Over the course of my career I may have been responsible for safely placing more pit bulls into loving homes than any other person in the United States.
I have long been troubled by the fact that no dog in history encounters more misunderstanding and vilification than the pit bull; a canine category I define as the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, and any crosses of these three. I admire these animals for their tenacious athletic ability, loyalty, intelligence, and high-energy.
I’ve never met a person willing to admit a tolerance for animal cruelty. However, animal cruelty is quietly accepted by most of us. Case in point: The government requires every new compound that you might be exposed to – whether it’s the latest wonder drug, lipstick shade, pesticide or food dye – to be tested to make sure it isn’t toxic. This testing usually results in a torturous life and death for many lab animals.
When it comes to corporate budget sheets, saving animals can seem a minor concern. One exception to that mindset is Allergan Inc. of Irvine, Calif., the manufacturer of Botox. Allergan announced last June that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its new method to test Botox’s potency. Instead of testing every batch on live animals, Allergan can now run a test on cells in a lab dish. Continue reading “Botox removes wrinkles… and animal testing! by Ed Boks”
Recently Nathan Winograd mischaracterized a portion of an email from me as suggesting LA’s spay/neuter law is a failure. This is typical of the divisive sniping endemic in all of Nathan’s self-aggrandizing philosophy.
Californians for Humane Farms is an initiative sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Farm Sanctuary and many other animal protection groups, family farmers, veterinarians and public health professionals. This coalition is waging a ballot initiative campaign in California to pass The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act in the November 2008 election.
Supporters of the initiative claim The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act asks for only the most basic needs for farm animals: merely the ability to turn around and extend their limbs. It is hard to imagine a more moderate initiative. HSUS explains the purpose of the measure is to prevent three methods of the allegedly most cruel and inhumane forms of extreme confinement in the world of animal agribusiness: veal crates, battery cages, and gestation crates. All three of these practices have already been legislated against in the European Union.
Proponents claim the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act will reduce the suffering of nearly 20 million animals confined in California factory farms. The measure will also prevent other out-of-state factory farm operators from setting up shop in our state with veal crates, battery cages, and gestation crates. Florida, Arizona, and Oregon have banned gestation crates, and Arizona has banned veal crates. Some major California food retailers are already moving away from supporting battery cages and veal and gestation crates.
Gestation crates are used to confine a sow for nearly her whole four-month pregnancy. Right before giving birth, she is moved from the gestation crate into a farrowing crate – a metal stall designed to separate her from her nursing piglets. After the piglets are weaned prematurely, the sow is re-impregnated and confined again in a gestation crate. Farrowing crates are exempted from this measure.
Nearly 800,000 Californians have already stepped up to sign a petition to put this seemingly modest proposal on the November ballot. The petition calls for all Californians to come together to end what many consider to be the cruelest confinement techniques used on factory farms – both in terms of the intensity and duration of confinement. Petitioners assert that keeping animals so restrictively crated that they can barely move for months on end is cruel and inhumane.
In fact, LA Animal Services was recognized by The Maddie’s Fund, the well known pet rescue foundation established in 1999 to help fund the creation of a no-kill nation, for our “transparency,” (i.e., the ready availability of information to the public). Of the over 5200 animal control programs in the United States and the tens of thousands humane societies and other animal welfare organizations, Maddie’s identified only five organizations for their transparency. LA Animal Services was at the top of this list and was the only municipal animal control program recognized.
Over the past six years, LA Animal Services has been able to boast one of the most impressive records for reducing pet euthanasia as a methodology for controlling pet overpopulation in the nation.
However, the first quarter statistics for 2008 have recently been posted, and they are disappointing. Despite the fact that live placements (adoptions, New Hope placements, and redemption’s) continue to rise to unprecedented levels historically and unequaled levels nationally (27,565 in the past 12 months for a 59% live release rate [70% for dogs and 44% for cats]) the euthanasia level also rose.
There are many possible reasons for this increase, and it is important that we understand all of them if we are to address and correct this anomaly as a community going forward.
1. I want to preface this discussion by reminding everyone that LA Animal Services’ statistics showing increased euthanasia and animal intakes during the first quarter of 2008 demonstrates that the department does not “fudge the data” or “manipulate the process to spin the numbers” as some critic’s suggest.
2. A second preface is to acknowledge that we at LA Animal Services are as disappointed with these results as are our critics. To have both the intake and kill rates drift upward in four of our shelters over the past quarter is not acceptable and we are taking steps to reverse this disturbing trend.
