SC Pound Policy: Take Newborn Kittens Away from Nursing Mothers and Kill Them

Mama cat and newborn kittens, saved by a member of the public.  Because kittens.  (photo by Casey post)

Mama cat and newborn kittens, saved by a member of the public in Ohio. Because kittens. (photo by Casey Post)

The Greenville Co pound in SC has implemented two new policies concerning cats:

1. Kittens born at the pound who weigh less than 100 grams will be taken from their mothers and killed immediately.  The reason, as stated in an e-mail written by Susan Bufano, the community relations coordinator for the Greenville Co pound, in response to a concerned citizen:

It is not a normal, healthy birth weight and our vet has determined that they will probably not survive.

“Probably not” indicates to me an inherent admission that there is some hope for survival. And I think that hope is very reasonable, considering the following:

  • The ASPCA says 100 grams is “an average birth weight for kittens… depending on breed and litter size.”  Average means some kittens will weigh a little more than 100 grams, some a little less.  Size of the mother cat and number of kittens in the litter must be taken into account when evaluating birth weight of each individual.
  • This government study which looked at newborn kitten weights in five different cat breeds found that only two breeds, Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest Cat (both large cats), had kittens which averaged more than 100 grams at birth.  The other three breeds studied – Birman, Persian, and Siamese/Oriental Shorthair – all had kittens whose average weight at birth was between 82 and 97 grams.
  • A random veterinarian I found via Google wrote: “Kittens have a normal birth weight of 100 ± 10 g (3.5 ± 0.35 oz). Kittens with a birth weight of less than 90 g (3.2 oz) have poor survival rates.”

Given this information, it’s not at all clear to me that the Greenville Co pound policy is based in science.  That is, the notion that kittens weighing less than 100 grams at birth “will probably not survive” appears dubious, at best.  And to be clear, taking newborn kittens of any weight away from their nursing mothers in order to kill them is something only monsters would do.  Kittens have a right to live and their mothers have the right to care for them.  No animal “shelter” policy trumps those rights.  Any “shelter” staff members who do not recognize that fact should resign immediately, before any additional animals are harmed due to their failures.

The other new policy at the pound:

2. Orphaned kittens under one pound are deemed “rescue only” and must leave the shelter within three hours. The reason, per Ms. Bufano’s e-mail:

We want our fosters to focus on the animals who have the highest likelihood for survival[.]

It was so hard on wonderful, loving fosters to take these neonate kittens home only for them not to thrive (and, the small weight also ended up indicating illness in the mothers) and pass away, regardless of how hard they cared for them. I witnessed the agony of many fosters who blamed themselves, when we all know that some kittens just don’t make it. They will be fine one day and die the next.

So, the decision was made to save the animals that had the most chance at survival. In doing so, we are anticipating more life saving, not less.

Wow, apparently it takes a whole mountain of bullshit to allow monsters to sleep at night.

By branding pets “rescue only”, shelters shut out an enormous pool of potential help:  the general public.  It’s not a good strategy to increase lifesaving.  Also bad:  using phony we-care-about-rescuers’-feelings as an excuse for killing kittens.  How did someone even think this twisted thing up?  Also also bad:  requiring rescue groups, typically operated out of people’s homes on shoestring budgets, to somehow get orphaned kittens out of the Greenville Co pound within three hours of arrival.

Rescuers often have day jobs, families, and other pets in need of care and will rarely be in a position to drop everything in order to quickly snatch kittens from the kill room at the pound.  That is, assuming the pound has promptly notified rescue contacts by mental telepathy since e-mail or voicemail obviously won’t suffice in these situations.  How would you like to be the rescuer who checks her e-mail at lunch or after work and finds out a litter of orphaned kittens you would have been willing to save was killed by Greenville Co because you didn’t check your messages sooner?  How is threatening to kill newborn orphaned kittens consistent with the county’s purported concern for rescuers’ emotional well-being?

