Saturday, July 28, 2012

Animal Welfare Task Force - "The Delaware Way"

As I've previously note, politics in The First State has style of it's own, and that's why our state has been the only one foolish enough to pass this nightmare legislation.  And anyone who has watched this unfold here is well aware of the chaos and questionable tactics that have taken place as a result of CAPA and the "no-kill" movement.  Because of this chaos, and the fact that counties are interpreting laws in whatever manner suits them, especially in Kent County, the state senate has put forth a concurrent resolution to establish an Animal Welfare Task Force.  While you would think that it's a good thing that our legislators realize the fiasco that they've created in animal welfare here in Delaware with CAPA, I'll highlight just a few of the issues I see with the task force.

Composition of the Task Force Membership

Below I have listed the membership / representatives for Delaware's new task force, and I also show the task force membership for a couple other states.

Delaware Animal Welfare Task Force Membership - 22 Members
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force shall be comprised of the following members:
1.   Two (2) members of the House of Representatives, to be appointed by the Speaker of the House;
2.   Two (2) members of the Delaware State Senate, to be appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate;
3.   One representative from each of the five (5) operating animal shelters in Delaware;
4.   One representative from the Governor’s office;
5.   Five (5) members of the public to be appointed by the Governor;
6.   One (1) representative from the Department of Agriculture;
7.   One (1) representative from the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association;
8.   One representative each from New Castle County government, Kent County government, Sussex County Government, and the City of Wilmington government; and
9.   A representative of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine Shelter Animal Medicine Program.

NH Commission on the Humane Treatment for Animals - 24 Members
NH Dog Breeders Association
National Humane Organizations
NH Sheriffs' Association
Sled Dog Owners Association
State Veterinarian
NH Fish & Game Department
House of Representatives
Animal Control Officers
General Public
UNH Cooperative Extension
General Public
NH Senate
Attorney General's Office
General Public-NH Bar Assn. Member
NH Veterinary Technician Association
Police Chiefs Association
NH Cat Fanciers
NH Federation of Humane Organizations
American Boarding Kennel Association
Animal Shelter Boards
Municipal Animal Shelters
NH Wildlife Association
General Public
General Public

New Jersey Animal Welfare Task Force - Up to 30 Members Appointed By The Governor
Membership composition mentioned in the task force report.
"The Task Force’s large and diverse membership included representatives of humane organizations, animal caregivers, shelter operators, animal control officers, cruelty enforcement officers, a breeder, veterinarians, public heath professionals, lawyers and government officials and employees."
The Glaring Differences

Government task forces regarding animal issues typically include membership that provide a balanced group 
of individuals representing all that might be affected by decisions made by the task force, and those that can provide professional input.

Membership Omissions
Some of the glaring ommissions within the membership of Delaware's concurrent resolution is the fact that the task force does not contain the following members:

Experience Animal Control Officers
Public Health Official
Police Representative
State Attorney General Representative
It's just ludicrous to have an animal welfare task force that does not include these individuals.  They are a core component to enforcing animal welfare laws, know the issues faced on the front line, and ensure public safety. That a task force has been passed without including these individuals shows how far we have strayed to the dark side, and how animal welfare and public safety aren't material issues in the state anymore.

Membership Slant
As discussed in a previous post, No-Kill shelters admitted that they promoted CAPA once there was only one open access shelter remaining in the State of Delaware. Whereas other states generally have a non-profit shelter representative and a municipal shelter representative, to balance the membership, the same legislative leaders that brought us CAPA have decided to stack the deck with 4 shelters representing the "no-kill" movement versus the Kent County SPCA, who still accept more animals than any other shelter in the state.

It will be interesting to see if Governor Markell also stacks his 5 representatives from the public in favor of the "no-kill" stance, since he was also a proponent of CAPA and benefited from the photo op.  As the cat issue has been discussed on various news stories and in the county meetings, it would be nice if he included some individuals from the public that are calling the counties and governor office who are dealing with the cat overpopulation crisis that resulted from the "no-kill" push that has impacted many communities, especially since it typically impacts rural and lower income areas like trailer parks where cats are dumped.  The only concern with that would be the fact that we've all seen the vehement attacks against anyone that speaks up about the "no-kill" standpoint, and placing those individuals in the crosshairs of the "no-kill" world here would require strong individuals that wouldn't be bashed into keeping quiet.  But to be honest, I really don't think our governor will appoint anyone that's not in lock step with the "no-kill" movement.