To be fair, it should be understood that when you normalize* the statistics and compare the intake statistics to the euthanasia rates in the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2007 there was only a 1.49% increase in euthanasia.
But no matter how you assess the numbers, everyone agrees that no increase in euthanasia is desirable, and we will continue to do everything we can to return to our long standing trend of reducing the killing. As was explained in my last message, we have hit the proverbial “wall” and will need the help of the entire animal loving community going forward.
(* Normalization is the process of removing statistical error in repeated measured data. For us, that means comparing the euthanasia rate relative to a fluctuating intake rate.)
3. Statistics do not exist in a vacuum and there are reasons why things are as they are, some reasons are more subject to department control than are others. The bottom line, however, is that there is a lot of work to do and hysteria, hand-wringing and finger pointing does not save lives.
4. The department recently completed a major shelter management reassignment that has impacted almost every shelter. This was done to match the abilities of some of our most experienced managers with jobs we feel they can do well. These changes bring with them adjustment periods as managers learn about their newly assigned, and in some cases, newly opened facilities. These managers must determine how they want to tackle the many challenges they face in their respective shelters. I will soon announce the selection of a new Assistant General Manager of Operations who will work directly with them on these challenges. In the meantime, we started posting statistics by shelter in the hope this information will help the community better target its resources to help the animals most at risk.
LA Animal Services opened three new facilities in the last ten months and we are scheduled to open two more in the next three months. This is the fastest and largest increase of any City Department in LA City history and represents a significant learning curve during a time of intense scrutiny and fiscal instability.
5. Center managers are responsible for determining the optimal animal capacity for their shelter. This is a delicate balance between wanting to save lives and not wanting to be perceived as “warehousing” animals. If a shelter experiences a short-term surge in new arrivals, it could lead to an urgent need to move more animals out of the shelter one way or another. Unfortunately, when that doesn’t happen via adoption, New Hope rescue, or transfer of animals within our shelter system or partnering shelter systems, it’s likely to happen via euthanasia.
Adoptions and Rescues
6. There is a spirited national debate going on about whether shelters can “adopt their way” to No-Kill status. Perhaps we can, but it takes the whole community working together. As noted earlier, adoptions at LAAS shelters were also up during the first quarter of 2008 and, on a month-over-month basis, has been up for 12 consecutive months by a range of from 10-30% depending on the month. That is encouraging.
7. The numbers of dogs and cats placed by our wonderful New Hope rescue partners during the first quarter of ‘08 is up by about 5% over last year. This is also encouraging coming after a year in which New Hope rescue placements were down. Our New Hope partners do all they can to help save animals but sometimes they run out of capacity too, so any month when they are able to increase the number of transfers that is a plus.
8. Increasing animal adoptions can be a challenge when the most easy-to-adopt animals, such as puppies, kittens and purebreds, are scooped up almost immediately after they come into the shelters. That leaves the harder to adopt big and older dogs, so-called aggressive breeds and injured or sick animals that place a larger burden on the casual would-be adopter.
These animals must be marketed more aggressively and creatively, and the simple fact is that marketing is not our strong suit at the moment. We don’t have a public relations staff, nor do we have a volunteer coordinator at the moment to run our mobile adoption program. These tasks are being done on an ad hoc basis by extraordinary employees whose primary responsibilities lie elsewhere.
We’ve been struggling to find a new PR person and volunteer coordinator through the City’s civil service system and have yet to turn up a suitable candidate with the requisite experience and skills. We’ll keep trying to rectify that as soon as we can, and under the new pressures of a deficit-driven City hiring freeze. But in the meantime, getting the word out about our shelter animals, and getting those animals out to a wider public, remains a challenge. The importance of doing so, however, was made very clear by the 52% jump in adoptions at our shelters in the week following Oprah Winfrey’s April 4 show on puppy mills which featured our South LA Animal Care Center.
Riester Ad Agency has generously donated a series of adoption campaign ads that are downloadable from our website. LA Animal Services asks everyone with access to a neighborhood newspaper, LA animal blog, local or business bulletin board to help us get the word out by posting these ads.
9. Some have pointed to the first quarter upsurge in intakes as indicative of some systemic failure on the department’s part, though they offer no logical explanation for this allegation. It is impossible at this point to know if this increase in intakes is a reversal of a long standing trend or if it is a short term reaction to the recent housing market collapse.
