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”

Beat the Heat by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and spay/neuterFebruary is National Spay/Neuter Awareness month. Awareness can sometimes be uncomfortable. For instance, are you aware that 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed in American animal shelters every year? Are you aware that many of these deaths are unnecessary? Are you aware that few societal problems are easier to solve than pet overpopulation?

It’s true. While most of us say we understand the importance of spay/neuter programs, too many of us still find excuses to not spay/neuter our own pets. This inaction often directly contributes to the 2.7 million deaths in American animal shelters every year.

Let me try to illustrate the scope of the problem. Imagine 7,776 beans in a jar. This is the number of offspring a single un-spayed dog can produce in five-years.

That’s right, one un-spayed dog and her offspring can produce over 7,776 puppies in just five years (calculating six female puppies per litter bred every 12 months).

This awareness helps us understand how easily pet overpopulation can get out of hand. The reason more than 2.7 million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters each year is due to our reluctance to have our own pets spayed or neutered.

The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) urges pet guardians to do the right thing – get your dog or cat fixed. To help encourage you to make this life-saving decision, let me help you overcome some of the reasons used for not making the life-affirming decision that directly helps solve the pet overpopulation problem in our community.

Are you aware of the many benefits a spayed or neutered pet enjoys? Spay/Neuter neutralizes the many bothersome behaviors of pets in heat, such as howling, spraying, fighting, and the urge to roam and the risk of getting lost.

Are you aware that spay/neuter surgery helps keep your pet healthier? A spayed or neutered pet is protected from certain cancers. Are you aware that, according to a USA Today report, a neutered dog lives 18 percent longer than an un-neutered dog? And a spayed dog lives 23 percent longer than an un-spayed dog. This reason alone makes spay/neuter a no-brainer.

Were you aware that having your pet spayed or neutered could result in so much good?

Another reason a pet guardian might choose to not have their pets spayed or neutered is the cost. But are you aware of the very low cost of spay/neuter at the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic?

And when you schedule an appointment in National Spay/Neuter Awareness month you will receive an additional 20 percent off our already low cost to have your pet spayed or neutered.

Call the YHS Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic today to schedule an appointment in February. Low-cost spay/neuter surgery is offered by appointment Tuesdays through Thursdays all year round. When you call, ask if you might qualify for a free spay/neuter surgery through the YHS Big Fix program.

Ed Boks and Beat the HeatFebruary is our one chance each year to “beat the heat” and reduce the number of pets able to multiply the number of shelter pet deaths throughout the rest of the year.

There are few societal problems easier to fix than this one. All you have to do is pick up the phone to schedule your pet’s appointment, thereby helping to save lives and solve this problem. Beat the heat; call before the puppy and kitten season. Schedule an appointment in February and you not only save lives, you save 20 percent off our already low prices!

State sanctions county, municipal feral cat programs by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and feral catsThe Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) does not accept feral cats. Taking unadoptable feral cats into an animal shelter is a death sentence and is contrary to the YHS no-kill ethic. Rather than employing the “catch and kill” methodology used by many shelters, YHS champions trap/neuter/return (TNR) as the only viable and humane method for effectively reducing feral cat populations.

The Arizona state legislature recently came out in strong agreement with YHS on TNR. Arizona’s governing body overwhelmingly passed SB1260. The new law encourages animal control to return healthy “stray” cats to the vicinity where they were captured after being sterilized; the very definition of TNR.

Coincidentally, perhaps the strongest scientific support for Arizona’s robust endorsement of TNR comes from a 13-month study conducted by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries in Hobart, Australia. The study, entitled “Effects of low-level culling of feral cats in open populations” appeared in a recent edition of the journal Wildlife Research, 2015. The findings, trumpeted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Discovery Science, and other media, directly contradict the Australian government, and its environment minister Greg Hunt, who has called for the “effective” eradication of all feral cats by 2023.

Biologist Billie Lazenby, who led the study, says she expected to validate the use of lethal culling (catch and kill) promoted by the Australian government but instead found, to her dismay, that culling markedly increases the numbers of feral cats in an area.

Lazenby and her team of researchers used remote trail cameras to estimate the number of feral cats at two southern Tasmania study sites before and after a 13-month “low-level culling.”

However, Vox Felina blogger Peter Wolf observed, “The effort was anything but low-level. Over the course of 13 months, researchers managed 2,764 trap-nights-an average of seven traps every day of the culling period. Each trapped cat was, after being left in the trap for up to 12 hours or more, ‘euthanized by a single shot to the head from a 0.22 rifle using hollow point ammunition.'”

