Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sampson County’s Lori Baxter: will she stay or will she go?

Sampson County officials announced that they are hoping to put a permanent director in charge of the county’s pound. The director’s position has been occupied since June by Lori Baxter, former director of the Robeson County pound, who was hired on as “interim manager.”

County manager Ed Causey said he hopes Baxter will stay on. Baxter has not communicated to county officials what she plans to do, but on Oct. 15 she posted to her Facebook page that she is “sick to death of people who pretend to be all about the animals while kicking the ones who really are making a difference. I think the end of the year shall see a change in my life … one that doesn’t include an animal shelter.”

That sounds a lot like a no. A source said Baxter later deleted that post.

Shortly after starting in the position last June she posted in a Facebook note (also since deleted) that she took the interim director job in part so she could get rid of the pound’s gas chamber:

A Note from Lori Baxter by Sampson County Animal Shelter on Sunday, 24 June 2012 at 22 :02 Many of you may be surprised that I've agreed to accept this Interim Director position due to the fact that Sampson County Animal Shelter is a gassing fadty. Make no mistake, I am horrfied at the thought and am 150% behind its complete and utter destruction. The chamber itself is part of the reason I accepted this position, so I can get rd of it! The term euthanasia meanS "good death," and the gas chambers method of killin companion animals is hardly a humane form of euthanasia. This is not tolerable on my watch. However, it still exists, for the moment, killing near to 2,000 a year. I have arranged for a grant to bury it, never to have it be used again but it will take a bit of time. It takes time to get a more humane form of euthanasia into place. It takes time to put together a new way of doing things, a better plan, for the safety of the people and the humane treatment of animals. Gassing pets is an abomination in this day and age and WILL be rectfied, if it's the last thing I do. In the meanwhile, I NEED YOUR HELP! I need these animals to go to rescue as quickly as possible to avoid the use of that death chamber. The staff here has been using it for years and as it has been the ONLY resource to make needed space. Its use will go on until l such time as things are in place for it to be buried along with the thousands killed within its walls. This sheiter didn't have a FB page until 2 days ago. There has been virtually no rescue involvement, no networking the animals and very few local adoptions. Basically, animals were brougt here to be gassed. We KNOW there is a better way! I KNOW that together, we CAN make a difference in Sampson County! I have the full support of the County Manager to terminate the use of the gas chamber as soon as we can get things in order. In the meantime,let's show this county what animal rescue is all about!!! Please help network as many as you can! Find fosters and contact rescue groups to get them OUT! Please cross-post far and wide! Tell everyone you know! Interested rescue groups should email lbaxter@sampsonnC.com to express interest in partnering with Sampson County Animal Sheler. Thank you so much for all you do for the animals! Lori Baxter

Note Posted on Facebook By Lori Baxter on June 24, 2012, and later deleted.

As of this writing, the gas chamber is still there. Previously, I wondered why it would take so long to switch kill methods from gas chamber to injection. I finally got the answer from Baxter herself after I emailed her requesting records. The Sampson County Pound is currently not licensed by the DEA and NC DHHS to possess the drugs necessary to kill by injection, and Baxter said it can take months to get the required inspection. (Currently all animals under 4 months old, elderly, pregnant or suffering from upper respiratory illness are sent to the pound’s vet to be killed by injection). Baxter told me that the inspection is now scheduled for the first week of November.

“I wish it wasn’t necessary to have an alternate method of euthanasia, but sadly it is,” Baxter said. Actually, it’s not. In fact, many public shelters across the country have switched almost overnight  to not killing at all, only performing euthanasia in its true meaning for the relief of irremediable suffering.  One example is the Seagoville, TX, Animal Shelter, which went No Kill on Jan 10, 2011, the day police Sgt. Karl Bailey took over as director. He turned his shelter’s gas chamber into an air- and watertight food storage cabinet.