To be sure, we are dealing with a unique phenomenon this year – widely documented in the media – and that is the unprecedented upsurge in pet relinquishment’s resulting from families losing their homes to foreclosures or evictions. Many are finding that they are unable to afford to keep their pets or, alternately, to find a new home they can afford where pets are allowed. Intakes system wide were up by 447 animals in March 2008 over March 2007, and it makes sense that housing and economic displacement contributed substantially to that increase. People leaving their pets at our shelters have made that clear. The solution: A House is not a Home without a Pet program.
10. Spring and early summer is traditionally a problem for every animal shelter, as kitten and puppy season brings more neonates through our doors. Hundreds of orphaned neonate kittens are taken in every month at this time of year, and they are the primary focus of our life saving efforts. They require careful around-the-clock care that no shelter is equipped to provide, either in terms of facilities or available staff. Dozens of staff members have, however, stepped up to take on the challenge of fostering litters of kittens, as have more than 100 volunteers, but if a dedicated caregiver can’t be found for an orphaned litter of neonate kittens, they will probably be euthanized. We don’t make excuses for this, and we welcome every new volunteer foster caregiver we can recruit.
It should be understood that LA Animal Services is not the only organization in the greater LA region facing this crisis. All our sister jurisdictions and rescue partners are inundated with hundreds of neonate kittens at the same time. We are all exhausting our limited resources as we take in, care for, and try to place these animals.
11. Apart from a regularization of the real estate market which is probably a number of months away, one thing that must be done to arrest this trend is to create more opportunities for people to keep their pets when they have to move. The local humane community has been discussing this issue and is working on ideas that might help, including providing landlords with financial indemnification against pet-related damage, and/or other incentives that would motivate them to allow pets in the units they own and manage. In a city where 62% of the residents are tenants, increasing the availability of pet-friendly rental units is an issue that deserves much more attention than it is getting.
12. Some blame the upsurge in intakes on the department’s alleged failure to spay and neuter everything in sight, as if that were possible. But LA Animal Services is doing what it can, and may well lead the nation’s shelters in our commitment to provide spay/neuter as a tool for reducing pet overpopulation.
With the generous support of the Mayor and City Council, we’re able to fund upwards of 40,000 surgeries a year, using our two currently operational spay/neuter clinics, the Amanda Foundation and Sam Simon Foundation mobile clinics, and the network of private veterinarians who take our discount vouchers.
As this is written, we have a Request for Proposals (RFP) soliciting operators for the five new spay/neuter clinics nearing completion in our new shelters. Additionally, others in the humane community who have an interest in spay/neuter are preparing to launch new community-based spay/neuter efforts in and around Los Angeles.
The City’s pioneering spay/neuter ordinance that became law on April 8th is already generating a surge in voluntary compliance at various clinics. We have begun to gear up the information and enforcement efforts that will be needed to make the ordinance effective and we expect it to generate results that will become clear in our statistics over the next few years.
13. All that being said, we definitely have not been able to sterilize all the feral and stray cats we want. This is because of a lawsuit threat from an environmental group opposed to the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) methodology used to control feral and stray cat populations in many locales, including cities contiguous to Los Angeles. This has forced LA Animal Services to undertake a lengthy environmental study process before trying to establish a formal TNR program here. This could take up to another year to accomplish.
In the meantime, valiant community TNR volunteers do what they can to manage the problem in various locations, but untended, unsterilized stray cats can undo much of the progress these diligent volunteers achieve. Many of the neonate litters we see come from this source and, absent the ability for the department to legally conduct TNR, unadoptable feral adults and their kittens will continue to account for hundreds, if not thousands, of the unfortunate cats who are euthanized every year.
14. I don’t offer these explanations as excuses for what we have experienced in our shelters so far in 2008. We share the frustrations of the entire humane community when statistics don’t trend positive, and we should be held accountable when all is said and done. But our larger job is to bring the community together to find solutions, to seek new resources when the City budget can’t provide them, and find new ways to overcome the challenges few communities have ever had to face on the scale we see in Los Angeles.
We hope to soon gather the community together to try to do just that. We will continue to work on identifying new resources to help us meet the challenges posed by the spay/neuter law, make more homes welcoming to pets, get the word out that big, older dogs and neonate kittens make lovable pets, and provide adopters with the support they need to ensure that is the case.
If you would like to help, please consider joining our Volunteer Program or make a donation towards one of our many life saving programs.
A precedent-setting ballot initiative campaign to ban what many consider to be the cruelest forms of confinement in the veal, egg, and pork industries has been underway in California for the past few months.