Or will the Governor allow the group Citizens to Save Safe Haven to have a place at the table?  Senator Blevins was willing to help the group complaining against KCSPCA with their FOIA request to the Attorney General office, but according to the Citizens to Save Safe Haven group, she didn't afford them that same representation to gain access to Safe Haven's board meetings when they requested the same help.  Will Governor Markell also ignore them, and only appoint individuals who are against shelters that don't proclaim themselves to be "no-kill"?  Time will tell.

Lack of Transparency

Considering the resolution that created this task force was sponsored by a Senator Blevins who did a FOIA request to open up KCSPCA's board meetings to the public, and Senator Peterson who proclaims to be a strong proponent of Freedom of Information, the irony is the following part of the resolution.
"Conduct at least one public hearing to obtain input from stakeholders, community members, and others." 
One would think there would be a public callout for the members of the public that are appointed by the governor, and that hasn't happened.  I've heard the first meeting is scheduled, but it's not in the state public calendar, so it doesn't appear meetings will be open to public to at least watch.  And when you look at the New Jersey task force report, they had 4 meetings that included public input.  So while Delaware may tout open government, it doesn't appear to be a reality.

What Will It Accomplish?

Most likely just more of the same drama and chaos that CAPA brought us.  

County officials are hoping for some panacea for the unfunded mandate that they were handed, but if they had any sense, they would see the composition of this task force is stacked against them and the taxpayers of Delaware, just as it was with CAPA. The fact that the Title 9 issue discussed in the previous post is still being ignored by Kent County shows that county officials have no concern for the humane care portion of the laws that they were tasked with.  And the silence of state officials to acknowledge that humane care was applicable to all "persons", as proven in there legislative language, shows that they are more concerned with their photo ops and keeping quiet because they don't want citizens to question their "no-kill" intentions with CAPA.  Our state officials don't want citizens of Delaware to know that they have instilled their costly idealism onto the taxpayer at the county and state levels.

Indicative of "No-Kill"

This task force is indicative of the issue with the "no-kill" movement.  If this initiative was backed by the state as a whole, there wouldn't be any reason to stack this task force in it's favor.  Nathan Winograd likes to rant against PETA and ASPCA, and proclaim that "three out of four Americans already believe that shelters should not be allowed to kill healthy animals".  But American's dollars support PETA and ASPCA overwhelmingly more than No-Kill Advocacy.

The fact is Americans see the issues with the "no-kill" movement.  They understand that it is costly and inhumane, and that's why they support PETA and ASPCA.

  • They don't want to give up other needed services to keep increasing their animal services budget like Austin, and they see it is unsustainable with increases of 500 thousand to $1 million a year. 
  • They don't want to see their non-profit shelters losing money every year like Nevada Humane, which is also unsustainable. 
  • They don't want to see animals dying as a result of the chaos that "no-kill" brings with it in places like San Antonio.  
  • They don't want to family members and pets endangered when dogs continue to run loose as is occurring here in Kent County, or deal with the increased potential for rabies by allowing "huge numbers" of feral cats as in Westchester, NY.
  • And lastly, they don't want rescue access laws like CAPA, that force shelters to turn over animals to questionable rescues like Spindletop and others that allow animals to live and die in horrid conditions.  
If America believed in "no-kill", there would be no reason for their followers to stack the deck, shout down opposing viewpoints, or speak negatively about other organizations to try and pull part of their funding towards "no-kill".  If Americans believed in the "no-kill" movement, the funds would go to it.  Good products sell themselves, and from what I've seen, Americans aren't buying the "no-kill" product.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Title 9 - The Hot Potato Nobody Wants

As we near the end of week 2 on our chaotic journey without dog control, our laws continue to be interpreted by one of our Kent County Levy Court Commissioners in such a way that he and his entourage could actually endanger future prosecutions under this title by their public argument over the intention of the law.

Below is just a reiteration of the laws in question from my last post.

Title 9 - Counties - Chapter 9 Dog Control 
(Safe Haven is the current vendor for Kent County, contract believed to be $830,000 a year)
§ 904. Specifications for the humane handling, care and treatment of dogs.
(3) Shelter from sunlight. -- In addition to the shelter structure, 1 or more separate outside areas of shade shall be provided to allow the dogs to protect themselves when sunlight is likely to cause overheating or discomfort.

