Saturday, January 21, 2012

"No-Kill" - Can It Be Legislated???

Will passing a statewide law make animal overpopulation go away tomorrow?  History provides the answer for the various states considering such legislation - Florida, New York, Minnesota, and whatever state is next on the activist hit list. 

The "No-Kill" Models

The fact is the models that the "no-kill" movement claims as their successes like Washoe County NV and Austin TX, were not mandated under state laws, so they don't even have the costs associated with CAPA and it's derivatives.  So why did the national "no-kill" advocates decide to pursue legislation on the state level?  

Simple, because the politicians get to stand for a photo-op with the "no-kill" activists and act like they are doing something good for animals, yet they're not the ones who will pay the bill or deal with the endless games and complaints that result from the legislation.  As I've said before, if the state legislators truly believed in this cause, then they should do as the old saying and "put up or shut up".  That means:
  • Find the funding in their own budget to handle pay for the unfunded mandate placed upon animal control across the state
  • Pay for the hundreds of thousands of foster homes that would be required in a larger state (Austin has 900 in foster care and continues to grow)
  • Pay for all the medical expenses for those additional treatable animals in the shelter and foster homes, which for some animals will require thousands of dollars of care, while a pet in a good home may not get that level of care due to an individuals limited finances.
  • And provide full staffing to act as the playground monitor for the various complaints that will occur. 
Of course we all know the state legislators will never do that.  Many of them are currently cutting Medicaid for people due to budget constraints, so how do they tell their constituents they will pay be paying for medical care for homeless animals.  That's why the lawyers that lead the "no-kill" movement chose to go this route.  This way there would be no accountability for the costs placed upon the county and city taxpayers that fund animal control.  Consider that the budget for Austin's Animal Services went from $5,397,428 in 2008-09, and was recently approved for $7,612,186, an increase of $2,214,758 in only 3 years. 

In my opinion, the reason the advocates went to the state legislation strategy is because they knew that without a law on the state level, well intentioned cities like Austin will eventually have to make difficult choices.  Can they continue to fund the the steady large cost increases associated with the "no-kill equation" that require them to continue expanding their foster network infinitely, and the costs associated with the care of additional animals as they continue to be over capacity, even with the addition of a new $12 million shelter.  I think the "no-kill" leadership can see that their model communities may be short lived when local taxpayers have to choose between budget cuts at the animal shelter, or budget cuts at their children's school. 

Previous State Legislation

There are 2 models currently available for statewide legislation - California and Delaware.  Do either one of these states fulfill the "no-kill" criteria of 90% live release rate.  No, neither one does. 

California was enacted back in 1998.  After tens of millions being spent on the unfunded mandate each year by the citizens of of a financial strapped California, and overcrowded shelters that place lost pets at jeopardy, the law has still not accomplished the "no-kill" goal or for that matter even come close.  For additional reading on their law this article which provides an important perspective on the failure of Hayden.  I also embedded their YouTube video that everyone should watch before supporting similar legislation.  Thanks to HonestyHelps for the link.

With all the issues that occured with Hayden, it's beyond me why the legislators in my own state of Delaware chose to follow in California's footsteps, but they did.  The only difference here in Delaware is that the state doesn't pay for it's unfunded mandates.  Instead the animal control shelter, and eventually the counties will pay the cost.  From the start, we have seen divisiveness, illness, investigations, and most of the financial burden placed on the one open admission shelter in the state, which I suspect will eventually be placed on the county taxpayers that pay for animal control.  And no, we didn't become "no-kill" overnight as Mr. Winograd likes to proclaim can be done.  In my opinion, "no-kill" followers have focused on state politician friends to shove CAPA down the taxpaying publics throat, because they know that reasonable people don't actually believe their mantra that there isn't a pet overpopulation problem

Overpopulation Doesn't Exist - So Spay Neuter is a Dirty Word?

