Monthly Archives: April 2012

Pet Overpopulation Debunked: The Infographic

I really wanted a graphic representation of Nathan Winograd’s Debunking Pet Overpopulation. But no one seems to have made one. So I did it myself:Pet Overpopulation Debunked

Permission granted for use for all non-commercial No Kill advocacy.


Filed under No Kill

Amid statewide distemper outbreak, local vets shut down Richmond County affordable vaccination clinic

Over the past few months, distemper has closed pounds and cost the lives of hundreds of dogs in North Carolina. Robeson, Duplin, Wayne, Mecklenburg, Iredell and Ashe counties have all had outbreaks in their pounds, and there are probably more places where the pounds are keeping their outbreaks hushed up. In many cases, the shelter directors, most of whom did not have a policy of vaccination upon intake, blamed pet owners for not vaccinating.

Meanwhile, the NC branch of HSUS  and the Richmond County Humane Society (which runs the county pound) teamed up to make it easy and affordable for “underserved” pet owners in that county to help stop distemper via  a $3 vaccination clinic.  Each $3 copay for the donated vaccines was to go to the participating vet clinics, and pet owners would be referred to the vets for further services. But veterinarians Will Cooley of Cooley Veterinary Hospital in Rockingham, and Ralph Souder of Gandy Animal Hospital decided not to participate in  the clinic, which was to be held Saturday in Rockingham.

In a stunning display of complete stupidity and irresponsibility, Cooley said: “The general public’s animals are not affected by the distemper outbreak. We feel like non-profits are coming in to practice veterinary medicine. This hype about distemper alarms the public about a problem that is not a problem. They were not going to address the problem. Gathering dogs that are unvaccinated in one area would only make the problem worse.”

He went on to say that NC State University veterinary students, who were going to perform the actual vaccinations as practice, don’t need the practice and should “go to shelters and vaccinate those dogs.” While that would be a fantastic idea, Cooley’s argument that the “general public” shouldn’t bother vaccinating their dogs amid a statewide distemper outbreak is appalling.

Would Cooley say the same if someone were paying him the going rate of $15-30 per shot (plus office visit fee) for the service, or would he shut up, vaccinate the dogs and thank the owners for their business?

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Filed under Distemper, Richmond County

The problem with kill “shelters” in one photo …*

Luke in Tarboro

Everyone at the Edgecombe pound loves Luke. They love him so much they even vaccinated him, which they don't do for every dog. But they are still going to gas him on Tuesday because ... well that's what they do there.


Luke is a young pit mix who is loved by the staff at the Edgecombe County pound (Tarboro, NC). He is young, handsome, loves people and gets along great with other dogs–basically what many potential adopters are looking for. Unfortunately for Luke, he’s also exactly the kind of dog who gets killed regularly in places that call themselves shelters (and worse, in the gas chamber at many such as Edgecombe).

According to the poster of the photo: “The shelter loves him but they have to kill him, via gassing by Tuesday.” This is the heart of the problem. The Edgecombe pound does not “have” to kill this dog. The director and/or staff are CHOOSING to kill this dog. Saving this dog would be as simple as the pound director saying “We are going to find an alternative to killing this dog” and then assigning that task to staff, who might find a foster home, double him up in a run with another dog-friendly dog, get him to more off-site adoption events, get on the phone to rescue groups, etc. They can do it, and not just for Luke, because it has been done. There are step-by-step instructions.

But the Edgecombe pound chooses to kill animals. Lots of them (1,157 dogs, or 81 percent, and 1,129 cats, or 99 percent in 2010). And so they are going to gas Luke to death because that is what they do. Meanwhile, rescuers all over eastern NC are crossposting this guy like crazy, feeling sick and guilty because they haven’t been able to save him yet.

The poster of this photo says  of the Edgecombe pound: “Their adoption rate is so low they don’t even worm or give vaccines to the dogs as they come in. HOWEVER, everyone is in love with Luke and wants to save him, so we had shots given Saturday.”

