Monthly Archives: August 2012

Adoptable pet(s) of the day: Star and Prada

Prada and Star are beautiful pit bulls in at the Bertie County pound in Windsor, NC. they have been at the pound for a year awaiting the settlement of an animal cruelty court case against their owner. Now they are free to be adopted, but they need to go to homes  outside of Bertie County because of breed-specific laws there.

Prada is a very calm, quiet and sweet adult female. She’s chocolate brown with white markings. She needs to be in a home with no cats. (Click a photo to see it larger.)

PradaPradaPrada

Star is an active young girl who loves affection. She’s chocolate brown with a constant tail wag. She has been at the shelter since she was 8 weeks old. (Click a photo to see it larger.)

StarStarStar

There is a video of Star wagging her tail and looking very cheerful at the Bertie County Humane Society Facebook page. (The BCHS is not the same as the Bertie County pound. The BCHS is a volunteer organization that runs a No Kill cat shelter and works with the Bertie County pound to photograph, advertise and try to place a dogs  at the county pound.)

If you are interested in Prada or Star, call the BCHS at 252-325-3647, and they will arrange for a volunteer to let you meet the dogs when it’s convenient for you (the pound apparently has no public adoption hours and the BCHS volunteers do all of the adoptions). The Bertie County pound is located at 217 County Farm Road, Windsor, NC, 27983.

The Bertie County pound killed 72 percent of the pets who came in in 2011.

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Euphemisms and memory holes in Robeson County

Ron Houston just wants people to know about the No Kill Revolution. Given that the Robeson County pound killed more than 61% of the pets who came in during 2011, he thought maybe they could use the good news that there is an alternative to the killing.

So a couple of days ago Ron posted a link to the No Kill Revolution Facebook page and the No Kill 101 pdf to the Robeson County pound Facebook page. “I also shared a volunteer rescue group [Blount County Humane Society] and the success they have had and encouraged those on their page to become more involved to ultimately save more lives and that killing was totally unacceptable any longer,” he said.

I’m pretty sure Issue #3 in the decree below is about YOU, Ron:

I would like to address 3 issues that have come to light on our page in recently. First, the issue that all animals in the shelter are not listed. You are right, they are not. There are some animals that cannot be listed including those that are sick, injured, feral, quarantined, etc. Even when Lori and Sara were here, they NEVER listed every animal in this shelter. Secondly, the issue of urgents. ALL animals in this shelter are and should be considered urgent. I find it disheartening and sad that many do not want to work to save an animal until they think it is in its last days or hours. NO animal should have to be "marked" or on a "list" to be saved; ALL should be worked immediately; their lives depend upon it. Please consider all urgent from this point on. And, finally, the issue of negativity. I have reminded you several times that this page will not tolerate negativity. This page was created soley for the purpose of promoting our animals and saving lives. Negative comments about this shelter, its staff, or its supporters will NOT be tolerated. Any and such comments will be deleted and could result in you being blocked from commenting. If all the energy that is being used to tear us down was used to build us up, think of all the lives that could be saved. Wanda

You see, the Robeson County pound Facebook page has a purpose. It’s a place where pound workers use crisis marketing, a rather  disturbing and increasingly popular practice in which the people who have the direct power to choose NOT to kill the pets, or volunteers who allow no criticism of the pound or the staff, post them on Facebook with captions like “This precious baby will DIE tomorrow unless we get a commitment” (as if the pets are just dropping dead of their own accord) or, “We need to make space! We don’t want to have to pts!” (which puts the onus for killing on the rescuers if they fail to liberate the pets).  Meanwhile, very caring people work double-time to get the pets out, valiantly trying to save as many as they can. It’s unsustainable because it burns out the rescuers who, no matter how many pets they save, can’t seem to stop the endless “URGENT!” posts.

In Robeson’s case, when the rescuers don’t “work” animals well enough, they apparently get a rebuke from Wanda (presumably Wanda Strickland, adoptions coordinator) , who finds  it “disheartening and sad” that rescuers don’t want to do her job for her for free “until they think [a pet] is in its last days or hours.” Because c’mon, people, when you kill as many healthy and treatable pets as the Robeson County pound does, they are ALL “super urgent” the moment they come through the doors.

But mention that there is a positive, life-affirming way to SAVE most of the pets who enter animal shelters, and you’re on shaky ground, buster.

