Thursday, August 29, 2013

Animal Welfare Office - Starting As Expected - Somewhere?

Delaware shouldn't lack money for animal welfare the way it does.  There's enough drama in the sector to create one of those ridiculous reality television shows that so many people seem to love. In this day and age where people seem to be drawn to to watching other people's mind numbing lives, I bet people would love watching our backroom politics and constant drama we've encountered. The backstabbing of Big Brother pales in comparison to the political world of animal welfare in the state of Delaware.  And the pathetic games that are being played at the top make Snooki from Jersey Shore look like a scholar.

From Safe Haven's spokesperson trying to spin blame on the interim director for not getting animals spayed and neutered, even though it was apparent to most of us at the beginning of the year that Safe Haven had run out most of their funds, to the same spokesperson now attacking the volunteers who started a fund to get animals spayed neutered and necessary medical attention when Safe Haven no longer had enough credibility to bring in donations. For the life of me, I can't see what Ms. Lofthouse or the Safe Haven Board of Directors think they will accomplish with these actions, but then again it really is just an extension of the campaign of hate and destruction that we've seen Safe Haven spew at other shelters in the state for a number of years. We can see how well their venomous approach has worked for their shelter and the animals in their care, but apparently it's an addictive cycle that the shelter can't seem to break.

Animal Welfare Office Begins Hiring - Legislative Laison Not In Or Near The Capitol ???

Last week the Department of Health And Human Services began the hiring process for the Executive Director of the new Animal Welfare Office that our slanted Task Force proposed.  I say that lightly because the report that launched the process was not a compilation by the members of the Task Force. It was the creation of a few on the Task Force and just thrown out to the rest of the members at the end of the Task Force, and as a result the Task Force basically lived up to what many of us expected.

So it was no surprise that the hiring of the Executive Director shows not only the bias that will be interwoven into the Animal Welfare Office, but also the fact that it will be a thrown together freak show from Day 1, like every other thing we've seen legislators do with animal welfare in Delaware in recent years.

This first screenshot shows the header of the job posting that was on the State of Delaware website. We knew the new office was going under Public Health division, and that the primary claim that the state needed to spend an additional $500,000 in salaries was to consolidate everything animal related. But when I saw the posting and where it was located in Dover, I thought it was strange that the state would choose to house the new office separate from Public Health's Rabies Control Program which is located in a different part of Dover. So much for the great consolidation that was sold to everyone. We all knew that it had nothing to do with consolidation, and that Public Health concerns will NEVER be a priority of the new Animal Welfare Office, so it's no surprise that Senator Blevins would prefer it be kept separate from Rabies Control.

As you can see, the posting above was supposed to close last Friday, 8/23/13.  The posting did go down when it closed, but it miraculously reappeared this week.  Since most of us believe this position was filled before it was ever posted, just like the Task Force positions are known to have been, it was odd that the posting reappeared.  

That was until I saw what had changed, as seen below. When the new posting came out, it showed that not only would the new office be located in a different location than the Rabies Control unit in Dover, it wouldn't even be located in the same county now. So yet again our suspicion that this office will be the crony pet project of Senator Blevins has been confirmed.  A huge part of the justification for this position and the office was to liaison and make recommendations to legislators concerning animal welfare issues, so it seems ridiculous that the office would not be located in our centrally located capitol city of Dover where ALL legislators would have access to the office. The Executive Director's first function listed is:

-Act as liaison to members of the State Legislature, other State Agencies, state veterinarians and the media. 

So we're going down the same road as occurred with the Animal Welfare Task Force, where Senator Blevins and her buddies in New Castle County took center stage, and they will now continue to take us further down the road to ruin by putting the office in their own backyard, allowing the NCC contingent to continue their dictatorship over animal welfare laws in our state. Remember these are the same people that wrote our current laws that were so poorly thought out, written without enforcement which was acknowledged in the Task Force meetings, and laws that contain holes as wide as the sinkhole that swallowed the resort down in Florida recently. 
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
It was fiscally irresponsible enough that we're essentially paying for a legislative aid for one issue, when legislation is what we already pay legislators and their aids for.  But now we find out that NCC legislators will really be the only ones who have ready access to the department.

