National Animal Shelter Appreciation/Reform Week

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), this is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week and we should all contact our local animal shelters and tell them what a wonderful job they are doing.  So I thought I would take a moment to give thanks to the job that some of the shelters, both locally and nationally, are doing.

When all the shelters have these boxes checked, then we’ll start celebrating National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week. Until then, National Animal Shelter Reform Week will be stressed to all who will listen.

Thank you so much to the shelter that kills the majority of the pit bull looking dogs they get in because, you know, it is just so hard to adopt them out. Thank you so much to the shelter that has a quota on the number of dogs that look a certain way on their adoption floor because , you know, we don’t want people to think that is all they have for adoption, so they kill all but a lucky few.  And thank you so much to the grant agency that gives them millions of dollars anyway, because, you know,  pit bull type dogs don’t count.

Thank you so much to the shelter who hires the worse possible employees that are friends of friends or municipal employees that have screwed up so badly that the town can’t trust them to  fill pot holes or empty garbage totes because, you know, cleaning dog kennels of terrified dogs, changing litter boxes of stressed and sick cats, hosing out kennels with chemical sprays that burn the dogs and tossing kibble into a bin on occasion doesn’t affect anyone other than the traumatized animals in their care, and those animals are so much less important than car tires.

Thank you so much to the shelter that uses 6-minute behavior tests to cull the animals that might take a little more effort to help because, you know, adoptable means they can go right up for adoption and you don’t have to take time away from those important things like gossiping or coffee breaks.

Thank you so much to the shelter that goes into a hoarding situation and proceeds to get all the publicity, the donations and the grants for the care of the animals and then dumps them into shelters that are going to kill them or passes them off onto rescue groups or advocacy groups that are run on shoestring budgets, because, you know,  those animals already served the purpose of increasing their coffers.

Thank you so much to the shelters that are presented with unsocialized or scared cats and proceed to either intake and kill them,  use them to hold other organizations hostage (take them or they die) or inform the public that they just can’t help, because, you know, even though they have more than enough money to help these community cats, it would be a great deal of work to actually do so.

Thank you so much to the shelter that makes it so difficult for rescue groups to take animals from them that these rescue groups take animals from out-of-state shelters instead because, you know, the shelters can then turn around and claim the rescue groups are the problem.

Thank you so much to the shelters that always ask the question, “What is in it for me” rather than “What is in it for the animals in my care,” because, you know, it’s all about them and not the animals.

So while the HSUS asks us to appreciate the animal shelters that routinely kill about 1/3 or more of the animals that come through their doors, we’ll be continuing the fight for shelter reform.  If you think these kill shelters should be celebrated, we suggest you pick up a copy of “Friendly Fire” by Nathan and Jennifer Winograd and learn of some of the dirty dark secrets of our nation’s so-called animal “shelters”.  We are proud to stand with the No Kill Advocacy Center for National Shelter Reform Week – and so should you.

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One Response to National Animal Shelter Appreciation/Reform Week

  1. Meeting: Legislative reform, Tuesday, November 13th, 6-8pm, at Erie County SPCA

    There will be a meeting on setting reform/advocacy agendas for animal welfare next Tuesday. Featured is Bill Ketzer, the ASPCA’s Northeastern State Legislative Director. Other animal advocates will be in attendance as well.

    Funny thing is, the ASPCA is not necessary the true voice for animals that it portrays itself to be (their Sarah MacLachlan commercials aside). Buffalo Humane and No Kill Buffalo-Niagara will be in attendance to express our own views of what type of advocacy we would like to see. For one thing, we do not want to see the ASPCA actively working to block key shelter reform legislation in our state. For example, ASPCA and HSUS worked actively to kill CAARA (the Companion Animal Access and Rescue Act) in NYS. Then, ASPCA wrote an alternative bill that was later tagged as the “Quick Kill Bill” because it would have allowed shelters to kill any animal immediately if they deemed it to be in “psychologcial pain” — whatever that means. Hell, they can’t even be straight when it comes to what is truly a “treatable” condition, and still hide behind “healthy/adoptable” in order to “adopt a few; kill the rest.”

    From my standpoint, I want to see some distinct reforms, not only relating to things like puppy mills and dogfighting and such, but I also want to see the big national groups like ASPCA and HSUS stop protecting abusive shelter practices and working AGAINST shelter reform. If that means rescue group reform, I’m ok with that as well. The problem is that ASPCA, HSUS, and other such supposed animal welfare groups have been the most “backward” when it comes to embracing cutting-edge innovations that save animals’ lives. They were late to embrace TNVR (Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return). They thought the Vick dogs should die because “you can’t rehabilitate dogs with a dogfight history.” (Tell that to the people who brought their beloved Vick dogs back to Bad Rap rescue for a reunion.) They hold “euthanasia” how-to workshops at high-kill shelters where people “practice” on perfectly healthy animals, since sick ones are harder to kill efficiently or easilty. They swoop in and get lots of press coverage in national emergencies and hoarding cases, only to transfer animals to kill shelters; so rather than helping animals, they are complicit in their demise.

    That said, what are key priorities for legislative reform in my book? Here are a few for starters:

    (1) Support CAARA. And if the shelters can’t stomach that, let’s at least sit across the table and hammer out something that we can ALL live with — rescue groups included. No more “Quick Kill” bills or covering up for the needless killing of animals in shelters.

