PETA Shames Medina Co for No Longer Killing Cats

Allegra, a cat at the Medina Co SPCA, judges your stupidity.

Allegra, a cat at the Medina Co SPCA, judges your stupidity.

PETA kills animals – mainly dogs and cats in need of love, temporary sheltering and new homes.  But the organization goes a step further by encouraging and rewarding (with vegan cookie gift baskets) municipalities that threaten to kill pets and shaming those that implement changes designed to eliminate needless killing.

Such is the case with Medina County, Ohio, where officials were pressured by the so-called irresponsible public into finally giving up the gas chamber which they’d been using to kill most of the cats impounded at the shelter.  The county stopped accepting cats and entered into an agreement with the Medina Co SPCA to take over cat sheltering from the county late last year.

Medina Co SPCA executive director Stephanie Moore writes:

The Medina County SPCA mission is to care and rehabilitate animals that are suffering from cruelty, abuse, neglect and abandonment. We entered an agreement with the county on December 16th 2013 to start taking in the healthy adoptable stray cat population that previously went to the county facility and were then euthanized by carbon monoxide. We entered this agreement so they would stop using the gas chamber, which they did.

We told the county that we would have to wait list cats as we do not euthanize for space here and we would need to have room before a healthy stray could enter our program. Initially we had many people bring us cats from hoarding homes and our first one was the day after Christmas with 49 cats. All of our animals must be quarantined for 10 days, spayed/neutered, vaccinated and microchipped before adoption, all of which does take time.

But in a letter to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, PETA equates the SPCA’s responsible management of cat admissions with “refusing to take in cats who are in need” and then drags out all the yawn-inducing tricks from its tired trick bag:  

  • Nobody wants to kill animals.
  • Killing is a kindness.
  • The cats who aren’t immediately accepted by the SPCA will be hit by cars, purloined by hoarders or placed in iron maidens by people “desperate” to deliver cat kindness.
  • We have to keep killing pets until EVERYONE IN THE GALAXY spays and neuters.  (Which will be never, for anyone keeping track.)

I asked Stephanie Moore for some details on the Medina Co SPCA’s managed admission program for cats.  She writes:

 We currently have a wait list of around 2 weeks. We have 11 people waiting to surrender a total of 32 cats. Sick, injured, abused, or neglected cats we will take anytime as that is our mission (even ferals if they are sick or injured). We never turn an animal away that is suffering.

We feel we are doing a tremendous job in saving the healthy stray cat population in our county and our number of cats has nearly tripled compared to the same time frame before we started this program.

Well gee, apparently homeless cats in need of sheltering in Medina Co have more options available to them than the iron maiden.  Despite the claims made in PETA’s shammy letter, cats can go to the SPCA immediately if they are in need of emergency care or they can go to the SPCA within about 2 weeks if they are healthy.  And unless they are medically hopeless and suffering, they won’t be killed – which sounds pretty damn good.  To everyone except PETA obviously.

(Thanks Casey for the link.)

Orange Co Pound Kills Lost Pet Upon Impound

Sofie, as depicted on the WFTV website

Sofie, as depicted on the WFTV website

Lisa Storey is a pet owner in Orange County, Florida.  When one of her children accidentally left the home’s front door open recently, her senior cat slipped outside.  Ms. Storey began searching for her beloved pet, called Sofie, immediately.  While canvassing the neighborhood with flyers, Ms. Storey learned a neighbor had found Sofie and taken her to Orange Co Animal Services.

“I was kind of relieved when I heard she was there.  I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. She was rescued.’”

But Orange Co had killed Sofie upon impound so Ms. Storey never had any chance of reclaiming her.  The pound’s vet examined the cat, determined her to be “lethargic and extremely emaciated” and killed her.

Ms. Storey was heartbroken:

“It’s not right.  I mean, she wasn’t in any pain,” said Storey.

This isn’t the first time the Orange Co vet has been involved in a pet killing that made headlines.  After the pound oops-killed a 2 year old dog named Hershey who had an adopter waiting to take him home last summer, a local rescuer wrote to Dr. Robert Ridgway, requesting an explanation for the killing.  Dr. Ridgway’s highly unprofessional response included no explanation for the needless killing but a number of attacks on the person demanding answers.

Orange Co policy dictates that stray animals are held for at least 3 days so the owner can reclaim them.  But apparently that policy is less policy and more possibly, depending on whatever way the wind blows:

Channel 9 asked Animal Services if that three-day holding policy depended on whether the animal was sick or healthy.

They said hold times are made on a case by case basis.

Orange Co Animal Services likes to read the rules and then apply them based on interpretive dance, as they did when wrongly claiming the law required them to kill a beagle named Rufus whose owner wanted him back last year.

