Lake Co Pound Director Kills 147 animals in 9 Days, Gets Fired

Last year, Jacquelyn Johnston was a clinic supervisor at the Miami Dade pound.  She killed animals for convenience in spite of the fact that the county commission had unanimously passed a no kill resolution after voters overwhelmingly demanded it.  In an e-mail to rescuers last summer, Johnston described some of the pets she was going to kill unless rescuers saved them with just a few hours notice:

“Sweet big boy, now has URI’’ — upper respiratory infection.

“Nervous and shy, but warms up if you spend time with her.’’

“Older pet but would make a great senior retiree…’’

“Adopter never showed up, super sweet, already spayed, 35-40 lbs.’’

“This is the one who came in from a caring homeless man, conformed pittie’’ — pit bull terrier, illegal in Miami-Dade

“Has ticks that we are treating. Needs out by tomorrow, no more time.’’

“Just a puppy and been here too long.’’

On October 1, the troubled Lake Co pound in FL hired Johnston as director. The sheriff’s office that runs the pound reportedly clearly explained to Johnston that getting animals out alive was her number one priority and that killing animals was only to be done as a last resort.

Johnston apparently thought she was in keeping with this directive when she immediately embarked on a massive killing spree. In nine days, Johnston had killed 147 animals. Someone alerted the sheriff’s office and Johnston was fired on the spot. Too late for 147 animals, including “some dogs that could have made good pets for people” according to Lt. John Herell with the sheriff’s office.  But let’s face it, the death toll could have climbed even higher had she not been shown the door.

While I do not claim to know what Johnston was thinking while she was on her killfest at Lake Co, it seems to me the situation is symptomatic of our broken shelter system.  Instead of sheltering animals, they kill them.  Instead of calling it killing (which is what it is), they call it euthanasia – a kindness.  Instead of doing their jobs to protect and rehome animals, they violate their most basic right – the right to live.  When we criticize them for killing, they tell us they are doing the best they can, we all want the same thing and that we shouldn’t judge unless we are willing to go down there and kill animals ourselves.

Everything is ass backwards and tragically, this is the norm, not the exception in our broken shelter system.  When you explain to someone who would kill “just a puppy” for convenience that killing is a last resort at your facility and her job is to get animals out alive, she likely recognized the same old song and dance.  Riiiight, nobody wants to kill animals, nudge nudge, wink wink.

And then she started in doing what she apparently perceived to be her job:  Say one thing publicly, do the opposite behind closed doors.  Call it pet overpopulation, kill animals.  Blame the irresponsible public, kill animals.  Say you’re doing your best to get pets into homes, kill animals.  This is what these people do.  They are monsters.  I don’t know if they were always monsters or if working a job where they kill friendly dogs and cats for a paycheck made them that way, nor do I care.  What I care about is saving shelter pets.

If Lake Co cared about protecting the lives of the animals in their care, they wouldn’t have given this new hire a few talking points, a box of Fatal Plus and sent her on her way.  Lake Co should have built protections for the animals into the system.  No animal killing without veterinary authorization, for example.  No animal killing without approval from the sheriff’s office.  No animal killing without a minimum 2 business days notice posted online listing all animals to be killed along with their photos.  But apparently all Lake Co gave Johnston was the key to the drug cupboard and a nudge nudge wink wink directive that killing is a last resort.

Johnston is not an anomaly.  She is typical of the type of long term employee who seeks out work in pet killing facilities.  She knew the routine.  She listened to the Lake Co sheriff’s office talk about saving animals and got the message:  kill.  This is why shelter reform is so desperately needed in this country.  Not only are shelters killing animals, they are employing monsters.  In Lake Co, Johnston was stopped and the animals she hadn’t yet managed to kill got lucky.

Are the animals housed in your local pet killing facility lucky?  Or is the director there still killing at will, probably with the support of your elected officials who don’t care to know the truth?  And are you being marginalized for your animal advocacy, being told you don’t understand what a hard job it is and that nobody wants to kill animals?