I’ll leave off the rant about how not giving vaccines upon intake is basically choosing death over life to focus on the issue of adoption rates. Perhaps Edgecombe’s adoption rate is low because they advertise their animals with photos like this:


Maybe Edgecombe’s adoption rates are so low because they are only open Monday-Friday from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, when kids are in school and most working people are at work. I don’t know much more about the Edgecombe pound, but just speculating: maybe they don’t get the dogs to enough offsite adoption events, maybe their staff are rude to people, maybe their facility smells bad or is depressing. There are a lot of possible reasons people are not adopting in droves from Edgecombe, but there’s one thing for certain: they are things the pound director could do something about.

Instead they kill. In short, if the director and staff of the Edgecombe pound really wanted to avoid killing Luke, they only have to choose to save him. And if they don’t choose to save instead of kill, maybe it’s time to put someone else in that job.

*Yes, I know there are actually two photos in this post.

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Filed under Edgecombe, NC county/municipal pounds, No Kill

Iredell County had distemper outbreak in March, now vaccinates on intake

It’s starting to seem like “all distemper all the time” here in North Carolina. Here’s a story I missed a few weeks ago: the Iredell County pound had a distemper outbreak in late March.

Oh wait, the pound had not-an-outbreak, according to the director “I don’t believe this is an outbreak,” says shelter director Chris Royal, despite the fact that she reimbursed seven people their $80 adoption fee after their pets got sick.

Despite it not being an outbreak, Royal “depopulated” the facility, which is shelterspeak for “they killed all the dogs.”

The good news is that the Iredell pound is now vaccinating on intake.

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Filed under Distemper, NC county/municipal pounds

Answer from Ashe County: we vaccinate “if we have the vaccine”

After discovering that Ashe County pound had closed for distemper, I emailed AC director Joe Testerman to find out if he routinely vaccinated upon intake,  which is essential to preventing the spread of distemper in an animal control facility:

Vaccination is the cornerstone of distemper prevention in a shelter. The canine distemper vaccine is one of the most rapidly protective vaccines available in veterinary medicine: It can provide meaningful protection within hours of administration. All dogs 4-6 weeks of age and older should be vaccinated immediately upon intake with a modified live or recombinant vaccine (earlier end of age range in the face of an outbreak or high risk environment). The recombinant vaccine may provide superior protection in the face of  maternal antibodies, and therefore may be a good choice for puppies during an outbreak or in a community where distemper is a frequent threat. Because vaccintion is never absolutely reliable in puppies under four months, extra care should be taken to mechanically isolate puppies in a shelter facing a distemper problem.

Teasterman’s reply (emphasis mine): “We do vaccinate puppies upon receiving them if we have vaccine on hand. At this time the vaccinations we have are donated, and we have not been able to purchase these vaccinations as we are not bugeted for that. We are working on a proposed policy at this time.”

So in short, no, Ashe County  does not have a policy of vaccination upon intake. Testerman cites lack of funds, but  as at other pounds around the state, there seems  plenty of  budget for enough Fatal-Plus to kill all the dogs when it’s time to close the pound because of a distemper outbreak. (To my knowledge Ashe is not a gas chamber pound; someone please correct me if I am wrong.)

So in essence, even though killing bothers Joe Testerman, the lack of a vaccination protocol at his facility amounts to a de facto choice of killing over saving lives. The reality is that sooner or later a dog carrying distemper will enter a  shelter. The only protocol that can protect the rest of the animals in that facility starts with vaccination upon intake.