    (2) Mandatory registration of and standard statistical reporting from all shelters and rescue groups within the state — even if just those who are duly incorporated and/or are 501c3 charities. You probably can’t regulate private individuals doing rescue work on their own, but the state can have basic reporting from those groups who are seeking a higher level of legitimacy, and certainly any group soliciting donations/support. My suggestion would be also to have to post certain key statistics visibly near the entrance to shelters and on homepages (which would cover shelters AND rescues): Annual live raw release rate and the percentage of ending shelter count that have been in the shelter for one year or more. That would cover the killing at traditional shelters and the warehousing at alternative shelters. Neither practice — excessive killing nor warehousing — is desirable or acceptable. This would cover self-proclaimed “no-kill” shelters that do NOT follow the No Kill Equation to move animals out of the shelter and into their own homes. But more importantly, it would cover the large traditional shelters that find it easier to kill our pets than to help them.

    (3) Legal protection for free-roaming community cats and their responsible colony caregivers. Many municipalities have “you feed ’em, you own ’em” laws, then fine people for having “too many” cats. Another problem is that the NYS Agriculture and Markets law needs to be amended so that the prohibition on “releasing” cats (which really means dumping them) is not construed to mean that “returning” cats as part of TNVR (Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return) is illegal. I’ve had more than one “dog warden” tell me that TNVR is illegal under the Ag & Mkts law.

    (4) An intelligent, reasoned policy regarding breeding, “puppy mills,” and pet dealing. I can live with responsible private breeders who have a few dogs, breed them only every other year at most, breed them only within a reasonable age range, provide home-like conditions for housing with plenty of enrichment and social interaction, and sell their puppies directly to the public (as opposed to operating as suppliers of puppies to pet shops, brokers, and dealers). But I’d also like to see an end to pet dealers, an end to “puppy mills,” and the right of any municipality to ban for-profit pet dealing of any kind within their jurisdiction. I understand that farm-animal operations get nervous here, but I believe that good legislation can be written that allows traditional agricultural operations but ends the for-profit pet industry, or at least makes that industry bear the entire cost of the consequences of their business.

    (5) Outlaw breed-discrimination. In particular, outlaw discriminatory practices in shelters (different standards for different breeds, quotas, and such), by the insurance industry, and in housing (size/weight limits might be allowed, but breed-restrictions are not).

    (6) Spay/neuter technician. We need a new licensed profession in this state. Isn’t it interesting that people can become “euthanasia techs” but only fully licensed veterinarians can perform spay/neuter. Try finding any vet who wants to do spay/neuter all day long, and do it at a price that is affordable. So, why not have a new profession geared toward existing vet techs who can become certified to do spay/neuter. That would go a long way to helping provide low-cost, high-volume, and high-quality spay/neuter for EVERYONE in our community. If the vets object, then require them, by law, to perform a certain number of free spays/neuters pro bono as a condition of holding a state veterinary license. Also, more latitude could be given to shelters and rescues to do ordinary “shelter medicine” without having to have a fully licensed veterinarian oversee standard shelter care. So long as protocols have been put in place in consultation with a veterinarian, that should be sufficient and would greatly assist shelters and rescues in stretching scarce resources.

    (7) Eliminate (even outlaw) pet licensing, unless voluntary and all proceeds go to support low- or no-cost spay/neuter. At a minimum, what about allowing a “lifetime” license for dogs that are microchipped. All that is required is to mail in a copy of any updated rabies certificate. But even so, dog licensing compliance is spotty at best. So why have it at all? If it’s about rabies vaccinations, then just have more free clinics more often, or require vets to do rabies vaccinations for free upon request.

    (8) Reform the “animal cruelty police powers” designation in NYS. Currently, one and only one non-profit animal welfare organization can have neglect/cruelty investigatory power. This often is granted to whatever organization first incorporates with “neglect/cruelty” included in its mission statement. Subsequent incorporated organizations cannot even mention “neglect/cruelty” in their mission statements or their incorporation will be rejected. If this “essential public function” is granted to a private, non-profit organization, then there need to be clear expectations and such organizations need to be open to public scrutiny. That means open meeting laws, FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) requests, open books, whistle-blower protections, and more. This should apply whether they have municipal contracts or NOT. The sun needs to shine on these shelters’ practices. And they need to be held accountable. When one private organization has the power and authority to raid and seize the animals of a competing private organization, there should be clear limits and requirements to ensure that police powers are not being abused. How sad is it to see a “kill shelter” go in to “save” the animals being “hoarded” by another shelter, only to deem them unadoptable and kill them? How is that animal protection? Isn’t death and killing the ultimate cruelty?

    (9) Truth in fundraising. It is about time that we had some basic guidelines for those who profess to help animals and solicit donations in their name. There are “truth in lending” laws. There are mandatory disclosures that must be made in all kinds of purchases (real estate, energy systems, political contribtions, etc). Shouldn’t these organizations have to make very clear and disclose explicitly there the money will be going? For what purpose? How many animals they “shelter”? What percentage come in alive and leave alive? ASPCA will never want to do this because they reap millions on the stories of animals that they do not save. But it’s about time there is a “truth in saving” and a “truth in charitable fundraising” provision in the law. Certainly, there should be for any private entity that is designated with police powers or neglect/cruelty investigatory authority.

    (10) Hold boards of directors personally liable (criminally and civilly) if they fail in their basic legal responsibilities as board members of a public nonprofit corporation. And expedite their removal by the State Attorney General, even the removal of the entire board, if warranted.

    Won’t you join us at the meeting to make it known where YOUR priorities lie with respect to animal welfare and advocacy? Just because it is featuring ASPCA, and being held at Erie County SPCA (with a mere 67% raw live release rate), don’t be deterred. Let YOUR voice be heard. We can show that we are not a fringe cult, but a group of reasonable people who have only the animals’ interests at heart. See you there, Tuesday, Nov 13, 6-8pm, Erie County SPCA, Ensminger Rd, off Military Rd, in Tonawanda.

    Carol Tutzauer
    President, Buffalo Humane
    Lead spokesperson, No Kill Buffalo-Niagara

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