Category Archives: Polk County

Lies, hypocrisy and death

There is a great hypocrisy in the humane movement. While shelters decry the public’s irresponsibility, shelters reject responsibility for the animals in their care. And while they tell the public not to treat the animals as disposable, they treat animals exactly that way by killing them-and literally disposing of their bodies in landfills. In fact, they will even deny that they are killing. The Humane Society of the U.S. held a workshop on “euthanasia” at their national sheltering conference in March of 2006. According to the speaker,

“We’re not; we’re not killing them… in that ‘kill’ is such a negative connotation. It’s… we’re not killing them. We are taking their life, we are ending their life, we are giving them a good death, we’re humanely destr- whatever. But we’re not killing. And that is why I cannot stand the term ‘No Kill’ shelters.”

Animal shelter professionals from coast-to-coast applauded in agreement, but more disturbing is the nation’s “euthanasia” expert professing an Orwellian logic: killing is not killing, killing is kindness. And when you deny all responsibility, the impetus to change your own behavior disappears. ~ Nathan Winograd, Irreconcilable Differences

An animal facility that kills a significant portion of the animals that come in is not a “shelter.” It’s not a “humane” society or an animal “protection” society, nor is it preventing cruelty to animals. It’s a pound.

If your local pound’s kill rate is higher than its live-release rate, then make no mistake, it’s primarily in the business of pet killing. It’s a pet-killing facility. North Carolina has a lot of pet-killing facilities.

When organizations like the Humane Society of the United States and the North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare give “Shelter We Love” awards to pounds that kill more animals than they protect, they are saying: “We love pet killing facilities.”

Some of these pet-killing facilities shove the animals into a metal box designed to suffocate them to death, in which, according to accounts, they “gasp for breath, their insides burning. They claw at the floor and throw themselves against the walls of the chamber in an attempt to get out.” When the HSUS and NCVAW give “Shelter We Love” awards to  such pet-killing facilities, they are saying “We love gas chambers.”

The pet-killing facilities and their defenders try to make you to believe that they have no choice but to kill massive quantities of animals. They eagerly propagate the myths that “pet overpopulation” and the “irresponsible public”  “force” them to kill pets.

Oh, except we are not supposed to call it killing. They want folks to think that what they are doing is merciful and kind, so they say they “euthanize” the pets, or “put them to sleep.” Because killing animals would be bad.

Euthanasia means “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.”  Killing healthy and savable pets, i.e. at least 90 percent of the animals that enter shelters each year, is not euthanasia.

And it’s completely unnecessary. Currently, at least 83 communities (and counting) in the United States have ended the killing of healthy and savable pets in their shelters. (Seven of these communities are just to the north of us in Virginia: Albemarle County, Arlington, Charlottesville, Fluvanna County, King George County, Lynchburg and Powhatan County have all achieved No Kill success.)  They did it by implementing programs and partnerships that keep animals out of the shelters in the first place or get them out (alive) as soon as possible after they come in.

In the face of the growing success of life-saving shelters, how can anyone justify the killing that continues in almost all NC pounds?*

It’s quite simple: they lie. They falsely claim that open-admission and animal-control shelters cannot be No Kill. An example from the FAQ on the APS of Durham (2011 kill rate: 68.23 percent) web site: “Many no-kill (or limited admission) shelters sharply limit the number and type of animals they will take. If they’re near capacity, they’ll refuse to take in additional animals, forcing the owners to find another place for the animal.”

Open-admission No Kill shelters do have pet-retention programs designed to keep pets in their homes whenever possible. Or some, like the Lynchburg Humane Society, ask pet owners if they can wait for an open space before surrendering their pets. But open-admission No Kill shelters don’t flat-out refuse to take owner surrenders. Makena Yarborough, director of Lynchburg Humane Society wrote: “No, not everyone waited and honestly not everyone could wait. There were situations where, for the sake of the pet or due to a lack of options, we couldn’t ask the pet owners to wait.”

The claim that open-admission shelters cannot be No Kill is just a bald-faced lie.

