Monday, April 30, 2012

What Does The Future Hold?

It's been a fairly eventful time for animal welfare in Delaware during the month of April. As you might recall, last month we got the news that Delaware SPCA was giving up the animal control in Wilmington. Well it's also becoming more clear that there is a good chance that the same may occur in all 3 of our counties. Below is the PBS video discussed in the previous post for anyone interested.

Watch First for Friday, April 20, 2012 on PBS. See more from First.

Kent County SPCA posted the following to their website and Facebook regarding the fact that they may have to make some tough choices as a result of CAPA.
"This year the KCSPCA is facing a critical point of operations, and we are asking for your help. The Board of Directors is currently exploring termination of all animal control contracts as a result of the shelter’s increased financial expenses. Were this to occur, major additional funding will be required by the agency chosen to implement a new program.

Additionally, when Senate Bill 280 passed in 2010, it created conflicts between the KCSPCA and our contractual county governments, animal shelter directors, and members of the public. This unfunded mandate has continued to nurture an environment of conflicts, costing our residents, both human and animal, valuable resources."

There's no doubt that CAPA being enacted after KCSPCA was already under contract with the counties has caused financial harm to them. Obviously they weren't able to include the costs associated with this law nto their contracts when it was enacted mid contract. But then again, that's the ridiculous way our legislature works in Delaware. No fiscal impact statement was included with the CAPA legislation regarding what it might cost the counties in the future, or the financial impact on non-profit organizations providing animal control services under their current contracts. I'm sure it is a difficult position to be in for Kent County SPCA. When you have responsibility for employees depending on their livelihood, the organization must weigh their own financial stability against trying to not abandon their employees.

So what will the future hold for Delaware if Kent County SPCA decides to give up animal control for our counties? As discussed previously, we need only look slightly north to Delaware County PA. The costs associated with building  a shelter and contracting with various communities within the county still has their community in a state of flux, and this has been going on since early last year.  And this could occur here for all 3 counties at the same time which will magnify the problems even more.

So lets say the counties are able to get their own animal control divisions in place quickly. What does that mean for Delaware citizens?  Well most likely it will require 2-3 times the cost that counties were previously paying to Kent County SPCA. Some will think that is great, more funding for animal control, that's a good thing isn't it?  No, because that cost will reflect higher paying county salaries with the perks and retirements. It will also include costs for dealing with the constant complaints and lawsuits that will be directed at the counties once they are the only open admission entities, so that won't include additional money directed to helping animals in any way.  After I watched the Kent County council meeting in a previous post, I really don't think the counties understand that they will also have to deal with the ramifications of CAPA, like having to produce documentation for complaints to the Attorney General, Dept. of Agriculture, and various legislators. My bet is that the counties will finally get off their rears at that point and fight to get CAPA repealed, but at that point we will have already headed down the downward slope.

What will it mean to shelters if counties take over animal control?  I've seen leadership from some the shelters who seem to think it will be a good thing.  But if the counties cost is several times it's previous cost, the counties either need to pull money from other programs or raise taxes. Do shelters really think the counties won't tell the public why either of those options had to be done?   And do they really believe that isn't going to impact donations to the shelters?

The counties will then be the face of animal welfare in Delaware. Will that impact donations to shelters. Absolutely. How many people donate to shelters because their pet was returned to them safely. If it's the county returning their pets home safely, and taxpayers are paying additional taxes, it's crazy to believe that this won't impact the financial well being of our animal shelters. So while some think I'm arguing against more funds going to animal control that could help Delaware become "no-kill", that's not the case. I understand business, and the fact is the shelter wars in Delaware have not been good for any shelter in this state, and surely not good for the animals.

If the donor base shrinks even a small amount, how will that impact the shelters? The fact is, we have a higher animal shelter concentration for a tri-county area than most.  In fact part of what brought about the shelter wars in the first place is competition for limited funds available, and as I've stated, CAPA was an attempt to eliminate some of the competition. So we will see all shelters struggle to stay in business once the counties take the reins. The weak will die, and then the others will stabiliize as we get back to a healthy level. That's simple business analysis, not rocket science. So for those that think I'm speaking out to harm the "no-kill" shelters, you couldn't be more wrong. I understand that the most likely to go under are in fact the newest shelters, and those are both "no-kill". You merely need to look at the financials to come to that conclusion. The amusing part of the scenario is that Kent County SPCA is the only one that doesn't have competition within it's county, and will fare the best if animal control goes to the counties.  So in the end, they may be the ones getting the last laugh.