“Contrary to our prior expectations,” reported Lazenby, the “number of feral cats rose 75 percent at one test site and 211 percent at the other.” Of particular interest, “Cat numbers fell, and were comparable with those in the pre-culling period, when culling ceased.” Suggesting feral cats fill a stable self-regulated ecological niche.

The researchers ultimately concluded the surprising population explosion was the result of “influxes of new [adult] individuals after dominant resident cats were removed.” A phenomenon YHS refers to as the “vacuum effect.” When cats are removed but natural conditions (such as food sources) remain the deterrents of existing territorial cats vanish and neighboring cats quickly invade and overpopulate the newly open territory.

When culling feral cats, Lazenby now says “You may be inadvertently doing more damage than good.”

“What we should focus on when managing feral cats is reducing their impact; and you don’t reduce impact by reducing numbers.” In fact, a growing number of studies conclusively prove lethal culling induces a biological imperative that causes feral cats to overbreed and overproduce to survive. Counter-intuitively, lethal culling directly exacerbates feral cat problems.

Gratefully Arizona has a legislature who understands the science and through SB1260 is directing county and municipal animal control agencies to recognize TNR as the only viable, humane solution to our communities’ vexing feral cat problems.

Arizona is leading the nation through this ground breaking legislation. How wonderful would it be if Yavapai County and local municipalities took the lead by building an effective and humane trap/neuter/return program on this historic foundation?

Spay/neuter donations reduce animal homelessness by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and the Big Fix
The YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic staff are ready to serve you and your pets!

The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic in Prescott, will celebrate its fourth anniversary on Sept. 17 – and this facility has given our entire community tremendous cause to celebrate.

During the decades before opening this clinic, our community rounded up nearly 6,000 lost and homeless animals annually – and then struggled to “re-home” them. We were often forced to euthanize nearly half just to make space for the constant flow of incoming animals.

In less than three years, the number of lost and homeless animals rescued annually in our community declined 45 percent (from 5,887 to 3,254), and the number of animals euthanized each year plummeted 92 percent, from 1,602 to 133.

The importance of the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic may be better understood by drawing on the following analogy. Imagine a large broken water pipe flooding your basement. It would be silly to run down into the basement to start mopping up the mess without first turning off the water. However, that was precisely what our community did for decades prior to September 2009.

From the day the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic opened its doors, it has been turning the water off and helping establish our community among the safest in the nation for pets.

The quality care provided by the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic is second to none and was nationally recognized with the prestigious Humane Alliance Certification in February.

In celebration of its fourth anniversary, the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic is making a commitment through its Big Fix program to deny no pet spay/neuter services just because the pet’s guardian can’t afford it.

The YHS Big Fix program provides free and low-cost spay/neuter services to pets belonging to owners who meet certain income criteria. In addition, pets belonging to active-duty military and all military veterans pre-qualify for free spay/neuter services.

This is an enormous commitment, and YHS will need your help to keep it. The good news is we are not alone. Petsmart Charities recently committed to help YHS by granting YHS enough funds to offset the cost of 1,200 spay/neuter surgeries. The grant is restricted to dogs residing in Prescott Valley, Dewey/Humboldt and Mayer, and dog owners must meet certain income eligibility criteria. Call the YHS Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic to see if you qualify.

If this program proves successful, Petsmart Charities may include cats in future grants.

What about all the pets residing in the many other regions of our community, including the City of Prescott? To meet this need, YHS is partnering with another foundation that wishes to remain anonymous. This foundation is challenging our community to match a $15,000 gift to the YHS Big Fix spay/neuter program.

This challenge gift means your tax-deductible donation will be twice as effective in helping YHS turn the supply of unwanted pets off once and for all. If we can meet this challenge, YHS will have $30,000 to help our community’s most at-risk pets’ access this life-saving service.

YHS envisions the day when every pet born has a good home and is well cared for all its life.

When you make a donation of any size to the YHS Big Fix program during this challenge, you can double your impact in making this future vision our reality today.

Big Fix donations can be made online or by mail.

New Hope for YHS pets by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and cat
YHS is featuring the colorful Felines of Fall. Trina is sweeter than honey; she is gorgeous, affectionate, quiet, and loves to be brushed. Her favorite pastime is lap-sitting and being adorable. All YHS cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and micro-chipped and are available for “Pick Your Price.”

