Redemption, a key component to reduce shelter killing

Houston, TX (Reposting my article which originally appeared in Examiner.com on 5/13/2010.  Examiner.com has shut down it’s website and the article is no longer available there, so I am re-posting it here.)

According to the No Kill Equation, “one of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims.  Sadly, besides having pet owners fill out a lost pet report, very little effort is made in this area of shelter operations.” This is deplorable because, when shelters aggressively pursue this opportunity, they are able to return a large percentage of lost animals to their families.
 
A prime example of the enormous impact that reclaims can have on life saving is Washoe County, (Reno) Nevada whose shelters reunite approximately 60% of dogs with their owners. In fact, Washoe County has one of the highest returned-to-owner rates in the nation.  They accomplished this by being proactive in their efforts, rather than blaming the community
 
Let’s compare Washoe County to BARC (Houston’s animal control facility). At the time of Nathan Winograd’s assessment of BARC in September 2009, it had 1% redemption rate for cats and a 7% redemption rate for dogs.
 

Repeat: That is a 60% redemption rate for dogs at Washoe Co. animal control, but only 7% at BARC.   

The following story is a perfect example of why BARC returns only 7% of lost dogs to owners.  Unfortunately, this example is repeated every day.
 
On March 14, 2010, Brian Simon lost his Chihuahua, Nino.  On March 15, Mr. Simon went to BARC to search for Nino. He did not find his dog so BARC’s kennel supervisor told Mr. Simon to leave his “Lost” flyer on BARC’s bulletin board. 
 
Mr. Simon was told that BARC employees looked at the bulletin board regularly to match up lost pets.  He relied on BARC’s assurances and unfortunately that was a big mistake. Those familiar with BARC know that the bulletin board is rarely, if ever, reviewed before animals are killed.
BulletinBoard2010L

Picture of BARC’s “lost pet” bulletin board in May, 2010 taken by Fox 26 Houston

Even if BARC employees were checking the bulletin board regularly, it is absurd to think that anyone could match up animals against the mountain of paper hanging there. See the picture above. It is more sickening that Nathan Winograd’s assessment report includes instructions on how to set up a lost and found program that actually works (see page 37-39), yet BARC has not even attempted to institute this program.

On March 17, two days after Mr. Simon reported Nino lost, a Chihuahua matching Nino’s description was brought to BARC.  (See below. Nino is on the left. The Chihuahua brought to BARC is on the right)  The Chihuahua at BARC had been picked up very close to the location where Nino was last seen, yet no one contacted Mr. Simon to tell him that a Chihuahua matching Nino’s description was at BARC.  

Nino-SidebySide

Dog on Left:  Picture of Nino that his owner posted on BARC’s “lost” bulletin board — Dog on Right:  Stray/lost dog that was picked up in the same area where Nino was lost, 2 days after Nino went missing

On March 21, four days after arriving at BARC, the Chihuahua was killed. It is appalling that no one attempted to find his owner and he was never considered for adoption.  See the Fox 26 news report here. 
 
Below is a picture of the bulletin board taken by Nathan Winograd in September 2009.  Compare it to the picture of the bulletin board above taken by Fox 26.  With BARC’s measly 1% redemption rate for cats and a 7% redemption rate for dogs, why has absolutely nothing changed in the last 8 months? 
BARCBulletin08-2009

BARC’s “lost pet” bulletin board in September, 2009

If we take Washoe County’s 60% percent reclaim rate for dogs and apply it to BARC’s intakes, it would translate to a staggering 8,100 dogs that are killed at BARC who are actually lost with families who want them back.* 

That is 8,100 cages, that are being used, that could instead be freed up so truly homeless pets would have more time.

This means BARC would kill 8,100 fewer animals which would also save $972,000 because it costs roughly $120 to house an animal for 3 days then kill him/her and dispose of the body.

The only reason that those 8,100 lost dogs (and many more thousands of lost cats) are being killed each year is because BARC has not instituted an effective program that would reunite these animals with their owners even though instructions for an effective program are literally sitting at BARC and at city hall.

Nino

Nino

 

So, when shelter directors or city politicians tell people that there are “too many pets and not enough homes” or claim that shelters “must” kill because irresponsible people have caused pet overpopulation, remember this story.  

Remember little Nino, and the other 8,100 dogs just like him, with families who want them back, but who will be killed at BARC this year. 

As I’ve said in previous articles, whether a shelter stops killing depends on the shelter director.  So, I have to ask, when will the Mayor and city council hire a shelter director for BARC who will pursue every avenue that has been proven to save lives?  