Baxter could do the exact same thing herself by following a proven formula that’s currently working at open-admission animal shelters in at least 75 communities across the country. Of course, it involves doing things like expanding the shelter’s public hours to make it easier for community members to visit and adopt. One of the first things Baxter did as interim director was reduce adoption hours from 40 per week to 15 per week. The Sampson pound is not open at all on weekends or any weekdays after 4 pm, making it inaccessible to most working people.

So how much of a difference is Baxter making? Statistics she released following an open records request show that she has taken the Sampson County pound’s kill rate from an extremely high to very high. Partial-year statistics for 2012 show that Sampson’s live-outcome rate, as of the end of September, was just around 77 percent, down from almost 89 percent in 2011. It’s an improvement, but it puts her kill rate right around that of the Granville County pound in 2011, and their director isn’t even a fan of making animals available for adoption.

Sampson County Animal Shelter Outcomes 2011-2012

This is a good time for Sampson County residents to contact County Manager Edwin Causey and tell him how finding a director who will implement the No Kill Equation can transform his community without draining his budget. Residents can also schedule “Citizen/Commissioners Conferences”  to meet with one or two representatives of the county Board of Commissioners and appropriate county staff members on the third Monday of each month immediately preceding the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting. Conferences must be scheduled in advance by calling the Office of the County Manager: (910) 592-6308.

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Rescue tries to save mama dog, Wilson County pound kills her after sending her pups to NJ

Beth Wilson, a.k.a. the Durham Animal Advocacy Examiner has posted an article about a mama dog in the Wilson County Pound who was killed after her 5-week old puppies were sent to a rescue in New Jersey, even though there was a rescue committed to saving her.

A Pennsylvania group called Pregnant Dog Rescue learned about “Mama,” who entered the Wilson pound on Oct. 2, and began trying to coordinate rescue and transport for her and her pups with the goal of getting them out by Oct. 13. A Wilson pound volunteer notified the group on Oct. 10 that Mama and pups had been pulled by another group. PD Rescue learned the next day that the rescue group had taken only the unweaned pups, leaving Mama behind.

Through the volunteer, PD Rescue notified the Wilson pound on the morning of Oct. 12 that they would be coming to get Mama. They received an email later that day notifying them that the pound had killed Mama even though she had a rescue committed to saving her.

For their part, Companion Animal Rescue & Education in New Jersey, who pulled Mama’s pups, say they were never told by the Wilson County Pound that Mama existed. Please read the whole article at examiner.com.

Defenders of shelters are fond of saying “No one wants to kill animals” and “They’re doing the best they can” to excuse  the killing of healthy and treatable pets. Wilson County pound did the best they could to make sure they killed Mama. They lied about Mama’s existence to the rescue that took the puppies, then they killed her even though they knew a rescue group was committed to saving her.

NC animal shelter laws are so toothless and full of holes that it’s perfectly legal for a pound to kill a pet even when a rescue group is begging to save her, or for a pound to adopt out unweaned pets and kill their mothers. For that matter, they are free to summarily kill them all at will without even attempting to find a rescue. This is just one of the many reasons North Carolina needs a Companion Animal Protection Act.

North Carolina public pounds killed 64.98 percent of the animals that entered them in 2011. But those stats don’t tell the whole story of what’s broken in the NC “shelter” system:

