Animal charities cut back programs in response to global recession

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2009:


Downsizing to close a reported $32
million income shortfall in fiscal 2009, the
International Fund for Animal Welfare on October
18, 2009 closed the IFAW bear rescue center in
Pan Yu, China. The last five resident bears
were trucked 1,260 miles from southern Guangdong
province to the Animals Asia Foundation bear
sanctuary at Chengdu, in central Sichuan.
“We agreed that IFAW would pay for the
transfer, and that we would then take over all
expenses related to the care of the bears,”
Animals Asia Foundation founder Jill Robinson
told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “I have no idea what is
becoming of the vacated Pan Yu sanctuary,”
Robinson added.

Robinson was an IFAW consultant when she
first saw the Pan Yu bears, in 1993, at a
hospital-owned facility that tapped their gall
bladders to extract bile, for processing into
traditional medicines. Now believed to be in
decline in China, the bear bile industry was
then still growing, after the basic methods were
developed in North Korea–but commercialization
had made keeping bears economically unviable for
the hospital.
“Originally there were nine bears,”
Robinson remembered. IFAW founder Brian Davies
agreed to rescue them, to publicize and promote
an IFAW campaign against bile farming. The Pan
Yu property was leased, the rescue center was
built, and the bears arrived in 1996–just
before Davies retired.
Four years later Robinson spun off the
Animals Asia Foundation as an independent
charity, in order to build the much larger
Chengdu santuary and extend campaigning against
the bile industry to Vietnam.
“IFAW agreed to take sole charge of the Pan Yu bears,” Robinson said.
Since then the Chengdu sanctuary has
“welcomed 265 bears into our little place of
peace and love,” including the five bears from
IFAW, “and we’re hopeful that the Chinese
government will keep its promise of more to be
rescued before the end of the year,” Robinson

Feeling the pinch

While economists project that the world
economy has begun improvement, after two years
of recession, animal charities of every size are
still feeling the pinch, and can expect to feel
it until toward the end of 2010. This is because
charitable giving tends to be a “lagging
indicator,” increasing mostly after donors enjoy
improvement in their own financial affairs.
Small animal charities are coping with
more animals who need help at the same time
donation amounts are down. Large animal
charities, have these same problems, in addition
to diminished fundraising capacity, because they
have often lost substantial cash reserves that
formerly generated the interest and dividends.
Ironically, state laws passed decades ago to
protect charities from losing their assets
through bad investments have kept some of the
wealthiest animal charities in the world from
spending down their reserves to maintain program
services, leaving smaller charities to pick up
the slack.
The Massachusetts SPCA, struggling with
a $15 million shortfall in anticipated revenue
and a loss of $11.5 million from reserves,
responded by closing three shelters in 2009. All
three were soon reopened by other entitites. The
former MSPCA shelter in Springfield was sold to
the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society for $1.2
million in April. The former Martha’s Vinyard
shelter was leased to a new charity called Animal
Shelter of Martha’s Vinyard. The former Metro
South adoption center was on September 15, 2009
leased at no charge to a coalition called the
Animal Protection Center of Southeastern
The MSPCA still operates shelters in
Boston, Centerville, Methuen and Nantucket,
with hospitals in Boston and Nantucket.

California crisis

The San Francisco SPCA, also among the
world’s wealthiest humane societies on paper,
but also pinched by revenue shortfalls, in
October 2009 quit opening on Mondays. The
SF/SPCA had operated seven days a week for 141
The economy is having an impact on all
animal welfare and rescue organizations right
now,” SF/SPCA president Jan McHugh-Smith told
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Justin
Berton. “We’re all dealing with an increased
need for service, and we’re all seeing a
reduction in donations.”
The SF/SPCA continues to offer free or
low-cost veterinary care to low-income pet
keepers–with requests for free or low-cost help
running 37% ahead of 2008, McHugh-Smith told
The SF/SPCA budget crunch, bad as it is,
is mild compared to the $26 billion deficit for
the state of California. For nearly half of 2009
an impassé between Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
and the state legislature left California without
a budget.
The compromise that ended the standoff
“included a provision that reduces the mandatory
holding period for stray animals from six days to
three days,” noted San Francisco Chronicle staff
writer Peter Fimrite. Supporters of the change
contend that it will merely allow shelters to
euthanize animals with poor adoption prospects
sooner, enabling the shelters to hold for longer
the animals whose adoption prospects are good.
Critics believe the shorter holding period will
send the California shelter death toll back from
about 400,000 a year now to circa 600,000, where
it was when the six-day holding period was
instituted in 1998.