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Note 07/05/17:  Although the above blog was written more than 7 YEARS ago, BARC leadership still has not implemented an effective Return to Owner program. BARC’s Return to Owner rates have been appallingly low every year since this blog was written.  BARC’s Return to Owner rate was only 6.88% in 2016 — 9.68% for dogs and only 1.1% for cats. 
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An effective Return to Owner program would cost little to nothing to implement but could save literally thousands of lives, and would actually SAVE money for BARC/City of Houston because of reduced intakes.  Yet BARC’s leadership has not attempted to implement such a program.  
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This is horrendous and inexcusable.  And again, this is a shelter leadership issue.

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But, this issue has a solution….. a pink slip.

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Please SPEAK OUT for the pets at BARC and demand shelter leadership who will work hard to save lives.   Click here for an easy way to speak out for shelter pets.  It takes only seconds, but could help save thousands of lives.  

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Humane organization gives award to person responsible for the deaths of ten of thousands of pets

Houston, TX – I recently ran across the below photo.  The caption congratulates “Sherry Ferguson from the Houston Humane Society who was recognized for her hard work fighting animal cruelty”. The recognition came from the Texas Humane Legislative Network (THLN).

fergusonaward3

The Houston “Humane” Society  is a facility that KILLS 89%* of all pets entering their doors, according to their last reported Save Rate.  

In other words, nearly 9 out of 10 pets that enter the Houston “Humane” Society are KILLED.  

I’ve previously written about the Houston “Humane” Society killing a beautiful little lost dog before the city mandated 3 day stray hold period expired, and in spite of the fact that a woman begged to save her.

bellakilledbyhhs1

I’ve also written about the fact that the Houston “Humane” Society kills ALL dogs that they claim are “Pit Bulls” i.e. they kill dogs that have white fur on their necks like Bella below. 

Bella-HM

The last time that the Houston “Humane” Society was somewhat transparent with their intake and outcome numbers, they reported killing more than 15,300 pets in one year.   If the Houston Humane Society has been killing the same number of pets every year since that time, that means more than 237,000 pets have been killed by the Houston “Humane” Society, under Sherry Ferguson’s direction.

And if the Houston Humane Society has been killing the same number of pets since Sherry Ferguson was hired in 1984, they have killed more than 489,600 pets under her direction.   

Let that sink in ….. 489,600+ pets KILLED by the Houston “Humane” Society under Sherry Ferguson’s direction.  

Of course, that number could be much higher now.

For a humane organization to give an award to the person who has been responsible for that kind of mass killing of animals is truly mind boggling to me.   Even though THLN fought against the Companion Animal Protection Act (a state law that would have saved thousands, if not millions, of Texas shelter pets every year), this macabre “award” still stuns me.

I do not understand how any person, or any organization that claims to be “humane”, gets to the point where they give awards to people who have been responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of animals instead of working to protect those animals’ lives.   

Thousands, if not millions, of animal lovers were outraged when they learned that a vet killed a cat named Tiger. 

Millions of people were outraged when they learned that a dentist killed a lion named Cecil.  

Where is the outrage among animal lovers and “humane” organizations when a person kills tens of thousands of shelter pets every year for decades?  Shouldn’t we expect more from the people who are paid to care for shelter pets?   Shouldn’t we expect shelter directors to, you know, actually “shelter” pets not kill them?  

Killing is the ultimate form of animal cruelty because it is a cruelty than animals can never come back from.  They can come back from other forms of cruelty and go on to live happy lives.  We saw this with Michael Vick victims who went on to live with families after their horrendous ordeal.  But, pets cannot recover after being killed.  

So then why would a “humane” organization give an award to the person who has carried out the absolute antithesis of “fighting animal cruelty” by perpetuating the worst form of cruelty herself hundreds of thousands of times for decades?    

Let’s think of this another way:  If Child Protective Services took children from cruel or abusive situations, then turned around and killed those children, would we congratulate them? Would we call that being rescued?  Would anyone claim that CPS had worked to fight against cruelty to those children?  Would any other child-protective organization give those killers an award for “fighting cruelty to children”?   Of course not.  

The animals have no voice.   We have to be their voice.   We must stand up for what is right, and we must fight against what is wrong.  We must have the strength of character to stand up to “friends” and “humane” organizations and say “Killing pets when there are life saving alternatives is wrong and it must end.”***   

We must protect shelter pets with our voices by constantly demanding better from shelter leadership.  And we must protect pets with our wallets by not funding kill shelters, or their defenders.

