Building Trust Through Transparency and Accountability

A Commitment to No-Kill Excellence

In the dynamic landscape of animal welfare, transparency and accountability serve as guiding principles, illuminating the path towards a future where every animal has the opportunity to thrive. By maintaining transparent reporting on shelter statistics, including intake, adoption, and euthanasia rates, shelters not only foster accountability and trust within the community but also gain valuable insights into areas for improvement and measure progress towards achieving no-kill goals. As we delve into the importance of implementing this strategy, let us explore the transformative power of transparency and accountability in advancing the cause of animal welfare. Continue reading “Building Trust Through Transparency and Accountability”

Time for a national conversation about pit bulls by Ed Boks

Merritt and Beth Clifton

Is it time national animal welfare organizations rethink their position on pit bulls?

This is the recommendation of Beth Clifton, a former Miami Beach police officer, animal control officer, elementary school teacher, veterinary technician and wife of Animals 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton.

Animals 24-7 recently published Beth Clifton’s open letter to Matthew Bershadker, president of the ASPCA; Julie Castle, president of Best Friends Animal Society; and Kitty Block, president of HSUS.  Continue reading “Time for a national conversation about pit bulls by Ed Boks”

Is D.C. Cat Count really necessary? by Ed Boks

D.C. Cat Count includes hidden cameras to take photos of free roaming cats.

The New York Times reported today that the Humane Society of the United States, PetSmart Charities and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is launching a $1.5 million, three-year plan to count all the stray, feral and pet cats living in Washington D.C.

The plan is called D.C. Cat Count; and it is a highly technological endeavor. As many as 60 camera traps will record images of outdoor cats. A smartphone app, (still in development), will allow anyone in D.C. to share pictures of feral and/or pet cats in an effort to build a comprehensive library of all the cats living in the District. Continue reading “Is D.C. Cat Count really necessary? by Ed Boks”

When it comes to pit bulls, how stupid are we? by Ed Boks

Collage by Beth Clifton

Every year, ANIMALS 24-7 conducts a national dog-breed survey.  The results of the 2018 survey were just released.  As interesting as the data collected by the survey are, I was particularly struck by a rather provocative proposition posed by Merritt Clifton, the editor/reporter of ANIMALS 24-7 and this survey.

Before exploring the thought provoking proposal, let’s set the stage:

The survey found that as of mid-June 2018, nearly 15% of all the dogs available for sale or adoption in the U.S. were pit bulls.  With that kind of market presence, one might conclude pit bulls are pretty popular in the U.S.  However, Mr. Clifton has another explanation. Continue reading “When it comes to pit bulls, how stupid are we? by Ed Boks”

Formula to end feral cat killing by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and feral cats
The formula to end the killing of feral cats works

It is commonly understood that any serious initiative to end shelter killing has to focus on ending the “supply side” of the surplus animal equation.  The only way to do that is to preemptively spay/neuter those animals most likely to “supply” (give birth to) animals most likely to die in animal shelters.We

The three categories of animals dying in the largest numbers in most shelters throughout the United States are feral cats, pit bulls/pit bull mixes, and Chihuahuas.

There are effective solutions for ending the killing of these populations; and those solutions begin and end with targeted spay/neuter programs.  In a previous blog I addressed the need for targeted spay/neuter programs for pit bulls.  In this blog, I focus on how to end the killing of feral and stray cats.    Continue reading “Formula to end feral cat killing by Ed Boks”

Its time to consider targeted pit bull spay/neuter programs by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Henry Kleinhans
Henry Kleinhans was mauled to death by his own pit bull. Picture: Solly Lottering

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.