Title 11 - Criminal Code - Cruelty To Animals  
(Kent County SPCA & Delawrare SPCA are authorized by state to investigate - Unpaid)
§ 1325. Cruelty to animals; class A misdemeanor; class F felony.
(5) "Cruel neglect" includes neglect of an animal, which is under the care and control of the neglector, whereby pain or suffering is caused to the animal or abandonment of any domesticated animal by its owner or custodian. By way of example, cruel neglect shall also include allowing an animal to live in unsanitary conditions, such as keeping an animal where the animal's own excrement is not removed from the animal's living area and/or other living conditions which are injurious to the animal's health.

(6) "Cruelty to animals" includes mistreatment of any animal or neglect of any animal under the care and control of the neglector, whereby unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering is caused. By way of example this includes: Unjustifiable beating of an animal; overworking an animal; tormenting an animal; abandonment of an animal; failure to feed properly or give proper shelter or veterinary care to an animal.

Commissioner Sweeney's Letter To The Editor

In a recent letter to the editor, Commission Jody Sweeney now argues that Title 9 Chapter  § 904. Specifications for the humane handling, care and treatment of dogs, is only applicable to commercial shelters and kennels.  
"This code gives the county or its appointees the authority to pick up dangerous dogs and at-large dogs, and to investigate commercial shelters and kennels, NOT YOUR HOME! Safe Haven was not completely ready to assume the dog-control function, so, the county had to reduce our required coverage to dangerous dogs and injured strays for a short period of time." - Commissioner Sweeney
The caps you see are the way it was written on the letter posted, so I guess he really means it.  I don't know where he obtained his legal opinion from, but the following was posted on the new Facebook page setup by the group of complainers mentioned in a previous post that he has been working with, and he has also Facebook Liked the page.   
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion - but feelings and facts do not always agree. For those that are still open-minded - if you haven't already, go online to the Delaware Code and read it for yourself. The authority given to the DE SPCA and KCSPCA for animal cruelty in Title 3 is NOT connected in anyway to Title 9 and/or contracts. I have heard from 2 separate sources - one a lawyer, the other experienced in this field - that Title 9 Para. 904 IS referring to Para. 903 - NOT private homes. A contract for dog control does NOT affect the authority given by the State for animal cruelty, rabies compliance and animal to human bite investigations and enforcement." - Kent County Dog Control Pro/Con Facebook Admin
If you watched the commission meeting referenced on that previous post, it's pretty clear that there weren't any Clarence Darrow's in the bunch.  Now granted, I'm not an attorney, but I think there is enough documentation to say otherwise.

The Issues With Their Argument

If you look at Title 9, the paragraphs are clearly separate subjects.  If § 904 was intended to apply to § 903, then it would have been included within § 903.  
§ 901. Definitions.
§ 902. Fees for dog and kennel licenses; terms.
§ 903. Inspections of facilities and premises; suspension of kennel or retail dog dealer license.
§ 904. Specifications for the humane handling, care and treatment of dogs.
§ 905. Licensing agents; bond requirements; service charge; negotiations.
§ 906. Reciprocity of dog license.
§ 907. Rules and regulations.
§ 908. Dogs running at large.
§ 909. Destruction of muskrat dens, poultry or livestock.
§ 911. Injuring or killing dogs for certain acts.
§ 912. Poisoning of dogs.
§ 913. Liability of dog owner for damages.
§ 914. Impounding of dog running at large.
§ 915. Penalties; fines.
§ 916. Unauthorized acts against a service dog; penalties.
§ 917. County dog law management.
§ 918. Rules and regulations.
As I've stated previously, there is overlap on some of these laws with Cruelty laws under Title 11.  But clearly dog control is the first line of defense in these cases.  Especially since the Title 11 cruelty investigations are not funded by the state or county government.  I think we would all agree that  § 912. Poisoning of dogs is another item that could be interpreted as cruelty, but it can also be just stupidity and negligence which would not necessarily constitute a cruelty conviction. And waiting for simple negligence to become outright cruelty is just ludicrous.

I don't know who this group's "one a lawyer, the other experienced in this field" were, but considering the attorneys that we've seen dealing with animal law here, I certainly haven't been impressed.  Remember, CAPA was written by an attorney with only one section that contains any enforcement, and another attorney who leads the "no-kill" movement referred to our CAPA as "the most sweeping, progressive companion animal protection legislation in the United States", despite the fact that it lacked enforcement.  

