county with consequences from the Humane Society of the United States.
“Perhaps, after the HSUS puts your shelter on the map to the public, you will consider allowing North Carolina taxpayers entrance into the Halifax County Animal Shelter,” she said in the email. “I heard you are the next shelter project on the HSUS list.”
I commend the effort to hold the county accountable for its failures on behalf of the community pets in Halifax Co but let’s be clear: HSUS has never brought meaningful reform to any animal shelter anywhere. HSUS has created zero no kill communities. If “HSUS puts your shelter on the map to the public” it will likely be to give the pet killing facility an award or to chastise locals for not bringing the staff enough cupcakes.
[Halifax County Manager Tony] Brown said the Halifax County Animal Shelter is compliant with all state laws[.]
It’s an interesting use of the word “compliant” and a novel one. In the state of NC, the law requires municipal shelters to be open to the public and to make unclaimed pets available for adoption. Halifax Co does neither. Which probably makes HSUS love them even more.
I hope people keep advocating for the Halifax Co pound to start doing its job. But don’t count on any help from HSUS. They are killing apologists and enablers who use their millions bilked from unsuspecting donors to whitewash the reputation of dog torturer Michael Vick and fake-rescue pets for the cameras.
In the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 and ending June 30, 2012, the Wake Co Animal Center in NC took in 6214 animals and killed 3405 of them – a kill rate of 55%. On its website, Wake Co has a page about surrendering pets which includes alternatives to bringing the animal to the pound. Below that is a section on surrendering:
If you cannot resolve your problem and you cannot rehome your pet, please bring your pet to the Wake County Animal Center during normal business hours. Please bring your pet’s vet records or some other proof of ownership. A change in the state law requires that the Center receive some form of proof of ownership in order to place the animal up for adoption immediately. Failure to collect proof of ownership will result in the Center’s need to hold the animal for 72 hours prior to placing that animal up for adoption or transferring it to a rescue partner.
Understand that once surrendered to the Animal Center, the staff at the Animal Center will determine if they can offer the animal for adoption. This is determined by the health and temperament of the pet.
Animals can be reclaimed by the owner, but you must pay the applicable reclaim and boarding fees.
Seems clear enough. And yet a dog owner named Danielle Miller related a very different experience to a columnist with a local paper.
Ms. Miller says that her family moved from a home with a large yard to an apartment recently and brought 2 year old Tucker, the family’s GSD X Lab, with them. But she didn’t feel that apartment life was suiting Tucker and made the difficult decision to take him to the Wake Co pound in an effort to rehome him:
“When I took him in, they said ‘Ooh, he’s so beautiful’ and they’d try to re-home him,” she told me Wednesday. “I asked if there was any chance he’d be euthanized, and they said ‘Yes,’ but don’t worry. It’s not going to happen. I asked if it was OK to call back and check on him.”
In fact, Ms. Miller says she called back to check on Tucker 15 minutes after leaving the pound. And again 15 minutes later. Both times she says shelter staff told her everything was fine. But after another 15 minutes, she decided she’d rather move than part with Tucker so called the Wake Co pound again to let them know she was on her way back to pick him up:
“I told them I was coming back to get him, and they said, ‘Don’t bother. He’s already dead.’ I said there must be some mistake.” The person on the other end, she said, assured her there was no mistake. “ ‘I’m looking at him. He’s dead,’ ” Miller said she was told.
The pound’s director, Dr. Jennifer Federico, says Tucker was aggressive and they gave him 45 minutes to see if his behavior would change. Dr. Federico says that’s twice as long as they give most animals because the pound is very busy. Oh and nobody wants to kill animals:
“We’re not here to euthanize pets,” she said. “I’m a vet. I would much rather return pets to their family.”
Yeah. Well, fail on that.
Ms. Miller was devastated and shocked to hear her gentle pet had been deemed aggressive:
Tucker “was so beautiful and peaceful, Miller said. “He never growled or bit. I can remember him barking only four times his entire life. We literally were concerned about his vocal chords at one point.”
But Dr. Federico counters that a dog might behave differently in her pet killing facility than he does at home. A point underscored on the pound’s surrender page:
A shelter environment can be very stressful to an animal.
Common sense tells us that surrendered pets might be confused, insecure, wary and/or fearful when their owners leave them in the hands of pet killers. What makes no sense to me is how Dr. Federico thinks that giving these animals 20 minutes – or in Tucker’s case, 45 minutes – to adjust is in any way reasonable. Especially when the penalty imposed by Dr. Federico for failure to immediately suppress normal, common behavior is death.