A total of 650,000 signatures are required to put the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act on the statewide ballot this November, and with just two weeks left, about 90,000 signatures are still needed.
More background information can be found in an LA Times editorial that ran this past Saturday, entitled “Hard to Stomach”. In it, The LA Times criticized the USDA for failing to prevent abuses recently exposed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in a California meat packing plant. There’s also an Associated Press story about the USDA extending the ban on this plant which has been closed since the story broke on January 30th.
The LA Times trumpeted the news in today’s edition, “The Los Angeles City Council voted 10 to 1 today to approve mandatory sterilization of most pets at the age of 4 months or older – a decision greeted by cheers and applause from the crowded room at the Van Nuys City Hall – where the council meets the first Friday of every month.”
Los Angles is the largest city in the United States with such an ordinance.
On behalf of LA Animal Services, and the tens of thousands of lost and homeless animals we care for every year, I want to thank everyone who was able to attend Friday’s City Council meeting and anyone who played any role in helping to get the long awaited Spay/Neuter Ordinance passed.
This is a victory for the entire community, whether they were there or not, and whether they know it or not. Soon we’ll have an important tool with which we can make significant progress toward the goal we all aspire, ending euthanasia as a method of pet overpopulation control.
This is a monumental accomplishment and, on behalf of the Department, I congratulate and thank you all.
This past April, the Los Angeles City Council joined the Mayor in voting unanimously to support Assembly Bill 1634 – The California Healthy Pet Bill, – a bill designed to abate the incalculable suffering of unwanted lost and homeless dogs and cats in the State of California.
Yesterday, LA City’s Public Safety committee voted unanimously to support a spay/neuter ordinance designed to address the specific needs of the City of Los Angeles.
Many of us face the harsh realities of pet overpopulation every day as we take in, care for, and ultimately kill too many of the animals in our charge. If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then this ordinance gives us a tool to end the insanity and do something significantly different.
This Friday, February 1st, the entire LA City Council will vote on whether this ordinance should become law. If it is enacted, this ordinance will help end the cycle of frustration we all face and feel every day. This ordinance will allow us to eventually reallocate precious resources toward increasing adoption, educating the public on humane issues, and fight animal cruelty.
Several years ago, the City of Los Angeles became a national leader by committing itself to ending euthanasia as a methodology for controlling pet overpopulation. This commitment was demonstrated by an allocation of $160 million to build seven new animal care centers to manage the crushing number of lost and homeless animals rescued by LA Animal Services every year, over 50,000 animals.
This commitment was further demonstrated over the past six years by the City Council who, in concert with the Mayor, provided the support the department needed to staff the new facilities, increase our spay/neuter programs and move this city to the forefront of the nation’s drive to become truly animal-friendly.
This unflinching commitment to the health, safety and welfare of our community’s pets has taught us an important lesson: that addressing the pet overpopulation problem from the back end is expensive. Building bigger and better shelters is similar to trying to mop up a flooded basement without first fixing the broken pipe. Until we turn off the faucet that is pouring thousands of unwanted dogs and cats into our City shelters we will never gain control over the homeless animal explosion.
This new ordinance is a tool that can propel us toward a day when we can finally end the killing of animals because we lack the room in our shelters for the seemingly endless flow of 150 newcomers on average per day.
On behalf of the nearly 50,000 animals Animal Services rescues every year, and the over 400 employees, and the hundreds of volunteers and partners we have throughout Los Angeles who feel the brunt of pet overpopulation every day, I ask you to ask your City Council representative to support this important ordinance on Friday.
If you would like to voice your support in person, you are invited to attend the City Council Meeting scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Friday, February 1st, at the Valley Municipal Building (Van Nuys City Hall) 14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys
If you can’t make it, please contact Councilmember Alarcon’s office via this e-mail: Councilmember.Alarcon@lacity.org or by phone (213.473.7007) or fax (213.847.0707) to express your support of the ordinance and to thank him for his leadership on this important issue.
Federal Income Tax: Income from animal sales is the same as other ordinary income and must be reported for federal income tax purposes. The IRS encourages the reporting of any persons who evade income tax liability by offering a reward of up to 15% of the taxes received.
Always get a receipt for the price paid for an animal and try to avoid paying cash. Write a check instead. A seller’s insistence on cash can be based on a desire to avoid paying income taxes or even a desire to keep you from having recourse if there are problems with the animal. Never buy an animal offered in a public place, swap meet, parking lot, etc.