Another popular lie, which you can see in action at the FAQ section of the Person County pound’s web site, is “There is no such thing as a No Kill shelter. We do have to humanly euthanize animals due to overpopulation, sick, injured, and unsocialized and aggressive dogs.” So how exactly is it that in 2011 the Person County pound “had” to “euthanize” almost 68 percent of the pets that came in while in the Foothills Humane Society, the open-admission animal control shelter serving Polk County, only had to practice TRUE euthanasia on 3.4 percent of their pets?

Considering the population of each county, the FHS actually took in MORE animals per capita (1 for every 9 people) in 2011 than Person County did (1 for every 16 people). So there’s no claiming that somehow “pet overpopulation” exists in Person County while it does not in Polk County. Is there something terribly, inherently wrong with the pets in Person County that’s not a problem in Polk County? Did all of the responsible, conscientious pet owners move to Polk County, leaving places like Person County stuck with nothing but the irresponsible, neglectful ones?

The real difference is that the leadership and staff of the Foothills Humane Society decided not to blame the public and pine for some magical day when everyone would spay and neuter and no one would ever relinquish a pet.  With the help of their community, they did the hard work of implementing the programs and services necessary to protect and save the lives of shelter pets.

It’s time for the rest of North Carolina’s so-called “shelters” and groups like HSUS and NCVAW, which pass themselves off as the vanguard of the “humane” movement, to ditch the blame and the lies and follow suit.

Even if we were to assume for the sake of argument that they are right, if we assume that not a single No Kill community exists, what difference would that make? None. Instead of fighting efforts to create one, they should be dedicating themselves to figuring out how to bring them into existence.~ Nathan Winograd, Their Own Worst Enemies

*The notable exception being the Foothills Humane Society in Polk County, which has a 2012 year-to-date save rate of almost 99 percent.)

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Filed under HSUS, NC county/municipal pounds, No Kill, North Carolina Voters For Animal Welfare, Polk County

Foothills Humane Society is a shelter to love

The Foothills Humane Society, which holds the animal control contract to take in all strays for Western NC’s Polk County as well as northern Greenville and Spartanburg counties of South Carolina, is proof that animal control in North Carolina doesn’t have to be about killing. FHS did not kill a single pet during the month of November 2012, and the year-to-date live release rate is 98.96%. (The 2011 FHS live release rate was 97.8%.)

Not only that, but unlike every other animal control facility in North Carolina, FHS has a live-release rate for cats that is as good and often better than the rate for dogs. While pounds all over the state are rounding up and killing feral cats by the thousands, FHS is saving them through its Po’ Kitties TNR program.

Seems like a shelter folks could love, right? That’s why I nominated it for a “Shelter We Love” award, given annually by HSUS puppet group NC Voters for Animal Welfare.

I heard back right away from NCVAW Secretary and HSUS NC director Kim Alboum, who wrote: “The Shelters We Love Program does not focus on euthanasia rates.  If it did we would be unable to provide awards for our open admission shelters that cannot turn animals away.”

So much for standards, I guess. Wouldn’t it be a worthwhile goal to encourage these pounds to put in the hard work to change from pet killing facilities to lifesaving shelters? Instead, HSUS and NCVAW prefer to peddle the worn-out lie that saving pets is impossible at open-admission shelters, which is repeatedly being proven false with increasing regularity. Currently, open-admission shelters in at least 83 (and counting) communities across the country have proven it’s possible to save all healthy and treatable pets that come in each year, reserving euthanasia only for its true purpose of ending irremediable suffering.

But it’s as if Kim Alboum and colleagues stick their fingers in their ears and sing “Mary Had A Little Lamb” at the top of their lungs any time it’s mentioned so they can pretend it’s not happening. Meanwhile, they give awards every year to some of the worst kill pounds North Carolina has to offer.

Winners in 2012 included the very high-kill Davidson County pound, a house of horrors where in 2011 almost 88% of the pets taken in were gassed to death.  Also honored in 2012 was the Randolph County pound, where the gas chamber kill rate actually went UP from 2010 to 2011.