But Joe Testerman seems sincere, and if he really does want to stop killing so many animals I am on his side. So I emailed him back:

The truth is that there IS an answer for it, and it you really are willing to listen I would be happy to share. Others have taken shelters just like yours and turned their numbers upside-down, going from 85 percent kill rates to 90 percent+ SAVE rates, often in the first year.
For example, in a small Texas town, a police sergeant with no previous animal control experience was put in charge of the animal control center. He told his boss he would do it only if he didn’t have to kill animals. And he did it:

Sgt. Karl Bailey of Seagoville Animal Services is an inspiration: a veteran of the police department, he took over a rural kill shelter in Texas with no experience, abolished the gas chamber on his first day, ordered that the killing come to an end, and last year saved roughly 98% of all the animals. Seagoville, Texas just might be the safest community in the U.S. for dogs and cats entering shelters—on average, only one animal loses his or her life every month, due to extreme illness, injury, or for dogs, aggression.

You can read more here if you are interested.

Just to our north in Virginia there are now SEVEN open-admission city or county shelters that have achieved lifesaving rates of 90 percent or more:  Arlington,  Charlottesville,  Fluvanna County, King George County, Lynchburg,  Williamsburg, and Powhatan County. There are also several more “in progress” toward a 90 percent lifesaving rate (you can see more here, check out the list on the right-hand side of the page).

There is no reason you cannot achieve the same, and all you need to do is follow a formula that has been tried and tested by many before you.
Yes, there is a lot of work involved, but the rewards would be huge for you, your community and thousands of animals you would be saving instead of killing. What’s more, once you put your facility on this positive path toward saving many more animals than you kill, you will almost certainly find members of your community who previously avoided your shelter lining up to help you do your life-affirming work.
You never know until you try …


Filed under Ashe County, Distemper, NC county/municipal pounds, Robeson County

Public service message from Bladen Co. pound: This dog is disposable

Raleigh @ Bladen County pound

Raleigh, whose life is worth less than a dose of de-wormer.

I just saw a posting on the wall of A Shelter Friend (the advocacy/rescue group responsible for saving most of the animals who make it out of the Bladen County pound alive) that this dog named Raleigh  is going to be killed today for hookworm if someone doesn’t step up and commit to his rescue or adoption by 4:30 pm.

If a member of the public were to drop this dog at the pound saying he didn’t want to pay for the de-worming, he would be called  irresponsible. But when the pound decides the dog’s life is worth less than a dose of de-wormer, guess who they get to blame? The irresponsible public.

True, the Bladen County pound is on a small budget. But there seems to be enough in the budget for the dose of Fatal-Plus to kill Raleigh. What’s more, via A Shelter Friend, Bladen pound has a pretty large supporter base.  If the director asked ASF to put the word out that they need donations of de-wormers, they would probably get a decent response. Some people who can’t go to the pound and pick up Raleigh might like  a chance to do something concrete to help him get out of that pound alive.


Filed under "irresponsible public", Bladen, NC county/municipal pounds

From YesBiscuit!: Charlotte pound keeps mum about confirmed parvo

YesBiscuit! just reported that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg ACC was notified of a confirmed case of parvo in a dog adopted through a satellite event but declined to inform adopters of other dogs at the event.  Fourteen other dogs were adopted at the event along with Ginger, and their possibly unaware owners may be taking them to dog parks, training classes and play dates.

The Koret Shelter Medicine program at UC-Davis recommends that a dog incubating the virus and its feces should be kept away from puppies and unvaccinated dogs for 2 weeks.

From Woman says dog adopted at SouthPark was infected with parvovirus.

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Filed under Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC county/municipal pounds, Parvo

Powahatan County, VA, achieves No Kill

The Powahatan County, VA, animal shelter has become the SEVENTH open-admission No Kill facility in that state.

It really seems as if Virginia is really becoming a No Kill state, one county at a time. It’s inspiring to see progress being made just to the north, and it puts the lie to the excuse some people make that “No Kill can’t work in the South.” Or that it can’t work in rural, urban, poor, etc. areas, because a look at the list of cities and counties shows they run the gamut: Arlington, VACharlottesville, VAFluvanna County, VAKing George County, VALynchburg, VAWilliamsburg, VA; and now Powhatan County.

So far the only North Carolina location on the No-Kill Communities list is Polk County, on the “Communities to watch” list. Perhaps soon we can add a few more counties to that list.

