Citrus Co: If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

Volunteers at the Citrus Co shelter in Florida say they have been instrumental in increasing the save rate and decreasing the length of stay at the facility.  This week, the board of county commissioners held a workshop regarding the shelter and there was a packet of information posted online which included various statistics.

Portion of material presented at the Citrus Co Board of Commissioners meeting on April 21, 2015.

Portion of material presented at the Citrus Co Board of Commissioners workshop on April 21, 2015.

Portion of material presented at the Citrus Co Board of Commissioners workshop on April 21, 2015

Portion of material presented at the Citrus Co Board of Commissioners workshop on April 21, 2015

Volunteers were stunned to learn during the workshop that the county is considering a change in policy that would almost certainly result in increased killing at the shelter and that county commissioners appear to be in favor of it.  I requested a copy of this policy change from Citrus Co Public Information Officer Tobey Phillips but haven’t received any response.  However Ms. Phillips appeared on the local news to explain the proposal:  Kill animals after 10 days.  Since the average length of stay for both dogs and cats at the shelter is currently more than 10 days, the likely result of this change would be a significant rise in pets leaving the shelter in garbage bags.

The packet presented at the workshop looks like it was put together by someone who hates animals.  There is support for MSN (a punitive law which has failed to decrease killing everywhere it’s been tried), opposition to TNR (in the form of old articles from cat hating groups), and documentation of a minor incident between a child and a dog at an offsite adoption event (which is the reason the county has suspended the offsite adoption program).  Much of the remainder is focused on money.

What the Citrus Co board of commissioners doesn’t seem to be taking into account here is that increased killing goes hand in hand with decreased community support.  If the volunteers who have worked so hard to get more animals adopted and rescued start watching their animals go into the dumpster, they aren’t likely to continue raising money and donating their time to the shelter.  The public will likewise be turned off, as is commonly found in many communities where the residents know the local shelter is a depressing death house.  Compassionate donors don’t like to give money to places that kill animals.

Shelter volunteers are advocating for the animals by speaking out publicly and contacting the board of commissioners with their concerns about the proposed change.  Let’s hope it’s enough to force the board to see reason.  Citrus Co has some good things going for it at the shelter, no need to flush it all away.  And while continued improvements would be the preferred route, even if all the board manages is to do nothing at all, that would be better than implementing this arbitrary kill order.

Shelter How To: Identifying Feral Cats and Reuniting Lost Cats with Owners

Elimination of the mandatory holding periods for stray cats impounded by shelters is part of what I refer to as the war on cats.  Cats deserve the same protections as are provided to dogs at shelters, including a mandatory holding period so their owners can reclaim them.

Groups who participate in the war on cats by promoting the absurd notion that shelters should immediately dump adoptable stray cats back on the streets instead of sheltering them attempt to justify this betrayal by claiming that sheltering cats is hard work.  Granted, reuniting lost cats with their owners is hard work and identifying truly feral cats among the many scared cats at a shelter is also hard work.

I think it’s reasonable to ask how the people actually doing this hard work manage to avoid throwing up their hands and dumping all their stray cats back on the streets.  So I did.  Specifically, I asked three directors of shelters where lifesaving is the priority how cats are determined to be feral vs. socialized and how cats are reunited with owners.  Their responses are below.

Mason, an adoptable cat at UPAWS

Mason, an adoptable cat at UPAWS

Lareina Van Strien, Manager at Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (UPAWS) in Michigan:

At UPAWS this is not a black and white answer, although it used to be. In the past, if a cat reacted in ways such as climbed the walls of his kennel or the room, refused to use the litter box, charged anyone that came near, avoided touching at all cost, etc, that cat would have been considered feral or semi-social. But we have learned that this black and white categorization does not hold true. We have seen cats that come from loving homes act feral when they arrive, climbing the ways, refusing to be touched for weeks on end and we have seen cats that we know were born outside, that were never touched by a human, that were never fed by a human decide after a few weeks of socialization with staff that they don’t mind humans so very much. So at this time at UPAWS deciding if a cat is feral vs. socialized takes time. We give the cat time to settle in, to adjust, to learn that humans bring food and cookies, we let them get used to our smells and our presence. How long we will do this will depend on the individual animal, their history and their progress. Our decision to label a cat feral, semi-social or socialized is an individual decision, because these cats are individuals. If, after time, we decide a cat is truly feral and will never enjoy the company of humans, we work hard to find that cat placement at a barn or safe environment so that cat has a chance at life in a way that makes that cat happy.