And there's nothing lost in the irony that the new office which is expected to be up and running January 1st, yet the job posting shows "Facility To Be Determined", meaning they haven't even decided where it will be located with only 4 months left.  I'm glad I added the timer to this site, because apparently those in charge are going to need it as a reminder. 

January 1 - What Happens??

What recent articles about the new Animal Welfare Office didn't explain was that the Budget Bill that created the office doesn't task the office with any authority.  I guess if I was a Senator and used the backdoor to spend taxpayer funds, I wouldn't want to explain the fact that the state will be paying $500,000 for an office that doesn't have legislative authority to deal with CAPA or other animal welfare laws at this point. 
“It got thrown into the budget bill. After it passed, that’s when people became aware of it,” Usilton said. Blevins, he said, “went through the back door and put it through the budget office, rather than creating it through legislation.” Blevins did not return calls for comment Wednesday. - James Fisher, DelawareOnline
The budget bill only moved the regulations for CAPA to Public Health, but the actual law is still in the Department of Agriculture. Not that it matters since the law doesn't allow inspections or enforcement anyway, but it's a shame that our state leaders have allowed people to believe that the new office will be able to enforce CAPA come January 1. And it's even more shameful that Senator Blevins doesn't have the courage to respond to requests for information. So much for transparency. 

I do have to give the Senator and her cronies an A for the adept political maneuver. Create the department in the budget bill first, that way if there are objections to her legislation in the new year, she can just tell the other legislators that it must be passed anyway, or the state will be paying $500,000 per year for all these new people who won't have anything to do. They will just tell the other legislators that they can fix it later, and then just ignore the objections for the foreseeable future once it is passed. It's like signing a lease agreement for a cool new sports car, then going home and telling your wife that you will have to pay thousands of dollars if you take the car back to get out of the lease. Once the lease is signed, it takes much more effort and cost to get out.

So what happens January 1? The state will be paying for a department of 5 people ($500,000 per year) and they don't have any legislated duties yet. I guess Senator Blevins thinks that is a small price to have a department that will get all the disgruntled calls that her office and other legislators are now getting due to the mess they created, but still no solutions for the animals, or the residents her games have impacted. 

And sadly, since the rural areas of Kent and Sussex have been the most impacted by the growing cat overpopulation that has occurred since CAPA, residents of the 2 slower lower counties will continue to have little voice in what happens regarding animal welfare in our state. Many Kent and Sussex residents have gone to their legislators concerning issues, but it unfortunately appears that Kent and Sussex legislators don't have the courage or backbone to address their constituent issues. It really is a shame that constituent issues aren't addressed because their legislators are afraid the next bill they try to introduce won't make it to the floor under the current leadership, but that is the "Delaware Way".  

And despite the fact that we've almost had dog tent city and cats thrown into the upstairs of a shelter without air conditioning, it doesn't appear that real animal shelter standards or inspections will result from this office. Just more of the same division and drama.  

Since the additional money budgeted to date has only gone towards creating jobs for people that will most likely have connections to the Senator that took us down this destructive path, or at the very least, individuals that she gives her stamp of approval to, maybe we should at least earn some funds for the animals with Delaware's very own reality show called "The Shelter Wars".  And if they don't want their backroom antics taped for fear of prosecution, maybe we could at least have a cartoon version with our very own Mayor Quimby characters at the state level. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Winograd's No-Kill - Financially Unsustainable For Shelters And Residents

Will "No-Kill" End Up Killing More Animal Shelters In Delaware?

The question in a recent article shouldn't be is "No-Kill" within our reach.  The question is whether "No-Kill" is going to bankrupt more of our animal shelters, increase county budgets, and place additional financial burden on the residents dealing with the many strays that are now left on the streets due to CAPA and the "No-Kill" initiative that Governor Markell and our legislature have supported.