“Think of all the lives that could be saved,” Wanda says, if you would stop talking all that nonsense about how healthy and treatable pets should not be killed. Oops, can’t say killed … the proper term is “euthed” or even better, “pts,” short for “put to sleep.” Because what Robeson staff really do is read the pets a bedtime story and sing them lullabies until flying unicorns carry them over The Rainbow Bridge, where they are greeted by Scruffy, the dog your parents told you “went to live on a farm” when you were a kid.

This is the pound that keeps half its kennels EMPTY at all times because it’s easier to clean that way and they claim it reduces disease outbreaks. And yet …

Distemper Won't Leave Us...

Robeson pound staff killed 700 dogs between the end of March and the end of May 2012 following repeated distemper outbreaks. “Think of all the lives that could be saved,” if the Robeson County pound would only vaccinate, which is the cornerstone of distemper prevention in a shelter.

But anyway, back to Ron.  His post about a proven way to end the needless killing of healthy and treatable shelter pets was deleted.

So he posted asking why:

Ron said the third comment, by RCAS, came after a separate exchange concerning a mother cat and her kittens who had been killed by pound staff:

Someone asked about a mother cat and her kittens that they were to rescue and she was told by [a volunteer] that they had been “euthed” on Friday but that they had another mother and kittens (including a stray the mother had adopted) that “only had until Monday before PTS”. I posted “Put to sleep??!! Don’t you mean killed or murdered!” All of these posts were deleted and this is where RCAS posted “Ron any comments that reference killing, murder, slaughter, or type of euth will be deleted”. I then posted my last post “You have to be kidding me”.

That post was deleted as well, and Ron was banned from posting.

Meanwhile, the pound staff and their volunteers, like those at most pounds committed to the old, broken system of “save a few, kill the rest,” will continue (for now) pretending  that No Kill doesn’t exist or is impossible and responding to criticism by claiming the killing is inevitable until other people do Magical Thing A that will bring about change.

Fortunately, the old beliefs are falling apart under criticism and the growing success of the No Kill movement, and a trickle of communities implementing the No Kill Equation is turning into a river. Six months ago, there were 30 known communities with open-admission shelters saving at least 90 percent of the pets who came in. Two weeks ago, that number became 50! (As of this writing, the total is  currently at 52. Check the No Kill Communities blog often and see the number in the upper left keep rising.)

According to Nathan Winograd, almost half of the 800 attendees at this year’s No Kill Conference came from shelters, many of them municipal facilities facing public criticism over high kill rates. The No Kill Revolution is steaming ahead, showing that change is possible even in places like Robeson County.

For those of you who are advocates living in communities where the local shelter is still killing; who are rescuers and animal lovers that find the door to the shelter closed to you despite their claim of an open door philosophy; who work at shelters that still have a long way to go, it can be very easy to get cynical and discouraged—to hear from some of the speakers and hear about their 90%, 95% even 98% save rates; to see your situation as not hopeful by comparison; to see the road as too difficult or even impossible to climb. Take heart.

Every community that has achieved success was once steeped in killing, was controlled by a “good ole boys” network, had a media and city council that appeared indifferent. In short, a situation that seemed impossible to overcome. But they did it—individuals just like you because they refused to give in to cynicism and defeatism. Cynicism breeds inaction because it creates the illusion that the problem is insurmountable. It allows the status quo to continue: “They are too powerful.” “Our City Council ignores us.” “No one cares in the South.” ~The Adjacent Possible

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Filed under NC county/municipal pounds, No Kill, Robeson County

Defining No Kill Sheltering

Lisa B:

I’m reblogging this YesBiscuit post as-is because it clears up so many misconceptions about what No Kill is and is not. I have discussions about this topic regularly because so many people mistakenly believe that No Kill means warehousing pets in cages or kennels forever, keeping suffering pets alive despite their pain or adopting out truly vicious dogs. In fact, all No kill means is not killing healthy or treatable (medically or behaviorally) pets by harnessing the compassion, energy and resources of your community to save them.

Originally posted on YesBiscuit!:

Note: Like all posts on this blog, the following is representative of my opinions and not intended to represent the views of any shelter or other group.

Dahlia (ID #633902), an adoptable cat at Austin Animal Center in TX, as posted on Facebook.

What No Kill sheltering is about:

Saving every healthy pet who enters the shelter, regardless of arbitrary criteria such as age or body shape, by adopting them out, placing them with fosters or transferring them to rescue groups.