So what will we have to show for CAPA?  Counties will then be dealing with the constant complaints, and taxpayers will be paying more for the same services. Most likely a couple shelters will go under as a result of lost donations due to negative public opinion about additional taxes or lost services at the county level, and they will probably be the no-kill shelters that brought us CAPA.  And sadly we will still have too many animals, and it may even be worse for the animals since counties have to be even more cautious than KCSPCA, so they don't end up in lawsuits like the one in Delaware County SPCA, especially when they see brilliant newspaper captions like this:
"Grizzy, a rottie/chow mix, gets ready for his new home. He came to Safe Haven from Kent County, where he was wrongly labeled aggressive. In truth, he’s a lover boy looking for a calm, quiet home. Interested in finding Grizzy his forever home?" - Cape Gazette 4-20-12
 And hopefully, the legislators and governor that created this situation with CAPA will continue to have to deal with the consequences of this legislation.  After seeing so many states make the right decision this year and steer clear of CAPA and it's derivatives, I really have to agree with the D- rating under Legislative Accountability section for Delaware's corruption risk report card.   CAPA had cronyism written all over it, and eventually everyone in Delaware will be paying the price, and so will the animals.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Targeted Spay Neuter - Fiscally Responsible & Sustainable

A recent post from the world of "no-kill" asked - Can You Neuter Your Way Out of Killing? The post then stated "The short answer is No". Below is a statement from that post:
"Despite that, many animal welfare professionals and large organizations continue to sing the mantra that spay/neuter is not just the most important thing, it is the only thing that really matters.* They claim that the only way to achieve a No Kill nation is through a No Birth nation. But that view is factually inaccurate."
* While historically, most animal advocates would have agreed with these organizations, that view is thankfully changing. In an informal survey I did on Facebook, which received over 400 responses, approximately 30% of respondents said spay/neuter was the most important program to save the lives of animals in shelters. The vast majority cited others such as adoptions, foster care, and working with rescue groups. Will the national organizations ever catch up?  - Nathan Winograd
I agree that spay neuter alone is not the answer, but I believe it's the most important.  So did the no-kill followers.  As you'll note above, while he was technically correct that the majority chose one of the 10 other choices in his survey, but he chose not to tell his followers that the next highest category received half the votes that spay neuter did.  Many of his FB followers asked for the complete results, but it was no surprise that there was only silence to the request.

As I stated in previous posts, I understand why spay neuter initiatives seem to be a sore spot on his Facebook page.  He must know that his followers may begin to understand that spay neuter is the solution that doesn't warrant a steady increase in costs like those incurred by Austin & Washoe. It's irresponsible to ask taxpayers for additional funding year after year while they are giving up other equally important services.  There's no indication that the costs will not keep increasing in Austin, and the large deficits at Nevada Humane clearly can't be sustained indefinitely.  

The following statement on AnimalWise radio is the one that I most disagree with. 
"While spay neuter is important, our goal has never been no more births, even though reducing birth rates might help. Our goal has been and is, and has always been no more killing. And when you focus on the no more killing part, spay neuter actually takes a backseat to all those other programs like foster care, and adoptions, and helping people overcome the challenges they face that cause them to surrender their animals."  Nathan Winograd on AnimalWise Radio 4/22/12 (minute mark 33)
To say that spay neuter is the least important of the programs is ludicrous.  From a business analyis standpoint, it's like saying a small manufacturer can put off buying a piece of equipment that will make their business more efficient and just hire 10 more people to do the job manually in the mean time.  Then the business realizes that the additional employees are eating into their profits and they can no longer afford to buy the equiment, and susbsequently go out of business.  That's exactly what's happening in the no-kill communities.  The regular news stories out of Austin that the shelter is full and looking for even more fosters makes that perfectly clear.  You can't just keep expanding foster care and the costs associated with it.  The only difference between the shelter and a business, is that the no-kill movement thinks that the taxpayers have a bottomless pot of gold to tap, unlike the business that has limited resources.  We all know that even government has limited resouces and eventually the taxpayers will realize that the additional animal control funding is eating into other programs that are equally important, like maintaing staffing levels for public safety, teachers, and child protection services, etc.  Then there is the eventual backlash that takes a shelter 2 steps back, and euthanizing even more animals as a result of not doing programs like spay neuter that would have lowered intake.  Lowering intake saves money, or at the very least holds expenses static.  We can see above the impact that no-kill has on expenses, and it's not pretty. 

The Spay Neuter Example

New Hampshire
New Hampshire was able to lower their euthanasia at a fraction of the added costs  taken on by the communities shown above, and Mr. Winograd even mentioned New Hampshire as a leading contender to be the first no-kill state on an AnimalWise podcast back on 8/21/11.  We're also well aware of the fact that shelters and rescues regularly transport to the North East states because of the impact that spay neuter has had in lowering euthanasia in that region of the country. 

