Monday, May 27, 2013

Austin - Will The Additional Costs of No-Kill Ever End?

It's budget time of the year again. We all know that Nathan Winograd and other No-Kill advocates regularly tell us how cost effective and sustainable their solution is, while the actual numbers consistently show us that it is not the case.

Less Revenue Confirmed

As many will recall, Mr. Winograd claims that No-Kill is cost effective because it results in higher revenue as more animals are adopted out.  Many of us already knew that most of the No-Kill communities are doing free or severely discounted adoptions to get animals out the doors in a hurry.

Here is the adoption revenue for Austin.

Austin Animal Services - Adoption Revenue
2007-2008 $245,944
2008-2009 $283,284
2009-2010 $285,515
2010-2011 $217,428
2011-2012 $105,635
2012-2013 $105,760 (Estimate)

Not quite the bonanza of revenue claimed by Mr. Winograd and other No-Kill advocates is it??

Even More Expenses !!!

The sustainability of Austin's plan is also brought into question again with their recent Unmet Service Demands Report for their upcoming budget process.  Here is the synopsis of the additional funds they will be requesting this year.

City of Austin
Summary of Unmet Service Demands for General Fund
FY 2013-14
The Animal Services Office is requesting 5 new customer service representatives to assist with the Implementation of the No‐Kill plan at the new animal shelter. On average, the shelter must place 18,000 companion animals in order to achieve No‐Kill. To meet the demands of the No‐Kill Plan, the shelter is now open every day of the year except for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Staffing needs have increased as a result; the department has utilized temporary staff to cover these increased operational needs. Additionally, the off‐site adoption program, mandated by the No‐Kill plan, requires additional resources to maintain viability; currently, the program is supported heavily by volunteers and temporary employees.
5 FTE - $271,478

The Animal Services Office is requesting 7 Animal Care workers to support the core sheltering functions of care, cleaning, and maintenance of animal housing areas. The new animal shelter is larger than the old shelter at Town Lake, and that coupled with the increased shelter hours has created a strain on the existing personnel resources. The department houses an average of 500 animals daily at the shelter, and was cited by the Department of State Health Veterinarians as not having adequate staffing for the number of animals housed; standards require that staff spent a minimum of 15 minutes of cleaning and feeding per animal per day, a standard the department strives to achieve through the use of temporary employees.
7 FTE - $339,659

The Behavior Program at Austin Animal Center requires additional staffing to meet the demands of the scope of service as described in the No Kill Implementation Plan adopted by City Council in March 2010. The program is currently operating with 1.0 Animal Behaviorist, but is in need of 2.0 Animal Health Technicians to effectively assess and treat approximately 5,000 animals annually. The behavior program contributes to the Live Outcome goal by identifying animals with behavior issues that can be addressed through rehabilitation, training and special placement options, negating the necessity for euthanasia.
2 FTE - $104,47 

So not only has the revenue decreased, Austin's Animal Services Department  will be requesting another hike of  $715,624 this year.

I have to wonder yet again, what other services will take to hit for this increase.  A couple years ago it was less library hours, so it will be interesting to watch and see whether the city has additional revenue to throw to Animal Services, or whether cuts in other areas of the budget will be needed to continue funding Austin's No-Kill initiative.

Will This The Be The Future For Delaware Counties?

Just this weekend, No-Kill Delaware made the following statement in response to the recent New Castle County audit.
"If need be, the counties could do it themselves. There are municipalities all over the U.S. that handle dog control and shelters themselves rather than contract it out." - No-Kill Delaware Facebook Post
So it should also be interesting to watch what happens here as a result of CAPA.  Obviously the costs will be higher if the counties decide to take on dog control themselves with county wages and benefits.  They will also be subject to the same laws and complaints that the Kent County SPCA has been subject to under CAPA, and people have even less apprehension about attacking government than they do attacking a non-profit.  So our costs here in Delaware for dog control may be about to take on the same incline that Austin has seen.  We will already be off and running with the additional initial costs proposed by our Animal Welfare Task Force.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Castle County - Conflict of Interest

Today, an audit was disbursed by New Castle County regarding the Kent County SPCA contract with that county. What is most concerning about this audit is WHO made the decision to pursue the audit and it's scope, and the fact that the audit focused on CAPA so vehemently, especially considering that CAPA is under state code, not county code.

New Castle County Auditor - Robert Wasserbach

First I'll address who the New Castle County Auditor is and how his relationship to another shelter is clearly relevant.  Robert Wasserbach is not only the county auditor for New Castle County, he was previously the Treasurer on the Board of Directors for Faithful Friends, and is now the President of their board.  While Mr. Wasserbach did recuse himself from active participation in the audit, he did not recuse himself from initiating the audit and it's scope, which is clearly a conflict of interest in my opinion.
"Because I sit on the Board of Directors of another Delaware animal shelter, I have decided to
recuse myself from participating on this audit. In a letter to the NCC Audit Committee, I have
formally recused myself and, thus, Mr. Scannell's work will be reviewed by the Chairperson of
the Committee and not by me."  - Robert Wasserbach's Notification Letter To Kent County SPCA on June 14, 2012 that audit would be performed.