Saving every pet whose illness or injuries are treatable.

Saving every healthy/treatable feral cat.

Saving every healthy/treatable dog in need of behavioral modification unless –

(a)  Rehabilitative efforts have failed as determined by a behaviorist and no sanctuary options exist OR

(b)   A judge has deemed the dog too vicious to live with people.

Promptly and humanely euthanizing pets who are suffering and whose veterinarian determined prognosis…

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“Doing the best they can”

It would be great if, when faced with criticism, kill pound directors, staff and their defenders would say “We’ll show you! We are going to STOP killing all healthy and treatable pets and then you will have to EAT YOUR WORDS, sucker!” But no, I dream. Instead, what usually happens is depressingly predictable: people circle the wagons and blame others for the killing. “It’s not our fault! The people who (don’t spay/neuter, “dump” pets at the pound, don’t vaccinate, buy pets instead of adopting, etc.) are FORCING us to kill. Go pick on them and leave us to kill in peace!” (Imagine if the police failed to do their jobs and responded to criticisms by saying “Solving crimes is hard! It’s not our fault people steal things and shoot each other!”)

A passage in a post here yesterday promoting an adoptable dog in the Stokes County Pound seemed to hit a nerve with the Stokes County pound staff and volunteers. The Stokes County pound killed 76 percent of the cats and dogs who came in during 2011*, so it’s easy to imagine that a black pit bull mix like Frisky (who has since been adopted! Yay Frisky!), might not face very good odds of getting out of there alive. The crossposting that led me to feature him here said Frisky “doesn’t stand a chance,” so I wondered out loud, figuratively speaking, what factors might make that so. Given the fact that many pounds kill pit bulls either as a matter of policy or because staff think they are unadoptable, I wrote:

 I don’t know if that’s because the staff at the Stokes County pound are eager to kill “pit bull mixes” or not eager to adopt them out, or if it’s because of the perception that “nobody wants to adopt a pit bull.” (Which I think is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because shelter staff are quicker to choose death for the dogs they believe are “less adoptable.”) At any rate, it’s pretty clear that showing up at the Stokes County pound may not  be the luckiest thing that ever happened to Frisky. It could have been, if the pound functioned like an actual shelter, a safe place for animals that need our protection, but the statistics say it does not: last year 76 percent of the pets who entered Stokes County pound didn’t make it out alive.

That sparked some heated comments by pound staff and others. And no, the response was NOT “We’ll show you that we CAN stop killing all healthy and treatable pets!” It was more like : “Go bash the irresponsible pet owners who do not spay and neuter their pets”  and “The staff are doing the very best they can with their limited budget and there’s nothing more they can do.” (Multiplied many times here and on the Stokes pound Facebook page.)

So that raises a really good question: Are the director and staff of the Stokes County Pound really “doing the best they can?” Is there absolutely nothing more they can do to stop themselves from killing healthy and treatable pets?

Let’s start with the spay/neuter issue. If that really were the one most important ingredient of the recipe to end needless killing at pounds (and it’s not, really, it’s one of eleven essential ingredients, all equally important), then surely the Stokes County Pound would be participating in the NCDA&CS spay/neuter reimbursement program. This program encourages pet sterilization by allowing cities and counties to apply for reimbursement of costs for spays & neuters of dogs and cats owned by low-income people.

As an example of how it can be used, Haywood County, which posted a kill rate of just over 45 percent in 2011, was able to help fund 1,641 sterilization procedures in 2011, receiving a reimbursement of $38,658.19. That’s a LOT of sterilizations– more dogs and cats were altered than Haywood County Animal Control killed in  2011 (1611). You’d think the Stokes County pound director and staff would be all over a program that could do so much against such a big obstacle to their success at protecting animals.

But a look at the participants from 2011 and the first two quarters of 2012 shows that Stokes County actually does not participate in the program that would help people do something shelter staff and volunteers believe is required before they can stop killing healthy and treatable pets. So as far as helping people spay and neuter pets, are the director and staff of the Stokes County pound “doing the best they can?”

What about other programs that get pets out of pounds alive, like adoptions? A quick search of the internet casts doubt: As of this writing there are zero pets from the Stokes County pound listed on the two top pet adoption sites, Petfinder and Adopt A Pet.  The pound doesn’t even have accounts at two other sites, Rescue Me and Petango.

