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.)

Family Believes NC Pound Illegally Killed Their Lost Cat

Burley, as pictured on the WCNC website.

Burley, as pictured on the WCNC website.

The Caldwell Co pound in NC is a cat killing machine.  In 2014, the pound killed 94% of the 1448 cats it impounded.  The facility’s website states that owners can look for their lost pets on Petfinder (and emphasizes the pound staff does not want owners calling the place).  But when I clicked through to Petfinder, it said no animals were listed.  The website does have 3 cats listed as adoptable but none have photos.  They’re doing the best they can, prolly.

When the family of a lost cat named Burley found out their pet had been impounded by the Caldwell Co pound the day before Good Friday, the staff had already gone home for the long holiday weekend.  Burley’s family went to the Caldwell Co pound when it reopened on Monday to inquire about him and were shown paperwork on 5 cats – 1 of whom matched Burley’s description.  When they went to look at the caged cats, 3 of the 5 cats were missing, including Burley.

Burley’s family believe he was killed by staff at the Caldwell Co pound.  But the director told a local news reporter that he thinks the cat escaped his cage somehow and then the building.  Somehow.  No word on whether the other 2 “missing” cats were also in on this great escape.

Burley’s owners consider him family and believe the people paid to protect him killed him in violation of the mandatory holding period, then fabricated a story to cover up their wrongdoing.  I can’t help wondering about the 1354 cats killed by the Caldwell Co pound last year.  How many of them had owners who wanted them back, just like Burley?  How many were held for the mandatory holding period – is anyone monitoring that?  Where are the other 2 cats who were discovered “missing” along with Burley?  How many owners of lost cats in Caldwell Co suffered heartbreak, never knowing what happened to their pets, and are now contemplating what tragic ends they may have met at the pound?

Caldwell Co taxpayers must demand better from their pound.  As it stands, they are funding a cat extermination facility.

(Thanks Clarice and Arlene for the link.)

The War on Cats: Arizona Edition

sb1260az

Portion of SB 1260 in Arizona

SB 1260 is currently awaiting the signature of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.  If signed into law, the bill would eliminate the mandatory holding period for cats lacking “discernable identification” who are found outdoors and brought to a county pound.  Those cats, including lost pets whose owners are looking for them and friendly, socialized cats who could be adopted, would be neutered, vaccinated, and dumped back on the street immediately after impound.

This bill serves to destroy the human-animal bond by breaking up families when owned cats get lost.  Taxpayer funded shelters are the very institutions which should be fighting to protect that bond, not trampling it.  It also endangers friendly cats who may lack the necessary skills to survive outdoors and should be adopted to a home.  The bill says eligible cats must be “living outdoors” but there is no way for a county pound to make this determination in most cases.  A friendly cat who is socialized to humans in fact may have lived indoors, even if he was found outside.  Further, the bill discriminates against cat owners by treating them as second class citizens behind dog owners, whose pets will still be protected by mandatory holding periods.

And finally, I can’t help but think of all the cats run through the spay mill at the Maricopa Co pound, who will be dumped back on the street after they wake up from surgery and potentially have their guts fall out in an alley somewhere.  They won’t be counted among Maricopa Co’s official dehiscence stats of course, since no one will ever know about the suffering deaths of these poor cats.

Cats deserve the same protections at our public animal shelters as dogs.  Cat owners love their pets just as much as dog owners love theirs.  Shelter staff should be required to do their jobs to reunite lost pets of all species with their owners and adopt socialized homeless pets to new owners.  It is a slippery slope to discriminate against cats while excusing shelter staff from performing their duties for an entire species.  Shame on the organizations who promote and defend this heinous practice.

If you are an Arizona resident and wish to contact Governor Ducey to demand equal protections for cats and dogs in public shelters, keep your comments respectful and visit this page for contact information.

(Thanks Anne for the link.)

Owned Cat Trapped by Police, Taken to Cat Killing Facility

The most recent yearly report posted for Baldwin Co Animal Control facility in Alabama is 2012.  That year, the county took in 2526 cats, killing 2304 of them – a kill rate of 91% for cats.  Clearly killing is the default for cats at the Baldwin Co pound and it is a rare event for any cat to leave the facility outside of a garbage bag.

Kiki, as pictured on al.com.

Kiki, as pictured on al.com.

Tragically, as if there aren’t enough cats already being killed at the facility, the Foley police department traps cats upon request and takes them to the Baldwin Co pound.