AnimalKind,  North Carolina
Groups like AnimalKind, that Mr. Winograd referenced with an image of their newletter and a link on the quote above, are also another great example of the impact that targeted spay neuter can accomplish.   His assertion that mainstream animal welfare advocates claim "it is the only thing that really matters" is clearly deceptive.  His choice to link that claim to an organization who's sole mission is to provide targeted spay neuter surgeries to low-income families is an attempt to give that impression, but that's like saying a plumbing contractor says that plumbing is the only part of a house that matters when in fact the plumber is only saying that is the only service they are providing.  Personally I'm glad he highlighted them because they're another great example of a successful spay neuter program.  Below are their statistics from just one of the counties that they assist.  Clearly this group is making tremendous progress in  in a short period of time.

Hillsborough County, FL
Yet another example of a spay neuter success is Hillsborough County, FL.  Under the leadership of Dennis McCulloch, the euthanasia rate drop by 17,500 animals per year in only 7 years.  Clearly that's quite an accomplishment.

While these examples may not have happened overnight, they also didn't cost taxpayers millions more like Austin and Washoe.  The example communities also didn't require questionable practices like free adoptions that can place animals in dangers way, and results in stories like the Cooney story in Washoe, a dog adopted out to a transient then tortured with a box cutter.  A description of the horrific details can be read here.  Or transfers to irresponsible rescues that results in an emaciated dog like pictured of Neo on No-Kill Delaware.  So no, my concern with no-kill initiatives is not just a matter of money, it's about animal welfare and understanding that there are worse outcomes than death. 

Delaware Spay Neuter Program
Delaware also has a publicly funded targeted spay neuter program.  In a recent televised report, it was addressed that the pre-adoption spay neuter mandate that went into affect in 2006 did result in lowering euthanasia.  Unfortunately Delaware will never be able to conclusively determine the success of the targeted low income program as a result of CAPA being passed in 2010.  The shenanigans that resulted from CAPA taintss the ability to extrapolate that data, and sadly that data may have helped other states passed similar spay neuter programs.  There are examples of animals being dumped on fosters in other states.  There are also multiple reports of animals being imported and exported out of state by shelters due to the shelter wars, and that clearly harms the ability to determine the impact the s/n program would have on shelter intakes going forward.  Or the impact of thousands of cats that are no longer accepted by shelters in our state. 

While it's unfortunate that our state won't be able to determine the spay neuter programs success, this will also impact the ability of the no-kill movement to claim Delaware as their success as well.  Obviously if animals are being dumped in other states then euthanized anyway, or dogs like Neo that end up recycled as an intake a second time because of CAPA transfer requirements to irresponsible rescues, then the abililty to determine the success of either legislations (S/N & CAPA) is questionable at best.  But hopefully the low income citizens that have benefited from the spay neuter program, and the known benefits to eliminating unwanted behaviors that impact pet retention will be sufficient for continued support of the program, despite the compromised impact data.
Delaware News

It was nice to see an animal shelter story in Delaware that actually was fairly balanced.  Gannett could learn alot from PBS. The PBS television version was more comprehesive than the article, but it at least it addressed the difficulty being open access and no-kill. 

What amazes me is the divisiveness among the more militant of our no-kill organizations.  For a headline like the one in the Gannett to say "Sussex's first no-kill facility is an expanding Safe Haven", it does a disservice to Delaware SPCA who "went no-kill in 2009" and is also located in Sussex.  While I have concern about the impact going no-kill has had on Delaware SPCA's financial well being, I believe that Delaware SPCA's shelter leadership has the right to determine their mission, and to give up animal control in Wilmington if they so choose. 

I've also seen negative comments on one of the other no-kill shelter's website about Delaware SPCA in the past, and now with this slight by Gannett, I have to wonder if it's due the fact that Delaware SPCA hasn't participated in the public smears against KCSPCA that we've seen from other no-kill leadership.  Relevant to the discussion about spay neuter, keep in mind that Delaware SPCA did over 7000 spay neuter surgeries at their 2 shelters this year, which is a tremendous service to our community. It seems that the no-kill community slights Delaware SPCA and treats them like the 2 headed stepchild because they are focusing on expanding their spay neuter capability, rather than wasting their time on public smears. What a great concept, helping animals instead of harassing other organizations. 