Word reached me this morning that Henry Kleynhans, 50, a retired police officer was fatally mauled on February 8, 2018, and his wife Rita was critically injured, by their own pit bull in their home at Belmont Park, Kraaifontein, South Africa. Continue reading “Its time to consider targeted pit bull spay/neuter programs by Ed Boks”

What to do when you find newborn kittens by Ed Boks

Best to leave kittens where you found them

Each spring local animal shelters receive many kittens too young to survive more than an hour or two without a mother. These kittens are called “neonates.”  Sadly, most of the neonate kittens that shelters take in are orphans.  People find these babies in their garage, barn, flowerbeds and many other places where the mother felt safe from predators and intruders while she gave birth.

Understandably, some people feel they are helping neonate kittens when they bring them to an animal shelter.  Actually, they are putting these little lives at tremendous risk because euthanasia may be the only way a shelter can save them from suffering an agonizing death by starvation.

To avoid such a horrible fate, I recommend you leave neonate kittens where you found them; they are not abandoned – and momma cat is their best guarantee of survival. Continue reading “What to do when you find newborn kittens by Ed Boks”

Nathan Winograd’s deceptive attacks obfuscate facts by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Nathan Winograd
Nathan Winograd shoots his arrows and then paints a target around them. 

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.

The email quotes a portion of an email that says, “we can’t hide from the fact that veterinarians are raising their prices to a point where people cannot afford the services regardless of vouchers or financial assistance. We need some innovative thinking in addition to more mobile vans.” Continue reading “Nathan Winograd’s deceptive attacks obfuscate facts by Ed Boks”

Lessons learned by Ed Boks

LA Animal Services’ February 2009 statistics are now available. Something truly remarkable seems to be happening. Despite encountering the highest January/February impound rates in nearly a decade we were able to achieve the lowest January/February euthanasia rate in the department’s recorded history. And this was done without overcrowding our Centers! This is a tribute to  all our employees, volunteers and partners! Well done! Thank you for all your efforts!

So how did this happen? From lessons learned!

Over the past two years, LA Animal Services experienced the largest, fastest, most historic growth in service demand in its history. With the opening of our new and expanded Centers we experienced nearly a 250% increase in kennels and workload while Center staffing increased only 100%. The new facilities attracted a greater client base, leading to more animals turned in, redeemed, and adopted. More people are now coming in to adopt and relinquish pets, obtain information, more veterinary care is needed and provided, and more volunteers and trainers want to help. This is exactly the business of LA Animal Services, and it is all being managed with a minimum workforce.

As the Department moved into its new Centers we encountered a learning curve for effectively managing our new facilities and our enlarged shelter populations. As the new Centers began to open in late 2006 we realized in 2007 the lowest euthanasia rate (15,009) in the department’s long recorded history of statistics gathering (since 1960. Over 110,000 dogs and cats were euthanized in 1971).

The low euthanasia rate in 2007 was the result of many reasons, but most notable was our having more space to hold animals coupled with a robust adoption program. In 2008, as we were still moving into our new Centers, we experienced a 20% increase (54,191) in intakes due in large measure to the economic downturn. This increase was complicated by our inexperience managing so many animals in all this new space. Consequently, the shelters quickly filled up (sometimes to the point of overcrowding), animals got sick more often and we sometimes found ourselves forced to resort to euthanasia to bring populations under control again. The nearly 30% increase in adoptions in 2008 did not keep pace with our 20.5% increase (nearly 150 dogs and cats every day) in intakes.

LA Animal Services had to quickly find its balance in an environment of severe budget cuts, unprecedented demand for expansion of services, and a severe staffing shortage. The Department had to re-group, tone-up and empower staff (especially at the mid-management level) to improve accountability and effectiveness.

Having gone through this painful growth experience, our Center Managers are now constantly looking for ways to better promote their adoptable animals more effectively. They are on the lookout for more and better off site adoption partners and events. The Department is exploring partnerships with pet stores interested in abandoning puppy mill sources. Our veterinarians are spaying or neutering some animals in-house. This allows our adopters to take their new pets home on the day of adoption. And our Veterinary team is implementing an enhanced cleaning regimen designed to help maintain a healthier shelter population.

