The name Ed Boks is associated with life saving programs and results. Ed Boks has managed three of the largest animal control programs in the United States; Maricopa County, AZ, New York City and Los Angeles. He also successfully transformed Yavapai County, AZ into the a “no-kill” community while serving as the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.
Life saving results is the one consistent hallmark in all of Ed Boks’ assignments. “If people want to save lives, it can be done, but it will mean hard work and sometimes upsetting the status quo, and that will draw its share of naysayers.”
But there is no denying the results. Ed Boks’ compassionate, non-lethal programs and strategies are proven to help the greatest number of animals at risk in any community.
In communities large and small, Ed Boks “know how” reduced killing to historic lows, while transforming animal shelters into high volume pet adoption and safety net programs. Ed Boks effectively replaces historic “catch and kill” methodologies with a new generation of life-saving, user and animal friendly programs. Ed Boks can do the same for your community!
Did you know that the presence of a cat or dog in a counseling office can speed the therapeutic process for some patients? Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) was introduced by psychologist Boris Levinson in the 1950s when he discovered that his dog Jingles was able to connect with autistic children in a way humans had not.
Since then, AAT has continued to develop as a therapeutic science. Although dogs are the most frequently used therapy animals, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, donkeys, llamas and even pigs and snakes participate in different programs.
In many communities, decisions regarding animal welfare are complicated by a host of competing priorities. When evaluating competing priorities it’s easy to look to the bottom line. When that happens, the questions of conscience concerning animal welfare can be overlooked.
There will always be enough injustice and human suffering in the world to make animal welfare seem less important. But compassion is not a finite commodity. We demonstrated the power of compassion in 2012 by ending euthanasia as our community’s method for controlling pet overpopulation. That is no small achievement; indeed, it places us among the nation’s most humane communities. Continue reading “Compassion is not a finite commodity By Ed Boks”
Early in my animal welfare career I developed a “no-kill” ethic. I trained shelter staff to apply this “ethic” by using the same criteria for deciding a homeless animal’s fate that a compassionate owner or conscientious veterinarian would apply to a beloved pet. That is, healthy and treatable animals are not killed simply because we lack the room or resources to care for them.
The “no-kill” ethic embodies a commitment that for every animal who comes through a shelter’s doors there is a kind and loving person or family – and it is our mission to bring them together.
There are three statistics animal shelters can use to measure their success, or failure, in reducing pet euthanasia (or killing). To rely on any one or two of these numbers tells only a partial, and possibly obfuscated, story. When you compare all three of these numbers you are better able to tell your organization and your community’s whole story:
The Live Release Rate (LRR) refers to the number of animals who get out of a shelter alive. I call this “heartbeats in/heartbeats out”. It includes adoptions, transfers to rescue organizations, and lost pets returned to owners. Some shelter experts claim a 90 percent LRR is the threshold to “no-kill.” During my tenure at the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) in Arizona, I maintained a 97 percent LRR for several years. This is a good internal measurement.
The Euthanasia Rate reports the actual number of animals euthanized. In the first year implementing the no-kill ethic, YHS achieved a 63 percent reduction in killing, followed by a 64 percent reduction in year two, and a 40 percent reduction in year three; for an overall reduction of 92 percent. This too is an important internal measure of success or progress.
The Per Capita Kill Rate refers to the number of animals killed per 1,000 residents. Prior to implementing the no-kill ethic, YHS was killing 17.25 animals per 1,000 residents. This was one of the worst kill rates in Arizona. However, at the end of my tenure we had reduced the YHS kill rate to 0.2; the lowest in the nation for several consecutive years! This number is the best for comparing your community with other communities in your state or across the nation.
No dog breed in history has encountered more misunderstanding and vilification than the American pit bull. In fact, the pit bull is an all-American breed blessed with tenacious athletic ability, loyalty, intelligence, and high-energy.
Pit bulls are not lap dogs or a dog for the sedentary person. They are not fashion accessories or macho symbols. They are a breed apart from every other canine.
