MI Shelter Records Appear Falsified to Hide the Killing of Healthy Pets

Nancy Hornberger, a pet owner in Michigan, had a multiple cat household with one cat who kept fighting with the others and spraying urine.  Aside from this, Spitz was a loving pet and Ms. Hornberger felt he might enjoy life more in a single cat home.  She called the Oakland Co Animal Shelter and asked about having the shelter rehome Spitz.  Ms. Hornberger says she was told that as long as the cat was healthy and adoptable, they would put him on the adoption floor.  She packed up Spitz’s favorite food and toys and wrote a two page letter about him to be given to whoever adopted the cat.  Ms. Hornberger then surrendered Spitz, his belongings and the letter to the Oakland Co shelter so he could find his perfect home.

But Oakland Co killed Spitz minutes after the former owner hit the door.  Ms. Hornberger found out later, after animal advocates filed FOIA requests and received records for animals who were killed and categorized as “owner requested euthanasia” by the shelter.  When informed of Spitz’s killing, Ms. Hornberger collapsed.  She could not understand why her lovable pet would be killed instead of being offered for adoption by the shelter.  And she says she absolutely did not ask the shelter staff to kill him:

We never, in any way, requested that.

The Oakland Co shelter’s website indicates they are limited admission for cats:

Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center will operate as an open admission shelter for cats based on available capacity starting January 2, 2015. That means we will not accept cats when we do not have room to house them. After consulting with veterinary staff and other experts in animal shelter operations, we will implement the industry’s best practices.  By limiting the number of cats we house, we will be able to offer the very best care to our existing cat population.

It would seem to follow that the facility had adequate space to house Spitz at the time he was accepted.  Also, for those trying to re-read that last paragraph:  open admission=limited admission in Oakland Co, apparently.

(Photo by Casey Post)

(Photo by Casey Post)

WXYZ asked Oakland County Director of Public Services Mark Newman why Spitz was killed. He says that the cat was deemed unadoptable due to the urine spraying and too bad so sad the owner failed to understand that at the time she surrendered Spitz. Ms. Hornberger says if she would have known Spitz would be killed, she would never have left him at the shelter.

So what exactly makes an animal “unadoptable” at Oakland Co?

As for the shelters written policy on what makes an animal adoptable, it won’t be posted at the shelter or its website.

“It is not something we disseminate to the public, but it is our information,” said Newman.

It’s classified. But WXYZ got a copy of the document detailing the excuses used by Oakland Co to kill animals, which the shelter titled “CARES” because aw. Among the excuses:

  • Animals designated “treatable/manageable” may be given one week before being recategorized as “untreatable/unhealthy” – not because these animals actually are either untreatable or unhealthy, just because it’s been a week and hey, we’re not running a doggie hotel here people.
  • Examples of treatable/manageable conditions include: cough, cold, arthritis, fleas, worms, cherry eye, missing eye/limb or other physical disability, and having the audacity to be born while being cared for by a mother. One week to get over that lost eye or that being born thing.
  • Examples of untreatable/unhealthy conditions include: healthy feral cats, dental disease, ringworm, and skin mites. I love that healthy feral cats are included in the definition of unhealthy because that just makes sense. Healthy=unhealthy, what’s the problem – you stupid or something?
(Photo by Casey Post)

(Photo by Casey Post)

One thing I didn’t see on the list was spraying, which is supposedly a capital offense in Oakland Co. The closest thing I could find:

Have a behavioral, temperamental or medical characteristic that would pose a danger to other animals, themselves or the public.

Does Oakland Co think cat urine is a public health threat?

Lest anyone think that Spitz’s killing represents an isolated incident at Oakland Co, the shelter’s own records seem to reveal it is a regular occurrence. Records appear to be falsified as “owner requested euthanasia” on numerous animals, including strays killed upon impound instead of being held for the legally mandated holding period and pets who are given nail trims and vaccines prior to being killed, supposedly by owner request.