I was dumbfounded when I saw the No Kill Advocacy slap down their own followers on their Facebook page recently.  Here is part of the comment, and I have also included a screenshot of the episode since it was taken off a couple hours later. The statement was also still listed on Mr. Winograd's Facebook page as a post.
So let's stop deifying spay/neuter as the answer to how we save the lives of animals being threatened today in their local pound.  For that, we need adoption programs.  Let's stop saying spay/neuter is the answer to absolutely everything and let's stop pretending that shelter killing is the fault of anyone other those who kill because the evidence is clear and unassailable: there are dozens of communities who do not kill, even at their "open admission" shelters and they did not change the public. They changed their own previously untoward practices that favored death.....But we can create No Kill communities and we have created No Kill communities even before doing that and even before putting in place high volume spay/neuter. Once again, spay/neuter is important and a core program of the the No Kill Equation. But it is not the end all be all and certainly will not stop the killing of those animals facing death today. Let's stop pretending it will. - No Kill Advocacy Facebook comment & Nathan Winograd Facebook Post
Below is the screenshot of the comment from the No Kill Advocacy page for your amusement.  If that's the way Mr. Winograd treats his followers, I guess those of us that disagree with his proclamations should not be surprised by his negativity towards the various animal welfare groups like ASPCA, Best Friends, and any of us that don't subscribe to his belief that overpopulation doesn't exist.  I have to wonder if Mr. Winograd is concerned that state legislators will eventually realize that the only state that has come close to being "no-kill" is New Hampshire, and that they might decide to forego his proposed legislation CAPA and go for a proven product of a publicly funded spay/neuter programs.  Publicly funded spay neuter programs are not only far more cost effective, but also fiscally responsible if it is sufficiently funded to lower intake rates.  The same cannot be said for the "no-kill" models like Washoe and Austin that have had little if any impact on intake rates, and appear to be unsustainable in the long term as they cost taxpayers and donors more each year. 

Wow, think how Austin could have lowered the overpopulation if they spent that $2.2 million extra funding just this year on spay neuter, rather than using those funds to play musical chairs with animals in an ever expanding foster care network that doesn't get at the root of the problem.  The impact would have been amazing, and the collaboration between animal rescue, the veterinary community, and the community at large would have been awesome.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Florida Animal Rescue Act (FARA) - Unfunded Mandate

Florida's Senate Bill 818 (Florida Animal Rescue Act) went to committee this week in Florida.  The sister bill in the House is HB597.  As I've previously discussed, CAPA and it's derivatives like FARA, are passed on the state level, they are without question an unfunded mandate.  It is irresponsible for state legislators to introduce and approve laws that they know will impact budgets of counties and cities that typically pay the costs of animal control.  I took the opportunity to listen to the public comment on this bill that is available on the Florida Senate website starting at 1:10:34.  I was heartened to hear so many that had done their research, and who understood the impact that this bill would have on shelters and rescues, not only the cost to localities but also the potential to harm animals. 

Here is just part of Senator Bennett's "scolding" to those constituents that took the time to provide public comment at that committee hearing:

"I make a motion that we TP this bill, but I want to say something before I do that. It's really a shame that we've got so many people that are concerned about a registry. The only good comment I heard was when somebody made a suggestion that we have a statewide registry, and that might be part of the problem, that we should have a statewide registry. People talk about costs, but nobody has shown me a single, not one, one study that shows what the cost is going to do and where it's going to go." - Senator Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton (1:50:30)
Isn't that what the comment portion of a committee is for?  Wow.  He also went on to suggest they talk to Manatee County about their costs expected as a result of going "no-kill".  I'm not sure what Manatee can provide being only a couple months into their policy change to "no-kill", but there are a couple communities that it is worthwhile comparing Florida counties with to provide an estimate of how costly this will be for many communities.

The Unfunded Mandate

Ultimately, intake is the driving number that impacts costs for any shelter.  Intake provides the number of animals that will be housed, fed, provided medical care, etc. 