P.S – I happened to have adopted a ‘feral’ kitty for my barn two years ago. This cat we knew for sure was born outside and living in an abandoned building. She stayed at the shelter for over 2 months, getting socialized and used to people, but she was never comfortable and terribly unhappy. So I placed her in my barn. She lived out there all summer and was doing great. But winter came, and it was a horrible winter, so I live-trapped her again and brought her inside. She climbed the walls and hid under the floor for two weeks. But, after talking to my other cats, I guess she decided to come out. And now that summer is here I can’t seem to get her back outside! :) She is a very happy indoor kitty.

We have a variety of ways that we try to reunite cats with their owners. Social media is hugely successful in getting pets home. We try to build our facebook following to make sure we are reaching as many people as possible. We take clear pictures of the newly arrived stray and post it on facebook right away. We ask people to share share share! We also have a wonderful group in the community that runs a facebook page called Lost Paws of the U.P. They work very hard to reunite owners and pets. They follow lost ads on craigs list, social media and in the paper and they work to match them up with found pets. They are hugely successfully and very diligent. At UPAWS we also take lost reports. We make sure to get as much info as possible and we look at ever stray animal and compare it to those reports. We encourage owns to be sure to come into the shelter and look, to make posters for their area, to post on social media and to look for their cat frequently. We report all our strays to the local paper ever night and we also make sure to post our strays on our website. We also microchip all our cats that are adopted and leave UPAWS and we send all our adopted cats out with break-away collar.

Daytona, an adoptable cat at the HS

Daytona, an adoptable cat at the HS of Fremont Co

Doug Rae, director of the Humane Society of Fremont Co in Colorado:

We treat all animals as individuals. This applies to cats, dogs, bunnies, hamsters, ferrets, birds, whatever we get. Just as we work to make dogs safe that appear “aggressive” in appearance, we do the same for cats. It’s been my experience that some cats are overly stressed when entering a shelter (living in a small cage maybe for the first time in their life), meaning their immune system becomes compromised, making life even worse for a scared kittie. So we give cats the necessary time to become accustomed to the shelter, to our staff, and to our volunteers. It might be a day or two, it might be a week, it might be longer. Like dogs, we give cats the time and space they need to feel safe so we can see who they truly are.

If the cat is not responsive to the time and space we give them or to our efforts to socialize with them, then we have a much better idea on the cats temperament. But again, that determination is never made on intake. Not even with a cat that appears feral on intake. To tag any animal as being this or that, or to place an animal into a black or white temperament test on intake, is not fair to the cat or to our life-saving community committed to saving lives.

We have a lost and found Facebook page that received intakes (dogs and cats) are posted on to try and have the cat reclaimed by it’s owner. This posting happens at the time of intake.

An adoptable cat at the Allegany Co Animal Shelter, as pictured on Facebook.

An adoptable cat at the Allegany Co Animal Shelter, as pictured on Facebook.

Peter Masloch, director of the Allegany Co Animal Shelter in Maryland:

It is not always easy to determine by intake if a cat is feral or not. Many cats are scared when coming to the shelter. We had several cases where we thought a cat was feral but then after several days it turned out the cat actually was very lovely. I know that many shelters are doing so called “behavior tests” on cats. We don’t do that. The most important factor is time. If we receive a new cat and we are not sure if it is a feral cat or just a scared cat, we just give the cat time to adjust. Usually after 3 or 4 days we can tell if a cat is truly feral or not. If she is feral, we get her spayed/neutered and then out of the shelter as soon as possible.
There just is no “one fits all solution”, at least not for us. Pets are individuals and every pet reacts different when entering the shelter

The Allegany County Animal Shelter has 3 different Facebook pages:

Usually we post all stray animals we take in on our Lost & Found Facebook page. People from our community also can post to our page if they lost their pet or even found a pet. This page has become extremely helpful to re-unite pets with their owners.

However, the owner return rate for cats is much lower than the owner return rate for dogs. In our County cats are considered free roaming animals and people often don’t come and look for their cat if she doesn’t come back home. But we also had some nice success stories with cats.

It sounds like the recipe for success here is patience, effort and community partnership.  There is no reason any facility accepting cats couldn’t follow the models of those that successfully shelter cats.  And there is no excuse for shelter staff dumping adoptable cats back on the streets instead of doing their jobs.  Mandatory holding periods are a necessary protection for all stray shelter pets and cats are no less deserving of this protection than dogs.

(Thank you Lareina, Doug and Peter for sharing how you help cats at your shelters.)