The Stokes County pound has an excuse: According to one commenter, the pound’s secretary is out on medical leave so no pets have been posted to Petfinder recently. Seriously? There is one single solitary person who can post pets to adoption sites, so when that person is out, no pets get posted AT ALL to the most popular places people go online to find adoptable pets? Staff can’t ask one of the pound’s enthusiastic volunteers to help out in the interest of getting more pets adopted?

The pound’s open hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to noon and 1 to 5 pm, when working people are at work and their kids are usually at school, and for three hours on Saturday mornings, 9 am to noon, when families with kids often have sports practices and other commitments. It almost seems like the Stokes County pound’s hours are meant to discourage adoptions. Families who only have weeknights or Sundays available are out of luck. Sure, staff time and money are tight, but  staff hours can be staggered to open some evenings and more weekend hours, and some of the volunteers would be happy to staff adoption hours that make it easier for people to come in and adopt. Volunteers LOVE getting pets adopted into happy homes.

Also, how many offsite adoption events does the Stokes County Pound have at places that are happy to host such events, such as Tractor Supply, Southern States, Walmart, Petsmart, Petco, etc.? Again, all that’s needed for these are some trusted volunteers, some adoptable pets and maybe a table and chairs so people can fill out adoption applications.

So, as far as a comprehensive approach to adopting out as many pets as possible, are the director and staff of the Stokes County pound “doing the best they can?”

Several of the commenters mentioned that the Stokes County pound doesn’t have the budget to do any better. But a look at North Carolina’s 2011 shelter outcome statistics shows there is no correlation between shelter funding and kill/save rates. Stokes County spent $63 per animal in 2011 and killed 76 percent of the cats and dogs who came in. By contrast, many other counties were able to spend less public money and save more.  Transylvania County spent $42 per animal and killed 37 percent; Columbus County spent $46.95 per animal and killed 45 percent, Caswell County spent $58.54 per animal and killed 60 percent, and Haywood County spent $24.65 per animal and killed 48 percent of the dogs and cats who came in. Conversely there are many counties that spent more and got worse kill rates.

The point is that the amount of money allocated to any given shelter is not what determines its outcomes. But saving more pets, by implementing the eleven pieces of the No Kill Equation, can actually be more cost-effective from a public administration perspective, because of the reduced costs associated with killing, enhanced community support, an increase in adoption revenues and other user fees, additional tax revenue and the positive economic impact of adoptions and pet-related spending in the community. (For more on the cost-effectiveness of No Kill, read Dollars & Sense: The Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control.)

I’ve not even mentioned how many cats could be saved (the cat kill rate was 91 percent in 2011) if Stokes County pound had a Trap Neuter Return program for feral cats (for a good example in NC, see the Foothills Humane Society’s Po’Kitties program in Polk County). Or how many owner surrenders could be avoided with a good pet retention program like the Richmond (VA) SPCA’s Project Safety Net.

So, are the director and staff of the Stokes County pound “doing the best they can?” They can do a lot better, and fortunately, there’s a proven formula all written down ready to go they can follow. All they have to do is copy the success of many others who are proving it’s possible not to kill healthy and treatable pets for “space” at open-admission shelters.

*I have been informed that those are “old numbers” and assured that the current outcomes are way better. But because the Stokes pound current statistics are not available online and the person who made the claim did not send me the stats when I asked for them, I cannot confirm this without filing an open records request.

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Adoptable pet of the day: Frisky

Frisky-Stokes County Animal Shelter

FriskyfriskyFrisky

UPDATE: Frisky has been adopted!

Frisky is an owner surrender in the Stokes County Animal Shelter. His adoption fee has already been paid in full.  He was brought to the shelter by his previous owner because he does not like cats, but Frisky is great with people and other dogs. He especially loves children and is very playful. Frisky appears to be in good health (he does have some redness on his chest which could be just a flea allergy or dry skin, or maybe very common and easily treatable demodex), obeys well and walks well on a leash. He really loves attention from people.

Because he has been labeled a “pit bull mix” one crossposter said he “doesn’t stand a chance.” I don’t know if that’s because the staff at the Stokes County pound are eager to kill “pit bull mixes” or not eager to adopt them out, or if it’s because of the perception that “nobody wants to adopt a pit bull.” (Which I think is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because shelter staff are quicker to choose death for the dogs they believe are “less adoptable.”) At any rate, it’s pretty clear that showing up at the Stokes County pound may not  be the luckiest thing that ever happened to Frisky. It could have been, if the pound functioned like an actual shelter, a safe place for animals that need our protection, but the statistics say it does not: last year 76 percent of the pets who entered Stokes County pound didn’t make it out alive.

