Tag Archives: Granville County

Abolish the Granville County gas chamber!

Animal advocates in Granville County are hoping county officials will consider a recent grant offer by HSUS NC director Kim Alboum to get rid of the animal shelter’s gas chamber. Members of the North Carolina Responsible Animal Owners’ Alliance, a group that supports the use of the gas chamber to kill shelter pets, are arguing for Granville County to refuse the grant and keep its gas chamber in operation.

It’s important that county leaders understand that the barbaric gas chamber is a throwback to our less-civilized past and has no place in a modern, humane animal shelter. Animal advocates need to contact the Granville County manager and commissioners (see contact info below) and urge them to end the use of and remove the gas chamber from the county animal shelter.  A sample letter can be used as a template for your own letters to these officials. More points to use in a letter can be found in the American Humane Association gas chamber fact sheet

Granville County officials’ contact information:

County Manager: Brian Alligood, brian.alligood@granvillecounty.org, P.O. Box 906 Oxford,  NC  27565, 919-693-5240

Commissioners:

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Granville County Animal Control says emaciated pups in the road are probably just fine where they are

Emaciated puppies loose in Granville County

Four emaciated puppies by the side of the road are nothing to be concerned about, according to Granville County Animal Control Director Cathy Hartley.

Skinny Puppy in Granville County

This puppy is “on the thin side” according to Granville County Animal Control Director Cathy Hartley.

A photographer in Granville County spotted four emaciated pups by the side of the road on Saturday, Nov. 3. He called Animal Control, but was told they would “investigate” on Monday and that it would be illegal for him to take the puppies from the side of the road. He later took food out to them and saw that someone else had also left food,  but the puppies were gone.

On Monday, the man received a rambling voice mail from Granville County Animal Control Director Cathy Hartley, who said:

We do know there might be a possible owner of these puppies at that address that you gave us. We are trying to contact the owner today. And um, we’ll, you know, if the owners, um, if it is the owner then we will definitely talk with them about the puppies running loose and also address the issues of, uh, their health. They appear to be on the thin side but nothing as far as totally emaciated or anything like that. Puppies grow very quickly, they do look like they are boxer type puppies, and I do know the people that, um, we’re thinking about on Flat Rock Road do have boxers, so we’re trying to get in touch with the possible owners. And I do appreciate your help and I appreciate you sending all the pictures to us. That helps us out a whole lot. And the address. And we’ll try to pull up our records and it did come up to somebody in the area that raises boxers on that road so we are trying to contat them at the time. And these puppies do appear to have boxers in them, it’s not all boxer they definitely look like they are mix. But we appreciate your help and we will continue to investigate it. Thank you very much, bye-bye.

TL/DR: Meh, skinny puppies in the road, whatevs. Buh-bye.

You can listen to the voice mail here,

Even sadder than the fact that the head of Granville County Animal Control thinks skinny puppies by the side of the road are nothing to worry about is the realization that those puppies probably have a greater chance of survival out on the street than in the county pound. The Granville County pound killed 78 percent of the pets that came in during 2011.

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Granville County pound is low on adoptables because it’s easier that way

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).

“Well that’s a discussion that we’ve already had over and over and over,” Ms Hartley said. “We have a constant need for space, and if we have 15 dogs for adoption, that’s 15 runs that are full.”

“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
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

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Filed under "Nobody WANTS to kill animals ...", gas chamber, Granville County

Working for change in Granville County: Open letter to commissioners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adoptable pet of the day

OK, I’m blatantly ripping off YesBiscuit! (And why not? Shirley inspired me to start this blog in the first place!) in starting a “pet of the day” feature. Although knowing me, it might be the “pet of every few days” feature because sometimes I can’t manage to find time for the blog.

Anyway, today’s adoptable pet is Champion, in the Granville County, NC, pound (which will be the topic of a post very soon):

Champion in Granville County pound

Champion is a young mix (hound+terrier?) who came into the Granville County pound already neutered, with a tattoo (probably from a low-cost neuter clinic) and a microchip (his owner seems to have moved and changed phone numbers, however). Champion seems to be house-trained because volunteers say holds his urine as much as possible to avoid soiling his kennel.

Granville County is a high-kill gassing pound, and Champion has already been there for a while. Shelter adoption fee is $50 per animal plus $6 per rabies vaccine where applicable. Phone (919) 693-6749 to speak with or leave a message for the officers. Speak clearly and leave your phone number twice. If the animal is still available, the officers WILL get back to you. Shelter hours are Monday thru Friday from 12:00 PM to 4:30 PM and Saturdays 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. The shelter is closed Sundays and holidays.

You can also see Champion on Petfinder (including a fun photo of him peeing).

UPDATE! Maureen sent more photos of Champion!
ChampionChampionChampion

UPDATE: Champion got adopted at the eleventh hour!

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