This is your municipal animal shelter, America.  These are the people blaming the “irresponsible public” for the killing and claiming shelters should do away with mandatory holding periods for cats because their owners don’t want them.  Fight back.

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Cat Drools, NC Vet Gets Frothy

Matthews, NCFamily:  Hi.  Our 2 year old cat has never been been outdoors or even been around another animal.  He seems to be drooling.

Vet:  OK, he probably just got into something he shouldn’t have.  Here’s some medicine.

Family:  Coolio.  By the way, we had him vaccinated when he was a kitten.  Are we supposed to get him a booster shot at some point?

Vet:  RABIES!  Your cat is rabid!  He must die!

Family:  Dude.  You just said -

Vet: This is a hair-on-fire emergency. I’m calling the Health Department.

County Health Department (on phone to Vet):  Too many people have potentially been exposed to rabies from this cat.  Cat must die!

Family:  No see, our cat’s never been outside or been around other animals, like we said.  There’s no risk of rabies here.

Vet:  Rabies Will Robinson!

So the vet killed the family’s pet, cut off his head and sent it to the state lab for rabies testing.  The results were negative.

Drooling is a very common reaction in cats and stems from a wide variety of possible causes.  Some cats drool when they are being pet, for example.  But maybe they are all rabid too.  And the rabies vaccine this cat had received may still have been offering protection anyway – not that he needed it, since he was strictly indoors-only.  But yeah, rabies.  I mean:  RABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And if all the violent hysteria associated with a drooling cat isn’t enough for you, WCNC in Charlotte ends their story with this tidbit:

NBC Charlotte checked with the county and looked over the law. Officials say quarantine was not an option because too many people were potentially exposed to rabies, and rabies is 100-percent fatal.

Why is the number of people potentially exposed even an issue?  The cat didn’t walk across the laps of a stadium full of people between home and the vet’s office, did he?  If the size of this family was smaller, would the cat still be alive today?  And since “rabies is 100% fatal”, which gives the impression that extreme measures must be taken even in highly questionable cases, I guess somebody should let the CDC know they may as well chuck their post-exposure vaccination protocols since everyone is going to die.  No exceptions.  Least of all for cats who drool and their families who love them.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Chicago Pound Transferred More Than 1200 Cats to a Small Rescue Group

Chicago Animal Care & Control killed more than 8000 animals in 2012. Since 2006, the pound’s rescue transfer program, Homeward Bound, has seen a 230% increase in the number of animals transferred.

Chicago ACC gave an average of more than 200 cats every month for 6 months in a row this year to a rescue group called Purrs from the Heart which participates in the Homeward Bound program. They stopped giving cats to the group after a written complaint was received by the city in September, alleging mistreatment of cats left at an apartment. The state has opened an investigation:

Now, a week into its inquiry, the state says it cannot account for 1,216 cats that Purrs From The Heart took between April and September. The number of animals involved, spokesman Jeff Squibb said, ranks the case among the largest animal welfare investigations ever conducted by the department.

Like many rescue groups, Purrs from the Heart uses a network of foster homes to care for the cats it saves from death row at the pound. The group’s state license allows for it to use up to 7 foster homes in order to provide care for a maximum of 28 animals. The rescue has spoken with state investigators to explain their side of the story:

As many as 150 cats were left at the South Side apartment at a given time, said Brian Przybylski, one of the shelter’s founders, in an interview. Its tenants agreed to care for the animals in exchange for weekly payments of $150, he said.
[...]
The founders said they learned some cats in that apartment were killed or starved, but that others were adopted or too sick to survive.
[...]
Brian Przybylski also blamed the city for allowing the organization to take too many cats from the shelter.
[...]
“We were trying to save as many as we could,” he said. “Basically we had too many people who had the authorization to (rescue cats).”

State investigators visited the apartment in question and found no cats there. The rescue group also referred investigators to a rural barn where they said a large number of cats were being housed but it too was empty.

Neither the apartment nor rural barn were authorized foster providers, the Department of Agriculture said.

The Chicago ACC spokesman declined to comment on the pound’s transfer and subsequent failure to track more than 1200 cats via Purrs from the Heart.

Purrs from the Heart reportedly intends to dissolve and transfer the cats who remain in the group’s care by the end of the month.

Clearly the overriding issue at this point is determining what happened to the 1200 cats and getting help to any still living.  Local shelter pet advocates will need to hold the Chicago pound accountable.  At the very least, Chicago ACC should be made to answer for why it transferred so many cats to a group it knew was licensed to care for only 28 pets at a time and why it failed to follow up on the fate of these animals.

(Thanks Clarice and Arlene for sending me this story.)

