Lazy, Lying Kitten Killers at AL Pound Get Served

When a freshly bathed, neutered kitten called Porkchop accidentally got out the door of his owner’s apartment in January, he was found by an upstairs neighbor and taken to the Mobile Co pound in AL.  The pound killed the kitten within minutes of his arrival.  Now the owner has filed a lawsuit.

At issue is the pound’s failure to hold the cat for the mandatory five day stray holding period so that his owner could reclaim him.

The lawsuit names Mobile County and three employees, Andrew Stubbs, Carmelo Miranda and Donna Jones as defendants, claiming the employees violated a shelter policy placing a five-day hold on animals between the time they are received and when they are euthanized. There are a total of four counts including outrage, conversion, conspiracy and negligent supervision. Hughes is asking for a jury trial to consider compensatory and punitive damages.

“[The shelter] has a five-day stray hold policy for this very reason, if somebody lost a pet,” Barnard said. “It’s certainly not a 30-minute stray hold policy.”

Making a tragic situation worse, the pound staff attempted to cover up the unlawful killing when the owner came looking for her pet.  The staff eventually admitted they had killed Porkchop but later claimed he had been brought to the pound in a trap and was determined upon impound to be feral.

The owner’s attorney has obtained “a statement and pictures from the neighbor showing that the cat rode to the shelter in his lap and was acting like a normal, domesticated pet.”  The attorney contends that because Porkchop was admitted near the end of the day, the pound staff was too lazy to set up a cage for him so killed the pet instead.  Mobile Co is in the wrong here, in so many ways:

  • Killing healthy/treatable cats, whether tame or feral, is wrong.
  • Killing cats upon impound is wrong.
  • Evaluating cats’ behavior at time of impound is wrong.
  • Failing to hold a cat so the owner can find him is wrong.
  • Lying to the owner who is looking for her cat is wrong.
  • Fabricating a story about the cat being feral is wrong.

Anyone advocating for the removal of mandatory holding periods for stray cats lacking identification needs to remember Porkchop.  His owner was looking for him and wanted him back.  Had the staff at the Mobile Co pound done their jobs as required by law, Porkchop would be living at home today.  Presumably most AL shelters, though not Mobile Co obviously, abide by the law and hold unidentified stray cats so their owners can reclaim them.  If the stray holding period law were to be removed, there would be no legal protections in place to allow cats like Porkchop to be returned to their rightful owners.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

“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.)

The Tuh Files: There is a Shortage of Dogs in Michigan

In August, Bloomberg ran a piece claiming there were 50,000 stray dogs in Detroit, MI – a claim widely disputed by various animal advocates.  (We talked about it on the blog at the time.)  Michigan Humane Society, which doesn’t hold an animal control contract but functions primarily as a pet killing facility anyway, was not one of the agencies disputing the figure at the time.  In fact, they tried to fundraise off the claim.

Regardless of the what actual number is, Detroit does have stray dogs and they are being killed at a horrifying rate at area animal shelters.  When asked about the ACOs who work in the field, rounding up the city’s stray dogs, AC head Harry Ward told Bloomberg:

“We are really suffering from fatigue, short staffed” and work too much overtime, he said in an interview.

Kristen Huston from All About Animals Rescue talked about the problem of widespread breeding among owned pets allowed to roam the streets of Detroit:

She said many dogs that appear to be abandoned actually have owners who allow them to wander. Those dogs often end up breeding with others, exacerbating the problem.

Daniel Carlisle of Detroit Dog Rescue also addressed the problem of uncontrolled breeding among stray dogs in the city:

“And the warehouses are large doghouses. They’re walking into these places, they’re bedding down in them and they’re mating.”

But while the city ACOs are working overtime to get stray dogs off the streets and into the kill rooms at area shelters, Michigan Humane is importing dogs from TN in a pretty white van with their logo on it, all shined up for the TV news crews.

Because there is a shortage of dogs in Michigan.

Because everyone in Michigan neuters their pets.

And other myths.

From WATE:

“Our centers are not full,” said Erin Campbell with the Michigan Humane Society. “We don’t often have small dogs or puppies. It seems spay and neutering has taken off so that’s why don’t have the puppies that are in the south.”

When a pet killing facility imports shelter animals from out of state, it appears they are doing it for personal profit and/or publicity.  They are obviously not doing it to save animals since they are killing pets they already have.  In the case of Michigan Humane, they are claiming to have empty space while simultaneously asking for donations to help save the supposed 50,000 stray dogs in Detroit.  And driving to Knoxville for more.  Apparently 50,000 dogs don’t stretch as far as they used to.