I've previously discussed the Washoe County NV funding in comparison to our own Kent County SPCA.  As referenced in that post, it was noted that Nevada Humane, who works in concert with Washoe County Regional Animal Services, lost over $2 million in the last 3 years that are publicly reported (2007, 2008, 2009), and the fact that they have still not posted their 2010 numbers on Charity Navigator or Guidestar leads me to wonder how long they can sustain their current course. 

So I decided to compare a few Florida counties to both Washoe County and Austin Texas in regard to the funds they are paying out on a per animal basis as compared to various Florida counties.  If you listen to the hearing, Tallahassee provided an estimate of $1.2 million in additional costs and based on my analysis below, that is the lower side of the estimate.

Florida Counties Vs. "No-Kill" Communities Washoe County, NV & Austin, TX

As you can see from the above numbers, the Florida Animal Rescue Act would be costly to nearly every county across the state.  The fact that the Senator acted surprised by the additional cost estimate that Tallahassee provided, and stated that the staff analysis didn't estimate that much for the whole state doesn't encourage confidence in legislators.  Their staff merely needed to seach for the various numbers above, run the estimates, read how these communities have pursued their "no-kill" agenda.  For example, Austin went from 100 fostered pets to 900 fostered pets.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that food, vaccinations, medical care, and coordinators tracking the status of this amount of animals costs money. 

The shocking part to me was the committe members defense of Senator Bennett's harsh response to the citizens.  In almost every case the constituents acknowledged his good intentions.  The fact that they would think that constituents impacted should provide studies hire someone to do them if none are available was ridiculous.  So if a bank asks their legislator to pass a law that will make doing business easier for them, should the bank provide reasonable and accurate analysis that the legislator can use to proceed with for their own analysis, or do consumers have to band together and have studies done.  I guess that explains alot given what we have seen occur in the financial sector.   I used to think that was why legislators have staffs and fiscal analysts, so they can make an educated decision when voting on legislation.  Apparently I was really wrong to believe that, since neither Delaware or Florida did any kind of real fiscal analysis of CAPA or the derivative version called FARA.

Fortunately for the citizens of Florida, people from the shelters and the counties did step up and let your legislators know how costly this would be financially, and for the safety of animals.  We weren't as fortunate here in Delaware.  Unfortunately our Delaware counties don't comment on these kinds of unfunded mandates until they are faced with the consequences and want to place the blame elsewhere. There were those of us that had reservations about the intentions of this legislation from the start, but never imagined what a joke this law would become when it finally went into effect.  Hopefully Florida will have better sense and table this bill indefinitely.  Florida's legislator should understand how irresponsible it would be to subject communities, that have been slammed harder than most by foreclosures and lowering property values, with this unfunded mandate. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Shelter Standards - Really???

My hopes for a more positive animal welfare atmosphere were quickly dashed on the second day of 2012 with the publication of the DelawareOnline article about the new director for Kent County SPCA.  I continue to be amazed that our state's main source of information so readily includes rumor and inuendo in their stories.  To include insinuations that a recent inspection of Kent County was not a surprise visit, despite the fact that no one offered any backup or proof of such allegations, is just irresponsible and in my opinion not showing any better judgment than similar inferences on No-Kill Delaware's website and their Facebook page

