Screenshot from the Facebook page of a friend who is not even a No Kill activist (click to view larger photo):
Fortunately, in this case, a rescuer was able to get to the pound by closing and Brutis is safe.
NOTE: Amanda Liston provided the information and opinions attributed to her in the following post while she was Carolina Care Bullies president. I have since learned that she resigned from the rescue a few days before the post was published.
The next time someone says “Nobody wants to kill animals” to defend the killing of shelter pets, remember Coco. Robin Meadows, a volunteer for Carolina Care Bullies rescue, expended a lot of effort trying to save Coco from the very first day the dog landed in the Guilford County pound, a pet-killing facility where almost half the animals ended up dead in 2011 ¹. Despite days of effort by Meadows and other CCB rescuers, the staff of the Guilford County pound killed Coco anyway.
Coco was a friendly, young pit bull belonging to a boy who lived near Meadows’ sister. On Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, the boy arrived home from school to discover that his stepfather had surrendered Coco to animal control. The boy told Meadows, who knew Coco had a wonderful disposition and got along well with her dog Skyleigh (adopted from Carolina Care Bullies). Knowing that Coco was definitely adoptable and that at best she could give Coco a forever home herself, Meadows called the Guilford County pound that very day to ask what she needed to do to get Coco out of there. (The Guilford County pound refuses to adopt dogs they identify as pit bulls directly to the public, so rescue pulls are generally the only ways such dogs get out of that pound alive.)
Meadows gave pound staff a detailed description of Coco and told them where and when she had been taken by animal control. “At first they told me they weren’t sure what dog I was talking about and they would have to see if they had her,” she said. Then they told her she could pull Coco if she brought along the owner who had surrendered her and paid about $60 in reclaim fees. Meadows posted the situation to the CCB forum, and another volunteer offered to put up the money for the fees. On Thursday Meadows went to speak to Coco’s former owner, who agreed to meet her at the pound Friday afternoon. She said she called the pound three times on Thursday to make sure that she was making the correct arrangements to save Coco.
The former owner stood Meadows up late Friday afternoon, shortly before the pound closed. Frustrated, she turned for help to CCB president Amanda Liston. Pound staff told Meadows that in order to pull Coco under CCB, Liston would have to speak directly to pound director Marsha Williams on the following Monday.
Liston called the pound Monday morning. “The shelter manager told us that she was expecting our call,” Liston said ”She also informed us that she would in no way release the dog to Robin, that myself and [CCB vice president] Terry [King] would have to pick up the dog personally. We explained that Robin was a local Greensboro volunteer that wanted to foster-to-adopt the dog, and that we lived 45 minutes away, there was no reason for us to come from Hillsborough to pick up a dog.”
Liston said that Meadows is a trusted CCB volunteer and is just as much a part of the organization as anyone else. “CCB is not one or two people, we are a large network of volunteers, and myself and the vice president can not be expected to do every rescue errand. However, we would have been glad to if that was the last resort,” she said.
“Half a day later, our Vice President Terry King received a voicemail that the dog in question was euthanized early that morning because of inability to identify the dog based on no owner information.” Liston said. “They played games and stalled us over an entire weekend, telling us we couldn’t get permission to release the dog until Monday—well after they planned to euthanize the dog,” Liston said. “They said they tried to identify the dog and were unable to do so—but they didn’t need to—Robin could point out the dog and provide all the owner surrender information for them.”
Meadows was devastated. “She survived the weekend just to have them kill her the day I was going to pick her up.”
“Five minutes of Guilford County’s time would have confirmed that allowing Robin to pull the dog was a far better alternative than euthanasia for Coco,” Liston said.
“I find it impossible to believe that they were unable to identify this one dog with the level of Robin’s description in addition to the information she was able to provide about the owner, ” Liston said. “The only foreseeable way this could have occurred is if they throw every pit bull that comes into the shelter in a large, multi-dog holding pen with no ID, and I know that to not be true.”
A public records request for Coco’s records was sent to Guilford County pound director Marsha Williams and the county attorney, who forwarded it to Guilford County Animal Control. Animal control responded promptly with their paperwork on Coco, showing where, when and how she was surrendered by her owner and picked up.
Williams, however, did not respond until a second request was sent, when she refused to comply. “I have spoken to the board of Directors and the United Animal Coalition attorney and they have advised me to inform you that The United Animal Coalition that operates the shelter is a private organization and therefore does not fall under your public records statute any information you requested for Coco that falls under that statute can be provided by animal control and the county attorney’s office whom you cc’d on your previous email and this one,” she said.
Williams and UAC seem to have no problem collecting more than $1 million of taxpayer money from the county to operate a de facto government agency “for the mutual benefit of the Parties and for the citizens of GUILFORD COUNTY” in a building and on property owned by Guilford County. But when it comes time to be publicly accountable for what they do with the community’s shelter pets, they want to hide behind non-profit status and claim they don’t have to tell anyone what goes on in their pound.
According to the NC Attorney General’s office, whether a non-profit operating a government service is subject to public records disclosure is “a matter of legal opinion.” There exists legal precedent of courts upholding that municipalities can not hide records from the public by contracting with a non-profit.