The media and residents can clearly see the mess that's been created already, from shelter financial losses to scrambling to keep dogs from being warehoused in outside kennels, after Safe Haven stopped paying the boarding kennels where Safe Haven had previously been warehousing their animals. It's unfortunate that many small businesses from boarding kennels to veterinarians have also been impacted by CAPA, and the unrealistic expectations of those that think a shelter can pay $3,000 to have a shattered bone repaired on a stray when a shelter is getting less than 1/10th of that in compensation from the counties.  Or to expect residents to pay that for a stray animal's surgery when many couldn't afford to have the surgery done for their own animal.

And despite all the hoopla that's been made about supercharging adoptions, that certainly hasn't been seen in the adoption numbers of the very "No-Kill" shelters that proclaim that it can work. I encourage everyone to look at each shelters website so you can see that there was no increase in adoptions, and in some cases there is actually a decrease each year.  The fact is that the state forced the shelter doors closed and are just leaving animals on the streets hoping residents will pick up their slack.

"No-Kill" Examples Show How Financially Unsustainable It Is

I think we can all agree that nobody wants to euthanize animals, this issue is whether the "No-Kill" movement is financially sustainable.  The 2 communities that Ms. Pierantozzi discussed at the recent Kent County Levy Court meeting are clearly unsustainable.  If Nevada Humane continues to absorb the losses that it has incurred since they began "No-Kill" they will eventually be bankrupt. It's no surprise that NHS's leader just recently abandoned ship. Austin taxpayers will be paying $3.5 million more per year than they were as recently as 2009, and clearly that community can't keep increasing their budget by $500,000 to $1 million every year.

So it's great if everyone wants to hinge their dreams on the new Animal Welfare Office proposed and delude themselves into believing that the new office is going to make animal overpopulation disappear with the snap of their fingers, but I find it extremely concerning. The office was formed by the same people who brought us the No-Kill Advocacy Center's CAPA, and "No-Kill" has already caused substantial losses and drama for our shelters. Some of us said that would happen when CAPA began, and the shelter losses show we were right. Let's hope our foolish legislators don't put the final nails in the coffins of all our shelters with more of this same nonsense.

And none of this addresses the fact that citizens across the state are also being financially overwhelmed with the strays that they are now taking in because CAPA closed the doors to our shelters for owner relinquished animals.

The new Animal Welfare Office should spend their time creating real standards that would prevent shelters from even thinking about creating a dog tent city or stowing cats away in the attic, as was discussed in our newspapers during this Safe Haven debacle.  But given the silence of Governor Markell and Senator Blevins in recent weeks, we can only assume that they thought it was acceptable for dogs to be warehoused in outdoor kennels in the middle of a field.  It's a pretty good indication that we won't see any real standards from the Animal Welfare Office that our Governor and our legislature created.

And the Animal Welfare Office that they created is going to continue to ignore the pet overpopulation because they believe a man who says that pet overpopulation is a myth, despite the fact that Winograd's own state of California has an average rate of euthanasia despite their version of a similar law called Hayden, and the fact that he's worked very little time in an animal shelter himself.  Sadly, the only state that has even come close to "No-Kill" is New Hampshire, and that was because they were bright enough to recognize that pet overpopulation is a reality and their focus on lowering the overpopulation was a real solution, unlike Mr. Winograd's snake-oil version on "No-Kill".

Ms. Pierantozzi's Example "No-Kill" Communities - The Numbers

Nevada Humane can only continue to remain a viable entity for another 5-6 years based on the the losses they've sustained since the no-kill effort began.
Washoe/NHS - Intake 15,000.
2005 Combined Expenses - $5,347,996.
2010 Combined Expenses - $7,816,195.
Note - Nevada Humane has lost nearly $4.1 million since no-kill began.

