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.)

St Johns Co Kills Lost, Microchipped Service Dog Without Contacting Owners

In December 2014, St Johns Co Department of Animal Control in Florida reports on its website that the facility took in 322 animals, killing 225 of them. Here are a couple of screengrabs from the full report:
stjohnsco intakesstjohnsco outcomes

Babygirl, as shown on actionnewsjax.com.

Baby Girl, as shown on actionnewsjax.com.

One of those killed that month was a lost, microchipped pet named Baby Girl whose owners were looking for her.  When Baby Girl’s owners went out of state, they left her in the care of a friend but the dog became lost and was taken to St Johns Co AC.  JoAnn and Brian Williams went door-to-door, searching for their dog.  Baby Girl was a registered service dog who helped the couple by alerting prior to seizures and providing comfort during episodes of bipolar disorder.  When they found out Baby Girl had been at the county pound, they called and were told that pound workers had killed her:

Brian Williams said their dog had a microchip inside of her but said they were never contacted by animal control.

“They said evidently our chip machine wasn’t working that day, like ‘oh my bad, we killed your dog!’” Brian Williams said.

Action News went to Animal Control for answers but we were turned away and told to contact county spokesperson Michael Ryan regarding this issue.

Mr. Ryan issued a statement indicating Baby Girl had “no identification” and which concludes:

After being housed for three additional days past the standard holding period, the dog was euthanized in accordance with county ordinance. While the loss of any pet is tragic, facility space limitations prevent us from housing stray animals indefinitely, and unfortunately we were not notified of the missing dog until 34 days after an animal with similar characteristics was received.

So “no identification”, because microchips only count when AC can use them to blame the owner for failing to have them on their lost pets, and the owners took too long to find out where their pet had been taken so they must be horrible people and oh yeah, the county kept the dog alive for 3 days longer than it legally had to so obviously sainthood is imminent.

The family asked for Baby Girl’s body and collar but have received neither.  They were told the remains were hauled to a Georgia landfill along with a truckload of other pets killed by the county.

Action News reached out to county officials, who said, “The body was disposed of according to county policy and procedure.”

Everything is legal therefore it must be all good.  No need to explain how or why the microchip was missed or offer an apology for killing a beloved pet and service dog or figure out how to prevent killing other owned pets in future.  Just hide and refer all questions to the county Procedures Were Followed guy.  No one in St Johns Co need lose any sleep over the fact that its procedures led to the needless killing of a family member.  Procedures=good.  Everything else, up to and including county employees failing to do their jobs=meh.  Evidently the chip machine that detects humanity in parts per million isn’t working in St Johns Co either since it hasn’t beeped in years.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Starving Dogs Cannibalize Dead Kennel Mate in OK Pound

(Warning:  graphic images and descriptions at links.)

Abe Thomas, animal advocate and rescuer, as depicted in a screengrab from the KTEN website.

Abe Thomas, animal advocate and rescuer, as depicted in a screengrab from the KTEN website.

When a potential adopter, Abe Thomas, visited the Idabel pound in Oklahoma on Tuesday, he found a cage containing three dogs – one was dead and being eaten by the other two, who appeared to be starving.  He says the dogs had no food or water and “were living in their feces, urine.” Mr. Thomas filmed what he saw on his cellphone and posted it on Facebook.

Mr. Thomas left the pound but worried that the adult dog, a gray pitbull, would be blamed for something she didn’t do and killed simply due to breed bias.  So he went back and bailed her out of the pound, calling her Joy while he looks for a permanent home for her.

The pound’s sole ACO, who has been on the job for 24 years, admits the pitbull looks emaciated but says she’d only been at the pound four days and hadn’t had a chance to put on weight yet.  He feeds the dogs once a day.