I wasn't as shocked when No-Kill Delaware posted a letter from a woman, whose family's dog was running at-large and ended up reclaimed by his previous owner when a concerned citizen checked the dogs expired rabies tag and returned the dog to the previous owner, and then she was mad that Kent County SPCA could not return the dog to her since it was a custody issue that needed to be settled by a court of law.  In that letter she made insinuations about the previous directors wife owning a carriage business and stated "Seems to me the liability insurance alone would cost a fortune, not to mention those pretty carriages."  While I realize that some of No-Kill Delaware's followers aren't the brightest bulbs on the block, most people understand that liability insurance is based on the volume of business, and if the business is a part time venture then the cost of liabilty insurance would correspond.  I've also had horses in the past and can state that the liability insurance even in a full time operation is not "a fortune".  Regarding the cost of carriages, I quickly found a white carriage example that cost $5,000, and I can't even tell you whether that is a good deal.  What a windfall the director's wife must have had to spend an amount similar to what I've seen many people spend on their home entertainment setups (eyeroll).   Here's the REAL conspiracy, kids cost more than a horse to raise, maybe we should get the attorney general to investigate the finances of everyone in Delaware that has children. 

Shelter Standards

The fact that the politicians and no-kill advocates so often refer to Delaware CAPA as "shelter standards" is just irritating. 
“Up until now, we have had no state standards of operation for animal shelters.  Today, that changes, “ said Governor Markell.  “These standards put Delaware shelter regulations among the most comprehensive in the country, a legislative accomplishment we should all be proud of – we did this together.  This new law protects our shelters, our pets and the people who love them, pet owners.” - Governor Markell
So often people think southern states have lower standards for animal welfare than our own states, but that's untrue.  While there are some southern states that obviously have issues with their standards of care, there are also states like North Carolina that have far more comprehensive animal shelter laws and real inspections of animal shelters on a regular basis. The inspections are backed by laws and regulation that ensure proper sanitation, feeding, watering, minimum enclosure sizes, proper drainage, etc.  Delaware's CAPA does none of this.  North Carolina has real "shelter standards" and Governor Markell's statements that Delaware's CAPA is "shelter regulation" or "the most comprehensive in the county" is just ludicrous, especially when you look at states like North Carolina that really are ensuring that animals in shelters are being housed in a healthy environment.  Those statements are almost as ridiculous as Mr. Winograd's statement that:
"the Governor of Delaware signed into law the most sweeping, progressive companion animal protection legislation in the United States."
So instead of ensuring that animals were enclosed with a proper amount of space, with adequate ventilation, are fed and watered properly, the State of Delaware instead chose to mandate certain steps prior to euthanasia like mandating that animals share cages.  Many of us know dogs that wouldn't do well being placed into a cage with an unfamiliar dog, and it also increases the chances that animals will pass on illness.  So would I prefer to have a law that mandates cage sharing, or would I rather know that my animal is being kept in a well maintained sanitary environment that is inspected to ensure his welfare?  No doubt, the safe clean environment that is inspected to ensure my animals health and well being would be my choice. 

Why Would Shelters Want To Be Regulated?

I understand why our politicians chose this route of least resistance.  They thought they were going to be able to pass a feel good bill that wouldn't cost them a ,and thought any added cost would be passed onto the counties.  As stated before, that hasn't been the case with the cost of never ending investigations.  But this also makes one wonder - what possessed the animal welfare community to back legislation that lacked the very standards like enclosure size and sanitation standards that they have tried in the past to legislate in regard to commercial kennels.  The fact is that the no-kill community wants to be able to warehouse animals and don't want to be restricted from doing that.  It's that simple. 

This is why laws should not be written by special interest groups.  Wall Street would have never written "truth in securities" laws that ensure investors receive financial information that does not misrepresent the true financial condition of a company.  So why would anyone believe that laws which should govern the safety and sanitary conditions for our animals in an animal shelter would be comprehensive when it was written by the shelters?  Maybe we should let the bankers write the laws for those mortage backed securities and credit default swaps.  They've done so well with self regulation the last 10 years, haven't they?

More of The Same To Come

The scary part is that I'm sure there will be more of the same going forward.  When I saw the Delaware Votes for Animals site shows an upcoming presentation in "Influencing Real Change for Animals" , I just had to cringe.  I don't even want to think about what could be next after watching how harmful Delaware CAPA has been for our state. 