For clarification from our own legislature, one merely needs to look at the synopsis of that years tether bill amendment that was nixed when some counties had the sense to realize that the enforcement of this would cost counties even more.  The section being amended was clearly noted as applying to "persons", so Commissioners Sweeney might find our legislative records a little more informative than his crew.
This bill amends the minimum standards set forth in Chapter 9, Title 9 of the Delaware Code with respect to the primary enclosures and tethering of dogs.  The bill establishes a formula for calculating the proper enclosure size for housing a dog in lieu of the current provision, which requires consultation of the Code of Federal Regulations.  It also clarifies when the space requirements and limitations do not apply.  The bill further establishes more detailed requirements for persons who tether their dogs, including a prohibition on tethering of dogs under 4 months of age and a prohibition of tethering any dog between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., unless it is only for a period of less than fifteen minutes.
Why Is This Argument Dangerous?

By arguing that § 904 (Humane Care) only applies to kennels and commercial facilities, Commissioner Sweeney and his cohorts are providing the abusers with a possible legal argument against the the few laws that we currently have in place to protect dogs.  For example, there is no other code that dictates the size of a tether or cage size, so it those laws become null and void over this ridiculous game of hot potato, because the county does not want to accept it's responsibility under the current laws, then they also need to take responsibility for the next animal that is tied to a 2 foot chain, or crammed into a cage that it can barely move in.
Cruelty Investigations Are Not Mandated or Obligated

Here is another point that this new complainer group clearly has wrong.
"The KCSPCA is still empowered and arguably obligated to investigate cruelty complaints, the correct department for wildlife is DNREC, and errant livestock should be referred to Delaware State Police." Kent County Dog Control Pro/Con Facebook Admin
The state empowering an organization does not amount to mandating or obligating an organization to provide manpower that the shelter pays to investigate cruelty in every case.  While I believe Kent County SPCA will continue to handle cruelty investigations, dog control is still the first line of defense.  Animal cruelty is always difficult to prove, and that's why the dog control investigation portion must first be undertaken to establish whether there is sufficient cause to proceed with cruelty charges.  By attempting to argue away the counties responsibility under the law for the humane care portion of Title 9, the county is the one who is negligent.  CAPA and the games surrounding it caused a substantial loss for Kent County SPCA, and the only way they remain a viable entity is to use their resources wisely.  Clearly that is not by covering the shortcomings due to the counties decision to contract with a vendor that was not ready to take on the task.

Kent County Should Provide Residents With A Realistic Timetable

The fact that Safe Haven posted the following on their Facebook page does not instill confidence that Kent County residents will have full dog control services within the 2-3 weeks listed on the county website.
"Safe Haven is holding a job fair at the Kent County Levy Court on Tuesday, July 17 from 11 am to 6 pm. Please call 302-856-6460 with questions." - Safe Haven No-Kill Animal Sanctuary Facebook
Obviously the staff hired will still need to be trained, and I can't imagine that Safe Haven will be able to go through resumes, hire, wait for the person to give their 2 weeks notice, and train them in 4 days to be ready by July 21st.  So unless there is a time machine involved, the commission and county administrator should provide residents with updates on their news section.  Residents have every right to know, especially since our tax dollars are paying for staffing levels that don't exist yet.  Residents also have a right to know whether the county intends to hold it's current vendor to the same requirements under Title 9 that Kent County SPCA previously provided, include the humane care section.  If that section is not going to be handled by the new vendor Safe Haven, then clearly the cost savings did not justify the emergency procurement process.

Onto Week 3.  Let's hope the game of hot potato ends soon for the sake of the animals.  It's shameful that state leadership is underground in the bunker avoiding the battle, especially since they led us into the shelter wars.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

CAPA Kills - Chaos During the Heat Wave

I guess I'm rambling today by posting twice, but I wanted to keep the 2 subjects separate.  We've made it through the 1st week of the transition to a new animal control vendor in Kent County, Delaware, but the expected chaos has ensued.  It was expected that there would be issues due to the various overlapping of state codes, but the heat wave we are currently experiencing has escalated the discussion about what is expected of shelters that aren't paid for services.

Humane Care vs. Cruelty

In Delaware, each county is responsible for laws under Title 9, including dog control codes which includes items like dogs at large, how long a tether needs to be, to providing shelter from the sun.  Title 11 includes animal cruelty statutes.

So if a shelter has authorization under both statutes, the jurisdiction is a simple matter.  During a heat wave, animal control could go to a home where a dog is reported to be out in the heat for too long and issue a warning to the resident and monitor that the dog is provided the protection outlined under Title 9 (below). If they responded to that call and the dog was to the point of "pain and suffering" as outlined in Title 11, they could call in the police, get a warrant to take the dog, and the police could charge the resident for cruelty.