Why the shell game? Oakland Co boasts on its website that it “currently has the best save rate in Michigan among public open-admission shelters whose intakes are greater than 5,000 animals”. But that save rate specifically excludes animals categorized as being killed by owner request, such as Spitz. (There is also an exclusion for animals killed and categorized as “contracted” which I don’t recall coming across before and don’t know what it refers to.)

Oakland Co taxpayers are getting the shaft with regard to their public shelter.  The shelter is limiting admission of cats while claiming to be open admission, arbitrarily designating healthy animals as unhealthy, and falsifying records to blame the needless killing of pets on “owner request” where no such request ever existed.  It is up to local residents to demand better.  As for Oakland Co workers, if you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Bringing Up from the Comments

Regarding the issue of animal shelters requiring proof of ownership in order to surrender/redeem pets, a reader commented:

If they ‘found’ a dog yesterday, got it vac for rabies today, and ‘surrendered’ to a shelter Tomorrow – presenting valid Rabies Vac as proof of ownership — will that make the dog theirs? should there be a 6 month limit on Rabies Vac before being accepted as ‘proof’ of ownership?
I would appreciate any reasonable suggestions or what your county/state is using as ‘Proof of Ownership’ Thanks!

Do you know if your state, county and/or city has any language on the books defining what constitutes proof of ownership with regard to surrendering and/or redeeming pets at shelters? I checked SC state law and could not find any references to the issue at all. I failed to find any relevant county ordinance either. In checking my county pound’s website, they have no information whatsoever on the surrender or redemption process. So I am operating on the assumption that my local pound falls under the Anything Goes protocol, probably based upon the whim of the person in charge of the pet killing facility at the time a person attempts to surrender or reclaim a pet.

Does your state, county or city have any laws addressing the issue of proof of ownership for shelter surrender/redemption? Does your local shelter set its own policies on that matter and if so, are they published online? Please share your location and whatever relevant info you have on this subject.

Complaints Prompt State to Inspect VA Shelter and Enablers to Circle the Wagons

In Accomack Co, Virginia, another sad case where pets who were reportedly living in unacceptable conditions in a resident’s yard are now allegedly suffering at the pound after being “rescued”:

An Exmore man who tipped off Accomack County Animal Control officers about poor living conditions of 15 dogs at a rural Onancock residence now is asking the state to shut down the facility where they were taken.

Jim Mason submitted a petition to the state veterinarian and the commissioner of agriculture and consumer services on June 8, asking them to close the Eastern Shore Regional Animal Control Facility in Melfa because it lacks air conditioning and an outdoor exercise area, among other issues.

The dogs, several of whom have whelped litters since being seized, have been held at the pound in connection with an ongoing court case for many months. They are allegedly being denied exercise and socialization.

After receiving the petition, a state inspector visited the Eastern Shore Regional AC Facility and found a number of deficiencies, including:

[S]everal dogs and cats showed signs of discomfort due to heat and humidity and the dog run area was “extremely hot and humid” with no climate control and flies[.]
[…]
Additionally, the inspector said not all animals euthanized at the facility were sedated beforehand.

Members of the Accomack Co Board of Supervisors have also received complaints from animal advocates regarding conditions at the pound.  But(t):

“The shelter is in very, very good hands,” Supervisor Robert Crockett said.

Also:  all county pounds “have to” kill animals (which will undoubtedly come as a shock to the many no kill shelters operating in municipalities all over the country) and the state inspector only dinged Eastern Shore on the recent report because of pressure from pesky activists.  And the offer of free air conditioning from a local SPCA is now being put on hold by the county because reasons.  Seems legit.

I couldn’t find any government website listing animals for Eastern Shore and the facility’s Facebook page is out of date.  The Eastern Shore page on Petfinder says:

We invite you to take a look at all our listed animals.To us, they all deserve the recognition as “featured”.

Petfinder has zero animals listed for Eastern Shore.

Very, very good hands.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Detroit Animal Control Kills Thousands of Pets Per Year, Wants More

Detroit Animal Control has no adoption program.  Its 2013 report to the Michigan Department of Agriculture (the most recent year on the state’s website) was submitted by someone from Michigan Humane – a fellow pet killing facility and reportedly the only organization allowed to pull animals from the pound.  The report indicates DAC took in 6127 dogs and cats, returning just 170 of them to their owners and killing 4490 – a kill rate of 73%:

dac 2013

Screengrab from the Michigan Department of Agriculture's website showing the Detroit pound's 2013 report.

