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.