Sunday, September 15, 2013

Two Steps Forward, A Giant Leap Backward

Delaware's Steps Forward

We've finally had some glimmer of hope in recent weeks.  A few weeks ago, Kent County Levy Court made the decision to not only terminate Safe Haven as our "No-Kill" dog control vendor in Kent County, but they also recently voted to reinstate Kent County SPCA in that role.  For those of us who have seen the numerous posts online regarding the lack of response to stray dog reports by the previous vendor feel some assurance that public safety will again be priority of dog control in our county.

We're grateful to the Kent County Levy Court Commission for ensuring that "logic prevailed", and we hope that everyone will use this opportunity as a fresh start. While there have been many harsh words between both parties in the past, the fact is both sides are going to be impacted if the State of Delaware continues to create new unfunded mandates, and the only way the counties will be able to effectively understand the impact of legislation that will be introduced next year by Senator Blevins and her new Animal Welfare Office, is for there to be ongoing dialogue with those that perform the services for the county under the dog control contract.

On another note, it also appears that we're beginning to see more people question the current state of affairs in Delaware animal welfare, and advocating for the State of Delaware to look at real solutions focusing on spay neuter that have been effective in the Northeast.
We would like to welcome Delaware No Kill Alliance (DNKA)to our community of animal advocates in Delaware. DNKA is not like most No Kill groups, the utmost purpose is for the animals of Delaware and in order to be for the animals you must also work cohesively with ALL shelters, rescues and animal welfare groups in the state. Unlike the No Kill Extremists who point out all the problems but bring no solutions to the table, DKNA will be out there fighting for new laws on spay and neuter, working with shelters who are overcrowded and finding solutions to the problems that have caused Delaware to drastically go down hill with the problems of today. 
 DKNA is a group of very knowledgeable people who collectively have hundreds of years experience in caring for and about animals, from veterinarians to shelter managers to volunteers. DKNA is here to educate the public on how they too can help get Delaware to the top with spay/neuter programs like Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Until Delaware has proper spay/neuter programs and laws in place our state will always have an overpopulation problem and DKNA hopes to fix that. These are just a few items that will be keeping DKNA very busy in helping our animals and our shelters. - Citizen Watchdogs for the Animals of Delaware Facebook Page - 9/10/13
It's wonderful to see people discussing solutions that have been shown to work.  Maybe people are seeing that the snake oil approach of "No-Kill", where cities like Austin continually face overcrowded animal shelters, isn't working.  Whereas New Hampshire and other areas of the Northeast are able to offer assistance elsewhere as they import shelter dogs because spay neuter has been so effective.  The icing on the cake is that New Hampshire did that at a fraction of the costs of their "No-Kill" counterparts.  The fact that this new group posted the following on their new page, which is under construction, shows that they don't buy into the Nathan nonsense about overpopulation being a myth and that's a refreshing change.
"Spay and Neuter to help with the overpopulation problem". - Delaware No Kill Alliance
You can't solve a problem if you don't recognize it, so this new group is light years ahead of the political contingent that brought us CAPA, and hopefully we will finally be able to see some progress for animals and residents in Delaware, rather than a continuation of the cruelty and suffering that CAPA and the Winograd version of "No-Kill" brought us.

A National Leap Backward

Out of Sight, Out of Mind - Feral and Owned Cats Dumped On Our Streets
As we finally see some hope in Delaware, we are also seeing a giant leap backwards for animals on the national front.  It appears some of the national animal welfare organizations like HSUS and ASPCA are jumping into Nathan Winograd's rabbit hole with their tails tucked between their legs, and while I'm glad his claimed victory is on the other side of the country, it's still a troubling event for animal welfare and public safety.

These organizations are now also advocating to leave every cat on the street like the "No-Kill" movement has done here. In Delaware, we've seen the tragic results of a similar policy that was inflicted as a result of CAPA. It's been tragic for the animals, and a sad shifting of the burden onto residents by forcing our residents to bear the cost and effort of dealing with cats being dumped on their properties.  This misguided attitude is even more devastating for our low income residents who live in communities where cats are dumped on a regular basis.

It seems like the new strategy in animal welfare is basically to try to force the community into supporting their cause by dumping that responsibility into everyone's backyards. As citizens are forced to deal with being inundated with animals as a result of this 'leave them on the street attitude' that shifts the burden onto people that in some cases never even wanted an animal, I have to wonder what other community charities will suffer as a result. Most people have a limited amount of funds that they can give to various causes, and it seems to me that by forcing citizens to deal with the pet overpopulation (spaying/neutering, feeding, vet care, etc), that residents will be tapped out when they go to give their annual donations to other charities like children's hospitals, special olympics, food banks, etc.

