Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Cat's Life In Delaware

The kitten article on WBOC should be an eye opener to some today. This is what life looks like in a state without an open access shelter for cats & kittens, after the costs of CAPA forced Kent County SPCA to no longer continue open access for cats.
"When I found them, it looked like someone took a lighter to their eyes, they didn't have any fur around their eyes. Their eyes wouldn't open. They were in pretty bad condition. Their spines were showing, they were really skinny," she said. "We couldn't get them to eat or drink." 
After bringing them to her house she believed the next step for the kittens would be a trip to the Kent County SPCA. 
"I just took them and I thought the SPCA would take them the next day and I went there and they wouldn't take them," she said - WBOC Article 6/22/12
This is what people are dealing with in our post CAPA world. What the girl in the story needs to understand is that this is what the brave new world of "no-kill" looks like.  Tens of thousands of cats and kittens left on the street -  many with eye infections, worms and parasites, emaciated, and fight wounds.  Not my idea of humane, but apparently this is what Delaware's legislature and governor wanted when they passed CAPA. 

There's no magic cure as they would have you believe. It's just a difference in how they die - by painless injection at the shelter that used to be done, or now by disease, under someones car tires, or by trauma inflicted by other wildlife like foxes and coyotes. Just so our "no-kill" groups can claim success of meeting an arbitrary number to impress their friends at their next convention.

Sadly we're starting to see other localities considering the "leave cats on the streets" approach.

Sutter County, Take Heed of Delaware's Example
"Beginning Sept. 1, the animal control officers will stop picking up healthy cats and stop accepting feral ones brought to the shelter on Second Street in Yuba City." - 6-19-12
This policy was decided based on a recommendation by Kate Hurley, director of the U.C. Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program.  While I usually respect Dr. Hurley's opinion, I disagree with her assessment in this case. The state of Delaware has been an experiment in what doesn't work. Currently, not one of our shelters has open access for cats, so we've had the opportunity to see what this approach looks like. There are groups doing TNR throughout the state, but as is the case in most communities, there are limited resources. As a result, I don't think there's anyone in this state that isn't dealing with more cats now than they were before. There are people dealing with 10, 20 and I've even heard reports of 30 cats on a property. 

As the assessment stated, this choice in Sutter County was made due to the financial constraints of a lower income community. Well how are these lower income residents going to find money in their budgets to spay neuter cats that they don't own, but dropped their babies under the resident's shed?  I guarantee that the shelter and county officials will hear from individuals dealing with this situation time and again as you go forward with this plan.

Some of those callers will be in tears because they don't know what to do as they can't afford to get them spayed, and are frustrated because the number on their property keeps getting larger. Some will tell you that they know they should have drowned the kittens, but didn't have the heart to. That won't be the person to be concerned about, it will be the ones that don't call that will harm the animals. You will even get grown men nearly in tears because they can't watch the kittens starve, but are barely getting by themselves. It seems to me that this policy is merely shifting the burden onto the unlucky individual that has a couple litters dropped on their property, and that makes it their problem and not the communities. So lets be honest, they won't be "community cats", they will be the burden of the residents who draw the short straw.

I'm not saying TNR isn't a tool to help control the population if it is done responsibly. And I'm not saying euthanasia is the only way either. But there needs to be a balanced approach that includes all the tools in the box to keep the situation from getting out of control.  We all know the kitten story above isn't an isolated case, this is the sad fate for so many cats in our state now. 

Other Delaware News

I was a little confused by a letter posted on the Kent County SPCA website, which was sent out by one of our Kent County Commissioners:
Commissioner Buckson has sent this email out to Board Members and government officials: 
The statement in quotes and copied below was taken from the KCSPCA website that I reviewed tonight. 
"The Kent County SPCA spent months in negotiations and conversations with the Kent County Levy Court Commissioners, but no agreement was reached" 
I want to state for the record that this statement is FALSE. As I told you in my previous email, the only conversations referencing contract negotiations occurred on June 5th. If Kevin Usilton is responsible for maintaining the site, I question his integrity. If he is not responsible for the site, I question his leadership in not removing the statement because he knows first hand that it is misleading at best. 
Misleading statements like these are why I implore the board to lead and not follow. 
The commissioner implies that there has been no "conversations" regarding the contract prior to June 5th. Seriously, did I imagine the 3/6/12 discussion where KCSPCA tried to impress on the commission that their expenses were higher due to CAPA?  As I recall, the commission stated that CAPA was not their problem even though the hold period and additional steps required also applies to stray animals taken in under their contract. Here's the meeting of 3/6 if anyone wants to watch. Whew, glad to see I didn't imagine it.

And yes, after that 3/6 meeting, there were some that could see the denial was not going to be good for Kent County.  Well, actually that was me.

Of course, this is also how the June 5 meeting started out as well. The costs of CAPA is not the counties problem.

So, if the county has to setup and run their own shelter, will CAPA be their problem now? Absolutely.

Will the county have to pay expenses for vaccinations in 8 hours, a vet exam within 72 hours, personnel to deal with rescue transfers, funds required for care of animals under foster care, personnel to answer phone calls from citizens looking for their dog? Yes again.

So the commissioners can live in a fantasy world where they don't think CAPA applies to them, but the reality is it does, so they better take this into account as they consider all the alternatives. Denial didn't work on 3/6, and it doesn't work now.  KCSPCA didn't do this to you, state legislators and your governor did.

I've also enjoyed watching the discussion on a local message board.  I even managed to stay out of that discussion since there appears to be other county residents that can also see the writing on the wall about what this may cost local taxpayers.

And just so everyone has a nice little reminder that the clock is ticking, I added a cute little Java countdown clock on the side of the page so Kent County residents will know how much longer they have until they will need that pepper spray.