I hope the next time Michigan Humane sends its shiny logo van to the south to import more dogs into its pet killing facility, the local news will do a piece on displacement killing.  And fraud.  It’s always disappointing when reporters don’t lift the veil on the feel-good stories being fed to them.  All it would take is the tiniest bit of research to uncover the fact that Michigan Humane kills pets instead of saving them while bilking compassionate donors out of millions of dollars.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Another Reason We Need Shelter Reform

On Tuesday of last week, I was driving home when I saw an emaciated dog running on a rural road.  As I slowed my car, she attempted to approach so I took it she was friendly.  I was very close to home at that point so decided to go get her something to eat.  We don’t personally have the resources to do the job our taxpayer funded shelter is supposed be doing, but we always try to help as best we are able.

At the house, I grabbed a hunk of cornbread that was ready for the dogs’ dinner and Billy grabbed a raw meaty bone.  We drove back to the area where we had seen the dog.  She was still there and walked right up to gently take the cornbread from my hand.  Her tail was wagging like mad when we left her with the bone.  On the very short drive back, Billy suggested we should leave her some kibble.  So he scooped up a gelato container full of kibble at the house and we returned to the dog eating her bone.  Lying down, she was hardly recognizable as a dog, looking merely like an oddly stacked pile of bones under a towel.  She was again super friendly and devoured the kibble, although she was willing to leave it in order to return to our car for some love.  On the way home, I said we should have thought about bringing her water since kibble makes dogs thirsty.  Billy went inside the house and emerged with a container full of water.

This time when we returned to the area, the dog was nowhere in sight and her bone was at the roadside.  There were two cars stopped in the road ahead, the drivers talking to one another.  One of them had a Dalmatian puppy in the cab of his truck but I couldn’t see inside the other vehicle.  They drove away and we left the water but never saw the dog again.  The only thing I could imagine that would make that starving dog leave her bone was the opportunity for human affection.  I assume one of those stopped drivers picked her up.

My heart sank when Billy said, “Oh no.  I hope they didn’t take her to the animal shelter.”  It was a real possibility because so many compassionate people believe their local animal shelter is the proper place to take animals in need and that the people who work there love animals.  The truth is that our local pound, like so many others across this country, is little more than a pet slaughterhouse.  They kill 3 out of every 4 pets in their care and the only effort that seems to be expended is in covering up the killing and hiding it from the public.  They like to promote how, instead of doing their jobs, they ship the dogs they are supposed to be caring for up north, where animals in shelters are also killed.  Our local public shelter is no safe haven and if this dog was brought there, she would have very little chance of survival.

I’ve been thinking of this poor dog every day since Tuesday.  My hope is that she was picked up and brought home by someone who was in a position to care for her.  I am clinging to that hope.  If it weren’t for the actions I hear about every day from the so-called irresponsible public, whom pound directors blame for the killing they do, I would have no such hope.  Thank you irresponsible public for defying the labels hung on you by shelter pet killers everywhere.  I will keep working for shelter reform so that one day, my local shelter will truly be a safe haven for dogs and cats in need.

Merced Police Department Changes Policy Regarding Injured Pets

Effective immediately, the Merced police department in CA will no longer drive injured stray animals to the shooting range for killing.  The change was announced by Lt. Bimley West during a news conference on Tuesday.

“Our citizens have stated the times have changed and it’s time that we make a change,” West said Tuesday. “They have spoken. We have heard them clearly, and we have made a change in our policy.”

While this policy change is welcome news, there are some remaining concerns.

The only time officers will shoot animals is if they are being attacked, West said.

Historically, police officers nationwide have used questionable judgment in determining when lethal force is required against a pet.  And I’m being generous with the term questionable judgment.

I am also concerned that the new policy is impractical in that it requires officers to call a local vet to come to the scene of every injured animal, evaluate the pet and euthanize by injection if warranted.  The city has no vet contracted for this work and finances are a concern.

“I hope we can get vets to do that and work out an agreement to minimize costs,” [Merced Mayor Stan] Thurston said.

He hopes.  Isn’t this the sort of thing that should have been worked out before the policy was changed?  It seems far more realistic to my mind that vets might be willing to help if the injured animal is transported to their clinic, where they will have access to the equipment, staff and supplies needed for evaluation.  I can’t help but wonder if the Merced police department is setting itself up for failure with this policy change which would give them an opening to return to the decades-old practice of driving pets to the shooting range for killing.  Hey, we tried to stop shooting pets to death but we couldn’t get vets to drive out in the rain in the middle of the night to examine injured pets in the road.

I would rather they apply (the dreaded) common sense and figure that since their officers have been driving injured pets to the shooting range all these years, they are capable of driving them to the vet for evaluation.  Vets will surely charge less for services rendered at their own clinics than those rendered in the field on an emergency on-call basis.  And it would seem to be a far more reliable method of obtaining veterinary services in a timely manner.