Disturbing Surgical Complications at Maricopa Co Shelter

An investigative report that appeared on azcentral.com over the weekend examines several cases of surgeries with “grisly outcomes” at Maricopa Co Animal Care and Control in Arizona.  The most disturbing of these is the occurrence of pets who undergo spay surgery and then have their guts fall out shortly thereafter.  Vets at the shelter reportedly use a “simple continuous closure” where one piece of thread is used to suture the incision with a knot at each end.  If the knot at one end comes undone DOT DOT DOT.  I didn’t go to vet school and I’m very bad at sewing but this is how I sew socks and I can’t imagine it’s a good way to sew up a spayed dog.

Assistant County Manager Rodrigo Silva, who oversees the Maricopa Co shelter, cites the facility’s 0.05 percent surgical complication rate:

“I found no lower case of complications than we have here,” Silva said. “Can we do much better? It is unreasonable to expect zero (complications).”

Fair enough.  Some complications are going to occur after surgery.  It doesn’t necessarily indicate incompetence.  But as a layman, I can’t help thinking that stitching the surgical incision sufficiently closed so the guts don’t fall out is something that should be a given.

In the estimated 111,000 surgeries performed by vets at the Maricopa Co shelter between 2008 and 2013, records indicate that 72 animals had their incisions rupture, also referred to as dehiscence.  That is an alarming number to my mind.

[Melanie Peters, manager and veterinarian at the Tempe Spay-Neuter Clinic] said spay incisions should not just come undone.

“If it is done correctly, it shouldn’t happen,” Peters said. “There’s no reason you can’t do high-volume spay and neuters … without complications.”

[…]

She said any clinic racking up dozens of dehiscence cases in less than six years needs to change its operation.

“There should be no expectation of dehiscence,” she said. “I wouldn’t expect all of the clinics in the Valley (combined) to have those kinds of numbers.”

And dehiscence is not the only surgical complication suffered by pets at Maricopa Co:

The records show instances of “blade left in abdomen,” “gauze left in abdomen,” “lacerated spleen,” “incised bladder” and “surgical infection.”

There are cases where animals returned to heat after being spayed. There are cases of abdominal bleeding. The county cites “anesthetic deaths.” At least one animal “died before recovered” and another “died after recovering.”

Gee, that 0.05% complication rate doesn’t sound so swell anymore.

In what seems to be a glaring oversight, the vets performing surgeries at the Maricopa Co shelter are not accountable to the state vet board:

Veterinarians are typically subject to Arizona’s Veterinary Practices Act. But the law makes an exception for pet owners and allows them to treat their own animals.

Maricopa County Animal Care and Control officials maintain the shelter owns the animals that are abandoned to its care. Therefore shelter veterinarians are, in essence, treating their own animals and not subject to state oversight.

That means veterinarians working for county and private shelters cannot be disciplined for mistakes that, if made by vets in private practice, could be punished with fines, probation and license revocation.

The Maricopa Co shelter reportedly has a contract which specifies that the shelter is the legal owner of the animals in the facility.  And since the statute exempts “a person treating an animal belonging to himself”, shelter vets are not answerable to the state board, even when animals they spay end up with their guts on the floor.

This is concerning on several fronts.  First off, why is it ok for owners to perform surgery on their own animals in Arizona?  Secondly, shelter vets should not be exempt from state oversight – practicing veterinary medicine is practicing veterinary medicine.  And why does Maricopa Co have a contract declaring the county to be legal owners of the animals at the shelter?  Shelters are intended to be short term holding facilities for lost pets whose owners are looking for them and for pets in need of new homes.  It is widely understood that the county is merely housing the animals temporarily, not taking ownership of them.

There appear to be some serious flaws in the statutes and county contract which need to be remedied.  Instead, the county created a task force to identify ways to improve conditions at the shelter.  *yawn*  I hope “Keep the innards on the inside” makes the list.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

MO Shelter: Rescues Down, Adoptions Sluggish, Killings Up, Director “Happy”

The city of Chillicothe, MO contracts the Livingston Co Humane Society (LCHS) for animal control services.  LCHS manages the Forest O. Triplett Memorial Animal Shelter, aka the Chillicothe Animal Shelter, which is run by Lesley Patek.

In 2014, the number of dogs and cats transferred from the Chillicothe shelter to rescue groups dropped markedly from the previous year:

In 2013, 276 dogs were sent to rescues, and in 2014 158 dogs went to rescues.

[…]

Rescued cats decreased from 10 to zero[.]

Adoptions remained stagnant while cat intake numbers increased.  Cat killings also increased in 2014 with Chillicothe killing 64% of its cats.  In summary, a dismal performance for the year which any shelter director should be working furiously to turn around for fear of losing her job, if nothing else.  But:

Lesley Patek, shelter guardian, said she is happy with the numbers. “I think we do an excellent job, but we can’t save the world,” she said.

[…]

“We had to put down litters and litters of kittens this year,” Patek said.

