Monday, April 29, 2013

Texas HB 2981 - Delaware Is The Horrid Example

Now that the hustle and bustle of tax season is over, it's yet again legislation season and time to discuss some of the issues that have plagued our state due to the CAPA (Companion Animal Protection Act) which is also referred to by our state officials as the "Shelter Standards".  CAPA and it's derivatives have been introduced in these various states so far (Texas, Minnesota, Rhode Island, West Virginia).  The only one to move through committee to date is Texas.

Committee Public Hearing

To watch the Texas House committee hearing for the no-kill shelter access bill (aka the "Tax Saving Pet Adoption, Sterilization, and Transfer Act of 2013"), here's the link. Discussion of the bill (HB 2981) starts at 1:36:50 and ends at approximately 2:14:00.

If you watch the hearing, you'll see Ryan Clinton, a Texas no-kill advocate make claims that this bill is going to save taxpayer dollars and that the Hayden bill saved taxpayer dollars in California.  We know that California was in fact using $23 million in state tax dollars each year to pay for the mandate that the state was placing on the community shelters.

In Delaware, state leaders are not required to pay for the unfunded mandates that they place on counties and municipalities.  So that cost has been absorbed by the shelters.  The primary cost drivers of CAPA are the additional hold time since a shelter is required to hold an animal 5 days instead of 3 if the animal is not redeemed by it's owner, or a rescue does not step forward.  The second largest cost would be the administrative burden of more beaurocracy in the form of never ending investigations from multiple state and county officials that require personnel time to copy material for multiple agencies, and litigation costs.

The subject of costs was discussed at great length during Delaware's Animal Welfare Task Force meeting in November.
"Ms. Cavanaugh stated that she didn’t think shelter standards was the cost driver; she felt the cost driver was holding animals for extended periods of time, sometimes years. The cost of caring for an animal is around $10 a day."
While Ms. Cavanaugh seemed to think that cost driver only related to keeping an animal for extended times, the logic makes no sense.  If a shelter is taking in thousands more animals and has to keep those animals 2 days longer, then that $20 per animal adds up quickly.  In fact, part of how Ms. Cavanaugh was bringing down the deficits at her shelter since the shelter chose to become no-kill is to take in less animals.

Delaware SPCA
Deficits since No-Kill Effort Began 2008
Losses going down by taking less animals each year.
2008 (814,100)
2009 (573,154)
2010 (361,163)

2009  -  4,091
2010  -  3,495
2011  -  3,425
2012  -  2,989

2009  -  2,415
2010  -  2,109
2011  -  1,862
2012  -  1,641

As a private shelter, that was her choice, and she has every right to do what is best for her shelter.  And unlike the no-kill advocates, I will always encourage residents to donate to whatever shelter in our state that they choose because the animals are what's important.  But this does show that CAPA requirements on an shelter handling larger numbers of animals is without a doubt a major cost driver.  The fact that Kent County SPCA faced a $450,000 deficit the first year under CAPA is also relevant, as 15,000 animals would amount to $300,000 just based on the additional hold time.
"Ms. Ranji stated that government would not be able to pay for all of this, and non-profits are subject to regulation in many different areas. When entering the business as a non-profit, it is understood that raising funds and contracting would be required to meet requirements to operate."
This statement shows the very attitude of those that wrote and enacted CAPA in our state.  It's ironic that a state that managed to entice an overabundance of banks into the state with less regulation, yet is so willing to place an unfunded mandate on nonprofits who are already struggling in a stagnant economy.  If we were talking about regulations about conditions in a shelter like ensuring animals had proper care and sanitation, it would be understandable, buut CAPA was about using a law that the No-Kill Advocacy wrote to make life more difficult for any shelter that performs euthanasia due to lack of space, nothing more.

So Texas should look at the fact that nearly every Delaware shelter is faced with deficits, the counties are now getting less services for the same dollar, and the state is now proposing the setup of a new Animal Welfare Office that they estimate will cost $500,000 which will no doubt fail to fix our mess anyway.  So I find it amazing that Ryan Clinton would claim that  the Texas bill will save taxpayer dollars, and that Laura Handzel, legislative lawyer and programming and policy analyst for Best Friends would also make such a ludicrous claim.  The fiscal note attached to this bill is equally ridiculous.

Will Legislators Listen To Shelter Professionals or the No-Kill Hate Group

On the other hand, the committee hearing in TX also included various shelter professionals that testified that HB 2981 would in fact be an unfunded mandate on communities and shelters.  And that even with the additional protections regarding background checks in their bill that cities and counties would bear the cost of investigating rescues far and wide, that animals would end up released to poorly run rescues, and the many issues that come with releasing an animal to rescues during a hold period.