Screengrab from the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s website showing the Detroit pound’s 2013 report.

Michigan Humane, DAC’s partner, does not follow the law regarding the mandatory holding period for stray cats. DAC has no adoption program and an abysmal RTO rate. The only real hope any animal has of getting out of DAC alive is if Michigan Humane cherry picks him and chooses to keep him alive long enough to get adopted by an actual caring person. You would tend to think that under the circumstances, DAC would not be scrabbling to take in more animals nor would they be hanging their hat on the importance of obeying the mandatory holding period law since you know, Ichigan-May Umane-Hay… Astonishingly, DAC is doing both by attempting to snatch strays from a local rescue group:

The issue of who owns a stray dog in Detroit is being challenged for the Detroit Dog Rescue.
[…] DDR was told by Detroit Animal Control that they are no longer allowed to take dogs from police officers.
[…]
Detroit police said that under state law, shelters are required to have documentation as to who dropped the dog off. Dogs must remain with animal control for four business days to allow the owner time to claim the dog.

If the dog is not claimed, authorities will decide if the dog is adoptable.

But most likely, the dog will be killed – the usual outcome for pets at DAC. I guess they forgot to mention that part.

To be clear, I am absolutely in favor of any group that takes in strays following the applicable laws for holding periods and reporting so that owners can reclaim lost pets.  Many shelters have systems in place to allow finders of strays to keep them for the mandatory holding period while listing them on the shelter’s roster of found pets. Michigan law appears to allow for private groups to take in strays as long as they properly report the animals to police.

If DAC is truly concerned about private animal groups following the state holding period law for strays perhaps they should start by looking at their own partner in crime, Michigan Humane, instead of chasing groups trying to actually shelter strays – the job DAC is supposed to be doing.  There is surely no cause for DAC to be taking animals away from rescue groups committed to saving them.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Aurora Animal Shelter Refuses Offer of Hospice Care for Cat

When animal advocate Joan Ogner saw a Petfinder photo of a senior female cat at the Aurora Animal Shelter in CO this week, she felt moved and wanted to help get the pet transferred to a rescue group.  While working on that, she learned the cat has some serious medical issues. Specifically, the cat is partially paralyzed, has an acute URI, no teeth and an abdominal mass. She is being housed in isolation at the shelter.

At that point, Joan felt compelled to help this cat herself by providing hospice care at her home. She contacted the shelter to ask about adopting the cat and was refused. She subsequently contacted the manager via email to reiterate her offer and to advise that she works with another municipal shelter which would gladly do an official shelter-to-shelter transfer if the manager deemed that more appropriate.

The manager replied that the cat was receiving treatment at the shelter and that the vet staff had recommended euthanasia and so the request to transfer was refused. Joan asked the manager to reconsider, explaining that she was offering to care for the cat at home and even if euthanasia was the most humane option, to offer that in the quiet comfort of her loving home and not in a shelter environment which is highly stressful for cats.  She stated she would not allow the cat to suffer.

The manager again refused the offer to get the cat out of her cage at the shelter, citing the “five freedoms”, which she says are being provided to the cat there and stating that she didn’t feel comfortable sending the cat to an “unknown” situation.  Joan explained that she has adopted from the Aurora shelter before so she is not “unknown” and that she could provide immediate references if desired, including the director of the shelter who is willing to do the transfer, her veterinarian of 20 years, and local rescuers.  She again promised to provide loving hospice care and not allow the cat to suffer.