To the person or persons who spoke up for the animals being needlessly killed in Lake County – thank you.  Keep going.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

F-Star-Star-Star Yeah Augusta Chronicle

Although many newspapers feel comfortable endorsing political candidates in the lead up to an election, most do not weigh in on the needless killing of dogs and cats at their local shelter.  Of those that do, the editorials tend at best to nudge the shelter director with a kindly worded request for improvement and at worst blame the so-called irresponsible public for the killing and demand MSN enforcement.  But in a piece published yesterday, the editorial staff at the Augusta Chronicle in GA has changed all that.  They go to eleven:

Augusta-Richmond County is needlessly killing animals – dozens a day, hundreds a week, thousands a year.

All because leaders at the county’s Animal Services department refuse to work with volunteer rescue groups who help find homes for the dogs and cats that turn up at the animal shelter.

Apparently, it’s simply easier for Animal Services Director Sharon Broady and her staff to warehouse, kill and dispose of the animals than to process the paperwork needed to get them into caring homes.

The piece goes on to question why the Augusta pound is killing 70% of its animals while turning away rescuers and volunteers and why the director refuses to adopt out intact animals with spay-neuter agreements when the only alternative she allows is death.

Why is Broady’s default setting on “kill”?

She told The Augusta Chronicle via email interview that she is open to exploring options of lowering euthanasia rates. We suggest she consult a dictionary if her idea of “open” is to refuse to cooperate with rescue volunteers and blindly adhere to a policy that sends dozens of animals to the county landfill each day.

About 6,500 dogs and cats were killed last year.

Broady says lowering the kill rate would require “a new facility, additional staff, to include another veterinarian, vet techs and a much larger budget.”

She needs more resources? We don’t buy that facile argument for a split second. Broady has volunteers practically kicking her door in, begging to take these animals off her hands.

There are likely plenty of policy changes she can make to cut the kill rate that don’t require a bigger budget.

I’ll have what they’re having.

Referring to the Augusta pound as a “sick, sad death house”, the Chronicle offers up examples of places such as Kansas City where the killing of healthy/treatable pets has been drastically reduced after compassionate animal lovers committed to lifesaving took charge of operations.

Look long and hard at all these other agencies that are correctly and humanely executing their duties without executing tons of animals. Start doing what they do. Check your pride at the door. The animals whose life or death depends on us deserve that much.

Augusta Animal Services’ problem isn’t financial. It’s about attitude. And this agency has precisely the wrong attitude to fulfill a successful mission of caring for and adopting out Augusta’s most vulnerable animals.

While the editorial staff does not mention the No Kill Equation or the fact that there are hundreds of open admission shelters saving more than 90% of their pets all over the country, they clearly get the idea that a shelter should shelter, not kill, animals and that the need for meaningful reform is urgent:

Augusta Commissioners have ultimate authority for this slaughter. They have the responsibility to put an end to it. Commissioners, a compassionate and caring community is looking to you now. Do your jobs, and either make Ms. Broady do hers, or find someone else who will.

Out with the old, in with the editorial staff at the Augusta Chronicle. Someone should send them a copy of Redemption and a link to the No Kill Advocacy Center so that they can see what’s achievable in Augusta.  Local animal advocates, you’ve got the newspaper editorial staff on your side.  No small thing.  Seize the moment and publicly demand an end to the killing of healthy/treatable animals at the pound.  And then keep demanding it, six ways from Sunday, loudly, until it happens.

(Thanks Jodi for the link.)