While those who kill shelter pets instead of doing their jobs often blame the so-called irresponsible public for the killing, it is the shelter staff, following antiquated and inhumane policies designed to kill pets instead of helping them, who are to blame for the killing.  In fact, no rescuers, fosters, adopters and no one outside of the Greenville Co pound should blame themselves for the needless killing being done there.

Greenville Co pretends to be interested in lifesaving and pretends to care about the emotional toll taken on the compassionate public willing to help shelter pets, all the while implementing policies so cruel and archaic, no one with a conscience need perform more than a cursory examination to determine how heartless and inconsistent with animal sheltering those policies are.  Shame on Greenville Co for pretending to care.  There are few worse things in this world.  And they do those there, too.

No Charges Against Last Hope Cat Kingdom, Sanctuary Re-Opened

Remember when it was reported that Merced Co AC was sending nearly 400 orphaned bottle babies a year to Last Hope Cat Kingdom, a facility allowed by county permit to have just 125 animals?  And how Last Hope knew they were literally the last hope for these kittens because if they didn’t accept them, AC would kill the kittens?  And that AC continued to send kittens to the sanctuary up to and including the day they raided the place and decided gee, there’s too many cats here?  Good times.

It’s the county shelter’s job to shelter animals.  The county should be partnering with the community to accomplish this task.  Instead Merced Co was relying on a violent threat to an overburdened sanctuary:  Take these kittens or we’ll kill them.  They repeated this threat over and over to the tune of roughly 2000 kittens in 4 years.  This is not only a fundamental failure of the Merced Co shelter to fulfill its mission to shelter animals but also blatant exploitation of compassionate sanctuary volunteers who felt compelled to keep saying yes to kittens in order to save them from the kill room, even when they lacked the resources to provide for them.

When the county raided Last Hope in June 2013, it destroyed evidence of the county’s negligence by killing 200 cats on site.  County leaders should have demanded an independent investigation of the shelter staff’s failure to do their jobs and the subsequent destruction of evidence to hide the wrongdoing.  Instead, they gloated on Facebook about the raid and threatened the victim in the case, the cat sanctuary, with charges.

Last week, the county DA announced there would be no charges against Last Hope owner Renate Schmitz or any of the volunteers and that the sanctuary’s permit would be renewed under strict guidelines:

  • The facility can house a maximum of 40 cats.  No dogs are allowed.
  • Volunteers must undergo a training program.
  • Weekly reports must be provided to the county.
  • For each 6 month period that Last Hope complies with the regulations, the facility will be allowed to house 10 additional cats, until they reach 80.

A press release quotes Steven Slocum, a supervising deputy in the District Attorney’s office:

“Any prosecutor would be hard pressed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 jurors that Ms. Schmitz is a criminal deserving of conviction and incarceration,” Slocum said.

Yeah but I bet you could convince 12 jurors that Merced Co AC is guilty of defrauding taxpayers by failing to do its job, foisting its failures on to a sanctuary it knew was incapable of bearing this burden and then destroying the evidence in a mass killing.  Anyone looking into that?

Many pound directors know that the threat to kill animals forces some rescuers to say yes to more animals than they have the resources with which to provide a reasonable quality of life.  Instead of expanding their network of potential partners in the community and promoting their special needs animals using all available platforms, they simply find a small number of groups they know will reliably take what they perceive as their “problem” off their hands.  Then when the “problem” resurfaces in the form of an overwhelmed sanctuary, they jump on the condemnation bandwagon and point fingers at the publicly shamed bad guys.

People who kill animals often like to say they didn’t create the problem, they are simply dealing with it.  I reject the notion that killing healthy/treatable animals is in any way an acceptable manner of dealing with homeless dogs and cats.  I further reject the idea that shelter directors who kill animals don’t create animal problems in the community.  They do.  They create them every time they send animals to an already overburdened rescuer whom they know won’t be able to turn away because they’ve threatened to kill the pets.  The fact that they create this impossible situation for rescuers, receive accolades for their increased live release rate until the pot boils over, then raid the facility, kill the animals and publicly condemn the compassionate people they used and betrayed is reflective of a system that is broken.

