Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hate Doesn't Pay, But Good Deeds Do

Apparently donors nationally are seeing that they can help animals more by sending their dollars to organizations who actually help animals, rather than organizations who just spew hate against other organizations and animal shelters with books like Redemption, Irreconcilable Differences, and Friendly Fire.  

I mean really, who wants to donate to organizations who deletes comments as soon as someone doesn't walk in lock step with them?  And more importantly, who wants to donate to organizations who just have conferences and red carpet events, and spits out a few brochures rather than directly helping animals that they cry about other organizations not doing enough for?




Here's what PETA accomplished in the last financial statement available.  


Sadly, the others merely made their maniacal mystery tour around the United States last year, in many cases in front of alot of empty seats, and there's a reason for that.  

Organizations that spend their time spewing hate may get a certain following, and whimper along for years or even decades, but they don't grow because people eventually figure out that they have nothing positive to offer.

The "No-Kill" movement may have won in Delaware and the animals in Delaware will pay for that mistake. but the movement has been a miserable failure in every other state.  I'm sure that is part to the credit of other states, but also in part to the corruption that allowed the extremist agenda to gain a foothold here in Delaware. 


Fortunately numbers don't lie, and I suspect we will have plenty to talk about next fall during election time in Delaware regarding the number of animals that are turned away and the number of taxpayer dollars that will be used for Senator Blevins and friends to have their photo ops.


Monday, September 21, 2015

State Run Dog Control - The Bidding Process Begins

First off, I realize it's been a while since I last posted.  That's in part because some of us are working on getting a package together for a federal complaint as discussed previously, which will be on behalf of FSAC and the taxpayers of our state.  It's been recommended that we have it ready to go out as soon as the winning bid is declared for sheltering of pets under the new state run animal control,The state plan will have ACO's and other personnel hired by the state (yes, at substantially higher costs than they would have cost under FSAC), with the state then outsourcing the sheltering the pets they pick up and which is currently up for bid.

Obviously if the costs go up substantially, they will have made our case stronger regarding collusion, but even if they can maintain it at the current level in the short term, we will still proceed since the Austin model shows that it can be increases year after year that also results. Fortunately, since there were alot of emails that help our case that were found in the Wasserbach emails, we also needed a tool to place them in order so we can just printout and add the Exhibit designations within our complaint.

The timeline is posted and publicly available to anyone who wants a glimpse into what took place here in Delaware.  If  you go into each post and click on Find Out More, you can read the pertinent emails.



While we have posted most of the applicable emails, there are a few that we decided not to because we didn't want to give the other side too much information to create their lies around, but even without them the emails included paint a pretty worrisome case of how government works in Delaware.  I highly recommend Tiki-Toki for those in other communities facing similar issues who want to create a timeline to help your case.

While I'm sure those involved in the collusion will state that FSAC can bid on sheltering if they choose to, but given the emails that we've seen in the past and the recent emails that showed the states Office of Animal Welfare sent out information about the new animal control officer jobs (which are only posted for a week) to just the 3 shelters that were involved in the earlier collusion, it's not too difficult to see that FSAC would never be treated fairly if a number of shelters were to be involved in sheltering of the animals.  Really, why would a state official send the jobs to the 3 shelters who don't have ACO's, and not send it to the one who has ACO's losing their jobs due to the political games? Fortunately, FSAC's executive director was watching out for his employees by monitoring the posting, and those ACO's who wanted to were able to at least apply.

The Budget Epilogue Discussion - Fantasy & Fiction


Since I last posted, as noted above, the state did pass the epilogue language to the budget bill that we all expected.  At last Senator Patricia Blevins has accomplished her goal of getting First State Animal Center (FSAC) out of dog control so she and her friends can drive up the cost of dog control as they had hoped to do from the time they passed CAPA, and had so blatantly discussed in 2011 with her group of shelter friends and their attempt to put FSAC "underwater".  CAPA on it's own couldn't do the job, so further legislation to put FSAC to the curb was needed by Blevins, and that was the why the recent epilogue language was used, to make sure that there wasn't a means for public comment.

Below was Senator Blevins reply to questions regarding the added language to the Budget Bill from Senator Colin Bonini who did have some concerns about the cost, about the people that would be put out of work, and about the wasted resources of equipment that has been purchased by FSAC to do dog control.



There was clearly alot of fiction coming out of Senator Blevin's mouth, and if she were Pinocchio, her nose would have rounded the earth a number of times.

First Senator Blevins stated that the Animal Welfare Task Force recommended this move of dog control to the state.  There in fact was no such recommendation, There was discussion about the state taking back the contracting as it was under DNREC in previous years, rather than having to manage multiple contracts across the state, but the taking over of the enforcement aspect of dog control was hatched in a back room with her shelter buddies so the Senator could help them drive up the prices and spread the wealth, and was not one of the recommendations listed in the task force final report.

Lie number two, was that ALL the vans/trucks purchased by FSAC had around 300,000 miles on them, implying they were on their last leg.  Below is the actual detail for that issue.
The mileage of the Dog Control vehicles are as follows as provided by FSAC:
1-2007 truck with 300k miles
3-2007 trucks with 230k, 143k, 152k miles
1-2008 truck with 122k miles
3-2010 trucks with 100k, 171k, 90k miles
1-2011 truck with 15k miles
6-2013 trucks with 15k, 15k, 15k, 15k, 10k, 10k, miles
2-2014 trucks with 5k miles
1-2015 truck with 5 k miles
I feel comfortable in calling it a lie because if Senator Blevins didn't know the truth then she should have just answered "I don't know", but instead she proceeded to tell Senator Bonini this fiction straight to his face and probably figured that was what he and all the other senators in the room wanted to hear for justification.

Amusingly, less than 2 weeks earlier she had accused a lobbyist of false testimony, and made the threat that he could be charged with a felony. By most accounts, nobody else thought he was attempting to lie. But given Senator Blevins past email conversations regarding putting FSAC "underwater", it's difficult to believe that her lies regarding the move of dog control to the state weren't intentional.
"Senate President Pro Tem Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, said that NRA lobbyist Richard Armitage could have faced felony charges for his allegedly false testimony about closed door negotiations involving the gun rights group and the Attorney General's office over language regarding the marketing of firearm safety programs. 
Blevins, who did not name Armitage on the Senate floor, said she had no intent to pursue charges.
But her accusation caused a minor furor among Republican and Democrat lawmakers and threatened to overshadow the bill, which is spearheaded by Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn. The bill ultimately passed the chamber 15-4 with support from Democrats and Republicans." - Top Senate Democrat slams NRA lobbyist, /DelawareOnline 6/18/15
It's a sad statement about our senate, that someone who has done the things that Senator Blevins has, was not only elected as the senate president by her fellow senators, but she also was assigned by the senate membership to sit on the Delaware Senate Ethics Committee,  Of course, the fact that Senator McBride is the chairman of the Ethics commission says something is clearly broken in our legislature, especially given Mcbride's past actions regarding the Tigani / NKS case, and the more recent concerns about a conflict of interest in other epilogue language for $7.5 million.

