Tag Archives: Canine distemper

Euphemisms and memory holes in Robeson County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distemper Won't Leave Us...

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

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

So he posted asking why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distemper strikes Ashe County pound again; Shame on you, Joe Testerman

Distemper has once again hit the Ashe County Pound, where dogs are vaccinated “if we have the vaccine,” according to director Joe Testerman. In other words, no, he doesn’t bother to practice proper disease-preventing protocols in his shelter, and then goes on to cry crocodile tears about how “heartbreaking” it is.

“Even animals in close proximity may be healthy, but animals that are exposed, it’s in our best interest to put those animals down to prevent further spread of that virus.” So, just to be clear: Joe Testerman prefers to spend money on Fatal-Plus to KILL the animals in his shelter than to spend some of that money on vaccines that are “possibly the single most powerful weapon we possess for stopping significant disease outbreaks in their tracks.” (Oh, never mind, the Ashe County pound uses the barbaric gas chamber to kill, doesn’t it?)

But hey, wait a minute: Testerman says vaccinations remain the best, and only, way of protecting your dog from contracting distemper.

“We highly recommend that everyone check your animal’s vaccination history and make sure you are providing the much needed vaccinations,” said Testerman. “It may save your pet’s life.”

And yet, Mr. Testerman,  you refuse to vaccinate the animals that come into your pound. If you were to practice what you preach and vaccinate all animals at or before intake into your facility, you could save HUNDREDS of lives. Vaccination is not a guarantee that no shelter animal will get a disease such as distemper, but it is the most important step in preventing a widespread outbreak that will cost many lives. “In some cases, the chance of the vaccine preventing disease may be 90% or better if given the day before exposure, but will drop to less than 1% if given the day after exposure.

Shame on you, Joe Testerman. How dare you push the blame onto others for a disease outbreak YOU can prevent in YOUR facility.

This is the second distemper outbreak in the Ashe County pound this year. After the previous one, Joe Testerman said: “There’s no way to predict these things with any certainty, but we are anticipating more distemper cases in the county this year.” And yet he still failed to do the most important thing he could do to prevent it.

The Ashe County pound killed  69.44 percent of dogs and 96.59 percent of cats that came in during 2011, for a total kill rate of 84.38 percent.

Ashe County Animal Shelter Outcome Statistics 2011

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Filed under "Nobody WANTS to kill animals ...", Ashe County, Distemper, NC county/municipal pounds

Not NC (but could be): Mobile County shelter fail

NOTE: I originally l wrote the post thinking that Trisha, the adopter, had gotten the dog from the Mobile SPCA, which is a “no-kill” guaranteed adoption” shelter. Turns out, I misunderstood, not knowing the difference between it and the Mobile County shelter. I have amended this entry to reflect that. Also, apologies to the Mobile SPCA, which, one hopes, might actually vaccinate upon arrival!)

This is not an NC story, but I’m sure there have a been a few like it here : A family adopts a dog from the Mobile County shelter only to discover it has distemper a week later. The mom called the shelter to alert them and discovered that the sheter had killed 86 dogs over the past month because of the disease. The adopted dog, Captain,  had not been vaccinated until a week and a half after his arrival at the shelter.

Waiting a week and a half to deliver a vaccination that should be given first thing upon arrival is a recipe for disease outbreak. Especially when 450 distemper-infected racoons have been captured in your area recently. An easily imagined scenario is that the Mobile county shelter didn’t vaccinate Captain until after they discovered their distemper outbreak and were hoping to do some damage control.

And once they discovered the outbreak, did the shelter do the responsible thing and let the community know, counseling every adopter for signs to watch out for and advising them on safe practices to make sure they aren’t inadvertently spreading distemper to other dogs? It appears not. Captain’s new family wasn’t warned. A Google search for various permutations of Mobile, AL,  and distemper turns up no news articles, alerts or press releases (except regarding the raccoon distemper epidemic), and there is nothing at all on the Mobile County shelter site.

As for Captain, as of yesterday he was still hanging in there , with a lot of love and care from his new family.

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Filed under Distemper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Distemper, Richmond County