That was yesterday.  The manager has not replied since and the cat’s listing has been removed from Petfinder.  This is the post Joan put on her Facebook page in hopes of being allowed to give this poor cat peace and love in a quiet home environment for whatever time she has left.  Joan has named her Miss Kitty:

Screengrab from Facebook (provided by Joan Ogner)

“PLEASE CALL OR EMAIL ASAP THE AURORA SHELTER TO TRY AND SAVE MISS KITTY (I named her, they only know her by her shelter ID number A172673). Tell the Shelter Manager that this kitty deserves to live her last days in a hospice setting, rather than in the shelter. The Shelter Manager information is: Manager is :Jenee N. Shipman
Manager of Animal Care | City of Aurora
jshipman@auroragov.org Office 303.326.8299 | Mobile 720.409.2474 .
THIS IS URGENT as there is only a short time before they euthanize her. Let’s see that in her last breath she is not experiencing the smell of death in the Euth Room but instead feeling the love and peace of my home. THANKS”
(Screengrab from Facebook provided by Joan Ogner)

While it is humane to offer euthanasia to a pet who has been determined medically hopeless and suffering by a veterinarian, it is not humane to leave the animal in a cage at a shelter while typing out repeated refusals for an offer of home hospice care from a compassionate person.  If this cat is truly medically hopeless and suffering, she should have been euthanized to relieve her suffering as soon as the determination was made.  If not, the cat should be released – either directly to the person offering the hospice care or to the shelter offering to do the official transfer.  I simply don’t understand this refusal nor the reasons behind it.  Just because a shelter is able to meet the so-called “five freedoms” does not make sitting in a cage in isolation any kinder for this cat.  I hope the Aurora Animal Shelter manager reconsiders and accepts the offer of hospice care for Miss Kitty.

Kern Co Pound Exporting Sick Dogs

The UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program consulted on the troubled Kern Co pound in CA in 2008.  At that time, a report was issued which detailed, among other problems, lack of leadership and rampant disease at the shelter along with recommendations for how to reduce and prevent it.  Standard protocols such as the quarantine of new arrivals and examination/vaccination by vet staff upon intake were on the list.

Fast forward to 2015 and it appears as if disease is still rampant at the Kern Co pound and that few, if any, of the 2008 recommendations from Koret have been implemented.  A group that flies shelter dogs from the area to rescues elsewhere along the west coast recently suspended its partnership with the Kern Co pound after a number of the facility’s dogs were found to be sick upon arrival.  Despite all the dogs having health certificates from the pound’s vet, interim director Nick Cullen admits in an email that in fact some of the dogs had never been vaccinated “due to reported behavioral concerns”.  Three of the sick dogs died.

In response to the rescue’s refusal to take more sick dogs labeled healthy from Kern Co, Cullen has asked Koret to come around for another consult.  I guess he wants a current report to ignore because you know, ignoring the old one is so 2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014.  Cullen also wants to reassure taxpayers that a cleaning chemical used for disinfection at the pound is being diluted correctly.  He had a consultant in on that one too.  So the disinfectant is being diluted correctly and apparently used to clean cages housing sick and/or unvaccinated dogs next to healthy ones.  Pound workers who are not on the vet staff are “examining” the animals and deeming them fit for transport, even if they are deemed unfit for vaccines due to behavior.  The vet is signing the health certificates and then the dogs are loaded onto planes and arriving with symptoms of serious illness.  It sounds shoddy, at best.

Like his predecessor, Cullen blames the public for the pound’s failures:

We are seeing an inordinate amount of illness in animals originating from Shafter, Mcfarland, and Arvin areas. Much of that is due to those communities being less involved in vaccinating animals with core vaccines.

Gee, if only there was some kind of magical way to make sure animals coming into the pound were vaccinated, even if their vaccine history is questionable.  If only there was someone at the pound who would take responsibility for that, somehow.  If only Koret would have told Kern Co about this in 2008 DOT DOT DOT.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

The Irresponsible Public Comes Through When Pound Manager Fails to Protect the Human-Animal Bond

Last year the Everett Animal Shelter in Washington “rescued” 110 cats and kittens from a 32 foot trailer and killed them all.  And the response to panleukopenia at the facility has been mass killing.  It’s not a good place for cats.

Kali, as pictured on the website of the Everett Herald.

Kali, as pictured on the website of the Everett Herald.