  • NC pounds may withhold animals from public viewing and adoption for any reason and consequently kill them as “unadoptable.” (Among the reasons shelter volunteers tell me they have heard for killing animals rather than offering the public the chance to adopt them are “too old,” “there are too many black dogs,” “there are too many labs,” “it looks like a pit bull,” “it barked at other dogs.” In Granville County, the pound director declares pets unadoptable just because she doesn’ t want to hear volunteers protest when she decides to kill them later.)
  • NC pounds are free to turn away volunteers who would like to help save animals lives and provide them with care for free. They also often retaliate against volunteers who expose what goes on in the shelter.
  • NC pounds are allowed to kill animals even when there is a qualified rescue group ready and willing to save them.
  • NC pounds are allowed to kill pets even when there are plenty of empty cages. NC shelters are free to kill all the pets so that staff doesn’t have to come in to feed and clean over a holiday.
  • NC pounds are free to impound and kill feral cats even though it has proven to be a very ineffective method of controlling the feral cat population compared to neutering them and returning them to their habitat, where they can live long, healthy and happy lives.
  • NC pounds may adopt out companion animals without requiring that they be spayed or neutered.
  • NC shelters are not required to report their intake and outcome statistics because there is currently no penalty for failure to report (aside from ineligibility for the spay/neuter program, which most counties don’t bother with).

Because too many shelters are not voluntarily implementing the programs and services that would prevent killing of shelter pets, animals are being needlessly killed. And because animals are being needlessly killed, taxpayer money is being needlessly wasted. CAPA addresses this issue by:

  • Establishing that saving lives and public safety are compatible;
  • Protecting all species of shelter animals;
  • Making it illegal for a shelter to kill an animal if a rescue group or No Kill shelter is willing to save that animal;
  • Requiring shelters to have fully functioning adoption programs including offsite adoptions, use of the internet to promote their animals, and ample adoption hours when the public is available;
  • Prohibiting shelters from killing animals based on arbitrary criteria when alternatives to killing exist;
  • Requiring sterilization of adopted animals;
  • Requiring animal control to allow volunteers to help with fostering, socializing, and assisting with adoptions; and
  • Requiring shelters to be truthful about how many animals they kill and adopt by making their statistics public.

CAPA would save taxpayer money by mandating public-private partnerships that not only reduce expenses associated with having to care for then kill and dispose of an animal, but which transfers expenses from taxpayers to private philanthropy. It would also bring in revenue through adoption fees. CAPA is modeled after a similar law which has been in effect in California since 1999. An analysis of that law found that sending animals to non-profit animal rescue organizations saved the City and County of San Francisco $486,480 in publicly funded animal control costs. Under CAPA, shelters can also charge the cost of an adoption to those groups, thereby bringing in needed revenues and defraying any costs associated with implementation.

For more information about CAPA legislation, please visit Rescue50.org. If you are interested in helping introduce a statewide CAPA bill, please contact me at crashtestmoonpie (at) gmail (dotcom), or comment on this post.

Meanwhile, there is no reason for people in Wilson County to wait for a statewide CAPA law to reform their own county pound, because CAPA can be introduced at the city and county level, too. Wilson County residents can send information about CAPA to County Manager Ellis Williford and members of the Wilson County Board of Commissioners.

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Dalmation sits in Pender County pound for two weeks with a broken hip

Dalmation with broken hip in Pender County pound

This boy came into the Pender County pound on Sept. 27, 2012. He was pulled on Oct. 10 by a rescuer, who immediately noticed something wrong: He had a broken hip.

On Sept 27, 2012, a Dalmation came into the Pender County pound. He was there almost two weeks, until Oct. 10, when he was pulled by a Dalmation breed rescue group, who immediately discovered that he had a broken hip. He had surgery to correct it on Oct. 16.

Dalmationwith broken hip from Pender County pound

The Dalmation after his rescue from the Pender County pound, lying on something cushy.

A pound employee told rescuers that she walked the dog and didn’t see any problem. Sources close to the pound say employees never walk the dogs, however. “The only time those dogs get walked is when they are taking them to the incinerator,” one source said.

The incinerator is where they kill animals.  The kill process at Pender County pound has been described to me like this: the animals are taken out to the incinerator, which is in a fenced area behind the pound. The pets are injected on a table right in front of the incinerator and then rolled into it. One person close to the pound told me: “I’m sure not every animal going into that incinerator is already dead.”

The purchase of the incinerator last year was opposed by one county commissioner, Jimmy Tate, who said he was afraid it may speed up killing at the pound. He was right.