California Income Tax: The above is also true for purposes of California resident income taxes. California sales tax must be reported and paid by sellers of more than two animals during any year. If you’re buying a family pet (except from someone re-homing a single family pet), ask for the seller’s sales permit number.
California Puppy and Kitten Lemon Laws:
Summary of Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act: This law requires pet dealers (i.e. retail sellers of more than 50 dogs or cats in the previous year; not including animal shelters and humane societies) to have a permit, maintain certain health and safety standards for their animals, sell only healthy animals, provide written spay-neuter, health, animal history and other information and disclosures to pet buyers and also makes them liable for your damages up to specified limits if:
1. The dealer has not maintained specified health, safety and comfort standards for all animals in his/her care (please read the law at the link below so you will know what to look for)
2. A veterinarian states in writing that the animal became ill within 15 days of purchase, or
3. A veterinarian states in writing that within a year of purchase the animal has a hereditary or congenital disease that requires hospitalization and from which the animal is unlikely to recover
If the dealer refuses to pay, the most effective way to recover your damages is usually through a small claims court action. Please check with your local small claims court as they can provide information to guide you through the process.
This law also requires pet dealers to only have dogs that are at least 8 weeks old and to provide dogs with decent food, water, sanitary living conditions, socialization, exercise and prompt veterinary care. They must also have each dog checked and treated as necessary by a vterinarian before s/he is sold. Dealers must also maintain records of each animal sold for a period of one year. Non-compliance with this law is punishable by a civil fine of up to $1,000 per violation, with possible additional penalties for certain offenses as high as $10,000 and a ban from selling pets for up to one year. Violations should be reported to your local animal control agency and, if necessary, your local district attorney’s or city attorney’s office.
You should be prepared to carefully document any complaints with provable facts as government agencies may not have the time or resources to do so.
If a breeder is breaking the rules, it’s important that you bring this to the attention of the proper authorities. The animals can’t, and its they who suffer and die at the hands of breeders operating in violation of animal protection laws. Please speak up for those who have no voice.
Summary of Polanco-Lockyer Pet Breeder Warranty Act: This law offers protection similar to that of the Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act, except that it applies only to dog breeders who sold or gave away either three litters or 20 dogs in the previous year. Cats are not covered. Breeders subject to this law are not covered by the Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act.
California Cruelty to Animals Laws: California prohibits cruelty to animals and defines it very broadly. A violation of these laws is a felony punishable by a lengthy prison term. There are also rules for pet shops to insure that animals are treated decently. For a summary of these laws,
Cruelty to animals should be reported to your local police or sheriff’s department. In the City of Los Angeles report cruelty to the LA Animal Cruelty Task Force at 213.847.1417.
Local Laws: Every city and county in California has the right to pass laws that can affect animal breeders and sellers. These include:
1. Zoning laws (for example, use of a residence zoned only for residential use to conduct a pet breeding/sale business).
2. Laws on the maximum number of animals that can be at a given address.
3. Business license requirements, including licenses specific to animal sellers.
4. Health and safety rules for animals.
5. Noise control ordinances.
6. Mandatory spay/neuter laws.
7. Laws punishing cruelty to animals.
8. Other restrictions on animal breeders and sellers.
9. Anti-animal fighting laws.
You can learn about these laws and file complaints against violators at the local government agency with responsibility for the subject matter.
Federal Law – The 1970 Animal Welfare Act: This law requires, among other things, licensing of breeders who have four or more breeding dogs or cats and who sell their puppies or kittens, or other breeders who sell puppies or kittens raised by other breeders. These breeders are required to maintain minimum health, safety and welfare standards for animals in their care. The text of the law can be found at http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/legislat/awa.htm
While complaints about unlicensed breeders and conditions at licensed breeders can be made to the USDA, their resources to deal with violations are limited and legal action against violators is rare. Complaints made under state and local laws are more likely to result in effective action.
A Big Thank You to attorney Sandy Ettinger for helping me put this important information together for all of us.
This is the fifth posting in a series of messages responding to the recommendations of the “No-Kill Equation”. The “No-Kill Equation” is comprised of ten commonsense, long-standing practices embraced and implemented by LA Animal Services with remarkable success.
This analysis compares the “No-Kill Equation” to LA’s programs and practices. Today’s message focuses on the fifth recommendation of the “No-Kill Equation,” which is Comprehensive Adoption Programs.