As a result of the costs associated with CAPA and the hostile atmosphere in animal welfare here, there are separate entities providing enforcement under these 2 codes in my county.  Kent County SPCA no longer has authoritiy under Title 9, since that authority is granted under the dog control contract by the county.  That contract was awarded to Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary as of July 1.  They currently show a lost dogs page where 8 dogs are posted so far.  Based on various discussions currently taking place online (I will link to them at the bottom), there is no indication that Safe Haven is responding to complaints under Title 9 complaints about animals that might be in danger due to the heat.  So while Kent County SPCA is authorized to pursue charges under the cruelty statute, the case has to reach the point of neglect required under the Title 11 statute.  Needless to say, the county now wants every case of dogs without shelter from the heat to be considered cruelty, so the cost of responding would be on the shelters dime and not the county's.  The irony of that argument is that last month the same county commissioner was claiming  that the KCSPCA was overstepping their authority, and did not want to contract them in part for that reason.
Title 9 - Counties - Chapter 9 Dog Control 
(Safe Haven is the current vendor for Kent County, contract believed to be $830,000 a year)
§ 904. Specifications for the humane handling, care and treatment of dogs.
(3) Shelter from sunlight. -- In addition to the shelter structure, 1 or more separate outside areas of shade shall be provided to allow the dogs to protect themselves when sunlight is likely to cause overheating or discomfort.

Title 11 - Criminal Code - Cruelty To Animals  
(Kent County SPCA & Delawrare SPCA are authorized by state to investigate - Unpaid)
§ 1325. Cruelty to animals; class A misdemeanor; class F felony.
(5) "Cruel neglect" includes neglect of an animal, which is under the care and control of the neglector, whereby pain or suffering is caused to the animal or abandonment of any domesticated animal by its owner or custodian. By way of example, cruel neglect shall also include allowing an animal to live in unsanitary conditions, such as keeping an animal where the animal's own excrement is not removed from the animal's living area and/or other living conditions which are injurious to the animal's health.

(6) "Cruelty to animals" includes mistreatment of any animal or neglect of any animal under the care and control of the neglector, whereby unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering is caused. By way of example this includes: Unjustifiable beating of an animal; overworking an animal; tormenting an animal; abandonment of an animal; failure to feed properly or give proper shelter or veterinary care to an animal.

Are You Thoroughly Confused? - Welcome Our Post CAPA World!

I thought it would be helpful to provide a graphical representation of which shelters handle Title 9 dog control contracts to show just how insane our world is.  Currently not one shelter is located in the jurisdiction they handle dog control contracts for.  Those contracts are paid by the counties and the city of Wilmington.  Kent County SPCA and Delaware SPCA also handle cruelty investigations, but receive don't receive payment for those services from any level of government.  The cruelty investigations are entirely paid for by donations to the shelters, which needless to say are a limited resource.   

Shelters Handling Title 9 Enforcement - Dog Control & Humane Care


For those that want to follow the chaos in progress, here are some links to those discussions.
The last of the links goes to the issue discussed at the top of the page.  The county commission wanted KCSPCA to provide a clear cut accounting of time and money spent under their contract.  Now they've had the opportunity to see that short of documenting every minute which would create more costs, many cases fall under both statutes.  Despite the commissioners claim below, that has always been the case.  
"You Decide:  Who is the first agency that should respond to cruelty?  In the past, it has been the SPCA under Title 11, calling on the County when violations of Title 9 occurred. With a new Vendor for Kent County Levy Court’s enforcement of Title 9, should this position have changed?"  -  Jody Sweeney Campaign Site
The logical argument is that lack of shelter from heat first causes "discomfort", and later leads to "pain and suffering".  According to our commissioner, there appears to be a belief that a dog will first suffer from heatstroke and then miraculously downgrade to discomfort.  It's like saying a homicide division is responsible for a murder when the rookie patrolling officer doesn't respond to an assault complaint before the victim is dead.  It just doesn't make sense.

The tragedy is that animals in Delaware will die due to the "no-kill" agenda that brought us CAPA.  To call CAPA "shelter standards" under these circumstances is utterly insane. 

Chicago Politics Meet Their Match in Delaware

We all have times when the events of the day remind us of another time and place in our life.   This week reminded me of my time spent in Chicago. Anyone who's familiar with Chicago knows that it has it's own flair when it comes to politics.  There have been an interesting cast of characters in Chicago politics throughout it's history.  It's neighbor, the town of Cicero, has an even more colorful and corrupt history.  It's known as Al Capone's town.  Whenever I used to drive down Cicero Avenue and enter the township limits, I would wonder what life must have been back in the 20's when Capone owned the town. Cicero Avenue is now a heavily commercial area with the typical retail box stores, but you can still see many of the 1920 era brick bungalows on the side streets that provide you with a glimpse into that time period. Machine guns no longer dictate the winner of an election as it did in Capone's time, but Cicero still has mob connections to this day, and one has to wonder if they'll ever escape that distinction.