The fencing that is now around the incinerator had originally been donated by a volunteer to make a place where adopters could go spend time with animals one-on-one. But when Lt. Keith Ramsey, the pound director, got his new incinerator, he dismantled the adoption area so he could put the fencing around his new toy. In other words, he took materials that had been donated to get more animals out of that pound alive and repurposed them to make killing animals and burning their corpses easier and quicker. Oh, but Ramsey just hates the idea of killing any animal and calls it “an unfortunate part of the job.” (And completely unnecessary.)

As for injured and sick animals, the Dalmation is not the first one not to receive necessary veterinary attention at that pound. (NC Animal Welfare Administrative Code.) On Oct 3, 2012, I had posted about a hound with an injured nose who received no care while at the pound, and instead of being released to a rescue that had planned to take him to a vet was given to a man who said he was going to tie the dog to his porch.

I had sent an open records request via email on Sept. 26 for “all records (intake details, records of vet care given while in shelter custody, including vaccinations, and adoption or other outcome details) pertaining to a hound or hound-looking mix with a severely injured nose that was adopted out of the PenderCounty shelter on Friday, Sept. 21.”

Several days after publishing the post about the dog, I received a response, postmarked Oct. 3–the day the post was published. All the materials inside were dated Sept. 27, however. The packet also contained documents I did not request: statements by pound workers Darlene Clewis and Danielle Miller that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the hound.  If the statements hadn’t been dated Sept. 27 I would swear they were written specifically in response to the blog post.

Statement by Darlene ClewisStatement by Danielle Miller

Duke the boxer mix came in to the pound on March 24, 2012. On Saturday April 14, a volunteer noticed that he had become sick and had bloody diarrhea consistent with parvo. Pound staffer Danielle Miller told the volunteer that Duke had been sick all week  and that they were de-worming him.

Duke at Pender County Animal Shelter

The volunteer rushed Duke to a veterinarian. He had a very advanced case of parvovirus. Duke received treatment at the volunteer’s expense, survived and is now in a new home.

On August 24, 2012, a little cattle dog pup was pulled by a rescuer, who discovered the dog had been sitting on the concrete at the pound with a broken leg, receiving no care.

Cattle dog pulled from Pender County pound with a broken leg

On Sept 15, 2012, a rescuer visited the pound only to discover a litter of puppies so full of worms that the rescuer didn’t think they would survive. They had been in the Pender County pound for a week.

Wormy puppies pulled from Pender County Animal ShelterWormy puppies pulled from Pender County Animal ShelterWormy puppies pulled from Pender County Animal Shelter

It’s almost a given that, without fundraising to supplement their budgets,  public pounds in rural places like Pender don’t have the money to pay for much veterinary care. That’s why it’s so important for them to partner with rescue groups who will get the animals out of the pound to the care they need. But in NONE of the cases above were rescuers called by pound employees and asked to pull animals who needed vet attention. Instead, rescuers went to the pound on their own initiative and discovered the sick or injured animals sitting there without care (or with improper care, as in Duke’s case).

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Person County announces early end to gas chamber

Person County sent out a news release announcing that they have officially ended the use of the gas chamber at the county pound, nine months ahead of their projected “phase out” date of July 2013.

Person County Manager Heidi York had said previously that they would still be using the gas chamber for “very sick wildlife and overly vicious animals.”

Ending the barbaric use of the gas chamber is a laudable step, but the fact remains that Person County pound staff are still killing healthy and treatable pets. So when you contact County Manager Heidi York or pound Director Ron Shaw to thank them for making shelter pets’ deaths less brutal, please be sure to let them know that the No Kill Equation is a cost-effective way to end the needless killing.

Person County has also changed the department’s name from Animal Control to Animal Services, and will soon be participating in a spay/neuter matching grant program.