One statement from the Community Cats article in the recent HSUS magazine that I take issue with is that we will be treating the cats the same as "wild critters".
"Shelters have a long history of taking this approach when it comes to wild critters such as raccoons and opossums. Realizing the futility of trying to control these species through shelter admission and euthanasia, we guide people to other solutions. The same can be true for community cats: With a little guidance, many people will rise to the occasion, and find ways to coexist peacefully with the cats in their neighborhood." - For Community Cats, A Change Is Gonna Come - Dr. Kate Hurley
We don't feed those other critters in our neighborhoods.  So they might occasionally be seen in a neighbors yard, but it's not a daily occurrence as it is with cats who are fed in urban/suburban areas.

People are impacted by allowing he cat population to grow in these areas, and we will end up putting cruelty into their hands by ignoring that. If a person has to quarantine their dog continually because of wounds that occur when they go after the cat that keeps coming into the yard, the person may eventually do what they think is justifiable to allow their dog their freedom from being isolated. The same with the person who wants to allow their child to play in their back yard but is concerned with the child's safety because the neighbor wants to feed 20 cats. I'm in no way advocating for harm to cats, but I understand the reality of how the current situation in Delaware has impacted residents, and people become wary of having their lives, their family members, and their property impacted by the choices of others.

Not everyone is going to accept this burden shift, or even cares about animals. This 'leave them on the streets' mentality is merely using the "out of sight, out of mind" card to enhance their statistics and coddle a vocal minority, but the public has seen the cruelty of leaving every cat on the street here, and they will see it elsewhere when it is enacted in other localities.

Unfortunately what is being proposed for cats isn't anything close to the successful communities where feral cats are no longer taken in.  These communities lowered the overpopulation for several years before pulling that trigger, whereas "No-Kill" and now the mainstream organizations are advocating for pulling the trigger first and hope the resources that will be needed to spay/neuter. to treat medically, or to euthanize cats at the end of their lives, will just drop out of the sky.  And to put it in perspective, they are assuming that communities will have the manpower to do it all at once, rather than spread out accross the years before.  Can you imagine a car factory doing a half price sale for a month every year and expecting their employees to keep up with the demand?  The logistics just don't make sense.

Here are the Jacksonville stats.

Here are the NH numbers

I just don't think that we should be advocating for putting communities into these situations and hoping the resources will miraculously appear after the fact. We should be advocating for what has worked in Jacksonville and New Hampshire, as their low income spay neuter programs helped to lower the population and prevent the cats from ending up on the streets in the first place. We don't wait to get mumps, we prevent it with vaccinations.  Our goal should be to keep them in homes by preventing oops litters and eliminating the unwanted behaviors that frustrate owners who end up abandoning them. Instead we're seeing organizations and politicians advocating for cats to be abandoned on the streets, where the cost to spay neuter them will increase as they have litters before they are every found and picked up for TNR.  The horse should be in front of the cart, it's that simple

Encouraging The Dumping of Dogs Now
As we speak, the Magical Mystery Tour of animal welfare organizations are touring the countrysides of California.  As if California residents weren't already dealing with the misguided CAPA like Hayden law at the cost of tens of millions of dollars a year, these national welfare organizations are now advocating for California shelters and animal control services to limit owner surrender opportunities, and adopting out or transferring any animal without identification immediately.  The report includes little discussion about the cost to the shelters or the residents, much like we've seen with "No-Kill" here in Delaware.  It's unfortunate that so many are willing to put the cart before the horse, and hope they aren't on a hill where the cart goes crashing forward.

Stakeholders Group - California Sheltering Report
Jon Cicirelli – Director, San Jose Animal Care and Services
Jennifer Scarlett, DVM – Co-President, San Francisco SPCA
Jennifer Fearing – California Senior State Director, The Humane Society of the United States
Aimee Gilbreath – Executive Director, Found Animals Foundation
Eric Anderson, DVM – Director, San Luis Obispo County Animal Services
Ryan Drabek – Director, Orange County Animal Care
Leilani Fratis – Chief Executive Officer, Placer SPCA/President, State Humane Association
of California
Lisa Carter – Executive Director, Santa Cruz SPCA and Humane Society
Julie Johnson – Executive Director, Bakersfield SPCA
Erica Hughes, Esq. – Executive Director, State Humane Association of California
Melanie Sadek – Executive Director, Valley Humane Society
Kristen Staggs – Board Member, Butte Humane Society
Rich Avanzino, Esq. – President, Maddie’s Fund
Christi Metropole – Executive Director, Stray Cat Alliance
Sherri Franklin – Executive Director, Muttville
Jill Buckley, Esq. – Senior Director, ASPCA
Kate Hurley, DVM, MPVM – Koret Shelter Medicine Program Director, UC Davis

The discussion in this whitepaper about Intake Reduction is no different than Winograd's closed doors with No-Kill and CAPA. While the paper gives several examples of successes, they are all shelters that don't handle animal control, so their data is questionable at best in it's relation to animal control agencies and communities as a whole.