This is especially concerning given the fact that this audit was being performed around the same time the KCSPCA stopped transferring animals to Faithful Friends due to nonpayment of transfer fees, and the letter above was only 2 days after the article called "No-Kill Shelter Hopes To Kill Competition" that was written about Safe Haven (who Faithful Friends Director had defended in the Cape Gazette just months earlier) regarding their aspirations for dog control contracts, and a week after Kent County said they weren't responsible for CAPA and it was clear that the contract for dog control in our county would not be handled by KCSPCA.

While the complaint trough thinks the audit is fodder for the press, I think it is as well.  The difference is that I think the press will be more interested in both the timing and the conflict of interest aspect. Especially give the fact that Faithful Friend's last 2 financial statements under Mr. Wasserbach's leadership as treasurer weren't completed until over a year after their fiscal year ends, which would make someone wonder what kind of operational issues precipitated such a ridiculous delay.  Also the fact that Faithful Friends net assets dropped from $213,295 to $34,288 during the last 3 reported years thru 6/30/11, which makes one wonder about Mr. Wasserbach's financial leadership.

Considering the current County Executive Tom Gordon's previous issues with the law, one would hope that he would recommend to the council to avoid situations like this where there is clearly a motive outside of county business to pursue an audit that didn't focus on whether the KCSPCA is picking up at-large dogs per the terms of their contract, or ensuring the dogs are housed in a safe and healthy environment, but instead focuses on a state law that Faithful Friends Executive Director Jane Pierantozzi spearheaded.

I don't doubt that the KCSPCA was less than patient or forthcoming with the audit process.  Keep in mind that the shelter had already incurred costs for pulling documents and the time killer of addressing the same complaints that had already been addressed through Kent County, the State Attorney General office, the Department of Agriculture, and the Governor's office.  So I can imagine patience was wearing thin at being asked to pull some of the same documents for the 4th or 5th time.  And keep in mind that many of these complaints also went to journalists throughout the state who have also disregarded their veracity.

So I'll let the readers use their own judgment and consider that the only 2 people that have given these complaints any credence are the NCC Auditor who clearly has a conflict of interest as the Board President of the shelter that pushed for CAPA, and the Kent County Commissioner who made the following statement online after photos of the emaciated dogs that were being warehoused at kennels by Safe Haven came to light.
"Ms. Gryczon was the Executive Director of Safe Haven.  She has been the victim of many slanderous remarks and she refused to defend herself.  But, regardless of the comments here, the contract for Kent County Dog Control is with Safe Haven, not Anne Gryczon, and that contract will continue.  As a supporter of no kill, Ms. Gryczon has started a movement in Delaware that should continue to grow.  The killing of dogs at a rate of 20-30 per day, some off the books, some that are killed in less than 24 hours on the say so of the SPCA Leadership, has got to stop!  Maybe now the Board of Trustees at the SPCA will grow a backbone and rid us of the real danger that is ACTUALLY killing dogs in this State!" - Jody Sweeney

The Scope

Audits regularly look at other regulatory areas concerning a business, but they don't perform the audit outside of their own scope.  For example, I can't imagine Astra Zeneca would be cooperative if the SEC were to perform an audit of their FDA processes.  In that case the SEC may check with the FDA to see whether the company is in compliance with FDA requirements, but that is the extent of the scope.  Another example would be a bank auditor who extended it's audit to the processes surrounding the public trading of the bank's stock which falls under the SEC.  Again, the bank auditor might for some reason make an inquiry to the other agency, but they are not going to audit those processes directly, especially given the fact that the complaints have already been addressed and discounted by others.  As such, it's ludicrous that the New Castle County audit focuses almost entirely on CAPA and euthanasia, which falls under state oversight.

Note that Mr. Wasserbach's original letter didn't mention CAPA, even though it eventually became the focal point of the audit, nor was it included in the auditor's original outline.  So given a typical audit does not typically venture into areas that other agencies have oversight, this is worth noting.

In fact the auditor's outline notes requesting a "Recent report of what is sent to the DE Department of Agriculture", and despite that, there is not mention of that in the audit, or whether the auditor contacted that agency or the state Attorney General given the fact that state law falls under their purview, much like the examples in the previous paragraph. As such, I have to wonder if the fact that the auditor found the kennels clean upon their surprise inspection is what precipitated the change in the scope of the audit.  Especially since the complainers have questioned the judgment of the Secretary of Agriculture when he also noted that the Kent County SPCA was clean after a surprise inspection.  In both cases, the KCSPCA has been the only shelter subjected to surprise inspections throughout the state.

