Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Facts, Not Make Believe

Back in October 2011, Mike Fry of Animal Ark Shelter in Minnesota claimed that a mailing that the Animal Humane Society had sent out to their supporters, cautioning them about CAPA, was "make believe".  The scenario that Animal Humane presented was:

"Dixie is a fourteen-year-old spaniel mix at AHS with terminal cancer that won't be placed for adoption. A man from a nonprofit group we've never worked with wants to take Dixie. Because MNCAPA gives any group the right to claim our animals, we have no choice but to let Dixie go. Two months later, our humane investigators find Dixie sick and starving in a barn, along with 150 other animals. Because of MNCAPA, we were forced to give Dixie to hoarders masquerading as a rescue organization." - Animal Humane Prediction of MN CAPA
While Mike Fry would like to paint their predicted scenario as being "make-believe" and "fantasy".  The fact is, it was an educated prediction by a shelter that understands that animals are taken to shelters across the country every day by owners who may not have the resources to treat their animal, and in some cases they don't have the courage to make the final decision.  That is a reality, not "make believe". 

So, Delaware is once again in the unenviable position of showing that predictions by shelter professionals across the country have been accurate.  While the cases involving 14 year old terminal dogs here in Delaware did not end up with hoarders, the prediction that CAPA would cause more suffering for these dogs was right on the mark, and these were both in the 1 year.  In both the Delaware cases, these were dogs that would have been humanely euthanized before CAPA, but instead had to suffer longer as a result of this misguided legislation.

Case 1

The first case is highlighted in a report list at on page 5.  That case involved a 14 year Husky / Pitbull  Mix named Sadie with multiple issues (softball sized tumor, cataracts, congestive heart failure, possibly Cushings disease) who was transferred to a rescue.  The rescue placed the animal with a foster caregiver, who took the dog to a vet when she realized the dog had more health issues than she had been told about.  When her vet recommended the animal be euthanized, the foster tried to contact the rescue, but could not reach them, so the caregiver waited to get their approval, but never did hear back from them.  Subsequently the suffering animal bit someone, and was taken by the local animal shelter where it was euthanized. 

So as a result of CAPA, not only did the animal suffer longer, but someone suffered a bite wound as a result,  and the foster caregiver had to face a tremendous heartbreak after opening her heart and wallet for this animal.  The foster caregiver did everything she could for the dog.  In the end, there is nothing humane about a law that makes an animal suffer longer, placed a foster caregiver in difficult emotional and financial situation, and in this case also endangered the very person that cared enough to take the animal in, because there is always the potential for bites when an animal is in pain.  

I have no doubt that in our pre CAPA world that this animal would have been euthanized rather than transferred.  So maybe Sadie didn't go to a hoarder, but in my opinion, the end of her life was made worse by CAPA. 

Case 2

In the second case, another 14 year old dog named Maggie was transferred to a rescue organization after being surrendered by her owner.  Here is a link to Maggie's story.  According to this article, Maggie "presented with hearing loss, partial blindness, difficulty walking and severe pain".  Despite her condition, she was "dumped into a kennel" for the first week after her transfer to the rescue.  The story states that the dog was finally afforded veterinary care approximately a week later, and that the veterinarian recommended euthanasia, but the "no-kill" rescue leadership refused and she was treated extensively for multiple issues.  A foster caregiver agreed to take the animal so that it would not go back to a commercial kennel cage. 

The foster caregiver in this case realized that Maggie was suffering, but was also denied the approval to euthanize by the rescue's leadership.  By this account, those making that decision had not been to the home, so had no way of determining how extensively the animal was suffering.  Eventually the foster caregiver and a compassionate vet made the call to end Maggie's suffering after they could not contact the groups leadership, and surprisingly were criticized for making the humane decision to end Maggie's suffering.  This is just a synopsis of the event.  I strongly encourage readers to read the complete story.

So in Maggie's case, we have another situation that would not have happened before CAPA was passed in Delaware.  Prior to CAPA, the shelter would have made the right decision to euthanize her without fear of being investigated, lawsuits, and public derogatory remarks by groups such as NoKill Delaware. 

Both Cases

Unfortunately, in Delaware we continue to live in a post CAPA state, where scenarios like above will continue to occur.  I have to believe that there are many similar situations that have gone unreported.

Does anyone really believe that an owner stuck it out to the point in these dog's lives, then just 'dumped" the dogs or gave them up on a whim?  I'm sorry, but I think these owners most likely knew it was time to let her go, and just couldn't find the courage to do it themselves.  I just find it impoosible to believe that someone would keep an animal 14 years, or to the point their health has declined in the above cases, and not care about the animal. 
In some cases these owners may also be hearing the "no-kill" dreams of hospice care for all, and think they are doing what's best for the animal since they have limited resources.  So in my opinion, the owners that surrendered the dogs above, are also victims of CAPA.   Legislators knew full well that there wasn't a pot of gold that would magically appear to provide hospice care for all animals, but they still chose to pass this legislation and as a result animals and people are suffering.
My Dog

There has been a growing chorus of voices in the "no-kill" movement, that want to question people's choices when they give up dog to the shelter, or to request euthanasia at the shelter.  My issue with that chorus is that dogs end up in situations like the ones described above.  It makes no sense to try and legislate or bully shelters into a one size fits all solution.

As the owner of a dog who was incontinent in his last year, I know that if I lived in a rental unit, I may have made a decision to end his life before it reached the point where he was suffering.  Fortunately I owned my home, so was able to setup an area with plastic, and although there were still some leakage issues to the carpet, I could use diluted bleach mixture on that area to ensure that my home remained sanitary until his life end, and then replace the carpet. Not everyone is as fortunate enough to own their home or have to resouces to pull up and remove and replace the carpet to ensure the wood underneath is treated properly after the animal is deceased.  Resources matter.

My dog also had some bad days in that last year, as can be proven by the fact that one day he took a chomp at me, caught the inside of my nose with his tooth, which bled profusely.  I had to pack my nose off and on for a week to keep the bleeding from starting again.  If I had children, I would have also been forced with making a decision earlier.  It would have be negligent to place a child at risk in that situation. 

I resent that laws like CAPA are being proposed across the country.  If I was forced to make a decision to euthanize my dog as a result of either issue above, and had to go to a shelter due to lack of resources, I would have to be concerned that CAPA would force my 14 year old dog to go to a rescue.  I don't believe it would have been more humane than euthanasia to be uprooted from those who loved him into a new situation for his remaining months, or possibly even spend those final months in a cage.  There was also the possibility that he may have been dumped on an unsuspecting caregiver with children, or even worse they may released him to people who are not compassionate and end up punishing the dog harshly merely because he is incontinent. 

I'm not against a shelter trying to be helpful and provide alternatives, but legislation like CAPA takes judgment away from shelters and we've seen the results.  I hope organizations like Animal Humane continue to provide educated predictions to lawmakers, so their states don't make the same mistake as Delaware.

Fact is stranger than fiction, and as we've seen from the 2 stories above, it's also even uglier than fiction.  I hope that there's eventually an outcry by animal lovers in Delaware to repeal this horrific law, one even stronger than the "no-kill" world of Nathan Winograd and the politically connected shelter directors here in Delaware that brought us his CAPA.  I just hope it doesn't take many more animals having to suffer as a consequence of CAPA, like Sadie and Maggie had to endure.