Considering this group thought it had a right to demand input into the choosing of a director for the Kent County SPCA, and their heavy handed tactic of placing an action alert out on their Facebook page, and from what I've heard in a large scale email alert encouraging people to bombard the board with emails regarding their demands for input, I can only wonder who their next victim will be.  Whether it be No-Kill Delaware or Delaware Votes for Animals, they should both understand that it is the boards prerogative who is/was chosen as the Executive Director, and they're obligation is to the shelters membership, not outside interests.   The State and it's taxpayers don't get a say in Office Depot or Staples CEO just because they buy supplies from them, so their inference that because Kent County SPCA gets taxpayer funds as payment for their contracts with the counties is insane.  With that logic, I would have the right to influence positions on every vendor that does work with the state, county, and city.  The guy down the street from me does some plowing for the state, so according to their logic I guess I can go tell him how to run his business. Final eyeroll.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

CAPA - A New Year

As we enter a new year, one can only hope that the animal welfare community in Delaware can get past the games and downright nastiness that 2011 brought us.

Our Example To Other States

While CAPA has been a disaster for Delaware, the one bright spot is that it provided other states an opportunity to see what happened here and realize that it was just the tip of the iceberg of what will happen in on a larger scale in a larger state. The national "no-kill" leaders claim this law is necessary to ensure that rescues have access to animals that will be euthanized, but those states can see from the Kent County SPCA statistics that there was a nice bump up of transfers (375) in the first quarter of 2011 when groups wanted to show what a good thing this law was, but descended rapidly to historic levels by the 3rd quarter (226) as shelters became filled to capacity, or possibly even over capacity. Let's be honest, how many of the animals that ended up on rescue registry were initially turned away from one of the shelters in the first place, so how was this law going to encourage them to take them later on. Once the enthusiasm of the new law waned, nothing was accomplished other than creating more dissension than already existed, and wasting taxpayer dollars for various state agencies to act as the playground referees. Those tax dollars could have been spent on public campaigns to encourage adoption or additional spay neuter resources which would have actually helped the animals of Delaware.

So to start the new year on a positive note, I encourage those of us in Delaware that have seen the results of this law to let your friends in other states know what a disaster a similar law would be for them.  Although I'm sure there will be more in the year to come, below are several of the states already considering similar legislation: 

Florida Animal Rescue Act - SB 818/HB 597
Minnesota CAPA (Companion Animal Protection Act) - H.F. No. 1735
New York CAARA - Companion Animal Access  and Rescue Act - S05363, A07312B

Face of CAPA

Let them know that below is the face of CAPA, CAARA, or any other similar legislation.  That mandating dogs or cats go to rescues that a shelter is unfamiliar with is dangerous, and not in the best interest of the animals.  You wouldn't turn children over to someone who simply registers as a 501c3, so why would you entrust defenseless animals to a rescue that you are unfamiliar with.  As stated before, there are worse fates than death and no one can convince me that this dog's life was better for the additional 40 days of his life that resulted in his emaciated state with multiple bite wounds, and then finally roaming the streets of Wilmington.

2012 in Delaware

The question becomes, what will 2012 bring to animal welfare in Delaware?  Will it be more of the divisive politics that has escalated under CAPA, or will shelters overcome the urge to use CAPA as a weapon?  Hopefully people will have gained more insight into the fact that no one shelter can lower euthanasia alone.  Kent County SPCA is paid for animal control in the 3 counties, but those contracts pay for just that.  They are not provided with funding that enables long term housing of ALL animals, nor do those contracts pay for extensive medical services for the many sick or injured animals that are taken in each day.  So tough choices have to be made, and until other shelters understand that Kent County SPCA has to live within its means to continue to serve the countless number of animals that will come through their doors in the years ahead, nothing will improve.  My hope for 2012 is that all shelters and rescues in Delaware will stop worrying about what they think another shelter is doing wrong, and focus on what their own shelter can do to help more animals. 

Happy New Year.