“Compromised Feline Welfare” at Hillsborough Co Pound

Screengrab from the Hillsborough Co pound's PetHarbor listings

Screengrab from the Hillsborough Co pound’s PetHarbor listings

It sucks being a cat at the Hillsborough Co pound in Florida.  Way.

Although the pound’s TNR program was officially sanctioned by local politicians on May 1, not one action has been taken to implement the program:

“I’m not [a] patient person,” said Sherry Silk, director of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. “Come on; it’s been six months and we haven’t saved a single cat.”

Not only has Hillsborough Co failed to save a single cat via its TNR-INO (In Name Only) program while citing colony caregivers for feeding TNR’d cats, its cat killing machine continues to mow down nearly every feline in its path.    In fiscal year 2012, the live release rate for cats was 18.9%.  The pound is currently killing 600 adult cats and kittens every month.

In August, the Maddie’s Fund Shelter Medicine Program issued a report detailing recommendations for the Hillsborough Co pound.  Some of the findings:

  • Nursing mama cats who are impounded as strays are automatically sent to the kill room after their mandated holding period expires.
  • Some kittens designated as available for adoption are housed in rooms which are off limits to the public.
  • Animals’ records – both computer and paper – regularly contain incorrect age, sex and holding period data.
  • Cats are often housed in tiny holding cages with the access door to the other side of the cage kept closed, even when the other side is empty, leading to “compromised feline welfare”.
  • Cats are left in uncovered traps and carriers in a high traffic hallway while awaiting cage placement, putting them at increased risk for illness due to stress.

One of the recommendations from the Maddie’s Fund consultants is to designate a feline advocate at the facility:

This person should assure individual cats are housed in the appropriate ward, have no unnecessary holds, and are tracked appropriately for foster, transfer, or adoption.

And by “unecessary holds”, Maddie’s Fund includes any holding period for stray cats who lack identification. A key recommendation from the report:

Eliminate the required hold period for stray cats. Stray cats lacking identification are extremely unlikely to be reclaimed by owners and are at high risk for shelter – acquired disease and euthanasia. Eliminating even a few days in the shelter may be the difference between life and death for them. The shelter can simultaneously have an option for immediate live release paired with a required hold period of 3 days prior to euthanasia.

So lost cats with their sex/age/holding period information data possibly entered wrongly by Hillsborough Co staff, possibly housed in rooms which are off limits to the public and possibly designated in advance as Straight to Kill Room are unlikely to be reclaimed by their owners?  And the recommendation is to eliminate the unidentified stray holding period entirely because they might get sick at this “compromised feline welfare” facility?  Snaaaaaap.

The No Kill Advocacy Center weighed in on the elimination of stray holding periods when HSUS suggested it in its recent white paper on California shelters:

[I]f a dog or cat comes in as a stray, and he does not have identification, he can be adopted to someone else immediately without giving his family any time to reclaim him. This is unfair to families who deeply love their animal companions. [...] Accidents happen; animals get lost and end up at shelters. Since the choice presented — immediate adoption or sickness/death — is a false one, breaking up families by having them lose all rights in their animal with no reclaim period of any kind appears draconian.

If Hillsborough Co accepts the Maddie’s Fund recommendation to eliminate the state mandated 5 day holding period for unidentified stray cats, it will not only cause undue harm to owners of lost cats trying to find them, it will fast track cats to the kill room – the most likely outcome for cats at Hillsborough Co.  What Hillsborough Co needs is someone to run into the cat ward and yell, “Iceberg – dead ahead!”  Instead, Maddie’s Fund is busy re-arranging the deck chairs.

Screengrab from the Hillsborough Co pound's PetHarbor listings

Screengrab from the Hillsborough Co pound’s PetHarbor listings

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, OH: Success!

Regular readers know that I have been posting about shelter pet advocate Casey Post’s efforts to reform her local shelter in Medina Co, OH.  This week, Ms. Post again addressed her county commissioners but was forced to improvise a speech due to last minute developments on the reform front.  I asked her to talk about what happened at the meeting, provide details on the deal made to save cats in Medina Co to the best of her knowledge, and discuss her plans for the future.

Ms. Post writes:

I got to the meeting room early, as usual. I had planned to deliver an open letter to the Commissioners from a euthanasia expert who certifies techs and vets in our state. His letter listed all kinds of methods for killing that were used in the past (horrific) and then indicated that the gas chamber was among those we’ve advanced beyond. He encouraged the Board to “be leaders” and embrace the newer method of euthanasia by injection and assured them that anyone who is certified is capable of handling even feral cats both safely and humanely. I was then going to discuss the benefits of neutered/vaccinated feral cats and ask for a change in shelter policy of immediately killing ALL ferals, regardless of their neutered/vaccinated status. I knew that Commissioner Hambley had just seen a low cost s/n operation in our county and was now aware that the public was spending their own money to get these cats neutered and vaccinated, so I had hope that he would at least consider the private effort going on there.