[…]

[The killing of pets at Chillicothe] is no fault of the animal’s or of the animals shelter’s, but more so a fault of irresponsible animal owners, Patek said.

If you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it – and this person clearly can’t own it.

I checked the facility’s website to get some insight into the excellent job they do there.  Chillicothe doesn’t disclose what they charge to adopt pets but it sounds like adoption fees are set on a whim:

A pet’s adoption fee will sometimes be higher due to veterinary costs for illness or injury, or due to the fact that it’s a “popular” breed.

There are 8 pets listed for adoption on that page:  3 adult cats, 2 American bulldogs, 1 miniature poodle, 1 papillon mix and 1 chihuahua mix.  I’m guessing the cats all had vet expenses and the dogs are all “popular” breeds.  New pets were last added to the listings on October 10, 2014.  They’re doing the best they can, probably.  I hate that the irresponsible public keeps forcing them to kill animals instead of marketing them for adoption.  And we all know why there are no kittens for adoption at a place that kills “litters and litters of kittens”:  irresponsible pet owners.

Potential adopters are required to sign a contract which states that the adoption fee isn’t really an adoption fee but rather a “gift” so they can’t get their money back if they return the pet.  And the adopter will be required to return the pet at any point during the pet’s life if someone from LCHS conducts an inspection and determines “the animal’s condition and/or living conditions is/are unsatisfactory or that I have violated one or more terms and conditions of this contract.”  So you’re not actually buying the pet and your right to keep your family member is subject to the whims of the LCHS representative’s idea of “unsatisfactory”, whenever.

Aaaaaaanyway, excellent job there Chillicothe, doing your best to get animals into homes.  You can’t save the world.  Or even one kitten, apparently.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Denver Animal Shelter Adopts Out Well-Loved, Lost Dog Despite Owner’s Attempts to Reclaim

Chewie and Korey, as shown on youcaring.com.

Chewie and Korey, as shown on youcaring.com.

Korey Wetherell left his beloved pet Chewbacca in the care of roommates when he went out of town at the beginning of the month.  The dog was accidentally lost and a roommate began searching for him after notifying Korey, who immediately posted a lost dog ad on Craigslist.  After learning that Chewie had been picked up by the Denver Animal Shelter, Korey called and emailed the facility, explaining that he wanted to reclaim his dog but was out of town.  He sent a friend to pick up Chewie but the friend was turned away because he could not prove ownership.

When Korey arrived home, DAS was closed.  He then had to go out of town again before the place re-opened.  He called the city’s 311 line to explain the situation and reiterate that he wanted his dog back, he just wasn’t able to get there in person to reclaim him.  Worried with concern for Chewie, Korey again sent a friend to DAS to try to bail the dog out, asking the friend to have staff call him on the phone and/or do whatever was necessary in order to prove ownership.  When the friend arrived, he was told DAS had adopted Chewie to a family:

“Because animals are considered property, that animal was considered abandoned,” Jill Brown with the Denver Animal Shelter said.

The shelter said the 5-day window for owners to retrieve their lost pet had passed, so Chewbacca went to a new home.

There is clearly no excuse for this egregious betrayal of the human-animal bond by the Denver Animal Shelter.  A hold should have been placed on the dog and/or an arrangement made to release the dog to the owner’s representative.  DAS knew Chewie was owned and loved, that the owner wanted him back but was out of town, and that he had sent someone to try and reclaim the dog on his behalf.  They sold him anyway then, when confronted by the local news, refer to the pet as abandoned property.

DAS contacted the people who adopted Chewie but that family has declined to return the dog.  Korey is heartbroken and made an appeal to the family on the local news:

“You’re doing a great thing adopting a dog, but help a dog who really needs it; because Chewbacca doesn’t need a new set of arms to hold him. He has that here,” he said.

He is also posting on Facebook and Craigslist, hoping the family who has his pet will let him come home:

If you are the person, or know the person who has him, please contact me. He has never been to the shelter before, and he got out while I was out of town. Had I known the City of Denver could and would do this without notifying me, I would have crossed heaven and hell to get him back. He is an amazing dog and I want the best for him, but we have 4 years together and I don’t think anyone knowing the circumstance would do this to somebody. Please contact me if you know any information.

I asked Jill Brown (quoted above) and DAS executive director Alice Nightengale why Chewbacca wasn’t placed on a hold after the owner contacted DAS and said he wanted to reclaim his dog but was out of town.  Neither immediately responded.  I will update this post if I receive any response.  DAS has not responded to my queries regarding their mistreatment of animals in the past and the staff seems particularly wrong-headed but we’ll see how long they feel confident hiding behind their “abandoned property” defense on this one.