Area animal advocates say this is not an isolated incident and the animals at the pound have long been neglected.  The ACO says the city generally holds dogs for ten days before taking them to a vet to be killed.  Tulsa World called area vets to ask how many animals they kill for the pound but none called back.  I guess going on the news and talking about how many pets you kill for the city doesn’t exactly encourage clients to open their wallets for your vet services.  So uh, hide.

Speaking of which:

Tulsa Humane Society President Gina Gardner said she had reached out to Foshee on Wednesday and offered to come to Idabel and assist with anything the shelter needs. She said Foshee had so far declined her offer.

Predictably, city officials are in CYA mode:

The Idabel mayor calls this a “gross misunderstanding.” She claims the dog died of natural causes and this must have happened in a few short hours.

The mayor alleges Animal Control Officer Cecil Richards fed the dogs Tuesday morning then came back after lunch to find the scene along with Thomas.

The Idabel police department is in charge of supervising the pound and they investigated themselves in the matter.  And good news, the investigation seems incredibly thorough, despite its lightning speed:

“What was found through that investigation is that yesterday morning, our animal control officer went to work around 8:00 a.m., he went to the dog pound, cleaned out the dog pens, sanitized them, fed and gave water to the dogs” claims the mayor in during a phone interview with KSLA News 12.

[…]

Mayor Foshee-Thomas says the animal control facility has nothing to hide and welcomes anyone to stop by and visit the animals. Abe Thomas says that he and numerous others would happily volunteer their time to make sure the animals are properly cared for. The mayor says that the city plans on doing more checks at the shelter and that in the future, more aggressive dogs will be housed separately.

Right.  Because aggressive dogs cause other dogs to die of natural causes.  Then they make friends with their surviving kennel mate and launch plans to eat the dead dog because aggression.  Any behaviorist will tell you that.  As for the results of the “investigation” anyone who read any of the articles on this story could have come up with that information, since the ACO’s timeline of events was repeated countless times in the media.

Thank goodness Mr. Thomas bailed the pitbull out of there because it sounds like his suspicions were justified.  Here is Joy at Mr. Thomas’s house, getting a belly scratch from a reporter:

Screengrab from KTEN website.

Screengrab from KTEN website.

There is a group on Facebook advocating for reform at the Idabel pound.  I know the mayor doesn’t want any help but feeding the dogs, particularly the emaciated ones, more than once a day would be something the ACO could do.  And should do, although that in itself wouldn’t be nearly enough to be considered meaningful improvement.  I wonder if one of the reasons area vets killing dogs for the city are hiding is because they don’t want to be asked how many pound dogs are emaciated when they stick the needle in them.  I hope the local advocates will FOIA records for the animals who have been killed in Idabel and expose what’s going on there.

(Thanks Clarice and Arlene for the links.)

Rhode Island Pound Closed, ACOs Suspended Amidst Police Investigation

The Woonsocket, Rhode Island police department is in charge of supervising the local pound.  On Tuesday the pound was closed indefinitely and its two ACOs suspended without pay pending a police investigation:

City solicitor Michael Marcello told NBC 10 an anonymous tip in November prompted Woonsocket police to launch an investigation into allegations that food and other donated supplies were being transported out of the Woonsocket shelter to a location in Burrillville.

The “location in Burrillville” was where one of the ACOs was living.  If the city solicitor phrased it to the media as a “location”, making it seem like some mysterious place, that sounds like cover up to me.  Then there’s this, from Dr. Ernest Finocchio, president of the RISPCA:

“I guess the good news is that this has nothing do [sic] do with animal cruelty.”

And this, from Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt:

Baldelli-Hunt noted there was no abuse of animals and that the animals were cared for properly.

Yeah – about that.

There were eleven dogs and no cats at the pound at the time it was ordered closed.  Eight dogs were transferred to other facilities.  Two were killed for behavior after being housed in the cinderblock structure for up to two years.  Another dog required emergency vet care.  The police guarded the facility during the removal of the dogs and wouldn’t allow the media inside, which is always reassuring.  But yay, no animal cruelty.  No transparency either, or adequate supervision apparently, but hey, it’s all good.  Cops sitting in unmarked cars outside the pound to prevent the press from reporting the truth is a hallmark of community trust.

