Monthly Archives: June 2012

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


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

New interim director at Sampson County pound aims to “bury” gas chamber and kill the modern way.

Lori Baxter, former director at the  Robeson County pound, started a new job last Friday as Interim Director of the Sampson County pound. The county hired Baxter as part of an “image makeover” for their pound, known according to at least one observer, as “the killing place.” Exactly how killing of a killing place is a mystery, however, because former director Kim Williams never bothered to report the Sampson pound’s outcome statistics to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as mandated by law.

Baxter is said by some, including herself, to have “turned around” the horrid Robeson County pound. Some might argue that point, however. Baxter did succeed somewhat in reforming the Robeson pound’s image among kill shelter apologists, despite a high kill rate while kennels sat empty and repeated distemper outbreaks due to failure to vaccinate  animals upon arrival.

Baxter has started the Sampson image rehab program by creating a Facebook page for the pound and then boldly announcing that she is going to literally bury the Sampson pound’s gas chamber. [Update: the Facebook note that link went to has since been deleted since this entry was posted. But never fear, I was thinking ahead and made a screenshot.]

Make no mistake, the gas chamber is a barbaric instrument and has no place in any facility, period. It is a throwback to a less civilized time when it was introduced  by humane societies as an improvement over far more brutal ways of killing animals. As Nathan Winograd notes in Irreconcilable Differences

They introduced the gas chamber to replace slower and more painful ways of killing. (It should be noted that by current standards, there is no real debate about the gas chamber being inhumane. But in the 19th century, activists viewed this as a better alternative than drowning, shooting, and at least in Philadelphia, beating the dogs to death in the public squares.)

Getting rid of gas chambers in NC is without a doubt something that needs to be done without delay.

But hold your horses, it’s still going to wait. Baxter is holding on to her gas chamber until she is sure she has access to some other way to kill pets. “It takes time to get a more humane form of euthanasia into place.” Heaven forbid she should be forced not to kill animals until the Fatal Plus arrives.

Another of Baxter’s first actions as director was to “adjust” the shelter’s open hours to afternoons only,  limiting visitation and adoption hours to 1-4 pm Monday through Friday, “a move made toward better customer service and to bring the local shelter in line with those from surrounding counties.” Thanks to Google’s cache feature, we can see that the Sampson pound used to advertise  open hours of  9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, which means that Baxter has reduced by 62% the opportunity for people in the community to choose shelter adoption when they want to add a pet to the family.

Former open hours of the Sampson County Animal Shelter

A screenshot of a page cached on may 4, 2012 shows that the Sampson County pound advertised open hours of 9 am to 5 pm Monday Through Friday. new Interim Director Lori Baxter has “improved” customer service by providing fewer hours for the public to view or adopt pets.

Quite simply, Lori Baxter has cooked up a recipe for reduced adoptions and increased killing. She calls the gas chamber  the “ONLY resource to make needed space,” which she seems to feel is her job at the shelter. Not protecting animals or saving their lives. Making space. And her preferred method of doing that seems to be killing. (To be fair, she is also begging rescues to take the animals out of her pound, but that is only one tiny step of the only program proven to produce lifesaving success.)

Regardless of what method is used to exterminate the pets, it’s indefensible. To quote Nathan Winograd again:

Even if we were simply to surrender reality and conclude that killing savable animals cannot be ended, killing animals would still not be ethical, merciful, or defensible. Animal lovers would still be morally bound to reject it. Any “practical” or utilitarian consideration about killing cannot hold sway over an animal’s right to live. Just as other social movements reject the “practical” when it violates the rights of individuals for which they advocate, we, too, should reject the idea that killing animals is acceptable because of the claim that there are “too many” for the “too few homes which are available.” Simply put killing healthy or treatable animals is immoral.

UPDATE: Immediately after posting this, I saw that YesBiscuit had published an amazingly appropriate post called “Ending the Killing of Shelter Pets TODAY.” It’s perhaps the perfect thing to read next. Or at least ponder this excerpt:

It is astounding to me that many advocates are willing to accept the misery and chaos of desperately working to save animals from kill rooms at shelters every day yet reject the idea that shelters could simply stop the killing.  I understand that change can be daunting but really, how bad could it possibly be?  The bar has already been set for many rescuers at misery and chaos, anything above that should be a welcome change.