The Clerk of the Board (she’s very nice, VERY professional, and a cat owner) walked in and asked me if I was happy with the deal that was made. I told her that no one had informed me of a deal! She tried to find a copy of the article in the paper that had just come out that morning for me, but someone had taken hers. Thank goodness for wifi and smartphones. I searched for the news on what had gone down and found that there was a tentative deal with the Medina County SPCA where THEY would take all friendly strays and owner surrender cats for the county, but would not be accepting feral cats.  [Ed. note:  Reader Lisa submitted this link which reports on the deal.] Ferals would be referred to the low cost s/n clinic (I’m assuming at the trappers’ own cost – $25, but they do have a “pay it forward” program for people who can’t afford it that others donate to) so that the cats can be TNR’d. The only segment of the public NOT being served in this deal would be the people who want ferals just GONE, who don’t want to TNR. But, the MSCPA intends to apply for a grant to do TNR in 2014 for the county and they may be able to include relocation in that program for those who demand it.

So this deal would get the cats out of the hands of the Medina County Animal Shelter (and their amazing less-than-50% survival rate) and away from any possibility of a gas chamber (MSPCA euthanizes by injection with an actual veterinarian and they say that they do it as little as possible – not sure how they’re going to work the space issue, but I do know that they use volunteers and fosters, which puts them light years ahead of the shelter which allows neither and there is talk of keeping a waiting list if needed). This deal has potential to address the issue of the feral population in a humane and sensible way. It also has the potential to get our gas chamber designated as “surplus equipment” to be dispensed with as is best for the county (I vote scrap metal!). Bonus – all the Kuranda cat beds that I donated to the shelter would end up at MSCPA, where they will be needed. So hell yes, I’m pleased with the deal.

By now, the meeting room is packed (no, not with anti-gas chamber people, alas, but with people there to discuss transportation funding) and the time is coming up for me to speak and I’m not sure what to say – all I have is questions and the letter I was going to read out was no longer needed! I got up to speak first (because hey, why not?) and tried asking some questions of the Board, but they will not answer questions during the public comment bit, so instead I asked for the shelter to stop killing vaccinated/neutered ferals. I explained that this policy was both counterproductive to the effort to control the feral population and it also removed the rabies buffer between people and wildlife that these cats provide. I figured since the county suddenly seemed to be embracing the idea of TNR, I would try to save the ear-tipped or microchipped ferals that are still going straight into the gas chamber at the shelter (and will continue to do so until the MSPCA takes over cat duties). One of the commissioners made a note, so hopefully something will happen there.

After me, a woman got up to speak to ask about the gas chamber – would it be removed? When? She was nervous to speak too, but also determined. She wants that gas chamber GONE. I spoke with her and apparently, she’s been trying to make one of these meetings for weeks now and told me that I’m “her hero” for fighting this and she is in until the gas chamber is on the scrap pile. She’s another one of us who had NO IDEA what was going on at the shelter and she’s been a frequent visitor and has adopted cats from there, so she too feels betrayed.

The discussion session was interesting because of the money – the MSPCA wants $13K to take the county’s non-feral cats. A commissioner asked how much money is in “the kennel fund” (this is the money used to fund the dog part of the shelter via licensing fees – it could not by law go to caring for cats at the shelter, but CAN be given to a “humane society” for the purposes of caring for cats, so that’s where the $13K would come from). The County Administrator stated that the kennel fund has “in excess of $300,000”. The collective gasp, then silence in the room was a thing of beauty. All I could think was, “I had to DONATE dog beds and pet safe salt to them because they didn’t have THE MONEY???” At this point, one commissioner said, “Well then. I have no problem taking thirteen thousand dollars from there.” There was a question about how the shelter staff felt about this plan – apparently, they’re fine with it. The commissioners then voted to proceed with the deal.

Now, the deal is not yet completed and could still fall apart. The MSPCA and the county have to sign off on it – I’m told that this will occur some time next week. How soon after that the MSPCA will be accepting cats, I do not know, but we all hope it will be sooner, rather than later. In the meantime, we are trying to get the current cats out of the shelter and away from the gas chamber (which they will keep using until they have no more cats to stuff into it, apparently). Two cats (that we know of – there were more that we don’t know about because of the kill-anything-we-think-is-feral-whether-it-actually-is-or-not policy) were gassed last week and it would be fantastic if we could make them the last.

The woman who spoke after me asked me if I was going to the next meeting. I told her that I didn’t think so, that I wouldn’t know what to say since the deal-signing would happen AFTER the meeting. She vows to go to the next one to continue to press them on the removal of the gas chamber. She’s feisty and I like her a lot.