Lisa Shelly, an area resident, has been struggling to keep her family together.  Her husband suffers from some very serious medical issues and she has been unable to find work.  The family lost their apartment 2 years ago along with most of their personal possessions.  They’ve been living in week-to-week motels and do not have a car.  At Christmas, all Ms. Shelly’s 9 year old son Ronan wanted was a kitten.  His Christmas wish came true and he named her Kali.

Kali recently got out through an open window and Ms. Shelly began looking for her immediately.  She eventually learned that Kali had been impounded by the Everett Animal Shelter.  Ms. Shelly went to the pound to reclaim Kali but was told she’d have to pay $205 to get her pet back.  She didn’t have the money:

“I had to come home without her,” Shelly said, and tell her son she couldn’t get Kali back. “He cried so hard.”

When contacted by the local paper, the pound manager was all about the law:

Dee Cordell, the operations coordinator for the Everett Animal Shelter, said $165 of the fee is charged by Snohomish County, because Kali came from an unincorporated part of the county. The remainder covers the shelter’s costs of getting the cat spayed, vaccinated and tagged with an identification chip.

“By law cats need to be licensed. Since the cat was not spayed and not chipped, the fee is $40,” Cordell said.

A local blogger pointed out that under the Everett municipal code, the manager is “authorized to reduce or waive any fee” except the licensing fee.

But since the manager was apparently uninterested in getting Kali back with her boy, Ms. Shelly enlisted the help of a friend to set up a donation page for the redemption fee.  After the story ran in the local paper, people began donating.  And they continued to give, long after the $205 was raised.  Because irresponsible public.

Thank you once again to the unwashed masses for protecting the human-animal bond, getting a beloved pet reunited with her family and for generally being an alright sort.  Now if Everett taxpayers had some people like that working at the shelter, the community might really shine.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Detroit AC: Quit Focusing on the Dog You Love and Just Get Some Other Dog

Detroit ACOs, whom you may remember from such exploits as Dragging Dead Dogs Whose Guts are Falling Out in Front of Neighborhood Children, are once again dazzling the kiddies with their animal handling skills.

Jenga, as pictured on freep.com.

Jenga, as pictured on freep.com.

Last week, local media reported that a friendly stray dog who was beloved by children and teachers at the school where the dog had been hanging out, was captured and hauled away by Detroit ACOs while the kids pleaded for the dog they named Jenga to be spared.  The incident was so upsetting to everyone who witnessed it that a fifth grade class is writing a letter to Detroit AC to express their feelings.

Teachers at the school immediately began making calls to various city offices to try to keep Jenga from being killed but all they got was the runaround.  One teacher offered to adopt Jenga outright or at least place her name on the dog as an interested party but AC refused, citing the 4 day holding period.  And she won’t be allowed to adopt Jenga from the pound after the holding period either:

[Harry] Ward [head of AC] said the department must keep stray dogs without identification for four business days. If they are unclaimed, animal control evaluates the dog. Dogs fit for adoption are made available to the Michigan Humane Society; the rest are put down.

The Humane Society visits Detroit Animal Control weekly and decides which dogs to accept into its adoption program, Ward said. The animal control department does not run an adoption program, he said, conceding that an outdated website says otherwise.

Oh swell.  Also, shame on those kids and their teachers for falling in love with a stray dog and caring what happens to her:

Ward suggested those concerned about Jenga’s fate adopt a dog from the Humane Society to make room for more dogs in the adoption program.

“Do something for all the dogs, instead of getting focused on the one dog,” Ward said.

[…]

“I know to the world this one dog is important. I want the world to know there are 38 other dogs that will come in over one or two days,” Ward said. “People need to pull back and look at the bigger issue.”

The bigger issue is that the head of Detroit AC doesn’t understand that dogs are not interchangeable widgets.  Pets are family.  Humans bond with them.  It’s actually the kind of thing AC should be encouraging, especially with children.

Unfortunately for Jenga, her only hope at this point seems to be a transfer to another pet killing facility.  Perhaps media attention will help save Jenga from the fate of so many other stray dogs in Detroit whom rescue groups say they try to help but must battle AC in order to do so.

(Thanks Clarice and Karen for the links.)

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.)

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