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*According to the Mayor’s Task Force report. I have asked the Houston “Humane” Society to voluntarily provide their current intake and outcome numbers, but they refuse.  I have to assume that their kill rates are currently just as high, or higher now.  If their kill rates had dropped, I have to assume that they would gladly provide information to show their improvement.

** The Houston “Humane” Society is Limited Admission, meaning they can say no to intakes when they get full. 

***The solution to end shelter killing has been know for more than 15 years.  It is working in 200+ Open Admission shelters, serving 500+ cities and towns.  It works everywhere when shelter leadership comprehensively implements it. 

Will Houston shelters join the rest of the nation and stop killing for Just One Day?

JODL

Houston, TX – Just One Day is a national event in which organizers ask animal shelters across the country to stop killing on June 11 of every year.  Thousands of groups, across the nation, take part. And the results have been dramatic.  One shelter with high rates of killing stayed open for 11 hours.  Roughly 100 animals found homes, one every seven minutes the shelter was open, its most successful adoption day ever.

Another shelter opened on a day it was normally closed and placed 231 animals as a result. In still another, the director of animal control who once said that he would not hesitate to kill every community cat in the world, reported that, “The parking lot has been full since 10:00 this morning, it continues to be full. I’ve never seen so many people come out here all at one time, in one day.”

In an Arizona animal control shelter, 88 out of 100 dogs and 28 out of 30 cats were adopted by 11 am. In another community, they ran out of animals.

Yet another reported staff crying….. because they had never seen so many animals going out the front door in the loving arms of families.

For many of these shelters, it was a watershed moment. Not just because animals who would have normally been killed were saved, but because of the valuable lessons hundreds of traditional shelters across the country learned.  

One of the primary goals of the Just One Day campaign is to not only save animals through adoption on June 11, it is to get shelters resistant to the principles of the No Kill model of sheltering — of marketing animals, of asking the public for help, of being open for adoptions at times that are more convenient for the working public and families, of using the media to save lives and of partnering with rescue groups — to commit to trying these ways of operating.

JODMap

So far, 95 shelters in Texas, such as Friends For Life Animal Rescue and Adoption Organization – Houston have made the pledge.

Open Admission facilities such as Houston’s animal control facility, BARC, Pearland Pets – Animal Servicesand League City Animal Shelter have taken the pledge.

However, Limited Admission facilities such as Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society and Citizens for Animal Protection have NOT pledged to stop killing shelter pets for JUST ONE DAY.  

I have to ask why not? Shouldn’t the animal loving public and donors EXPECT them to join the nation and work to stop killing shelter pets?

Will you ask them to take the pledge?

They can take the pledge here:http://bit.ly/1sw5aq0

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Please Stop Serving the Kool-Aid

Re-printed with permission by Paw4Change

I genuinely do not seek out conflict. I am not one of those people who thrives on crisis and seeks to create drama. I know that my belief system causes me to be in conflict with others. I understand that is unavoidable. You cannot be vocal about your beliefs in the midst of people who do not agree and expect that we will all just get along without a degree of friction.

I’ve been in conflict with volunteers at high kill animal shelters for a very long time. A lot of people think I’m intolerant and I’m perfectly fine with that because I am intolerant when it comes to having my tax dollars and donations used to kill healthy and treatable animals. Although people from outside animal welfare circles may presume that we all stand for the same thing, that we all champion the cause of saving lives, that is not always the case.  As was said by one of my mentors during a radio interview last November.  No.  We cannot hug it out and just all get along.  We are two separate factions of people and we often share little in common in terms of what we value.

If you are a volunteer at an animal shelter that routinely and systematically destroys healthy and treatable pets, I will applaud you for your efforts to help animals based on a few conditions. I want you to educate yourself on programs being used across the country to save shelter pets. I want you to question why it is that the shelter in which you volunteer destroys animals when other places across the country are saving animals.  I want you to voice your protests over the destruction of animals which could and should be saved.  I want you to speak loudly and with a sense of urgency when you know that animals in the shelter have veterinary care delayed or denied, get sick due to lack of vaccinations and proper cleaning protocols or are allowed to kill each other because they were not properly housed or supervised.  I consider those acts to be criminal in nature because they amount to neglect and cruelty even if they take place inside a public building.  If you think you can do good from working inside the shelter, by all means continue to do so.