Do I completely trust that everything will be sunshine and rainbows from here on out? Absolutely not. But I will definitely be keeping an eye on things – not just at MSPCA, but also at the shelter. And if I need to keep advocating for change, I will. If the MSPCA goes wrong with it, then it wouldn’t be the weekly meetings – it would have to be the MSPCA board that I would have to petition for change as they are their own entity. Fortunately, they don’t seem to be the sort of people who would be ok with killing more than 50% of the cats that come in.

I’m backing off the meetings while the deal goes through because it seems like a very good deal. Laura (the other speaker) is going to spearhead the “destroy that filthy gas chamber” movement and that I’m backing her up in that. I’ll be keeping an eye on how things go from here on out both at the MSCPA and at the shelter, but I have reason to be cautiously optimistic for the future of Medina’s cats.

Advice for others trying to advocate? Attack policies, not people. I didn’t want to get into a position where the commissioners felt backed up against a wall to defend shelter employees (which was why I explained that they were victims of this shelter model, too). Also, listen to what it is that they’re really saying – in my case, it was, “We’re not really concerned with the gas chamber itself because we think it’s humane. We just don’t want to be swimming in cats.” It took me a while to understand that while I was talking shelter policies, they were talking shelter-as-population-control. If you truly believe that the gas chamber is humane, and that your shelter killing over 50% of the incoming cats is doing the community a “service”, you would be resistant to the one lady standing up and saying that you’re wrong. That’s where even a little physical back up really helps. Mark stood up and said, “I think she’s right. This is bad for Medina and I don’t want it.” Suddenly, I’m not the lone voice. Combine it with the letters and emails that came in to the commissioners and now they start to think maybe something needs to change, after all.

***

Read how Ms. Post became motivated to advocate for shelter reform.

Read her previous speeches to the county commissioners:

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Ms. Post and her reform efforts which appeared after her second speech to the county.

Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, OH – Week 4

Medina County animal advocate Casey Post once again addressed the public meeting of her county commissioners this week.  Her comments, along with the text of her speech, are below.  I have been sharing them each week so that readers can see shelter reform advocacy in action, as it unfolds.  I hope it may inspire others to speak to their local commissioners about bringing no kill to their own community.

Ms. Post writes:

This speech was my “Captain Longfellow” speech. You see, Captain Longfellow is the name of the cat that the shelter failed on Christmas Eve last year. He was the only animal left in the shelter and they made zero effort to get him out alive. They never took his picture and never called a rescue group. I will always regret leaving Captain Longfellow behind that day, but that was back when I thought that their 92% live release rate was for ALL of the animals, not just the dogs. Now I know that their live release rate for cats is 45%. So I felt that I owed Captain Longfellow at least some acknowledgement. His story is representative of the failings at Medina County Animal Shelter.

But the part of the speech that seemed to surprise at least one of the Board members was the part about how gas chambers are being phased out around the country. This was apparently new information for some. Commissioner Hambley seems to think that it’s some kind of nutty movement by animal rights activists with too much time on their hands. He is still convinced that it’s completely humane and that the shelter workers are telling the truth about how the animals “just go to sleep” and they’ve never ever seen any sort of struggle or thrashing or heard any howling or vocalizations and how cats are too dangerous to handle. Poor Commissioner Hambley doesn’t seem to realize that in trying to make things nice and easy for the shelter workers, they are actually throwing his political career under a bus for him. I don’t think he realizes that he’s truly on the losing end of this argument and that holding on to the gas chamber is not helping his image at all. For a man who wants to run for state representative, this is not a good idea.

The good news is that after I spoke, a local man named Mark spoke after me, saying that he was there to support me and that he wants the gas chamber eliminated. He was very straightforward and matter of fact and said that even if you didn’t care about cats at all, you have to think about what this does to our county’s reputation. We’re a growing community and it’s time we joined the 21st century with the rest of the world.

I had only communicated with Mark briefly by email and did not know he was going to show up for the meeting, so it was a fantastic surprise to have him there. Mark has two rescue cats he loves and is very active in the community (unlike me, who is a hermit), so he is perfect for this.

The discussion session after the meeting was … active. The shelter apparently has been too generous with their resources, taking in all and sundry cats from all over the county. Now they will limit themselves to 14 cats at any given time. Owner surrenders get a photo online and have seven days to find a home. Friendly strays get a photo online and three day stray hold and then may get four more days to find a home. Unfriendly strays/ferals/anything else they don’t feel like dealing with get no stray hold, no photo, and straight into the gas chamber (or may be refused at the door – not really sure how that’s supposed to work with the 14 cat limit – does it really count for space if you’re only taking up space in the gas chamber? Don’t know).