Filed under gas chamber, NC county/municipal pounds, Robeson County, Sampson County

Animal advocates demonstrate at Surry County kill pound; Surry County Humane Society calls them “idiots”

Last Thursday, about 75 animal advocates demonstrated outside the Surry County Pound to protest the high kill rate* after a failed inspection revealed inhumane treatment and other deficiencies at the facility.

One of the protesters’ demands was for the pound to actually make some sort of effort to adopt out animals instead of completely ignoring the free, online services that could get pets seen by potential adopters.

The good news is that there are now a whopping EIGHT animals listed on the Surry pound’s Petfinder page, which is eight more than were listed a week and a half ago. Their Adopt-A-Pet page, however, still lists the pound as being located in Nebraska and hosts no adoptable pet listings.

Meanwhile, Jim Hazel of the Surry County Humane Society supported the high kill rate at the Surry pound. (In 2011 Surry County killed 90.7 percent of the dogs and cats they took in, making it the sixth worst pound in the state.) “I think they do a really great job with limited resources. This is the best group of people I’ve ever seen here.”

Of the anti-killing animal advocates, Hazel said “a lot of them are idiots and you can quote me on that.”

In reply to the protesters,  County Commissioner Paul Johnson basically admitted he doesn’t give a fig about the animals in the pound: “I put people first, animals come second,” he said.  “we are not putting the county taxpayers in jeopardy and spending millions of dollars to do this.” Never mind that Facebook, Petfinder and Adopt-A-Pet are all free services …

The next step for animal advocates could be to write a letter or email to the Surry County Commissioners and the county manager, and let them know that increasing adoptions and reducing killing does not have to cost the county any more money. Here’s an excerpt from the email I sent:

Commissioner Paul Johnson was recently quoted as saying he does not support “spending millions of dollars” to fix your broken shelter system. The good news is: you can fix your shelter system, increase your lifesaving success and increase community support for your shelter without spending more money. Today, there are dozens of “No Kill” communities across the US that prove lifesaving success can be achieved at “open admission” municipal shelters in urban and rural, Northern and Southern, large and small communities.

They also disprove the idea that communities with high intake rates can’t be No Kill because of the antiquated and disproven notions of “pet overpopulation” and the “irresponsible public.” Best of all, many of these communities have proven that No Kill animal control is cost-effective and does not necessarily require increased expenditures on animal control.

Quite simply, it makes more economic sense to adopt out animals, transfer them to private non-profit rescue groups and increase the number of strays reclaimed by their families, all revenue positive activities that save the costs of killing and bring in fees and other revenues.

In addition, it just makes good bipartisan politics: In a national survey, 96% of Americans—almost every single person across the social and political spectrum—said we have a moral obligation to protect animals and that we should have strong laws to do so.

If you are interested in enacting good policy and improving your local economy, then invest in lifesaving at the Surry County shelter. Given the cost savings and additional revenues of doing so (reduced costs associated with killing, enhanced community support, an increase in adoption revenues and other user fees and additional tax revenues), and  the positive economic impact of adoptions, Surry County cannot afford NOT to embrace No Kill.

You can read more about how to run a humane, lifesaving animal shelter while saving money by downloading Dollars & Sense: The Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control by clicking here. (The blueprint for achieving No Kill in your community can be found here.

A multi-state study found there was no correlation between rates of lifesaving and per capita spending on animal control. The difference between those shelters that succeeded at saving lives and those that failed was not the size of the budget, but the commitment of its leadership to implementing alternatives to killing. In other words: YOU, the Surry County leadership, have an opportunity to make a positive, life-affirming change, which will benefit animals AND people in your community.

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

HSUS and NCVAW honor two of NC’s crappiest, killingest pounds

The Humane Society of the US and the North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare love crappy kill pounds. Last week the two groups bestowed  “Shelters We Love” awards on two of the state’s worst pounds, Davidson County and Randolph County animal shelters. Both facilities have performed worse, in terms of protecting the lives of animals, than the majority of pounds in a state with a particularly dismal animal “shelter” system.