The pit bull was so respected in the early 1900s that the military chose the breed to represent the United States on World War I and World War II recruitment posters. Sergeant Stubby, a pit bull WWI war hero, served in 17 battles, was injured twice in battle, saved his entire platoon by warning them of a poison gas attack, and single-handedly captured a German spy. Stubby earned many medals for heroism, including one presented by General John Pershing, Commanding General of the U.S. Armies. Stubby’s obituary from the New York Times may be viewed at the Connecticut State Military Department’s website.
The American pit bull terrier is the only breed ever featured on the cover of Time magazine – and not just once but three times.
Famous people who owned pit bulls include Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, George Patton, Jack Dempsy, Helen Keller, Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire, Anne Bancroft and Thomas Edison.
A few celebrities who own pit bulls today include Jon Stewart, Alicia Silverstone, Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, Michael J. Fox, Bernadette Peters, Brad Pitt, Madonna, and Rachael Ray.
Pit bulls are commonly used as therapy dogs. Whether they are visiting a senior care facility or helping someone recover from an emotional accident, pit bulls are exceptional therapy dogs.
Pit bulls are also used in Search and Rescue work and serve as narcotic- and bomb-sniffing dogs. One pit bull, Popsicle (so named because he was found in an abandoned freezer), lays claim to the largest recorded single drug bust in Texas history.
Pit bulls are great with kids too, as demonstrated by Petey, the beloved dog featured in “The Little Rascals.” Pit bulls were actually referred to as the “nanny dog” in the early 20th century because of their gentle and loving disposition with kids.
Pits are known for their personality. Even as they age, most remain playful. They are affectionate dogs who appreciate their owner’s attention and approval more than anything else.
While certain purebreds are prone to a long list of health problems, pit bulls are fairly healthy and hearty. They are strong and long-lived. They are low-maintenance because their short coats are easy to care for and you’ll have no grooming bills.
Sadly, a lot of pit bulls never have a chance. Many shelters have a policy to euthanize all pit bulls, and do not adopt them out. Irresponsible individuals, bad breeders and biased media attention have given these wonderful dogs a bad rap. Breed-specific legislation has turned this beloved family pet into an outlaw in some communities. Fortunately, there are many people who are educating the public on the breed and dispelling the myths.
According to The American Temperament Test Society, a national nonprofit organization for the promotion of uniform temperament evaluation of purebred and spayed/neutered mixed-breed dogs, the pit bull scores an 83.4 percent passing rate. That’s better than the popular Australian shepherd (81.5 percent), beagle (80.3 percent), border collie (79.6 percent), boxer (84 percent), Chihuahua (71.1 percent), cocker spaniel (81.9 percent), German shorthair (76 percent), Lhasa Apso (70.4 percent), and miniature poodle (77.9 percent) to name but a few.
The American Temperament Test Society found that pit bulls were generally less aggressive when faced with confrontational situations that produced negative reactions in many other stereotypically “friendly” dog breeds, such as beagles and poodles.
The National Canine Temperament Testing Association tested 122 breeds, and pit bulls placed the 4th highest with a 95 percent passing rate.
The fact is that in most communities pit bulls are so popular that they account for the largest percentage of dogs rescued, adopted – and, sadly, euthanized. If you are interested in adopting a super dog, consider a rescued pit bull. Most shelters have adoption counselors standing by to help you select the perfect one for you and your family.
The month of July is chock-full of patriotic festivities that include outdoor celebrations, picnics, barbecues, and of course, fireworks. Before you pack up for the lake or outdoor arena, stadium or even your own front yard to enjoy the pyrotechnic delights of the holiday, be aware of your pets’ needs and fears.
Animal shelters experience a significant increase in the number of lost (and injured) pets after every July Fourth holiday.
Even pets who are normally calm and obedient can show unpredictable behavior when frightened. Dogs and cats can become frightened or confused by the excitement and loud noises of the holiday. I have been involved with rescuing terrified pets who had chewed through their tethers, jumped through plate glass windows or over fences, and escaped “secure” enclosures.
