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.