We need shelter reform in this country.  We need animal advocates to stop enabling the killing by publicly condemning it and demanding shelter directors do their jobs.  More guts, less fake glory.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Idiocy and Evil Battle It Out in Decatur, AL

On Thursday, Mayor Don Kyle of Decatur, AL ordered the city pound to reduce its population from roughly 300 to 45 according to reporting by WAFF.  Although the piece does not provide the amount of time being allotted for this population reduction, a statement from the mayor describes it as “an aggressive time frame”.  The statement cites the reason for the order as “significant filth, odor and disease” due to the number of animals within the facility.  The number of cages at Decatur Animal Services is not mentioned.  The mayor’s statement stresses the fact that he has not ordered a mass killing to reduce population and that he has “suggested that staffers use all their contacts to move animals out.”

I would interpret this as an all-hands-on-deck crisis.  In order to humanely reduce the pound’s population quickly and dramatically, Decatur Animal Services should be using every tool in the toolbox.

This morning, Decatur Animal Services has just 117 pets listed on Petfinder.  The pound’s website states it sells dogs for $110 and cats for $95.  I looked through several pages on the site but saw no pleas to help save animals during the current crisis nor any specials such as waived adoption fees.  I’m not at all certain the shelter is pulling out all the stops during this crisis or even doing their jobs at a most basic level.

Overnight, a new article was published on DecaturDaily.com with much more information including a number on that “aggressive time frame” – 30 days.  The piece indicates the pound’s manager, Carol Wicks, had responded to the mayor’s order with a threat to kill animals:

Wicks said she could only comply with the directive by euthanizing more than 100 animals.

The director determined this need for mass killing within 1 day of the order.  She never even tried listing all the pets online, running a promotion or using social media to reach out to the public for assistance.  The mayor reiterated his opposition to a mass killing in order to reduce the population:

“I never wanted that,” Kyle said.

The mayor’s order has been put on hold.

Misinformation and miscommunication are apparently the words of the day:

Shelter Advisory Board members said Friday they did not know how Kyle had arrived at the limit of 20 cats and 25 dogs.

[...]

“I’m not sure where those numbers came from,” [board secretary Carla] Swinnee said. “There has to be an analysis done as to how many dogs and cats the shelter is equipped to handle. Nobody ever said, ‘This is the number.’ ”

[...]

The shelter has 106 cages and kennels for dogs and 121 for cats.

[...]

“There’s no such thing as a maximum capacity,” Wicks said.

Let’s play Identify the Problem.  Or in this case, Problems.

  • No one has ever analyzed the shelter’s capacity.
  • The mayor thinks 45 is a good number – leaving 182 cages empty.
  • The director thinks the shelter’s capacity is Anything Goes.
  • The mayor specifically said he didn’t want killing used as a tool to reduce the population.
  • The director immediately threatened to kill more than 100 animals in response.
  • Decatur Animal Services is not offering any adoption specials, running any promotions or even listing all its pets online in order to increase live outcomes.

And in the Wait, There’s More Frightening Stuff Department, we have this:

Kyle said wants to hear ideas for reducing the numbers.

“For example, I heard a recommendation that when a pregnant cat comes into the facility it should be spayed, rather than holding it until it has the litter of kittens,” Kyle said. “That’s not been done.”

Wicks said she and her staff are aggressive in trying to reduce shelter numbers. In the past three days, she said, the shelter adopted out 11 dogs and four cats. It also euthanized 20 animals.

“That’s the normal euthanasia, not an accelerated rate,” Wicks said.

She said the shelter euthanizes animals that are aggressive or diseased, and others that would use up shelter space for adoptable animals.

“If an animal is here for a long time and nobody is showing an interest or is not doing well in this environment, they are pulled and euthanized,” Wicks said.