Remind me again how southern shelters are run by good ol’ boys who don’t take proper care of pets while shelters up north are all shining beacons of progress where all the pets are saved.  I have trouble keeping my stereotypes straight sometimes.  I’m sure the many people shipping shelter dogs up north will be interested to know ignore what’s been happening in Woonsocket.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Dallas Pound Secretly Kills Four Dogs Slated for Rescue

 Photo attributed to Deborah Whittington, as shown on the Daily Mail website.

Photo attributed to Deborah Whittington, as shown on the Daily Mail website.

Dallas Animal Services functions primarily as a pet killing facility, killing more than half of the animals taken in last year.  You don’t earn the moniker “pet killing facility” without putting forth some effort – specifically, killing most of the animals in your care.  There is not going to be a whole lot in the way of justifications for killing.  It’s just the thing you mainly do to your animals.

So hardly a surprise to read that on January 1, the Dallas pound killed 4 dogs who were slated for rescue.  The dogs were reportedly part of a larger group whom local rescuers were getting into foster homes after the owner reached out for help.  Rescuers say they in turn reached out to Dallas Animal Services for temporary assistance with 4 of the dogs in order to buy time to secure more fosters.  There was reportedly an agreement between rescuers and Dallas Animal Services that the dogs would be listed under “protective custody” which indicates a 10 day hold.  But at the pound, the dogs were listed as “owner surrenders” which indicates they are eligible for immediate killing, at the discretion of pound workers.  The pound housed the dogs for 2 days, then killed all 4, citing “health and behavior”.  When rescuers tried to visit the dogs a few days later, they learned of the killings.

Dallas Animal Services released this statement:

On Tuesday, Dec. 30, Dallas Animal Services officers picked up four dogs. The owner gave the dogs to DAS in hopes of finding them a new home. They ranged in age from about one to eight-years old. The officers took the animals to the City shelter, where they were entered into the system as “owner surrenders.” Two days later, on Jan. 1, all four dogs were euthanized by DAS staff based on their health and behavior.

On Monday, Jan. 5, community members said potential homes had been found for the dogs. DAS is now conducting a complete investigation to determine if system failures and/or performance issues may have contributed to the incident. Once the investigation is complete, we will share our findings and potential next steps.

Euthanasia of animals is tough enough for employees. To know that four dogs may have been euthanized in error has devastated staff, and they are also eager to look for ways to prevent incidents like this in the future. We mourn the loss of homeless animals that can be saved. DAS prides itself on caring for thousands of animals that staff members come into contact with each year. The City, DAS and community remain committed to our life-saving efforts and continued progress in this area.

Oh gee, I hope no one was swigging coffee when reading that part about being “committed to life-saving efforts and continued progress”.  If so, I hope your keyboard doesn’t stay sticky for too long.

Rescuers dispute the city’s claim that the dogs had behavioral problems requiring death and have filed a complaint with the city manager.  Dallas Animal Services is investigating itself in the matter.

Here’s the problem:  While advocating for the right that these 4 dogs had to live is a worthy effort, it does nothing to change the fact that Dallas taxpayers are paying for a “shelter” which primarily kills animals.  It does not alter the pound’s policy that owner surrenders are eligible for immediate killing, if workers so choose, without so much as a phone call, email or internet posting notifying anyone of the intention to kill.  This policy is entirely inconsistent with the “lifesaving efforts” the pound claims it is committed to and effectively dooms any animal listed, correctly or incorrectly, as “owner surrender” to the whim of whomever is making up the kill list for the day.  Pets whom the public is willing to save will continue to be killed under this system, as should be obvious.  And many more owner surrendered pets whom the public might be able to save if only they knew the animals needed help, will also continue to be killed.