Given the County Auditor's relationship with Faithful Friends, and an audit that is well outside of the scope of ensuring that New Castle County taxpayers are getting the services they paid for, the independence of the audit is questionable at best.

One thing that should concern New Castle County residents is the fact that many of the actual complaints being made were by Kent County residents.  As the audit noted, some complaints were also outside of the scope of the county.  So it would be curious to know whether New Castle County tax dollars were spent on an audit that pertained primarily to Kent County residents shopping their complaints around to everyone under the sun. It's definitely something New Castle County Council members should look into.
"The County Auditor's Office received a series of complaints, starting in September 2010, from NCCo and Kent County residents regarding the treatment of dogs at KCSPCA and, thus, possible violations of the NCCo-KCSPCA contract." - Audit Report
Lastly, it's also worth noting that the audit was initiated in June 2012.  Yet the county earlier this year renewed their contract with KCSPCA for another year.  So despite the claims of deficiencies under CAPA by the New Castle County audit, the county still felt comfortable in extending their contract for another year.  It definitely makes me question whether the audit was performed on the behalf of New Castle County taxpayers, or whether it was merely to satisfy leadership of the No-Kill shelter that brought us CAPA.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

$500,000 More In State Workers - $0 For Animals

Today the Cape Gazette discussed the new Office of Animal Welfare proposed by the Delaware Animal Welfare Task Force.  Details of the Task Force Recommendations can be found in their Final Report.

Structure of Office

This is the structure as proposed in the Final Report by the task force.

 Executive Director
       o Represent office to the public
       o Oversee staff and overall office function      
       o Research and make recommendations regarding:
              Making licenses easier to obtain and beneficial to owners
              Possible revenue streams (licensing, grants, license plates)
              Animal control contracts and how best to structure
              Review animal cruelty statute
              TNR, including prohibitions related to trapping and dumping cats
              Public education regarding spay/neuter, licensing, proper care, etc.
              Arrange training for prosecutors

 Deputy Director 
       o Shelter standards investigation and oversight
       o Inspection of shelters
       o Rabies calls and follow-up
       o Run state spay/neuter program and provide oversight

 Animal Control Officer
       o Oversee training and certification for animal control officers
       o Handle complaints
       o Dangerous dog panel

 Administrative Position
       o Operate statewide database, with all shelters participating
       o Oversee lost and found database
       o Provide administrative support for entire office

For other states considering CAPA, if you read the Cape Gazette article, you should note that another county administrator has discussed the fact that dog control is an unfunded mandate by our state legislature.  While he doesn't specifically mention CAPA, he does mention that the fact that the county is tasked with dog control, but the county has no say in setting the standards.  Keep in mind that the Task Force report references that CAPA was passed in 2010, the same year that the state transferred responsibility for dog control on the backs of our county governments, and Sussex was actually the only county that had the foresight to discuss the unfunded mandate at the time CAPA was passed.  
"Hal Godwin, deputy Sussex County administrator and a member of the task force, said the county wants the state to take back both dog control and licensing, calling county dog control an unfunded mandate. Godwin said Sussex County is responsible for the costs to administer dog control, yet the county is not allowed to set standards for dog control" - Cape Gazette - Task force aims to create new office to oversee animal issues - 5/1/13
Does Senator Blevins really think that anyone believes it was a coincidence that CAPA was passed in 2010, the same year that the state was transferring the cost burden for dog control onto the counties?  I think not, but it's not her budget to deal with, so what does she care?

Final Report (Code Named Fantasy Island)

Since we know the task force didn't include the same balanced and diverse membership that other states have done with their task forces, so there's no doubt that the purpose was to continue to push their No-Kill Agenda despite the horrors that have occurred since CAPA was introduced.

Since this office will most likely be focused on micro managing euthanasia in animal shelters throughout the state as part of the agenda, I'm putting my money on the fact that they will most likely be contracting a veterinarian ONLY WHEN IT SEES NECESSARY, and this is utterly irresponsible and negligent.
"Veterinarian experience shall be included in the Office’s structure, whether through one of the Office positions or a contracted role." - Task Force Final Report
This way when the legislators who have been pushing this CAPA mess don't get the answer they want, they merely need to change contractors. It's the perfect puppet act. It makes absolutely no sense to have anyone other than a Public Health Veterinarian in the position that they have conveniently listed as an Executive Director, as if the position will be leading a nonprofit.

The task force also references a statewide database that includes 100,000 rabies vaccination records each year, from what I estimate to be 60-80 veterinary practices across the state, 5 shelters, and numerous rabies clinics that hand write certificates. This is supposed to all be done by 1 Admin, who will also be handling a lost and found pet database statewide. This person better have a major stockpile of Valium.

