Gains against pet overpopulation come as others seek basic services
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1997:
SAN MATEO, Calif.––Two years after the
Homeless Cat Network and the Peninsula Humane Society
began formal cooperation, the homeless cat population of San
Mateo County is reportedly down by half.
So far, 111 volunteers are looking after 129 homeless
cat colonies. All cats have been neutered and vaccinated. Cats
who can be handled are removed from the colonies and adopted
out. The number of cats within the monitored colonies fell
from 1,215 in 1995 to just 658 after the 1997 kitten season,
while 540 cats were placed in homes.
The results mirror the earlier success of
neuter/release, vaccination, and adoption efforts coordinated
by the Stanford Cat Coalition, just to the south, and the San
Francisco SPCA, just to the north––and also replicates the
experience of individual cat rescuers across the U.S., surveyed
by ANIMAL PEOPLE in 1992 and 1995.
Through the advent of high-volume, low-cost neutering,
and the largely self-financed work of thousands of local
rescue and neuter/release volunteers, the number of animals
entering U.S. and Canadian animal shelters may be at a 70-year
low. Yet because public expectations have changed even faster
than shelter intakes have dropped, overcrowding seems at least
temporarily worse in many regions.
Pressured animal control directors try to cut killing
rates by keeping animals longer and encouraging cooperative
no-kills to take animals for adoption.
Humane societies that hold animal control contracts
are increasingly eager to drop those contracts to refocus on lowcost
neutering and adoption, pursuing the San Francisco model
for creating no-kill cities. But municipal governments are not
so eager to take on animal control duties that the humane societies
have usually handled at a loss.
No-kill shelters are meanwhile stressed by increasing
demand that they should accept all animals brought to them,
not just those suitable for adoption or longterm residence in a
The stresses converged with tragic consequence
recently in Van Nuys, California, where the Los Angeles
Board of Animal Regulation on July 7 seized 589 cats and 28
dogs from the former Pets for Life no-kill shelter and closed it
due to unsanitary conditions. Authorities said at least 275 animals
were either dead of disease and starvation, or required
euthanasia to relieve suffering. Doris Romeo, 58, who began
Pets for Life in 1990, was charged with cruelty and neglect.
She was released after posting bail of $20,000.
Former Board of Animal Regulation general manager
Gary Olsen repeatedly intervened over more than a year’s time
to prevent his staff from closing the Romeo operation, the Los
Angeles Daily News disclosed on October 7. Animal control
officer Tim Goffa reportedly wanted to shut Pets for Life back
in April 1996, memos indicated. In December 1996, West
Valley Shelter supervisor Richard Felosky asked Olsen what to
do about recurring public complaints, “in view of…written
comments reporting that you want no further action.”
An Associated Press follow-up charged that,
“Animal Regulation commissioners and city hall officials openly
encourage officers to look the other way at unlicensed rescuers
because animal rights groups complain about the department’s
euthanasia rate––about 47,000 animals a year.”
Board of Animal Commissioners member and
American Humane Association western region office director
Gini Barrett puts the number higher, at 55,000 a year.
However, at either 13.4 or 16.4 animals killed per
year per 1,000 human residents, the Los Angeles city animal
control shelters are killing at only about two-thirds to three
quarters of the national average rate.
Olsen, 53, a 27-year Board of Animal Regulation
employee, was named general manager in January 1994, after
five months on the job in an interim capacity toward the end of
a two-year search for a successor to previous general manager
Robert Rush. Olsen retired effective October 1, replaced by
former deputy mayor for neighborhood and community affairs
Sharon Morris. Seeking a new image, the Board of Animal
Regulation has renamed itself the Animal Services Department.
Seeking more clout against pet overpopulation, the
Board of Animal Commissioners on October 14 accepted a recommendation
from a Pet Population Task Force it appointed in
July 1996 that the Los Angeles dog licensing law be restructured
so that owners of neutered dogs would pay only $10 per
year; owners of intact dogs who qualify as “responsible owners”
by meeting particular criteria would pay $35/year; and
other owners of intact dogs would pay $500/year. This would
be by far the widest licensing differential in the U.S., and
would come just as studies are beginning to establish that wide
differentials act as disincentives for both licensing and reclaims
of unlicensed dogs found running at large. The Department of
Animal Services was instructed to have the recommendation
drafted as an ordinance. If approved by the Board of Animal
Commissioners, as expected, the ordinance would then be sent
to the Los Angeles City Council.