U.K. shelter intake

U.S. shelter intake and killing have
barely changed in more than a decade, according
to the annual ANIMAL PEOPLE compilations of
shelter data, begun in 1993. The United
Kingdom, however, in the twelve months ending
in March 2009 experienced an 11% increase in
shelter dog intake, according to the Dogs Trust
2009 Stray Dog Survey.
“This is the largest annual increase
since our records began in 1997,” said Dogs
Trust chief executive Clarissa Baldwin.
“Previously we saw a steady decline, but the
latest statistics show a huge jump in the number
of stray dogs both handled and put to sleep by
local authorities. Some dog wardens said the
recession could have been a contributing factor
to the increase, while others cited the change
in the stray dog law last April.”
Explained Joachim Moxon of The
Independent, “A 2008 change in the law means
that statutory responsibility for stray dogs in
England and Wales has passed from police to local
councils,” who “often lack the funding to round
up the animals, while limited working hours mean
that people who rescue strays often must keep
them overnight.”
Though these factors might explain why
more dogs are at large, they would not explain
why more dogs were taken in.
By U.S. standards, the U.K.numbers are
not alarming: just 107,228 dogs impounded
nationwide, about 2.5% of the U.S. total in a
nation with about 20% of the U.S. human
population. More than 90% of the U.K. dogs were
rehomed, compared to about 50% in the U.S.;
only about 9,300 were killed, fewer than in some
U.S. cities. U.K. shelters killed barely 1.5
dogs per 1,000 human residents, less than half
the U.S. toll of pit bull terriers alone, and
less than 25% of the total U.S. rate of shelter
dog killing.
Dogs Trust does not track shelter cat
data. The Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, of
London, reported a 20% increase in dog adoptions
in fiscal 2009, but a 10% decrease in adoptions
of cats. At the same time, BBC News reported,
Battersea has received more calls from people
wanting to surrender kittens, and had begun to
put people wanting to surrender cats and kittens
on a waiting list.
Dogs Trust called for the introduction of
compulsory microchipping, to try to increase the
animal rehoming rate. “Thirty-one percent of
stray dogs who were returned to their owners in
the last year were returned with the help of
microchips,” said Baldwin.
While the U.S. numbers have not yet
jumped nationwide, over an entire year, there
is concern that they might, as occurred in
2002-2003 after funding for low-cost
sterilization programs faltered. Shelter killing
increased nationally by 700,000 over those two
years. The current crunch is again hitting
low-cost sterilization programs.
New York state, for example, has had a
state-subsidized sterilization voucher program
since 1996. On August 20, 2009 the New York
Department of Agriculture and Markets suspended
the program because it ran out of money. “The
vouchers, for either $20 or $30, are available
to people who adopt pets from shelters and meet
financial guidelines,” explained White Plains
Journal News reporter Laura Incalcaterra. The
program was suspended with 8,869 vouchers still
unused, which had to be used by October 1.
“Once those vouchers have been paid, the
state will reinstate the program in counties that
have surplus [unissued] vouchers,” Incalterra
continued. “In counties without surplus
vouchers, New York will reinstate the program
once enough money accumulates from funding
sources. Those sources include the $3.00
surcharge on dog licenses for dogs who are not
spayed or neutered; unclaimed deposits left with
shelters; $20.00 of the $25.00 annual charge for
custom ‘Love Your Pet’ license plates; and
private donations.”
An ominous hint of what might be ahead
came from Nashville, Tennessee–one of the most
affluent cities in one of the poorest U.S.
states, with the seventh highest state rate of
shelter killing in the U.S. over the past 10
years. The Nashville Humane Association in
August 2009 reported a 20% increase in animal
surrenders, with a 15% drop in adoptions. Happy
Endings Animal Rescue, also in Nashville, saw a
70% drop in adoptions, founder Cindy Gosselin
told Claudia Pinto of the Gannett Tennessee news

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