The Ten “No-Kill Equation” Recommendations are:
1. Feral Cat TNR Program
2. High Volume/Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
3. Rescue Groups
4. Foster Care 5. Comprehensive Adoption Program 6. Pet Retention
7. Medical and Behavioral Rehabilitation
8. Public Relations/Community Involvement
10. A Compassionate Director
The “No-Kill Equation” is in this font.
My analysis is in italic font.
V. Comprehensive Adoption Programs Adoptions are vital to an agency’s lifesaving mission. The quantity and quality of shelter adoptions is in shelter management’s hands, making lifesaving a direct function of shelter policies and practice.
As one commentator put it, “if each pet lives 10 years, on average, and the number of homes grows at the same rate that homes are lost through deaths and other attrition, then replacement homes would become available each year for more than twice as many dog and slightly more cats than enter shelters. Since the inventory of pet-owning homes is growing, not just holding even, adoption could in theory replace all population control killing right now–if the animals and potential adopters were better introduced.”
In fact, studies show people get their dogs from shelters only 15% of the time overall, and less than 10% of the time for cats. If shelters better promoted their animals and had adoption programs responsive to the needs of the community, they could increase the number of homes available and replace population control killing with adoptions. In other words, shelter killing is more a function of market share, than “public irresponsibility.” Contrary to conventional wisdom, shelters can adopt their way out of killing.
Ed’s Analysis: LA Animal Services’ animal care centers have always strived to increase adoptions and have done so every consecutive year for the past six years. As the new and expanded facilities continue to open as targeted during 2008, they will be among the most inviting animal adoption environments in the nation. Even prior to the opening of all of the new or expanded, environmentally-sustainable facilities, the work of dedicated shelter staff and volunteers working in the Department’s existing shelters and at mobile adoption events have made it possible for LA Animal Services to adopt out or release to rescuers more animals than any other municipal shelter system in the U.S in 2007.
LA Animal Services has operated mobile adoption events since the late 1990s and continues to hold five to ten or more such events every month in locations all around Los Angeles, in addition to speaking engagements and information distribution regarding adoption at community events. Department volunteers work with staff to accomplish these activities and also engage in follow-up marketing of the animals that are not adopted from the mobile events. The Department’s goal is to substantially increase the number of these mobile adoptions and outreach efforts in the coming years.
While the “No Kill Equation” asserts a largely unsubstantiated theory (especially in large public shelter systems) that “shelters can adopt their way out of killing,” the reality is that as long as people fail or refuse to spay and neuter their pets, treat their pets as disposable and relinquish them to shelters or abandon them in the streets, favor specific purebred animals over mixed breeds and thus continue to buy animals from breeders and pet stores, there will always tend to be more pets than adoptive homes to care for them.
The “No Kill Equation” chooses to blame shelters and their directors for the fact that animals show up in shelters, are not always adopted, and sometimes are euthanized. This is comparable to excoriating a doctor for the fact that he or she has patients. To be sure, the doctor can and should be held accountable for how he treats those patients once they arrive, but it’s not his or her fault that the patient got sick or injured in the first place.
A variety of factors come into play and, yes, one of them is irresponsible pet guardianship. Some guardians simply refuse to have their animals sterilized and let them run loose, where they can breed in an uncontrolled manner. Others willfully breed their animals thinking they can make a few bucks selling puppies and kittens. Shelter directors and the entities that employ them can, and have, used every method available to them to try and persuade people to behave otherwise, but some will never change. To insist otherwise is to be naïve and counterproductive.
That is why the push for No-Kill must include focus on all the factors and influences that contribute to the flow of homeless animals into the shelters, from the need for more spay/neuter, to backyard breeding and puppy mills, to dog fighting and more. If we don’t include these as part of our collective focus, we’ll find ourselves perpetually frustrated by what seems like an inability to truly get to the root of the problems.
To achieve No-Kill requires communities to both stem pet overpopulation and build robust pet adoption programs. It is not either/or, it is decidedly both. I have managed the three largest pet adoption agencies in the United States, and I can assure you that the “Equation’s” contention that shelters can “adopt their way out of the killing” reveals only a naïveté. To focus only on pet adoption is like running on a treadmill expecting foolishly to reach some distant destination.
Indeed, tactical programs (like Adoption and New Hope) are important, but without strategic programs (like Big Fix, FELIX, Safety Net, and legislation like AB 1634) shelters are doomed to be gathering places for our communities’ lost and unwanted pets. We must rise above the simplistic solutions of the so-called “No-Kill Equation” and implement multi-focused strategies to effectively end pet euthanasia as a method of pet overpopulation control.