Please share Frisky and help put the odds in his favor.

The Stokes County Animal Shelter is located at  1999 Sizemore Road, Germanton, North Carolina (about half an hour north of Winston-Salem). Phone: (336) 994-2788; email: stokesanimalshelter@embarqmail.com

Hours are Mon – Fri: 8:30 am-noon, 1-5 pm, Sat: 9 am-noon.

The adoption fee for dogs is $36, which includes a rabies shot and county tax tag. The adoption fee for cats is $30, which includes a rabies shot.

You can see more Stokes County adoptables at this Facebook page (which I believe is run by volunteers–the SCAS doesn’t appear to have any listings on any of the common adoption sites–please correct me if I am wrong).

UPDATE: Over on Facebook, the staff and the Stokes County pound and their defenders took great umbrage at my suggestion that they might be at all quick to kill pit bulls. And my suggestion that perhaps Frisky’s skin condition should be treated. And at my suggestion that a 76 percent kill rate  might not be “the best they can do,” etc. The whole exchange is here, or if they delete the post for some reason, a screenshot is here. (Please forgive the typos, my mind works way faster than my fingers). Some of the same people have also posted in the comments below.

Also, the Facebook page is apparently maintained by staff and one volunteer under staff supervision.

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Filed under Adoptable pet, Stokes County

Open letter to the new Beaufort County AC chief

The Beaufort County pound has a new boss, Todd Taylor, who has worked there for the past 5 years as an animal control officer.

I figured it’s a perfect time to write him a letter asking for his outcome statistics (2011 numbers were not reported to NCDA&CS) and maybe getting him to take a look at the No Kill Equation … and while I’m at it, what about that heinous, barbaric gas chamber? Here’s an excerpt from my letter to him:

One of my projects is calculating the kill rates, adoption rates and owner reclaim rates for all NC shelters that receive public funds, based on the statistics they are required by law to submit to the NCDA&CS (you can see the dog & cat rates calculated here and the the kill rate rankings from highest to lowest here). Unfortunately, I am not able to include Beaufort County because your predecessor did not submit your facility’s 2011 statistics to the NCDA&CS. I’m wondering if you’d be interested in rectifying this, and if you would also consider sending me a copy of the stats. I could get them by filing an open records request, but it seems so much easier to just ask nicely.

The article in the Beaufort Observer mentioned that you don’t like the part of your job where you kill animals. That’s good to know, because perhaps it means you would be open to considering an alternative. There is a proven program to eliminate population-control killing that is currently being used with great success in open-admission public shelters just like yours in more than 50 communities across the US. The program is called the No Kill Equation, and you can read about it here. (I am also attaching a PDF file of a primer called “No Kill 101″).

Many of these communities are quite rural, much like Beaufort County, and six of them are just north of us in Virginia (Charlottesville, Fluvanna County, King George County, Lynchburg, Powhatan County and Williamsburg). Another rural Virginia community, Amelia County, is working on being that state’s seventh community to end population-control killing of healthy and treatable shelter pets. You can read about all of these communities here.

Most importantly for a small-budget shelter, many of the programs in the No Kill Equation are more cost-effective than impounding, warehousing and then killing animals. Some rely on private philanthropy, as in the use of rescue groups, which shifts costs of care from public taxpayers to private individuals and groups. Others, such as the use of volunteers, augment paid human resources. Still others, such as adoptions, bring in revenue. And, finally, some, such as neutering rather than killing feral cats, are simply less expensive both immediately and in the long-term, with exponential savings in terms of reducing births.

I have attached a PDF file of a publication called “Dollars and Sense” that describes No Kill’s cost effectiveness in detail  (also available for download here).

A final issue I’d like to raise is your use of the gas chamber as a killing method. The gas chamber is a throwback to a less civilized time when it was introduced by humane societies as an improvement over far more brutal ways of killing animals, such as drowning, shooting and beating, and has been denounced as inhumane by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, the National Animal Control Association, and the American Humane Association. Use of the gas chamber has been banned in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. Louisiana’s ban will go into effect in Jan. 2013. Beaufort County’s next-door neighbor, Craven County, discontinued the used of the gas chamber at Craven-Pamlico Animal Services last spring. Person County manager Heidi York has announced that their gas chamber will be phased out by July 2013. And the interim manager of the Sampson County pound has announced her desire to get rid of that facility’s gas chamber as well. Will you join this movement toward progress and ban the use of the gas chamber in your facility?

