Friday, August 20, 2010

Better Off Dead?

Who do you side with?

The No Kill Advocacy Center's Nathan Winograd, who says we should keep all shelter cages full to promote adoptions, isolate sick animals when necessary, foster baby kittens until they are old enough to be adopted, give every animal a chance at adoption, and keep up a strong cleaning protocol?

Or the ASPCA's assessment team member Dr. Sandra Newbury, who says we should "euthanize" animals to keep only half of available cage space open, "euthanize" animals that are sick or too young to be adopted at the moment (or too old to be adopted quickly), and keep a much smaller number of animals in foster homes?

This is a very real debate, with very serious consequences in Austin, Texas, because the ASPCA assessment team is about to release recommendations for Town Lake Animal Center. What do YOU think?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies (or, on Mandatory Spay-Neuter Laws)

Why animal advocates should never, ever, advocate for mandatory spay-neuter laws: They do not work, they have never worked, they increase shelter killing, and they divert limited funding away from programs that actually do work to decrease shelter intake and increase lives saved.

This is not to say that additional spay/neuter isn't needed in most communities. It is. Rather, it is to say that passing mandatory spay/neuter ordinances isn't an effective way to achieve greater spay/neuter compliance rates. If you want to learn more about how to effectively decrease shelter intake and increase live outcomes, read the No Kill Equation here: If you want to learn why mandatory spay/neuter laws are absolutely not the answer, read on.

Mandatory spay-neuter ordinances do not work. The ASPCA did an extensive study on mandatory spay-neuter laws and concluded that they have failed to decrease shelter intake. According to the ASPCA, there is no "credible evidence demonstrating a statistically significant enhancement in the reduction of shelter intake or euthanasia as a result of the implementation of a mandatory spay-neuter law."

Mandatory spay-neuter ordinances target the wrong population. The largest category of animals entering the shelter are feral and community cats and their kittens. These are unowned or "loosely" owned animals who no person will claim ownership of. As a result, instead of targeting the population that needs spay-neuter (community cats), the ordinances target the population that largely is already spaying and neutering their animals to the tune of 80 or 85% (pet owners). Money is virtually thrown out the window by targeting pet owners rather than the unowned animals contributing most to shelter intake. The non-profit group Alley Cat Allies has a long article explaining this phenomenon. As Alley Cat Allies explains, "Mandatory spay/neuter laws do nothing to address the real issue[s].... Instead, these laws divert public resources away from beneficial programs and into administering an unenforceable law."

Mandatory spay-neuter is extremely expensive. Enforcing the ordinance would require additional Animal Control officers and additional trucks and equipment. Just one employee and one truck would cost more than $100,000 in year one and more than $50,000 each additional year. Two would cost at least $200,000 to start. That money would come out of programs that work to save lives, like low-cost and free spay-neuter programs, Trap-Neuter-and-Release programs, foster programs for baby kittens, as well as adoption programs. In Los Angeles, mandatory spay-neuter required millions of dollars worth of additional funding at the cost of proven and workable solutions to shelter killing.

Mandatory spay-neuter laws kill more animals than they save. In Los Angeles, intake and shelter killing increased 30% after the City began enforcing its new mandatory spay-neuter program. In Kansas City, mandatory spay-neuter has been enforced by sweeps of poor neighborhoods, where healthy and loved dogs are handed over to Animal Control due to lack of funds for spay-neuter. Some cities (like Fort Worth, Texas) have abandoned their mandatory spay-neuter ordinances because the ordinances did not work.

Mandatory spay-neuter laws have negative and dangerous side effects. Cities such as Fort Worth, Texas, have experienced a decline in rabies vaccinations following implementation of mandatory spay/neuter ordinances. As a result, the public has become more at risk of rabies due to implementation of the ordinances. In addition, nearly every city to pass a mandatory spay-neuter ordinance has experienced a significant decrease in pet registrations, meaning that fewer pets who arrive at shelters are able to be reunited with their owners.

Mandatory spay-neuter laws unfairly target the poor. 90% or more of pet owners with the financial means to do so already spay or neuter their pets. The largest category of pet owners who haven't done so simply cannot afford to do so. For this group, cost--- not unwillingness--- is the primary obstacle to spay/neuter. As a result, Animal Control in Kansas City, for example, has done "sweeps" through poor neighborhoods picking up animals and killing them at Animal Control.

Mandatory spay-neuter laws promote backyard breeding and possibly even puppy mills. When Animal Control sweeps through a neighborhood and either seizes or, by "owner surrender" takes animals that families cannot afford to have spayed or neutered, families who lost their animals to the Animal Control authorities will replace it with another, feeding the backyard breeding industry and possibly even puppy mills.

Every major animal-welfare group who has studied the effects of mandatory spay-neuter laws is against them. The ASPCA is against them. So is Alley Cat Allies, the No Kill Advocacy Center, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and Best Friends Animal Society. We're not generally a group that defers to authority (and we're proud of it!), but the consensus against mandatory spay-neuter laws--- even among groups that rarely agree--- is highly compelling.

  • Thursday, August 12, 2010

    The Last Throes of the Status Quo Continue

    The last throes of resistance to a No Kill Austin continue: In this article, KUT complains of shelter employees having to work harder to save animals, and reports on allegations of "impropriety" in the No Kill movement brought by a notorious opponent of No Kill. After reading this, would it surprise you to find out that TLAC's Program Development Manager is married to KUT's Associate General Manager? The more important question is: Why isn't KUT disclosing their direct conflict of interest when they report on the shelter and specifically its employees?

    And that notorious No Kill opponent who takes issue with No Kill advocates being on the Austin Animal Advisory Commission: why didn't he ever object when No Kill opponents were on the Commission? Double standard, anyone?