Dogs attempting to flee the frightening, and even painful noises of the fireworks may lose their sense of direction and run long distances risking injury or death as they dart in and out of traffic. This is one of the most dangerous times of year for your pets.
Up close, fireworks can burn or injure your pets, but even if they are far away, they still pose a unique danger to your companion animals.
To minimize the danger to your pets take these few simple steps before you set out to celebrate this Fourth of July:
Keep pets indoors in an enclosed area that they are familiar with to minimize fear. If possible, turn on a radio to mask the noise of the fireworks or other celebratory noises.
If your pet is excitable, consult your veterinarian to arrange for the administration of a proper calming drug ahead of time.
If you have to be away for an extended time, board your pets with family or friends you trust and who can assure you that your pet will be kept confined and cared for.
Always be sure your pet has a current microchip. A microchip is the best identification for a pet because it is always with him. A microchip makes it easier for animal control to find you should the unthinkable happen and your pet manages to escape.
Even if you think your pet is ok with fireworks and noise, do not let him out when fireworks are being lit and set off. The pet may run at them and sustain serious burns, or bolt and run away.
If your pet does escape this holiday, visit your local shelter every day and post “Lost Dog” or “Lost Cat” signs and canvass surrounding neighborhoods. Place a yard sign in front of your house with a picture of your pet and your phone number. People who find lost pets will often walk or drive around the area attempting to find the owner. This Fourth of July can be the best ever if you take these simple precautions to keep your pets safe and happy. Let’s enjoy the festivities without having to worry about the family pet.
Imagine an animal shelter that is quiet and smells clean; where pets are stress and disease free; where dogs are led outside to eliminate, enjoy fresh air and exercise a minimum of 4 times each day; where adoptions into loving homes are permanent; where well-trained staff and volunteers are able to meet the needs of shelter pets and clients; and where the community generously supports shelter activities and programs.
In the enduring words of John Lennon, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
The dream is the Yavapai Humane Society “Enrichment Program” which implements shelter structures and husbandry practices designed to increase behavioral choices in a way that species-appropriate behaviors and abilities are encouraged, thus enhancing each animal’s overall welfare.
In other words, the YHS Enrichment Program is designed to bring out the best in our community’s homeless pets in an effort to make them more adoptable. This wonderful program directly reflects our community’s love and compassion for animals – and with one of the highest Live Release/Adoption Rates in the nation (97 percent) it is clear the program is working!
It is sad to see the negative consequences in shelters lacking an enrichment program. Animals become less adoptable over time because they become hyperactive, bored, anxious, and frustrated. They can lose housetraining skills, and may develop an uncontrolled exuberance at seeing people or withdraw and isolate themselves in fear. These outcomes diminish an animal’s quality of life and their chance at adoption. Thanks to the YHS Enrichment Program, pets learn and retain valuable skills and are happier and more adoptable.
One of the enrichment strategies employed was replacing the chain link fence dividing the kennels with solid dividers which created greater privacy for the dogs resulting in less anxiety, barrier aggression, and barking. The outcome of this one simple change was transformational, creating a feeling of security for perhaps the first time for some dogs and a quieter shelter for the public to visit.
Other YHS Enrichment initiatives include:
Well-trained staff (including three behaviorists) and volunteers capable of consistently and positively training dogs and counseling adopters before and after an animal is adopted;
Outdoor facilities for training, house breaking, exercise and fresh air;
A “behavior” house to sensitize and train dogs to be well behaved indoors;
An HVAC system to ensure 8 air exchanges per hour in the kennels to reduce the risk of disease;
Kennel beds and toys to allow animals to choose between resting and playing;
Piped in music designed to calm animals;
Agility courses and play groups to teach self-confidence and good social skills;
Educational materials, videos, free handouts, training classes and behavioral services and strategies that provide guidance and information to adopters and the community.
The Enrichment Program benefits the thousands of animals rescued by YHS each year. It reduces behavior problems and decreases stress induced illnesses – making YHS animals healthier, happier and more adoptable. It also provides our community an environment where everyone can be proud of the compassion, care and training we provide our soon to be adopted animals.