Having grown up in Delaware, I've always been aware that there is a distinct small town type of politics here.  While the population of our state has doubled during my lifetime, the backroom politics and power plays that are more typical of municipal and county governments, continue to permeate our state level as well.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised since our state population is only 1/3 the size of Chicago, but you would think that we would find a way to increase the level of accountability and professionalism in our government as our population grows.

Capone Would Have Loved Delaware & the State FOIA

Why am I riding down memory lane?  While looking at the recent Attorney General opinions, I spotted yet another Attorney General opinion concerning the Kent County SPCA.  There are only 8 opinions posted year to date by the AG office, so clearly it's of interest that there is now a second opinion for KCSPCA.  In a previous post on 3/8/12, when I had found out about the first opinion was being requested by the senator who has connections to one of our "no-kill" shelters Faithful Friends, I discussed the fact that such an opinion would open up the many organization receiving grant-in-aid from the state to FOIA, including the "no-kill" organization the senator and governors office has ties to.  Well, lo and behold, it did just that.  Grant-in-aids was discussed as one of the criteria in the first opinion dated 3/27/12.  Afterward, a group called Citizens to Save Safe Haven. who is a group of concerned citizens in Sussex County, also contacted this same senator to discuss a similar FOIA request concerning Safe Haven, a "no-kill" shelter in Sussex County that also has ties to the Faithful Friends.  To no surprise the citizens group was not afforded the same assistance by the senator to gain access to Safe Havens board meetings.

On 5/27/12, a supplemental second opinion was issued by the Attorney General office.

"The March 27 Opinion concluded the KCSPCA met the criteria for a "public body" as the KCSPCA was a body established and specifically empowered by the General Assembly.  The opinion suggests that the KCSPCA's certificate of incorporation and status as a no-for-profit organization receiving grant-in aid are relevant to the "public body" analysis.  Upon further review, we find that the corporate status of KCSPCA is not germane to our initial determination that the KCSPCA is a "public body."  This Opinion clarifies that for the purposes of the FOIA Open Meeting requirement, the KCSPCA is a "public body" under 29 Del. C. § 10002(c) because the KCSPCA was establish and empowered with statutory regulatory powers by the General Assembly." -  Office of the Attorney General of the State of Delaware - No. 12-IIB08
While the supplemental opinion doesn't say that the grant-in aid analysis was incorrect, it appears to merely state that KCSPCA was subject to FOIA open meetings by the regulatory argument, so the grant-in aid analysis was not needed.

What the heck?  If both of the initial arguments applied, then why push the grant-in-aid one under the carpet?      Attorney General opinions are issued to provide guidance under our laws, so it seems ludicrous to provide a supplemental opinion unless there is an error in the original analysis provided, and if that was the case then the error should be listed.  That wasn't the case here, so I have to question the independence of the AG office.  While I have no idea whether the AG office just woke up one day and decided to revisit the original opinion, or whether they were asked to revisit it on behalf of a certain legislator, but it does seem questionable in light of the fact that the citizens group was looking to the original opinion to gain access to Safe Haven.

If FOIA isn't applied in a fair and equitable manner, it appears to become yet another tool to harass certain organizations like KCSPCA into bending and eventually breaking unless they bow to legislators "no-kill" agenda, and this supplemental opinion appears to protect other organizations that legislators have a special interest in.  Sadly it seems that FOIA in Delaware is not about transparent government, it's about transparency at the whim of our legislature.  And make no mistake, if it can be used in this manner for the "no-kill" agenda, I have no doubt that it can be used in even more nefarious scenarios involving state contracts with vendors for millions of taxpayer dollars.

This is what brought to mind Chicago and Cicero.  With some of the antics taking place in our state, Capone would have had a field day here.  He's probably rolling over in his grave wondering whether he could have "owned" a state, instead of just a city. While the Chicago political machine may be more famous, the "Delaware Way" is clearly in the same category, and a formidable challenger at that.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Smyrna Police Chief Comments on Dog Control Change

In Kent County, it's only be a few days since the change in animal control vendors from Kent County SPCA, who is located within the county, to the new vendor Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary.  Safe Haven is a no-kill shelter located in our southern county of Sussex.  Safe Haven was in the process of what they termed as a "soft open" for their sanctuary, which meant that they were open by appointment only and had a limited number of animals and staff.

