Eastern Europe and Southern U.S. cities share animal control crisis

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1999:

WARSAW, Poland; Southern
states, U.S.––“A series of articles in the
nationally circulated newspaper Zycie
Warszawy about the Paluch animal shelter
[recently] shocked the public” with allegations
of “horrible sanitary conditions, lack of care
and rigid treatment of animals, widespread
disease, and extensive animal killing,”
Warsaw Committee in Defense of Animals
members Aniela Roehr and Anna Chodakowska
charged in a globally distributed May
17 e-mail, seeking help from the international
animal protection community.
Managed by a foundation set up in
January 1997, subsidized by Warsaw and surrounding
suburbs, the Paluch shelter reportedly
has the same conflicts of history, mission,
and public expectation as the animal care-andcontrol
apparatus in Kiev, Ukraine (page
13)––and as do the animal care-and-control
agencies in much of the U.S., as well.

Dump bins
Cultural dissonance pertaining to
animal-care-and-control echoed again on May
18, as syndicated London Times c o r r e s p o ndent
Robert Whymant horrified British and
American dog lovers with an account of the
“unwanted dog postboxes” used in western
Japan to anonymously collect owner-surrendered
pets. There are 115 such “unwanted dog
postboxes” in Nagasaki prefecture alone,
Whymant wrote.
The system is similar to the “dump
bin” arrangements in Smyrna and Murfreesboro,
of Rutherford County, Tennesee,
which stirred global Internet ire in November
1998. Addressed with outrage by the
Fondation Bridgit Bardot in France and the
National Canine Defense League in Britain,
the Rutherford County dump bins reportedly
nonetheless remain in use, despite a temporary
closure of the Smyrna bins last winter.
In both Tennessee and Japan, the
reported drop-off box specifications are moreor-less
compliant with the recommendations
on page 173 of the National Animal Control
Association Training Guide––which as recently
as 1989 was almost universally considered
“The Book,” among humane professionals,
on how animal control should be done.
And certainly both the Japanese and
the Rutherford County boxes were an advance
over the burlap-bag-on-a-post dropoff still
used, according to Animals Australia, in
Devonport, Tasmania.
Despite the ease of animal abandonment,
Japan as a nation kills just 5.13 dogs
and cats per year per 1,000 human residents,
matching the accomplishments of the U.S.
locales which have been most successful in
ending shelter killing: San Francisco;
Bozeman, Montana; Boulder, Colorado.
Japan kills far fewer dogs and cats
per 1,000 human residents, in fact, than either
Sacramento, San Diego, or the state of Utah,
whose major animal control agencies and
humane societies in each case during May
declared intent to pursue no-kill animal control.
The rate of pet ownership in Japan is low
beside the U.S. norm; but that only accounts
for part of the low killing rate. Effective animal
birth control accounts for most of the rest.
As to whether Sacramento, San
Diego, and Utah are actually in position to
achieve no-kill aniumal control, shelter boards
and executives in each city were admittedly
lured by the hope of obtaining substantial
grants from Maddie’s Fund, the $200 million
foundation formed by software magnates Dave
and Cheryl Duffield to promote no-kill animal
control, administered by former San Francisco
SPCA president Richard Avanzino.
Rutherford County, Tennessee,
meanwhile, has no such official ambitions.
Rutherford County kills 84.75 dogs and cats
per year per 1,000 human residents: the most
of any community, anywhere, for which
ANIMAL PEOPLE has done the statistics.
But Rutherford County can claim to be above
par for the region, because approximately a
third of the counties of Tennesee have no animal
shelters at all.

Pounds vs. shelters
In Kentucky, where each county has
been legally required to have a dog pound
since July 1, 1955, 33 of 120 counties had
none as of fiscal 1996, when Randy Skaggs of
the no-kill Trixie Foundation began threatening
to sue the laggards. At the close of fiscal
1998, 20 of the 33 had come into compliance.
But just having a pound is only the
start of building an effective, humane animal
care-and-control system. The mandate of a
pound, unlike that of a humane society, is
only to protect the public from animals, not to
protect animals from abuse. There lies the gist
of conflicts over animal control management
underway in at least nine southern cities.
“The conditions at the Rabies
Control Center in Birmingham are beyond
words,” former humane society shelter manager
Anne Speakman of Montevallo, Alabama
wrote to ANIMAL PEOPLE in April.
Confirming similar allegations aired on the
Internet by Michelle Meurer of Lucki Dog
Rescue in Southeast, Alabama, Speakman
itemized a long list of Birmingham procedures
which were considered efficient by animal
control personnel a generation ago, but are
now generally seen as inhumane.
Responding to complaints of too
many stray dogs running loose, Birmingham
city commissioner Bill Johnson meanwhile
reportedly suggested paying a bounty of $25
for turn-ins––an approach, Maurer pointed
out, which is more likely to encourage pet
theft than amateur roundup of actual strays.
Standard procedure in nearby
Franklin County, Alabama, according to
Maurer, is to simply take stray dogs to the
dump and shoot them.
In Summerville, South Carolina,
the conflict is that the Frances R. Willis SPCA,
holding the animal control sheltering contract,
does not want to have to kill animals who
might be adopted or reclaimed just to make
room for routine non-emergency pickups by
county animal control officers––who in turn
see catching all strays they can as their duty.
“Animal control’s mission is law
enforcement, and the SPCA’s is humane,”
summarizes Dorchester county councillor
Richard Rosebrock. The county has committed
to a shelter expansion expected to cost
$230,000-$300,000, which may ease the
crunch temporarily––but it will not end until
and unless some agency addresses the root
problem with aggressive low-cost neutering.

