GA Animal Control Officer Posts Images Mocking Dead Pets

Barrow County Animal Control Officer Danyal Harper has been on the job for nine years and was promoted to director of the long-troubled Georgia pound on March 25.  Then an anonymous tipster sent screencaps of ACO Harper’s Photobucket account to the local news and all hell broke loose.  So what was ACO Harper posting on Photobucket?  Compassionate people will find these descriptions difficult to read:

The first item was a short clip from a You Tube music video about a board game called “Euthanasia!” that “makes you want to kill your pets.”

When a character on the video asks, “What am I going to do with all these kittens?” the other players respond, “Euthanasia!” And on the game board is a silver device called “The Pound” where the plastic kittens are dropped to their deaths.

Harper also posted an actual photo of a dog copulating with a duck; a photo of two gun-toting GI Joe dolls in camouflage standing on the carcass of a dead squirrel; two photos of “Free Cat” roadside signs posted next to dead cats; and a poster of a kitten that states: “KITTENS. You have to love them. God knows you’ve killed so many already.”

More:

One of the posts includes a satirical advertisement for a Cat Carrier— a contraption with a “stabilizer screw” on one end and muzzle on the other— that’s designed to transport a cat. An “endorsement” states that the device helps mold the cat “into a well-mannered creature God intended.”

Another is a photo of a dead cat with a sign pointing to it saying “Free Cat” and underneath is written “Charitability: At least your heart is in the right place.”

Although news outlets characterized the disturbing images as “dark humor” and “off-color”, there is no indication from ACO Harper as to whether he thought the images were dark, funny, some kind of turn-on, or anything else since he emptied his Photobucket account and hid from reporters:

11 Alive went by the animal control office where we were told Harper was on duty, but that he did not want to comment on the controversial pictures.

At a hastily called meeting yesterday, the Barrow Co Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to yank ACO Harper’s promotion. But he’s still the senior ACO for the county because, you know, it’s not clear whether the postings are indicative of any really serious problems. In order to determine that, the county will investigate itself.

I am not a psychiatrist but I get gallows humor. Totally. I have many years of experience with it as a coping mechanism. This ain’t that. Anyone who reads the descriptions and/or sees these images should be immediately struck by how NOT THAT they are. Why is Barrow Co still paying this guy to handle animals? Would any of the county commissioners like to volunteer their kids or grandkids to be under this ACO’s care? Perhaps a kiddie camping trip in the woods with ACO Harper, just to show the community they have full faith in the guy? [tumbleweed]

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

VA Pound Kills Injured Stray Dog Despite Available Foster and Vet Care

In 2012, the Chesapeake pound in VA took in 3724 animals and put 54% of them into trash bags.  In December 2012, taxpayers bought a new $10 million building for the facility.  But the needless killing has continued.

Earlier this month, volunteer Lauren Sanders, who regularly photographs pets at the Chesapeake pound and networks them on social media, took a picture of a dog called Ozzie.  He had been impounded after being found hit by a car and partially frozen to the road.  She posted his photo on Facebook in hopes of finding his owner, if he had one, or getting him some help if he didn’t.

Photo by Lauren Sanders

Photo by Lauren Sanders

As sometimes happens in the animal advocacy world, Ms. Sanders fell in love with Ozzie herself and decided that if no owner was located during his mandatory stray holding period, she would foster him. But when she returned to the pound to care for Ozzie, the shelter management told Ms. Sanders she had acted inappropriately in advocating for Ozzie:

“The next day, I went into the shelter and they told me I absolutely should not have posted his picture at all because no one wants a broken dog,” Sanders said.

In the meantime, Ms. Sanders still intended to care for Ozzie at the pound during his holding period and take him home when it expired if necessary. Many people offered to help pay for the dog’s vet bills and a vet willing to perform surgery at a discounted rate was found. The day before his holding period expired, Ms. Sanders says Ozzie was doing well despite his injuries:

“I saw him yesterday and he had scooted himself across the floor, gobbled up treats, tail wagging; that leads me to believe he wasn’t dead,” Sanders, a volunteer with Chesapeake Animal Services said. “He still had fight in him.”

But the pound killed Ozzie that day:

Chesapeake officials tell NewsChannel 3 the dog had made a turn for the worse and surgery wouldn’t have helped.