Kent County Levy Court, which is our county commission, provided notice that there would be a transition period of several weeks before Safe Haven would be fully operational.

The several week transition is needed to allow them time to purchase vehicles, hire ACO's, hire sufficient kennel staff, hire or contract a veterinarian, and train everyone involved.  They also need to find or build a location in Kent County to kennel the dogs during their hold period, so county residents don't have to drive 40-50 miles to their home location.  Alot to do in a short period of time, and alot of cash outlay for a $830,000 annual contract.  At least that was the amount discussed at the recent commission meeting.

Since this contract was negotiated under an emergency procurement process, rather than the typical Request For Proposal process, residents don't have a public posting of the terms of an RFP as we did for the previous Kent County SPCA bid, so at this point none of us can say for sure whether the same terms were adhered to.  Maybe the county will eventually post the contract to provide the transparency they claim to want from others.

Below is the comment by the police chief of the town of Smyrna.  On first glance it may appear to be a transitional issue, but since there has not been any indication a building has been located in Kent County yet for hold period kenneling, this may be a longer term issue.  If ACO's are coming from Safe Haven 40 miles away, rather than Kent County SPCA who was located centrally within Kent County, I wouldn't expect that the police are going to sit around their stations waiting.  So it appears there may be additional costs to the municipalities to find temporary housing for dogs found. 

Kent County/SPCA breakup hurts town (Smyrna)
Police Chief Wil Bordley informed council that the impasse between Kent County Levy Court and the Kent County SPCA regarding dog control hurts the town. 
“As of July 1, Kent County is not supporting the SPCA so they [SPCA] cut their services to us,” Bordley said. 
Typically, if Smyrna Police found a dog or cat they would take it back to the station until the SPCA could pick up the animal. Bordley said this process has been done for six or seven years, but that’s no longer an option.
Bordley has been in contact with local kennels for help on a short-term basis but no matter what the final decision is, he said it’ll cost the town. -
 I wonder what Smyrna will do with the cats referenced above???   I guess they don't realize that the county only pays for dog control.

Another Example of No-Kill Cost to Taxpayers

Today it was announced that Delaware SPCA will continue the animal control contract for the city of Wilmington.  Not half as much fanfare as when they said they were going to drop it, but that could be due to the drama in Kent County.

This news is important because it further proves the point that "no-kill" and CAPA don't result in lower costs, as the advocates try to claim.  These "no-kill" initiatives in fact result in large increases in costs.  "No-kill" didn't cost less in Austin.  It didn't cost less in Washoe County.  And now everyone can see it isn't costing less in Delaware.  In fact, there already appears to be a significant upward trend.  It seems astounding to see the kind of budget increases some communities are taking on, especially when other government budget lines have been cut over the last several years due to the economy.

Delaware SPCA - Wilmington, DE
(54% increase over 5 yrs, 37% increase over last year)
(Delaware SPCA became "No-Kill" in 2008, CAPA enacted 2010)
2008  $223,887
2009  $246,049
2010  $246,049
2011  $251,970
2012  $345,000

Washoe Regional Animal Services - Nevada
(No-Kill Began 2006 - 28% over 5 years, but doesn't take into account NHS losses)
(Non-profit partner NHS expenses increased $1.5 million (69%) the first year  in 2006 and have remained at the $3.6 million level per year since - As a result, the organization has sustained $3.4 million in losses in 5 years)
2004   $2,920,972.00
2005   $3,179,173.00
2006   $3,318,141.00
2007   $4,132,631.00
2008   $4,512,437.00
2009   $4,428,917.00
2010   $4,244,328.00

Austin Animal Services - Texas
(60% increase over 5 years, annual increases every year of 11-15%)
2008-09 Actual         $ 5,397,428
2009-10 Actual         $ 6,008,659
2010-11 Estimated    $ 6,883,679
2011-12 Proposed    $ 7,612,186
2012-13 Requested   $ 8,612,000