If this program resonates with you and you would like to participate, please call your local shelter to find out how you can join their Volunteer Program. If you would like to support this lifesaving program with a gift, you can make a donation to your local shelter and designate it for “enrichment”. Your support makes a lifesaving difference to many pets.
As John Lennon would say, “I hope someday you’ll join us…”
Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.
Mahatma Gandhi said it best, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” The same can be said of the states in a nation.
In fact, the greatness and moral progress of all 50 states can be traced through the years by the consistent strengthening of state laws against animal cruelty to include felony provisions. This moral and legal progress has been based on the growing understanding of the link between animal cruelty and violence against humans.
Today, academic journals and textbooks in child welfare, human-animal studies, sociology, child development, criminology, psychology, social work, veterinary medicine, and many other disciplines accept the incontrovertible link between animal abuse, domestic violence, child maltreatment and elder abuse.
Understanding this link, the FBI now requires local law enforcement to track and report animal cruelty the same way homicide, arson and assault are tracked – as a Group A felony.
So, why would any Arizona legislator want to turn back the clock on progress that has taken decades to achieve? Why would any legislator want to strip any animal of any protection provided by the law?
Why would Arizona legislators David Gowan and Brenda Barton work behind closed doors with corporate agriculture lobbyists to craft a bill (HB 2330) designed to repeal the few protections millions of animals have in Arizona?
HB 2330 is not an isolated attempt to repeal Arizona’s animal cruelty laws. Last year enough Arizona legislators supported a similar bill (HB 2150) that it would have been the law of the land today except for Governor Ducey’s veto.
Fortunately, this year’s coup against animal welfare may have died in the Agriculture, Water and Lands Committee when they wisely chose to not agendize HB 2330.
However, the bill could still be resurrected by the House Appropriations Committee this year or introduced in another permutation next year. Animal advocates must remain vigilant in a state where politicians seem strangely determined to weaken animal-cruelty laws.
Apart from some Arizona legislators, animal abuse is widely recognized and understood by law enforcement, public health officials and decent human beings everywhere to be part of a continuum of violence with serious implications for multiple victims and society as a whole.
While Gandhi drew our attention to the societal ramifications of how we treat animals, Immanuel Kant provided some insight into how we should judge politicians who deliberately put animals in harm’s way. “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” This maxim serves as a reliable gauge for assessing the character of politicians who have the power to impact how animals, and people, are treated on a massive scale.
Sponsors and supporters of last year’s HB 2150 and this year’s HB 2330 have telegraphed their agenda to reverse Arizona’s moral progress by revoking protections animals in Arizona have benefited from for decades. They have exposed their intent to put the welfare of millions of animals at risk without any corresponding benefit or legitimate justification. They need to know this is not going unnoticed.
Refer to my Feb. 17 column, “Lawmakers target animals again” to understand the risk of cruelty that HB 2330 posed for millions of animals.
Speaker of the House, Republican David Gowan, who is also running for Congress, is one of the prime sponsors of a bill raising serious concerns among people who understand the importance of strong prohibitions against animal cruelty.
House Bill 2330 will delight the corporate agriculture lobbyists who helped craft it to look like an animal protection bill – but in reality, this legislation is designed to repeal the few protections millions of animals have in Arizona.
HB 2330 is nearly identical to the first bill Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed after taking office last year. Again animal-welfare advocates are asking state representatives to defeat a bill intent on weakening the state’s current animal-cruelty laws.
The bill would remove livestock and poultry from Arizona’s definition of animals in the criminal code – stripping them of any protection from anti-cruelty laws. Further, the bill omits the crime of “abandonment” and the requirement to provide medical care to farm animals – both of which are crimes under current law. Under HB 2330, a person could abandon his horse in the desert and leave it to die without penalty.
HB 2330 would also forbid any city, town or county from enacting laws tougher than this watered-down bill. For example, in 1996, the City of Phoenix enacted an ordinance banning home slaughter of livestock following an investigation of people slaughtering goats in apartment complexes. Under HB 2330, local governments will be powerless to address issues like this in their communities.