Like I've said in the past, if no-kill has such a great product, they would be focused on selling that product, not running down the competition.  And that's exactly why there is currently a campaign by the no-kill movement to minimize the impact that targeted spay neuter programs.  Hopefully the 30+% of no-kill followers that agree that spay neuter is the most important weapon in the arsenal, will eventually realize that the product that the no-kill movement is selling is not sustainable. Then they can bring their focus back to the spay neuter solution which is effective, fiscally responsible, and sustainable.  And just think of the time and money that would be saved collaborating rather than the wasted resouces of battling.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

CAPA - An Example of "The Delaware Way"

While I'm sure most Delaware readers understand the underlying meaning of my title reference to "The Delaware Way", I just want to explain it for readers from other states.  Recently, a liquor distributor in our state was prosecuted for making illegal campaign contributions.  He made contributions to politicians in the name of his employees to skirt contribution limits.  Tigani had ties to our previous governor and other politicians, and his company received land under a deal negotiated with our Delaware Department of Transportation at a price considered to be well below market value.  At the sentencing hearing, and at the press conference by the U.S. Attorney David Weiss, the term "The Delaware Way" was used in reference to the backroom dealings and the excercise of political influence. 

Although I don't believe CAPA was enacted to gain contributions as in the Tigani case above, I do think it's just as inappropriate and possibly illegal to enact a law like CAPA that restrains competition by placing barriers that are costly, restricts their ability to continue to operate effectively, and provides a competitive advantage to their friends.
"We took the model legislation known as the Companion Animal Protection Act as a starting point and approached the same Senator who helped us in 2006 with the spay-neuter law.  We were also fortunate that an attorney who was on our board of directors was now a policy advisor to the new Governor--Governor Jack Markell (also a pet lover), and she was able to help us negotiate with all the stakeholders and come up with a good bill that we could get passed into law this year.   And we did." - Examiner Article called A Faithful Friend from the First State: Interview with Jane Pierantozzi
So as you can see, Delaware CAPA was not only written by someone who was on the board of director for a no-kill organization that wanted to eliminate or severely restrict another shelter's (KCSPCA) ability to continue to perform their duties handling nearly 3/4 of the animals taken in for Delaware, but this CAPA writer was also a policy advisor to the governor.  The Senate majority leader that sponsored CAPA was also listed as an advisor to this same no-kill organization.  As with any non-profit sector, animal shelters are competing for the same donor dollars, and obviously CAPA is not going to have the same impact on an organization that takes in 712 animals, as it is going to have on an organization that takes in 15,388.
"Two years ago, we invited Nathan Winograd,  the Director of the National No Kill Advocacy Center to come to Delaware to present a workshop during our week for the Animals to educate the public and policy makers about the No Kill movement and his success in turning around high-kill shelters in other communities.   He also agreed to come and meet with all the shelter directors in Delaware along with board leaders to discuss where are our state was and what we could do to advance the no kill cause."
"After Ann Cavanaugh took over as Director of the DESPCA we discussed the fact that a passionate, committed Director really makes or breaks the care and outcome for the animals and is crucial to continue to provide excellent care and a high save rate for the animals.  Nathan recommended that we consider pursuing the creation of a bill that he had outlined on his website to ensure in law that shelters meet certain standards so if leadership changes the same basic standards are required for shelters."  -  Examiner Article called A Faithful Friend from the First State: Interview with Jane Pierantozzi
I think the quotes above make it pretty clear that one of the ultimate goals was leadership change at Kent County SPCA. That's why the decision to pursue CAPA didn't come about until there was only 1 director left to push out.

And that's just what was done.  From the start of CAPA, a group called No-Kill Delaware who is directly linked to another no-kill organization began their assault of constant complaints, despite the fact that everyone was aware that there wasn't any enforcement powers under those complaints. As a result, the previous director went on to pursue an opportunity in another state.  Unfortunately the "Delaware Way" resulted in uprooting a family from their home state near their family to get away from the nonstop bullying and ganging up on the director for performing his job under the burdensome law.  A law that makes it impossible for a shelter to work within the confines of contracts that were enacted prior to CAPA, thereby guaranteeing the animal control shelter would start hemorrhaging funds. 

So now let's fast forward to a recent letter posted by the organization that brought us CAPA. The letter was written after Delaware SPCA announced their choice to give up their animal control contract with the city of Wilmington. 
Dog control contracts are a serious responsibility and come with many burdens. The government must prioritize fully funding these contracts if they expect nonprofits to bear this responsibility. Governments that choose to provide dog control services themselves must fully fund the service to ensure a humane system for the dogs who rely on us for their safety.  -  Faithful Friends Letter Regarding Wilmington Animal Control
Isn't it amusing that when it's a no-kill group that gives up animal control, it was because there wan't enough funding, but the animal control shelter that handles nearly 75% of the animals throughout the state should be sending the no-kill groups money according to No-Kill Delaware.  It would be comical if it wasn't for the questionable alliances against one shelter. 
Also note that Safe Haven, a no-kill organization in Sussex county, has the following reference on their website. 
The transport also included other Safe Haven dogs as well as dogs from our partner shelter, Faithful Friends of Wilmington, DE. - Safe Haven website
So this leads us to the most current situation.  Safe Haven considers themselves a "partner" of Faithful Friends who brought us CAPA.  Now that Kent County SPCA is exploring terminating their animal control contracts, look who's ready to step in and grab some dough, none other than Safe Haven.  Now that's truly  the "Delaware Way".  Bully the competition to the point they want out, so you can swoop in and get the funds needed to operate their new shelter and pay their debts.  And I can only imagine how much contracts will go up in the years to come by getting the competition out of the way with CAPA. 
The contract, currently valued at $600,000 and held by the Kent County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, would aid Safe Haven’s expansion to accommodate more animals, subsequently reducing the likelihood of their euthanization, said Anne Gryczon, sanctuary executive director.