The Contradictions
I've previously discussed the fact that the "no-kill" sales brochures contradict reality, so there's no need to slay that dragon again.  What I find interesting is our own local twist on it.  Below is an excerpt from a letter that Faithful Friends issued after the news came out that Delaware SPCA was dropping the city of Wilmington animal control contract.  
"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.
No Kill supporters and community advocates must make their voices heard with City and county officials if they want dog to be handled by nonprofits and governments with No Kill standards" - Faithful Friends Letter 2-8-12  
Then we look at the situation in Kent County, where yet again you can see the divide that has been created by CAPA.  Whereas the no-kill organizations we willing to shout out and get more funds for Delaware SPCA in Wilmington, the opposite was true in Kent County.  Here the following comment was made.
Mr. Petit de Mange said discus­sions with the shelter's executive di­rector Anne Gryczon indicated that they could provide the county with the dog control services they are required by the state to give at the price that has been budgeted in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget - $829,606...."CAPA is a very basic standard of care," she said. "It really didn't add much cost, or it shouldn't at least." - Anne Gryczon, Safe Haven, Delaware State News
While most would think that Kent County residents would be happy that the contract is staying within the budget, but there are a number of us that think the county has taken us down the wrong path.  First and foremost, Safe Haven's original operating expense projections was $750,000 per year.  That was to operate as a sanctuary that did not have ACO expenses, trucks, additional vet expenses with injured and sick stray animals coming in, a larger number of animals, etc.   And another substantial expense is a building to house strays in Kent County during their hold period.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the writing on the wall.  The question will be, will they come back mid year looking for more funds, or will there be a substantial increase requested next year as seen in Wilmington.  Only time will tell.  The nice thing about being able to publish this is that it allows people across the country to watch, and see what the result is when it happens.  It also allows the public to see the cost increases associated with another "no-kill" community in the city of Wilmington.

I could be wrong, but either Safe Haven's original projections were wrong, or they have just low-balled their way into the Kent County Levy Court's sticker shocked embrace.

I still believe the ultimate goal is to "kill the competition".   That's why we saw the 2 contracts play out so differently.  Let's just hope they don't kill our wallets in the process, like other communities have seen.  Especially at a time when our home values are lowered and many are without a paycheck.  I'm sure it won't be long before we are seeing the "cry wolf" articles, and the bargain basement "free" animals going out the door. But most of all, let's hope those "free" animals go into safe homes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kent County Levy Court Posts Dog Control Info

The Kent County Levy Court finally provided some information on  their website today.  I just wanted to post so people are aware of the necessary phone numbers.

DOG CONTROL SERVICES Please be advised that effective July 1, 2012, Dog Control Services as defined and set forth in Delaware Code Title 9, Chapter 9 will be provided in Kent County, Delaware by Safe Haven
Animal Sanctuary.  These services are limited to issues concerning stray dogs (dogs at-large) and dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs as described in Delaware Code.  Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary may be reached at 302-856-6460.  The website address for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary is 
Over the next few weeks we will be in a period of transition as Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary
initiates engagement and staffing assignments.  During this period of transition, priority will be
given to emergency response for injured stray dogs and potentially dangerous dogs.
Inquiries pertaining to animal cruelty, and animal bites including dog bites shall continue to be
made to Kent County SPCA at 302-698-3006.  The website address for Kent County SPCA is   -    Kent Count Levy Court Website
An additional note to Kent County residents is to be cautious during this period.  As the 4th of July approaches, make sure your dog is secure and safe before the fireworks begin.  Per the notice above, injured and potentially dangerous dogs will be the priority, not lost dogs.  So it's important to keep your dog secured, and if it is lost you need to search thoroughly because there won't be animal control trucks on patrol during the transition.  Although the notice does not state so, I would assume that you can call Safe Haven and at least put in a lost dog report.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Kent County - July 1 Has Arrived

Well the clock has struck midnight and we enter a new day in Kent County.  As I previously posted, Kent County Levy Commissioners chose not to accept Kent County SPCA's proposed 6 month extension for dog control, and voted to allow negotiations with Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary.  While Safe Haven is currently open under a limited basis and a limited number of staff, they have said that they could provide services for Kent County by mid July.  I can't say what the terms of the contract are yet, but based on the discussion at the recent Levy Court meeting, mid July is the only estimate we have heard.

None of us are certain what will happen to dogs in our county in the interim.  My suggestion to residents is to make certain your dogs are secure.  If a loose dog in your area is friendly and approaches you, check for tags and be a good neighbor to try and get it home.  If the dog appears aggressive or injured, and there is a concern for the safety of children in your vicinity, your best option is to contact your local police agency.

These are only my suggestions.  I checked the Kent County Levy Court website and it's unfortunate that they have chosen not to address what citizens of our county should do during this interim period in their current news section.  It certainly doesn't instill confidence in their judgment.