The Chesapeake pound is run by the police department. It’s unclear to me whether any of the officers are also veterinarians but that seems unlikely.  Did the dog see a vet on the day he was killed – the same day that Ms. Sanders describes him as wagging his tail and vacuuming up treats – and did that vet determine he was medically hopeless and suffering?  The city has made no such statement nor offered any details.  Which begs the question: How and why did the police department arrive at the decision that a dog who had a foster waiting and was still on stray hold needed to be killed?

Chesapeake Police say nothing could have helped the dog. With Sanders so ready to do whatever she could to rehabilitate Ozzy, she wishes she would have been given the opportunity.

There is a group on Facebook advocating for a change in management at the Chesapeake pound. An online petition calling for the replacement of staff at the pound has collected 1603 signatures as of this morning.  A website called Justice for Ozzie has been set up in an effort to share his story and aid in reform efforts at the pound.  Ms. Sanders told me she has no intention of returning to the Chesapeake pound under its current management.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me info on this story.)

Funky Cold Medina Co

At the time public pressure brought by an animal advocate forced the Medina Co pound in Ohio to stop gassing cats, it was believed that the shelter staff did an admirable job caring for dogs.  After all, the facility boasts a 92% live release rate for dogs.  But records obtained via FOIA request appear to show that many of the dogs who were euthanized last year at Medina Co received less than the amount of Fatal Plus indicated on the label.  For example, a 50 pound dog being euthanized by IV injection with Fatal Plus should receive no less than 5 cc according to label instructions.  But many dogs whose weights were recorded as 50 pounds by Medina Co received only 4 cc of Fatal Plus with one 50 pound dog receiving just 3 cc.  Several dogs weighing 60 pounds also received the 4 cc dose.  This is a serious problem according to an animal euthanasia expert in Ohio:

The Medina County animal control officers “need to be relieved of duty pending a thorough investigation of their qualifications and ability to do their jobs,” David Balz, Ohio-certified euthanasia instructor and director of the Wyandot County Humane Society, wrote Thursday in an email to The Plain Dealer. “I would not trust them to work in my shelter, in any capacity, under any circumstances, let alone that of euthanasia technicians.”

The state of Ohio does not specifically require that those qualified to euthanize animals do so only using the dosage on the drug’s label.  (The state of Virginia for example, requires exactly that.)  But Ohio code does include this:

Any agent or employee of an animal shelter performing euthanasia by means of lethal injection shall do so only in a humane and proficient manner that is in conformity with the methods described in division (A) of this section and not in violation of Chapter 959. of the Revised Code.

A humane and proficient manner.  In order to get a qualified opinion, I contacted David Balz myself. I asked him his view on whether using less than the label dosage, such as is evident in the Medina Co shelter’s drug logs, would qualify as performing euthanasia “in a humane and proficient manner”? He replied, in part:

I would say that it is certainly questionable. There is also the issue of using a drug “off label” in other words not following the directions or usage on the bottle. Only a licensed professional can do that. The rest of us have to use things as they are labeled. I may “know” that a particular drug will do something or that a different dosage would do a particular thing, but, not being a MD, DDS, DVM etc, I would not be allowed to do it any way except what is labeled on the bottle.

I also asked Mr. Balz to explain the concerns associated with using too little of a euthanasia drug. His reply, in part:

There are a number of problems associated with “underdosing” when using the drug for euthanasia. The most obvious is that, while the animal may literally go to sleep, it may also wake up. The problems with that are obvious. My worry about the workers in Medina is that if they previously had confusion regarding Intraperitoneal injections on cats and are now having problems with IV dosage calculations, then perhaps they also are not capable of establishing that the animal is dead before disposing of the body.

The other issue with “underdosing” is that at the doses we recommend you are basically “anesthetizing” the animal to the point where the base of the brain shuts down and the animal’s heart and lungs simply stop working – long after total unconsciousness which is the first effect. Picture the human operating room and the doctor asks the patient to start counting backwards from 100 – the doctor injects the drug and the patient says 99………and is unconscious. From that point on the level keeps deepening. Obviously in anesthesia we support the patient, but in the case of euthanasia they rapidly go into coma and then stop completely (at recommended doses they are unconscious in seconds and dead in 1 to 5 minutes). During this process there is an “excitement” phase where the patient/animal may flail about injuring themselves and others. When the animal is underdosed it becomes more likely that this excitement phase will occur or be extended. Thereby potentially being dangerous for the workers.