In fact, the contract between Guilford County and UAC is very similar to a scenario that UNC Professor of Law and Government Frayda Bluestein sets forth as an example of when a non-profit WOULD probably be subject to transparency laws. She describes a scenario in which a city contracts with a non-profit group that promotes arts:
If not for this contract, city employees would carry out this function. The city appoints three of the five members of the nonprofit board. The city owns the property the nonprofit uses for its offices, and leases it to the nonprofit for nominal consideration. The nonprofit receives most of its funding from the city. Is the nonprofit organization subject to the transparency laws? The answer is probably: yes.
The UAC leases its building and land from Guilford County for $1 per year. The Guilford County board of commissioners has the right to appoint a county commissioner to serve as a fully participating member of the UAC board of directors. The UAC receives most of its funding from the county. In addition, the UAC must obtain written approval from the county manager before it is allowed to change any fees, hours of operation, policies or procedures affecting the public.
The claim of exemption from public records laws by Williams and the UAC is pretty much begging for a legal opinion.² Essentially, Williams and UAC are claiming the right to kill their community’s pets completely in secret. Meanwhile, the Guilford County taxpayers are footing the bill.
Consider the implications: Suppose you live right on the county line between Guilford and Alamance. One day, your dog bolts through the door and takes off. If he heads east, gets picked up by Alamance County animal control and taken to the pound in Burlington, you would have every right to find out exactly what happened to him if he died in kennel or was killed there. But if he were to head west, get picked up by Guilford County animal control and end up in the Guilford county pound, his fate could remain a complete mystery to you. Marsha Williams and her staff claim that you would have no right to find out what happened to your beloved family pet during his last days or hours in their facility.
Despite replying to the public records request by claiming she doesn’t have to send any records, Williams did send one record: a photo of part of a document she says was all her pound received from animal control with Coco:
Williams says that because the form from animal control identified Coco as a stray, no one at GCAS could figure out which dog Meadows and CCB were trying to save until after pound staff had killed her.
“The lack of proper information did not allow the shelter staff to locate Coco in time to transfer her to CCB,” Williams said. Were they in such a hurry to kill Coco that they couldn’t be bothered to take a few minutes to see if maybe the small female pit bull pup marked “stray” who came in from Cotswold Ave. on the morning of Feb. 6 could possibly have been the same small female pit bull pup brought in from Cotswold Ave. on the morning of Feb. 6 that Robin Meadows so desperately wanted to save?
As director of that pound, Williams has the power to decide NOT to kill pets, at the very least for long enough to sort out which dog a rescuer wants to save. It’s not as if there is an unstoppable killing machine conveyor belt that pets are put on as soon as they enter the pound (as much as Guilford’s kill rate makes it seem as if there could be). Williams runs that pound and can decide which pets live, which pets die, and how much time they are given before she or her staff inject them full of death syrup.
Williams and her staff kill more than 6,000 dogs and cats per year. Assuming 260 business days in a year, that means they kill, on average, more than 23 pets per day. Perhaps, given the sheer magnitude of killing they do there, no one at the Guilford County pound saw the point of taking any extra time to kill one fewer healthy and adoptable pet.
What does the fact that Williams sent a record she believes vindicates her and her staff imply about the records she is withholding? Her refusal to release Coco’s records might reasonably lead folks to wonder what is there that she does not want to reveal. Was there more to the runaround Meadows and Liston were given than just disorganization or disinterest on the part of Williams and her staff?
“Were they hoping we would give up before we discovered that the dog was already euthanized?” Liston said. She believes the claim that Coco could not be identified “in time” was an excuse given “when there was nothing else they could say to deter us from rescuing the dog.”
“The dog didn’t have to be euthanized. And had any other shelter manager in the state been in that place, at least the ones we have had experience with, that dog would have lived,” Liston said.“I want the public to know that Guilford is not the amazing shelter that they are often hailed as. They treat pit bulls as criminals, they treat those that want to rescue them as suspicious, and would rather kill these dogs than give them a chance at a new life.
“The glaring difference between this shelter and others I have worked with, no matter how small-staffed or how large their intake is, is that other shelters can easily identify dogs based on even a mediocre description,” Liston said. The larger facilities such as Orange County Animal Services or Wake County Animal Center will mark kennel cards ”rescue hold” or “rescue interest” as soon as CCB calls, she said. “Its uncomplicated. We call, they send a volunteer to mark their kennel card, if they can’t do it themselves.”
“Guilford has made clear to us in the past we are not to try to advertise dogs in their shelter that need homes,” Liston said. “I’m confused about this, as they advertise them on their own FB page, so I don’t know why we cannot. We have also asked them to email us photos of pit bulls at their shelter and we will try to find foster homes. Unsurprisingly, we have never received a single photograph or even personality description of any dog in their shelter. Despite the non-response on their end, we were expected to provide a list of past adopters, references, adoption policies and a copy of our application, all of which we worked hard to compile and provide to them.” Liston said CCB never heard from Guilford again after supplying that information.