This Thanksgiving the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is thankful to all our volunteers, supporters and partners. Every one of you plays a crucial role in solving our community’s pet overpopulation problems.

With a live release rate of 95 percent some might be fooled into thinking these problems are already solved. But they are not; and that is why I am also grateful to our New Hope partners.

The New Hope program is how YHS cooperates with and supports the efforts of partner animal rescue organizations in our shared vision to find homes for our community’s homeless pets.

YHS rescues around 3,500 homeless animals each year. When YHS is unable to find a loving home for one of our animals we call upon our New Hope partners for an assist. YHS partners with 58 New Hope organizations throughout the southwest in our effort to find every animal a loving home.

In the past twelve months ending in October, our New Hope partners saved the lives of 237 animals; that’s 6 percent of all the animals rescued by YHS. The top five New Hope organizations assisting YHS in its life-saving mission are Miss Kitty’s Cat House in Prescott (20), Second Chance Center in Flagstaff (17), Dewey Dog Rescue (16), Arizona Chihuahua Rescue in Phoenix (15), and Ark Cat Sanctuary in Flagstaff (14). YHS appreciates all our partners who help to place our local homeless animals into loving homes.

The New Hope program recently expanded exponentially thanks to Todd Underwood, a commercial pilot, who generously volunteers to airlift YHS animals to out of state partner shelters and sanctuaries.

Pet overpopulation is an expensive societal problem requiring a coordinated community response; and our local response is a tribute to our community.

Another solution to pet overpopulation is adoption. When you adopt from YHS you directly save the life of a local homeless pet who is altered and will never contribute to this problem. Sadly, some local rescues prefer to import and adopt animals from other communities. YHS feels strongly that we owe it to our community’s homeless pets to fix the problem here before compounding it by bringing animals in from outside communities.

Of course, the easiest and most cost efficient fix is for every pet owner to have their pet(s) spayed or neutered. When pet owners demonstrate this level of responsibility we’ll be able to solve the pet overpopulation problem within two to three years. That’s why I will ask the City of Prescott, Prescott Valley and Yavapai County to allocate funds to the YHS Big Fix program next year. Big Fix provides spay/neuter to pets belonging to our community’s indigent population for just a $25 co-pay. Studies have found that for every tax dollar invested in spay/neuter programs $20 is saved in animal control costs over ten years.

Low-cost spay/neuter is especially important for our community (feral) cats. This year YHS rescued kittens every month instead of just in the typical spring “kitten season.” This suggests our community is experiencing a serious cat population explosion.

To make sure affordable spay/neuter services are available to every pet in our community, YHS operates the low cost Spay/Neuter and Wellness Clinic. You can schedule an appointment for your pet today and help end the killing of unwanted pets.

In closing, a special thank you to every pet owner who spayed or neutered their pet(s); every person and family who adopted a pet from YHS; and every New Hope partner who re-homed a YHS pet. Each of you is directly helping transform our community into a truly humane society.

The Big Fix by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and The Big FixOur motto at the Yavapai Humane Society is “Every Animal Counts.” We work hard to live up to that because we know that lost, homeless, abused and neglected animals count on YHS to intervene and reverse their plight.

Unfortunately, we can’t save them all – at least not without broad community support. Too often, and for too many animals, our limited resources become exhausted and we are forced to make the difficult decision to take the life of an animal before their time.

The good news is that euthanasia at YHS is down drastically! Following a recent change in YHS leadership and policy, the killing was reduced 42.23 percent when compared to the same period last year. Remarkably, this was accomplished despite a 3 percent increase in the number of animals taken in during this same period.

Some believe that killing shelter animals is the unavoidable by-product of providing efficient municipal services to residents. But these pragmatists might consider a state of Minnesota Legislative report, which found that for each dollar invested in spay/neuter programs, $20 in animal control costs could be saved over 10 years.

People who excuse euthanasia in shelters often say we have to be “realistic,” but such realism is best directed at the sources of the problem. Effective spay/neuter programs to assist pet owners who are poor, elderly on a fixed income, or living in remote or underserved areas is a far better use of public and private funding than catching and killing lost and homeless pets.

YHS is engaged in a quest to achieve “no-kill.” No-kill is defined as consistently applying the same criteria a loving pet owner or compassionate veterinarian would use to determine if or when to euthanize a shelter animal. That is, no healthy or treatable animal would be killed simply because of a lack of shelter space or resources.