Golden chance lost
In Knoxville, the Humane Society
of the Tennessee Valley handles one of the
highest volumes of animals in the South, and
is a leader in pushing low-cost neutering,
adoptions, and working with breed rescuers to
hold killing down to about 67% of incoming––
average for the nation, but low for the region.
The HSTV also shelters dogs and cats for animal
control, as well as holding animals who
may be evidence in criminal court cases. That
means a frequent space crunch, often resolved
by killing owner-surrendered large dogs of
mixed breed, who on average have the least
adoption prospects. That backfired on May
10, when an HSTV staffer following selection
guidelines killed a young golden retriever mix
who had been found as a stray by Donna
Christensen, 39, of Farragut––the HSTV’s
top “Bark in the Park” fundraiser for two years
running. As the dog kept jumping her fences
and appeared to be teaching her other dogs
how to do it, and as young golden retrievers
and retriever mixes are generally considered
easily adoptable, Christensen took him to the
shelter. There, because he was technically an
owner-surrendered large mixed breed, his
time ran out after just eight hours of availability
for adoption. Christensen was not given the
chance to reclaim him.
Stepping up to take the heat for the
staffer’s judgement, HSTV executive director
Vicky Crosetti tried to use the case to educate
the public about pet overpopulation.
John Seales, who headed the Little
Rock Animal Control Department for 21
years, quit as head of Nashville Animal
Control after only six months. Seales was
reportedly thwarted in reforming shelter operations
by conflicts of priority with the city
health department, which oversees animal
control, and by inability to discipline staff
who were protected by seniority.
Houston issues––perennially––are
that Harris County Animal Control has a 90%
killing rate, one of the highest in the U.S.,
and is among the few shelters which still routinely
sell animals to laboratories. The killing
rate was not remarkable 10 years ago when
two of the other four major Houston shelters
were equally high; it is now. Selling animals
to labs, meanwhile, was standard practice for
animal control shelters from the 1950s through
the 1970s, but was largely abandoned in the
1980s (and was outlawed in 13 states)
because––especially when combined with high
killing rates––it tends to encourage abandoning
animals “to give them a chance.”
Regular Harris County Animal
Control customers include the Baylor College
of Medicine, the University of Texas, the
University of Houston, and Texas A&M
University. The county commissioners have
repeatedly split 3-2 over halting the sales.
The storm breaking over the Oklahoma
City Animal Shelter was the May 3 tornado
that flattened 1,500 homes, displacing
about 300 animals who were later found running
at large. Dating in part to 1947, with
many expansions over the years, the shelter
was already overcrowded. The arrival of 205
tornado animals brought accelerated shelter
killing to open cage space. Animal control
director George Cooper refused volunteer help
for more than three weeks due, he told media,
to liability concerns. United Animal Nations
Emergency Animal Services director Terri
Crisp and her volunteer team worked instead
out of the Moore Animal Shelter, which handled
about 100 displaced animals. Eventually,
discontent with conditions and procedures at
the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter hit the
Internet and local media. Crisp told ANIMAL
PEOPLE that she thought it might help the
shelter in the long run that the public was
finally seeing the conditions Cooper and staff
work under, as the attention might help bring
the funding to make improvements.

Richmond SPCA executive director
Robin Starr in May tried to emulate the outcome
of the San Francisco SPCA’s Adoption
Pact, but through contracts working more-orless
in reverse. Under the Adoption Pact, the
San Francisco SPCA guarantees placement of
any dog or cat who is not irrecoverably injured
or ill, or dangerously aggressive, if the San
Francisco Department of Animal Care and
Control cannot place the animal. The
SF/SPCA does not send animals to the
SF/DACC, other than lost-and-found turn-ins,
from whose owners the SF/DACC is entitled
to collect any applicable fines for licensing
violations and running at large. The agreements
Starr reportedly sought with the City of
Richmond, Henrico County, and Chesterfield
County would have had the animal control
agencies taking any animal requiring euthanasia,
so that the Richmond SPCA could
become no-kill without having to limit admissions,
and would have had the animal control
agencies sending adoptable animals to a new
adoption center Starr proposed to build.
In the long run, the Starr plan might
have worked as successfully as the adoption
pact, but animal control personnel went ballistic
at the prospect of having to do what one
irate caller told ANIMAL PEOPLE w a s
Starr’s share of the animal control “dirty
work,” even though the Richmond SPCA is
not an animal control agency, while Starr got
the “glory” of doing the work actually benefiting
animals that humane societies were founded
to do in the first place.

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