“As we have grown, understandably we have had many volunteers want us to help pit bulls in their shelter,” Liston said. “I try to explain what happened, and they insist the shelter manager tells them ‘We would love to work with CCB!’ It’s true, the shelter manager does repeat this, over and over to compassionate pit bull lovers and visitors to their Facebook page. But, it is 100% untrue. They go out of their way to make sure no pit bull leaves their shelter, unless it is in secret, unless we somehow magically find a foster without advertising for one, unless we agree to take a dog we’ve never met or seen.”
Liston said Williams has claimed policies dictated by the Guilford County Commissioners are the reason it’s difficult to extract pit bulls from that pound. “I know this to also be false, as other counties with similar ‘no public pit bull adoption’ policies have no trouble allowing rescues to share photos, meet dogs, secure foster homes and use their volunteer-base to pick up dogs for their foster homes,” Liston said.
Liston said she suspects a personal prejudice against pit bulls may possibly be what makes it so hard to save them from the Guilford pound. “Why else would one person guarantee the death of so many dogs that have other options?”
Folks who wish to discuss the Guilford County pound or its pit bull policy with the Guilford County Commissioners may find their contact information here. A sample letter regarding anti-pit bull policies can be found here.
A NOTE REGARDING THE COMMENTING POLICY ON THIS POST: Because free and open discourse is only possible when there is full access to information, all comments defending the UAC/GCAS etc. will be held in moderation until such time as Williams and the UAC release Coco’s records. If they never release them, the comments will never be published. Anyone bothered or inconvenienced by this policy may contact Marsha Williams.
²In NC, this will most likely require a lawsuit. Animal advocate Holly Nielsen filed suit last year against the Johnston County SPCA, which received funds from the town of Clayton, over the same issue. The case never went to court because the JCSPCA board voted to dissolve itself immediately after the suit was filed. If you are interested in helping bankroll or helping find pro-bono or contingency legal representation for a potentially precedent-setting lawsuit against The United Animal Coalition, please email me. Back
Pam Lee went to the Burlington Animal Shelter on Oct 31 looking for her missing cat, Sassy. She saw a large black cat who looked a bit like Sassy, so she asked the attendant if she could look at the cat’s hind legs, because Sassy was attacked by a hawk when she was young and had long furless scars on her legs.
The attendant showed her the cats legs, and it wasn’t Sassy. “The attendant said he believed that this cat was male, rubbed his head, and showed me the cat’s ‘fangs’ which he said were very rare. The cat was very docile when the attendant was touching him, so I knew he wasn’t completely feral,” Pam said.
Pam went back to the Burlington pound again on Friday, Nov. 2. “I first went back to again check for my Sassy, but I had already decided that I wanted the black cat that looked so very much like her. I had thought about him for 2 days and keep seeing his eyes.” She had already picked out a name for him: Spirit.
She told the attendant who escorted her that she wanted the cat and pointed the cat out to him. “He told me that the animals had to go through evaluation and the adoption process before I could receive one. He said he didn’t think there was anything I could do to get him before going through the adoption process, but that I could speak with the lady at the desk.”
Pam went back to the waiting room:
“I spoke with the clerk there. I told her that I wanted the cat. She repeated the mantra about the evaluation they would have to go through. I told her that money was no object; I would pay for any evaluation, spay/neutering, and necessary shots. Then she said that it wasn’t that easy, that first there had to be space for the animal in the adoption center. I told her that space was not necessary because as soon as the procedures were complete, I would be taking the cat home with me. She told me that people can’t just pick out one of the strays because it may not pass the health screening. She said that a common occurrence when there are many cats in a cage is the presence of an upper respiratory infection. (I know that is no reason to kill a cat; my cat had a URI at one point and responded wonderfully to antibiotics.) I told her again that I was willing to take that chance and would pay for it. She then explained how people get angry about not being able to get one of the cats back there, but that they just don’t understand how many animals go through the shelter and mentioned that there were thousands that pass through the doors.
“That’s when I told her that I didn’t understand; that if there were that many stray and abandoned animals, why wouldn’t they make a way for one to have a good home when it is wanted? She told me that I would just have to check back with the adoption center the next week to see if the cat made adoption status. (I have no doubt she was well aware that the animals in the room that this cat was in are not even considered for adoption.) I asked her if the Humane Society could intercede and help me get this cat, to which she said “no.” I asked her if pulling rank by being the sheriff’s first cousin held any weight; again she said “no.” After slamming into the “brick wall” for over 5 minutes resulting in the same mantra (“check with the adoption center next week”), I finally left determined to call Bev [the woman from the Humane Society] anyway.
“I did stop by the adoption center on my way out which is where I held a third conversation with a staff employee. I explained to him what I wanted and asked if there was anything he could do to help me. He told me he couldn’t help; I would just have to check back next week. I asked him about the availability of “space” for one to be evaluated. He told me that they had recently expanded to get more cages and that there were two cages currently open. (So at this point, space was NOT a reason for sending the cat to be exterminated. How about maybe no one bothered to ASK if there was any space for the cat.) He quickly assured me that there was nothing he could do to help me.”
Pam left and called the woman at the humane society, who told her the names of supervisors to ask for. “I would like to point out that during this entire time, no one mentioned referring me to someone in charge, such as Tina Meeks or Tammy Penley.”