Also in October, the West Valley shelter began a
volunteer kitten fostering and socialization program, modeled
after similar programs in San Francisco and Santa Barbara.
Across the U.S., in Westchester County, New York,
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals “has asked a court
to close the no-kill Elmsford Animal Shelter because of overcrowding,”
Evelyn Nieves of The New York Times reported on
September 21. The PETA complaint was apparently based on
allegations issued by former Elmsford Animal Shelter manager
Dana Rocco and volunteer Marsha Svirsky, supported by other
Similar allegations amplified by others in 1990
included claims that Elmsford had been shielded from cruelty
prosecution by regional animal control agencies, including the
American SPCA, because it accepted high-profile animals
whom animal control staff might otherwise have had to kill due
to lack of adoption prospects.
Whether or not this was ever true, Nieves noted that,
“For at least a quarter century, the shelter has been fighting
with the Westchester County Health Department, and receiving
negative publicity for having more animals than it should.”
Operated by the Central Westchester Humane
Society, and long directed by Mildred “Mimi” Stone,
Elmsford is perhaps the only no-kill shelter in the greater New
York City area that reputedly accepts most animals brought to
it. Designed to hold a maximum of 190 animals, the original
shelter routinely held at least 350, according to media
accounts. A new shelter with a capacity of 1,000 animals
opened in 1994, but 590 dogs and 685 cats were reportedly on
the premises in mid-September 1997.
At deadline ANIMAL PEOPLE had received no
word on the outcome of the PETA petition.
The Humane Society of North Texas entered October
still housing 20,000 animals a year for Fort Worth animal control,
a year after serving notice that it wished to quit, but in
September it did get a pay raise. Formerly paying the humane
society $6.00 per animal day, the city will now pay $7.25 per
day, at least until the end of March, when the deal will again
be up for renewal. The society had lost money at the old rate,
even though it was nearly double the 1991 per diem.
Construction of a Fort Worth city shelter began in
September, and won’t be done before June. The job was
delayed when last April the city council balked at paying $2.2
million for 21,000 square feet of space, and ordered that the
plans be scaled back. Material costs meanwhile escalated. The
council will now pay $2.57 million for only 18,068 square feet.
The town council of Flower Mound, Texas, near
Fort Worth, has for four years rejected requests from police
chief Dave Brungardt for the funding to build a shelter, while
the estimated cost has climbed from about $500,000 to circa
$800,000. Veterinarian O.J. Shaffer had impounded as many as
900 animals a year for Flower Mound, human population
38,000, but recently quit, obliging the city to parcel impounded
animals out among three other veterinary clinics.
Threatened with closure by the Connecticut
Department of Agriculture due to alleged overcrowding, the
Stamford Animal Control Center since mid-August has refused
to take in cats. “We do not do strays,” Stamford director of
public safety, health, and welfare John Byrne told media.
“Strays will just be strays.” Although Connecticut law does
not require animal control departments to pick up cats, most
added cat control to their mandatory dog control duties after
raccoon rabies hit the state in 1991. Just under 2% of the 200-
plus rabid animals discovered in Connecticut last year were
cats; 70% were raccoons; and most of the rest were bats.
Inundated with 172 cat dropoffs in the second week
of September, a wholly unexpected surge for that long after
peak kitten season, the Humane Society of Ottawa-Carleton
took a different approach. Appealing to the public for emergency
help, the society had within a week placed 147 of the
cats in homes. The late surge in cat arrivals, also noted in
other Canadian cities, may be an indirect effect of El Nino and
global warming, as warmer ocean currents causing warmer
northern air streams might have stimulated the arrival of second
litters in climates where single litters are more the norm.
Sometimes a shelter can’t win, as progress by
humane standards may offend a contentious part of the public.