Elections should prove to be interesting next year.  First since we know that Senator Blevins' party will already be taking the heat next year when they raise our taxes, since it is expected that the state will have a deficit of $100-200 million, and right now they are the ones in charge with a super majority and because of that can't deny their culpability in increased taxes.  But also because more people are becoming aware of the corruption that occurred with animal welfare and I'm sure they don't doubt that it is happening in other cases, especially since our lawmakers and our law enforcement officials have sat back and ignored the collusion that has occurred.

Animal welfare may be a small segment, but a few images has been well shared by a couple of pages, and I think that's because Delaware residents are getting fed up with the insider politics in our state. Games like we've seen occur hurt the state's opportunities to recruit business into our state.  Why would you bring your company here if you have to worry about a senator trying to put you under because you will compete with a friend of her's companies?



I will go into the bid solicitation more specifically at a later date, but of course in typical "No-Kill" fashion, the contract will not include owner surrenders, so people will end up dumping their pets if they can't find other options when they lose their home or grandma dies and the kids don't live in a place that will allow animals, etc.  I guess as long as a good number of them die on the streets, it will help the state statistics, but on the other hand it also means the shelter that takes on the sheltering contract will have to eat higher costs for sick and injured animals that could have come into the shelter healthy.

But it's also worth noting that Senator Blevins stated in the discussion above that the current funding levels were sufficient to Senator Bonini, despite the fact that nobody knows what the bidding will bring us.

Communities like Austin have seen their budget increase substantially since they started down the road of "No-Kill" in 2009, and as you can see from the trajectory, there is no indications that the large increases will ever stop.  In fact Austin has already built 1 new shelter for $12 million, and there is discussion about a second one being built in the next several years.


Keep in mind that Austin's population is similar to Delaware's, so what will the state do if the bid/bids come in for $11.8 million like Austin, rather than a portion of the 3.5 million promised???   Animal care costs are the main part of Austin's budget growth, not more officers.  The state has hired officers already, so there's no turning back.  But isn't that exactly what Senator Blevins and her cartel of animals shelter insiders are counting on, that the sky can be the limit.

That's why they used epilogue rather than doing legislation the right way with a plan, a fiscal note, and allowing public input.  Why disclose the potential costs to the legislature and risk the legislation failing when you can do it under the table in epilogue due to our states poor controls?  And you certainly wouldn't want to disclose the potential costs to the cities and counties who will have to come up with the funds when the bids come in high, since they are the ones that are still responsible for paying for dog control. Since the notification will go out to the winning bidder on October 30, we'll see if the city of Wilmington and the three counties are in for a trick or a treat.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pet Projects 2016 - Even With Huge Budget Shortfall Projected Next Year

CAPA Bandages Are Costly


For those who've watched the mess in Delaware that was created by CAPA in recent years, I'm sure you already figured out that in Delaware we don't have a real state legislature that passes laws with fiscal notes that explain how taxpayer dollars are going to be spent.  Instead, our legislators hand out the money then do a patchwork of 'legislation' that attempts to fix the messes they've made in previous years, . Let's just say that Barney Fife and Goober could be legislators in Delaware and they wouldn't be the most foolish people in the room.

That being said, once again we see a similar process taking place as occurred with the formation for the Office of Animal Welfare in Delaware 2 years ago.  Basically the legislature is budgeting another $3 million to the OAW to setup dog control.  Keep in mind that these positions won't be filled on day 1, so this budgeted amount is likely only a portion of what the budget will end up being.  Even more worrisome is the fact that since the new section under the Office of Animals Welfare is not empowered by legislation to perform any animal control duties at this point, we have to question how this large sum of money will be spent.

It will also be interesting to see what costs are also tacked onto the Bond Bill for this new section when the Bond Bill is finally revealed at the very end.

Can you imagine if a private entity operated like this?  Shareholders would wonder what kind of drugs the CEO was on.  But this is unfortunately a repetitive process that occurs in State of Delaware government and truly shows how fiscally irresponsible our state leaders are.

Below is a screenshot of the budget bill that came through today, and a screenshot of the proposed budget from the Part 2 of the OAW recommendations previously release.



2016 Budget Bill - HB225



OAW Estimated Budget - Part 2 Recommendations


Let's not forget that dog control costs had already increased 35% from 2010 when CAPA was enacted through 2013, and we now have less services as a result of CAPA. That was also before the additional costs for the Office of Animal Welfare were incurred.
"Since the transition from state-managed animal control to county-managed animal control in 2010, the cost for animal-related services has increased 35%, while animal control services have eroded significantly." - OAW Part 2 Recommendations

Below is the actual epilogue language that goes along with the $3 million dollar pet project handout.



Counties Continue To Foot The Bills At State Worker Levels


As you can see, the counties will still be footing the bill for this endeavor that will now have staffing at the higher cost state salaries, that will also include costly state benefits and retirements.  While the state makes the statement that they "will work with the counties and city to define a fair pricing structure thereafter", you have to wonder why the counties would buy into this plan given the attempt by Senator Blevins and her friends actions in encouraging shelters to underbid contracts to put KCSPCA "underwater" which would allow them to drive up county costs.  Not to mention the previous slap to the counties faces when dog control responsibilities were pawned off to the counties by our governor and the legislature just prior to enacting the costly CAPA.

I can't imagine why county officials aren't speaking out against this.  Once KCSPCA, now known as First State Animal Center and SPCA gets rid of their animal control officers and disposes of dog control equipment, the counties will no longer have an alternative to fall back on like KCSPCA (FSAC) did when Safe Haven crashed and burned, or for Wilmington when Jane Pierantozzi's scheme for the 3 New Castle County non-profit shelters to house the animals for just that one city failed.  You would think that our counties would have learned their lesson by now.

And what is wrong with a state that already knows it will have a substantial projected budget deficit next year, estimated to be $200 million, yet they continue to take on more employees that come with long term costs in benefits and pensions that will extend years beyond the reimbursement by counties.  It's shameful that this kind of short term thinking by our governor and legislature will make it more and more costly to live and work in Delaware, to pay the costs for our own pets, and will likely even impact the decisions of companies who might consider coming in our state which would provide much needed better paying jobs. Obviously we aren't foolish enough to believe that this is the only program where these games are occurring.

Concerns Go Beyond Costs


As noted in my previous post, you have to wonder if this is in fact a bailout of the favored shelter of a few of our legislators.  As a result of the mess that was made with CAPA, every shelter in our state has suffered financial deficits and the Senate President's favored shelter is the closest to collapse.

But beyond costs, you would think that county councilmen / commissioners would also see the fact that they are going to continue to hear more and more complaints about the cat situation that continues to worsen, with the cat situation costing residents from hundreds of dollars per month to some cases in the thousands in repair costs for damages.

Not to mention the impact the state taking over dog control will likely have on public safety, particularly since we know the legislators putting this initiative forward are listening to a shelter director who is willing to put a "potentially dangerous dog" up for adoption and reference that dog as good with children and dogs. Hopefully the counties aren't under the misguided assumption that they will be released of liability when the inevitable occurs and a dangerous dog is released to the public. Title 9 still places the responsibility of dog control in the counties lap, and while the counties will be paying the state for their services, we all know that First State Animal Center took public safety far more seriously than the "No-Kill" shelter that has been driving legislators down this path. So don't be surprised if county taxpayers eventually pay the cost for lawsuits that result from injuries.