Dallas Animal Services needs to immediately dispense with its killing for convenience policies and at the very least, adopt a slightly more progressive approach.  All animals, except those few deemed medically hopeless and suffering by a veterinarian, should be guaranteed at least a chance to survive the pound.  Killing animals without a minimum of 2 business days notice to the public should be summarily abandoned.  Advance notification to all interested parties, including rescuers and potential adopters, should be made in addition to the public notices posted online for each individual animal.

It is human nature to hide those things of which we are ashamed and thus we see so much secrecy in the kill rooms of our animal shelters.  But that doesn’t make it any less objectionable.  As taxpayers, we must demand our shelters do their jobs and actually shelter animals.  Those who refuse must be held accountable through transparent government policies and actions. If you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me this story.)

City of Irvine Takes Action to Improve Conditions at Shelter after Community Complaints

After shelter pet advocates went public by bringing their concerns about the Irvine Animal Care Center to the City Council last month, changes are afoot.

The chief veterinarian at IACC, Dr. Lawrence Kosmin, whom shelter pet advocates allege has been botching surgeries and refers to himself as “Dr. Death”, will be leaving at the end of the month.  A vet who worked under Dr. Kosmin will take his place.

City officials plan to establish a clear euthanasia policy that ensures no treatable animal is euthanized. A policy will also be set to create an atmosphere in which shelter staff and volunteers can come forward about issues without fearing retribution from their management.

A number of other changes are in the works as well:

  • A behaviorist will be hired to evaluate pets and get them ready for adoption.
  • Staff will be given one day’s notice on the kill list.
  • The Third Chance program, which advocates allege has been misused resulting in the needless killing of “rescued” pets, will be re-evaluated.
  • A veterinarian who trained in shelter medicine at UC Davis was slated to begin an independent evaluation of the Irvine facility this week.

The mayor says it will take 4 – 6 months to fully implement the changes.

Former shelter staff and volunteers are encouraged by the city’s plans but worry the independent evaluation will rely on information provided by current shelter management, who deny wrongdoing.

That’s always a challenge.  But any reasonable shelter evaluation is going to include input from community stakeholders.  In this case, since the city only took action after the community dropped the problems on its doorstep, I would think the evaluation would have to include input from those who got the ball rolling.

We’ll be watching.

One last noteworthy bit from the article, regarding “Dr. Death”:

Kosmin is serving as president-elect for the California Veterinary Medical Association during 2014-15.

The CVMA must be so proud.

(Thanks Arlene and Clarice for the link.)

Irvine Animal Advocates Detail Concerns Regarding Shelter in Report to City Council

More than 50 pages worth of comments and photos regarding the Irvine Animal Care Center (IACC) in CA were submitted to the Irvine City Council by concerned shelter pet advocates at its public meeting last month. The full report can be read here. (The first 2 pages are not related to the shelter.) I have pulled out a number of quotes as well as my own summaries to give readers a sampling of the concerns expressed by advocates.

Comments from Dr. Barbara Chlupek, rabbit rescuer:

  • After the new manager took over, a long time volunteer “was summarily ousted on false pretenses.”
  • “[T]he new manager suspended the volunteer program supposedly in order to “review” it. It has not yet been brought back.”
  • “Dr. Kosmin has been documented as proudly referring to himself as “Dr. Death”, since he enjoyed killing animals.”
  • irvine patty

    Patty

    An 8 year old rabbit called Patty who had an adopter waiting was killed instead of being adopted.

  • An in-depth investigation is needed immediately because “[a]nimals are being abused and killed[.]”