“We’re still looking at bidding on the contract,” Gryczon said. “We offer a sanctuary for life, although our mission is not to (permanently) take in every single animal. We want to keep pets together with their owners. To save the life of an animal is complicated.” - Delmarva Now Article
Where Does Delaware Go From Here?

I wish I knew.  I think everyone knows that CAPA is a disaster.   In some ways it fortunate that it's an election year, because fiscal conservatives can point out the ridiculous situation that Delaware's state government put our counties in, and we can point out the various state and county politicians that have played out the games on behalf of activists exacerbating the situation.  But the unfortunate part of being in an election year is that the politicians are less likely to aggravate the vocal minority by admitting it's a disaster, or admitting that they've placed a large financial burden on the county taxpayers going forward.
As for any investigation into whether the affect CAPA has had on eliminating competition, we can only keep our fingers crossed that the Department of Justice was sufficiently appalled by the Tigani investigation where not one government official has been prosecuted yet, and consider the CAPA situation as a means to stopping the backroom deals and favors that are so prolific here in Delaware.


Hillsborough County, FL
 It was unfortuate to see the events in Hillsborough County Animal Services, an organization that had made such great progress with their spay neuter initiative who went from a 34000 intake in 2003 to 16500 intake in 2010.  Now, they are also being hijacked by a County Commissioner under similarly questionable circumstances.  It's obvious that everyone needs to keep an eye out for their local shelter and start to questioning these actions.
County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan addressed the Save 90 group last weekend in remarks posted to YouTube. He voiced support for the cause and foretold changes in Animal Services management. "The killing must stop," said Hagan, who could not be reached late Thursday.

Members of the Animal Advisory Committee said they were caught off guard by changes within the department, finding out about them through Hagan's video clip.

Veterinarian Michael Haworth, a member of the committee, described McCullough as a "stand-up guy" who succeeded in helping to reduce the number of animals killed each year. He said he doesn't understand why the county's main sounding-board for issues relating to animals hasn't been consulted. - Tampa Bay Times
Mr. Winograd seemed to take great pleasure in this on his FB page:
And a big thank you to Hillsborough County, NJ which took an important step in that direction by announcing its lifesaving ambitions and getting rid of the biggest obstacle to a No Kill Tampa Bay: their regressive shelter director. ( Though defended and protected by the ASPCA in this failed "mission (agent): orange" city, he is gone. And, like in Austin where the same thing happened and where the ASPCA defended not just the killing but the director who continued killing in the face of alternatives, we are told it was "voluntary." ( Let them have their "graceful" exit. Either way, he is gone, he is gone, he is gone.
I guess it's understandable why he seems to take issue with too many people mentioning spay neuter as the best solution.  If lowering intake and subsequently euthanasia is considered "regressive", then I guess maybe the issue is a dislike of a fiscal responsible and sustainable solution.  I'd bet that Dennis McCullough saved more animals than Mr. Winograd probably saw in his long career (eyeroll) in shelters.  Based on his statement about whether or not Mr. McCullough left voluntarily and a graceful exit, maybe the Department of Justice should do an investigation into No-Kill Advocacy's role with politcians here and Hillsborough.  If Mr. McCullough was forced out, hopefully he will put up a fight and the truth will come out.  Maybe it's time for ASPCA to protect our shelters and help fund legal actions in these cases.

"The best example that can be given as to the way in which the activists support “killing” is the manner in which they remain silent regarding the 74% euthanasia rate at San Bernardino City’s animal shelter. The City euthanized more than 6,000 additional animals in 2011 compared to the County’s three (3) animal shelters during the same time period (County euthanized 7,304 and the City euthanized 13,369 in 2011). The County participated in the challenge and ranked #8 in the nation, the City didn’t even attempt to participate. The County is planning a Mega Pet Adoption Event in June the City doesn’t participate in off-site adoption events.
Again, you have to question their motives. Why not support the County’s life-saving efforts and attempt to help the animals? Why not support such a positive program? Maybe someone could ask the activists and let us know." - Devore Shelter Friends
Devore, the answer is simple.  No-kill activists prefer to take over shelters that are already making progress like Devore.  Hillsborough was making progress, Delaware lowered the euthanasia rate in 2006 with mandatory pre-adoption spay neuter.  Washoe County had funding provided by their referendum.  It's much easier to piggyback on someones elses success than to start from scratch.  Not that there aren't activists elsewhere, but that sees to be where they make the biggest effort.