Foley pet owner Diana Rohe thought her 10 year old cat named Kiki had gotten lost in January.  She searched the neighborhood for weeks and offered a $1000 reward for Kiki, whom she had rescued as a kitten.  It turns out, Ms. Rohe’s neighbor had complained to the Foley police about cats getting into trash cans and requested that traps be set.  Kiki was caught in one of the traps, taken to the county pound and killed for “erratic behavior” although obviously her chances of being killed there were extremely high, all behavioral considerations aside, since she was a cat.  The neighbor stood by in silence as Ms. Rohe searched for her pet.  Ms. Rohe was unaware that traps had been set on the property.

This week, Ms. Rohe spoke before the Foley city council about the needless killing of her beloved pet:

“My cat lost her life because there is no warning from the city. There’s no kind of sign, there’s no kind of phone call, there’s no notice on the Internet, on a website or something to say, ‘We’re going to be setting traps in your area,'” Rohe said.

Rohe described her cat being “lured and tricked like a little kid with candy.”

[…]

“I’m just telling y’all my life has changed,” Rohe said emotionally. “I’m devastated over what she went through … They put her to sleep because she was so traumatized.”

Foley police chief David Wilson said that the officers will start putting up signs to notify residents when they have set traps for cats:

“I’ve apologized to her that her Kiki was put down like that,” he said. “You couldn’t have made this up. And we’re going take measure so it doesn’t happen again, at least like that.”

Maybe not exactly like that, but the pound’s statistics show that any cat brought in will most likely be killed.  Putting up trapping signs for cat haters to rip down won’t force the county shelter to start doing its job.  As it stands, the county is operating little more than a pet killing facility with regard to cats and the city of Foley should either demand that cats actually be sheltered or terminate the relationship with the pound.  If Foley insists on trapping cats, the city has an obligation to take them to a safe place and the Baldwin Co pound is not safe for cats.

(Thank you Anne for sending me this story.)

The War on Cats: Chicago Edition

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

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

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

chicago ordinance1

chicago ordinance2

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds like a slippery slope to me.

And a final GFY to cat owners from Fasseas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 Year Old Cat Illegally Impounded and Killed by Animal Control in CT

Wallingford, CT – Scott and Kim Palmer got their cat Zima from a neighbor 2 years ago when Zima was 19 years old. They converted an insulated shed in their yard for Zima, putting in several beds, a heater, and installing a window so Zima could enjoy the sunshine. The cat house was accessible via a covered kitty door.

Kim Palmer arrived home on November 12 to find Zima was missing. She began searching the neighborhood and went to Pent Road Animal Control. She was told at the pound that Zima had been impounded and killed due to possible rabies. Ms. Palmer said that Zima had been vaccinated and couldn’t possibly have been rabid. She went home to get her husband and they both returned to the pound, only to find the door locked. They have never received any reasonable explanation for why Zima was impounded and killed.

Connecticut’s animal laws can be read here. The statutes require cats to be vaccinated for rabies, which Zima reportedly was. And there are very narrow parameters which allow an ACO to impound a cat:

§ 22-332d. Impoundment and disposition of certain cats. Authority to spay or neuter unclaimed cat

(a) Any animal control officer for a municipality which has adopted an ordinance under subsection (b) of section 22-339d may take into custody any cat found to be damaging property other than property of its owner or keeper or causing an unsanitary, dangerous or unreasonably offensive condition unless such cat can be identified as under the care of its owner or a registered keeper of feral cats. The officer shall impound such cat at the pound serving the town where the cat is taken unless, in the opinion of a licensed veterinarian, the cat is so injured or diseased that it should be destroyed immediately, in which case the municipal animal control officer of such town may cause the cat to be mercifully killed by a licensed veterinarian or disposed of as the State Veterinarian may direct. The municipal animal control officer shall immediately notify the owner or keeper of any cat so taken, if known, of its impoundment. If the owner or keeper of any such cat is unknown, the officer shall immediately tag or employ such other suitable means of identification of the cat as may be approved by the Chief Animal Control Officer and shall promptly cause a description of such cat to be published once in the lost and found column of a newspaper having a circulation in such town.

Cats who are not deemed medically hopeless and suffering by a veterinarian must be held at the pound so their owners can reclaim them. And that’s if the cat was causing property damage – otherwise, it seems that an ACO has no authority to impound a cat. It appears that the Pent Road pound may have violated state laws by impounding and killing Zima. When the local paper reached out to the assistant ACO for comment on the case, she had nothing to say.