Lastly, county officials should ask for a comprehensive plan for what will occur if all the shelters that are contracted with the state are full.  Will all the counties end up in the same position as Kent County was 2 years ago and end up having to pay for these animals to be warehoused at boarding kennels?  When Safe Haven did it, the kennels ended up eating the costs when Safe Haven went bankrupt, but we all know who will end up footing the bill if the state does the same - the counties.

Or will the state merely not pickup dogs like we also saw with Safe Haven and other communities dealing with "No-Kill"?  As we saw when Safe Haven had dog control, with their "partner" shelter Faithful Friends, that it was not just more dangerous for residents and their pets, it's also a liability issue for the counties, and a drain on county services dealing with the complaints that result.

I'm not looking forward to dog control by an office taking advice from Faithful Friends, since we've already seen that failure once before with Safe Haven, but the one good thing is that it just adds to the taxpayer bill for future posts that will help keep CAPA out of other communities.  Once again our pain will at least be someone else's gain, but sadly that will likely come at a cost for the animals that end up left abandoned on our streets just so our legislators can pretend they aren't dying. And the only other bright side is that we'll also have the ability to see what shelters receive payments under the state checkbook with this money in coming years, which could assist us in our collusion complaints to federal authorities.

I sure hope Delaware residents have their checkbooks ready and pepper spray ready for round 2 of Faithful Friends influenced dog control.  While Safe Haven only lasted 18 months, this initiative will be around for a while because it will eliminate competition for dog control so that it can be paid for on our taxpayer dimes without competitive forces keeping the costs in check.



Sunday, May 31, 2015

Will New Castle County Auditor's Shelter Get State Bailout ???


There have been a number of articles recently regarding the questionable actions of New Castle County Auditor Bob Wasserbach in recent weeks, and a couple of discussions at New Castle County Council meetings.


New Castle County legal teams clash over making auditor emails public
"Grimaldi and Councilman Bob Weiner contend the emails are ethically questionable and potentially criminal. Wasserbach said he's done nothing wrong."

Weiner calls for investigation into Wasserbach
"The emails indicate Wasserbach was in discussions to have the county contract altered to benefit Faithful Friends.
Wasserbach has denied any wrongdoing. He did not respond to requests to comment for this story." 

Attacks become norm in New Castle County government
"Grimaldi also cited Wasserbach's 2012 audit of the Kent County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which Grimaldi said was self-serving. Wasserbach was a board member of the Faithful Friends Animal Society, a no-kill shelter. The KCSPCA did not have a no-kill policy."

Handing out swords along with audits 
"Unfortunately, for him, Mr. Wasserbach appears to have given his enemies the sword. He now faces an inquiry into a previous audit he conducted. Serious issues have been raised about his personal interest in the outcome of the 2013 audit of Kent County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Mr. Wasserbach was on the board of another animal shelter group, Faithful Friends Animal Society. The two groups, let us say, have philosophical differences.
It would appear Mr. Wasserbach should not have been involved in this audit. We will leave it to the appropriate investigators to determine whether he did anything wrong."

Sadly the New Castle County Council has talked about it, but in the end have chosen to do nothing about it, so we clearly see them as enabling the situation.  I can't imagine anyone will take the audits performed by New Castle County going forward seriously, as they will be questionable at best given the emails that have surfaced, so I'm not even sure why the county should bother to have an audit department at this point.

Since these stories were printed, there has been a letter to the editor campaign by some of the very people that were involved in the emails involving the  plotting and planning of the KCSPCA audit for over 2 years, and they are using those letters to once again attack the shelter.

As stated on some of our comments on those articles, our intent wasn't to harm other shelters, but to stop the insider politics and preferential treatment that is occurring in Delaware, with the ultimate goal to harm First State Animal Center and SPCA (previously known as KCSPCA).  We want the public to support the shelter of their choice, even shelters whose tactics we don't respect, because ultimately the animals in those shelters depend on that support. Which is another reason we find it amazing that anyone would take part in a hate campaign for ideology sake like we've seen against FSAC.

But given the continuing orchestrated attacks by supporters, and more importantly insiders of Faithful Friends, against FSAC for bringing the issue to light, we do think the public needs to understand what is potentially driving these attacks.

Not only were the attacks in recent years part of an agenda for Nathan Winograd's "No-Kill", but they were also in part due to the fact that "No-Kill" in Delaware needed to destroy the competition so they could drive up the prices of the county dog control contracts first, so dog control could eventually provide their own "No-Kill" shelters with a financial lifeline.

We all saw how quickly Safe Haven crashed and burned, even with the planning that ensured that the highest contract per population was acquired to give them the best opportunity at success.  But they weren't the only "No-Kill" in Delaware that was teetering financially.

Since CAPA was enacted, Faithful Friends has not only had financial concerns, but also faced multiple judgments by the Delaware Department of Labor.  The first for $21,029.31 that was filed on June 14, 2011 and not paid until March 5, 2014, taking them several years to pay.  But now they are facing an even larger judgment filed in recent weeks for $88,544..45 that was filed on May 12, 2015.



Why is this important?  
  • Because when you look at Faithful Friend's most recent financial statement, this does bring to question their solvency as a result of the above judgment.  



  • It also makes you wonder why New Castle County Council would think Mr. Wasserbach was competent to do an audit of another shelter when his own shelter clearly lacks in their ability to to manage their business, and more importantly manage their liabilities?  Remember, this is the second judgment that Faithful Friends has faced, and the first one took years to finally pay.  
  • Lastly, this also speaks to motive in Mr. Wasserbach's and friends in their attempts to attack FSAC (KCSPCA) with an audit that even some of the county council thought was beyond the scope of what should be audited by the county, which as a result became another tool in the arsenal in their attempt to get KCSPCA out of the picture from a competition standpoint. 
Some of Mr. Wasserbach's very own emails from his county email account show just how concerned he was with his own shelter's financial condition during the period the audit was taking place, which also speaks to potential motive.



So it was no surprise when we saw that the Office of Animal Welfare and Senator Blevins are proposing a plan which sounds much like what Faithful Friends had discussed with Kent County when Safe Haven was faltering. Obviously this will bring funds into their shelter, without the risk of euthanasia that a shelter faces when they become full with a dog control contract.  

I thought the clause about returning difficult to adopt dogs was ironic.  So send back the difficult to adopt dogs so someone else could kill and keep their own statistics clean?  Talk about a shell game.  