Public records obtained via FOIA request show that Medina Co shelter director Del Saffle, whose initials appear on all of the underdosed dogs, received training and certification in euthanasia practices in 1995. Although many shelters require their euthanasia technicians to continually update their training and certification, Medina Co apparently does not. Even without recent training, anyone performing euthanasia in an animal shelter should be reading and following the label instructions for the drug being used. No animal shelter employee should be underdosing animals with euthanasia drug under any circumstances.  If there is to be any deviation from the label instructions, it is always recommended to overdose and never to underdose animals being euthanized.

From the HSUS euthanasia reference manual:

Technicians can help minimize the chances of record-keeping errors by rounding up (never down!) to the nearest milliliter[.]
[...]
[R]ounding up and administering slightly more drug than technically needed is perfectly acceptable (it is never acceptable to use less than the label dose).

Medina Co reportedly places euthanized animals into an onsite incinerator.  The implications of the shelter’s practice of routine underdosing of dogs with euthanasia drug are obvious and disturbing.  Why was this practice ever allowed at Medina Co and when will the county put a stop to it?

Fulton Co In Their Own Words

Welcome to Fulton Co where they kill more than 1/3 of the animals in their care and post “urgent” animals on Facebook. But do not call them!  Because whoa – it’s not THAT urgent.

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

In late October, the Fulton Co rescue coordinator took to Facebook to shame the public for asking the pound to do the job taxpayers are paying it to do and help stray pets:

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

In early November, an opportunity for Facebook users to vote a dog off the kill list at Fulton Co. Who wouldn’t want to play The Sophie’s Choice Popularity Contest, amirite?

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

In mid-November, an announcement from Fulton Co that Spaghetti Mondays have been moved to Tuesdays – yay! And by spaghetti, of course they mean killing:

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

Current Fulton Co listings on the PetHarbor website:

Be further dazzled by the professionalism on display in these previous Fulton Co pet listings on Hell Yes Biscuit.

There is a Facebook page dedicated to reforming the Fulton Co pound here.

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.

The South Will Rise

While places like Union Co, NC continue to go moldy, communities all around the south are defying stereotypes and adopting progressive no kill protocols.

In Spartanburg, SC, city ACOs used to pick up cats and take them to the pound where roughly 8 out of 10 would be killed.  Area caretakers of feral cat colonies had a contentious relationship with the officers who would round up their maintained colony cats, along with other cats, and take them away for killing.

But late last year, Spartanburg Animal Services investigated trap-neuter-return for community cats and decided it was worth a try.  Funded by a grant, the city’s ACOs launched the program in January 2013.  They are on track to meet their goal of providing neuter and vaccination services to 750 feral cats this year.  The feline kill rate has dropped to virtually zero in 2013 thanks to TNR and the relationship with the community has bloomed into a supportive and useful one.  And Spartanburg Animal Services has been educating the masses via its Facebook page on which they document their outstanding TNR success.

In North Carolina, Lincoln Co animal advocates successfully lobbied their county commissioners for shelter reform.  Citing the will of the people to save shelter pets instead of killing them, commissioners unanimously voted this month to adopt the programs of the No Kill Equation:

“We are excited about leading the way in the state of North Carolina, through our commitment to become a no kill municipal shelter,” said Alex Patton, chairman of the county commissioners. “It is the right decision and one shared by the majority of our citizens.”

In Calhoun Co, AL, an advisory board was formed after concerns were raised about animal cruelty and botched killings at the pound.  The county is now slated to turn pound operations over to a non-profit group with goals for significant improvements:

 “I kept hearing from the previous board that it’s impossible to be a no-kill shelter,” [board member and attorney Tom] Wright said. “That’s not right to me, because that should be your goal. That’s what we want to work towards.”

Makes sense to me.

So even as many old-think shelter directors and politicians in the south remain mired in the killing ways of decades gone by, more and more southern communities are throwing off the yoke of archaic practices and starting to look at what makes sense:  Animals shelters should shelter animals. The public does not want animals in shelters killed.