There is a provision in the state laws for owners who have had their pets taken by ACOs to complain:

§ 22-335. Removal of municipal animal control officer. Complaint against municipal animal control officer

Any municipal animal control officer may be removed by the authority which appointed him or by the commissioner, and a successor may be appointed by such authority or commissioner. Any owner of a dog or cat aggrieved by the taking of such dog or cat by a municipal animal control officer may make complaint to the appointing authority of such municipal animal control officer or to the commissioner; and if, upon investigation of the complaint, the authority or the commissioner finds that the municipal animal control officer took the dog or cat otherwise than in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, or abused or cruelly treated the dog or cat, the authority or the commissioner may remove the officer and appoint his successor.

I hope the Palmers file a complaint. How many other owned pets has the Pent Road pound impounded and immediately killed? How many owners have given up hope after finding the facility’s doors locked and/or being met with the staff’s refusal to provide explanations as to what happened to their pets?  Where are the records for Zima and all the other pets killed at this facility indicating a vet determined them to be medically hopeless and suffering?

Cats are second class citizens in far too many so-called shelters in this country.  It’s past time for that to change.  Oh but nobody WANTS to kill animals, it’s all the irresponsible public’s fault, spay-neuter would solve everything and [insert your favorite myth here].

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

Capital Area Humane Society Increases Lifesaving for Cats by Engaging Public

It’s been depressing watching these so-called animal shelters and consultants announce they are going to “save more cats” by turning lost, owned cats back out into the street and/or selling lost, owned cats immediately upon impound.  Reuniting lost pets with their owners is not only part of the job at any shelter, it’s one of the best parts of the job to my mind.  I guess that’s why these groups feel compelled to lie about their reasons for failing at it so egregiously, blaming the “irresponsible” public even as they themselves violate the law and their own ethical responsibilities as temporary caretakers of the community’s pets.

An extremely handsome cat named Bill, listed as adoptable on the Capital Area HS website.

An extremely handsome cat named Bill, listed as adoptable on the Capital Area HS website.

It would be easy enough for any shelter to look at this trend of treating stray cats as second class pets and say “Works for us – let’s join in!”  After all, cats are harder to shelter than dogs and if you’re lazy and don’t care about keeping families together to being with, why should you bother coming up with actual solutions to the myriad issues surrounding cat sheltering?  But the staff at the donor funded Capital Area Humane Society in Ohio didn’t take the easy way out when it came to revamping their cat protocols.  They didn’t blame the public, they embraced the fact that most people who bring cats to a shelter are trying to do the right thing.  They didn’t break up families for personal profit, they gave surrendering parties supplies to keep families together, even if just temporarily.

Staff at the Capital Area Humane Society used to spend 3 hours a day killing cats and had a live release rate of just 32% for cats.  They knew their cat protocols needed an overhaul.  On September 1, staff began implementing new admission protocols for all surrendered animals but cats, including strays, have particularly benefited:

With the new protocol, an animal that is brought in to the Humane Society near Hilliard receives an exam, vaccinations and necessary medications for a nominal fee, which might be waived if the client dropping off the animal can’t pay. The client is then offered supplies, such as food and litter, and the option of fostering or keeping the animal.

The shelter also slashed adoption fees on cats and is now selling kittens for $25 and cats over 6 months of age for $10.  And a new partnership with five area rescue groups is allowing the community to step up even more.

By October 23, the kill rate for cats at the shelter had dropped by 58% and the killing of healthy, friendly cats for space dropped by 93%.

An example of how the new system works for stray cats:

Caity Waites of Huber Heights, near Dayton, said she and her roommate received assistance with three stray kittens under the new system, turning to the society when a number of other shelters said they couldn’t help.

After the veterinary exam, the women agreed to foster the animals until the society could take them. They ended up finding homes for two themselves and keeping the third.

[…]

“It was just the easiest thing in the world,” Waites said. “They just genuinely wanted the kittens to get homes. The whole experience was completely seamless and friendly and caring from start to finish.”

I’m so glad these people were able to foster and find homes for two of the kittens and decided to give the one kitten a permanent home.  These are good people, as are most people who turn to a shelter for assistance with pets.  I only hope their kitten never gets lost and if she does, she isn’t picked up by one of the lazy shelters with a policy of either putting the kitten back out on the street or immediately selling her for profit.

