Friday, October 28, 2011

San Antonio redefines no kill

To Adopt Pumpkin, e-mail
Hound.haven AT gmail DOT com
What is no kill?  Sometimes there is confusion over the meaning of no kill.  

First, no kill does not mean saving every animal.  That would be cruel. There are always going to be animals that are so ill or so injured that they cannot be humanely left alive.  And there will be damaged dogs with behavioral problems who cannot be safely allowed to live. (Feral cats are trapped, neutered, and returned under no kill.)

Second, no kill is not an abstract ideal to be worked toward but never achieved.  There are no kill communities all across the country.   Austin implemented no kill via the ballot box while San Antonio erected billboards.  So no kill is happening, just not here.  If the San Antonio City Council ever gets serious about no kill, we will not be the first, just the slowest.

No kill is quantifiable.  A shelter that saves 90% or more of the animals that enter their doors is considered no kill.  That is 90% of all the animals, not 90% of the animals deemed healthy and adoptable.  There are ways to cook the books that could make butchers look like they are making progress -so the no kill percentage is based on all the animals that enter a facility.

For example:  

"[San Antonio's] definition of No Kill is that 70 percent of healthy, adoptable animals that come into the shelter are adopted out."  

San Antonio has no right to declare that saving 70% is no kill.  There is a consensus that saving 90% of all shelter animals, not just healthy/treatable animals, is the minimum standard to be called a no kill shelter

Recently the Animal Care Service's (ACS) began to break out the percentage of healthy and treatable animals in their monthly report.  For example, September figures are:
A: Live Release (Healthy/Treatable only): 47.51 %
B: Live Release : 34.17 %
"A" is an attempt to show progress where there is no progress, generally treatable conditions, such as ringworm or kennel cough, are deemed untreatable - thus making it look as if almost 50% of the animals who enter the shelter are adopted or rescued.  

At any rate, the stat in A has no bearing on no kill.  B is the stat with direct bearing on no kill, because no kill is a percentage of all animals.  This prevents shelters from "laundering" animals through a medical exam so that they disappear from the equation

In 2010, San Antonio took in 25,183 animals and killed 18.457.  However you define it, "no kill" is not even on our horizon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

San Antonio Animal Control kills dog

To Adopt Christine, contact  Hound.haven AT gmail DOT com
KSAT reported last week on a dog that was euthanized by San Antonio Animal Care Services (ACS) before he could be adopted.  Since ACS took in 1,800 dogs last month and killed 1,200, this was not really news, except that someone noticed this dog died.  

The story brought to attention how difficult it is to adopt an animal from the pound in San Antonio. 

Here is what happened:
  • ·         a woman saw a dog on the ACS website
  • ·         she went to ACS and visited the dog
  • ·         she noted the website said: “may be available for adoption on October 5th.”
  • ·         she returned on October 5th and was told the dog had been killed at 8 A.M.
The dog was killed because 72 hours had passed and he did not go home and no request for him was made by a rescue organization or a potential adopter.  The woman did not realize that she had to make a request.  She thought, quite understandably, that it was first come, first served and she showed up promptly hoping to adopt her choice.

It is not possible to just walk around ACS and browse, so presumably this woman was allowed back in the kennel area by staff.  (ACS has no adoption center.)  Why wasn’t she told she had to submit an application?  Why didn’t someone ask her if she saw an animal she liked?  In short, why isn’t an effort made to encourage interested people to take an animal home?

If the city were serious about no kill, ACS would be trying to fill the arms of everyone who visits that shelter.  Instead, even the basics of how to adopt were not clear to someone who looked at the website and visited in person.

The news story concluded with an ACS staff person vowing the website would be made clearer. 

Here is the revised website: 

“My release date is on Oct 07, 2011.”

It does not say, “release date from life,” which is what it likely means.

So where it formerly said “may be available for adoption” – it now says “release date.” 

This is not clearer. If anything, it is more obscure because at least adoption is a word the public understands.

 “Release” means the animal will be killed if not spoken for before that date – and that result must be made explicit.  If you do not already know it, meaning if you are not part of the rescue community or on ACS staff, you will not divine it from this so-called clarification

Why not say “probably be killed” as in:  I have been at the shelter since Oct 03, 2011. I will probably be killed Oct 07, 2011, unless reclaimed or requested for adoption prior to that date.

This has the advantage of being clear and forceful and would likely encourage those with an interest in adopting to make a decision.  It is a very simple way to make it clear what happens to animals left at ACS and would be a good no kill strategy.  Shelters working toward no kill do everything in their power to tell the public that animals are going to die.

Before ACS moved to the new location, staff used to tell the anxious public dropping off animals that those animals would probably be adopted.  Sometimes the people might have tried to find another option, but they were reassured by this message.

Volunteers wanted to discourage drop-offs by telling people the truth: those animals would almost certainly be killed.  Now ACS policy is clearer and if you ask, you will likely be told that only the lucky few leave the facility and you need to find an alternative to ACS if you want your dog or cat to live.
Why is the website still following the old philosophy?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Will new San Antonio animal adoption center be on task?

To Adopt:  Hound.haven AT gmail DOT com
Attempting to build a no kill community without an adoption center is like promising to take your kids to Disney World without ever setting aside vacation money.   It is not a serious attempt – just an empty promise to make you look good. 

However glacial progress is being made and the public is invited to see the design for the new adoption center.  Note it is not called an “adoption center,” but an Animal Care Facility. 