Word on the street is that legislation will be proposed in the upcoming week, despite the fact that the state's budget is still $83 million in the hole, even before this new legislation that would require more spending.  So even if the Senator Blevins manages to put this late spending initiative on the short remainder of the legislative year, which is how they always make sure the public has less opportunity to examine and publicly comment, there continues to be a whole lot of unanswered questions that counties should clearly be asking:
  • When shelters run out of room, where will the state send dogs?  And what will that cost the county taxpayers?
  • Will the counties be paying for dogs to go to multiple kennels until a space opens up at a shelter like we saw with Safe Haven?  Won't that obviously drive up the costs of dog control for the counties?
  • Will the counties be the ones forced by the state to decide which dogs will die, and as such be the target of the "No-Kill" movement? 
  • If a dog is picked up in Sussex and ends up at a New Castle County shelter, how will residents ever find their dogs, or even access them if they don't have transportation for that long of a trip?
  • Considering the county auditors actions and that of Senator Blevins, does anyone really think that dogs will be disbursed to the various shelters fairly?  
  • Or will some shelters get the cute fluffies because of their favored status, while others get the hard to adopt ones which cost them more in the long run and harming their financial solvency?Will it depend on whether they have favor with Senator Blevins at any given point?
  • And if there's no additional space left to place dogs in shelters, will counties face what Kent County did during the Safe Haven mess where dogs were left on the streets when Safe Haven didn't respond to residents dog at-large complaints?
  • Lastly, what happens if this all falls apart lie we saw with Safe Haven?  What will the counties alternatives be once FSAC has laid off their employees and liquidated the excess equipment?
So in the end, it does appear that this plan is not only a means to expand the unfunded mandate on the counties, but it also appears to be a financial bailout of Faithful Friends.  And with so many questions about sustainability, aren't we just going down the same foolish path that occurred when Safe Haven took on the Kent County Contract?

Also, using taxpayer dollars to bailout legislator friends is not fair to the taxpayers either, when so many of them also have pets that it costs to care for, which is getting harder every day with the state adding more taxes and fees.  

The answer is to get rid of CAPA, get REAL shelter standards that ensure proper care of animals, and then bring everyone to the table to address the pet overpopulation that we all know is at the heart of the problem.

In the end, the only thing the FSAC, and those of us that have defended them, are guilty of is being upfront with counties as far as costs and not taking part in the collusion with Senator Blevins and friends.  If the state truly believed that "No-Kill" was a viable and sustainable business model, then they wouldn't have pawned off dog control costs to the counties just before they passed CAPA, and they would have supported it themselves without the need for CAPA.  But they didn't, and that speaks for itself. 

Sadly, I don't doubt that Senator Blevins has the power to shove her legislation down everyone's pocket, and if that power gives her satisfaction, then so be it.  Her conscience has to live with her actions.

But if she actually cares about animals, and not just shelter statistics and the "No-Kill"agenda, then it's time to come up with a solution that is fiscally responsible, financially sustainable, and doesn't require the pathetic political games to put a nonprofit "underwater" that have now become her legacy. She can change that legacy if she wanted, but it will never happen with underhanded tactics and collusion.  It can only happen with transparency and collaboration.

And while we will never see justice done in Delaware because there are apparently too many who are afraid of our Senate President to call her out or enforce laws that prevent collusion, we are still hopeful that each and every piece of legislation and action that clearly benefits her friends will eventually draw the attention of federal law enforcement. especially since the actions that have taken place have clearly had an impact beyond our state lines when you look at the many victims of the Safe Haven mess that was enabled by their actions.

It will be interesting to see what legislation is put forward, but the fortunate part of all this is that Delaware residents have had an opportunity to see what "the Delaware Way" truly means.  We all heard the sighs at the Kent County Levy Court when the decision was made to drop the Safe Haven contract, so we know that the public gets it now.  But apparently our politicians don't represent the majority.  Instead they represent the vocal minority that support their own personal agendas, and that's not only a sad legacy for those involved, but also a sad legacy for our state.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Markell's Office Confirms that Transparency Is A Myth In Delaware

Nathan Winograd's battle cry is that pet overpopulation is a myth, but as most communities across the U.S. know, pet overpopulation is a sad reality and a reality that will continue to be perpetuated as people like Nathan blame shelters for euthanasia, rather than blaming those that created by backyard breeding and those that dump their older pets even when there isn't a reasonable reason.  Many of us are still waiting for Nathan to provide that list of adopters that are willing and have the resources to take on the many old, sick and injured, pitbulls which have been over bred the most,

Unlike Nathan's unproven claims about pet overpopulation, we can show without doubt that transparency and FOIA under Governor Markell's office is very much a myth.

For those not in our state, Delaware resident's of our state became aware that that our Governor Jack Markell had a second state email under the name of Alan Jackson.  Understand that this is not a personal pseudonym email to allow him to express his viewpoints publicly, but an official state email account on the state server that appears to be a way to avoid the transparency of open records.

Many had a field day with this revelation, and even if the governor's office did provide FOIA documents involving that email address (which is doubtful), how would other agency's FOIA administrators know to also search the name Alan Jackson?  In fact, some have already shown that to be the case as you can see:
"As part of another FOIA request from this office, another individual received emails between Governor Jack Markell and Michelle Rhee however there were none in this FOIA request."  - Exceptional Delaware Blog

Wasserbach Emails / Ranji Emails


After some in New Castle County (NCC) took notice that their might be some concerns regarding Mr. Wasserbach's actions in his capacity as County Auditor for NCC, the Wasserbach emails were eventually released by New Castle County to the First State Animal Center and SPCA (previously known as Kent County SPCA or KCSPCA).  As a result of the discovery of those emails, it also became apparent that it would be beneficial to FOIA the emails of the major players in the drama that surround the Wasserbach emails.

We realized that First State Animal Center couldn't do a FOIA request of Senator Blevins email account, despite the fact that she appeared to encourage another shelter to under bid a contract so KCSPCA would be "underwater for sure".  That's because our cowardly legislature exempted their own email accounts when they wrote and updated FOIA legislation. That in itself should tell you something about our legislature, but we knew that lack of transparency has always existed..

But the governor's office is not exempt from FOIA requests.  Or at least that's what people thought. Apparently the governor office has conveniently decided to avoid producing documents by claiming that "no public documents exist", despite the fact that we already have a number of emails that we received as a result of the Wasserbach emails, and clearly don't fall with the parameters that the letter noted.

Below is the response from the governor's office to the FOIA request that was made.



Given the many Jennifer Ranji email threads that we received in the Wasserbach emails, we know that is utter nonsense. Below are the exemptions referenced.


(l) "Public record" is information of any kind, owned, made, used, retained, received, produced, composed, drafted or otherwise compiled or collected, by any public body, relating in any way to public business, or in any way of public interest, or in any way related to public purposes, regardless of the physical form or characteristic by which such information is stored, recorded or reproduced. For purposes of this chapter, the following records shall not be deemed public:
(6) Any records specifically exempted from public disclosure by statute or common law;    
(16) Emails received or sent by members of the Delaware General Assembly or their staff

Below are just a couple of the many innocuous emails we have in addition to the ones included in my previous post and many more.  Clearly just copying a legislator onto an email that was sent to people at state agencies and animal shelters across the state is not the intent of the exemption above.  If you read the email below, this was not correspondence with the General Assembly, they were just provided a copy.

So in the end, it was okay for Faithful Friends to pass around as they like to their board members, but the rest of us in Delaware that pay for the resulting regulations aren't supposed to see the process involved in creating those regulations?  That's transparency? FAIL.


And this example is even better. Nathan Winograd, who lives in California, was able to see this email, but the governor's office thinks it's okay to keep this hidden from Delaware residents that make public record requests.  That's transparency?  FAIL.