Improvements can and should be made in poorly performing shelters.  Taking a fresh look at how cats are sheltered is a good idea.  Breaking up families, putting owned cats back on the street and blaming the public have no place in any shelter.  It’s the opposite of why we have shelters in our society.  Good on the Capital Area HS for putting in the hard work to save more cats.  Keep going.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Lincoln Co Pound Manager Threatens to Kill Up to 100 Cats for Convenience

Tipped over in his carrier for a photo, this cat is listed as an adoptable pet by the Lincoln Co pound on Petpoint.

Tipped over in his carrier for a photo, this cat is listed as an adoptable pet by the Lincoln Co pound on Petango.

On Wednesday, David Workman, the manager at the long troubled Lincoln Co pound in NC, issued a public threat to kill up to 100 cats if they didn’t get adopted by Friday. The pound had 184 cats on Wednesday.

Workman wanted the media to know that killing is a last resort, which totally jives with giving the public less than 2 days notice to adopt 100 cats. And that hey, you know what? – there actually is a sad in this story:

[N]one of the employees enjoy doing that process [of killing animals] so that is the most unfortunate thing about it.

Most unfortunate thing. Not the mountain of dead pets who had the right to live but fell victim to pound workers who fail to do their jobs. The staff at the Lincoln Co pound won’t enjoy killing 100 cats. *sniff* Gosh, that is truly tragic.

Also:

Workman added that overpopulation can be avoided if families just remembered to get their cats spayed or neutered.

Pet overpopulation is a myth. But even if it was real, it does not give shelters the right to kill pets. And most owners neuter their pets. The reason that some don’t is not because they freaking forgot. It’s because they can’t afford it, do not have (or know about) low cost spay-neuter clinics in their area and/or lack transportation for the pet to and from the clinic. And since spay-neuter is not magic, the Lincoln Co pound would do well do start addressing its actual problems and stop blaming the public for its failings.

You know what I’ve heard is an enjoyable thing at animal shelters? Getting all the healthy/treatable pets out alive. The most unfortunate thing is that Lincoln Co seems content to operate in the dark ages.

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

Michigan Humane Goes Rogue on Mandatory Holding Periods for Stray Cats Lacking Identification

The war on cats by so-called humane animal organizations continues.

Michigan state law regarding mandatory holding periods for impounded animals is clear:

Act 224 of 1969287.388 Disposition of dogs or cats; time; notice; record; exceptions.

Sec. 8.

A dealer, a county, city, village, or township operating a dog pound or animal shelter shall not sell or otherwise dispose of a dog or cat within 4 days after its acquisition. If the dog or cat has a collar, license, or other evidence of ownership, the operator of the pound or shelter shall notify the owner in writing and disposition of the animal shall not be made within 7 days from the date of mailing the notice. Each operator of a pound or shelter shall be required to maintain a record on each identifiable dog or cat acquired, indicating a basic description of the animal, the date it was acquired and under what circumstances. The record shall also indicate the date of notice sent to the owner of an animal and subsequent disposition.

This section does not apply to animals which are sick or injured to the extent that the holding period would cause undue suffering, or to animals whose owners request immediate disposal.

(Red font added for emphasis.)

On October 21, the long troubled Michigan Humane Society reportedly sent a mass email advising volunteers of its new policy for impounded cats lacking identification.  The portion relevant to the new policy:

Currently, there is no statutory hold for cats.  It has been MHS practice to hold stray cats for at least 4 days before placing them up for adoption. However, in order to save more cat lives, MHS, effective immediately, will maintain no hold time for stray cats who are immediately adoptable and do not have any form of traceable identification.

Cats with any form of traceable identification will be held for 7 days while we attempt to contact their owners.

(Red font added for emphasis.)

Despite the claim made by MHS that “there is no statutory hold for cats”, the law is clear.  Every animal is entitled to at least a 4 day holding period so their owners, if they have any, can find them.  MHS knows this.  And they know the holding period is crucial to allowing families to find their lost pets. Snipped from the MHS webpage entitled “What to do if you find a stray animal”:

Is this animal lost or abandoned?  Regardless of his appearance, start with the assumption that the animal may be a loved animal who is greatly missed by his family.  Even a normally healthy, friendly animal who has become lost may take on a “homeless” appearance and frightened demeanor.  The animal’s coat may become dirty and matted and he may lose weight rapidly or sustain injuries.  And the absence of a collar or tag does not always mean the animal left home without one.