Adding outdoor dog runs earlier this year to relieve canine
stress, for instance, in August brought the Fond du Lac
Humane Society, of Wisconsin, a police summons due to
neighbors’ complaints about barking.
The Vermont American Civil Liberties Union in midSeptember
sued the North Country Animal League, of
Morrisville, for allegedly “stealing” a German shepherd named
Billy from Chasidy Lamare and Charles Arnold, of Wolcott.
Kept tethered outdoors, Billy escaped in early summer, and
after a week with the local dogcatcher, was brought to the shelter.
The shelter had approved the adoption of Billy to another
family when Lamare and Arnold arrived. They applied to
adopt Billy back, but their application was rejected.
“They didn’t meet the requirements,” NCAL attorney
Rebecca Olsen told Associated Press. “This dog had never
been inside. Neighbors complianed that he was mistreated. He
got loose, they wait a month, make no telephone calls to either
the dogcatcher or the humane society, and all of a sudden, I
get the feeling, because there may be some money involved,
they really want this dog.”
The suit is expected to be a first test of the breadth of
a September 5 Vermont Supreme Court ruling that a dog named
Max belonged not to original owner Zane Kroupa, but rather to
rescuer Mary Morgan, who found Max at large in mid-1994
and advertised unsuccessfully to find his owner. Although
Kroupa had reported the lost dog to the Addison County
Humane Society, and Morgan reported the find to the same
organization two weeks later, no one made the connection until
friends of Kroupa recognized Max more than a year later.
Both Vermont cases highlight the paradox that as
humane societies and animal control agencies in some locales
mop up pet overpopulation, humanitarians in other areas are
still fighting to establish even minimal animal care-and-control
standards, including the authority of humane societies to take
possession of any but owner-surrendered animals.
A campaign by Voices for Animals, of Tucson, to
reform animal control in Cochise County, Arizona, and the
city of Willcox brought improvements last year, among them
cessation of the practice of having fire department personnel
shoot strays. Multiple charges of malfeasance were brought
against Cochise County animal control officer Gary Wojcik,
who was also suspended and demoted, but Voices spokesperson
Lisa Markkula was disappointed on October 9 when prosecutor
Jack Williams, of Graham County, let Wojcik plead
guilty to three misdemeanor counts of failing to euthanize animals
according to state law and failure to observe a mandatory
three-day holding period. This allowed Wojcik to avoid jail
time and keep his job.
In St. Clair County, Missouri, local activist Kelly
Forbes and Madison County Humane Society officer Ledy
VanKavage are trying to get the board of supervisors to set up
an adoption program for impounded animals. Only in late July
did the supervisors finally agree to require county animal control
to kill all but rabid and “vicious” animals by injection
instead of in an old gas chamber.
Twenty of the 120 counties in Kentucky still have no
shelter, and are under legal pressure from Randy Skaggs of the
Trixie Foundation, an Elliot County no-kill shelter, to comply
with a 1954 law which requires that they should have impoundment
facilities for rabies control. Showing what can be done
with good will, the Paris Animal Welfare Society, of Bourbon
County, Kentucky, in October opened a new 19-dog-run, 17-
cat-cage shelter to replace the old six-run county facility,
which had nowhere for cats. The county kicked in just $25,000
of the $250,000 cost, and the city of Paris put up only $5,000,
but a California foundation gave $20,000, and PAWS volunteers
raised the rest in a three-year campaign.
Garner, North Carolina, on September 29 indefinitely
postponed action on alderman Gra Singleton’s motion that it
should comply with the Wake County animal control ordinance
by designating an animal control officer and spending less than
$1,000 to buy dog and cat traps. Garner presently spends
$7,600 a year to contract for animal control sheltering services
with the Humane Society of Wake County, but refers animal
control calls to the police. Of about 500 calls per year, police
chief Tom Moss said, about 100 bring an animal capture.
