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.