It has been decided that the shelter will continue to use the gas chamber on cats because apparently, cats are sharp and the safety of the employees is paramount. This was followed by reassurances that the employees are fully trained and qualified, it’s just that they cannot safely handle the cats for euthanasia by injection. I said that it was amazing that so many other shelters in the nation somehow manage to handle cats without a gas chamber. The representative from the Medina County SPCA was there to explain how her board was going to put together a proposal for what it would cost the county for the MSPCA to take in some of the county’s cats. When she was done, I asked her if the MSPCA had a method for dealing with fractious cats that didn’t involve a gas chamber. She said, “Yes, we do.” To which I said, “Good. Maybe you can teach the shelter, then.” The room was already contentious since Mark asked the Board straight out if they intend to continue gassing cats and finding that the answer was, “Yes.”  Things broke up after that.

The Board seems to understand that the tide of history is against them on the gas chamber, but they still aren’t keen to move forward on the issue. I had really hoped to prevent this from escalating to an unpleasant social media campaign, but that seems like it’s going to have to be the next step. If we have to fill that meeting room with angry people, then that is what we’ll do. Shouldn’t be hard…it’s not that big a room.

Speech text:

Around this time last year, a man in the Weatherstone development in Wadsworth found a cat.

This cat was friendly, neutered, and declawed. The man thought that the cat must belong to someone nearby, but because it seemed hungry, he fed the cat. He thought that the cat would eventually go home, but three weeks later, he’s still feeding this cat. It’s now getting very cold at night and he’s worried about the cat. He calls the Medina County Animal Shelter to ask what to do.

Knowing that this is a person concerned for the safety of an apparently healthy animal and knowing that this person has been feeding this animal for a period of time, they had the opportunity to prevent this cat from ever entering the shelter.  They could have asked the man to send them a photo of the cat, so that they can post it online and get it networked in case an owner was looking for the cat. They could have told the man about how if he brings the cat to the nearest vet, the vet will scan the cat for a microchip for free. They could have told him how to build an insulated shelter for the cat that would cost him less than the $10 surrender fee and would keep the cat safe until the owner could be found or until online networking got the cat to a new home.

But they missed this opportunity and simply said, “Bring him in”.

Now the shelter has the cat.

At this point, they have an opportunity to market a highly desirable animal, especially to renters who must have declawed cats to comply with their rental agreements. All they had to do was take a nice picture of this cat and post it online.

But they missed this opportunity and they did nothing.

A few days go by and now it’s Christmas Eve and this cat is the ONLY animal left in the shelter. There are three workers on duty, two hours to closing, and one cat who needs a home on Christmas Eve. At this point, the shelter had an opportunity to get this cat a home for Christmas.

All they needed to do was take his picture, post it online with an urgent plea –

TWO HOURS to closing and just one cat left! Will you please give him the gift of a home? He’s already neutered, declawed, and doesn’t want to spent his Christmas stuck in a cage. Hurry to the shelter and be this lonely cat’s Christmas miracle!

But they missed this opportunity and instead, they did…nothing. Then, they killed the cat.

Time and time again, the shelter fails to seize the opportunities to do better.  This lack of vision, lack of innovation has been pervasive at the shelter for a very long time, now. And that is why the shelter insists on continuing to use the gas chamber on cats, despite the fact that there are cheaper, and more humane methods immediately available to them. Despite the fact that it gives Medina the shameful reputation as the cat gassing capital of Ohio.

What we have here, is an opportunity.

An opportunity to finally shake off the dark ages of the gas chamber.

An opportunity to reform the shelter so that it that functions as shelter and is a source of pride for the community.

An opportunity to change.

Because change is inevitable. Medina County will get rid of its gas chamber. Gas chambers are being phased out all over the country, now. Seventeen states have already made it illegal to use on dogs and cats. Even Ohio is down to only a handful of counties that still use it at all.

So the REAL question is, “How hard do you want to fight to keep an antiquated piece of equipment left over from a less civilized time?”

Medina County deserves better.

Take this opportunity. Get rid of the gas chamber. Reform the shelter. Do Medina proud.

***

Read how Ms. Post became motivated to advocate for shelter reform.

Read her previous speeches to the county commissioners:

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Ms. Post and her reform efforts which appeared after her second speech to the county.

Shelter Reform Advocacy in Medina Co, OH – Week 3

Medina County animal advocate Casey Post once again addressed the public meeting of her county commissioners this week, this time with visual aids – enlarged, mounted photographs which she held up during her speech.