If you are a volunteer at an animal shelter that routinely and systematically destroys healthy and treatable pets and you remain silent, go along to get along or, worse yet, you defend the killing of healthy and treatable animals, you are an enabler. You are helping to perpetuate the destruction of the very animals you say you want to help. You may tell yourself that you are doing good because you are helping to care for animals in their last hours, as if their death is some foregone conclusion. That may be the case for animals which are suffering or which are so sick that they simply cannot be saved. But do not sugar coat your volunteerism and make it seem like you are rendering compassion and love to a healthy and treatable animal which is about to be destroyed for no good reason at all. And believe me, there is no good reason for that animal to be destroyed in spite of what you may have been told.

I have heard volunteers say that people who advocate for animals outside of the shelter are not “in the trenches,” do not see what they see and are part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution.  But, here’s the thing. I am working to save the lives of animals by resolving systemic issues.  I would no more set foot in a high kill shelter than I would help hunt coyotes or work in a stockyard. I do not need to be in the shelter to know that what takes place there is wrong.  I know I cannot be there because then I, too, would be complicit in the killing.

And to those volunteers who think it is appropriate to defend killing savable shelter pets, I say this: you are not only part of the problem but you are actively working to prevent the solution.

 

It has been said that some in the sheltering industry have “drunk the Kool-Aid.” That they are so close to the destruction of animals that they simply cannot see any other way to think or function.  That they believe that animals simply must die and that they are performing some morbid public service.  If you volunteer in a shelter, please.  Focus on helping animals and advocating for them from inside the system.  

Just don’t serve the Kool-Aid.

Animal shelter

Read more on this topic here:  Can’t We All Get Along, by Nathan Winograd

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Houston’s problem is not 1.2 million stray dogs

Houston, TX – In 2013 and 2014, I wrote about BARC’s ridiculous claims that there are 1.2 million strays roaming the streets of Houston.

You can read the blogs here: Repeating Lies from Kill Shelters Harms Shelter Pets and,

here:Repeating Misinformation Does Not Help Shelter Pets

The No Kill Advocacy Center wrote about the myth of pet “overpopulation” and how BARC’s absurd claims of 1.2 million strays simply cannot be true.   Click here to read more.  (Houston is discussed on pages 12-14)

Many media outlets have continued to repeat the “1.2 million strays” number over and over but have apparently failed to do any fact checking whatsoever to find out where that number came from.  Apparently, no one even pulled out a calculator to find out that “1.2. million” strays in Houston would equal 2,000 stray pets in every single square mile of Houston.

As I wrote in my blog post, “The ‘1.2 million strays in Houston’ claim is yet another fabrication spread by management of a kill shelter in order to defend and excuse their mass slaughter of shelter pets.

Not only should we animal lovers reject this absurdity, but we certainly should not repeat it. When we repeat ficticious claims, such as this number, we provide them an excuse as to why BARC is still killing over ten thousand pets per year. It allows BARC/city of Houston leadership to continue to refuse to do the work necessary to implement the programs and services that have been proven to work to save 90% to 99% of all pets in hundreds of communities. Repeating fictious information such as the “1.2. million strays” claim allows them to continue to take the easy way.

They can continue to save a few and kill the rest, and animal lovers won’t complain because they think that the situation is hopeless and they believe that BARC’s only option is to kill thousands of shelter pets. It is not hopeless and we can end shelter killing in Houston.”

Finally, a reporter has done some fact checking into BARC’s “1.2 million strays” claim!   I am grateful that Ken Hoffman actually researched BARC’s fabricated claim before printing it.

By Ken Hoffman. Reprinted with permission.

From the city that once gave us “400,000 spectators attend Thanksgiving Parade downtown” – a number that city officials now admit was ridiculous – more headlines:

“Houston’s 1.2 million stray dog problem”

“One million stray dogs in Houston”

“Houston’s dirty, furry secret”

It’s a headline that’s been out there for years – we have 1 million, or 1.2 million (do I hear 1.3 million?) stray dogs roaming our streets, wreaking havoc in neighborhoods, making residents prisoners in their homes, creating health problems.

Say something enough times, and people will accept just about anything as fact.

Houston isn’t alone.

In 2012, a Rolling Stone headline declared, “City of Strays: Detroit’s Epidemic of 50,000 Abandoned Dogs.”

Let’s crunch some numbers. Detroit covers 139 square miles. If there were 50,000 stray dogs, that would have been 360 stray dogs per square mile. It wouldn’t have taken until 2012 to cry epidemic.