Pam went back to the pound and spoke with Ms. Meeks, who asked Pam to show her the cat she was interested in. “We went into the middle room and my heart sank when I saw the cages were all empty,” Pam said. “I pointed to the top cage and told her that the cat I wanted was in there. She then told me that she had filled out he euthanasia orders on all of those cats early that morning. She said he had been put down that morning. I asked her at least twice if she was sure that the deed had already been done and she assured me that it had been done. I am embarrassed to say that I sat there and cried like a baby.”
Ms. Meeks told Pam that incoming animals are separated into two groups: surrendered and most likely adoptable and strays who must be held for 3 days and probably won’t be “adoptable” (by whatever the pound’s standards are for adoptability). The strays are generally killed after 3 days with no attempt to adopt them out. ”For all intents and purposes, it’s a death sentence from the time they are put in the cages,” Pam said. “They’re just faced with caged indifference for 3 long days before being executed.”
“After speaking to Ms. Meeks, I realized that stonewalling is what is expected of the employees,” Pam said. “Ms. Meeks assured me that the desk lady did as she was supposed to do when someone inquires about the strays.”
The next day, while thinking back on events, Pam said “a sudden realization made the shock more horrific”:
“There was a roll up garage door in the room with the strays. While I was standing there discussing the cat’s adoption with the attendant that took me back, the door suddenly opened and startled me so badly I jumped. The attendant said it was just the overhead and started leading me out of the room. I kept trying to look in the cages on the truck that backed to the door, but couldn’t see any animals in them. I asked him if they were bringing more animals in and tried to look in case mine was in one of them. He said he didn’t know and ushered me back through to the entrance desk. He told me to discuss the adoption with the desk clerk, although he didn’t think there was anything that could be done without the adoption process being completed. He also told me I would have to check back at the adoption center later. Then he went back in the rooms we had just left.
“The supervisor, Tina Meeks, told me she had issued the euthanasia papers early that morning for all the cats in the back cages and that they were put down that morning. As I didn’t leave until about 11:15, I wondered how it had happened so quickly after I left. Then it hit me: the truck that had backed up to the dock was picking up the cats to be taken to be gassed. That means the attendant that was standing right beside me and the cat telling me to check back with adoption next week, also knew that the cat I wanted was being loaded as we spoke to be executed. He went back in there to help them load the truck. He lied to me; the desk clerk lied to me. And I figured out why: It was coming up noon on Friday and it would have been too much trouble to have to rework the paperwork that had already been issued. I feel certain that if the clerk had called her supervisor, Ms. Meeks may have tried to stop that cat from being taken out. As I said, she apologized over and over yesterday afternoon and said she didn’t know. But she also said that the employees did their job by telling me what they were supposed to say to anyone who asked about he strays. This is obviously a common occurrence, but I guess they figure no one will be as dogged as I was about coming back to fight with them. Most people probably just check back, don’t find the animal they wanted, and figure it didn’t make it through the evaluation.”
People who defend shelter killing love to say “Nobody WANTS to kill animals,” before spouting some excuse for the killing like “There are just too many animals and not enough homes.” Pam Lee went to the Burlington pound repeatedly and begged several staffers to be allowed to give a cat a home and save it from being killed. But the staff at the Burlington Animal “Shelter” wanted to kill that cat. They lied to Pam Lee just so they would be able to kill that cat.
*Headline blatantly ripped off from YesBiscuit.
Sampson County pound director Lori Baxter maintains half of the dog cages empty, just as she did while she was director of the Robeson County pound. She says it prevents disease, although the multiple distemper outbreaks at the Robeson pound during her tenure challenge that claim.
Despite the empty-cage policy, a dog named Doogie, who had been in the Sampson pound since Oct 19, came down with kennel cough. Kennel cough is not fatal. It’s a mild-to-moderate, usually self-limiting disease. It’s basically a canine cold, and aside from temporary discomfort much like we all experience when we have a cold, it causes no suffering. Some vets may recommend a cough suppressant or antibiotics if a secondary infection is suspected, but many recommend just doing nothing and waiting for the cold to go away. Every now and then one of my own dogs or fosters gets kennel cough and, even though it’s considered highly contagious, it rarely spreads to the others.
In a high-kill pound like Sampson, however, kennel cough is usually a death sentence. Not because it causes irremediable suffering or somehow turns fatal, but because … well that’s the way high-kill shelter directors roll. They choose death whenever possible, and a cough is as good an excuse as any.
Sometime around noon today, Lori Baxter posted Doogie’s photo with the caption “Doogie has kennel cough! He HAS to leave in the next few hours! Please someone step up for this great boy!!” If Baxter were concerned about other dogs catching kennel cough, with half the cages in the pound empty she could have easily isolated Doogie while she gave rescuers a chance to arrange to get him out. But about four hours later (after someone posted that there was a foster available), Baxter posted “We have no rescue. Nobody to be responsible for him…RIP boy…sorry we failed you…” (UPDATE 11/05/12: The posts have all been since deleted from the Sampson pound Facebook page.)
But the fact is there WAS someone responsible for Doogie: Lori Baxter, who claims to be one of “the ones who really are making a difference.” What a difference she made in Doogie’s life: for no reason at all he went from being a handsome dog with a cold to being a dead body in a dumpster. I’m sure Baxter’s words of apology on Facebook were a great comfort to Doogie as he went to his death.