Ms. Post writes:

People who gather for these meetings regularly are starting to recognize me and I’m getting some nods and smiles from them. Before the meeting started, one of them turned around and spoke to me this week, telling me that he had to euthanize his old dog and it was very, very hard on him and he could understand how the compassion fatigue I spoke about last week could affect a man. But he cautioned me that “the powers that be” tend to be ok with “someone doing the dirty work” as long as it isn’t them. I assured him that there doesn’t have to BE dirty work if the shelter is run properly.

I was a little less nervous this time and highly recommend blasting your favorite “brave heart” music in the car or headphones just before you go in. Keep it playing in your head while you walk up to the podium. I also had a “relax word” that I started my speech with. I have to give my name and address before I start speaking, so I did that, took a breath, and said, “Okay.” That not only reminded me to unclench my buttocks, but also gives me a moment to take a breath before I launch into it. I think it helped with the timing of my delivery, too because in my head, it’s “Okay, let me explain this to you in small words with pictures…”.

Having photos worked out well. They were a decent size for the room (16×20, I think) and mounted on foam board, so easy to hold up and show around. Everyone had to look at them – even if they didn’t want to, they seemed compelled to look, so that may be helpful for anyone who is looking for ideas to help avoid being ignored during a presentation like this. Pleasant photos of cats seem to go over well. If the room were bigger or if the podium were bigger, I would have had bigger photos (OfficeMax does a nice job of printing and mounting), but these were plenty fine for the purpose. I had a copy of my speech taped to the back of each one, so I didn’t have to worry about keeping it in front of me, it was always there.

I couldn’t get any feedback from Commissioner Hambley, as he had to leave early in the discussion session for some appointment. But Commissioner Geissman informed me that “the shelter issue” is already a planned topic for next week. I think she meant next week’s discussion session, not the actual meeting (where things are voted on), but at least it’s some kind of starting point. I thanked her and assured her that I’ll be there.

Another reporter asked for my phone number and one of the local tiny papers has picked up the story. They didn’t contact me, but they did have a nice picture of a cat in the article, so I think that’s helpful. One of the reporters took photos of me during this speech, too. I guess they’re starting to realize that I’m not going away.

My concern right now is that the commissioners may be seeing this from the “every stray is a feral, every feral is a nuisance, all nuisances must die” point of view. I’m working to keep the focus on “how our animal shelter fails the community”. As far as I’m concerned, feral cat management is a different discussion entirely.

Speech text, including photos:

This is Percy.  Percy is my cat.

Percy is a vaccinated, neutered male, indoor-only cat.  Percy has a medical condition that means that he not only has his regular vet, but he also has an internal medicine specialist.  I have poured thousands of dollars into Percy.

I have a painter coming to the house today.  If the painter drops his ladder in the doorway and scares Percy out the door, he may panic at being outside and run away.  If my neighbor, being a good Christian man who is terribly allergic to cats finds him, he will want to do the right thing.  He will take Percy to the shelter and wanting to keep him safe, he pays the ten dollar surrender fee and signs the paper.

Now the shelter owns my cat.

They may or may not scan him for a microchip with a scanner that may or may not detect certain types of chips.  They will not take his picture and put it up on the web.  They will not hold him for a period of time so that I can reclaim him.

They will sell him to the next person who walks through the door.

Or they may try to put him in a cage, not knowing that his medical condition causes pain – pain that may make him lash out at being handled.  Now he’s labeled “aggressive” and is gassed to death.

My cat, my expensive, wanted cat, is now either living with someone who does not know about his medical needs or he is dead.  Because that is how our shelter operates.

This is Jack.

Jack is an ugly, battle scarred feral cat.  But Jack has a caretaker who has made certain that he is neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped.

This is Jack’s little yellow house that his caretaker built to protect him from the weather.  In the winter, the caretaker puts an insulated box in it with a deep bed of clean straw so Jack will stay warm and dry.

But Jack is no freeloader – he’s a working feral.  Jack earns his keep the old fashioned way as rodent control.  Jack’s caretaker values both his mousing skills and his quiet company.

Two teenage boys screwing around, throw firecrackers onto the caretaker’s property.  Jack panics and runs away.  He ends up in a trap that had been set out for a skunk.  The man who set the trap doesn’t check it until two days later.  He then throws the trap into the back of his pickup truck and drives it to the shelter.  Unsecured, the trap is bouncing and sliding around in the back.

Arriving at the shelter, normally quiet Jack is now out of his mind, lunging and snarling.  Shelter staff take one look at him and label him aggressive.

They do not put him in a quiet room and cover the trap to give him time to calm down.  They do not use a trap divider to keep him still so they can safely scan him for a microchip through the bars.  They do not use a pole syringe to sedate him so that they can safely take his photo and put him in a darkened cage with food and water.  They stick him in the gas chamber and they kill him.

We will never know how many wanted, owned cats ended up in the gas chamber at Medina County Animal Shelter, but as a cat owner I say that ONE is too many.  I want MY animal shelter to function as a safety net for our community’s cats.