PCAS has taken another positive step by now posting its outcome statistics online. Although the 2012 ones are rather depressing, especially the part where they killed 115 kittens and 21 puppies simply because they were unweaned, and killed 104 cats and dogs just because they were picked up in a “rabies alert area.”

I have put these stats into a spreadsheet and calculated the rates: cat kill rate so far in 2012 is a horrible 91.8 percent, which is worse than last year’s 89.4 percent; dog kill rate is 38.14 percent, down slightly from last year’s 46.84%; overall kill rate is 67.43 percent, which is almost exactly the same as 2011 (67.71 percent.).

I pulled out two particular numbers because I find them rather revealing: the dog adoption rate is almost 13 percent, while the transfer-to-rescue rate is almost 37 percent. Most of the dogs who are getting out alive can thank rescue groups, who used to have to fight for access. Rhonda Beach of  Chance’s Angel Rescue & Education told Kim Kavin, author of Little Boy Blue: A Puppy’s Rescue from Death Row and His Owner’s Journey for Truth that when she first tried to save dogs from the Person County pound’s gas chamber she was unceremoniously turned away. “I had to fight for two years to get the right to go in and save a lot of dogs who were very adoptable,” Beach said.

But PCAS has begun making efforts toward increasing adoptions as well, using its Facebook page to promote adoptable pets and to post newly arrived animals in hopes of increasing owner reclaims. They have also started holding offsite adoption events at Tractor Supply.

I’m not sure what pastry carries the message “Thanks for becoming less crappy,” (cinnamon rolls, perhaps?) but if you decide to take some to PCAS, please remember to include copies of “No Kill 101,” “Dollars and Sense” and the Cliff Notes version of Redemption. They have moved forward because of pressure from the animal loving public. Why not keep them going in the right direction?

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Break out the punch bowl, Surry pound passed inspection

OMG, big amazing news: the Surry County pound: actually passed inspection!

If you find it a little quaint that the local paper is a bit too excited and boosterish over the local pound actually managing to pass a routine inspection, then here’s some backstory.

Of course, the NC Animal Welfare Act and Administrative Code address only the barest minimum standards for animal welfare and are really more concerned with the standards for killing animals than keeping them alive. Nonetheless, many of our county pounds are so badly managed or underfunded (or both) that they habitually fail (*cough* Duplin County *cough*).

You can see all inspection reports for all NC animal shelters here.

If you have a complaint about your local pound and would like an inspector to visit, you may submit a written request to: AGR.AWS@ncagr.gov.

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Ashe County pound director Joe Testerman eliminates pet adoptions

In mid-August of this year, Ashe County Animal Control Director Joe Testerman, after “several hours of research,” decided to cut the hours his shelter killing facility is open for adoptions and owner reclaims to just 12 per week. He attempted to justify it by saying that “most animal control departments in North Carolina have similar business hours that they are open to the public.” Actually, not so much. Joe Testerman’s “several hours” of research most likely consisted of looking up the minimum requirements for keeping his pound open per NC law (“at least four hours a day, three days a week”).

Last week, Testerman responded to complaints about the extremely restrictive hours by claiming he and his ACOs needed to be away from the pound at all hours. “Our workload requires us to be out on the road working, and that’s where most of our work is at,” he said.

In fact, Testerman said, there is no guarantee anyone will even be at the pound during the open hours, state law be damned. “It’s good practice to call before you come, though, to make sure somebody is going to be here. The unknown is always a factor. We never know when we’re going to get an emergency call that requires all of us.”

Testerman claims that the public is welcome into the pound for adoption during open hours, but the reality is that the Ashe County pound is now pretty much out of the adoption business. According to statistics released by the Ashe County clerk in response to an open records request, Joe Testerman’s death house did not adopt out a single animal between late July and mid-September. The last animal adopted out of the Ashe County pound  was a cat that came in on July 23. (Scans of all adoption stats are below, click to enlarge. And yes, the Jake Testerman who turned in six collies on April 9 is in fact Joe Testerman’s brother.)

