Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stop the Killing – Wall of Shame: NYC ACC

Every day, 7 days a week, New York City Animal Care & Control creates a nightly "kill list".   The only days a list is not created are those when the next day is a holiday, or because of major weather conditions, and the shelter will be closed.

In my watching of the kill lists, I've seen animals just days old and seniors of 12+ years. Animals killed because of a runny nose, a slight cough, a single sneeze. Animals killed because they didn't do well on their evaluation, mostly due to the stress and fear being in this shelter causes - especially those surrendered by the only family they've ever known.

NYCACC’s qualifications for the Wall of Shame:

·         Phone number is not listed
·         No one answers the phone – “keep trying” is the mantra
·         Must be a local adopter to put a hold on an animal
·         Must be a pre-approved New Hope rescue organization
·         Fired a New Hope department employee because she cared too much
·         Only about 20 percent of the dogs at AC&C are viewable for adoption at any given time
·         Failure to take detailed information about animals from owner surrenders
·         Rating system that gives ACC the power to deny an animal a chance at life
·         A director who tries to cover her incompetence and the issues with smokescreens and lies
·         Killing animals that have a rescue hold
·         Deplorable conditions including dogs wallowing in their own waste; bed sheets soaked and soiled; cages caked with filth; cat food mixed with kitty litter
·         Employees and volunteers threatened with termination if they make negative comments about the organization
·         A breeding ground for disease – a cold or kennel cough is a death warrant
·         Animals labeled as diseased or “bad” to justify killing them
·         Perfectly healthy and adoptable animals are killed
·         Failure to advertise and market animals for adoption
·         Volunteers terminated for speaking out
·         Suspended all new rescues that were recently approved
·         Animals do not receive needed medical care or medicine
·         Volunteers are asked to pay for the privilege and check their constitutional rights at the door
·         Fired an extremely dedicated volunteer who gave more than 750 hours of his time to help scared dogs open up plus countless hours at home writing about and advocating for them
If you are as horrified, disgusted and angry as I am about NYCACC, use this contact form to send an email blast to the Mayor, NYC AC&C, City Council, etc.  

Please keep your comments polite and respectful.  Remember that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  Not to mention that ‘impolite’ (to put it mildly) messages are often discarded and may actually cause them to not take us seriously.

Please help spread the word about NYCACC.  Change will not happen without awareness, and it will not happen without our speaking out.


Posting of each night's kill list:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why Am I Here and What Am I Going to Do About It - Part 2

An email I received last week has caused me to do some thinking.

What is my mission? 

This is the biggie.  Without a mission, I can end up running in circles and drifting aimlessly.  I can't do it all - no one can - and I shouldn't try. 

The header of my blog states: Education - Information - Awareness

These 3 things are my mission - to bring awareness of issues regarding companion animals; to provide information; and to educate.

In addition to sharing news articles, various blogs, and Facebook postings, I want to really make people aware of what is happening with companion animals.  The Stop the Killing series on my blog is a part of that.  It's unfortunate, but sometimes you have to smack people upside the head with graphic pictures and facts that are horrifying. 

Information covers a lot of territory, ranging from awareness to local resources to contacting officials and more.  I want to have and make available a wide range of information for people who need or want it.

Education, well, that's another large territory.  So much of what I post is educational in some way.  When you make someone aware of something, you are, in effect, educating them about it.  But that's not all I want to do.  If you read parts 2 and 3 (Causes and Solutions) of my blog series, you know I listed a number of educational issues.  This is the type of education I want to do.

While working on my most recent blog post, I realized outreach programs are part of what I want to do.  Not necessarily starting or running them myself, but to advocate for them and try to help them come into being.

Reading through what I have written so far, I realize it's all extremely broad in scope, perhaps too much for one person.  I started this note yesterday morning, saved it, went about my day, came back to it, edited a little bit, saved and went about my day, went back to it and saved, went to bed, and now here I am back at it again this morning.

Why?  Looking through my newsfeed throughout the day, I am bombarded with pictures and stories of Pit Bulls in shelters, in rescue, in foster, in the temporary care of a Good Samaritan, who were shot, cities considering BSL against them, over 2 dozen killed in Memphis in a single day, the poor bait dogs like Sissy, dog fighting busts involving them, the inhumanely starved like Rocco and Patrick, and even one killed by his owner because she apparently decided to not work to re-home him.  These pictures and stories flow through my newsfeed like a bleeding wound that cannot be stopped on a daily basis. 

My heart aches to see them posted by pages like Urgent Part 2, or by crossposters.  My heart aches when I read their stories of abuse or neglect, or being bounced around and never knowing what a loving home is like.  My heart aches when I read about bait dogs like Sissy.  I have to constantly remind myself that I can't take them - the Cocoa's, Deja's, Monte's, China Doll's, Angel's, Axle's, and too many more to remember and list – because I can’t take them, not even one, at this time.