If you’d like to write a (respectful and polite) note to Beaufort County’s new animal control chief (other possible topics include asking him to actually list some pets for adoption on Petfinder or Adopt A Pet, the two most-used pet adoption sites, or maybe expanding their open hours to increase adoptions) you can send it to him at: todd.taylor@co.beaufort.nc.us. More contact information for him is available here.

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Filed under Beaufort County, gas chamber, NC county/municipal pounds

Adoptable Pet of The Day (Shameless self-promotion edition)

Today’s adoptable pet is my own foster dog, Tenny:

TennyTenny

Tenny is a medium-sized (35-lb, about 21 inches at the shoulder) something mix, about a year old. People say lab mix, but they say that about everything. His tail is cropped like a Doberman’s and he has a slender, athletic body. I pulled Tenny from the APS of Durham because he was going “kennel-crazy” and was not getting adopted because, after spending months of his youth in the pound and getting no manners training and only occasional walks, he went wild and jumped all over people who tried to meet him. That’s the sort of thing that gets you a trip to the dumpster at a high-kill pound.

Tenny is learning a few manners with me and manages to behave pretty well now. He gets along with my other dogs, although he’s occasionally like a pesky little brother and gets snapped at now and them. He takes it into stride. I have no idea how he is with cats. He might annoy them a little as well. Tenny adores people. His only issue with kids seems to be the possibility that he might knock one over because he’s such an impulsive goofball.

Tenny has tons of energy, learns quickly, is athletic and is highly motivated to work for toys or food, so I think he would be a fun flyball or agility partner. He is zinc neutered, up-to-date on all vaccinations and healthy.

If you’re interested in adopting Tenny, email me.

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Working for change in Granville County: Open letter to commissioners

A few weeks ago I was able to see first-hand the conditions and practices at the Granville County, NC, animal shelter when I attended a volunteer training session. As a result, I decided to write the letter below, which has been sent to the Granville County Commissioners, County Manager Brian Allgood and a member of the county’s Animal Advisory Board. (Note: In a nod toward diplomacy, I used the word “shelter” in the letter where ordinarily I would have used the word “pound.” But make no mistake: the facility in Granville County is not a safe place for most of the animals that enter, despite the best efforts of the volunteers who are working hard to change things there, so it really doesn’t rate the title “shelter.”) Here’s the letter:

Recently I became aware that a growing cadre of volunteers has dedicated themselves to improving the lifesaving rate and living conditions for the pets at the Granville County Animal Shelter. I heard about a volunteer training day and decided to go, which gave me a chance to see for myself the conditions and practices at the shelter. While the volunteers are indeed making a big difference, it’s very clear that there are many issues that need to be corrected.

The first problem became obvious early in the orientation, when prospective volunteers were warned not to get too attached to the animals because they would probably be killed. We were also told that volunteers were allowed no contact at all with any of the dogs not released for adoption. Those dogs are kept in the stale darkness of their kennels, without human contact or exercise in the shelter’s outdoor runs, until they are finally released or killed. This began to convey Granville’s attitude toward the animals in its custody: that they were not worthy of even kindness, much less an effort to save their lives.

The truth at the Granville County shelter is that most of the animals are NOT put up for adoption or released to foster-based rescue groups, but rather killed automatically once their holding times are up. In the case of owner surrenders, they could be given as little time as it takes to get the pet to the gas chamber. The Granville County Animal Shelter had a kill rate of almost 77 percent in 2011 (71 percent for dogs and 85 percent for cats), according to statistics submitted to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Not only is this more than double the reported kill rate of next-door neighbor Vance County (35 percent), it is the highest kill rate in the Triangle-adjacent counties (Burlington, Caswell , Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Nash, Orange, Person and Wake).

Shelter director Cathy Hartley may claim the animals not put up for adoption are “unadoptable,” but the lifesaving rates of the more than 50 open-admission shelters across the US that are killing fewer than 10 percent of the pets they take in prove this wrong (http://www.no-killnews.com). On average, only about 5 percent of the pets that enter animal shelters are actually medically hopeless or truly vicious enough to warrant euthanasia. Killing pets who are medically or behaviorally treatable is NOT euthanasia. It’s just killing for convenience. Even if an adopter willing to put time and care into a special-needs pet is not readily available, there are many, many rescue groups willing to take them into foster care and get them the veterinary care or behavior help needed at no cost to Granville County. All they need is a shelter director compassionate enough to welcome them in and help connect these pets with people who can help them, even if it saves work and paperwork to kill them instead.