No kill is not only possible, it’s happening in hundreds of communities all over the country.  Regressive directors and their enablers will continue to see their stranglehold on shelters eroded as more advocates take political action and the public continues to be educated about lifesaving alternatives.  And when history reflects upon those who fought to keep killing in the south and elsewhere, they will find themselves a mere Meisterburger footnote at the end of the chapter entitled “Compassion and Common Sense”.

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.

Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, Ohio

In last week’s post on Medina County’s pride over the gassing of cats, I mentioned local advocate Casey Post.  Ms. Post told me this week she spoke at a public meeting of her county commissioners about cat killing at the shelter.  She wrote:

I was so nervous, I was shaking. When my voice started to shake, I took a breath and plunged on. I had practiced this speech a lot (while out walking dogs – surprisingly good time to practice speeches) and did fine on autopilot. It’s very hard for me to speak publicly as I am a serious introvert and never comfortable in any situation more formal than grocery shopping. But I did it.

A reporter asked me for my phone number afterwards and two men out in the lobby thanked me for speaking. One said that he was impressed and that what I said was important. The other said “people need to know”. The representative from the Treasurer’s office also thanked me and told me about the two kittens found in a ditch she’s just taken in. I told her that I was super nervous, but that I would get better with practice and I’m coming back every week until I get what I want.

Thank you for speaking publicly on behalf of the cats at the Medina Co pound, Ms. Post.  We need more people willing to speak at public meetings of elected officials about ending the killing of shelter animals.

Here is the text of the comments delivered to the Medina Co commissioners by Casey Post this week:

I’ve supported the Medina County Animal Shelter.
Every dog bed in the shelter, I donated.
Every cat bed in the shelter, I donated.
I’ve filled my car with food, litter, cleaning supplies and toys and driven it out to the shelter to donate it all.
I’ve donated collars, leashes, and carriers.
In the winters, I donated giant buckets of pet safe ice melter so shelter workers and dogs would not slip on their way to the outside kennels.
I’ve gone to Beuhler’s and gotten a giant circle sub along with 24 gourmet muffins and brought it all to the shelter staff to thank them for their work in our community.
The Medina County Animal Shelter was on my tithing list and got $100 a month, every month, from me.
I supported Medina County Animal Shelter. It’s important that you understand this.
The Medina County Animal Shelter is mismanaging over 250 cats per year to death.
When a stray dog enters the shelter, he is scanned for a microchip, his picture is taken and put up on PetFinder, and he is held for a period of time to allow his owner to reclaim him. The live release rate for dogs at our shelter is 92%.
When a stray cat enters the shelter, he is put into a cage and made available for immediate adoption. He is not scanned for a microchip, his picture is not taken, and he is not advertised in any way. The live release rate for cats at our shelter is 45%.
The shelter staff says that they do not have time to market their cats.
If they did not have time to feed their cats, and cats were dying from lack of food, you would say that it is irresponsible and unethical for them to continue to take in cats.
There are cats at the shelter RIGHT NOW who would survive their shelter stay without food. They will NOT survive their stay without marketing.
Given the fact that marketing is at least as important to the cat’s survival as food, I contend that it is irresponsible and unethical for the shelter to continue to accept cats in any way, shape, or form.
Let Medina County Animal Shelter go back to doing what they do best and be a DOG ONLY shelter.
Otherwise, I would propose that we change the name of the shelter to better reflect their function within our community. We can call it, “Medina County Dog Shelter and Cat Disposal Facility.” Because right now, that is how our shelter is run.

Another Reason We Need Shelter Reform

On Tuesday of last week, I was driving home when I saw an emaciated dog running on a rural road.  As I slowed my car, she attempted to approach so I took it she was friendly.  I was very close to home at that point so decided to go get her something to eat.  We don’t personally have the resources to do the job our taxpayer funded shelter is supposed be doing, but we always try to help as best we are able.

At the house, I grabbed a hunk of cornbread that was ready for the dogs’ dinner and Billy grabbed a raw meaty bone.  We drove back to the area where we had seen the dog.  She was still there and walked right up to gently take the cornbread from my hand.  Her tail was wagging like mad when we left her with the bone.  On the very short drive back, Billy suggested we should leave her some kibble.  So he scooped up a gelato container full of kibble at the house and we returned to the dog eating her bone.  Lying down, she was hardly recognizable as a dog, looking merely like an oddly stacked pile of bones under a towel.  She was again super friendly and devoured the kibble, although she was willing to leave it in order to return to our car for some love.  On the way home, I said we should have thought about bringing her water since kibble makes dogs thirsty.  Billy went inside the house and emerged with a container full of water.