Don't get me wrong, I shed tears and say prayers for all the other animals too.  But the Pit Bulls really touch me in a way I can't explain.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve always been against prejudice and racism in all its forms, and Pit Bulls are certainly on the receiving end of this in our society.  In Sister Act II, Whoopi's character told one of her students "If you wake up in the morning, and you can't think anything but singing, then you should be a singer, girl." 

I am always thinking about Pit Bulls, so it follows that this is where my focus should lay.  It doesn't mean I will ignore all the others, because I won't.  A lot of what I want to do applies to all companion animals.  A lot of the information, both for awareness and education, applies to all.  So it won't matter if I'm talking in general or specific terms, you can apply it to your pets, the animals you work with or rescue, and/or the animals you share and crosspost.

For months now, I’ve had a dream of a sanctuary where the Pit Bulls found on the streets or are in a shelter can live while they wait for their forever homes.  I am not a non-profit (at least not yet – I am seriously considering it) and I cannot swing it financially on my own, but it’s something that a single day does not go by without me thinking about it.

Sometimes you have to follow your heart.  I’ve started slowly, even hesitantly, taking “baby steps” as I waded into the world of animal advocacy.  As I’ve learned, I’ve grown, and I’ve kept following my heart to try to help companion animals in some way.  Since early June when I met Simba, my heart has cried out for the Pit Bulls more and more, louder and louder.  I can’t ignore it any longer.

So now I need to research; write out ideas, plans and drafts; to work out my “battle plan” for what I want to accomplish.  If I want to make my dream a reality, I will have to do even more planning and work, including becoming a non-profit.

In the meantime, I will continue to post on APAA as I always have.  I plan on sharing my “journey” as is appropriate.  I hope you understand and will continue to support me.

Thank you to all the advocates who like APAA, and to those who simply visit, read and share.  Each of you help the animals in your own way, and it takes all of us together to make a difference. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stop the Killing – Solutions Part 2

In Stop the Killing – Part 3: Solutions, I listed a number of things that can help reduce the kill rate at our nation’s shelters.

Part of the solution is one that is very simple in concept, but more difficult in doing … keep the animals from entering shelters in the first place.  If dogs and cats are not going to shelters, they’re not being killed.

And like the problem and solutions I already wrote about, this one is multi-faceted.  I covered education in Part 3.  Educating current, soon-to-be, and potential pet owners can help reduce the number of companion animals in shelters.  But that’s only a part of it.  We must also help pet owners KEEP their pets rather than surrendering or dumping them.

While no exact figures exist, we know owner surrendered animals make up a healthy chunk of the shelter animal population.  Those of us who advocate for animals on Facebook see this term far too often. 

Cases where the reason just really wasn’t valid, or where there was no reason, makes us angry.  Some people just dump their pets and leave.  There have been cases of boxes of puppies left at the door in the middle of the night.  There has even been one case of a dog tossed out of a moving car in the driveway of a shelter.  There are cases where the anger comes from an invalid excuse – “We’re moving” (could you not look for a place that allows pets?) or “She’s old/sick/pregnant” (seriously?).

There are the cases that cause empathy and sadness.  Owners who tearfully surrender their beloved pets due to illness, personal crisis, unemployment, homelessness, limited income, or just not being able to afford vet care.  They don’t want to give up their pet, but feel they have no other choice.  Often our military personnel are transferred to an area or country where they cannot bring their pets.  If they don’t find a new home, the pet can end up in a shelter.

Our nation’s current economic situation is contributing to the problem.  More pets than ever before are being dumped or surrendered because people cannot afford them or their proper care.

Outreach programs can help reduce the number of companion animals entering shelters by providing assistance that allows people to keep their pets. 

Pet Food Assistance

There have always been those who have not been able to afford enough or proper food for their pet.  The current economic situation has dramatically increased the number of people in this situation.

There are some programs across the country, but not nearly enough.  Some are run through shelters, such as Casper’s Cupboard in Tampa.  Some are state organizations, such as Save Our Pets Foodbank in Georgia.  Others, such as Autumn’s Harvest, are private initiatives.

Some of the programs allow qualified people to pick up food at one or more distribution points.  Some programs deliver food to those who are housebound.

Whatever form the program takes, however the food is collected and distributed, we need these programs.

Vet Care Assistance

Medical care for pets can be expensive.  Those on limited incomes have difficulty providing even the most basic care, such as vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and spay/neuter.  Sometimes a pet becomes seriously ill or is injured.  Such medical care is expensive, and some owners bring their pets to a shelter believing it will be given the care it needs.