“I think it says a lot for how far we’ve come since this time last year,” Davidson pound director Judy Lanier told a reporter. Let’s see how far you have come, Judy: In 2011, 7,008 of the 8,044 dogs and cats who entered the Davidson County pound did not get out alive, for an overall kill rate of 87.12 percent. This was a miniscule  improvement over the 2010 kill rate of 88.04%, despite the fact that the Davidson pound actually killed MORE dogs and cats in 2011 than 2010 (6,830 in 2010; 7,008 in 2011).

Davidson County Animal Shelter Outcome Statistics 2010-2011

According to a volunteer at the Davidson pound quoted in the article, Davidson’s adoption rates “have doubled” at the shelter in the past year. In reality, there was a very small increase from  6.3 percent to 7.79 percent,  a whopping difference of 1.41. It speaks volumes about the concerns and expectations of HSUS and NCVAW that they think such a less-than-mediocre performance merits an award.

But the picture goes from disappointing to appalling when one considers the Randolph County pound. Its director, Leigh Casaus, claims that adoptions went up 10 percent in the past year. The numbers they reported to NCDA&CS, however, show the adoption rate at the Randolph County pound actually went down from 2010 to 2011. The adoption rate for dogs dropped from 17.42 percent to  11.33 percent, while cat adoptions dipped from  3.69 percent in 2010 to  3.21 percent, for an overall adoption rate decrease of 4 percentage points. So either Leigh Casaus is making things up or she has no idea what’s actually going on at her pound.

Randolph County Health Department Animal Shelter Outcome Statistics 2010-2011

What’s more, Randolph County’s overall kill rate increased by 4.2 percentage points, from 82.99 percent in 2010 to 87.19 percent in 2011. But the HSUS, run by a man who calls for the killing of dogfighting victims while befriending and defending their torturer, thinks Randolph County is doing a great job.

The reporter of the story parroted another lump of misinformation without attribution (or fact-checking, apparently): “On average in North Carolina, only about 10% of shelter animals get adopted.” This is untrue. In 2011, at least 348,089 dogs and cats entered NC animal shelters, and at least 81,000 of these were adopted out to new homes, for a rate of 23 percent. This number can still be improved almost four-fold, (as demonstrated by the 41 open admission No Kill shelters in the country), but it’s more than twice as high as the 10 percent number cited by kill pounds that want to make their own crappy performance look almost normal.

The NCDA&CS shelter report for 2010 is here. The 2011 full report is available for download in Excel format here. I have compiled a version that includes cats & dogs only, along with totals and rates, here.


Filed under Davidson County, HSUS, NC county/municipal pounds, North Carolina Voters For Animal Welfare, Randolph County

Up from the comments: Animal advocates to gather at Surry County Pound

I thought this was important and exciting enough to bring up from the comments on this post. Wendy says:

There are several citizens gathering at the Shelter Thursday 6/21 at 4pm to show support for the animals, hopefully get a few adoptions, and to let the Officials know we are not going away. The Mt Airy news will be interviewing me tomorrow as they want this published before Thursday. Chad Tucker from Fox 8 is also planning a interview. While the shelter is fresh in everyone’s mind is the time to take a stand for the animals….they Deserve to be on Petfinder & Facebook, to be at the least given a chance. That is my goal PLEASE join us for a peaceful gathering show that you care that the euthanasia rate is 90.69% and the adoption rate is a pathetic 4.53%.

I hope it’s effective at getting folks in Surry County involved in reforming that pound and making it accountable. I encourage people to print copies of materials like No Kill 101Dollars & Sense: The Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control and A Lifesaving Matrix to give to the pound director and staff (and reporters!)

I invite anyone who attends to send photos, links to coverage, etc. to me at

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Filed under Surry County

Surry County pound lets coonhound wallow in his own blood

An April 26 NCDA&CS inspection report of the Surry County pound reveals that they housed an “emaciated and thin”  coonhound with a bloody tail without giving it veterinary care.