But even sadder than Doogie’s needless death is that there were local rescuers willing to whisk Doogie out of the pound and to a vet.
And here we discover the “difference” Lori Baxter is making in the lives of shelter pets: “Please remember that most shelters would have euthanized him first thing this morning and not even given most of the day to network.” (I’m not sure how four hours equals “most of the day.”) But the “difference” stops short of actually picking up the phone and calling well-known, long-time pound volunteers who have reliably been available to pull pets in need. Apparently, in Lori Baxter’s universe, if you’re not on Facebook all day responding to her posts you are failing the pets in her pound. But because she waits four hours before killing a dog with a cold, she appears to think we should hail her as a one-woman shelter revolution. And many of the posters on Facebook do just that:
Lori Baxter is far from a revolutionary shelter director. She practices the same old “save a few, kill the rest” method that has been failing our shelter pets for years. She just happens to do aggressive Facebook marketing of some of the pets in her pound, which is actually unsustainable because it keeps volunteers and rescuers in crisis mode. They are always rushing to save one “urgent” pet after another–the urgency being that Baxter will send the pets to their deaths in the gas chamber if rescuers don’t get them out of there pronto. Baxter is the one deciding who dies and when, killing pets even when half the cages sit empty.
The real revolutionaries are the shelter directors in the more than 70 No Kill communities across the nation, where 90 percent and more of the pets going into open-admission shelters are getting out alive.
The programs and services that are working in those communities could be achieving the same results in Sampson. The one indispensable ingredient, however, is a leader who is not content to continue killing while regurgitating tired clichés about “public irresponsibility,” hiding behind the myth of pet “overpopulation,” or fobbing her own responsibility for killing off on caring volunteers and rescuers.
Sampson County residents who would like the county to hire a shelter director dedicated to ending the killing of healthy and treatable pets should contact County Manager Edwin Causey.
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:
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:
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.
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.)
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).
The Wayne County pound in Goldsboro notified its “friends” group last week that there will now be a 14-day maximum hold policy at the pound. Pound staff will now kill all animals without exception (including puppies and kittens), after 14 days. If the shelter is full, that time can be shortened.
The Wayne County pound actually has more space than other pounds in surrounding counties, with 162 primary enclosures, according to its NCDA&CS inspection report. For comparison, much larger Sampson County has only 95 primary enclosures in its pound, and the pound in more populous Johnston County has 128 primary enclosures.
The Wayne County pound killed more than 80 percent of the cats and almost 32 percent of the dogs who came in during 2011, for a combined kill rate of almost 57 percent.
People who would like to (politely and respectfully) let the animal control director and county manager know that the No Kill Equation, which has been proven to work in open-admission shelters in at least 54 communities, presents a positive, life-affirming alternative can contact them as follows:
You can also write or call the Wayne County Commissioners.
If you are a Wayne County resident, you may also speak for a few minutes during the public comments portion of a future Board of Commissioners meeting. Here’s a great example of such an address.
Volunteers and animal advocates in Granville County have long begged animal control chief Cathy Hartley to increase the number of dogs she releases for adoption from the Granville pound. There are typically only a handful of dogs labeled “adoptable” at any given time regardless of how many are currently in there or what type of dogs there are. (There seem to more cats available on a regular basis).
At my visit to the volunteer orientation there in July, I asked some of the volunteers what the criteria are for determining adoptability, and no one knew; they all said it was at Ms. Hartley’s discretion. Thursday evening at the quarterly meeting of the county’s animal control advisory board, I discovered the answer to my question: the Granville pound’s standards for classifying dogs as adoptable or unadoptable depend on what’s easiest and most convenient.
The topic arose when one of the board members said “It seems like there aren’t many dogs out there for adoptions on Saturdays” (which is the busiest day for adoptions at the pound because its the only time most working families with kids can actually get there during open hours).
“If we’re running out of space and it gets down to it, you could still euthanize a green [adoptable]1 dog,” the board member said. “That would give the public more dogs to pick from when they’re out there instead of having three to pick from, maybe have nine to pick from.”
“It’s been very difficult to do that [kill adoptables] recently without a lot of criticism,” Ms. Hartley said.
So to put it bluntly, adoptable dogs are scarce at the Granville pound because they take up space and can’t be killed without the volunteers and other animal advocates (rightfully) getting upset.
This also explains why volunteers are not allowed any contact with “yellow” card dogs at the pound (those whose holds have expired but who have not been cleared for adoption): If people were allowed to walk and pet them, they’d likely not want them to be killed, either (and it would also probably demonstrate the falsehood of their “unadoptable” classification).
Another board member, who said it was very frustrating to convince people to go look for a dog to adopt at the pound only to have them report back that “the place was completely empty,” questioned the need for pre-emptive killing. “Lets say we have 23 dogs and nothing else comes in, there’s no reason to go from 20 to 5 unless you actually have more coming in,” she said
“Well, we have more coming in pretty regularly,” Ms. Hartley said. “We empty it out three days a week at minimum. And then they fill back in.”