We are aggressively transferring animals to one or another of our six adoption Centers or another municipal or private shelter when appropriate to increase adoption options. We’ve developed and are strictly adhering to a Population Assessment Management program that maintains our Center populations at least 10% below maximum capacity to allow sufficient space for incoming animals.

Another significant innovation that we are in the process of implementing is a program called, “Heart-to-Heart”. This program focuses on animals in our Centers longer than two weeks. Each Center has a Heart-to-Heart team that includes the Center Manager, the Center Veterinarian, the ACT Supervisor, and the New Hope Coordinator or their designees. This team works together to help decide the best options for animals that don’t get adopted in their first two weeks in a shelter. The team is charged with considering and exhausting all avenues of release, including but not limited to mobile adoption events, New Hope and other marketing pleas, transfer to another Center or agency, etc, etc.

So, are these strategies responsible for the positive statistics below? Time will tell. The Department will continue to monitor, tweak, manage, and modify as we continually learn from our mistakes, our successes, and the counsel of others.

Intakes/Rescues: February 09 Intakes were up over 7% (from 3,010 to 3,225). This is the highest February Intake since collecting data electronically began in 2001. February 2001 Intake was 3,079. Year to Date (YTD) Intakes are up over 4% (from 6,275 to 6,542). This is the highest January/February Intake since 2001 when 7,034 animals were taken in. This is a disturbing trend continuing from 2008.

Adoptions: February 09 Adoptions are up nearly 18% (1,607) compared to February 08 (1,377). YTD Adoptions are up 17.6% (from 2,848 to 3,351).

New Hope: February New Hope Placements are down nearly 7% (from 329 to 306). YTD New Hope Placements are down just over 10% (from 714 to 638).

Return to Owners (RTO): February RTOs are down 2% (from 376 to 368). YTD RTOs are down 6.5% (from 793 to 741).

Euthanasia: February Euthanasia is down 11% (from 748 to 665). YTD Euthanasia is down 14% (from 1,568 to 1,345). This is nearly 3% lower than the historic 2007 low of 1,384).

Again a sincere Thank You to all our employees, volunteers and partners for all their efforts to help support these life saving strategies.

U.S. shelter killing toll drops to 3.7 million dogs & cats by Merritt Clifton and Ed Boks

U.S. animal shelters as of mid-2007 are killing fewer dogs and cats than at any time in at least the past 37 years, according to the 15th annual ANIMAL PEOPLE evaluation of the most recent available shelter data.

The rate of shelter killing per 1,000 Americans, now at 12.5, is the lowest since data collected by John Marbanks in 1947-1950 suggested a rate of about 135–at a time when animal control in much of the U.S. was still handled by private contractors, who often simply killed strays or sold them to laboratories instead of taking them to shelters, and unwanted puppies and kittens were frequently drowned.

The ANIMAL PEOPLE projection each year is based on compilations of the tolls from every open admission shelter handling significant numbers of animals in specific cities, counties, or states. The sample base each year is proportionately weighted to ensure regional balance. Only data from the preceding three fiscal years is included.

Using a three-year rolling projection tends to level out flukes that might result from including different cities, counties, and states each year, but has the disadvantage of sometimes not showing significant changes in trends until a year or two after they start. Thus the effects of the post-2001 slump in funding for dog and cat sterilization programs only became evident in 2004. Comparably, trends involving Internet-assisted adoption, adoption transport, feral cats and pit bull terriers that were just gathering momentum in 2004 are major influences on the 2007 findings.

As of 2004, about a third of all U.S. dog and cat adoptions were believed to be Internet-assisted, via web sites where animals’ photographs and descriptions are posted. Anecdotally, at least two thirds of adoptions are Internet-assisted today, with dogs benefitting most, since dog adopters are more likely to be seeking a specific breed or mix, who may be readily found only through web-searching. Adoption transport also chiefly benefits dogs, since cats are still abundant in all parts of the U.S., but small dogs, puppies, and purebreds are relatively scarce in shelters along both coasts and in the northern Midwest.