To those who commented and emailed me about the previous post being passed on to officials in you area, I hope this has been helpful in some of the items you might want to keep track of in you situation. Just try to connect the dots.  Obviously, I have no way of knowing whether anything will come of investigation requests, but at the very least, the information tracked can also be helpful in educating others in your area on election day.

And a reminder to Delawareans - let your legislator know that "The Delaware Way" is unacceptable.  Ask your legislator to repeal this mess called the "Shelter Standards" (CAPA), because it doesn't contain real standards and for the most part doesn't include enforcement.  Your tax dollars are being wasted performing investigations that have no consequences anyway.  Tell them your tired of the never ending investigations and that you don't want to see the continued financial losses at our shelters due to CAPA.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Is CAPA Legal? - Collusion vs. Activism

As I've noted on previous posts, Delaware's CAPA is notorious for an atmosphere of multiple and never ending investigations.  Everything from simple custody issues to State Attorney General investigations, so maybe it's time for the rest of us to join the bandwagon and ask for an investigation. The ever increasing financial cost inflicted by the "No-Kill" movement and the negative effects it has had for the welfare of animals has been previously discussed, so maybe it's time to address the questionable legality of CAPA. Maybe it's time for those impacted by this ridiculous law (shelters performing animal control, city and county governments who purchase animal control services or perform them, and the taxpayers who ultimately pay for those services) to request an investigation into whether or not this law is a violation of antitrust / competition law.

The Sherman Antitrust Act

Anyone who's worked in the business world is aware of the laws that ensure that the marketplace remains competitive. The Sherman Antitrust act is a statute that prohibits business activities that reduce competition in the marketplace.  This act also prohibits collusion within an industry or the "conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce ".  
"To protect the consumers by preventing arrangements designed, or which tend, to advance the cost of goods to the consumer". - Senator John Sherman
While most of us are familiar with Sherman in the context of for profit companies, non-profits industries are not exempt. Because shelters are also vendors for the municipalities and counties, laws like CAPA that place additional costs onto the consumer/taxpayer, or are used as a weapon to push another shelter out of the business of animal control, could possibly be violations of antitrust laws.

While it is perfectly acceptable to pass laws that create new standards or better standards, CAPA in fact did neither. Unlike animal welfare laws enacted in other states like North Carolina or Connecticut, CAPA did not include standards of care that ensure proper care of animals, or provide for an agency to perform inspections to ensure compliance. If you look at Delaware's Companion Animal Protection Act, you'll realize that other than one section, 8004(d), the "law" has no enforcement or civil remedy.  Keep in mind that most of 8004(d) was already on the books in Delaware, so essentially all the new sections added don't include enforcement of any kind.  So what exactly was the purpose of this "sweeping" and "progressive" new legislation if it can't be enforced?
"The Governor of Delaware just signed the most sweeping, progressive companion animal protection legislation in the United States. The law was modeled on the No Kill Advocacy Center's Companion Animal Protection Act and spearheaded by the non‐profit No Kill shelter Faithful Friends, in Wilmington, Delaware, and involved groups like Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary." - Statement by Nathan Winograd on No-Kill Delaware website
I think federal authorities need to question whether the legislation wasn't merely a "sham" which is used as a weapon to force Kent County SPCA out of the animal control business, or at the very least force them to require more funds for their services that activists want provided for their agenda.  By making Kent County SPCA jump through the hoops of this legislation, and the resulting investigations that ultimately have no effect other than costing KCSPCA money in time spent pulling documents and talking to regulators, there is no better example of a "sham" than this unenforceable law.  I use the term sham because it relates to a doctine under The Sherman Act called Noerr-Pennington Doctine.