One bizarre requirement of HB 2330 is that the Department of Agriculture Director has to be notified of any investigation of livestock abuse. The bill actually requires police officers investigating livestock abuse to notify civilians in the Department of Agriculture, thereby compromising ongoing criminal investigations. No other area of law enforcement requires such an outside notification.
HB 2330 not only threatens sensitive animal cruelty investigations conducted by law enforcement, it literally puts the fox in charge of the hen house.
HB 2330 revokes protections that all animals in Arizona have benefited from for decades and puts the welfare of certain animals at substantial risk – without any corresponding benefit or legitimate justification.
Watching the Department of Agriculture trying to undermine existing animal-cruelty statutes begs the question, “What are they trying to hide?” If most farmers and agricultural people treat their animals well, as I am convinced they do, why do they need to be exempt from animal-cruelty statutes?
The Yavapai Humane Society shares the concern of many lawmakers that animal welfare groups were not invited to be involved in the drafting of this bill nor were they even allowed to participate in any stakeholder meetings.
In a letter announcing his veto of a similar bill last year, Ducey explained, “we all agree animal cruelty is inexcusable and absolutely will not be tolerated in the state of Arizona. No animal should be the victim of abuse. Moreover, perpetrators must be held to account and properly penalized to the fullest extent of the law.
“We must ensure that all animals are protected, and [be] mindful that increasing protections for one class of animals does not inadvertently undercut protections of another,” which is exactly what HB 2330 intentionally does.
HB 2330 is bad law. We can do better. Let your state representatives know how you feel.
Although the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) has been providing animal shelter services to our community for 43 years, it was only five and a half years ago that YHS embraced what we have come to call our “no-kill ethic.” We define this ethic as applying the same criteria to determining a homeless pets’ fate that a pet owner or conscientious veterinarian would apply to a beloved family pet. That is, healthy and treatable animals are not euthanized (killed) simply because of a lack of resources.
Once this life-affirming ethic was implemented, the practical consequences immediately began to fall into place. Embracing and practicing the no-kill ethic has resulted in our community becoming the region in the United States for dogs and cats – for five consecutive years. Euthanasia/killing has been effectively eliminated as a tool to control pet overpopulation in our community and overcrowding in our shelter. Killing has been replaced by a robust low-cost spay/neuter and pet identification (microchip) programs. Spay/neuter programs reduce the number of unwanted pets and pet identification programs allow for the quick return of lost pets to their frantic owners.
A perfect example of an animal benefiting from the YHS no-kill ethic is Ziggy – a 2-year-old intact male Tibetan spaniel mix. Ziggy was found by animal control on Dec. 1. He was abandoned by his owners with an apparent broken leg.
Upon arrival, the YHS medical team found Ziggy had suffered severe trauma. X-rays revealed two broken legs: his right front leg had fractures of the radius and ulna and his left front leg had metacarpal fractures. We splinted both front legs and started him on pain medications. YHS veterinarian consulted with a private practice veterinary orthopedic surgeon.
The decision was made to transport Ziggy to a local veterinary hospital in Phoenix where Ziggy was examined and immediately scheduled for surgery. His multiple fractures were repaired with plates, screws and a tension splint. Ziggy’s recovery is expected to take 6 to 8 weeks and is made possible thanks to YHS’ compassionate foster care giving volunteers. The orthopedic surgeon felt the fractures could be old injuries suggesting criminal cruelty and neglect may have been involved.
Typically, the cost for this surgery would exceed $4,300; however, the private veterinarian graciously agreed to charge YHS only $2,800 for this lifesaving surgery. Ziggy is now a STAR Animal.
STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) is a donation funded program designed to ensure animals in critical need of medical care beyond the scope of the YHS budget are not denied the care they need to survive. These animals are sadly routinely euthanized in many other shelters.
If you would like to help animals like Ziggy please make sure your local shelter has a STAR Program you can make a tax deductible donation. Your donation will help ensure your local shelter has the funds available to help the next rescued animal in need of life saving medical care.