Larger towns in the same area have similar problems,
as animal control arrangements often haven’t kept up with community
growth. An internal audit of the Durham County ani-
mal control system, the Raleigh News & Observer
recently reported, “found that the agency is plagued
by poor record-keeping, staff shortages, a lack of
direction, and conflicting guidelines for animal control
officers.” County animal control director Stan
Bragg had requested authority to hire five more officers,
to bolster his staff of six to cover a 300-squaremile
area. He will be allowed to hire one, in
Dorchester County, South Carolina, in
mid-October had gone two weeks with no fulltime
animal control officer, after both the one fulltimer
and the only regular part-timer quit in September.
Even when both were on duty, the county animal
control department had only a 70% call response
rate. A citizen’s committee headed by Colin Martin
is trying to persuade the county to back a licensefunded
animal control plan that would increase the
departmental budget from the present $75,734 to
$171,500 over the next four years, and would also
involve a $300,000 expansion of shelter facilities
leased from the Frances R. Willis SPCA. The initial
licensing fees would be just $3 for neutered pets and
$10 for intact pets. Licenses good for the life of the
animal would also be available at $15/neutered and
$50/intact––closer to the national average fee per
year, but average compliance runs around 25%-33%
for dogs, and perhaps 10-15% for cats.
Some of the hardest-fought battles over
animal control of all are underway in the Northwest
interior, where rural traditions mix with wise-use
activism, tax revolt, a harsh regional brand of
Christian fundamentalism often raised as part of the
defense in both animal abuse and child abuse cases,
and some basic Old West individualism.
Superior Court judge Larry Kristianson
recently ordered animal rescuer Joyce Tasker, of
Colville, Washington, to close a private dog shelter
at her home, called Dogpatch, as an alleged nuisance.
Tasker responded by installing custom-engineered
sound baffles and using radio announcements
to round up 28 stray cats, which she delivered to
Stevens County sheriff Craig Thayer. By law Thayer
was obliged to auction the cats, since the county
shelter contract with the city of Colville covers only
dogs. The county commissioners forestalled the auction
by placing the cats in foster homes. The fostering
families will be paid $2 per day per cat.
A five-year contract to handle animal control
for the city of Spokane, Washington, to be
awarded in January, will apparently go to
SpokAnimal CARE, which reportedly submitted the
lowest bid and inherited the whole job, formerly
shared with the Spokane Humane Society, when the
century-old humane society on September 30
dropped a sheltering agreement that paid $4,000 a
month but reportedly brought an $11,000 monthly
loss. The city sent the humane society about 12,000
animals per year, with a 72-hour holding requirement.
The national standard is five working days, as
required by the Animal Welfare Act if animals are to
be resold to any federally funded facility.
Founded in 1983, SpokAnimal CARE
already handled animal pickups for Spokane and 12
suburbs. It also runs a neutering clinic which the
Washington Veterinary Board of Governors holds is
illegal because, it claims, Washington law requires
that veterinary clinics must be owned by veterinarians.
In April 1997 SpokAnimal CARE was accused
of illegally obtaining prescription drugs, and was
fined $15,000 for inadequate record-keeping,
according to Adam Lynn of the Spokane SpokesmanReview,
but executive director Gail Mackie survived
calls for her resignation that led instead to the exit of
three of the seven board members.
The Spokane Humane Society will fill
newly vacated cages by taking five animals a week
from the Spokane County Animal Shelter and offering
them for adoption, it announced on October 3.
No money is involved in the deal. The county shelter
killed 700 dogs and 1,000 cats in 1996.
In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the city council
on October 8 hired former Kootenai County sheriff
Rocky Watson and his wife Mary to take over animal
control pickups, at $1,200 less per year than it had
paid the Kootenai Humane Society. The humane
society wanted $13,000 more per year and $8,000 to
$12,000 for a new pickup truck to stay on the job,
which it took over from the Coeur d’Alene city
police in 1993, at $46,000 a year. The Coeur
d’Alene council argued that humane society president
Rick Lopes should have managed to set aside
dog licensing and impound fees to buy the truck.
The humane society continues to provide sheltering
service, at $10.00 per animal day, up from $5.00
per day under the old contract, but the council
reportedly may cut the impound period from five
days to just two.