By preemptively declaring pets unadoptable, Ms. Hartley is building her failure and the excuse for it at the same time: if she tried to adopt those animals out and failed, she would have to admit that she kills adoptable pets. But wrongfully pronouncing pets “unadoptable” and killing them lets her claim she only kills unadoptable pets, and also saves her from the actual work of publicizing and networking the pets to adopters and rescuers. This is the vicious cycle that keeps Granville’s kill rate so high and adoption rate so low, 9.86 percent compared to a statewide average of approximately 20 percent.

A horrifying example of how this works for the pets in the Granville pound are the puppies, which are inherently highly adoptable and readily taken in by many rescue groups because of their adoptability. Other shelters even charge an adoption fee premium for puppies to generate greater operating funds, because puppies are generally so much in demand. Yet at the orientation, prospective volunteers are told that if a large litter of puppies comes in, shelter staff will pick a few to adopt out and kill the rest. Not because they are truly unadoptable, but because Hartley and her staff find it easier. We were told that more than a few puppies are “just too many puppies.”

Other excuses used by Ms. Hartley include “lack of space,” but this is not really accurate. I asked volunteers if compatible dogs are ever doubled up in runs to increase the shelter’s capacity, and they said it never happens – one step that could save lives is skipped in favor of the expedience of killing.

Ms. Hartley may also claim there are “not enough adopters,” but the shelter’s open hours (noon-4:30 pm M-F, 10 am-1 pm Sat.) discourage many adopters. The shelter is not open when working families, especially those with children, can actually come out and meet the animals. Any shelter director who truly WANTS to adopt out dogs will have the shelter open in the evening, even a few days per week, and as many weekend hours as possible. Also, the shelter would sponsor special adoption events for holidays and offsite events at places that are happy to host them, such as Southern States, Tractor Supply, and Walmart. The shelter’s amazing corps of volunteers would staff these hours, plus the many more volunteers who would love to help if they were given a chance to do so, in an atmosphere focused on helping the animals rather than the sickening attitude of disposing of them with as little trouble as possible.

Another problem contributing to the high kill rate is the low rate of owner reclaims, 5.3 percent, compared to a statewide average of 10 percent, which is exacerbated by seriously flawed procedures. During my tour of the shelter, I was told that none of the pets that come in as strays have their photos posted or any information made available about them until after their stray holding times are up, by orders of the county commission.* There is currently no way that a pet owner can check to see if his or her pet has ended up at the pound, aside from showing up during the shelter’s prohibitively limited open hours. Since the pets are eligible for death immediately after their stray holding time expires, the pet may have been killed or adopted to someone else by the time a photo can be posted online. This practice must be changed ASAP not only for the sake of the pets’ lives, but for the sake of the families who are looking for them. In fact, the shelter is in possession of a system (the Shelter Pro database) that would make the task of publicizing new arrivals quick and easy. And again, volunteers have told me they are ready and willing to assist in this effort as soon as they are allowed.

Furthermore, the quick-kill policy means a dangerously low margin for error in handling strays. During my visit, a dog that had gone through his stray hold time and was up for adoption was scanned for an identification microchip by a volunteer, who detected a chip that had been missed by a previous scan. In this case, potential problems were averted, but it raises the question: how many chips have been missed? How many lost family pets were brought into the shelter to sit in a dark, dank kennel for three days before being killed, instead of being returned to their families on the first day? Is this the sort of “service” the people of Granville County pay tax dollars to receive? Granville County Animal Shelter reportedly spends MORE money per animal ($99.34) to achieve a WORSE lifesaving rate than Johnston ($68.58), Alamance ($96.99), Harnett ($86.72) and Caswell ($58.54) counties.

Clearly there is a lot of room for improvement at Granville County’s shelter, and much of it needn’t cost more money. Such improvements to the policies and procedures could save money, save lives, and improve the success rate of the shelter’s purpose and goals by seeing that more pets were adopted to new families or reunited with their current families, and fewer of them killed for reasons that are easily solved…or for no reason at all beyond the bad luck of being born in Granville County. However, these changes cannot come, nor be implemented effectively, without a change in philosophy and attitude from the top of the management down to the newest volunteer. A belief in change is essential, and a basic respect and compassion for the animals in their care must be fostered. Ms. Hartley and her staff must learn that there are different, better ways to do the job before them, see that these ways have proven successful elsewhere, and commit themselves to these improvements, for the good of the people and animals of Granville County. The pets whose innocent trust is placed in us, and who would willingly give us their all, deserve no less.

