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This Week in Animal Protection
News and headlines for May 14 - May 21, 2022
These are some of the stories making headlines in animal protection:
The Mayville, NY, Board voted unanimously to embrace TNR for community cats. As kind-hearted residents of Mayville are feeding them, the Board decided to do its part and sterilize them, too.
It’s a smart move. A community cat program reduces the intake and killing of community cats, complaint calls to animal control, illness in the shelter, and wasteful taxpayer spending.
The No Kill Advocacy Center’s model community cat ordinance promotes all of these. It should be the law in every city, county, and state in the country. Not only does The No Kill Advocacy Center have a step-by-step guide to help cat advocates get it introduced, but NKAC attorneys stand ready to help.
“Mayville isn’t the only local municipality dealing with feral cats. Last month the Jamestown City Council approved an ordinance to create a trap, neuter, vaccinate and return program,” too.
Legislation pending in New York would make it illegal for shelters to kill animals if qualified non-profit organizations are willing to save them.
A7155, the Shelter Animal Rescue Act (SARA), is modeled on successful legislation passed in California and Delaware and municipalities in states across the country, including Texas, Minnesota, and Indiana. In California alone, over 85,000 animals a year are being saved.
But SARA cannot get a hearing because the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, and their allies are lying to legislators by telling them that the bill is not needed because every single shelter in the state, without exception, is already No Kill. They also are falsely claiming that it will just make shelters look bad.
The goal of SARA is not to make shelters look bad. When shelters and rescuers work together, more lives are saved, wasteful taxpayer expenses are reduced, revenues for shelters increase, and communities gain economic and social benefits. That success, in turn, increases the stature of local shelters.
If you live in New York, please contact Assembly Member Donna Lupardo. She is the Chair of the Agriculture Committee, which would consider the bill, but she has not set it for a vote. Politely ask her to do so: LupardoD@nyassembly.gov. Or call 518-455-5431.
Time is running out and the lives of roughly 25,000 animals a year are at stake.
After three orcas died at SeaWorld in Florida, several animal groups requested information from the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS), an arm of the federal government, about those deaths. Under the terms of its permit, SeaWorld is required to send that information to the NMFS. But the NMFS has not requested it.
A lawsuit to force the NMFS to do so failed. “NMFS ‘may enforce permit conditions,’ under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but it’s not required to do so.” In other words, federal agencies do not have to do their job.
Animals have no voice and need us to speak for them. When government agencies and others fail to protect animals, we must demand that they do. And while that may prove difficult at times, as the current ruling demonstrates, we should never give up. Despite several years of similar setbacks, for example, California ultimately banned the breeding of orcas in marine parks — including the SeaWorld facility in San Diego — and prohibited the acquisition of any new whales from the wild.
Meanwhile, another court is being asked to give animals a voice. “Is an elephant legally a person?”
“That’s the central question in a case that New York’s highest court considered Wednesday in a dispute over the living quarters of Happy, an Asian elephant at the Bronx Zoo.
“In Happy’s case, her attorneys contend that she is so autonomous and intelligent that she has a right to bodily liberty.” Plaintiffs “also make[ ] a practical argument: Happy is not, in fact, happy in captivity.” They seek “to move her from the zoo, where she has lived since 1977, to one of the country’s two elephant sanctuaries where, the advocates say, she would have more space and interaction with other elephants.”
A ruling on the case is expected soon.
Six years ago, after nearly 150-years of performances, Ringling Bros. closed its doors “following intense criticism over its use of circus animals.” That criticism has not subsided, and three U.S. states have banned the use of wild animals in circuses: California, New Jersey, and Hawaii.
This week, however, Ringling Bros. announced its unfurling the big top once again, but this time without the animals. Instead, “‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ is making a comeback featuring extraordinary humans…” something akin to Cirque du Soleil.
The end of animal acts and a reimagined circus proves two things. First, we don’t need to exploit animals for entertainment. Second, we are making progress in our efforts to build a truly humane society.
After someone shot and killed their mother, the community rallied to save her two orphaned bear cubs. But state officials almost prevented them from doing so. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) “insisted that they would not interfere” with nature and told rehabbers that no one else would be allowed to help the cubs either, even though they were too young to survive on their own.
The decision angered the public and several legislators. Facing intense public criticism and legislative scrutiny, DEEP did an about-face, captured the cubs, and sent them to a rehabilitation facility. When they are old enough, they will be re-released in the wild.
Once again, animals have no voice and need us to speak for them. When government agencies and others fail to protect animals, we must demand that they do.
Animals in zoos, shelters, community pets, wild animals, and animal companions remain under mortal threat from Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Images from the country show terrified people and animals fleeing in droves.
All told, Ukrainian Railways has now transported over 100,000 animals away from warzones and to safety. According to reports, most of those have been dogs and cats, “but also domestic foxes and pigs, iguanas, boas, raccoons, ferrets and minks, ducklings, snails, turtles and aquarium fish.”
Once again, during this heartbreaking, humanitarian catastrophe — one distinguished by anachronistic images and stories that harken back to the darkest moments in European history — I find inspiration not only in the breathtaking courage with which the Ukrainians are standing against tyranny and for the cause of freedom, but for the “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” of their non-human family members, too.
Glory to Ukraine.
“Students at the University of Maine Fort Kent will now be able to bring a special friend to campus with them. The University has announced it is now a pet-friendly campus.” The University did note, however, that not all animals are welcome: “Pets that will be allowed on campus include cats, hamsters, gerbils, hermit crabs, and certain types of birds. While dogs are not allowed at this time, [an official] says they are considering them for the future.”