As you can see, the Freedom of Information Act under Governor Markell's office is not complied with, and the lack of transparency couldn't be more evident.  Transparency is only avoided when you have something to hide, and apparently that is the case when it comes to the many emails surrounding the attempt to put KCSPCA "underwater".  What else is this administration hiding?

Given that transparency in Delaware has clearly been shown to be a myth, I think the REAL Alan Jackson should address the political 'games' that take place behind closed doors in Delaware.  Hiding the truth when it comes to so many issues in Delaware also shows us the lack of class and professionalism that is current in our top office for the State of Delaware and it's time for the redneck games to end.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Beyond Redemption - Conspiracy & Dirty Politics of "No-Kill"

New Castle County Audit


Recently there has been quite a bit of ruckus about casting some sunshine on the deep dark hole of New Castle County Auditor Robert Wasserbach's emails, especially because of what a county councilman described as concerns "that there could arguably be ethical, professional, and criminal violations of the law" in the emails. The council meeting discussion can be heard and read about on the Delaware Way blog.

I've previously addressed the fact that the audit of Kent County SPCA (now known as First State Animal Center and SPCA) by New Castle County, at the request of Mr. Wasserbach, appeared to be a conflict of interest because of Mr. Wasserbach's board position with Faithful Friends, and that it was extremely odd that the scope of the county audit focused almost entirely on the state law of CAPA when Mr. Wasserbach's handpicked auditor found clean conditions at the shelter.

In recent weeks, an anonymous whistle blower provided a number of people with emails that are clearly concerning regarding the audit of KCSPCA. What makes this person a whistle blower, rather than a leaker, is the fact that not only were county tax dollars (at least $10,000) wasted on an audit that appears to have been done to satisfy a political agenda of Mr. Wasserbach and Faithful Friends, but may also be a part of a bigger plan to put KCSPCA out of business to drive up the cost of dog control services that the county tax payers fund.  If KCSPCA was no longer around, it would cost more money to entice another shelter to take on the contract, or for the county to provide those services.

While these emails were apparently not released to the KCSPCA by Mr. Wasserbach's employer the New Castle County Council, and more specifically the council's legal representative Carol Dulin when a FOIA request was made back in 2012, the whistle blower has provided us with an opportunity to see some alarming information that should be of concern to all taxpayers in that county and across the state.

The county council needs to provide oversight over their employees if they don't want to end up implicated in the shenanigans that appear to have taken place.  If they truly represent the taxpayers of their districts, they should be sending this situation to the Attorney General for a complete investigation regarding possible antitrust violations that may have been engaged in against their constituents interests.  These emails also bring into question every audit that has been performed under Mr. Wasserbach's watch during his tenure with New Castle County, and as such, the county should also request that the Delaware Board of Accountancy who oversees accountants in Delaware investigate this matter.

CAPA Legislation Signed July 23, 2013

Not only does it appear that the audit of KCSPCA was a regular topic of discussion between Mr. Wasserbach and Jane Pierantozzi of Faithful Friends for 2 years prior to the actual audit occurring, but the discussions go at least as far back as just 7 days after CAPA was signed ceremoniously by Governor Markell.

7 Days After CAPA Signed, A Complete Outline For An Audit of KCSPCA was sent to Wasserbach by Jane Pierantozzi

Given how quickly discussion of the audit happened after the signing, it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibilities that the audit was already planned as one of several ways to use CAPA as a weapon against KCSPCA when Faithful Friends and company proposed CAPA as legislation.  This may be the reason the audit seem so focused on this state law, and not focused on ensuring county funds were being used for the services contracted that most reasonable people would expect of a county audit to do.

Keep in mind, that Faithful Friends is another animal shelter in our state, and that all shelters not only compete for the same sector of donation funds, but also have the ability to bid on the same dog control contracts.  In what world is it appropriate for an auditor to get advice on doing an audit from a competing business, let alone a shelter director who has been openly hostile to the KCSPCA.

There are thousands of shelter directors across the country if Mr. Wasserbach didn't have the first clue how to audit an animal shelter, even though county audits should have the same scope as any other audit in ensuring that the county is receiving the services it has contracted for. But instead Mr. Wasserbach chose the path that not only appears to be highly biased, but also a path that appears to be self serving given the fact that the shelter director he sought advice from appears to have had a vested financial interest in the outcome, not to mention Mr. Wasserbach's own interest as a board member of that organization.

In this email below from Mr. Wasserbach in August of 2010, the following statement was made - "I am also going to suggest to someone who has complained about the KCSPCA to file a report on my Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline, so that I have even more reason to do this audit".  In his email to shelter directors Jane Pierantozzi of Faithful Friends, and Anne Cavanaugh of Delaware SPCA, it appears that Mr. Wasserbach is eliciting a complaint be made on his hotline to help him make a case to the county that an audit is needed, so he can then use the complaint to provide Chris Coons with reason to not extend the contract.

Even the statement that he wants someone to "pose" as his assistant sounds like he is working hard to make the audit appear genuine, Maybe it's just me, but if the assistant is going to actually provide assistance, wouldn't most people state "act as my assistant", rather than "pose as my assistant".  But then again, maybe he really did just want the person to "pose" for appearances, especially since Ms. Pierantozzi had already provided Mr. Wasserbach with an outline for the audit a month earlier.

In that audit outline, Ms. Pierantozzi also told Mr. Wasserbach to "pretend your may want to help them with cats". I can't imagine audit 101 teaches accountants to lie during an audit process, but let's be honest, "pretending" is just a pretty way to say LIE.



A month later in September of 2010, it appears that Mr. Wasserbach is still trying to elicit a complaint from his friends through his hotline. Encouraging complaints certainly doesn't seem unbiased or independent to me, and most reputable auditors place great value on an audit being both unbiased and independent.

Part of a Discussion About Auditing KCSPCA

So at least the public now has an opportunity to see that the complaints on Mr. Wasserbach's hotline didn't just come in as many have portrayed in the past, instead it appears that they were encouraged to be made.

In the email from Jane Pierantozzi of Faithful Friends on June 15, 2012 you can see that Faithful Friends, who Mr. Wasserbach is on the board for, is talking to New Castle County officials about the future possibility of working with the county if the shelter gets land from the county.  She also mentions that another shelter Safe Haven, who Ms. Pierantozzi references as "partners", was attempting to get the Sussex dog control contract "away from KCSPCA".

Two years later, land was eventually given to Faithful Friends for $1 by the State of Delaware,   While Safe Haven ended up losing the bid for Sussex, they did eventually end up with the Kent County contract., which you will see later was discussed as the higher paying county on a per capita basis.  What's also noteworthy about this email on 6/15/12 below, is the fact that was sent just one day after the audit notice was sent by Mr. Wasserbach to KCSPCA.  Coincidence? Maybe, but the timing of this discussion certainly seems suspect to me.




State of Delaware Land Giveaway


In 2014, as noted earlier, the state legislature did eventually hand the shelter that Mr. Wasserbach is board president of a valuable piece of land in New Castle County for $1.   The fiscal note for the complete property, that was also partially given to Colonial District, was valued as follows:
 "Using the assessment-to-sales ratio provided in the above mentioned report, the estimated market value of the 40 acres to be transferred is $4,623,030. - Fiscal Note
This was a luxury that no other nonprofit had an opportunity to bid on, and unlike Delaware SPCA who was granted property in Sussex County many years ago, Faithful Friends wasn't providing a public service (dog control, animal cruelty investigations, handling livestock at large) for local taxpayers as Delaware SPCA was at the time of their land deal.