To help orchestrate a more strategic no-kill effort, YHS is announcing a community-wide spay/neuter initiative called “The Big Fix.” The Big Fix is a program that will provide low- or no-cost spay/neuter services for pets of needy families as well as pets adopted from YHS shelters.

The Big Fix will be funded by donations and grants – and it desperately needs your help to get started. While the reduced killing over the past two months represents a good start in the right direction, we have a long way to go. Your check or online donation to YHS, with an annotation for “The Big Fix,” will help fix the problem of pet overpopulation so we can more quickly achieve No-Kill!

So where is YHS in achieving this goal today? The industry standard for calculating a community’s progress toward no-kill is determined by the number of pet deaths in local shelters annually per 1,000 human residents. The national kill rate in 2009 was 13.5. This is based on an estimated human population of 300,079,939 and 4,157,918 recorded animal deaths.

In the Southwest (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah), the kill rate was 15.2, based on an estimated human population of 19,048,000 and 289,530 recorded animal deaths.

Our quad-city region has an estimated human population of 110,000. With 1,892 shelter deaths in 2009, our kill rate was a staggering and unacceptable 17.25.

For years, the animal welfare community thought no-kill would be achieved when killing was reduced to 5 deaths per 1,000 residents, recognizing there will always be terminally ill and injured animals and dangerously aggressive dogs that require humane euthanasia.

However, in recent years, New York City and Los Angeles reduced their kill rates to 2 and 3.7, respectively, demonstrating we really don’t know how far we can go in this life-saving quest. And if you think things work differently in small towns or rural communities, consider the fact that Reno, Nevada, has reduced their kill rate to 5.4.

As a community, we can choose to pay the relatively modest cost to fund targeted spay/neuter programs designed to fix the problem on the front end, or we can continue to pay the ever-increasing costs of catching and killing animals on the back end. We prefer the more proactive front-end approach, and we hope you will agree by sending in a donation today for “The Big Fix,” so we can help low-income pet owners spay and neuter their pets. For more information contact me.

Operation FELIX: Feral Education and Love Instead of X-termination by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Albert EinsteinInsanity, according to Albert Einstein, is “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” Many communities address their feral cat problem over and over again with two basic methodologies ­- only to be disappointed by the consequences of their efforts.

Feral cats are cats who have reverted to a wild state – born from tame cats that owners abandon or allow to run loose. These cats mate with other free-roaming cats, and their offspring, raised without human compassion, are wild, or feral. They grow up and breed with other feral and free-roaming cats and the cat population increases exponentially. Feral cats are considered a public nuisance by some and a public health concern by others. They needn’t be either.

The two methodologies employed by most communities are Do Nothing and Eradication. Decades of applying these methodologies has proven they don’t work – and there are very real biological reasons why.

It is easy to understand why doing nothing has little impact on the problem, but it is not as easy to understand why eradication does not work.

Feral cats typically live in colonies of 6 to 20 cats. When individuals try to catch cats for extermination, this heightens the biological stress of the colony, triggering a survival mechanism that causes the cats to over-breed and over-produce. Consequently, instead of birthing one litter per year with two or three kittens, a stressed female will produce two or three litters with 6 to 9 kittens each.

Even in the unlikely event that a person could catch and remove all the feral cats in a neighborhood, a phenomenon known as “the vacuum effect” would result. The removed colony had kept surrounding colonies at bay, but once removed, all deterrents evaporate and the surrounding cats enter the new territory to over-breed. The vacated neighborhood is quickly overrun with feral cats fighting for mates, caterwauling, and spraying for territory. Extermination only exacerbates the problem and actually produces worse results than doing nothing at all.

However, there is a third methodology that is increasingly practiced in communities across the United States and around the world with amazing results. It is called Trap/Neuter/Return, or TNR.

With TNR, all the feral cats in a neighborhood are trapped, sterilized, and returned to the area where they originated – under the care of a colony manager. The colony manager is a trained volunteer in the neighborhood willing to feed, water, and care for the colony.

Ed Boks and feral cats
Feral cats are descended from domestic cats but are born and live without human contact. Trap/Neuter/Return is the only effective – and humane – method of controlling the feral cat population.