Denver taxpayers deserve better.  If the shelter isn’t a safe place for lost pets whose owners are known to the staff, it certainly doesn’t bode well for how stray pets of unknown ownership and feral cats are handled.  I hope DAS starts doing its job to protect lost and homeless pets and that Korey is reunited with Chewie very soon.

(Thanks Davyd and Clarice for sending me links on this story.)

St Johns Co Oops-Kills Beloved Lost Cat Upon Intake

Tails having a birthday with his boy, as shown on the News4Jax website.

Tails having a birthday with his boy, as shown on the News4Jax website.

A neutered and declawed indoor cat named Tails became lost last week while the owners were having work done inside their Florida home.  Owner Chelsea Santoro began putting up Lost Cat posters around the neighborhood.  Unbeknownst to anyone, Tails had climbed into the engine compartment of a neighbor’s rental car.  Miraculously, Tails was unharmed despite riding on the engine for 12 miles while the neighbor returned the car to the rental agency. A worker there found the cat.

Before anyone knew who Tails belonged to, and believing the St Johns Co pound was the safest place to bring the pet so that he could be reunited with his owner, an employee at the rental car company contacted AC to turn Tails over.  Once the company connected the dots and determined Ms. Santoro was the owner, they let her know the good news about Tails:

Santoro was ecstatic.
“They told me stories about how they were cuddling with him, and playing with him, and how they made him a little bed.”

Ms. Santoro immediately called the pound to reclaim her pet.  But she was told that pound staff had killed Tails.  The impounding ACO, on the job for two years, wrongly listed Tails as an unneutered stray male cat.  Tails was killed upon intake.  Oops:

“Our initial inquiry into this incident indicates that the county’s policies and procedures were not followed, and there was no justification for the actions that occurred, said Michael Ryan, St. Johns County’s communication manager. “The issue is currently under investigation and the employee in question has been placed on administrative leave. Appropriate measures will be taken to prevent this from occurring again. The loss of a pet under any circumstances is tragic and our condolences are extended to the family.”

Ryan seems to have learned a thing or two since St Johns Co killed an owned, lost, microchipped dog named Baby Girl a few months ago.  At that time, he was all blame-the-filthy-owners-for-not-finding-their-dog-that-we-didn’t-bother-to-scan.  Now he’s singing the “it won’t happen again” tune although to be accurate, he should be saying “it won’t happen again, again” but that’s just me being picky probably.

Tails and his boy, as shown on the News4Jax website.

Tails and his boy, as shown on the News4Jax website.

Anyhoo, don’t criticize because we all want the same thing and if cat owners actually loved their pets then shelters would have a higher RTO rate and if only people would spay and neuter – oh, uh… never mind.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me this story.)

The War on Cats: Chicago Edition

Cat ID #A125956 at the Chicago pound, kisted as lost, as shown on PetHarbor

Cat ID #A125956 at the Chicago pound, listed under “Lost Pets”, as shown on PetHarbor.

In November 2014, the Chicago city council approved an ordinance which reduced the mandatory holding period for stray animals at Chicago Animal Care and Control. Stray dogs of unknown ownership now only get three days for their owners to find them. Stray cats of unknown ownership now get zero days. Litters of puppies aged four months and younger of unknown ownership (as well as their dams) also get zero days. Here are two relevant snippets from the ordinance, which can be read in full here:

chicago ordinance1

chicago ordinance2

At that time, Brad Powers, the assistant director at CACC, used the word “perfect” in describing the ordinance to local media:

“Based on analysis of best practices, and recommendation from a variety of shelter experts we think this ordinance strikes the perfect balance between giving a pet owner enough time to look for their lost pet, and giving the stray animal a better chance to be rescued or adopted,” Powers said.

To clarify, when it comes to lost cats, he’s saying that zero days is the perfect amount of time to give owners to find their family members. Now you know where you stand, cat owners.

But assurances were reportedly given that despite the language within the ordinance, animals would not be killed before five days:

When the city initially reached out to PAWS Chicago, one of multiple humane groups it consulted, about the change, founder and chair Paula Fasseas said the rescue organization’s first concern was that this move not increase or speed the number of animals being euthanized by the city, a concern that had been echoed in earlier city hearings on the matter. Those rules—that an animal brought into CACC cannot be euthanized for at least five days—Fasseas was assured, would not be changed.

Sounds like a slippery slope to me.

And a final GFY to cat owners from Fasseas:

For pet owners concerned the shorter hold could mean their lost animals would be at risk of being adopted by another family, Fasseas says the ordinance’s passage has the added benefit of encouraging microchipping, a practice she calls “critical.”