I want proactive redemption policies in place.

I want the shelter to use scanners that pick up all three frequencies of microchips.

I want every, single cat scanned for a microchip on intake and I want that scan documented.

I want a photo taken of every, single cat on intake and I want that photo posted online.

I want every, single stray cat to have a stray hold of three business days, starting after the photo is posted.

I want every sick or injured cat immediately sent to the Medina County SPCA or taken to a vet for evaluation and appropriate treatment.

I want the shelter to physically accommodate the needs of the pregnant, the very young, the very stressed, and feral cats and to post these with a designation of URGENT and allow such animals to be transferred to a qualified rescue group within the stray hold period and to keep documentation of such.

If these VERY BASIC protocols are beyond the resources of the Medina County Animal Shelter, then they need to get out of the cat business.

Finally, I want the gas chamber dismantled and destroyed.  It is a blight on Medina County and a symbol of regressive policies.  It is offensive that this board tolerates its continued use.

***

Read how Ms. Post became motivated to advocate for shelter reform.

Read her previous speeches to the county commissioners:

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Ms. Post and her reform efforts which appeared after her second speech to the county.

UPDATED: 14 “Rescued” Cats Killed For Ringworm at TN Shelter

Update, 1:30pm:  Clarice sent me a link to a story that has been updated on WBIR.  Although the video report still says the cats were killed, the text version of the story has been updated to say the 14 cats were saved by an out of state rescue group.

Original post:

Some Petsmart stores apparently made a decision to stop supporting small rescues and partner with municipal pounds – at least, that was a complaint I began hearing from displaced rescuers whose cats were evicted from Petsmart in recent months.  But I hadn’t seen any third party confirmation until now.

Last month Annette Traore, who had been helping cats under the moniker Almost Home Animal Rescue for 9 years, told WVLT in Knoxville that Petsmart had turned her cats out in favor of the giving space to the Loudon County pound, which kills pets.  She was suddenly forced to take the Petsmart cats into her own home, along with a number of other cats who happened to be returned at the same time.  It was unfortunate timing but Ms. Traore says she did the best she could.  In addition to setting up her basement with cages, cat trees, scratching posts, and litter boxes for the fully vetted cats, she networked them online and contacted the Young-Williams Animal Center for help.  When she learned that Young-Williams’s idea of help was killing her cats, Ms. Traore resolved to find homes for them on her own.  Not long after, the sheriff’s office was pounding on her front door, screaming at her:

“It scared the crap out of me. I started calling my husband and the next thing I know they’re tearing up the stairs with a gun drawn.” said Traore.

Ms. Traore was accused of hoarding and charged with five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.  Forty-one cats were taken from Ms. Traore’s home to the Young-Williams Animal Center.  She spoke to WVLT because she wanted to set the record straight that she was not hoarding animals.  She was actively seeking homes for them and was simply in a bind at the time of the raid due to circumstances.  Her lawyer stated they were hoping Petsmart would step up to help.

This week, Young-Williams killed fourteen of the cats because they had ringworm, a treatable skin condition.

“Sometimes euthanization is the most humane treatment. To put the other animals at risk in our shelter to contact this disease, as well as our staff and community, it’s a difficult situation but it’s a very necessary decision,” said Jeff Ashin, Young-Williams Animal Center CEO.

[...]

Young-Williams wants to make sure people are spaying and neutering their cats to avoid situations like this one.

“Until more animals across our region are spayed and neutered, overcrowding will continue to be an issue that leads to these unwanted life-and-death decisions,” Ashin said.

Mr. Ashin also admitted that rescue groups outside TN had offered to take the ringworm cats.

I assume CEO is code for Thug at Young-Williams.  That’s some kind of bullying on display there.  Dear Community, Until some unquantifiable thing happens region-wide, we’re going to keep killing pets.  Don’t think your pets are safe.  We’re coming for you.  Love, Your Local Animal Shelter

You may be wondering what Young-Williams is doing to move these pets out of the shelter – besides killing, I mean.  Shelter vet Rebekah DeBolt spells it out:

“We are completely full of cats right now. We don’t have room to juggle them at all so these are just sitting here waiting for ones on the adoption floor to get adopted,” Dr. DeBolt said.

Just sitting here waiting.  Brilliant.

Young-Williams by the way, is the same place that recently shipped dogs to a pet killing facility in Detroit because, you know, there’s a shortage there.

Thanks for nothing Petsmart, Knox County Sheriff’s Department, and Young-Williams Animal Center.  Every living being involved in this tragic story is so much better off now, thanks to your efforts.  Way to serve your community.

(Thank you Carlotta and Clarice for the links.)

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