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Blaming No Kill for Killing: the Desperate Last Stand of Austin's Status Quo


    It looks like the old-guard animal-welfare status quo in Austin is finally rearing its head to unleash one final and very desperate fight against the grassroots movement of hope, change, love, and life for the animals at Austin's Town Lake Animal Center. We hoped this wouldn't happen, but honestly predicted that it would because this is exactly what happened in other communities that have achieved No Kill success: the status quo lashes out against the effort intended to change it.

    First, the ASPCA "Mission Orange" program has hired a pro-killing, anti-No-Kill activist to "assess" Town Lake Animal Center right as the City embarks on its historic plan to end the unnecessary killing of lost and homeless pets in Austin. The activist in question is a notorious opponent of uncontroversial No Kill reforms (like increased adoptions and foster programs) who has gone on record arguing that (1) shelters should only use half of their cage spaces; and (2) shelters shouldn't have robust foster programs to save puppies, kittens, and medically treatable animals. Her advice has been followed--- then abandoned--- by at least one shelter in another state after following it led to a significant increase in shelter killing--- no surprise when you only use half of your adoption spaces and you indiscriminately kill to make those spaces available. We hope we're wrong, but we have every reason to believe that the Mission Orange "assessment" team will reach the same conclusions in Austin as they have reached in other cities: that we should kill more animals--- and use less of the shelter--- in order to somehow "save" animals. It doesn't make sense now, and it won't when they release their assessment either.

    And now, incendiary and false anti-No Kill propaganda from the Austin Humane Society fills our inboxes. Et tu, Brute? As hard is this is to say, the Austin Humane Society will not receive another dime of support from me. Anyone pay attention to Fox News on occasion? One of the things Fox News likes to do is ask emotionally charged, incendiary questions to imply veracity to an argument that facts do not actually support. Now we see the Austin Humane Society doing the same thing, asking in their July 2010 newsletter: "Is No-Kill Killing Kittens?"

    Well why don't we just answer the question for them: No, it isn't. Here are the facts:

    1. AHS's newsletter states that since the Austin City Council unanimously approved the No Kill plan and banned the shelter from killing healthy, adoptable animals when there are available cages to house them, "adoption numbers are not increasing." That is false. Since the No Kill plan passed, adoptions of all animals at the shelter have increased 30% this year over last year. Adoptions of cats and kittens have increased 48% this year over last year. And transfers to rescue groups have increased 59%. Far more animals are leaving the shelter alive since the Austin City Council acted.
    2. AHS's newsletter says that the city has allocated "no additional resources to accomplish [the No Kill] goal." That too is false. The City's new budget allocates an additional $800,000 to the shelter.
    3. AHS's newsletter claims that "the misconception that TLAC is now a no-kill shelter" is causing "more kittens than ever [to be] surrendered to the shelter." False again. First, while it is true that cat intake is up after the No Kill vote this year over last year, it is also true that cat intake was up before the No Kill vote. It is impossible for something that was happening before and is happening after an event (in this case, the No Kill vote) to be caused by that event. Second, dog intake is actually down this year over last year. If the No Kill vote was actually causing pet owners to surrender their animals, then why on earth would dog intake actually be down this year over last year? Is AHS suggesting that cat people watch the news but dog people don't? And third, as a requirement of the No Kill plan, Town Lake Animal Center is now informing all persons wishing to surrender an animal that the shelter is not a No Kill facility. If the "misconception that TLAC is now a no-kill shelter" actually caused someone to take a kitten to TLAC, then they would turn around and leave--- with the kitten--- once the "misconception" was cured by the shelter staff.
    4. AHS's newsletter claims that "[d]espite the hard work of TLAC staff, foster volunteers . . . are not increasing." While we have seen no published report on the number of TLAC fosters this year as compared to last year, we do know of at least one documented instance of a foster volunteering to foster a TLAC dog--- but being turned away by TLAC employees--- because the dog wasn't "young enough" to be fostered. That's right, TLAC has decided that if an animal isn't young, it's better off dead than in a foster home.

    I am, personally, incredibly disappointed in the Austin Humane Society. They have harmed the Austin No Kill movement before. They have claimed that No Kill advocates were actually barriers to success in Austin. They have supported a (now-replaced) shelter director responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 lost and homeless pets. They heavily supported closing Austin's downtown shelter and moving it to an industrial area on the outskirts of town. But falsely blaming the Austin City Council's unanimous No Kill plan, which is demonstrably saving animals, for "killing kittens" is the last straw for me.

    As a humane movement, we simply cannot support groups--- regardless of their name and history in Austin--- who wage incendiary and false attacks against No Kill reforms and policies in an attempt to take power away from a movement dedicated to saving lives. Let us not forget--- the Austin Humane Society carried the "No Kill" mantle in Austin in 1994 and, even with a multi-million-dollar grant from Maddie's Fund--- utterly failed to reach its promised goal. AHS was incapable of leading Austin to No Kill in 1994, and they evidently have not changed. Not a penny more from me. Not a penny. [Note: I'm sure AHS is shaking in its shoes not to receive my paltry annual donation...]

    What can you do? E-mail the Austin Humane Society and tell them to stop blocking No Kill reforms in Austin. Either get on the No Kill bus, or go away. Here is their e-mail address:

    Ryan Clinton

    [Added note: It is absolutely true that AHS does great work both in its adoptions and in its wonderful TNR program. This blog is in no way intended to communicate anything but the greatest respect for those programs (and probably others we don't know about). But when the powerful falsely attack the No Kill movement, as AHS did in its newsletter, their attacks deserve to be met with equivalent force. Of course we are stronger if we are all together, but that does not mean that we cannot or should not disagree. Only by questioning the status quo could we ever hope to change it.]