[…]

The best chance for an animal to be reunited with his family is if you turn him in to the appropriate holding facility.

[…]

If you have found an animal without identification and wish to keep the animal:
you must make a report to the animal control organization responsible for your geographic area and you must take appropriate steps to locate the original owner.

[…]

Regardless of whether you hope to keep the pet or not, you must take appropriate steps to locate the original owner. This will prevent “property” disputes in the future if you do decide to keep the animal, and will give the pet the best opportunity to find his original owner whether you bring him to the shelter, or keep him at your home during your search.

[…]

FILE A FOUND REPORT ASAP with the local animal control or police in the city or county where you found the dog, cat or other animal. […] You may be given the option to keep the animal during the stray hold period; this is at the discretion of the shelter.

Despite the stance MHS has adopted on its website that lost, owned pets may not be wearing identification, that keeping them for the mandatory stray hold is legally required and that searching for the owner is an absolute must, MHS seems to have zero interest in practicing what it preaches.

Last year around this time, SB560 – a bill MHS crafted – was introduced in the state Senate.  The bill would have reduced the mandatory holding period for stray cats lacking identification from 4 days to 2 days, making it harder for families to reclaim their lost pets.  SB560 died in committee and the law mandating the minimum 4 day holding period remains.

So after failing to get the law changed to their liking, MHS has apparently decided to claim the law does not exist.  Assuming MHS has put into practice the policy change detailed in the email, it means they are putting stray “adoptable” cats who lack identification immediately up for sale.  This is a clear violation of state law.  Failing to obey the mandatory holding period law for stray cats means that families are needlessly and illegally being broken up by MHS.

The Michigan Political Action Committee for Animals is asking concerned citizens to contact the state Department of Agriculture:

[C]ontact the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and file a complaint that our state’s largest and wealthiest private shelter is violating state law by ignoring mandatory stray hold times for cats, denying owners the opportunity and the right to reclaim their lost cat.

(Thanks Clarice and Anne for the heads up on this story.)

Charleston City Council Considers Bill Allowing the City to Steal Owned Cats

In West Virginia, Charleston city council’s ordinance and rules committee passed a draconian cat bill this week and sent it to the full city council for consideration.  How extreme is it, you ask?

Assistant city attorney Mandi Carter said the ordinance is different from the city’s already-on-the-books animal nuisance ordinances in that it gives the city the power to pick up and impound cats on private property without permission.

The bill includes fines for cat owners but fails to define how ownership is to be determined.  It also fails to address community cats – free living cats not socialized to people whose home is the outdoors – the group that is presumably the source of most of the complaints the city receives about cats.

The sole nay vote on the committee came from at-large Councilman Chris Dodrill:

“I totally understand that the perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good. But I also don’t think we should pass bad laws just to do something,”

Councilman Joe Deneault told the local paper, in essence, the council should pass bad laws just to do something:

“We’ve been looking for a perfect solution forever, and we haven’t even come close to finding it. This is a measure toward some solution. It may not be perfect, but it is certainly better than doing nothing,” he said.

And when he says forever, he means not forever.  Councilman Dodrill:

“We talk about this once a year for an hour. … I think we can work harder and figure something else out that’s going to work.”

On top of all this, the shelter and police department responsible for enforcing the proposed ordinance say they do not have the cage space or humane officers to do so. And even if they did, enforcing such a law would be a waste of time anyway:

“If time is spent on cat calls, there are animal control concerns, safety concerns, that go unattended in the community. So, vicious dogs; dog fighting; children being bit by animals. And when so much time is spent on cat issues, true animal control public safety issues go unanswered,” [Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association Director Chelsea] Staley said.

Ms. Staley told the committee that residents can use things like citrus and coffee grounds on their property to discourage cats from entering. Some guy who spoke in support of the ordinance wanted to know if irresponsible cat owners were going to foot the bill for the orange peels and the stuff left in the coffee filter that otherwise goes in the trash. Sounds like there was legitimate debate anyway.

The Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association has put up an online petition calling for the bill to be tabled and replaced by something that makes a tiny bit of sense and doesn’t include stealing people’s cats.

If the Charleston city council would scrap this bill and be willing to consider a TNR program for its community cats, I would personally pledge to send my used citrus fruits and coffee grounds to that one guy worried about the cost.  Win-win?

(Thanks Clarice and Anne for the links.)

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