Killing unborn kittens is unconscionable.  Killing animals who take up space because “nobody is showing an interest” when the shelter doesn’t even list all its pets online or whip up an adoption promotion during a crisis is sickening.  It seems as if killing is the answer to all questions at Decatur Animal Services.  I hope there are some shelter pet advocates in the area who will stand up for the defenseless animals being needlessly killed at the pound.  Without such voices, there appears to be little hope for these pets.

(Thanks Thom for alerting me to this story.)

What will happen to hundreds of animals at the Kern Co pound?

Kern County, CA has leased property from the city of Bakersfield for its pound since the 1970s but the relationship has been a contentious one, at least lately.  Both the city and the county have complaints but as far as the animals are concerned, the Kern Co pound is killing more animals now than it has in many years.  Unable to negotiate an agreement, the city is evicting the county from the property on September 30, with an offer of a December 1 extension if the county needs more time to relocate.

The city manager said it’s vital for the city to take control, citing animal rights groups’ complaints against the level of care the shelter has been providing.

At issue now is the fate of nearly 900 animals at the Kern Co pound:

According to county officials, there are three options.

“One of which is to move the animals. One of which is to release them, and in releasing them we can use some of the rescue agencies, that sort of thing. Or third, those animals would have to be destroyed,” [County administrative officer John] Nilon continued.

The Kern Co pound director seems to have a plan in mind but given the county’s stated intention to decline the extension on the eviction, I’m not sure how realistic that plan may be:

“When we get to the day that we have to move, we literally have to take every animal in the facility, which includes dogs, cats, horses, pigs, everything we have so we leave an empty facility behind,” said Kern County Animal Control Director Jen Woodard.

If the Kern Co pound staff can move nearly 900 animals by September 30, that’s great.  But if their plan is to simply continue killing at the current horrifying rate or possibly even worse in order to reduce the population needing to be relocated, I hope they’ll reconsider.  If there is to be a positive outcome from this awful situation, I suspect it will fall to the so-called irresponsible public to do the heavy lifting, as usual.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Private Citizens Save Dozens of Cats at CT Shelter

On July 29, a local TV news report indicated Bridgeport AC in CT was threatening to kill cats due to being over capacity.  A rescue group offered to pay the adoption fees for the cats in an effort to encourage people to adopt.  The next day, the same TV station reported that people waited in line for a chance to adopt the free cats:

Yesterday, the shelter had about 75 cats.

The shelter says all but one of the cats have now been adopted, but they get new cats in all the time.

Thank you to the so-called irresponsible public, yet again – both the rescue group that paid the fees and the adopters who opened up their hearts and homes.

I hope next time Bridgeport AC needs help from compassionate people, it won’t resort to threats of violence against the pets in its care.  The public wants to save pets and will respond to pleas for assistance but any shelter wanting to build a lasting relationship with supporters needs to do its job and avoid threats to hurt animals.

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

Healdsburg Shelter Threatens to Kill Animals Over Money

The Healdsburg Animal Shelter in CA is a hot mess.  The outdated facility is located across the street from a new $3.5 million shelter, built using funds from a single donor, which sits empty due to design defects and may have to be torn down.  Resignations and controversy have plagued the shelter.

Despite boasting a 94% save rate, Healdsburg is now threatening to kill shelter pets due to a drop in donations.  Which will no doubt encourage donors to whip out their wallets.  I mean, who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to throw money at people who threaten shelter pets with violence, amirite?

The Healdsburg shelter’s board of directors says the cost per animal is more than $750.  This seems awfully high to me.  By comparison, the Cornelius Animal Shelter in NC has a 97% save rate and spends $96.79 per animal handled.  The Foothills HS in Polk Co, NC saves 99% of its animals, spending $342.85 per animal handled.  And the Alleghany Co shelter in NC has an 87% save rate at a cost of $92.25 per animal handled.