Comments from “A coalition of concerned citizens, volunteers, current employees and ex-employees who care about the animals”:

  • “We have not heard back from the Mayor or any members of the City Council on issues regarding the IACC brought to your collective attention starting in July of 2014.”
  • “Current IACC management has not addressed issues and concerns brought forward during the last nine months and they have not presented any plan to fix issues going forward.”
  • “Christine Brown and Molly Brown should immediately be stopped from conducting all behavioral assessments of dogs as they tend to recommend euthanasia if the dog is large or exuberant.”
  • Request for transparency: “Intakes and outcomes of all animals regardless of intake be made available on the website monthly – all intakes and outcomes, nothing excluded.”
  • Two employees attempted to kill a cat named Cody for 2 hours and allowed him to suffer instead of seeking assistance from a veterinarian.

Comments from Ava Crittenden, former employee:

  • “Dr. Kosmin exhibited counter constructive unwillingness to hear my ideas when the zoonotic disease Toxoplasmosis appeared in the trailer. I recommended protocols for gowning and cleaning for kennel staff, along with testing of every cat to prevent the possible spread of the disease. Following my suggestion I was told in front of three other lead supervisors “sure, if we want to piss away our money.” […] The next day, on 10/22, two other cats tested positive for Toxoplasmosis.”
  • Quantities of Fatal Plus have gone missing on multiple occasions.
  • irvine azulAn employee killed a hummingbird, left the remains in a kennel and went home for the day. The same employee killed a kitten called Azul who “was left in the laundry/trash bin overnight, visible to volunteers.”
  • All weekly staff meetings have been cancelled.
  • Regarding management’s handling of the former employee’s missed work due to medical reasons: “I feel I am being bullied[.]”
  • “In the conversation regarding my medically excused absences for the August/September of 2014, [Denise Jakcsy] told me “steroids can make you gain weight, just so you know”.”
  • “I noticed a community bullying behavior that is not just specific to me and has created a hostile working environment for others. Several staff members express similar intimidation tactics and bullying and unfortunately several others have left.”
  • Questions submitted in June regarding use of the shelter’s new software system have never been addressed.
  • irvine laneA 14 week old kitten called Lane was killed in full view of other cats after testing positive once for FeLV/FIV. No re-test was performed. He was underdosed with Fatal Plus by a staff member and placed in a cage where he began seizing. He suffered for 90 minutes before finally being injected with a weight appropriate dose of Fatal Plus.

Comments from [unknown]:

  • The shelter manager scheduled a pregnant dog to be spayed despite available foster homes. The information was made public and the dog was removed from the surgery list after much public outcry.

irvine intake

  • “When Animal Service Officers brings in animals, they are placed into intake the kennels pictured above. These kennels used to be in a different location directly next to the parking lot, but they were moved a few months ago due to construction. The new location is just outside of the freezer where Cal Trans and the shelter store deceased animals. The previous location had drains for easy cleaning and sanitation. The new location does not have any drains so animals now sit in a kennel that has standing urine. It is also very difficult to clean because there is no division of the kennels at the base. When you clean one kennel it flows into the other kennel and has to be hosed about 40 feet to clear the area and not pool in front of the freezer. There are new signs for staff to squeegee the area and towel dry, but that is very difficult to do with concrete. These animals arrive scared to be in a new situation and are placed next to a smelly freezer of deceased animals while waiting in a wet kennel.”
  • “Until July 2014, Animal Service Officers would bring animals directly into the clinic unless it was after hours. In July 2014, intake protocols were changed where all new animals were to be placed in these kennels until clinic staff were able to intake them. This resulted in some animals being in these kennels for several hours in hot weather.”
  • IACC adopted out 2 of 5 owned cats whose owner had been hospitalized.  The facility was supposed to be holding all 5 cats for “safe keeping” as a public service.  The owner wanted all her cats back but was only able to reclaim 3 since IACC had sold the other 2.
  • Dr. Kosmin is botching dog neuters.
  • Dogs are being brought into IACC under the “3rd Chance” program from other shelters then being sent back for killing.
  • Cages sit empty while healthy/treatable animals are being killed.

(Thank you Clarice for sending me this report.)

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