The evidence to legislators is clear. CAPA is costly to shelters and communities, harmful to animals, and as you can see from Delaware and the fact that a Task Force had to be created - state legislators and local officials will be inundated with complaints and drama in the name of no-kill.

The answer seems simple, but we can only wait and see if legislators in Texas listen to the shelter professionals that have detailed the costs and reasons HB 2981 is harmful, or will they listen  to advocates of a movement that spends the majority of their energy creating negative campaigns against everyone from the large organizations like PETA, HSUS, and ASPCA to small businesses.

In fact, this is the same no-kill movement that has recently encouraged a group known for hacktivism to go after another animal welfare organization, and also used that same group to discourage dissenting opinions by claiming Anonymous sent them an email that the group would be watching and telling dissenters to "take heed".  Clearly I choose to listen to the facts, and the facts presented by the shelter professionals are backed up by data. And I can't imagine why any legislator would give credence to a movement that feels such a needs to threaten and intimidate, and who's actions more closely resemble Westboro Baptist than an animal advocacy group.  Let's hope Texas legislators have more sense than those in Delaware.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

No-Kill - The Reality of Closed Doors

I'm grateful that PETA created a visual representation of what many of us have been saying for years.

No-Kill and CAPA have not only impacted our shelters bottom lines, causing nearly every shelter in Delaware to operate in the red, it's also harmful to animals.  Thankfully Kent County SPCA is still taking owner relinquished dogs, despite the continuing pressure by No-Kill to not take them in, but cats are another story.   Where do residents of Delaware think cats are going when there is no open access shelter to relinquish a cat to when a person has to move due to circumstances such as foreclosure or illness?  These owned cats, which are many times declawed and lack defenses are dumped, and left to fend for themselves, getting beat up and injured in the process.  There's nothing pretty about it, it's just plain animal cruelty that has been inflicted by our sate legislature and Governor.  

I recently had  a conversation with someone on Facebook who volunteered at a spay neuter clinic in the region, and the person mentioned that 1 in 5 of their female cats were already coming in pregnant.  That doesn't bode well for what kitten season is going to look like here in Delaware, so the cruelty of our situation is just going to get worse.  

I can't say it any better than PETA does below.  Hopefully the National Governors Association listens to PETA and realizes that CAPA is not the answer, and prevention is the real solution.
'No-Birth' Is the Solution - Turned Away: A Closer Look At 'No-Kill'
The only real, sustainable, and humane way for communities to end the euthanasia of healthy animals at shelters is by cutting off the supply of homeless animals.  
PETA has reached out to each of the shelters that turned away animals in the video and urged them to implement a five-point plan that addresses the reasons why animals end up homeless in the first place. The plan includes carefully screening prospective adopters and placement partners to avoid adoptions or transfers into bad homes as well as into hoarding situations, spaying or neutering all animals before their release, offering free and low-cost spay-and-neuter services or assistance, lobbying to ban pet store sales of dogs and cats, and accepting every animal without fees, appointments, or waiting lists.
Additionally, PETA has called on the National Governors Association for three years straight to attack the roots of animal homelessness by promoting mandatory spay-and-neuter legislation across the country.
PETA has been combating animal homelessness hands-on in our own community by sterilizing more than 90,000 cats and dogs over the past 10 years in our mobile clinics and helping thousands of people keep their animals by offering no- to low-cost veterinary services, counseling, and other resources. Our ads and public service announcements have encouraged millions of people to have their animals sterilized and to adopt animals from shelters.
We can turn our communities into places where no cats or dogs have to be euthanized for lack of a home. Each of us can help by always having our animal companions spayed or neutered and never buying animals from breeders or pet stores, supporting and adopting from open-admission shelters, and encouraging our friends and family to do so, too. Together, we can become no-kill the right way—by becoming no-birth.

Even if the State of Delaware doesn't have the compassion and intelligence to make the right choices for our animals, I at least hope Governors of other states where CAPA is introduced continue to see that CAPA is not a financially sustainable solution, is cruel to our animals, and places residents in a horrible situation if they have to relinquish an animal or if they are the unfortunate property owner that cats are eventually dumped onto.  

Our state has merely shifted the burden onto residents who in many cases cannot afford to care for these cats dropped onto their properties, or they are faced with watching these cats suffer and starve because of the residents lack of resources.  If our shelter system didn't have the resources to handle our pet overpopulation, it's ridiculous that the state would place this burden on our residents at a time when jobs are leaving Delaware left and right.  We can only hope our state government starts spending more time doing something constructive like bringing some decent paying jobs to Delaware, rather than spending money to create a department to make CAPA even worse than it already is.  

So thanks again to PETA for showing the country what the State of Delaware and so many other communities are faced with as a result of the chaos and political games associated with "No-Kill".  Animal shelters that turn animals away because they hold animals indefinitely are not animal shelters, they're merely publicly supported boarding kennels.