The pound’s surrender page includes a blurb at the end:
We understand the emotional toll that surrendering a beloved pet to an animal shelter has on you, the owner, and your family.
I don’t think so. I’m having troubling reconciling the phrase “understand the emotional toll” with the words, “I’m looking at him. He’s dead.”
Ms. Miller apparently did what the Wake Co pound asked and provided proof of ownership so Tucker would not have to wait 72 hours before being made available for adoption. She did not realize that the pound would use this against Tucker in order to immediately kill him. Nor did she know that a veterinarian in charge of a shelter would regularly kill surrendered pets if she didn’t like their behavior in the minutes following intake.
Pet advocates are often scolded by those who kill shelter pets about how we don’t appreciate how cruel, neglectful and apathetic the “irresponsible public” is when it comes to pets. Killing apologists accuse anyone who surrenders a pet to a shelter of “dumping” the animal and say we should blame the so-called irresponsible public for the killing. Ms. Miller made a difficult decision, doing what she thought would be best for Tucker. She called to check on him every 15 minutes after leaving the shelter. She realized she’d made a mistake less than an hour after surrendering Tucker and wanted to take him back home. This is your “irresponsible public”. This is your “pet dumper”. Sadly, the people who supposedly don’t want to kill animals and like to wag their fingers at everybody else operate a well-oiled pet killing machine which is fast and efficient. But we should all get along, because we all want the same thing and blah.
If only more people would have brought cupcakes to the pet killers at Wake Co, maybe Tucker would have lived for 45 minutes – long enough for his “irresponsible” owner to take him home.
I always like to share examples of anyone who has been involved with a shelter, suspected wrongdoing, and documented her concerns. Tonya Barker and Barbara Koblinsky spring to mind as good examples. And here is the work of Robby Caban, a former intern at Fulton Co Animal Services in GA. She collected evidence of possible crimes and ethical violations such as theft of public services, neglect, oops-killings, theft of supplies and missing shelter pets and spotlighted her concerns in two videos posted to YouTube. Everyone at a shelter who wonders what sort of evidence needs to be collected when wrongdoing is suspected but management fails to act should watch these videos.
Ms. Caban then took her documents to the media and the CBS affiliate in Atlanta ran a story on the Fulton Co pound:
[Robby Caban] took photographs of animals living in cages with feces and urine for several hours, as well as dirty food and water and in some cases no water at all.
“We would see animals throw up and because people weren’t walking through the kennel monitoring them, other animals would eat the throw up,” Caban said.
Caban met with the District Attorney’s Office to report her findings on Friday.
This is what every so-called “Friend” of every shelter where abuse is occurring should do. Instead, we too often see “Friends” of these shelters enabling the abuse and needless killing by whitewashing the crimes or worse, covering them up. I hope Ms. Caban’s actions help to bring meaningful reform to the Fulton Co pound.
September 16, 2012
It’s normal in any fight for major social reform to feel, at times, that all hope is lost. These are the valleys we all must plow through in our efforts to ensure the right of shelter pets to live. Thankfully, it ain’t all valleys:
I just got dropped off at the airport by an animal control director who volunteered to drive me. She wanted to talk about how we could work together to improve the animal welfare landscape in Kentucky.
She can’t change the past, she said, but she can change the future, which she is committed to doing for the animals of her community and for animals all over Kentucky.
And to the shelter director in Kentucky: Thank you. Let us know if you need us to share pets online, promote your adoption events, help raise money or just send you a virtual high five. We’re on it.
March 10, 2011
In the time since Tonya Barker sent me the information about the PAWS shelter in Pueblo, she has been organizing her shelter reform efforts. She started off by creating a Facebook page for her group where she can share photos and stories of the dogs she knew at the shelter. There is also a video which touches upon some of the alleged neglect cases. And she’s planning a local event for Saturday. Per Tonya:
I’m having an “Awareness Day” on March 12 in Pueblo. We will meet at City Park (Pueblo Blvd entrance) at 11:30am. We will hand out the information and people can spread across town. I’m hoping to have people at the dog park, Petsmart, Petco, etc. High traffic areas. I will also include a flyer for people to join the Facebook page.
This is the first step in getting the information out there. I want the community to know what is really going on at PAWS and not just a new shelter going up. Please be the voice for those who have none, and have been unfairly abused, or just simply been born and end up at PAWS. Be the difference that you want to see in the world. The dogs are counting on you. You are all they have.
Anyone wanting to participate in Saturday’s event can join the group on Facebook for additional details. Good luck Tonya!