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

Petsmart Charities/Ipsos Study: The Where and Why of Adoption

Ipsos Marketing conducted studies for Petsmart Charities on a variety of issues related to pet adoption in 2009 and 2011.  In this post, I am going to look at some of the survey results indicative of why people want to adopt, where they are getting their pets and why more people aren’t getting them from rescues/shelters.

Unsurprisingly, the reason most people want to adopt is to rescue a pet.  (pages 18 – 20)  And yet we see so many invasive and outrageous adoption requirements from rescues and shelters, purportedly because they feel obligated to protect pets from dogfighters, hoarders, and animal abusers.  Put another way, the study found that most adopters are driven by compassion.  Shouldn’t we operate on the assumption that all applicants are kind-hearted unless we find out differently?

Some rescues and shelters are driving potential adopters away.  Where are people getting pets instead?  (page 11)  The primary source for cats is the neighborhood.  More cat owners acquired their most recent pet as a stray than any other source.  More dog owners got their last dog from a family member or friend.  What ties these sources together?  The adoption process is super easy, there are no up front costs to obtain the pet, and in the case of stray cats, the adopter feels they are rescuing the pet.

About 25% of recent pet owners surveyed for the study researched online before acquiring a pet.  (page 12)  Shelters and rescues should ask themselves:

  • Is our website user friendly and up to date?
  • Are our photos and bios of available pets uplifting?
  • Do we have a contact e-mail easily visible on the site and are we checking it regularly and replying promptly to inquiries?

Regarding perceptions of the local pound (page 16):

  • 38% of respondents believe the facility has limited hours – This is an easy fix.
  • 44% believe the pound is against animal cruelty – Wow, the fact that this isn’t close to 100% should be a wake up call for animal control units.
  • 23% think the pets there are well cared for – I interpret this to indicate that most people believe pets are being neglected, abused or otherwise subjected to substandard treatment at their local pound.
  • 32% flat out don’t want to visit the pound because it’s too depressing – No kidding.

There is a lot of useful information here for rescues and shelters. Remember that the math shows us we only need to increase adoptions of shelter pets by a little bit nationwide in order to get every healthy/treatable animal into a home.  It seems like many of our rescues and shelters could do a little bit better simply by applying the Petsmart Charities research to their marketing and protocols.

Pre-emptive Strike: ACOs Drag Dog Across Parking Lot to Avoid Possibility He Might Miss a Meal

The above image purportedly depicts two Birmingham-Jefferson Co ACOs using a net and a chokepole to drag a dog across a restaurant parking lot in AL. The person who claims to have witnessed and photographed the alleged abuse states that the dog is a friendly stray, known by locals who regularly feed him.

Outraged pet lovers bombarded the pound’s Facebook page with questions and concerns about the dog. The pound posted the following response:

While we have tried to respond to all of the comments being made it will be impossible to reach out to everyone. We appreciate everyone’s concern for this dog! We wish the concern was there BEFORE we were asked to remove him! Our officers were performing their jobs and were utilizing capture equipment designed for both the safety of the animals AND the officers. The photo shows one moment of what must have been a very stressful capture and shows the officers leading the dog to the vehicle. This has been shown to be the least stressful and safest method for moving an aggressive animal. While a dog may not show aggression when someone tosses him a biscuit we did receive a report that his dog growled at a patron (which is why we were there in the first place) Stray dogs do not usually trust a stranger and we are trained to handle cute and fuzzy puppies all the way up to the large dog that bit the neighbor’s child. We must first and foremost protect the public! Our techniques may look barbaric to the untrained public but we have extensive training and often are called to remove a dog that has bitten a citizen who was “just trying to help!” Any dog can bite and we are prepared for those circumstances. If we can lead a dog out on a leash we do and many people have witnessed this. Before you sit in your warm living rooms and decide to demand justice for this dog we ask that you consider he could still be out of the street dodging traffic and trying to locate his next meal. That is not a good life for a dog and we provide them with a shelter and food and if we can, a better life with a new family! Thank you all for your comments and we will continue to follow this and respond if we feel additional information is necessary!

So apparently if you weren’t concerned about this dog’s welfare BEFORE, (never mind that no one but locals knew this dog existed) you have no right to complain about the photographic evidence of what appears to be taxpayer funded abuse NOW, especially if your living room is warm.  Oh and they heard the dog had once growled at someone.  So obviously the next logical step was dragging the dog across the pavement by a chokepole and a net.  Because public safety!  And he might have missed a meal!

(Thanks Christine for alerting me to this photo.)