Please join us at the Witte Museum Ballroom, 3801 Broadway, for a Public Meeting to present the Design Concepts for the Animal Care Facility. The meeting will be held on Monday, October 10, 2011, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.  The facility will be built in Brackenridge Park on Tuleta Street near the San Antonio Zoo.

Here is a preliminary description from the new strategic plan of the new 2 million dollar facility:

Build spay/neuter clinic (more surgeries) and education center with adoption center in FY 2012

If the uses of this new Animal Care Facility are listed in order, it will primarily be a spay/neuter clinic, secondarily an education center and lastly, (of least important?) an adoption center.

The experts from Reno (Washoe County) were in town recently explaining how to create a no kill community.  Their success is even cited in the strategic plan.  However, it apparently went unnoticed that their recommendation is that Animal Care Services get out of the spay/neuter business.

The no kill experts believe spay/neuter is best left entirely to partner organizations who can and are doing a better job.  It is said that the spay/neuter clinic at Animal Care Services is underutilized.  There is also apparently a problem right now hiring veterinary staff – perhaps because most vet staff do not want to spend their day killing animals; it is not what drew them to become veterinarians and vet techs.  So why is a second clinic part of the design for the adoption center?

San Antonio has several excellent low cost spay/neuter organizations.  Rather than spend money on a second clinic for ACS, put that money toward mobile units to be operated by ACS partners and take ACS entirely out of this business.  This frees up more space for the animals at the adoption center.

Second item in the description is an education center.  At the talk recently, Bonney Brown from Reno was blunt about the worth of education. It is not worth the lives it takes when money is spent for education that could be spent on saving animals.

 According to Bonney, killing is seen as a failure.  Priority one is life saving and trumps everything else. Careful analysis has to be made of programs and programs without immediate impact have to be let go.  She explained Reno would have loved to keep doing some things if they had endless resources, but they applied a life saving impact test and humane education programs did not make the cut.   

In her words, “We used to do a tremendous amount of outreach to schools, very expensive and a lovely thing to do,  but we didn’t have the luxury of doing everything not immediate life saving.”

So the idea that precious space in the adoption center would be given over to an education center is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to build a No Kill community.

Nathan Winograd created the first no-kill shelter in Tompkins County, New York. He is arguably the father of no-kill shelters and certainly the driving force behind the movement in this country. When he took over as director at Tompkins County, he eliminated the humane education budget.

“I couldn’t find a single study that showed measurably that if you invest X dollars in humane education, that is what you get back,” Winograd says. “Humane education once or twice a year doesn’t get the message ingrained.” The result was that the $30,000 allotted to humane education was transferred to medical care.

A few years ago San Antonio ousted shelter management who were anti-adoption and anti-rescue, yet the city government went ahead and built a new Animal Care Facility designed by that murder minded management.  It was sited where it would not be convenient to the public, but where it would be convenient for killing animals.  It had and still has no adoption center.

Now San Antonio appears to be preparing a new Animal Care Facility with a multi-focused (or perhaps this might be better termed "unfocused") approach.  It needs to be one thing.  It needs to be an adoption center.  Not a clinic.  Not an education center. 

Use the education center funds to also put an adoption center in the current shelter.  When you think no kill, think two adoption centers, not two spay/neuter clinics.

No kill is like going on a diet.  It is never going to work until you start making the hard decisions.  Turn over spay/neuter to those groups in San Antonio who are already doing a better job.  Put education on the back burner until we are a no kill community.  Not killing is the best lesson we can teach.

Monday, October 3, 2011

When will San Antonio stop killing animals?

To Adopt "Copper:  Hound.haven
AT gmail DOT com
San Antonio’s No Kill 2012 strategic plan was a failure.  It was so bad that when it was abandoned earlier this year, the number of animals killed in San Antonio was increasing annually.  In other words, we could not have come up with a worse No Kill plan.

You would think that would mean San Antonio would realize inventing our very own unique untried No Kill plan had been a bad idea and we would now look to the leaders in this area for expertise on implementing No Kill.

Not San Antonio!  Here we go again.

Item 4 on the failed plan was “Implement effective public policy and ordinances”

Experts on No Kill point to enforcing ordinances as a way to end up with more animals. 

No Kill experts from Reno, where they have had a No Kill shelter for years, visited San Antonio recently and put on an excellent public seminar.  Our Mayor and other architects of the new No Kill strategic plan were in attendance.

The experts specifically discussed enforcing ordnances and how it was counter-productive to No Kill.

What Reno animal control does is return animals.  If a tagged or chipped animal is picked up in the field, the driver takes the animal home.  That animal is not taken back to the shelter where maybe he will stay.  The idea is to keep animals out of the shelter and reduce the shelter population.  Repeat offenders get a ticket and if necessary the ticket will be sent to a collection agency.

Here is why enforcing ordnances does not work.  Sad to say, but some people do not place the same value on their dog or cat as they do on their car or driving.  So they might pay parking tickets and tickets for moving violations, but if they have to go somewhere and pay to get their animal back, they might not do it.

If an animal with ID is taken back to the shelter instead of returned, that means the shelter now has another animal that needs to be fed, cared for, and in the case of San Antonio, probably killed. 

It is not cheap to kill animals.  The cost-saving method is to return roaming animals if at all possible.  It also increases good will in the community.

So you would assume that failed Item 4 was dropped from the new No Kill strategic plan for a) not working before and, b) being advised against by all the experts.

Wrong!  Item 4 has been promoted! 

This is from the so-called new plan:
Priority #1: Enhanced Enforcement

·         Better enforcement of existing animal care codes; and
·         The development of new codes to address current challenges

When will San Antonio stop killing and start to listen?