Nevada Humane
$4.1 Million in Deficits Since No-Kill Effort Began 2006
2004 403,343.00
2005 2,168,793.00
2006 (1,000,367.00)
2007 (855,614.00)
2008 (237,365.00)
2009 (1,000,164.00)
2010 (293,971.00)
2011 (749,016.00)

Austin Animal Services
2008-09 $ 5,397,428
2009-10 $ 6,008,659
2010-11 $ 6,883,679
2011-12 $ 7,612,186
2012-13 $ 8.2 million
2013-14 $ 8.9 million proposed ($714,000 increase)

Austin's Intake
2006 24,357
2007 27,163
2008 24,663
2009 22,150
2010 24,026
2011 19,752
2012 19,592

Bankrupt shelters can't save animals. It's that simple.

And to those in leadership positions who took us down this pathetic path, I hope when you look in the mirror or admire one of your photo op minutes from the day CAPA was signed, that you think about the impact you've had on the many businesses that have been harmed by this "No-Kill" craziness.  Or that you consider the elderly lady on a a rural property that is currently feeding 30 cats because her property has become a dumping ground now that shelters won't take cats, not to mention the public health concern of the situation. You've impacted peoples lives, but not in good way. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Drama And Uncertainty - A Way Of Life With CAPA

Kent County Dog Control - We Wait To See

At the Kent Levy Court Meeting noted in my previous post, it was decided by a 5-2 vote by the commission to terminate the contract in 60 days from the date notified.  Many of us are grateful that the majority of our commissioners had the good sense to realize that having an animal shelter operating with only a fraction of the staff, and with a ridiculously small amount being budgeting for veterinary care, that Safe Haven's plan was completely unrealistic and dangerous for our dog.
“The problem is your business model. It doesn’t work. It’s not going to work,” Commissioner Eric L. Buckson told Safe Haven’s board members at a public meeting Tuesday. “You’re working off hopeful revenues, and that’s dangerous.” - - No-Kill No-kill Policy Comes At A Cost For Animal Shelters
If you watch the meeting, it's obvious that the decision to terminate was what most of the people in the room were hoping to hear, especially after many in the room had seen the articles that referenced Safe Haven's plan for dogs being returned by boarding kennels that haven't been paid.  Safe Haven had stated that the dogs "will be kept in fenced areas, donated by Best Friends of Utah, until new homes are found or they are transferred to other groups".  Basically a dog tent city.

Fortunately for Safe Haven, the public comment section of the meeting wasn't until after the decision by our commission had already been voted on.  Once the decision was made, there was no longer a reason for the many disgruntled residents to speak out against Safe Haven. If you watch the meeting, it is surprising that there were those that defended them despite the shelter's plan to keep dogs in outside fenced areas. I'm still shocked that some who claim to advocate for shelter reform would think that lowering standards to that level would ever be acceptable.  Many of these same people have screamed that individual owned dogs shouldn't be kept in this matter, but under the guise of "No-Kill", we can lower the standards to the very bottom because all that matters is that the dogs are alive, not that they are treated humanely.

So now we wait and see what the Kent County Levy Court commission will do to replace Safe Haven. Yes, the typical spin has already begun from the same players that started us down this road a year ago with the rehashing of deeds from years past that have been alleged against Kent County SPCA, which was no surprise.  It's amusing to see the same people argue about individual allegations while they overlook the fact that Safe Haven intended, and possibly still intends to house dogs in dog tent city.  

It's been stated by some that the Safe Haven issues have nothing to do with CAPA, but I still argue that CAPA was sold by our state legislature and Governor as "shelter standards", while the fact that a shelter can put dogs out in the middle of a field with cages around them and the bare ground under them that can't be disinfected or protect them from a lightning strikes, clearly shows that we don't have real shelter standards. So CAPA is responsible because it took the place of standards that protect animals from the very hoarding and warehousing circumstances that we would scream about if it was done by a puppy mill. And let's be honest, had there not been the CAPA platform for the complaints to go from one agency to the next, and the multiple lawsuits that have all been dismissed to date, it's unlikely that Kent County would have ever ended up with Safe Haven as our dog control vendor in the first place.