Granville County gas chamber, Oxford NC by carolinaonmymind, on Flickr
Just to be clear, when Ms. Hartley says “empty it out,” she means killing everything possible (probably in the pound’s gas chamber.). One of the kill-pound defenders’ favorite cliches is “nobody wants to kill pets,” but the practices at the Granville pound seem to contradict that. The fact that little effort is put toward the things proven to increase adoptions (adoption hours friendly to working people and families with kids, greater visibility in the community, marketing, offsite adoptions, special events, adoption incentives, foster care program, a fun and friendly shelter environment, and a good public image, among other things), indicates that Ms. Hartley seems to prefer “emptying out” her pound via the dumpster. She is choosing to kill pets by not doing the kinds of things necessary to get them out of her pound alive, things that have been proven successful at saving more than 90 percent of the pets that come in to open-admission shelters in more than 54 communities across the country.
Opening up kennel space in a pound by killing is less work for someone like Ms. Hartley than doing it via adoption or rescue (and less paperwork, too). Killing pets simply makes her job easier. Because she can’t kill the pets still on mandatory hold and volunteers (rightfully) get upset when she kills the animals lucky enough to be called “adoptable,” Ms. Hartley has a big incentive NOT to change many dogs’ status from “yellow” to “green” because it keeps her job as easy on herself as possible.
I wonder how the taxpayers of Granville County would feel about their taxes paying the salary of a sheriff or a fire marshal who approached their job the same way?
Conversely, how would the taxpayers of Granville County feel about having a shelter director dedicated to actually protecting the lives of the animals that come into her shelter? If the experiences of communities around the country that have gone No Kill are any indication, local residents love it and often turn out in support of their shelter in numbers greater than ever. In fact, because No Kill boosts adoptions, attracts and retains more volunteers, improves staff morale and generates more funding, among other things, a commitment to saving lives instead of killing would probably end up making Cathy Hartley’s job much easier in the long run.
Another issue that came up at Thursday’s meeting was vaccination on intake, and it appears shelter policy is being dictated by misinformation, namely that they aren’t allowed to vaccinate incoming strays. Board members were discussing the duties of a new vet tech who has been hired at the pound when one board member (a veterinarian), said, “Please, please, please let them be vaccinated on intake and not two weeks later. When you guys are rolling your truck in, she [the vet tech] should be standing there with vaccines all ready.”
Another member said “But we don’t know who’s staying and who’s not at that point.” (Translation: we don’t know who’s going to be allowed to live and who’s going to end up in the dumpster.)
“But isn’t it better to vaccinate everybody, before they even step foot in there?” the vet (very correctly) said.
“We never have. It’s not protocol,” answered the other.
“We never could, practically, moneywise … it just doesn’t make sense,” Ms. Hartley said.
The money argument doesn’t hold water. Necesary vaccines for dogs and cats can cost as low as $2.10 each (if purchased from a vendor who provides shelter pricing discounts). Considering that adoptions are revenue-producing, vaccines save lives and killing animals costs money (a 2009 American Humane Association study estimated lethal injection killing costs at around $2.29 per animal and gas chamber killing costs at around $4.66 per animal), it actually makes much more cost sense to vaccinate every animal at intake … and to push adoptions as a priority over killing. And if money is an issue, there are many volunteers at the pound who would help solicit donations of vaccines or the money to buy them if it means more animals getting out of that pound alive.
But Ms. Hartley had more misinformation behind her failure to vaccinate: “If they’re strays, then they are not legally our animal,” she said, giving as an example: what if we give a vaccine “and one reacts and has a problem and then the owner shows up and we’re in trouble again.”
That is a false premise and a red herring to the real discussion of sound vaccination practice. Legally, it’s unlikely a shelter would be held liable unless the animal was wrongfully seized by animal control or the shelter had refused to relinquish it when the owner tried to reclaim. What’s more, the possibility of an adverse reaction to a vaccine is miniscule, and far, far less of an issue than an unvaccinated pet picking up a potentially fatal disease like parvovirus, canine distemper, panleukopenia or calicivirus in a shelter.
Furthermore, there is no law in North Carolina that prohibits shelters from vaccinating any dog on intake, and many shelters across the state do it. So unless there is a Granville County ordinance prohibiting it (I could not find their ordinances online to check), there’s no legal barrier to immediate vaccination of strays. In fact, the advocate group for the Bladen County pound (2011 dog kill rate: 10.61 percent, cat kill rate: 63.71; compare to Granville’s dog kill rate of 70.75 percent and cat kill rate of 85.87 percent), proclaims their sound vaccination policy on their Petfinder page: “In an effort toward disease prevention, Bladen County Animal Control now gives Core Vaccinations to all pets on intake.” Vance County, which had a 35 percent kill rate last year (less than half that of next door neighbor Granville County) also vaccinates all pets on intake at its pound.
(UPDATE: Thanks to a wonderful reader who sent me a link, I have read the Granville County animal control ordinances, and there is no prohibition on vaccination of strays. An AC officer is, however, allowed to “use his discretion to waive the minimum holding time and to destroy the animal immediately or at such time as deemed appropriate” in the case of “animals that are badly wounded or diseased or afflicted with a highly contagious disease such as distemper or parvo.” A change in the county ordinance to allow vaccination would probably be enough to mitigate any potential for legal problems.)