Soaring shelter receipts of pit bull terriers in 2001-2004 outpaced progress in sterilizing feral cats, causing total shelter killing to soar by the end of 2004 to the highest level since 1997. For the first and only time since ANIMAL PEOPLE began quantifying shelter killing, more dogs were killed in 2004 than cats. The 1997 toll was 53% cats, 47% dogs, about the same balance as had prevailed since the mid-1980s, but the 2004 toll was reversed, at 47% cats, 53% dogs. [Boks: In LA it is 65% cats and 35% dogs.]

About half of the dogs who were killed in 2004 were pit bull terriers, ANIMAL PEOPLE confirmed by surveying shelter directors in 23 representative metropolitan areas.

Salathia Bryant of the Houston Chronicle was shocked in February 2007 to discover that local shelter intakes of pit bulls had increased from 5% of all dogs in 2000 to 15% in 2002 and 27% in 2006. Actually this was right on the national norms found by ANIMAL PEOPLE nearly two years earlier.

Los Angeles residents were shocked in June 2007 when Department of Animal Regulation chief Ed Boks lamented that 40% of the dogs who were killed in the city shelters during the preceding year were pit bulls. Yet as many as 70% of the dogs killed in some other major cities are pit bulls–who are reportedly 65% of the animal control dog intake in Milwaukee, and may account for more than two-thirds of the dog intake in Detroit and Philadelphia.

While pit bull intake has not slowed down since 2004, and appears to be still rising, the total canine death toll in U.S. shelters has fallen by more than 750,000 since 2004, with pit bulls the main beneficiaries.

Increasing use of standardized temperament tests to determine whether dogs are safe for adoption appears to be driving the change. Traditionally, behavioral suitability for adoption tended to be judged from anecdotal assessments by animal control officers, kennel workers, and people who surrendered animals to shelters. Relatively few shelters ever categorically refused to adopt out pit bulls and other breeds of dog who are considered high-risk, though some did and still do, but the breeds of dogs tended to weigh heavily, if not always consciously, in the judgments.

When most shelters were killing a relatively high percentage of the dogs received, and no one breed predominated, this was not an issue. As pit bulls came to disproportionately fill shelters, however, concern about “breed discrimination” on the one hand and soaring liability insurance costs on the other caused shelter directors to seek ways to support their decisions. Standardized temperament tests offer shelters a way to explain in relatively objective terms why a particular dog may be unsuitable for adoption, and to adopt out some pit bulls with confidence that the adoptions will succeed.

Whether temperament tests really prevent dog attacks and liability is still a matter of debate, with several relevant court cases pending. ANIMAL PEOPLE in January/February 2002 published data suggesting that the breed-specific patterns of fatal and disfiguring attacks among dogs who have cleared behavioral screening are the same as among all dogs.

However, though pit bulls tend to flunk the most popular standardized behavioral tests more often than any other breed, enough pit bulls pass that they have become the breed most often adopted in New York City and Los Angeles. Despite several high-profile failures of pit bull adoption programs in the 1990s, many other cities are now trying similar approaches, based on checklists of behavior that can be taken into a courtroom more persuasively than the intuitive and subjective opinions of animal handlers. [Boks: please visit The Truth About Pit Bulls for more information on pit bull temperament that varies from ANIMAL PEOPLES’ analysis.]

Currently, U.S. shelters kill about 1.4 million dogs per year, including about 750,000 pit bulls and close mixes of pit bull. [Boks: In the City of LA we kill about 6000 dogs annually of which nearly 2,300 are pit bull/mixes.]

While fewer pit bulls are dying in U.S. shelters, the cat toll is rising again for the first time since neuter/return feral cat control caught on in 1991-1992. Across the U.S., the shelter toll is now 63% cats, 37% dogs–the most lopsided that it has ever been. [Boks: In the City of LA our cat intake is 45% and dog intake is 55%.]