Randolph County

The gas chamber at the Randolph County pound, an NC Voters for Animal Welfare  “Shelter We Love.”  (Photo by Flickr user NCCHE).

Winners for 2011 included the Johnston County gas chamber pound (2010 kill rate: 76.8%; 2011 kill rate: 75.36%), Charlotte-Mecklenburg pound (2010 kill rate: 63.27%; 2011 kill rate 64.31%) and the Guilford County pound (2010 kill rate: 42.06%, 2011 kill rate: 47.93%).

Based on that record, I predict the 2013 awards will go to Montgomery, Ashe and Surry counties.

But if FixNC had an award to bestow (maybe someday),  it would go to Foothills Humane Society, who have thrown away the excuses and blame-the-public mentality and proven that No Kill animal control is possible in rural North Carolina.

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Filed under North Carolina Voters For Animal Welfare, Polk County

Crunching the NC kill numbers

PLEASE NOTE: This post was published in MAY 2012 and the numbers referenced here are the 2011 NC statistics. The 2012 stats were only just released on May 21, 2013. I’m still crunching those numbers, but you can see my worksheet with percentages and dog & cat numbers totaled here. I am also working on a comparison with the 2011 numbers, and that file is here.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released their animal shelter report at the end of April. (Available in Excel format here.) The excel report is hard to read and requires a lot of math to obtain useful information like dog and cat totals, kill rates and adoption rates, so I spent some time turning it into a slightly more user-friendly version that shows totals (dog+cat and all animal) and kill rates. Considering that most people are more interested in the dog and cat totals than other numbers, I decided to separate them out to make it easier to parse and calculate a few other things like statewide totals and adoption rates. That sheet is here.

Before I go any further, I’d like to announce that the Killingest Kill “Shelter” in North Carolina is the Montgomery County Animal Control Facility. For $78.37 per animal, they killed  98 percent of the dogs  and 100 percent of the cats that came in, for an overall kill rate of 99 percent. Of the 1199 dogs and cats that went into that pound, only 12 dogs got out alive. (They also killed 25 raccoons, 20 opossums and one coyote.) (NOTE: Several pounds commonly thought of as “high kill,” such as Beaufort, Co., Hyde Co., Martin Co. and Sampson Co., did not report, so Montgomery County may not actually be the very worst pound in NC. But given that they have worse outcomes than even PETA, an organization that STRIVES to kill every animal that comes in, it’s hard to imagine a worse pound anywhere.)

In comparison, for a similar  per-animal cost (slightly less, actually: $73.30), Bladen County Animal Shelter SAVED 89 percent of the dogs  and 36 percent of the cats that came in for a combined save rate of  66 percent. That doesn’t put them into “no kill” territory (although they are getting close with their dog outcomes), but it’s a great example of the fact that saving lives doesn’t have to cost more. To be fair, Bladen County’s success rate is almost entirely attributable to the advocacy group A Shelter Friend, which relentlessly networks the animals and raises money for medical care and transport assistance. But that’s often what it takes–saving animals is a community effort. With a feral cat TNR program, Bladen County could probably reach No Kill community status very quickly.

Curiously, the “savingest” animal shelter in NC (and it actually deserves to be called a shelter, unlike all the others) did not even turn in their statistics to the NCDA&CS this year. I had been anxiously awaiting the outcomes from Foothills Humane Society ever since reading about their progress in the No-Kill Communities blog. They did not report, however, so I emailed to ask about their numbers, and received them very quickly. (The new director was not aware of the reporting requirement, and apparently no one from the NCDA&CS contacted her about reporting.) They have achieved a total live release rate of almost 98 percent. It appears that NC finally has its first open-admission no-kill shelter!

The NCDA&CS numbers should be taken with a shaker of salt because there are huge holes in North Carolina’s reporting system. These statistics are self-reported by the shelters themselves and NCDA&CS does not verify their accuracy. The shelters could be completely making them up.