Noerr-Pennington Doctrine
While I'm sure some of the attorneys in the "No-Kill" movement will argue that even if CAPA does restrain commerce, the "No-Kill" shelters are immune from collusion in working together to enact a governmental action such as CAPA.  They will claim protection established under the Noerr-Pennington Doctrine which provides immunity to balance the rights of entities to influence the passage of laws even if those laws do have an anticompetetive effect. 
"A fundamental goal of the Commission’s antitrust enforcement program is to prevent parties, acting either unilaterally or in concert, from improperly acquiring and exercising market power to the detriment of consumers. One of the most effective ways for parties to acquire or maintain market power is through the abuse of government processes. The cost to the party engaging in such abuse typically is minimal, while the anticompetitive effects resulting from such abuse often are significant and durable. Thus, the reach of the antitrust laws to conduct that abuses government processes for anticompetitive ends is of particular importance to the commission’s enforcement program." - FTC
The reason the word "sham" is so important is that it directly relates to an exception under the Noerr-Pennington Doctrine.  Federal authorities need to look at whether CAPA was in fact ever intended to create new "standards", or whether it was created for the sole purpose of harassing animal control agencies in Delaware, whether it be Kent County SPCA, the counties, or municipalities.  Below is a case that best discusses laws and regulatory actions that aren't provided immunity under Noerr-Pennington, and the fact that CAPA and the resulting complaints lack purpose in the ability to enforce is strikingly similar. 
"For example, in California Motor Transport v. Trucking Unlimited, 404 U.S. 508 (1972), the United States Supreme Court held that the Noerr-Pennington doctrine did not apply where defendants had sought to intervene in licensing proceedings for competitors, because the intervention was not based on a good-faith effort to enforce the law, but was solely for the purpose of harassing those competitors and driving up their costs of doing business. The sine qua non of a "sham" proceeding is not the purpose to harm a competitor, but rather the absence of any purpose to actually obtain government action. Thus, initiating an administrative proceeding that one actually hopes to win in order to harm one's competitors is within the ambit of the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, while initiating a similar proceeding that one does not meaningfully intend to win solely to delay one's business competitors is within the sham exception." - Noerr-Pennington - Wikipedia

I encourage those involved to contact the Department of Justice and request that they review this law and whether it violates the Sherman Act.  While anyone can make a complaint, I think the most effective means to have this law reviewed is for the complaints come from those directly affected.  Shelters impacted like Kent County SPCA can provide the costs and any correspondence related to ongoing investigations that might show a specific segment of people making the complaints.  The cities and counties that will have to bear the cost of this law should also consider requesting a federal review of this law.  And taxpayers in Delaware that will ultimately pay the price in their taxes should also ask for the law to be reviewed.  I also encourage those of you in other states, where similar legislation is proposed, to ask for a federal review to ensure that this weapon does not go on the books in your state.

Goverment of the People

The concern is the whether those that represent us in government are doing what best protects the interest of all their consituents, or whether laws are passed that represent their friends and connections.  When we see so many political connections listed on some of our shelters Leadership pages, it does make one wonder.  Especially when we see articles like Dead Mutts Walking that states the governor office was directly involved in helping a rescue obtain dogs under CAPA, and this is the same rescue that took the dog Neo shown on the homepage of No-Kill Delaware who was eventually a complainant in one of the many investigations under CAPA. 

It still comes back to the same questions.  If state legislators and the governor wanted to propose a "no-kill" law, why whitewash it by calling it shelter standards, and why did they wait until animal control became a county obligation?  Did they in fact know that this would be costly to the taxpayers and not want the responsibility to find the funding under their own budget?  Why not be up front with the "no-kill" agenda from the start?  Did legislators think taxpayers would be upset by the fact that you were asking them to fund their personal passions? 

While I do believe our animal control agencies are underfunded for their needs to cover everything from vaccinations to maintaining an adequate fleet of trucks to provide service to the community, I have to wonder whether our legislators knew that taxpayers wouldn't want to take on the costs that communities that the no-kill shelters like to cite as their examples.  In some cases those communities are paying 3-4 times what we are currently paying.  I certainly don't think taxpayers should be burdened with paying for 900 animals in foster care like Austin, or pay thousands of dollars for the cancer treatment of a shelter animal when they can't afford it for their own pet.  In my opinion that's just subsidized ownership for warehousing animals, and it's ridiculous to ask taxpayers to foot that bill.  Especially when so many of those taxpayers are already having a difficult time providing for the care of their own animals.

Was the inability to get taxpayers to support a "no-kill" initiative the reason legislators chose to enact a bill like CAPA that didn't have any enforcement ability?  Well maybe it's time for federal authorities to subpoena emails from everyone involved in the creation of CAPA  to find out what the true motives were.  Was the motive to enact a standards law, or was it to create a weapon of mass harassment?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Millions of Dollars & Common Sense

I wanted to take some time to address todays announcement of a new publication by the No Kill Advocacy called Dollars & Sense - The Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control.  I see that No-Kill Delaware is already excited about the publication, and encouraging people to send the link to their county and city officials.  So I want to show those same officials the reality. 

One of the first things I noticed was the absence of Austin TX in the publication.  Since Austin has been discussed in my various posts on this blog, and I addressed the sustainability issue at Working to Help Animals, there is no need to address that issue further.  I guess the advocacy center did not want to explain away the fact that Austin's budget has been increasing over half a million every year.