This time when we returned to the area, the dog was nowhere in sight and her bone was at the roadside.  There were two cars stopped in the road ahead, the drivers talking to one another.  One of them had a Dalmatian puppy in the cab of his truck but I couldn’t see inside the other vehicle.  They drove away and we left the water but never saw the dog again.  The only thing I could imagine that would make that starving dog leave her bone was the opportunity for human affection.  I assume one of those stopped drivers picked her up.

My heart sank when Billy said, “Oh no.  I hope they didn’t take her to the animal shelter.”  It was a real possibility because so many compassionate people believe their local animal shelter is the proper place to take animals in need and that the people who work there love animals.  The truth is that our local pound, like so many others across this country, is little more than a pet slaughterhouse.  They kill 3 out of every 4 pets in their care and the only effort that seems to be expended is in covering up the killing and hiding it from the public.  They like to promote how, instead of doing their jobs, they ship the dogs they are supposed to be caring for up north, where animals in shelters are also killed.  Our local public shelter is no safe haven and if this dog was brought there, she would have very little chance of survival.

I’ve been thinking of this poor dog every day since Tuesday.  My hope is that she was picked up and brought home by someone who was in a position to care for her.  I am clinging to that hope.  If it weren’t for the actions I hear about every day from the so-called irresponsible public, whom pound directors blame for the killing they do, I would have no such hope.  Thank you irresponsible public for defying the labels hung on you by shelter pet killers everywhere.  I will keep working for shelter reform so that one day, my local shelter will truly be a safe haven for dogs and cats in need.

Report: Long Beach Pound in Dire Need of Reform

A California no kill advocacy group called Stayin’ Alive Long Beach recently published a report analyzing hundreds of documents obtained from Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) via FOIA requests.  The report summarizes findings from these documents and makes a number of recommendations for increased lifesaving at the pound.  Last year’s numbers at Long Beach ACS indicate the facility is killing more than half of the animals in its care according to the report.

In 2012:

  • Long Beach ACS took in nearly 10,000 animals.
  • The kill rate for kittens was 78%.
  • The kill rate for adult cats was 75%.
  • The kill rate for puppies was 18%.
  • The kill rate for adult dogs was 32%.

Puppies were killed at the lowest rate and measurably less often than adult dogs.  With kittens however, it was the opposite.  Not only were they killed slightly more often than their adult counterparts, they were the group most likely to be killed at the pound.

Also in 2012:

  • Long Beach ACS took 0 animals to offsite adoption events.
  • Long Beach ACS placed 8 kittens and 5 puppies in foster homes while officially maintaining no foster program.
  • 104 animals were transferred to 16 rescue groups.
  • 28 volunteers worked at the pound which serves the city of Long Beach, population 450,000.  These volunteers were allowed only to walk dogs and read to the animals.

The primary reason Long Beach ACS isn’t killing every animal under its roof is because of the nearby SPCA LA facility.  Long Beach ACS relies on SPCA LA to take animals for adoption, transferring 28% of its animals to SPCA LA in 2012. Long Beach ACS itself adopted out just 35 cats, 36 puppies, 41 kittens and 212 dogs last year – an adoption rate of roughly 3%.

In response to the report, the Long Beach ACS manager told the Long Beach Press Telegram:

Ted Stevens, manager of Animal Care Services, defended his agency, calling the report’s claims “unfair and false.”
[...]
“We’re [sic] adopted more in nine months of this year than all of last year,” he said.

Just to be clear, he is bragging about exceeding a three percent adoption rate.

Among the recommendations for Long Beach ACS included in the report:

  • A comprehensive adoption program
  • Large scale volunteer program
  • Large scale foster program
  • TNR program
  • Expanded rescue program
  • Increased high volume, low cost spay-neuters
  • Increased owner redemptions

It will be interesting to see if city officials take action in response to the report or simply maintain the killing status quo. It seems like the manager’s position is clear. But 2014 is an election year in Long Beach and Stayin’ Alive Long Beach is hoping to capture the attention of voters by highlighting the positions of elected officials and challengers regarding reform at the city pound.

(Thanks Anne T. for alerting me to this story.)

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