In reality, it just doesn’t make sense not to vaccinate all pets on intake, unless one is looking for MORE excuses to kill animals. (Pounds like Robeson, Duplin and Ashe have found distemper and parvo outbreaks to be quite handy in that respect.)
The good news from Thursday’s meeting is that, as mentioned, the pound has hired a new vet tech, as well as an additional shelter attendant. The board is also trying to streamline its policies and procedures for rescue groups to pull from the pound, and implementing a low-cost spay/neuter voucher program that will take advantage of the NCDA&CS reimbursement program.
1The Granville pound uses a colored card system to mark the status of the pets. Yellow means the animal is past the hold period but not available for adoption. (The animal may or may not be available to rescue groups, at Ms. Hartley’s discretion). Volunteers are not allowed to walk, pet or interact with “yellow” pets. Pets with green cards are available for adoption. Volunteers may walk, pet and interact with those pets, and the “green” dogs are allowed to spend time occasionally in one of the outdoor pens. Back
“The general public, they don’t understand all the issues,” said Kim Alboum, NC director of the Humane Society of the United States, to about 40 people, most of whom were members of the general public (the rest were Person County Animal Control employees or county administrators), who gathered for a meeting Thursday evening in Roxboro, NC.
The event was billed as a “grassroots meeting on animal welfare,” by HSUS and its front group, North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare. Many of the attendees were Person County residents who expected to discuss issues surrounding the Person County pound, a gassing facility where 67% of the pets who came in were killed during 2011. (The gas chamber will reportedly be “phased out” over the next year. If you’d like to know why it takes a year to get rid of a gas chamber, email Person County Manager Heidi York at email@example.com and ask her.)
“The reason I’m here tonight is that we have got to get our commercial dog breeder bill passed,” Ms. Alboum said. She also had much to say about farm animals and spent a lot of time telling attendees what kind of meat to eat (local, sustainable and certainly not veal), discussing tail-docking of dairy cows and opining about the life of pigs on a small-scale farm: “These animals live a good life and the worst day of their life is they day they get slaughtered,” she said.
How about the worst day in the life of a dog or cat in an NC pound? Well, Ms. Alboum didn’t have much to say about the animals in the state’s so-called “shelters,” because she was much more concerned with protecting the delicate feelings of the people who work in them. In fact, Ms. Alboum thinks the staff at your pound (you know, those people posing drugged kittens with cigarettes in their mouths for fun Facebook photos?) should be exempt from the expectations placed on other public employees, namely that they perform their paid duties conscientiously even in the face of challenges.
“We cannot treat our shelter staff badly and expect them to be their best and care for the animals. It’s not fair,” Ms. Alboum said. So, if your pound staff is callous, uncaring, negligent or even downright cruel to the animals that have been entrusted into their care by taxpayers, its because people aren’t nice to them. They have every right to take it out on the animals, says Ms. Alboum of the HSUS.
“I can’t tell you just how far it goes to just stop at the shelter with some cupcakes or cookies if you have an issue and say ‘let’s just chat,’ ” Ms. Alboum said. So if your shelter is needlessly killing healthy and treatable animals while blaming the “irresponsible public” for their failure or hiding behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes,” just take them some cupcakes! Just be sure to include several copies of “No Kill 101,” “Dollars and Sense” and the Cliff Notes version of Redemption. While you’re at it, take some to your city council members or county commissioners, too.
But back to the worst day in a shelter pet’s life. Ms. Alboum seems to think that for some it would be the day they go out the door (alive) with an “uncredentialed” rescue,1 calling that “terrifying.” Alboum is obviously of the same mindset as “catch and kill” sheltering pioneer Phyllis Wright, who famously said, “I’ve put 70,000 dogs and cats to sleep… But I tell you one thing: I don’t worry about one of those animals that were put to sleep… Being dead is not cruelty to animals.”
“It’s great whenever your euthanasia numbers are incredibly low,” Ms. Alboum said. “But we have a shelter in North Carolina where the euthanasia rates are one of the lowest in the entire state and they cannot tell you where one of these animals have gone from that shelter. Not one. There’s one group that solely pulls from that shelter and distributes them away. Thousands of animals.”2
I can tell you one place where those animals have NOT gone: into that pound’s dumpster.
What is Ms. Alboum really saying here? Some NC pounds can’t even keep track of the animals that are currently inside the shelter. Who actually expects them to know the location of all the ones who left alive? What pound has any idea where any pet goes after it is released to a rescue group? I have a foster dog pulled from my local high-kill pound through a rescue, and they really don’t care where he is unless he shows up there again. And what pound has staff who have the time or are willing to follow-up and track down animals who made it out? And why would they?
What Ms. Alboum is really doing with all her talk of “uncredentialed” rescue groups is creating a smokescreen to divert attention from the fact that HSUS really doesn’t care about the killing of shelter pets. Shelter killing is the leading cause of death for healthy pets in the United States, but HSUS and other “humane” organizations spend much effort and energy fighting against legislation that would end it. So Ms. Alboum’s job, as a representative of a group committed to defending pounds and their killing, is to direct people’s outrage away from the issue of killing and onto something else, like the rescue groups that are saving many of the animals.