Reno - Washoe County, NV

The advocacy has chosen to now make Reno their highlighted community in this publication. 
"In just one community, a No Kill initiative yielded $250,000 in increased revenues at a time the shelter also significantly reduced expenditures....Before Reno’s No Kill initiative, the shelter adopted out less than 5,000 dogs and cats every year. The remainder was put to death at great cost to taxpayers and donors. In 2010, as death rates declined, the number of animals adopted doubled to just under 10,000 adoptions. In addition to a cost savings of roughly $200,000 associated with killing, adoption fees brought in almost $250,000 in additional revenues." - NoKill Advocacy, The Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control
I've addressed Reno in previous posts, but I want to look at the numbers more in depth to address the reality that the Reno No-Kill initiative that began in 2006 has not saved taxpayer dollars, it has cost them millions.  Whether you look below at their Regional Animal Services expenses alone (2005 at $3,179,173 vs 2010 at $4,244,328)  or in combination with Nevada Humane (2005 at $5,347,996 vs 2010 at $7,816,195), the reality is that the No-Kill initiative is costing them millions more than before and that is the reality.

Nevada Humane
Washoe Regional Animal Services
Combined Washoe County / Nevada Humane

So while the statement made by the NoKill Advocacy about $250,000 in additional revenues may not be an outright falsehood, it does not address the fact that those 5,000 additional animals are typically in shelter longer requiring care which equals veterinary expenses, salaries for workers to care for them, etc.  Those costs are evident in the increased expenses. 

The statement also ignores the fact that both Austin and Reno do promotions to keep animals moving out the door, and in some cases they are even giving promotional items like in the case of the promotion currently taking place that not only waives the adoption fee, but also gives the adopter a free pet fountain.  So not only did these animals cost the shelter additional resources that they aren't being reimbursed for, they are actually giving adopters a freebie to take the animal.  It amazes me that animal welfare has been warning pet owners about giving their animals to strangers for free forever, but now we are supposed to not be concerned that these free animals aren't going to become lab animals, bait dogs, and who knows what else. 


The new publication also states that No-Kill initiatives are sustainable.  Well this time instead of looking at the increased tax burden in Austin, I will look at the factor that most threatens the sustainability in Reno.  Since 2006 when the No-Kill initiative began, Nevada Humane has had an operating deficit each and every year, and some of those deficits have been susbtantial.   Non-profits aren't in the business to make money, but continual and susbstantial losses not only risks the sustainability of the No-Kill initiative, but also risks the sustainability as an ongoing business concern, and the animals certainly won't be better off if a shelter goes under. 

Nevada Humane
Deficits Since No-Kill Effort Began 2006

That has also been my concern with CAPA here in Delaware.  Kent County SPCA recently noted in a newspaper article that they lost $450,000 due to the added requirements of CAPA.  Looking at previous financials, the shelter ran fairly efficiently, excesses and deficits were held fairly low.  Now as a result of the Delaware No-Kill initiative, the future of our shelters hang in the balance.  Delaware SPCA began their no-kill journey in 2008, and they have also had susbstantial losses as well ever since then.  No-Kill advocates threaten the viability of our shelters to remain going concerns, and if these shelters succumb as a result of continual losses, it's the animals that will suffer.  Animal care is not free and I do think there are shelters that aren't paid adequately for their service, but as a public service it also needs to be fiscally responsible and show it can be sustained over the long term. 

Economic Impact

I do have to say I found one part of the document laughable.  The statement is shown below.  Since I've already addressed the inaccuracy of the cost savings, and you can see by the revenue numbers that they have in fact gone down since 2005 for Reno, I guess there is no added benefit and only additional costs.
"Moreover, the positive economic impact of economic spending by adopters on those animals to community businesses totaled over $12,000,000 in annual sales. With an average lifespan of roughly 11 years per animal, the total revenues to community businesses over the life of those pets could potentially top $120,000,000. The number is substantially higher given that those impacts are exponential (in Year Two, businesses would benefit from two years worth of adoptions; in Year Three, they would benefit from three years of adoptions; etc.). In addition, not only do those businesses then employ people who turn around and spend even more, all these activities also bring in badly needed tax revenues. At an average 6% rate, adoptions over a ten-year period could potentially bring in over $20,000,000 in sales tax alone.

While many of these economic benefits will be realized regardless of where people get their animals, cost savings and other revenues will not be realized". - NoKill Advocacy, The Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control
But the part that I find most amusing is the economic impact analyis.  As stated, the pet product sales and associated sales tax impacts are realized whether a person gets an animal from a breeder or a shelter, but it also provides breeders with this same argument and the breeders in fact have the additional economic impact of sales revenue from selling puppies.  Needless to say, I think we as a community are more than willing to give up the revenue that puppy mills bring to communities, but I just found it amusing that the advocacy group wanted to use the large numbers for shock and awe, but in the end that statement said absolutely nothing.