Discussion: Does this make you angry?

Someone apparently abandoned a dog on a road in York Co, SC.  The dog had on a collar with the words “I need a home.  Please take care of me.” handwritten on it.  A Good Samaritan picked the dog up and took her to a shelter.  The Good Sam was angered by the writing on the collar.  She is quoted as saying, “Somebody had the gall to write in marker, ‘I need a home, please take care of me.”  I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this.  What was your reaction to reading about the words written on the dog’s collar?

 

Discussion: When rescues and no kill shelters are full

Reader Susan sent me this post from a contact of hers in the Kansas City area.  Posted with permission:

A cute medium-sized black dog showed up at my brother and sister-in-laws house a few weeks ago. She had been dumped. She loved people and desperately wanted attention from anyone who would give it to her and even more, she wanted to come into their house. They have an elderly wiener dog and a senior (but not yet elderly) border collie. Those dogs were not happy with the new arrival so the stray dog stayed outside. They don’t have a fenced yard (their dogs are not ever unattended outdoors so they don’t need one). This new arrival was fed and watered until a solution could be found.

Numerous rescue groups were contacted. No one had room for this sweet dog. The local no-kill shelters were contacted. No one had room there either for this sweet dog. Then one day they awoke in the a.m. and the dog was gone. She had moved on in an attempt to find someone else who could help her.

OK, now I’m to the point of this post. How does one help a homeless stray if there is nowhere to take it (other than high-kill shelters)? In a high-kill shelter this dog would be doomed, as it was black. But our no-kill shelters are nearly always at capacity. Even rescue groups wouldn’t list this dog on their “Other dogs” web pages without a mountain of paperwork and a waiting list to “process” the paper work.

I am frustrated by this story, as my brother and sister-in-law were willing to help this dog, but were not in a situation to keep her for any length of time. So where does one take a stray dog so that is not condemned to die straight away…?

Is this a situation you have encountered?  What are your thoughts on the subject?

Do Community Pets Need a Legal Status?

In the American justice system, a person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  I’ve been wondering if unowned pets – including those surrendered to or picked up by animal control, those abandoned at or taken to a veterinary clinic, as well as those taken in by compassionate animal lovers – shouldn’t be legally afforded a certain status: Presumed Wanted.  That is to say, every pet, regardless of whether he appears to have no owner or even if it is known that his owner surrendered ownership of him, should be granted the presumption of being wanted by someone.  That someone might be the current owner (in the case of a lost pet) or a future adopter (in the case of a surrendered pet).  If we were legally obligated to to presume that there are people out there who want every unowned pet in this country, that would be the end to pet killing, right?  (Of course, as always, I separate needless killing from true euthanasia of pets who are medically hopeless and suffering.)  Just as we do not sentence criminal defendants who are presumed innocent, we could not kill a pet we presume is wanted by someone.

I know there are many facets to this complex issue and I hope you will chime in with your thoughts.  As a general outline, I am thinking in terms of the “finder” – the person or shelter who has possession of the pet – having a few basic obligations:

1.  If the finder is unable or unwilling to provide basic humane care for the pet for at least the legally mandating holding period afforded to strays in shelters, he must turn the pet over to the shelter.

2.  If the finder decides to provide basic humane care for the pet for at least the legally mandated holding period, he must report the found pet to his local shelter (or national database, if one existed).

3.  Once the legally mandated holding period has expired, the finder must either offer the unclaimed pet for adoption, adopt the pet himself, or turn the pet over to the shelter so that he can be offered for adoption.

This would only work if every shelter offered listings (available at the shelter and online) of all found pets reported (or if we had a single national database for this information).  Does your local shelter offer this?  I tried searching for places to list a found pet online and there are many – too many to be useful in any meaningful way.  This is an area that needs improvement.  As things stand, when someone loses a pet, they are advised to browse the online listings of area shelters, visit the shelters in person since online listings may be lagging (or non-existent, in some cases), browse and post ads in the local newspaper, on Craigslist, the social networking sites, visit area vet clinics to inquire if they have taken in any strays and to post flyers, leave flyers posted at local pet businesses and on phone poles, conduct physical searches of the area where the pet was last seen, etc.  All this must be done daily.  While the owner works at his job, takes care of his kids, etc.  It’s impossible.  And if we had a legally mandated reporting system in place, it would be unnecessary.

The Presumed Wanted status for unowned pets would also remove the discretion of shelter staff and vets who receive strays to kill them, unless the pet was medically hopeless and suffering.  It would instead obligate those who choose to accept a stray pet to provide care during the required holding period, report the pet to a central agency and then to offer the unclaimed pet for adoption.

As I said, I know this is a multifaceted issue.  What are your thoughts?

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