Last month, “Nicholls State University [became] the first university in Louisiana to offer a pet-friendly residence hall option.” Returning Nicholls State students will be allowed to move into the dorm with their dogs and cats.
Microchipped and wearing a little pink harness, Nesa should have had her whole life ahead of her. Had El Paso Animal Services taken the little dog in and scanned her for a microchip after she was found roaming the streets, she would have been reclaimed within 15 minutes. Instead, she was turned away by the municipal shelter; her finder told to release her back on the street. She was subsequently found dead.
Her death was the result of a program called “Human Animal Support Services.” Under HASS, people who find animals are told to either take them into their own homes until their families are located or leave them on the street because “Intakes of healthy strays and owner surrenders doesn’t exist anymore,” and there is “No kennel space for rehoming, stray hold or intake.”
Why? To appear to be doing a better job than they are. Because shelters are turning animals away and published statistics only measure outcomes for animals taken in, they claim higher placement or “save” rates without doing the work necessary to achieve No Kill success in earnest. Meanwhile, animals like Nesa are dying on the street.
The No Kill Advocacy Center released a new position paper on why this approach is a threat to animals, an existential threat to sheltering, and what progressive shelters committed to the best interests of animals should be doing instead.
As more people turn to rescue and adoption and more shelters embrace progressive policies, the number of communities placing over 95% and as high as 99% of the animals is increasing:
Alamance County, NC, reported a 97% placement rate for cats and 95% for dogs.
Wake County, NC — which serves over 1,000,000 people — reported a 95% placement rate for dogs, 90% for cats, and 99% for rabbits and other small animals.
These communities and national data prove that animals are not dying in pounds because there are too many, too few homes, or people don’t want the animals. They are dying because people in those pounds are killing them. Replace those people, implement the No Kill Equation, and we can be a No Kill nation today.
And finally, Maricopa County Animal Care & Control (MCACC) is an agency that is no stranger to controversy. In 2019, MCACC officials illegally retaliated by firing volunteers when they spoke out against the inhumane treatment of animals in the facility. Officials illegally censored comments critical of the agency for allowing such neglect and cruelty to continue. They have a long, sordid history of lying about killing healthy and treatable animals.
They have a history of poor and shoddy care, with animals dehiscing after surgery so that their guts spilled out and they died. As a 2016 investigation revealed,
[H]undreds of dogs and cats experienced traumatic and sometimes fatal complications. Dogs died after their incisions came undone; they developed infections; foreign objects were left in their bodies; some were left untreated with serious wounds; and others were misdiagnosed.
They have killed animals within minutes of arriving without offering them for adoption. And a dog shot by police and taken to the Maricopa County shelter was left untreated for days with a bullet in his head. It wasn’t until rescuers took him to a private veterinarian that he had the ultimately successful surgery.
It is, therefore, no surprise that staff members who want to make a difference and work diligently to help animals are not valued. On the contrary, MCACC management considers them a problem, and two such employees recently left the agency under duress. Officials fired one for saving the life of a dog. The second quit, rather than being forced to watch dogs who could be placed killed, while her supervisors prevented her from helping them.
MCACC hired Hannah Carl to be its Communications Officer. Volunteers describe her as “young, passionate, and a true animal advocate.” That passion was evident in her efforts to promote dogs scheduled to be killed or otherwise at-risk for killing.
When managers decided to kill Zoltan, one such dog, Carl took to TikTok with a live broadcast. She vowed to stay live with Zoltan until he was adopted. With some 30,000 views, Carl answered questions about Zoltan and other dogs. The effort was successful, and Zoltan was ultimately rescued. But saving him cost Carl her job.
During the live filming, managers took Zoltan from her and shut down the broadcast, telling Carl that they already made the decision to kill him and they would do so in the morning. Thankfully, a rescuer was already on their way and took him home.
Angry that she saved a dog they were committed to killing (even though he was adoptable), Carl was fired rather than celebrated.
Similarly, Kim Schulze was the agency’s Behavior and Training Manager, also described by volunteers as “passionate, knowledgeable, and skilled at working with animals.” However, she quit after management curtailed her efforts to save dogs when they decided not to “give dogs with behavior needs as much support as they have previously received.” According to Schulze, “I could not knowingly watch dogs not be given a fair chance or be euthanized [killed].” Despite management claiming the dogs are not adoptable, Schulze wrote that “the shelter often brings out defensive or fearful behaviors; most of these animals will act differently in a home” and “can very appropriately be placed with [rescue] partners or into homes.”
She wrote that loving animals, being passionate about helping them, and wanting to improve their welfare, is — at MCACC — “a strike against you.”
Everyone talks about having to make tough decisions, blah, blah, blah. Why don’t we talk about what amazing improvements we can make, how we can proactively engage the community/volunteers/rescues, how we can be open and honest and not have people hate us because we are trying our best and focusing on the welfare of the animals?”
Maricopa County is stuck in an antiquated way of thinking and acting. There are people who have the knowledge and skills to help, but they are stifled or turned away.
It is a tragic reality that many caring people — people who love animals — either do not apply to work at these agencies or if they do, they do not last. They realize that their efforts to find homes are not rewarded, managers and others who cut corners or kill in the face of alternatives are not punished, and in fact, too often, they are for trying to improve things.
“And, who suffers?” writes Schulze. “The animals.”
This is your animal shelter; the one that blames you for the killing.