And worse yet, what reasonable legislator gives land to a nonprofit who owed the state $21,029.31 for almost 3 years without any state follow up in the court system,  I don't imagine it was coincidence that Faithful Friends magically paid off the debt just before the bill is introduced to give them land.

And also concerning is the fact that at the time the property was handed to Faithful Friends by the state of Delaware in July 2014, Faithful Friends last financial statement on record was for the year ending 6/30/11.  Given the restrictions built into this land conveyance below, it would certainly seem prudent for our legislators to have a more recent financial statement on hand, but then again, fiscal stewardship is a trait we rarely see in Delaware.

"No deed shall be executed until the Colonial School District has received a copy of Faithful Friends construction plans for the new parcel along with written confirmation of construction financing, or other adequate funding source for the entire Pet Adoption and Community Resource Center from the Faithful Friends no later than July 1, 2019. At the time of conveyance of the land to Faithful Friends from the Colonial School District, Faithful Friends must agree to accept the new parcel in "as is" condition, after which Faithful Friends shall be legally permitted to use the new parcel for a Pet Adoption and Community Resource Center, and for no other use. After conveyance of the new parcel, Faithful Friends intends to construct a building(s) of not less than 20,000 square feet in total size upon the new parcel for use as a Pet Adoption and Community Resource Center, and to construct not less than one-hundred parking stalls upon the new parcel to serve the aforementioned use. The building(s) and parking stalls shall be constructed in accordance with the then applicable provisions of the New Castle County building code, State drainage code, State critical natural area regulations, State wetland regulations, and federal wetland and floodplain regulations. The deed to Faithful Friends shall set forth the restrictions and covenants expressed in this act."

Miraculously, Mr. Wasserbach did manage to finish Faithful Friends financial statement for their year ending 6/30/12, just a month after the land transfer deal was signed into law, and this financial statement showed that Faithful Friends net assets or fund balance as negative at -$8,147 for that period.  So it's not surprising that this financial statement didn't become public until a month after the land deal on 8/25/14, 2 years after the fiscal year end for that period.

The state auditor should really look at deals like this, because our legislators either don't have a financial bone in their bodies, or they just don't care when it comes to taking care of their friends. We certainly saw that was the case when it came to the Tigani land deal a few years back, and yet despite Mr. Tigani ending up in jail, it appears we are going down the same path with friendships trumping good financial sense on the part of our legislature.

The Plot Thickens Even More


If the actions surrounding the New Castle County audit weren't bad enough, emails that have been received more recently through FOIA, paint an even more nefarious conspiracy that has been taking place.

While I have previously discussed the concern that CAPA was born out of and being used in a manner that pointed to collusion, I think that cause for concern is even greater after seeing some of the emails that were taking place, with a combination of shelters involved and with some individuals in positions of power at the state and county levels.  There are  publications that talk about the fact that nonprofits can also be involved in antitrust violations, and more specifically the Sherman Act, so make no mistake that antitrust only applies to for profit corporations.

So first lets start with the most damning of the emails that was found.  The players in this drama are based on the email:
  • Senator Patricia Blevins - State Senate President, Board Member of Delaware Humane
  • Anne Cavanaugh - Executive Director of Delaware SPCA at the time, Board Member of Delaware SPCA now
  • Jennifer Ranji - Governor Advisor that wrote CAPA, per Jane Pierantozzi in an article was a previous board member of Faithful Friends, later promoted to Secretary of Child Services for the State of Delaware
  • Jane Pierantozzi - Executive Director Faithful Friends
  • Kathleen Gallagher - wife of Delaware SPCA Board Member, supporter of Faithful Friends
  • Robert Wasserbach - New Castle County Auditor, Faithful Friends Board Member (now President of the board)
The complete email with our annotations and questions in red is at this link, but as you can see from this portion below, there does appear to be a plot to destroy the Kent County SPCA.  This plot involved several representatives of other shelters colluding to try and use political power and underbidding to put KCSPCA "underwater", but what's just as alarming is the fact that people in positions of authority took place in writing and introducing CAPA in Delaware were also involved. So it would certainly seem feasible that this same group plotted to pass CAPA for the very purpose of destroying Kent County SPCA (KCSPCA).

Seriously, what kind of senator thinks it's appropriate to encourage underbidding to put a business in her state "underwater"?  Should she be Senate President after this comes to light?  And it's shameful that she has a position on the senate ethics committee.

Email acquired as NCC releases PART of the documents in FOIA request of Robert Wasserbach emails.


And in what world is it appropriate for a senator, a governor's advisor, and a county auditor to take part in actions like this that wreak of suppressing competition and predatory pricing?  Was the purpose of trying to harm Kent County SPCA to get them out of the dog control business so they could drive up prices for dog control services and force more funding out of the counties for their own shelter's financial interests once they destroyed Kent County SPCA?  

That's how it appears to me given there are also a number of emails where it was discussed that the county contracts are under funded.  It's no surprise that this is why Kent and Sussex contracts were targeted, while no shelter is willing to bid for the contract in New Castle County. 

The counties should be appalled at this behavior, especially since CAPA was enacted just after the state dumped that responsibility off on the counties, making it even more shameful that state officials would take part in what appears to be a conspiracy to drive up the price of dog control for the counties.




I also find the actions of these board members and shelter directors to be extremely reckless given that they have a responsibility in protecting their organization's reputation, and ensuring the shelter's financial well being by avoiding any behavior that could result in litigation if a complaint were made under state or federal laws, especially given the fact that the law frowns on conspiracies that manipulate prices and attempts to suppress competition.

Although Delaware's antitrust law is pretty weak, I'm not sure if it matters since in the past we've seen the previous Attorney General Beau Biden's office accommodate this same senator by doing multiple opinions to ensure other shelters weren't impacted by the original request against KCSPCA.  I guess we can only wait and see whether Matt Denn has more integrity and independence than his predecessor.  Here is the state statute:

"§ 2103 Restraint of trade unlawful.Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce of this State shall be unlawful." - Title 16

Here is a typical definition of Restraint of Trade:
restraint of trade
n. in anti-trust law, any activity (including agreements among competitors or companies doing business with each other) which tends to limit trade, sales and transportation in interstate commerce or has a substantial impact on interstate commerce. Most of these actions are illegal under the various anti-trust statutes. Some state laws also outlaw local restraints on competitive business activity. (See: monopoly, trust)

Task Force Confirmed to Be A Sham


And lastly, not only were New Castle County taxpayer funds wasted on a sham audit of the KCSPCA, but Mr. Wasserbach's emails show us that state taxpayer funds were also wasted on a long series of Task Force meetings at taxpayer's expense to pretend like the state was involved in a discussion about bettering animal welfare, when the fact is that Senator Blevins and friends already had a plan in place and were merely creating the hand picked Task Force to create the public perception that the legislature was getting input from outside of this small cartel of conspirators that we referenced above.