Kill proponents like Ms. Alboum like to talk about all the scary bad things that COULD POSSIBLY MAYBE happen to a pet after he leaves a shelter. They cultivate the false notion that “killing is kindness” and perpetuate the fallacy that there are “fates worse than death” to try to justify the needless killing of healthy and treatable animals. Then after the animals are dead, they say, “He’s in a better place now.” Really? Did you ask him? Terrible fates could befall any of us at at any time. How many people would actually choose to be killed in order to avoid the future possibility of something bad happening to us?
Sure, there are a few unscrupulous groups who call themselves rescues and some well-meaning rescuers who over-extend themselves and end up not being able to honor their commitments. That’s not a good thing. But did any of their actions result in the deaths of at least 226,199 dogs and cats in 2011? Because that’s (at least) how many pets were killed by the staff of North Carolina pounds last year. The statewide kill rate was almost 65 percent. Many of the pets who escaped being killed did so thanks to the tireless work of rescue groups.
During the question period, a member of a breed rescue group said he’s tried to rescue dogs from many shelters who tell him “we don’t deal with rescues.” Ms. Alboum said that’s the rescue groups’ fault because they aren’t nice enough to shelter staff. “I am not going to argue you on that point. Many of our shelters have been burned. Breed-specific rescue groups will go to our shelters and treat them like they’re useless and have no knowledge about animals. And so a lot of our shelters have said, you know what, I’m not working with any of you.”
And Kim Alboum of the HSUS thinks sacrificing the lives of shelter pets to protect the delicate egos of pound staff is just fine. An organization that takes millions of your dollars every year ostensibly to protect animals is far more concerned with protecting the feelings of the people who choose to kill them (and in some cases, abuse them horrendously first.)
Ms Alboum also defended shelters who don’t allow volunteers. “One thing I have seen is that animal advocates want shelters to have a volunteer program.” Yes, indeed, because at some shelters (Granville County pops immediately to mind), volunteer efforts are the only way anyone ever sees photos of the adoptable pets in the pound or strays who may have someone looking for them. If it weren’t for at volunteers at some NC pounds, many would be tied for last place with Montgomery County, which adopted out just 12 of the 1,199 pets who came in during 2011 and had a 99 percent kill rate.
“A lot of shelters are reluctant to have [a volunteer program],” Ms. Alboum said. “There are many reasons why. Sometimes county attorneys don’t want volunteers there, sometimes the shelter director has too much on their plate and they can’t manage volunteers.” Sometimes the pound director just wants to be left alone to kill animals in peace. Ms. Alboum thinks that’s fine, and told her audience that people should volunteer in ways that involve staying away from the pound, like applying for grants or helping to “credential” rescues.
“There are so many things out there that they need that don’t involve handling the animals.” Ms. Alboum said, completely missing the point about why people want to volunteer at pounds (A CLUE: it’s because people care about the animals and would like to give them some actual attention and affection and hopefully help get them the exposure they need to get out alive). She says stay out and hands off. Unless you’re bringing the pound workers cupcakes, of course.
And so, having pretty much delivered a smackdown on anyone who thinks shelters should be saving more animals and has ideas about how that can be be done, Ms. Alboum said, with a straight face, “We all want the same thing.”
“Really. Everybody wants the same thing,” Ms. Alboum said. “The No Kill movement, the, you know, adoptable only movement,3 our shelters, our animal advocates. We all want to euthanize less animals and get animals out the front door.”
Then why do you keep standing in the way?
1 I don’t really know what this means. Ms. Alboum kept talking about “uncredentialed” rescues and an HSUS “credentialing packet” that’s available for shelters to use to make sure rescues are legitimate. She didn’t say what it entailed except that it requires tax-exempt status and reference checks. Back
2 Ms. Alboum did not name the pound, but I’ll go out on a limb and guess she means Bladen County, which had a dog kill rate of just under 11 percent in 2011. Their cat kill rate, however, is almost 64 percent, bringing their overall kill rate to 33 percent. That’s really not exemplary, but the bar is set so low in NC it makes Bladen possibly the sixth lowest kill rate in the state (hard to say because our reporting system is haphazard and unenforced).
If she’s talking about Bladen, then the group Ms. Alboum is eager to paint as possibly shady and “uncredentialed” is a 501(c)3 organization called “A Shelter Friend,” which would probably pass any “credentialing” program that required non-profit status and references from veterinarians and such. A Shelter Friend is the only way most of the pets make it out of the Bladen County pound alive. ASF provides temporary foster care, quarantining and veterinary care for animals before transferring them to other rescue groups. In 2010 they partnered with Elizabethtown Veterinary Hospital, the Bladen County Department of Social Services and Columbus Humane Society to start a low-income spay-neuter project, the first in their area. (My issue with ASF is that while posting non-stop urgent pleas to rescuers on Facebook, they don’t push for reforms at the pound itself–like adoption of the No Kill Equation–which would reduce the constant urgency that burns out rescuers.) Back
3 I have no idea what she is talking about. Back
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.