Regional aspect of Duffield plan will be controversial
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1998:
CONCORD, Calif.––The most
controversial aspect of Richard Avanzino’s
strategy for using Duffield Family Foundation
funding to build a no-kill nation may prove to
be not his goal but his strategy: trying to do it
city by city, state by state, region by region.
As a tactical blueprint, the regional
approach may build momentum, especially in
California, where Avanzino’s success in San
Francisco is already well known and easily
witnessed. Pressure from local activists, news
media, and surrounding communities may
combine, as Avanzino expects, to force any
holdouts to change their methods.
But the regional strategy may bitterly
disappoint many struggling no-kill organizations
elsewhere. Many are already calling,
faxing, and e-mailing pleas to Avanzino and
to anyone they hope might intercede with him,
including ANIMAL PEOPLE.
In the days before going to press,
ANIMAL PEOPLE received inquiries about
the availability of Duffield funding from as far
away as the Czech Republic.
Most of those asking will never be
eligible for Duffield grants under the strategy
as Avanzino explains it. Others may have a
long wait before their region becomes eligible.
Some supplicants, like Adirondack
Save-A-Stray, in tiny Cornith, New York,
have already built fragile no-kill enclaves.
Founded by Meredith Fiel in 1988, after seven
years of informal existence in a corner of the
antique store she ran until her animal work
took over, Adirondack Save-A-Stray adopts
out as many as 2,000 animals a year, Fiel
says. An attempt to add an in-house neutering
clinic in 1995 failed, but she still encourages
low-cost neutering through a string of cooperating
veterinarians with their own clinics. Fiel
also hosts a local radio program and writes a
newspaper column. Though she tries to avoid
accepting drop-off litters, she has by handshake
agreement with the local animal control
officer claimed and adopted out every otherwise
unclaimed healthy dog or cat he picks up.
Fiel’s success helped to redeem the
no-kill concept in the Adirondack region,
which has endured repeated conflicts with
alleged animal collectors claiming to be no-kill
shelters, some of whom are still operating just
a few miles away, despite strings of zoning
complaints and even cruelty convictions.
The New York State Humane
Association, headquartered an hour’s drive to
the south, dealt with the worst of the collecting
cases and remains harshly critical of nokill,
but the Washington County SPCA, half
an hour east, eventually emulated Fiel’s nokill
policy, at cost of refusing to take animals
when full. That didn’t help much, but in time,
after changes of management, and a change of
name to the North Country SPCA, the shelter
also emulated some of Fiel’s programs to
increase adoptions and neutering.
Winning note for achieving the turnaround,
North Country SPCA executive director
Joseph Sprague is now moving to Chicago
to head the Tree House Animal Foundation.
Adirondack Save-A-Stray meanwhile
ran into a pinch, Fiel advised supporters
in June, “because the building has been sold
and the new owner wants us to move.”
Planning to relocate to a farm property
on the outskirts of Cornith, on the same
road, Fiel in mid-September was still trying to
secure the funds necessary to complete the
deal and make improvements––and, when the
Duffield announcement made nationwide
news, hoped Duffield might be interested.
However, the northeast is last on the
Duffield priority list, having already achieved
the lowest per capita rate of shelter killing of
any region, with the highest per capita volume
of shelter adoptions. The rate of dogs and cats
killed per 1,000 humans is comparable to the
rate in San Francisco (5.8) from New Jersey
north through New York, Connecticut,
Massachusetts, and Vermont––albeit that the
progress has mostly come in cities, bypassing
the Adirondacks and other rural areas.
(Adirondack Save-A-Stray is located
at c/o 5 Maple Street, Cornith, NY 12822.)
Catching up to 1958
Randy Skaggs of the Trixie
Foundation, a no-kill shelter in Grayson,
Kentucky, has an opposite problem. His
region is not so far ahead as to be left out of
the Duffield strategy for the time being, but
rather is so far behind that his crusade for several
years now has been bring Kentucky into
compliance with a 40-year-old state law which
requires all counties to have a dog shelter.
“If they don’t have the basics,”
Skaggs says, “you can’t hope to improve
what’s there. You have to get the stray dogs
off the street and apply pressure to keep the
numbers down, before you can build no-kill
sheltering as a realistic alternative.”
Of the 120 Kentucky counties, only
32 fully complied with the law as of May
1997, 21 admitted they were out of compliance,
and 72 obliged Skaggs to pursue
inquiries under the state open records act to
find out just what they were doing.
In mid-May, Kentucky assistant
attorney general Amye Bensenhaver found that
11 counties had violated the open records act
by withholding information from Skaggs.