Why is Healdsburg spending so much money per animal?  Does the shelter need to replace someone who green lights expenditures?  Has an audit been performed to track where all this money is going?  Can they learn from other shelters who are spending significantly less to save approximately the same ratio of animals?  All of these questions should be answered before anyone threatens to kill shelter animals to lower costs.

The new facility sitting vacant, the threat to kill animals over money and the extremely high amount of money being spent per animal are all red flags to me.  I hope Healdsburg taxpayers and donors get answers.

(Thanks Eucritta for posting about this shelter in the last Open Thread.)

Petsmart Charities/Ipsos Study: Why People Aren’t Adopting

Ipsos Marketing conducted studies for Petsmart Charities on a variety of issues related to pet adoption in 2009 and 2011.  The results contain a lot of interesting information which I will look at in upcoming posts.  In this post, I am going to focus on page 14 of the report which asked the question:  What were the reasons you chose not to adopt your cat or dog?

The base for the respondents to this question were owners who had acquired a pet within the past 12 months from a source other than a shelter or rescue group.  Petsmart Charities draws attention on the page to the most common answers given which basically amount to people wanting a purebred pet and/or one with a known history.  But what caught my eye were several of the less popular responses which, to my mind, all fall under the same category and could be combined to reflect more significance:

  • Adoption process too difficult
  • Organization too depressing
  • Inconvenient hours
  • Poor customer service

These were all obstacles to adoption for the respondents that shelters and rescues could address today:

  •  Streamline the adoption process.  Most owners try to do right by their pets and most adopters can be trusted.
  • Don’t threaten to kill pets.  Don’t make assumptions that the pet was abused in the absence of clear evidence.
  • Open up the facility when most people can get there – evenings and weekends.
  • Answer the phone.  Reply to e-mail and social media inquiries.  Treat potential adopters like they are celebrities.

In short, a significant reason people didn’t adopt their last pet was suckage on the part of the shelter or rescue.  Fixable suckage.  Take heed.

(Thank you Joni for bringing this study to my attention.)

ASPCA to Displaced Sandy Pets: Sucks Being You

Reuters is reporting that 136 unclaimed pets at the emergency Hurricane Sandy shelter operated by the ASPCA in Brooklyn may be in danger:

Most of the owners that the ASPCA has identified live in temporary housing or with family and friends, environments that prevent them from bringing their animals home, [ASPCA spokeswoman Kelly] Krause said. A majority of the owners who had yet to claim their pets lived in the hard-hit Rockaways neighborhood in Queens.

[...]

It was too early to say whether any of the pets that remain left behind would be put down, Krause said.

Another possibility for the unclaimed pets, besides the death thing, is the ASPCA dropping them off at the pound.  Which, you know, pffft.

Gee, if only the ASPCA could scrounge up the funds to take care of these pets for as long as needed.  But I guess their multi-million dollar bank account is just too small to pay for actual pet care.  There are more one-eyed pet TV commercials to be produced and salaries to be paid and pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?

(Thank you Arlene for sending me this link.)

Updated: WV Shelter Threatens to Kill Pets Amidst Disease Outbreak

The Kanawha Charleston Humane Association in WV posted on its Facebook page yesterday that 2 dogs had tested positive for distemper.  Although initial reports from the shelter indicated a plan to kill every pet in the building (there is reportedly a simultaneous outbreak of panleukopenia with the cats), later statements were modified.  As of this morning, the shelter has killed 16 dogs and 8 cats and has arranged to have vets assess the rest of the population to determine if any can be saved.  An emergency meeting has been called, per the shelter’s FB page:

Emergency board meeting, Thursday, December 20th, at 9 a.m. at the shelter. We will be reviewing the situation and seeing if we can come up with alternatives to putting all 80 animals to sleep. The public is welcome, but please note, public comment is limited to 30 minutes.

As is so often the case, the shelter director is blaming the public.

“What we get here is everyone’s throwaways,” [director Donna] Clark said. “You get dogs that never have vaccines, dogs running loose.”

