Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Complaints - The Solution Is Real Care Standards

It seems that every community is facing the same drama of never ending complaints about the conditions in shelters   While some may be valid, we also know that some have an ulterior motive to beat communities into submission so they will declare themselves "no-kill", no matter what that might cost the community and the animals.  Allegations about conditions, complaints about mistreatment, and it goes on and on.  The fact is, we know CAPA includes nothing that ensures healthy living conditions for the animals in our shelters, and it hasn't saved any lives either.  The complaints regarding the animal living conditions have been directed at every shelter in our state, including the "no-kill" ones, so there needs to be a mechanism for the public to be able to get a reasonable response if there are concerns at any animal shelter in our state.

There really is a simple solution to this issue - real animal care standards and inspections, similar to North Carolina enacted. If there is any one thing that should come out of the task force, it should be these kinds of standards.  This should be something BOTH sides of the no-kill argument should agree on.

§ 19A‑25.  Employees; investigations; right of entry.
For the enforcement of the provisions of this Article, the Director is authorized, subject to the approval of the Commissioner to appoint employees as are necessary in order to carry out and enforce the provisions of this Article, and to assign them interchangeably with other employees of the Animal Health Division. The Director shall cause the investigation of all reports of violations of the provisions of this Article, and the rules adopted pursuant to the provisions hereof; provided further, that if any person shall deny the Director or his representative admittance to his property, either person shall be entitled to secure from any superior court judge a court order granting such admittance. (1977, 2nd Sess., c. 1217, s. 6; 1987, c. 827, s. 63.)

The primary issue here in Delaware is that there is no direct oversight of animal shelters.  The counties aren't granted the right to inspect shelters under state law, although there is nothing that says they couldn't include that privilege in their contracts with the shelters handling dog control  for them.  I think they've chosen not to include that in their contracts because they just don't want that responsibility, and they would need someone on the county staff that had the ability inspect.  The Department of Agriculture has oversight over Title 3 issues, but they have no right to inspect.  I'm sure if it comes down to it, the Attorney General office could inspect if they believed the complaint rose to the level of cruelty statutes, but in most cases the complaints wouldn't rise to that level.

There's no doubt that there needs to be some agency that has the authority to respond to complaints in a timely fashion.  I don't think most of us care what agency that falls under. We merely want it to be an agency that isn't tied politically to ANY shelter.  The core element needs to be standards that govern animal care like those referenced by the The Association of Veterinary Care, or staffing level recommendations by  NACA, and animal/dog control contracts should compensate at a level that will ensure those standards are met.  Standards like these are what will help keep people coming to the shelters.  CAPA certainly hasn't done that with the constant griping and complaining that has resulted.

There are enough barriers to getting people to adopt animals, without the public hearing the constant negativity.  For every complaint that is aired in the public, there is likely an adopter turned away, and an animal killed as a result.