“[I]f owners are upset because the cat’s not being held for five days, then they should microchip their cat.”

And if you don’t like being poor, you should get a job as a banking executive you slouch.

In its recent newsletter sent to rescuers, CACC states that stray cats won’t be held:

Portion of the Chicago ACC newsletter that was recently sent to rescue groups.

Portion of the Chicago ACC newsletter that was recently sent to rescue groups.

CACC makes no mention of the promise that cats of unknown ownership won’t be killed before five days.  Slope, so slippery.

Chicago is the latest city to treat cats like second class pets by refusing to grant them equal protections as are provided to dogs.  And by extension, cat owners are treated as second class citizens with so-called animal welfare experts decreeing they must not love their pets as much as dog owners love theirs.  This is an unconscionable view and all those promoting it are diminishing pet owners’ rights.

The city employees at the Chicago pound need to do their jobs and protect lost pets from being harmed while their owners look for them – including the harm caused by breaking up families.  Shame on the city of Chicago for enacting this destructive ordinance and shame on CACC for failing to advocate for the lost pets in their care.

(Thank you Susan and Mary for sending me info on this story.)

New Hampshire and No Kill

Dug, ID #19254, as pictured on the NH SPCA website.

Dug, ID #19254, as pictured on the NH SPCA website.

Transparency is a hallmark of the no kill movement.  All shelters claiming to be no kill should either have their annual statistics posted online for everyone to see or provide them without delay upon request.  Questions regarding the shelter’s policies should be answered in a timely manner.  Anything less is unacceptable.

Although I have come across occasional claims that New Hampshire is a no kill state, I have never seen any evidence to back up this claim.  Given that this blog is dedicated to no kill and that any state in our country becoming no kill would be monumental news, I have tried repeatedly to substantiate this claim on my own.  Sadly, I’ve never come close to doing so because most of the shelters do not have their stats posted online nor will they provide them to me upon request.  But since the claim persists, I again attempted last month to obtain the stats and get questions answered from a number of NH shelters.  I’d like to share what I’ve learned.

On February 19, I contacted the New Hampshire Federation of Humane Organizations to request statistics from its member shelters.  I received a response from Marylee Gorham-Waterman which reads, in part:

We do not have the 2013 statistics noted on the actual website, if that is what you are looking for. There is complete transparency form those that report – you can click on the members and go directly to their individual websites for annual reports which will have all the information you seek.

As instructed, I clicked on several of the groups at random but did not find any stats on any of the sites I visited. I decided to directly contact the eight shelters listed as founding members of the NHFHO. Between February 23 and February 25, I submitted inquiries (mostly email, two were website contact form inquiries) to the following shelters:

Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire (formerly Manchester)
Pope Memorial SPCA (formerly Concord SPCA)
Eastern Slopes Animal Welfare League
Monadnock Region Humane Society
Nashua Humane Society
New Hampshire Humane Society
New Hampshire SPCA
Upper Valley Humane

I requested the same information from each shelter:

Would you please send me your comprehensive annual stats (detailing all intakes and outcomes, including feral cats and all other animals) from your most recent year on file? I also have some specific questions I’m hoping you can answer:

What is your shelter’s feral cat policy? Are healthy/treatable feral cats ever euthanized?
What is your shelter’s policy on cats/kittens with URI? Are cats/kittens with URI ever euthanized?
What is your shelter’s policy on euthanasia? Are healthy/treatable animals (any type – e.g. dogs, rabbits, wildlife, etc.) ever euthanized?
What is your shelter’s policy on spaying pregnant animals? Are pregnant animals ever spayed?

Jen Corbin of the NH SPCA promptly responded to all my questions and provided me with the stats I sought (2013 incoming animals here and 2013 outgoing animals here). Here is her email in its entirety:

Subject: RE: Request for statistics report
From: “Jen Corbin” jcorbin@nhspca.org
Date: Thu, February 26, 2015 4:37 pm
To: eiderdown@yesbiscuit.com

Hi Shirley,
Thank you for your inquiry. We’re happy to hear from a fellow animal lover! Our current ‘Year End’ statistics for 2014 are about to go to print and you can access them through our Newsletter on our website www.nhspca.org when they are published, which will be in the next few weeks. Let me know if you have any trouble with that.

In the meantime, I have attached our most recently complied statistics from 2013. Let me know if you need any clarification or have further questions. We are proud of our successes in NH but they are hard won and not without struggle and daily determination to save and improve lives. At the NHSPCA our goal is a loving home for every pet and we care deeply for those in our care. In addition to our dedicated staff, we support and are aided by a pet-loving community and a thriving volunteer/foster parent program; an active humane education department; and diverse pet training/retention program.