That shook loose responses from the rest, but
most of what Skaggs found was what he calls
“sham compliance,” where on paper the
arrangements meet the letter of the 1958 law
through agreements with private contractors,
but there still are no actual animal control shelters,
let alone humane programs in effect.
Currently, Skaggs says, he’s gone
through six pro bono lawyers in futile efforts
to elevate the level of compliance. He cooperated
with the Kentucky Animal Control
Association to help secure passage last April
of a new state law which created an Animal
Control Advisory Board, and set up an
Animal Care and Control Fund, but late
amendments left the fund without money, and
excluded nonprofit humane society representatives
from the advisory board unless nominated
to represent KACA, the Kentucky
Veterinary Medical Association, the Kentucky
Association of Counties, the Kentucky League
of Cities, the Kentucky Farm Bureau, or the
Kentucky Houndsmen Association. These are
each guaranteed two representatives.
Thwarted in that direction, Skaggs
next began trying to obtain dog licensing
records to find out just who is collecting the
money that by state law is supposed to fund
local animal control programs. He found that
several counties known for their pack hunting
clubs have never sold a single dog license, he
told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
He also ran afoul of KACA, which
has opposed releasing dog licensing data.
On October 17, Skaggs and colleague
Bob Calloway, of Martin County, plan
to host a public meeting at the Lexington
Public Library, hoping to form a coalition to
sue the Kentucky Commissioner of
Agriculture, for failing to enforce the 1958
law. (They welcome help at POB 1125,
Grayson, KY 41143.)
Financially struggling, with no regular
help at his shelter, which he admits needs
a lot of improvement, Skaggs has never been
able to pay a lawyer. But his legal activity
won’t be within the Duffield purview, either.
Then there’s the Howard County
Humane Society, of Big Spring, Texas,
offering an alternative to local animal control
shelters since 1982. Perennially overcrowded,
it reportedly held 351 dogs af the end of
August–– twice the estimated capacity.
After Midland SPCA cruelty officer
Bobby French threatened to prosecute the
HCHS for cruelty if the crowded didn’t ease,
the HCSC placed about 100 dogs in homes via
adoption and fostering during the next two
weeks, but acknowledged that the no-kill policy
might have to be modified or abandoned.
The Duffield funds will not be used
to bail out no-kills who get into trouble––as
many do, typically acquiring animals much
more rapidly than they develop a funding base.
Even the Duffield $200 million
might not be enough to save all the organizations
which might be in trouble, or might
overextend themselves and get into trouble, if
expecting that grants might form a safety net.
Texas, with the highest known p e r
c a p i t a animal control killing rate in the U.S.,
has begun to develop loftier expectations.
Dallas, through the joint efforts of the SPCA
of Texas and a low-cost neutering clinic began
by Animal Foundation International, now run
by the Fund for Animals, kills animals at a
pace about a third below the U.S. norm.
Austin and San Marcos have stated ambitions
of achieving no-kill animal control, and the
number of animals killed per capita i n
Houston has fallen since circa 1991.
Just this year, Fort Worth opened a
new $2.57 million animal control shelter,
enabling the North Texas SPCA to focus on
humane services. Richland Hills passed a
$385,000 shelter bond issue. The Gulf Coast
Humae Society opened a $3 million shelter
donated by Tom and Cora Keeler, hoping to
cut the astronomical Corpus Christi killing rate
of 76 dogs and cats per 1,000 residents. San
Antonio, killing 54 animals per 1,000 residents,
reportedly may consider a bond issue in
1999 to replace a 50-year-old shelter.
Except in Houston, Dallas, and
Austin, however, Texas veterinarians in private
practice have blocked most efforts to
extend low-cost neutering. And in absence of
low-cost neutering, building bigger shelters
only buys a little more time for most animals.
In Benebrook, Texas, some city
councillors have reportedly come to believe
giving doomed animals extra time was an
error. A year ago, according to Anita Baker
of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram , the city
extended the holding period for animal control
impounds from three days to 19 days, and
invited a local group called 4 PAWS to help
promote adoptions. In early September, however,
4 PAWS president Pat Dunkin complained
that the shelter isn’t kept adequately
clean, though it cleared both a state health
department inspection in May and an August
surprise inspection by city Animal Advisory
Committee chief Cindy Jones, DVM.
City manager Cary Conklin responded
that 4 PAWS had unrealistic expectations,
pointing out that the shelter was never built to
be anything but a temporarily holding facility.
Conceivably, when Duffield extends
an invitation for applications to Texas, 4
PAWS or another Benebrook humane society
could apply for funding to build a separate
adoption center and longterm care shelter.
Before such a proposal would be
funded, however, according to the terms
Avanzino has already set forth, the local rifts
would have to heal.