I also attached a PDF file of the No Kill Advocacy Center’s “Dollars and Sense: The Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control,” because nothing catches county commissioners’ interest like the thought that something might save them money.

Issues I did not cover in the interest of keeping the letter short enough that it may be read are the Granville pound’s systematic killing of pit bulls (or anything staff may think looks like it might be a pit bull), and the gas chamber. We will revisit those topics soon. Considering that Granville’s next-door-neighbor Person County will reportedly be phasing out its gas chamber, the time is definitely ripe for Granville Animal advocates to demand the same.

* Clarification: I was told that the shelter staff were not allowed to post the photos. But they do actually allow volunteers to take and post photos. The point I should have made is that the staff should officially be posting these pictures as soon as the animals arrive at the Granville pound … or even before, as some municipalities actually have their ACOs take photos in the field and upload them to the web site before the animal even arrives at the shelter. In fact, in some places, the ACOs scan for microchips in the field and can get the pets home without even taking them to the shelter. Currently in Granville County, the only place someone looking for a pet can see recent arrivals to the pound is on the volunteer-run Facebook page, and then only after a volunteer has had time to go to the pound, take the photo, go home, get on the computer, and upload the pix to the Facebook page. And how many pet owners think to go find a volunteer-run Facebook page to see if their missing pet is listed there? Also, since not every volunteer takes photos on every visit to the pound, and the photo-taking volunteers may not go every single day, this could miss many animals who are killed as soon as their holding periods expire. Granville County ACOs should be taking advantage of current technology (like the Shelter Pro software the county already owns) to upload official photos upon intake if not sooner.

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Filed under gas chamber, Granville County, NC county/municipal pounds

Ashe County’s Joe Testerman decides to adopt out even fewer animals by reducing adoption hours

Ashe County pound director Joe Testerman has decided that having the 16th worst kill rate of all the pounds in North Carolina is not bad enough. So in addition to not vaccinating pets upon intake, (which ensures his pound will have repeated distemper outbreaks and allow him to kill all the dogs with no further excuses), Testerman has decided to restrict adoption hours so that most working families will never be able to adopt their next pet from the Ashe County pound.

The new public hours will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday only. Testerman said that the decision to make adopting from his pound even more difficult than before came after “several hours of research.” Essentially, Testerman noticed that the other contenders for the title of Crappiest Pound in NC (and the competition is fierce indeed), also have hours that make it very difficult for working people to adopt. “We found that most animal control departments in North Carolina have similar business hours that they are open to the public,” Testerman said.

This means that Testerman is free to continue peddling the worn-out lie that he is “forced” to kill adoptable pets because “there aren’t enough homes” for them.  Meanwhile, he and his staff can now have “ample time in the mornings” to clean at a leisurely pace, uninterrupted by the pesky public who want to adopt pets, and also “spend more time in the field” playing golf rounding up more pets to kill on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays

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Filed under Ashe County

Adoptable pet of the day

jay 12-1623 in Beaufort County Animal Shelter

Jay, a 12-year-old spaniel and/or golden mix, needs out of the Beaufort County, NC pound ASAP.

Julianne writes: “This poor old man is at the Beaufort County Animal Shelter and doesn’t have much time. Gassing facility! He looks like a golden retriever mix to me but they have him listed as a spaniel mix. He’s 12 years old and desperately needs to get out there.”

The Beaufort County pound (a.k.a. the Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility) in Washington, NC, is a high-kill, gas chamber facility with a director who doesn’t even bother to submit the pound’s outcome stats to the NCDA&CS. Their open hours are M-F l pm to 5:30 pm and Sat. 11 am to 3 pm. They are closed on holidays. They advise arriving half an hour early “to allow time to do the necessary paperwork and routine vaccinations,” because god forbid staff have to stay a little late to save an animal’s life.

If you are interested in helping Jay but can’t get to the Beaufort pound during their limited open hours, leave a comment and I will contact you and put you in touch with Julianne.

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Filed under Adoptable pet, Beaufort County