Since the meeting, there's still a tremendous amount of drama happening.  Dog tent city never happened because one of the boarding kennels tried to hold out and keep most of the 47 dogs in his care despite the devastating blow to his business financially.  But yesterday the kennel owner attended this weeks Kent County Levy Court commission meeting and announced that the 39 dogs remaining will go back this Friday, which is understandable. The issues with Safe Haven have already placed his business in jeopardy.  The kennel owner noted that Safe Haven was already "overflowing" when he took 8 dogs back to them, so this isn't going to be pretty. Dog tent city may still be a reality. 

New Castle County - Dog Control RFP - The Assembly Line Approach

On the same date as Kent County's termination of the Safe Haven's dog control contract, New Castle County posted their Request for Proposal for Dog Control Services.  If you thought things were convoluted here in Delaware already, with every dog control contract being handled by a provider outside of it's locality, New Castle County appears to want to complicate things even further.  It's actually 4 RFP's in one.
New Castle County is seeking proposals for dog control services, which include dog control, intake, and sheltering services referenced by the section below: 
• Section I: DOG CONTROL only - County-wide 24/7 dog control services (including owner surrendered dogs), excluding the City of Wilmington and City of Newark as required by 9 Del. C. §§ 900-928, New Castle County Code Sections 4.02.001- 4.02.006 and Section 22.02.007. 
• Section II: ANIMAL INTAKE only.

So if it wasn't confusing enough for resident's to find their dogs now, just wait and see what it will be like if New Castle County ends up with different vendors for Dog Control, Animal Intake and Animal Sheltering. I may have to tell my family members in New Castle County to have GM's OnStar system embedded in their dogs.  

Here are the descriptions of the sections:

SECTION I – Dog Control Services 
Dog Control Services shall include, but not be limited to, provision of uniformed agents to retrieve dogs running at large in New Castle County pursuant to Delaware Code 9 Del. C. § 901 – 928 , respond to animal noise and nuisance complaints in New Castle County pursuant to New Castle County Code sections 4.02.001 – 4.02.006 and Section 22.02.007. 
All staff must be trained to handle dogs and give them humane treatment. The agency must have a control 
supervisor and staff member to coordinate control officers with intake services provider and shelter services 

Intake services shall include, but not be limited to, provision of examination, vaccination, medical treatment and necessary temporary holding facilities for animals picked up by animal control officers in New Castle County in accordance with 3 Del. C. § 8001 – 8007 and § 8201 – 8213. 
All staff must be trained to handle animals and give them humane treatment. The facility must have an
intake supervisor and staff member to coordinate intake services with both control officers and shelter 
services provider.

Sheltering services shall include, but not be limited to, housing, care, necessary post-intake medical treatment, necessary animal rehabilitation training, adoption services, and any necessary humane euthanasia for animals obtained by Animal control officers in New Castle County, in accordance with 3 Del. C. § 8001 – 8007. 
All staff must be trained to handle animals and give them humane treatment. Each facility must have a
shelter supervisor and staff member to coordinate shelter services with both control officers and intake 
services provider

Complete Services shall include dog control, intake and sheltering services as described above. 

Does your head want to explode thinking about how many people you may have to speak with to find your lost dog in New Castle County?  I may have to leave my dog home when visiting New Castle County. It gives me a headache even considering the convoluted logistics that having separate vendors for Sections 1, 2 & 3 will entail.  It also makes me wonder what will be next in our state.  Are we going to end up with a proposal to have an animal underground railroad where dogs go from one home to the next until someone hopefully claims it?

It really is going to be a fun legislative season next year. I realize that our legislators are never going to stop trying to cover the fact that CAPA has been a miserable failure, and it's a shame for our animals and our residents. But any state considering CAPA or a similar Rescue Act is going to see Delaware's example and run for the hills. We've seen that for the last 3 years, and that was before the worst of Delaware's drama this year.  Cities like Norfolk have the sense to understand that legislating "No-Kill" is expensive by seeing how costly it has been in Reno and Austin, but Delaware will be the example of just how ludicrous legislating "No-Kill" on the state level can be, and we're barely a state.