That’s when Tom McPhee and World Animal Awareness Society entered the Motor City. Using scientific survey methodology, including sending volunteers into the field, McPhee studied and counted stray dogs for two years. It was the first time anybody had done a responsible, accountable census of stray dogs there. His findings:

There were – and this is stretching it – 3,000 stray dogs in Detroit, a figure that may be knocked down to 1,000 by the time McPhee concludes his research.

A Detroit columnist jumped on McPhee’s report:

“Hey, guess what? Turns out there aren’t 50,000 stray dogs roaming the streets of Detroit. It seems the number is closer to 3,000. It’s a far cry from 50,000, a figure that a host of national publications swallowed with an embarrassing gullibility. Folks in the city would hardly be able to step outside without being surrounded by a dog pack.”

The thing is, 3,000 stray dogs, or 1,000, that’s a major problem. Especially when it’s your neighborhood with the problem.

But let’s get a grip, Houston, 1.2 million stray dogs?

Houston covers 600 square miles. We’ll be nice and use the lower number. One million stray dogs are marauding our streets?

Houston would have 1,666 stray dogs per square mile. And that’s every square mile in Houston.

Including River Oaks, Tanglewood, Memorial and many more well-maintained, patrolled areas that virtually have NO stray dogs. I’m not talking about Scruffy getting out of the backyard for an hour, until he’s picked up by a friendly neighbor.

Put it this way, if Houston really had 1.2 million stray dogs, many neighborhoods would look like the migration scene from “Lion King.” There would be an army of dogs, 100 across and 100 deep, pouring down Westheimer.

Hey, guess what?

The 1.2 million stray dog figure makes 400,000 people at the Thanksgiving parade look like a lowball estimate.

Why do we constantly hear that there are 1.2 million scavenger mutts on Houston streets? Where did this number come from? Why isn’t anybody challenging it?

It came from the city a few years ago. And to be fair, the city originally said “1.2 million stray animals” – dogs and cats. The media is to blame for headlines and reports repeating the number as “1.2 million stray dogs.

“We’ll go with dogs and cats here. I asked the city’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, how on earth did you come up with 1.2 million stray animals in Houston? A spokesperson said that BARC has never conducted a physical survey of Houston’s homeless animal population. It just doesn’t have the budget for that. Instead, it used a math formula hodgepodged from a couple of sources.

Here’s the explanation from BARC: “The North Shore Animal League is the self-proclaimed world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization. The North Shore Animal League says that each day 10,000 people are born in the U.S. and each day 70,000 puppies and kittens are born. Animals are reproducing at alarming rates. If half of these animals live, that’s 12,775,000 animals born in the U.S. each year. Even if only 33 percent survive, that is still a whopping 8,431,500 animals born in the U.S. each year.”

The ASPCA says: “It is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States; estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.”

BARC, which takes in about 2,000 animals each month, concluded, “4.25 million people live in Harris County, which is 1.36 percent of the total population of the U.S. If the stray cat population (70 million) mirrors the U.S. population, that’s 952,000 cats. If you add about 300,000 stray dogs (or owned dogs allowed to roam) then Houston has over 1.2 million stray animals.”

BARC said its 300,000 stray dogs figure is an estimate.

Houston is about to find out how many stray dogs really roam our streets.

McPhee and World Animal Awareness Society, as they did in Detroit, are here counting stray dogs in all far reaches of Houston. This time, in addition to sending teams of volunteers from local animal welfare groups into neighborhoods, McPhee is using a high-powered, camera-equipped drone to fly above areas most troubled by stray dogs.

McPhee is gathering footage for a proposed TV series called “Operation Houston: Stray Dog City.”

I know, Space City or Bayou City or Clutch City or H-Town, heck, even Screwston sound a whole lot nicer than “Stray Dog City.”

McPhee will be here for about 10 more days, doing research and counting dogs. In early June, he will hold a press conference, show the pilot episode of “Stray Dog City” and announce a real number of stray dogs in Houston.

I asked him, are we going to have another Detroit, where you come up with a figure way, way lower than what’s been used for years?

He said, “I believe the number will be demonstrably different than the number that you’ve seen in headlines.”

Why are you making my job hard? Will the number be demonstrably higher or demonstrably lower?

“I don’t suspect that it will be higher.”

McPhee wouldn’t give me his early guess on the number of stray dogs in Houston. He doesn’t pull numbers out of thin air – where his drone will operate. But …

“I’ve found that, when a resident sees a stray dog, and tells other people, who tell other people, it becomes 100 dogs,” he said.

Read Ken Hoffman’s article in the Houston Chronicle here.

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Photos from Ken Hoffman’s article:

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