In this 11/22/11 email, that was part of the same thread as the "underwater" comment, it is mentioned what in the end was almost entirely identical to the final recommendations that were proposed by the Task Force.  This email was 7 months before the Task Force was even put in place, and 1-1/2 years before the recommendations would be publicly posted as being the result of the Task Force on 4/30/13, but now we can see from the emails that this plan had already been hatched by the political cartel in their own private meetings that took place back in November of 2011.  



Keep in mind that many legislators who passed the legislation to create the new Office of Animal Welfare were probably also under the mistaken impression that these recommendations came out of the Task Force, rather than this small cartel of conspirators.

I doubt most legislators were aware that the agenda in adding the enforcement provisions that previously didn't exist and in creating a new agency, was to finally use their weapon of mass harassment CAPA against the KCSPCA even more, in hopes that they would go away and give the "No-Kill" shelters the leverage to gain more funding from the counties. This would allow them to have budgets similar to "No-Kill" communities like Austin where prices have increased $500,000-$1 million every year for animal services

And remember that this new agency that was hatched in a backroom meeting, also comes at a cost of $700,000 to the taxpayers.

Cape Gazette Headlines of May 1, 2013
Senator Blevins having a discussion with Anne Cavanaugh & Jennifer Ranji


Conclusion


While the cabal of conspirators referenced above didn't destroy KCSPCA with their unethical, immoral, and possibly illegal actions, the shelter did face financial losses the year that CAPA was enacted and also when the shelter lost the Kent County contract in Kent County, so I guess part of the goal of putting the shelter "underwater" was attained for those periods, even if it didn't put them underwater completely into insolvency. As a result of the political games, and the fact that the audit continues to be used by the shelters enemies, each and every time the biased audit resurfaces the result is that the shelter faces actionable harm.

I'm sure the shelter is grateful to the many supporters that have stood by them despite the political nonsense and campaign of destroy them.  Obviously the shelter is and continues to be harmed by these political games, and Mr. Wasserbach's sham audit continues to be used as one of the tools in the arsenal against them in addition to CAPA, but there are fortunately many supporters who see through the smoke and mirrors and continue to support the shelter.  

Hopefully the county commissioners and council persons now understand why they have to listen to the constant attacks against the shelter, and now realize that these attacks will also cost them and their constituents dearly if KCSPCA is ever pushed out of dog control, because the counties will then become the objects of the conspirators attacks and attempts to drive up prices and budgets. 

County officials would be foolish to enter into a partnership that was proposed earlier this year by the state, because as they can now see, the state officials involved and their partners in collusion will eventually pass on the higher costs to the counties. Given what county officials have now had the opportunity to see in the full light of sunshine, they would have to be foolish to believe that Senator Blevins is acting in their best interest or that of their county constituents.  

In addition to KCSPCA, there are many others who have suffered as a result of theses political games.  
  • The employees at KCSPCA that lost their jobs when the conspiracy resulted in Safe Haven taking over the contract in Kent County. 
  • The Safe Haven employees that may have left other positions to end up losing their jobs when the ill prepared Safe Haven went bust within 18 months.  
  • The many creditors of Safe Haven who were left with Safe Haven debts, from the USDA to the many kennels, vets, and others.  Many companies and individuals, both in state and beyond our state boarders were impacted.
As you can see in the conspirator's discussion surrounding Safe Haven's demise, the only concern is whether their agenda has been lost.  There doesn't appear to be any regret or concern about the many people and pets that their actions have harmed with underbidding contracts to try and prove that people are wrong when we said that "No-Kill" was costly and unsustainable.  This is the reason I used the title beyond redemption, because obviously there can't be redemption for people that ignore and deny their own culpability.

Unfortunately the political games also extend beyond animal welfare, and I suspect that every audit performed during Mr. Wasserbach's tenure will also now be suspect.  I don't know what the situation was at Police Athletic League, but that audit by Mr. Wasserbach should also be questioned given the appearance of impropriety involved in Mr. Wasserbach announcing the audit to Jane Pierantozzi before it occurred, and what appears to be excitement about the fact that he will be auditing another nonprofit whose accountant may have issues with Faithful Friends as well.  



Let's hope that the shelters who have board members or executive directors involved in this mess eventually understand that these individuals are not only placing their own shelters in danger of litigation and possibly criminal investigations, but also hurting animal welfare in our state, and that these individuals are also part of the reason that nearly every shelter is suffering financially.  We certainly don't need to see another Safe Haven debacle.  Bankrupt shelters don't save any animals in the end.  

Until shelter boards and leadership roles are cleaned up of the corruption and back room conspiracies, things will never improve for animals in our state, so shining some sunlight on what has occurred will hopefully make shelter boards consider the need to clean up their own ranks so we can eventually move forward for the sake of the animals in our state.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Capitalizing On A Dead Person - A New "No-Kill" Low


It has recently come to our attention that a domain has been setup called HenryBergh.com.  It was noticed that when we went to the link we were automatically redirected to Nathan Winograd's page. Once we looked at the domain registration we realized why.  It's because the domain is owned by Nathan.


Anyone that knows who Henry Bergh is will be aware of his contribution to animal welfare, including his founding of the ASPCA, which is one of the very organization's that Nathan disparages on a regular basis.
Henry Bergh (August 29, 1813 – March 12, 1888) founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in April, 1866, three days after the first effective legislation against animal cruelty in the United States was passed into law by the New York State Legislature. Bergh also prompted the formation, in 1874, of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC). - Wikipedia
I find it deplorable that someone would use a dead man's reputation to personally benefit.  Dead men can't endorse products.  To me it is horrifying to see a commercial with a movie or TV star that has died promoting a product with old clips of that person, and I find Mr. Winograd's choice to use Mr. Bergh's name merely to draw traffic to his own site equally as horrible.

This hijacking of Mr. Bergh's name is a shameful attempt by Mr. Winograd to use the name of a dead man, a man who contributed greatly to animals, and then exploit that name to redirect traffic to Mr. Winograd's own website for his own personal gain of added traffic.

Fortunately there are organizations like the ASPCA that recognize Henry Bergh's contributions and honor his service to animals appropriately in tribute.




What a shame that Nathan and his "no-kill" followers merely use Mr. Bergh's name for their own self promotion, rather than getting off their backsides and doing the work that Mr. Bergh and so many others have done to prevent cruelty and homelessness of animals.

While many of us will continue to honor Mr. Bergh, maybe Nathan should stop robbing graves for his own benefit and get off his tail end to actually do something for animals for a change, rather that just bashing others and the very organizations that men like Henry Bergh created.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Maryland CAPA HB0876 - Unfunded Mandate & Dangerous Dogs

As bad as CAPA has been for Delaware, legislators in Maryland will surpass the foolishness of our legislature if they pass the version of CAPA that has been introduced as HB0876.

While our state has been the only state foolish enough to pass the Companion Animal Protection Act in the last 4 years, once again we are in the legislative season and state like Maryland and Florida currently have similar legislation in the works.

The Unfunded Mandate


It was nice to see that Maryland at least is honest in their fiscal analysis of the bill, although given what Delaware has seen with the many fruitless complaints and investigations, I suspect Maryland's analysis is still very conservative.