From what I've read, Delaware took 7-8 years to switch over their budget system which is an already existing and widely used software, so where in the world do legislators come up with these brilliant plans that include software creation and integration with all the veterinary practices and shelters, plus the fact that someone will need to input the ones from any vets still using handwritten ones and the many rabies clinics done by shelters and rescues that are also handwritten. It should be interesting to see how competent the state fiscal analysts are when it comes to getting estimates on a software project of this magnitude to be included in the fiscal note attached.

Quick Overview Of Positions (Fantasy Island Reality Check)

Executive Director
Recommending and writing legislation to create penalties and more red tape under CAPA, and legislation that will place the rights of feral cats above that of state residents and property owners, no matter what kind of damage is being done to your property, or health issues it may be creating.  Creating photo op moments for our legislators and governor will most likely be a priority as well.  It seems strange for lawmakers to create a job to do what they and their legislative aids are already paid to do.

Deputy Director
CAPA ENFORCER by handling CAPA investigations and inspections of records will be the primary duty of this position, although there currently isn't any penalties in force.  Also keep in mind that there is no proposal to inspect shelters for basic animal health and safety issues in the shelter, merely being the euthanasia police.  So this person will be able to issue letters and slap the fingers if a violation is found, but nothing more.  There may eventually be penalties, but penalties may  not be included in the legislation that will enact this office because the powers in charge of this "no-kill" effort most likely won't want the additional unfunded mandate to appear in their legislation until they have their handpicked office in place to lobby the effort.

Since the spay neuter program is listed as only part of this person's job, and as the Cape Gazette noted that feral cats will become the priority, it's likely that Delaware will change the program to a grant program for feral cat groups, thereby taking the funds away from low income residents that rely on the program.  As such they will be foregoing the targeted part of the program that New Hampshire attributed their success to, and as such, the state will be effectively stealing from low income residents and placing feral cats above the many low income families that currently participate in the program and who are most likely to give up pets due to behavior issues that result from intact animals:
"In its recommendations, the group says TNR should be accompanied by strong adoption programs and low-cost spay/neuter vouchers for caretakers and rescue groups." - Cape Gazette, 5/1/13
It will be curious to see how the veterinarians react to changes in the spay neuter program as a result, especially since the low income aspect was the part that vets in New Hampshire supported, and I suspect the same occurred here in Delaware.

The Deputy Director is also tasked with rabies calls and follow ups.  Since animal bites have been on the rise since CAPA was enacted, you would think that this part of the position would be a high priority, especially since it will be under Public Health, but considering the many tasks on this persons plate, and the fact that the Task Force report clearly places a high priority on protecting feral cats, I suspect this part of the position will be at the bottom of the priority list. "No-Kill" does not want dogs or cats quarantined, so they can merely cry they have too much on their plate to handle it and let the enforcement of rabies quarantines just fall through the cracks.  Considering the recent death in MD and the fact that the case brought to light the fact that many have argued for some time, not all rabies deaths are diagnosed, like the donor in this case.  So there is more danger with the disease than some would argue.

2010 - 2059 
2011 - 2086 
2012 - 2222  

Animal Control Officer
This persons primary role will be training Animal Control Officers.  It makes no sense why the state would want to create a state job and benefits for this role when there is already a national training program and protocol available under NACA (National Animal Control Association) Training Program.   Of course, we've already heard Safe Haven tout that they won't hold dogs ransom in the past, indicating they would return dogs to owners even if a dog is continually found running at-large, so that could explain why the task force doesn't instead just require shelters doing animal control to attend training already readily available, and instead chose to create yet another state job in their plan where they can dictate dog control their way, which is control to keep dogs out of shelters, not to protect public safety.

Administrative Position
This position will be the job from hell.  Handling 100,000 rabies shot records, every lost and found animal across the state, plus administrative duties for the other 3 positions.  If there is any integration with veterinary offices, this person will also be dealing with hundreds of veterinarians across the state.  And will most likely be handling calls from across the state from people looking for their dog or cat.  The state would need to violate federal labor laws 10 times over just to fulfill all these duties.

Realistic or Fantasy ?

Now how many of you think this is realistic?  Many of these duties are already done by multiple shelter personnel, veterinarian officer personnel, and state agencies across the state, and our "no-kill" legislators seriously think they are going to consolidate these many duties and projects under 4 people and $500,000. Clearly our legislators have never created a business plan, or they would see just how ridiculous their proposal is.

I hear alot more cha-ching than $500,000 and 4 employees to make even part of this happen. So Governor Markell better have Tattoo by his side for this fantasy. He may want de plane to take him away from Delaware's fantasy island when this blows up, or he better be prepared to see increases every year like Austin does to the tune of $500,000 to $1 million.