The report states:

One coonhound male named ‘Gunner’ (#57398) was found appearing to be severely emaciated and thin. This dog also has an injured tail that is bleeding. A sufficient amount of blood was found on the kennel walls and floor and on the dog’s left side. Records indicate that the dog arrived at this facility on 4/2/12. Upon review of this facility’s program of veterinary care the contract veterinarian should be contacted and his/her recommendation followed pertaining to this animal’s health. The animal should be isolated and evaluated. At the time of inspection such documentation was lacking. This animal was found in kennel 8 in the adoption area without a sign indicating that this animal was being evaluated and/or in isolation. This animal is in need of immediate veterinary care within 24 hrs.

Thomas Williams, a spokesman for the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, which oversees shelter operations, said it was a “quirky time due to the ongoing budget process.

Even if Gunner did get the veterinary care he needed, his prospects for getting out of the Surry County pound are (or were, as the case may be) bleak. Surry County has the sixth worst kill rate in North Carolina, killing 90.7 percent of the dogs and cats they took in during 2011 (86.93 percent of dogs and 94.47 percent of cats don’t make it out of that place alive).

That kill rate isn’t so surprising considering the Surry County pound staff don’t seem to make any effort at all to adopt animals out. There are no pets listed on their Petfinder page or their Adopt-A-Pet page, and their Adopt-A-Pet page doesn’t even list them in the correct state (Nebraska instead of North Carolina).

Their adoption rate in 2011 was 5.10 percent for dogs and 3.96 percent for cats.

Other deficiencies noted in the April 26 inspection, which the Surry County pound failed, were:

  • A broken guillotine door needs repair/replacement
  • Cracks are appearing in the floor throughout facility
  • Two cat enclosures were without water
  • An open bag of food was found in the washroom
  • Rusted enclosure doors in the cat room
  • Damaged canine enclosure gates in two kennels, leaving one kennel not escape proof
  • peeling and cracking floors and walls throughout facility
  • Three cat enclosures lacking a litter box.
  • Five animals that had been at the facility for 15 days or longer lacking a current rabies vaccine


Filed under Surry County

Animal advocates win TNR victory in Wake County

The Wake County Commission unanimously approved an ordinance permitting trap, neuter and return  of feral cats. Among the groups leading the fight  to get the law passed were Alley Cat Allies and Operation Catnip, which had threatened to sue the county to stop the trap-and-kill policy previously in place.

In 2011, at least 130,639 cats, or  78.61 percent of the cats entering animal shelters were killed in North Carolina pounds. The Wake County Animal Center killed 5,267 cats last year, or  68.29 percent of the cats that came in. Statewide, at least 50 percent of the killed cats (and in some cases up to 75 percent) died simply because they were feral. (In Wake County it’s hard to say because I can’t find a breakdown from just 2011, but using the months of December 2011 and January 2012 as examples, we can figure it’s  in the neighborhood of between 50 and 67 percent annually.)

The trap-and-kill method used in most of the state, aside from being barbaric, has proven to be completely ineffective at controlling the feral population because it creates a vacuum effect. More cats move in to take advantage of whatever meager food source is available. The new unsterilized cats will breed to capacity of the site and start the cycle all over.

Under TNR, that cats in a feral colony are trapped, neutered and then returned to their territory where caretakers provide them with regular food and shelter. Friendly adults and young kittens who can still be socialized are placed in foster care and/or adopted out. A big advantage of TNR is that it immediately stabilizes the size of the colony by eliminating new litters. It also significantly reduces the nuisance behaviors that cause people to complain about free-roaming cats, such as yowling and fighting that come with mating activity and the odor of unneutered males spraying to mark their territory. The returned colony also guards its territory, preventing unneutered cats from moving in and beginning the cycle of overpopulation and problem behavior anew. Particularly in urban areas, the cats continue to provide natural rodent control.  TNR also lessens the number of kittens and cats flowing into local shelters, helping to reduce euthanasia rates and increase the chances for adoption  of cats already in the shelters.


Filed under cats, No Kill, TNR, Wake County