Our live release rate is currently 94%, we are an ‘Open Admission-Unlimited stay’ facility. The pets we have lost to euthanasia or death fall into two basic categories of aggression and/or extreme illness/suffering unlikely to recover.

I have answered your more detailed questions below in blue.

Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Jen

Jen Corbin
Director of Animal Services
NHSPCA
PO Box 196
Stratham, NH 03885
(603)772-2921 x115
http://www.nhspca.org

What is your shelter’s feral cat policy? Are healthy/treatable feral cats ever euthanized? We believe that the shelter environment is no place for a feral cat so for the most part we refer those cats to local ‘community cat’ support groups who do TNR. That being said, when we are brought feral adult cats we do spay/neuter/vaccinate and either transfer them to one of the ‘community cat’ groups or keep them until we find a ‘barn home’ for them. We also readily take in and socialize many feral kittens through our foster program where they learn about life in a real home environment (I am a feral kitten foster myself-they’re my favorite foster opportunity). Most feral kittens become loving ‘inside only’ pets. A healthy/treatable feral cat is never euthanized, with time we can find an appropriate placement for every cat. That’s what we mean by ‘unlimited stay’.

What is your shelter’s policy on cats/kittens with URI? Are cats/kittens with URI ever euthanized? URI is an unfortunate consequence of the sheltering environment when you’re trying to save every life you can have a lot of cats in close quarters. We have an isolation unit where we quarantine and treat cats who contract URI. Very occasionally a geriatric cat or underage kitten will become so ill that they cannot recover and it becomes kindest to euthanize, but that is rare now since we’ve upgraded our ISO unit; for the most part, once they recover they are returned to the adoption floor.

What is your shelter’s policy on euthanasia? Are healthy/treatable animals (any type – e.g. dogs, rabbits, wildlife, etc.) ever euthanized? Our euthanasia rate is about 5%. We spend a great deal of energy, time and resources bringing surrendered and rescued pets to a healthy, or manageable adoptable state. We treat every animal in our care as an individual. No pet passes through our doors that we don’t develop an attachment to.

What is your shelter’s policy on spaying pregnant animals? Are pregnant animals ever spayed? Known pregnant animals are placed into foster care to birth and raise the off-spring. Rarely, a very early stage pregnancy is spayed when it is only discovered on the operating table.

It sounds like the NH SPCA is doing excellent work and the transparency is impressive.

I also received a response from Beth Brayman at the Upper Valley Humane Society on February 26. She directed me to the 2013 annual report posted on the shelter’s website and I have grabbed the relevant info to share here:

uvhs2013

Screengrab of a portion of the Upper Valley Humane Society’s 2013 annual report, as posted on its website.

Ms. Brayman stated she had forwarded my email to her senior managers to get answers to my questions. I have not heard anything further from anyone at the Upper Valley Humane Society.

I received no response of any kind from the following shelters:

Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire (formerly Manchester)
Pope Memorial SPCA (formerly Concord SPCA)
Eastern Slopes Animal Welfare League
Monadnock Region Humane Society
Nashua Humane Society
New Hampshire Humane Society

Note:  The executive director of the New Hampshire Humane Society is Marylee Gorham-Waterman, who responded to the inquiry I made to the NHFHO.  I did write to her again and specifically requested the NHHS stats and asked my questions.  She did not reply.

Glass half-full: There is one open admission shelter in NH that I feel confident in standing behind as no kill: NH SPCA. There may be others. If there are, I would love to blog about their success but can not in good conscience make any claims about what is happening in open admission shelters and/or NHFHO member shelters without having the information to back up those claims.

There are many shelter directors in this country who do not believe no kill is possible, simply because they haven’t reviewed the available data that proves otherwise.  There are a small number of extremists who continually look to discredit the no kill movement.  Donors in the internet age are very interested in performing due diligence before making donations to shelters and want to know their donations will not be used for killing animals.  For these reasons, and primarily because it’s the right thing to do, transparency is a key component of no kill sheltering.  And it follows that it is irresponsible and damaging to claim a shelter, let alone an entire state, is no kill without having the documentation to back that up.  To the best of my knowledge, NH is not a no kill state.

Another photo of Dug from the NH SPCA website because obviously.

Another photo of Dug from the NH SPCA website because obviously.

Islip Shelter Tells Owners Their Beloved Lost Pet Will Be Sold to Strangers

When we last checked in with the Town of Islip Animal Shelter in NY, it was to report on one of the employees there pocketing hundreds of dollars in cash from a pet owner who wanted to rehome her two little dogs.  Instead of taking the dogs to the shelter as promised, the employee tied one dog up in a garbage bag and left her in a dumpster while turning the other pet loose on the street.  He was charged with felony animal cruelty.  I don’t know the status on that case.  This week, the Town of Islip Animal Shelter again made the news and again, not in a good way.

