A Win for Pigs at the U.S. Supreme Court
News and headlines for May 6 - May 12, 2023
These are some of the stories making headlines in animal protection:
So are Lily and Audi and Vapor and Lucy, Cosmo and Percy and Rocky and Bear. More than 50 dogs have been euthanized [killed] at Orange County Animal Care since 2023 began, according to a tally kept by animal lovers — a tragedy they chalk up to grievous policies that make adoption more difficult than it has to be, with heartbreaking consequences.
The kill rate for adult dogs at the state-of-the-art, $35 million Orange County Animal Care shelter has nearly doubled since 2018, and the amount of time they spend behind bars has jumped 60%.
In fact, the killing of adult dogs has more than doubled over pre-pandemic levels, although intakes declined by nearly 30%.
Part of the deadly problem: While other shelters have resumed pre-pandemic policies — Please come in! Walk through the rows of kennels! Look into our sweet beasties’ eyes! Fall in love! — Orange County keeps kennels with adoption-ready dogs off-limits to mere mortals.
In other words, the shelter is closed to the public without an appointment.
Dogs are not the only ones to suffer more: the pound will no longer take in stray cats and kittens. The Orange County shelter has embraced Human Animal Support Services (HASS). Under HASS, finders are told to leave animals on the street, under the claim that “they will find their way home.” But sometimes, they do not have a home to go back to.
When a pregnant cat showed up in the Orange County yard of a Good Samaritan, the woman did what she thought was responsible: allow the kittens to nurse and then wean before taking them all — mama and kittens — to the shelter.
Shelter staff told her to abandon the feline family where she found them. The woman explained that “Shadow,” the name she gave her, might not have a home. She did not have a collar and tag and was also pregnant. At any rate, the kittens certainly had no home to go to because they were not yet born and would not know where to go even if they did. Orange County shelter staff still turned them away.
This is not unique to Orange County, CA. Across the country, shelters are taking in fewer animals but killing more because they have made permanent pandemic-era policies that should not have been implemented in the first place. Closing their doors to adopters, killing animals without offering them to rescuers, and/or telling people to re-abandon animals has been embraced by Los Angeles County, Riverside, CA, and Dallas, TX. In Dallas, the number of animals killed has increased by 86%, even though intakes are at an all-time low.
And it isn’t just neglectful and abusive pounds going from bad to worse. Animal shelters in Austin, TX, Rosenberg, TX, Reno, NV, Palm Springs, CA, Charlottesville, VA, Spokane, WA, and others used to be at the forefront of the No Kill movement with placement rates of 95% or better and as high as 99%. Not anymore.
It seems like everything, everywhere, is broken all at once. And groups like Austin Pets Alive, Best Friends Animal Society, Maddie’s Fund, and the National Animal Control Association (NACA) are largely to blame for peddling programs that result in shelters turning animals and people (including potential adopters) away, watering down definitions of No Kill, fighting progressive laws and other efforts to hold “shelter” directors and staff accountable to results, and even for defending regressive directors.
While NACA has long been a lobbying organization for kill “shelters” and their regressive policies and Maddie’s Fund slowly shifted from ineffective (under Richard Avanzino) to harmful (under Mary Ippoliti Smith), groups like Austin Pets Alive and Best Friends have gone from fighting for shelter animals to defending those who harm them. The bigger they got, the more money they made, the more they betrayed animals. The pressure to do better from these groups is gone. On the contrary, they provide political cover when “shelters” do worse.
So, when an Orange County newspaper asks, “Are Appointment-Only Policies in Animal Shelters Across America Driving Up Kill Rates?” The answer is Yes.
When is shelter “euthanasia” actually euthanasia and not just killing?
We want “shelters” to make the same decisions for animals under their care as people would make for their family pets; to bring “euthanasia” back to its dictionary definition: “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.”
This is only possible when an animal is irremediably suffering; when — despite prompt, necessary, and comprehensive veterinary care — the animal is experiencing severe, unremitting pain. For example, a dog hit by a car in multiple organ system failure or a cat with end-stage kidney disease who is no longer eating, takes no pleasure in being petted, and whose body is shutting down. “Euthanasia” is only euthanasia when death is imminent. In those circumstances, we want to spare animals the pain and suffering of death.
As to cases of aggression, killing a cat for “behavior,” “aggression,” or being considered “feral” should never occur. If they are not social with people, adults can be sterilized and returned to their habitats. If they are or they are kittens, they should be adopted. People adopt cats with “cattitude.”
For dogs, too, there is no such thing as irremediable psychological suffering, so unless the dog is declared dangerous and an imminent threat to public safety, shelters should not kill them. Thankfully, those cases are few — roughly ¼th of 1% of all intakes. Ideally, shelters should send these dogs to sanctuaries because if shelters can protect the public without killing a dog, shelters owe that to dogs. Moreover, we will always be limited in our understanding and treatment options for dogs needing behavior rehabilitation if all shelters do is kill them.
While shelters like to pretend this is not possible, millions of Americans now live in communities placing 99% of animals or better. Something can’t be impossible when it has already been achieved.
Dog experts say, “Walking your dog with a harness is safer than leading them by the collar” and are asking people to switch.
A harness gives you better control on walks and takes pressure off your pup’s neck if, say, your dog lunges after a squirrel. (In extreme cases, a dog pulling against a collar can cause tracheal collapse.)
To settle a class action lawsuit, Midwestern Pet Foods has set up a $6 million settlement fund for people who fed their pets tainted food. People who bought Sportmix and their other brands can request compensation.
The lawsuit was brought by people whose animals died after eating it. For example,