Many areas already have low cost vaccination and/or spay neuter clinics.  These need to be expanded so they are available everywhere.  I believe they should also offer free “wellness checks” for their clients.  Catching a problem early can reduce the cost of medical treatment.  Many retail stores offer these monthly clinics for people.  Why should companion animals not have them too?

Veterinarians need to establish reduced cost services for those who qualify.  They also need to set up a payment plan system for those who can make monthly payments but are not able to pay large, upfront, lump sum fees. 

Veterinarians should also provide free or low cost heartworm preventative to those who qualify.  Heartworm, a condition that can be prevented with a monthly pill that costs $10 or less, is expensive to treat, especially severe cases.  Keeping the pets healthy costs less.  Low cost clinics should also offer this to their clients.

Going hand-in-hand with the low cost clinics is government and state veterinary boards allowing them to continue helping people and their pets get the care they need.  The low cost spay/neuter clinics in Alabama are under attack.  Some have been closed, others are still fighting.

Crisis Assistance

Imagine your house burning down … or having to be hospitalized for an extended period … or any one of many personal crises that can occur at any time.  What will happen to your beloved pet in this circumstance?

A crisis assistance program would allow people to keep their pets while they deal with emergency situations.  This should include low cost (including free or subsidized for qualified people) boarding or temporary fostering.  Imagine the peace of mind knowing your pet will be cared for while you get your life back together or recover from illness or surgery.

Helping Military Members

When a service member is going to a war zone, a pet must be left behind.  When a service is transferred to a new duty station, sometimes they just cannot bring their pets.  In times like these, service members need and deserve help with the re-homing or fostering of their pets. 

There are a few private organizations, as well as some shelters will temporarily foster or board a service member’s pet.  But there’s not nearly enough.  Every state needs such an organization since our service members come from all 50 states. 

Helping service members keep their pets is the least we can do for those who serve.

New York City has a program that should be copied in other cities.  Pets for Life is a broad program with the goal of keeping pets with their owners.  In addition to food, veterinary, and life crisis assistance, it also a number of other services such as behavioral training and information.

“Pets for Life” is a concept that we must advocate for, educate about, and assist when necessary.  We need these outreach programs in every county in every state.  If we keep pets with their owners, we keep them out of the shelters.  If we keep them out of the shelters, we reduce the kill rate.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Irony of Gassing Shelter Animals

What is a shelter?  If you look at the definition, it is a safe haven or refuge; an establishment that gives basic care (food, shelter, medical) to homeless animals.  Animal shelters, no matter their official name, do this … to a point.  Some do it more or better than others, perhaps due to funding and donations (monetary and supplies), staffing and volunteers, and/or following their mission statement.

When people hear “animal shelter” they presume it means what it implies.  They believe it is a safe place for animals until they can be re-homed or reunited with owners.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Of all the animals that enter shelters each year, at least 50% do not make it out alive.  For some ‘shelters’, the number is as high as 90%.

Shelters that kill animals, whatever the reason, do so by one of three methods – heartstick, lethal injection or by gassing.  Lethal injection is the more humane method as it is quick, although not without pain.  Heartstick is exactly what the name implies - the needle of a poison-filled syringe is inserted directly into the heart.  It is not painless and it is not humane.  Gassing is extremly painful.  It burns the delicate and sensitive mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat.  It slowly chokes and suffocates the animals, taking as long as 40 minutes, perhaps more.

During World War II, Nazi Germany killed 4 million Jews in an effort to exterminate the “race”.  While exact numbers are not known, anywhere from one-third to one-half (perhaps more) of these deaths were in the gas chambers.  Gender and age did not matter.  The civilized world as a whole abhorred this horrible event.

From 1922 to 1992, the gas chamber was a preferred method of execution of our country’s worst criminals.  The use of gas chambers as a means of execution was banned as being too painful, causing extreme suffering, and inhumane.

The gas is visible to the condemned, and he/she is advised to take several deep breaths to speed unconsciousness in order to prevent unnecessary suffering. Accordingly, execution by gas chamber is especially unpleasant for the witnesses to the execution due to the physical responses exhibited by the condemned during the process of dying. These responses can be violent, and can include convulsions and excessive drooling.  The longest time of suffering recorded during an execution was 11 minutes.

So why do we, as a nation, allow the use of gas chambers to kill animals?  If it was too inhumane for murderers, rapists, etc, why is it humane enough for cats and dogs?  The animals are neither advised to breathe deeply to speed unconsciousness, nor are given any sort of sedative to ease their suffering.  They cry in terror and pain.  They desperately try to escape.  They futilely gasp for breath as the gas fills their lungs.  They suffer for well over 11 minutes.

While I abhor the thought and practice of killing shelter animals, I find the use of gas chambers especially repugnant.  As a nation, we have failed these animals.  Let us at least let them die humanely and without fear and pain.

Video: The Kill Box