Lucky, as pictured on the CBS 2 website.

Lucky, as pictured on the CBS2 website.

The owners of an eight year old King Charles Cavalier called Lucky had to leave the country to care for a terminally ill family member.  They left Lucky with a dog sitter but he somehow got lost and was taken to the Islip facility.  The dog sitter attempted to reclaim the dog but was turned away.  Friends of the family also attempted to intervene but they too were refused.  At issue was proof of ownership:

The shelter released a statement on its Facebook page Monday, saying “Since the dog has no form of ID, no tags or microchip, their is no proof of ownership. Legally we have to put the dog up for adoption after being held for 5 days if no owner steps up.”

[…]

According to the Islip Animal Shelter, to properly claim one’s dog the owner needs to go to the shelter in person with photo ID and proof of ownership. The owner should also have veterinary information, medical records and family photos.

While this sounds like a fair policy in general, it seems obvious that not everyone is going to be able to meet all these requirements – especially if the person reclaiming the pet is a temporary caretaker and the actual owners are on another continent. Each individual case should be processed with due consideration given to the circumstances at hand.

Lucky’s owners called the shelter to plead for their pet’s return but to no avail.  The shelter’s statement verifies that staff did speak with the owners:

“We do know who the owner is, and that they are out of the country. They have been contacted and they have been made aware that the dog will be put up for adoption and placed with a good home.”

What the effing eff?  How is this not just plain evil?  We know who the owner is but screw them, they just pay our salaries.  And screw the dog too.  We’re going to break up this family.  Because that’s what animal sheltering is all about.

I can’t help but notice that Lucky is a purebred dog of a very popular breed.  It makes me wonder if Islip is one of those places that charges extra for certain “high demand” pets.  Is Islip this stringent on proof of ownership for every mangy shepherd mix and lame pitbull whose owners or caretakers try to reclaim them?

Lucky’s friends contacted the local news which aired a story and made the rounds on social media.  Public outcry was swift.  And the next day, the shelter was shamed into returning Lucky to his caretaker.  Thank you irresponsible public for demanding the Islip shelter workers do their jobs and for advocating for Lucky while he was being held prisoner by these people.

What the hell goes on at the Islip facility when the news cameras are not around?  How many other owned pets have been stolen by Islip?  I bet every heartbroken owner who ever lost a pet in this town and resigned themselves to life without their family member is now wondering if Islip might have had their animal.  Something is seriously wrong with this place.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me this story.)

Staff at Texas Pound Chucks Donations into the Dumpster

The Montgomery Co pound in Texas has a sign taped on the front door asking the public for donations of towels, blankets, quilts, puppy pads, pet food and various other items typically requested as donations by shelters.  We’ve all heard this one before:  municipal shelters are underfunded and the staff is forced to kill animals because of the irresponsible public and blah.

Well in Montgomery Co, the irresponsible public kindly donated many of the requested items on the pound’s list.  And the staff threw the donations into the dumpster.  Volunteers had to dumpster dive in order to retrieve the brand new pet beds, food, puppy pads and other donations.

Donations from the public thrown away by staff at the Montgomery Co pound in Texas, as shown on the KHOU website.

Donations from the public thrown away by staff at the Montgomery Co pound in Texas, as shown on the KHOU website.

When a KHOU reporter asked pound director Dr. Aubrey Ross for an explanation, he was all oh gee, misunderstanding. But a reporter with The Courier of Montgomery Co got more details:

Included in the items was unopened, unexpired pet food, the volunteer said. The situation was reported to the shelter’s director, who helped pull the items out. According to the volunteer, the director did not know who instructed employees to trash the items.

[…]

However, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark, who is overseeing the transition of the shelter’s new management, said the situation was a misunderstanding between Dr. Aubrey Ross II, who is now managing the shelter, and staff.

He said items were not “brand new.”

[…]

Clark said Ross gave the nod to discard the items under the impression that the items were not usable.

“We didn’t have all new stuff there,” said Clark, adding that many of the items were torn or broken.

Volunteers say many of the donations still had tags on them. I guess the filthy rat bastard public must have ripped up the donations after paying for them and before leaving them at the pound.

On its website, the Montgomery Co pound has two months of statistics – September and October 2013.  Those two months reflect a kill rate of 46%.  I think the misunderstanding here has to do with the meaning of the word shelter. Get some management in there who understands what it means to actually shelter animals and I bet the donation hurling stops all by itself.

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

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