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Filed under No Kill, Virginia

Ashe County also closed for distemper; NCVAW & HSUS-NC blames the public

The Ashe County pound was closed for distemper recently (although the article doesn’t make it clear exactly when or for how long, only that the pound director noticed the distemper in late March). They killed all the dogs, although again, the article isn’t specific on how many.

AC Director Joe Testerman said the outbreak “does bring home the need for county residents to vaccinate their dogs.” Yes, but does the shelter also vaccinate upon intake? The article does not say (but I have emailed Joe Testerman to ask).While not a magic bullet, “vaccination is the cornerstone of distemper prevention in a shelter.”  That’s assuming, of course, that the manager’s preferred protocol is not to just kill all the dogs and hope to start over again clean.

Ashe County did not report their 2010 outcome statistics to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. They claim a 15% adoption rate for last year on their web page. (They also claim that the national adoption rate is only 4%, a number that seems way off. The rates I usually see are 15% for cats and 25% for dogs. But if national statistics are kept the way North Carolina’s are, it’s really anyone’s guess.)

Meanwhile on Facebook, Susie’s Law, a.k.a North Carolina Voters For Animal Welfare, and the NC branch of HSUS blamed the public for the recent rash of distemper outbreaks at county pounds.

“Our shelters are a reflection of our community,” the NCVAW chirps. Yeah, no … I’m pretty sure no one in my community is killing anywhere near as many animals as  our so-called “shelters” are. In fact, Many people I know are aghast when they discover just how much killing goes on at these places.

“If Parvo and Distemper are present in the shelter it means that we have to do a better job vaccinating within the community,” says NCVAW. Meanwhile, they give pound managers a pass for skipping that bit, even though it’s step #1 of preventing the spread of distemper in a pound.

But the bit that’s hardest to take of the NCVAW post is ” It is important to support our shelters that are going through the terrible experience of finding that they have Distemper.” Not a word about the terrible experience of the dogs killed.

Fifty bucks says NCVAW won’t be on board when we introduce a Companion Animal Protection Act bill in NC. (No bets on HSUS–they can be counted on to oppose shelter reform.)


Filed under Ashe County, Distemper, NC county/municipal pounds, North Carolina Voters For Animal Welfare

More distemper; Wayne County tries to get it right

The bad news is that the Wayne County pound has closed for three weeks after taking in some puppies who had distemper. But the good news is that they appear to be trying to handle it responsibly, instead of following the bad examples set by Duplin and Robeson counties.

It’s almost inevitable that sooner or later an animal with distemper will find its way into a pound, particularly in rural counties. That’s why Wayne county vaccinates upon arrival. Every animal impound facility should.

Furthermore, instead of waiting for the disease to spread (while keeping silent and sending out sick animals who infect others), the Wayne County managers actually decided to be proactive and close the facility before the deadly disease spread. And unlike other counties who decide it’s easier just to kill all the resident animals and start all over, Wayne County is hoping to keep its animals alive. From the Friends of Wayne County Animals Facebook page:

Friends, the shelter has confirmed cases of distemper. In order to contain and control distemper, the shelter will be CLOSED for 3 weeks to the general public. During that time, the shelter will be disinfected daily and the animals will be monitored for signs/symptoms of distemper. The shelter’s GOAL is to SAVE having to euthanize healthy animals. Our shelter vaccinates every animal (within age), so their hope is that no others will get sick.

Unfortunately, they will continue to take in strays, but they are a county pound and have a mandate. I would find it really distressing if one of my dogs got loose and ended up in a distemper quarantined pound. But if the shelter manager and staff really are being as diligent as they say, the strays might have a chance.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say what chance a stray would have at that shelter absent a distemper quarantine, because Wayne County failed to report their 2010 numbers to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. And the NCDA&CS is not finished compiling the 2011 stats yet. I have emailed the officials in charge of the Wayne County pound and requested these documents, but there’s no telling if they will send them.

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Filed under Distemper, NC county/municipal pounds, Wayne County