Tweety and Sylvester

The 2006 projected total of 2.3 million cats killed in shelters represents an increase of about 300,000 from the level of the preceding several years. [Boks: In the City of LA we decreased cat euthanasia every year for the past six years. 28% decrease in cat deaths over the past six years with a 13% decrease over just the past twelve months.]

Yet this is not because there are more cats at large. Repeatedly applying various different yardsticks to measure the U.S. feral cat population, including shelter data, road-kill counts, and surveys of cat feeders, ANIMAL PEOPLE has found since 2003 that the projections consistently converge on estimates of about six million feral cats at large in the dead of winter, with about twice that many after the early summer peak of “kitten season.” This is down by more than 75% from the feral cat population of circa 1990, which was up by about a third from the total indicated in the studies done by John Marbanks in 1947-1950.

Data collected for the National Council on Pet Population Study indicates that the U.S. pet cat population has not reproduced in excess of self-replacement since approximately 1994. The marked increase in the U.S. pet cat population over this time, from just over 60 million to about 90 million, has been driven by adoptions of feral cats–mostly feral-born kittens. Kitten removals from the feral population, together with neuter/return, has reduced feral cat reproductive capacity to substantially less than replacement. Taking feral cats’ places are other mid-sized predators including growing populations of urban and suburban coyotes, foxes, bobcats, hawks, owls, and eagles.

But intolerance of free-roaming cats, especially feral cats, is the longtime official policy of all U.S. federal government agencies, as well as many state agencies responsible for managing property where feral cats formerly dwelled. Under intense pressure from birders and conservationists trying to save endangered species of birds and small mammals, federal and state agencies have intensified efforts to extirpate feral cats.

Organized opposition to neuter/return feral cat management before 2003 came chiefly from the Humane Society of the U.S. and PETA, which held that feral cats were suffering and should therefore be killed to end their misery, and the American Bird Conservancy, a relatively small organization that originated as a project of the World Wildlife Fund. Soon thereafter, HSUS adopted policies favoring carefully managed neuter/return–but in April 2003 the National Wildlife Federation membership magazine National Wildlife came out strongly against neuter/return. Only The Nature Conservancy, whose policy is to extirpate all nonnative species from their land holdings if possible, has more influence among U.S. wildlife policymakers.

Feral cat colony caretakers have often not helped their cause by maintaining colonies near sensitive wildlife habitats, and by not sterilizing enough cats, fast enough, to reduce the visible population to none within the three-to-five-year average lifespan of a feral cat who survives kittenhood.

Cape May, New Jersey, for example, has had an active neuter/return network since 1992, encouraged by animal control chief John Queenan. ANIMAL PEOPLE mentioned the Cape May project as a model for other communities in 1993. But Cape May is perhaps the most frequented resting and feeding area for migratory birds along the entire Atlantic flyway. Many visiting species are in decline, including the tiny red knot, which flies each year all the way from the Antarctic to the Arctic and back. Cape May is also among the nesting habitats of the endangered piping plover.

The Cape May economy is driven by birders’ visits. When Cape May still had an estimated 500 feral cats in 2003, ten years into the neuter/return program, the city allowed neuter/return advocates to maintain 10 cat feeding stations and weather shelters, but the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service began demanding that feral cat feeding be ended.

Many cats were removed from sensitive areas and housed in two trailers, one belonging to Cape May Animal Control and the other to Animal Outreach of Cape May County, the primary local cat rescue group since 1995. On May 19, 2007, however, the trailers caught fire, killing 37 cats. Cape May is currently considering withdrawing support for neuter/return and prohibiting feeding cats outdoors.