If you recall, the Delaware legislature showed it's typical lack of transparency by not including a fiscal note for CAPA (SB280) when the bill was passed here.  Many from the start said this would be an unfunded mandate, but denial in our legislature is all too common.

The State of Delaware passed CAPA in 2010, and it has been horrible legislation for the taxpayers and for the animals of our state.  We are a small state that has a population of around 900,000 people, but this legislation still had a significant impact on our state.  Here are just some of the highlights of the costs we've seen, and there is no denying that reality that CAPA is costly:

  • A new office had to be created under public health to clean up the mess that was created by CAPA at a cost of $700,000. 
  • At the same time as the costs increased, services have gone down.  (Less hours.  Shelters no longer handle other stray livestock issues, leaving residents handling sometimes dangerous situations on their own. Shelters no longer handle cruelty cases in many cases. Shelter intake of cats only occurs if a spot opens up, so cat intake rarely happens even if it is sickly or severely injured cat because of the "irremediably suffering" clause in CAPA that has cost shelters in personnel and attorney costs due to the continual complaints questioning the disposition of individual animals.)
  • Another shelter, Delaware SPCA, which has been in operation for 140 years is also teetering due to the financial costs of CAPA and becoming "No-Kill".

                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)
                2011 (120,123)
                2012    (4,782) *
                *(this loss was lowered by the investment returns of $200-300,000 more than previous                                      years, so the shelter was fortunate there was a booming stock market)

And above is just some of the monetary costs of CAPA.  This doesn't even take into account the many citizens that have had to pay the price for the many cats dumped onto their properties as a result of the doors shutting at shelters when it comes to cats.  CAPA is expensive and the costs keep coming.

Cats, Cats, & More Cats - A Public Health Nightmare


One bright spot in the first hearing of CAPA in Maryland was the testimony by Dr. Katherine A. Feldman, D.V.M., the Maryland State Public Health Veterinarian, who is clearly well qualified on zoonotic and infectious diseases.


The full public hearing can be watched at this link - SB0876.  (Also note the run around when the fiscal note and TNR are discussed by supporters.  'Shall', 'may', 'the law doesn't require' - it sounds like the same nonsense here that we hear legislators use to get around fiscal disclosure requirement. Who writes a law if they don't intend for it to require something???)  Whereas Dr. Feldman's information, was clear, direct, and straightforward.

Even if we were to ignore the cost burden that residents in Delaware have taken on as a result of CAPA and the many residents now dealing with large numbers of cats, there is also a public safety danger as well. Delaware's Public Health agency has clearly ignored that danger by not hiring a veterinarian trained in public health as we can see Maryland has.  But even without a vet, Public Health in our state does handle bites to humans, and could clearly speak up if they chose to since they obviously have medical doctors trained in infectious disease.  Unfortunately that agency in our state doesn't appear to have the same courage as Dr. Feldman to speak up on the issues even as we see continue to see hoarding issues and residents coming into contact with rabid cats.
"More than 50 cats in and around a woman's house in Bear, Del. are being killed after one of her kittens tested positive for rabies, public health officials said late Thursday." - USA Today, November 14, 2014
So advocates can play with words, and attempt to say that the same thing won't happen in Maryland, but placing unfunded mandates on communities will result in exactly the same thing as Maryland shelter doors start to shut to avoid the never ending complaints and investigations.

MD's CAPA Even More Toxic Than Delaware's - Releasing Dangerous Animals


While dangerous dogs have clearly been an issue in Delaware, it will be an even worse issue under Maryland's CAPA legislation.  Here is the verbage that takes away the ability to use temperament testing in making euthanasia decisions.  A shelter should not be required to place employees and volunteers in danger by waiting for someone to be hurt, maimed, or killed by a dog, nor should the public who is adopting be placed in danger. So it is ludicrous to take away the only tool in the arsenal for establishing whether a dog is a "clear and present danger", especially without defining what would constitute proof under number 3 of "clear and present danger".
(II) ANIMAL BEHAVIOR TESTING MAY BE THE SOLE REASON TO DETERMINE THAT A DOG MAY BE EUTHANIZED IF: 
1. THE DOG HAS BEEN DEEMED “DANGEROUS” UNDER STATE OR LOCAL LAW AND ALL APPEALS HAVE BEEN EXHAUSTED; 
2. THE DOG HAS A DOCUMENTED HISTORY OF UNPROVOKED BITING BEFORE THE CURRENT IMPOUNDMENT THAT HAS RESULTED IN SEVERE INJURY TO A HUMAN BEING OR ANOTHER ANIMAL; OR 
3. THE DOG IS A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER"
But then again, as I've said before, CAPA's ridiculous language and logic is a lawyer's best friend.

Another section that is clearly a public health concern for dangerous dogs is the section that exempts shelters from liability for releasing dangerous dogs:
"(C) UNLESS AN ANIMAL SHELTER IS GROSSLY NEGLIGENT, THE ANIMAL SHELTER SHALL BE IMMUNE FROM ANY CLAIM FOR PERSONAL INJURY OR PROPERTY DAMAGE ARISING FROM AN ADOPTION, A TRANSFER, OR THE FOSTERING OF AN ANIMAL IN THE ANIMAL SHELTER’S CUSTODY, INCLUDING A CLAIM BROUGHT BY A THIRD PARTY.
The idea of protecting shelters from liability may sound noble, but while many shelters are responsible and do their best to make sure adopters acquire a safe friendly pet, lawmakers in Maryland need to consider the fact that SOME shelters do hold and adopt out dangerous dogs, and without the ability to use temperament testing you will essentially be making every shelter make similarly poor decisions.

Case in point is the recent dog offered for adoption at one of our shelters who was declared "potentially dangerous" by a dangerous dog panel put in place by our state Office of Animal Welfare. As you can see in this dangerous dog hearing transcript,  this is not a dog that most of us would consider to be kid and dog friendly, but that is exactly how he is being marketed, despite the fact that he severely injured 2 dogs who eventually died.





It's bad enough that some shelters choose to market in this manner, but I hope that Maryland legislators don't pass a bill like CAPA that will force all of your shelters into making foolish choices like this, by no longer allowing them to use temperament tests so they can do their best to make sure a dog they hold and adopt out will not harm your children or your pets.  And if CAPA is passed in MD and a tragedy occurs, I certainly hope that residents hold the feet of any legislator that supported CAPA to the fire when a shelter dog hurts or kills someone's child, because supporting a bill that takes away a shelter's only means to ensure the safety of their staff and the safety of your residents would clearly be reckless on the part of the lawmaker that supports CAPA, not to mention taking away an adopters legal rights to seek compensation for the harm done to them.

CAPA is costly, it results in more cruelty by leaving animals on the streets to suffer, and it will affect the quality of life for your residents and their pets. Maryland CAPA (HB0876) will become a weapon of mass harassment as we saw occur in Delaware, and as such will cost even more than the fiscal note attached has estimated. So I encourage lawmakers in Maryland to vote NO on this bill so that you don't end up with the same mess that has occurred in Delaware. Your residents deserve laws that protect animals like (HB0153) which prevents dogs from being left out in extreme weather, not laws like CAPA (HB0876) that place your residents and pets in danger, and will result in more animals being left on the streets.