And on Facebook:

Distemper is a result of the public not vaccinating their animals, not something KCHA did. [...] This is a very hard time for the shelter staff, as they have to put these animals to sleep, support instead of criticism from the public is greatly appreciated.

While it’s true that animal shelters do indeed take in some unvaccinated pets as well as “dogs running loose” – that is their job.  We pay them for that.  And certainly some of the pets they take in have been vaccinated previously, even if it’s unknown to the shelter, so it is not logical to assume that no pets in the population have immunity during an outbreak.

At any rate, while the shelter can not control the behavior of every pet owner in the community, they can, and must, do their job once they pick up a pet for impound.  It begins with sanitizing every cage on the ACO truck in between animals.  The officer too should change gloves or at least use hand sanitizer between handling animals.  Before being brought into the building, or if that’s not possible then immediately upon entrance, all non-emergency pets should be vaccinated.

The shelter medicine program at UC Davis says distemper vaccine starts protecting dogs within minutes of administration:

Vaccines for canine distemper have been shown to provide very good protection, even when given only 15 minutes before exposure to the disease!

KCHA says they vaccinate all their pets:

Shelter employees vaccinate every animal that’s brought in, but the injections are useless if the dog or cat is already infected, according to Clark.

If KCHA is cleaning using standard disease prevention protocols and vaccinating all pets upon intake, there is absolutely no reason to be considering, or to have ever considered, killing the entire population because 2 dogs tested positive for distemper.  It makes no sense.  Some of the population is absolutely immune, if everyone at KCHA has been doing their job, which they say they have.

Instead of asking the public to support them killing pets, I think KCHA should reach out to the public for assistance with quarantine, which they will need in order to manage this outbreak. For example, are there any local cat owners willing to take in an asymptomatic dog for a few weeks to make sure he doesn’t break with distemper?  Although the moronic pet limit law in the area might prevent some pet lovers from helping, for fear of being found to be over the limit.  But again, I’m sure the public is to blame.

I will update this post today as warranted.

(Thanks Vicki, Kei and Clarice for alerting me to this story.)

Update:  The shelter has posted on its FB page that the vets recommended only 4 dogs be euthanized.  40 dogs are asymptomatic and available for adoption.  The remainder are being quarantined at the shelter.  I could not find any information about the cats.  If anyone sees any statements from the shelter about the cats, please share.

People Aren’t Beating Down the Doors to Rescue & Foster? Inconceivable!

Screengrab from Facebook, September 18, 2012.

We set up a FB page which we use to berate you worthless people while we threaten to kill pets so damn – why isn’t everyone at the shelter right now for some in-person abuse adopting?

Anyone care to asplain it to them?

I was trying to find the number of dead pets not one person is allowed to complain about at the Wise Co pound but apparently that number is unknowable.  From an article dated June 2011:

[Sgt. Asa Mosely] would not release numbers on how many animals come in each month and how many are adopted and euthanized, saying there is no running tally of the numbers.

But he estimated 500 dogs came in during the last three months, and about 25 percent were adopted.

There is an odd FOIA request form on the sheriff’s office website but, since they don’t keep a “running tally”, I’m not sure what documents might be available to request.

Wise Co has zero pets on Petfinder, although there is a note telling people to visit the shelter’s website for the complete list of adoptable pets.  That website does not exist.  The note also mentions seeing pets on Facebook but I could not find any animals for adoption there either.  There are probably pets posted at the “Urgent Animals” FB page (from which the above screengrab was taken) but I didn’t want to scroll through for fear of being unable to suppress the urge to complain about dead pets, which not one of us is allowed to do.

***

Thank you to reader Natalie who says she has offered information about no kill and asked about getting Wise Co animals neutered before adoption.  In response, she was removed as an administrator and banned from the “Urgent Animals” FB page and ordered to leave the shelter.  Keep going, Natalie.  You are hereby given permission to complain about pets being killed and offer no kill solutions to the county’s problems.

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