Given the discussion below regarding limiting intake based on mix of animals, my bet is that there will be a ton of pitbulls and chihuahuas turned away to be abandoned on the streets of California. In any other context people would consider that breed discrimination. When did public safety become secondary to live release rates? And why would people pay any additional funds to animal control in the future if more dogs end up on the streets because they they weren't adoptable enough to be taken in by a shelter?

Good luck California, you'll be joining Delaware in the state sanctioned cruelty of closed shelter doors. And given the majority of animals that enter a shelter are intact, leaving them on the streets is only going to increase pet overpopulation.
"Intake Reduction
When some owners, nonetheless, choose to surrender pets, appointments enable agencies to control the flow of animals into their shelters based on their capacity to care for and place the
animals. For example, if at the time of surrender, the facility is full, or there are no possibilities of finding the animal a new home, the agency can decline to accept the pet. It is important to note that there is no California law requiring public shelters to accept owner-surrendered pets."
"Agencies should choose an appropriate level of intake, which includes refusing to admit some animals, to ensure a higher level of care, provide a better quality of life, and focus more on finding homes. Whether it is better to admit an animal or not depends on that animal's immediate risks, health and behavior, the number and mix of animals already in the shelter, and the shelter's ability to find a home for the animal." - California Sheltering Report
Adopt Out Right Away - Owners And Animals Without ID Beware
Another recommendation to take issue with is the one regarding eliminating the stray hold period for a dog found without identification. Unless you are going to legally require pet owners to microchip, this recommendation is just reckless and will be a free for all. Shelter employees that want that cute fluffy, rescues with high adoption fees that will also be vying to take the cute fluffy for transfers because they make a profit. And again, why should taxpayers pay for what is sounding more like animal welfare issues than public safety and a public service to the community. Personally I think 3 days is adequate time to reclaim an animal and if my dog was ever lost you can count on my being there the next day if it is after hours, but 0 time is ridiculous. Travelers will be impacted. Low level workers who have a more difficult time getting off work will be impacted. And I can imagine the pet flipping business in CA will be lucrative as people vie for the cute puppy's that they can resale, especially given the fact that the report says their recommendation doesn't even require a 501c3 status for rescues..
"RecommendationLegal requirement: Dogs without identification may be immediately moved through the process toward a positive outcome (i.e. adoption, transfer); dogs with identification shall be held for the existing holding period and then made available for any other outcome." - California Sheltering Report 
The fact is that none of these so-called solutions have actually been shown to work.  Delaware is probably the best example of dumping the cats onto the general public, and now we also have dogs as in the same quandary as shelters no longer accept owner surrendered dogs, and it hasn't gone well.  With a human population under a million, we have 6 shelters and dozens of TNR groups and rescues. and even some public funding of spay neuter, yet people here are still overwhelmed by one litter after another.  So I can just imagine the nightmare that will occur in a state with 38 million people.

In Delaware, dog rescues have also been overwhelmed with requests that began to come into them when we no longer had a shelter that would accept owner surrenders.

Not to mention the fact that this will encourage the same scramble by an unregulated rescue industry that we've seen in many communities attempting to become "No-Kill", and the potential for harm that some of the unregulated rescues could create if they transport sick animals.

It's ironic that organizations like HSUS and ASPCA use shelter statistics to measure impact of the various grants they provide, but those statistics will be meaningless once shelter doors shut as they are advocating for.  Shelter statistics are an actual concrete number, and although you can give an estimate regarding the number of animals on the streets, those numbers would be subjective and questionable at best.  So there will be no means to justify the need for grant funds in the future, and there will be no way for anyone to measure successes. Given the reliance on grant funds in the animal shelter sector, this limit potential funding sources in the future.

It really is unfortunate that so many people and organizations are willing to obfuscate statistics with policies and recommendations that merely shift burdens, obscure the actual outcomes for the animals, and pretend that this is a solution.