Although it’s technically mandatory for all shelters that receive any public funds to report, the only penalty for non-compliance is ineligibility to receive spay/neuter reimbursement funds. So publicly funded facilities that do not participate in the spay/neuter program can fail to report with no consequence. Twenty one facilities failed to report for 2011. (Many of the non-reporting facilities are holding facilities that may keep animals for a short period of time before they are transferred to a central facility and rarely or never kill animals.)

Another problem is that, unlike Virginia’s comprehensive statistical tracking, NC’s system is missing a lot of data breakdowns. In NC the only outcomes tracked are adoption, owner reclaim and killing. Where does a facility put the number of animals transferred to rescue groups (or, in the case of holding facilities, to another facility)? It’s not clear where these go; presumably they would count under adoptions, but are all facilities reporting this in the same way?  What about animals that escape or die in custody?  Also, there is no clarification of the numbers of animals on-hand at the beginning and end of each year, so one can only guess what it means when the in and out numbers don’t add up. Overall, the NC system leaves a lot to be desired in terms of enforcing accountability.

In contrast, the VA system breaks down intakes and outcomes to make it more apparent what actually happens to the animals, making facilities more accountable and transparent. Intake details are broken down to show exactly how the animals come in (On Hand January 1, Stray, Seized, Bite Cases, Surrendered by Owner, Received From Another Virginia Releasing Agency, Others) and outcomes are broken down to make it clear what the shelter is doing with them (Reclaimed by Owner, Adopted, Transferred to Another Virginia Releasing Agency, Transferred by Approved  Out-Of-State Facility, Died in Facility, Euthanized, Miscellaneous [includes escaped, stolen and anything else not covered by the other categories], On Hand December 31). This way the numbers always add up, and no one has to guess what the facility is actually doing with the animals.

What’s more, the Virginia system includes all organizations involved in animal control or rescue, public and private. This type of accountability provides a safeguard against groups operating in secrecy with no oversight,  such as the Johnston County SPCA here in NC.

Per these reports, public pounds in NC took in 348,089 dogs and cats in 2011. Of these,  226,199 or  64.98 percent, were killed.  Dogs generally fared much better than cats in the state’s pounds. Of the 181,907 who entered pounds, 93,880, or 51.61 percent, were killed.  Of 166,182 cats, 130,639 were killed, for a rate of 78.61 percent. As noted above, the absence of statistics from several potentially “high kill” pounds means the actual number of animals killed in NC is likely a bit higher than this.

Because there are discrepancies between the data tracking, a direct comparison of these totals to Virginia’s isn’t possible, but taking everything into account it’s astoundingly clear that Virginia does a much better job of protecting companion animals than NC does. (Keep in mind that Virginia numbers include ALL shelters and rescues, while NCs only include the publicly funded facilities that bother to report.) With a population only 16 percent lower than NC’s (in July 2011: VA = 8,096,604, NC = 9,656,401), Virginia pounds, shelters and rescues took in 177,484 dogs and cats, or 54% fewer than the NC shelters that report to NCDA&CS. Of these, 67,134, or almost 42%, were killed. (That number drops almost a whole percentage point when you subtract PETA’s numbers from the equation.)

Just to be generous, let’s add in the animals who died in custody (2,969) before we compare that to the NC shelter kill numbers. That makes total of  70,103 animals who died in Virginia shelters during 2011, or 61 percent less  than the (known) NC death toll. For still another perspective, consider this: In Virginia, shelters killed one companion animal for every 115 people in the state last year, while NC shelters killed 1 companion animal for every 43 state residents. (Many of the NC animals are dying in gas chambers, which are outlawed in Virginia.)

Fortunately, shelters like the Foothills Humane Society are demonstrating that we can achieve the sort of success at saving lives that Virginia does. Virginia currently has seven confirmed No Kill communities (and a few in progess), but they started with just one.

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Filed under Bladen, Montgomery County, NC county/municipal pounds, Polk County, statistics