No Kill Advocacy via Media Outreach in Huntsville, AL

Following the recent news that the city of Huntsville, AL is researching the No Kill Equation for possible implementation at the pound, the group No Kill Huntsville is engaging the community by putting up some digital billboards:

No Kill Shelter astronaut

Image courtesy of Aubrie Kavanaugh

No Kill Shelter salon #2

Image courtesy of Aubrie Kavanaugh

No Kill Shelter girl  dog

Image courtesy of Aubrie Kavanaugh

Aubrie Kavanaugh of No Kill Huntsville writes:

No Kill Huntsville continues to push local elected and appointed officials to embrace no kill programs and to end the destruction of healthy and treatable pets using tax dollars. John Hamilton, the new city administrator, told a media outlet recently that the city is exploring the possibility of becoming a no kill community. This is a degree of forward progress in a city which has known about, but chosen not to implement, the No Kill Equation for more than five years.

Although the city’s recently stated position is seen in a positive light, the members of No Kill Huntsville plan to continue to push the issue in the community and to be the group which seeks to hold city leaders accountable. A huge part of that is reaching the public, many of whom either don’t know what happens at the local shelter or may not realize that there are other ways to function. The latest tool in the toolbox is a digital billboard campaign which is set to run during the months of July and August (thanks to some help from a local sponsor and an animal-friendly advertising company) and a new television PSA (below) getting air time on the local network stations. Although the group has a fully developed web site and is very active on social media, the members acknowledge that the key to change is connecting with the very people who can be educated on what is taking place using their tax dollars and then encouraged to speak out to local officials in support of change.

The hope is to reach a wider audience using visual content which goes beyond the computer screen. No Kill Huntsville is using a degree of humor to reach the community, but there is a method to the madness. Since Huntsville is home to the Marshall Space Flight Center and does, in fact, have a host of rocket scientists living in the community, the group is taking advantage of that. Here in Huntsville, we call ourselves the Rocket City and the Star of Alabama. This region is smart, proud, progressive and creative. If we can support the space program and the international space station, surely we are smart enough to learn from successful no kill communities and stop killing healthy and treatable pets.

Thank you Aubrie for the update. Keep going.

 

Advocates Speak Out Against Killing in Lafourche Parish Pound

In November 2013, then Lafourche Parish veterinarian went public with allegations that the local pound director, Kelli Toups, was forcing suffering animals to linger without care in their cages.  There appear to have been no significant improvements since then.  The Louisiana pound remains closed on weekends and Wednesdays with kill days on Tuesdays and Fridays. There are reportedly no offsite adoption events.  This year, a local rescuer who says she has saved more than 1000 dogs and cats from the pound in the past 2 years cut ties with the facility, citing the “flat out lazy” staff and outrageous policies.

Area rescuers report that Ms. Toups regularly e-mails them a list of dozens of cats on the kill list, giving rescuers just 24 – 48 hours to save them.  The pound is undergoing renovations, making the cat room half its normal size.  Instead of using that as an opportunity to hold special cat adoption promotions and events, the pound is apparently sagging over it like a slug on a crutch, using it to justify continued failures.

Shelter critics say the issues boil down to three main problems: the size of the shelter, archaic rules and regulations, and a lazy staff.

[...]

Toups denies any wrongdoing and [...] would not discuss the staff and whether it’s lazy.

Last week, dozens of protesters went to the pound and voiced their concerns.

“They say we’re a group of wishers wishing for the moon if we’re looking for a no-kill shelter, but that’s not what we’re looking for. We just want to see the least amount of euthanasia as we can possibly have. We’d like to have a shelter that doesn’t have to kill animals twice a week to make space for more animals,” [shelter advisory board member Gisele] Landry said.

No need to wish for the moon – we already have one. We also have hundreds of open admission no kill shelters all over the country where healthy/treatable animals are not killed but instead are sheltered. Lafourche Parish could have one too.  It’s entirely achievable with hard work and a commitment to lifesaving.

Advocates should not stop short of demanding that the shelter staff members do their jobs, just as those in open admission no kill shelters everywhere do.  No one has to kill animals for space.  Killing is a choice.  Lafourche Parish can choose to follow the proven programs that have ended the killing in other communities or can continue to make excuses.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

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”.

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