Ashe County Animal Shelter adoptions Jan 1-Sept 17, 2012Ashe County Animal Shelter Adoptions Jan. 1-Sept. 17, 2012

Since that time, six dogs have been released to the Ashe County Humane Society, and six dogs have been released to other rescue groups. Three dogs were returned to owner. No cats appear to have left that pound alive since the end of July. (The report for the open records request was run Sept. 17, so there may have been an adoption or two in the weeks since then. I am planning to file another request for the statistics from Sept. 17 to Oct. 17.)

In an article earlier this year, Testerman shed crocodile tears for  the animals he kills: “It’s a sad day for all of us, the animals we have cared for, petted, named, and hoped for homes for, are kept as long as we can. When the kennels are all full and more come in, we have to make the painful decision of who has to die and who lives.” Actually, Mr. Testerman has a very easy time with that decision. By restricting adoption hours and not advertising available pets for adoption, he is actively choosing death for these animals.

The only dogs shown for adoption on the Ashe County pound’s web site are a hound/lab mix with a photo dated April 20, and a Treeing Walker Coonhound in a photo dated May 20. There is one cat, whose photo is dated Feb. 14. There are three dogs and no cats listed on the pound’s Petfinder page (which also lists the old, more adoption-friendly hours, so may not be updated all that regularly.)

Testerman said that killing animals “takes something out of the humans who have to make that decision and if anyone has an answer for it, we are sure willing to listen.” I sent him a letter back in April telling him that I did indeed have an answer:

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% kill rates to 90%+ SAVE rates, often in the first year.
For example, in Seagoville, Texas, 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.
Let me know if you are interested. I would be overjoyed to help

I have never heard back from Joe Testerman.

All of the Ashe County Animal Shelter Statistics for Jan. 1 to Sept. 17, 2012 (and beyond when available) can be found in this spreadsheet (see the individual worksheets for the outcome breakdowns).

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Pender County Pound: Where is this dog?

Injured hound at Pender County animal shelter

This hound (name unknown) was reportedly given no veterinary care for a very obvious nose injury while in the Pender County pound. Pound employees reportedly gave him away with no adoption papers on Friday, Sept. 21. The dog’s whereabouts are currently unknown.

During the week of Sept. 21, 2012, a hound with a very obvious nose injury resided at the Pender County animal shelter. The dog reportedly received no veterinary examinations or care for the injury during its stay at the pound, in violation of the NC animal welfare administrative code.

Several rescuers became interested in helping the dog get to safety and receive necessary vet care, and the Pender County pound staff was notified that a rescuer wished to pull him. In full knowledge that the dog had a safe place to go and guaranteed vet care waiting, pound worker (and former director) Darlene Clewis gave him to a man who came to the shelter on Friday. According to a source (who I am choosing not to identify), no paperwork, signatures, fees or any other transaction took place, and when the man was asked what he planned to do with the dog, he said he was going to tie him to his porch.

According to the source, a concerned rescuer asked for the adopter’s contact information so she could make sure that the dog’s severe nose injury was examined by a veterinarian. Clewis  reportedly could not recall the adopter’s name, despite claiming that she knew him and that he was a frequent volunteer at the pound. Clewis reportedly told the rescuer that she would follow up with the man on Monday (Sept. 24).

On Monday, after repeated calls by the rescuer to check on the dog, Clewis reportedly said the man had come by the pound to report that the dog had gotten loose and was nowhere to be found.

I have filed an open records request for this dog’s records, but I hold little expectation that it will be fulfilled without further pressure or legal action. Sources tell me that “off the books” adoptions and other book-cooking are the norm at the Pender County pound.

The Pender County pound reported a 36 percent kill rate for 2011, but this number is most likely a complete fiction. (NCDA&CS does not audit the numbers reported by pounds for veracity. They could all be complete fictions, but some are more obvious lies than others.)

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