A similar situation may have a happier outcome on Big Pine Key, Florida, home of the endangered Hefner rabbit, Sylivilagus palustris hefneri. The rabbit was named for Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner after he funded the study that put it on the U.S. endangered species list more than 20 years ago. Blaming feral cats for a catastrophic collapse in rabbit numbers at the National Key Deer Refuge, refuge manager Anne Morkill in June 2007 announced that the cats would be trapped and taken to animal control shelters, where they would probably be killed. Hefner then donated $5,000 to Stand Up For Animals, whose founder, Linda Gottwald, told Stephanie Garry of the St. Petersburg Times that she would use the funding to sterilize and relocate as many of the cats as possible.

Among the regional variations of note in the 2007 ANIMAL PEOPLE roundup of shelter killing data are that the dog/cat balance is 72/28 in the Northeast, 65/35 in the Midwest, 63/35 in the Mid-Atlantic region, and 60/40 along the West Coast, but is 54/46 in the South, where intakes and killing of both dogs and cats are highest. Among the possible explanations are that Southern animal control agencies may put more emphasis on picking up dogs, and that communities with more dogs at large tend to have fewer feral cats.

Virginia and Florida data, however, more resembles the data from the rest of the U.S., reflecting the demographic influences of Washington D.C. and migration to Florida from other parts of the country.

Midwest progress

The Midwest has made the most impressive recent gains, almost catching up to the West Coast in reduction of dog and cat overpopulation through high-volume low-cost sterilization. Many of the most ambitious dog-and-cat sterilization projects started within the past decade are in the Midwest, including Pets Are Worth Saving, founded by Paula Fasseas in Chicago, and the Foundation Against Companion Animal Euthanasia, founded by Scott Robinson, M.D., in Indianapolis.

A global veterinary shortage is especially acute in the Midwest, where organizations including the Michigan Humane Society, based in Detroit, and M’Shoogy’s Animal Rescue, near Kansas City, have at times had to cut back services simply because they could not find vets to fill their open positions. [Boks: LA critics find fault with local veterinary shortages not recognizing this is a national crisis. Not withstanding, Animal Services has significantly rebuilt its medical program and has four outstanding veterinarians on staff and more applying all the time.]

The same problem afflicts the Appalachian states, where progress achieved in the 1990s has largely been lost, most markedly in Knoxville. Handling both city and county animal control sheltering out of a World War II-vintage Quonset hut, and operating a major local dog and cat sterilization program, the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley had reduced shelter killing to 24.5 dogs and cats per 1,000 humans by 1999–well above the then-national average of 16.6, but among the best records in the South.

A coalition of local no-kill rescue groups then convinced Knoxville officials that a city-and-county-run shelter working cooperatively with them could operate on less money and save more animals. ANIMAL PEOPLE warned at the time that Knoxville could not realistically try to achieve no-kill sheltering until the animal control intake volume fell by at least half. Instead of lowering the shelter toll, the first five years of animal control under the new agency saw shelter killing increase by 22%.

Regions quit counting

A frustrating aspect of the 2007 ANIMAL PEOPLE shelter toll analysis is that while we received enough data from both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions to project reliable totals and trends by comparison to past data, including the dog/cat balance, no individual or agency relayed complete enough new data from cities other than New York City and Philadelphia–the biggest cities in those regions–for us to list totals for any others.

This is markedly different from the first years of our annual updates, when the most complete counts we received were from the New England states, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

As shelter killing rates in those states have stabilized at very low levels, many of the agencies that formerly collected shelter tolls appear to have refocused on collecting information about adoption transport programs, a very small part of shelter activity 15 years ago, but now the source of half or more of the animals many shelters offer for adoption.
–Merritt Clifton

[Boks: Visit for two comparisons of national shelter killing stats. Click on 2007 National Stats or 2007 National Stats Direct Comparison.]

[ANIMAL PEOPLE is the leading independent newspaper providing original investigative coverage of animal protection worldwide, founded in 1992. Their readership of 30,000-plus includes the decision-makers at more than 10,000 animal protection organizations. They have no alignment or affiliation with any other entity. E-mail: Web: $24/year; for free sample, send address.]