BOOKS: Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2003:

Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments
by Geoffrey L. Handy
International City/County Management Association (777 North Capitol
St. N.E., Suite 500, Washington, DC 20002), 2001. 107 pages.
Order c/o <http:/>.

Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments has
been much expanded and updated since the 1993 report of the same
title on which the current edition is based, but the most
significant expansion is a broadening of mind, toward accepting the
roles of privately funded no-kill animal shelters and neuter/return
feral cat control.
Compiled by Geoffrey L. Handy and other personnel at the
Humane Society of the United States, Animal Control Management is
not an official HSUS publication, yet may be seen as the HSUS
“gospel” on animal care-and-control. At least until the next edition
appears, it will stand with the 2001 revision of the National Animal
Control Association Training Guide as “the book” for the animal
control field.

As such, Animal Control Management closely parallels the
NACA Training Guide, but this is not to say that the two volumes are
equal or identical. Compiled by a single author, Animal Control
Management is a quicker read; the NACA Training Guide,
anthologizing numerous well-respected experts, offers greater depth
on focal topics. Animal Control Management is somewhat more
preoccupied with regulation, and spends much less page space on
actual animal handling and health care. Both books have added
extensive sections on disaster preparation and relief. Neither is
up-to-date in discussing shelter design, and neither even mentions
the advantages of using storefront-grade plate glass rather than
chain link to divide dog kennels. Among these advantages are easier
sanitation and a vastly quieter shelter, since glass markedly
reduces the tendency of dogs to become excited by odors.
Three noteworthy faults of Animal Control Management are
holdovers of dogma which should have been discarded.
The first is the argument that pit bull terriers are not
uniquely dangerous. Animal Control Management on page 8 states that,
“More than half of 20 pit bull-related fatalities investigated in
detail by HSUS in recent years involved male owners associated with
dogfighting or other criminal activity.”
This is misleading and disingenuous, since 20 is only a tiny
fraction of the 770 life-threatening or fatal pit bull attacks logged
by ANIMAL PEOPLE since 1982, among 1,660 total life-threatening dog
attacks occurring in the U.S. and Canada over the same time, and is
less than a third of the 65 pit bull-related fatalities, the
overwhelming majority of which have involved dogs kept as pets under
typical household conditions. In fact, the ANIMAL PEOPLE log
excludes attacks by dogs trained for fighting, guarding, or police
work, to avoid any breed-specific bias which might result from the
predominance of any breed in a job using trained dogs.
Sooner or later, the animal care-and-control and animal
advocacy communities must recognize that if pit bulls are to be saved
as a breed, they will have to be regulated in acknowledgement that
they are behaviorally different enough from most other dogs to pose a
significantly higher risk to the public, along with Rottweilers,
Akitas, and several lesser-known breeds that show up
disprorportionally often in the life-threatening attack data.
If government agencies and the nonprofit sector lack the
stomach to do this in a humane manner, the insurance industry will,
in a dollars-and-cents manner, as many insurance carriers already
have by refusing to insure homeowners if they keep any of a long list
of dog breeds, many of them demonstrably not often appearing in the
attack statistics.
The second fault of note in Animal Control Management is
repeating unfounded praise of a 1991 breeding control ordinance
passed in San Mateo County, California. Revolutionary in sweep when
introduced, the San Mateo ordinance amounted to little more than
ordinary differential licensing when actually passed.
“In 1999 the county’s major shelter reported a 25% decline
in the number of animals it has handled since passage of the
ordinance and a 34% decline in the number of animals the shelter has
euthanized,” Animal Control Management gushes. But the same could
have been said for the U.S. as a whole over the same years, and the
neighboring city of San Francisco achieved even more remarkable drops
in shelter intake and animal killing with no such ordinance in effect.
Finally, on page 48 Animal Control Management advises that
“A shelter should encourage the public to bring stray and unwanted
animals to its facility” adding that, “Some agencies provide
drop-off boxes for use after hours. If the animal deposit area is
properly designed and managed, it may prevent abandonment by
allowing people to relinquish animals at their convenience and
without question.” True, but the passage should have described how
a drop-off box should be designed and managed, since there have been
so many problems with such facilities that NACA no longer recommends
their use. Animal Control Management should further have noted that
it is far preferable for a shelter to be open at all times to receive
animals, if possible, and if not, to at least be staffed evenings
and weekends.
Apart from these three weak passages, Animal Control
Management is a useful and helpful handbook.

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