TNR prevents the vacuum effect. Altered cats display none of the troubling behaviors of intact cats. Feral cats provide free rodent abatement, a service many neighborhoods unknowingly rely on. Since feral cats only live three to five years, the problem literally solves itself through attrition, provided TNR is implemented community-wide.

TNR also solves public nuisance complaints. There is an adage that says “you can’t herd cats.” In fact, you can herd neutered cats because they tend to hang around the food bowl. No longer having the urge to breed and prey, they follow the food bowl wherever the colony manager takes it. Feral cats can be trained to congregate in areas out of the way of the public.

TNR is a non-lethal, humane and cost-effective solution. Understanding this, YHS is enacting a moratorium on accepting feral cats at its shelters until a comprehensive community-wide feral cat program can be initiated.

In the next weeks, YHS will work with others in the community to help develop a program to provide quad-city residents the training and tools they need to effectively employ TNR in their neighborhoods.

TNR empowers citizens to solve this troublesome problem once and for all. Feral cats are trapped, neutered, vaccinated, health-checked by a veterinarian and returned to their neighborhood where their population is stabilized and reduced through attrition.

If you would like more information on TNR or if you would like to help develop this program, please contact me.

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”

Calling all fosters by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and foster careThere is a fundamental tenet held among most animal welfare and animal rights advocates that we accept as incontrovertible. That precept was perhaps best articulated by Mahatma Gandhi when he said, “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress is best judged by how we treat our animals”. This principle expresses the belief that when a community is compassionate enough to care about the needs of its animals there can be a reasonable expectation that the bar is raised on how we care and treat one another.

The reverse is also true. If we can dismiss the needs of our animals it becomes easier to dismiss the needs of our infirmed, aged, and needy human populations. Caring about animals serves as the ultimate litmus test for determining a community’s capacity for compassion.

This test is applied to the City of Los Angeles every day, but never more than in the spring and summer months.

Spring is the beginning of kitten season in Los Angeles. In 2008 LA Animal Services took in over 7,300 neonate kittens. Neonate means too young to survive for more than an hour or two without a mother. Sadly, most of the neonate kittens we take in are orphans. People find these babies in their garage, flowerbeds, and many other places where the mother felt safe from predators and intruders while she gave birth. Property owners find these crying babies within hours or days of birth and bring them to our Centers without the mother. Taken away from their mother they have no chance at survival without significant human intervention.

Neonate kittens represent over one-third of all the cats taken in by the Department. They also represent over 35% of all the cats euthanized and over 21% of our euthanasia rate in 2008. One in three cats and one in five animals euthanized in LA is a neonate kitten. On the up side, most of our healthy weaned kittens get adopted. So anything we can do to help our neonates reach full “kittenhood” improves the odds of their eventually finding a loving home.

Kitten season in Los Angeles starts around the end of March and lasts through September when it starts to slowly decline over October and November. That means now is the time for everyone wanting to help end the killing of these innocents to contact LA Animal Services to either volunteer to foster a litter of kittens or to make a donation to help others willing to make this commitment.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “foster” as providing parental care and nurture to children not related through legal or blood ties. If Gandhi viewed animals in general as the first rung on the compassion ladder then these little creatures must be considered the least of the least. They can be so easily overlooked and forgotten. In fact, California State Law defines “adoptable animals” as only those animals eight weeks of age or older; which means these little orphans have no legal standing in the State of California. They don’t even have to be counted in the City’s no-kill goal. Nonetheless, they are because we understand that our moral progress depends on our providing adequate care and nurture to these living souls with whom we have no legal or blood ties.

The problem is that we can’t save them all by ourselves. We need your help. During kitten season LA Animal Services can take in over 80 neonate orphans a day, over 2500 in some months. Depending on their age they may require four to 8 weeks of intense foster care. Though dozens of our dedicated employees volunteer to foster neonate litters above and beyond their daily duties, the majority will not survive without the additional help of members of the public willing to step up to the challenge. They will not survive without your help. If you are able and willing to help save these lives, LA Animal Services will provide the training, support and supplies you need to be a successful foster parent.

This is a big commitment and a true test of our compassion. Even with our best efforts not all foster babies survive. But they can all be loved. These babies need to be bottle fed every two hours around the clock for several weeks; making this the perfect family, club, or faith based organizational project. Fostering helpless neonates is an ideal way to foster compassion and respect for the true value and sanctity of all life in our community.

Have you saved a life today? Make a commitment to volunteer as a Baby Bottle Foster Parent.  Our kittens are hoping you do!