When we look at how an animal shelter performs, we typically judge them by how many animals are adopted / rescued vs. how many animals are killed. These numbers may seem simple at the surface but are often skewed by a veil of deceit.
Typically this should be a simple approach: The shelter took in 100 animals, 90 were adopted, 10 were killed, the shelter has a 90% LRR (live release rate). Many shelters that don’t want to play the games will use these numbers, but they are often then criticized because other shelters have a lower “kill rate”. So how do they achieve this? Since I’m not one to over-explain, this might be the simplest outline available.
If a shelter is using a program that boasts a no kill or low kill program, there may be more to the numbers than the simple equation offered above. These shelters will take into account the number or “healthy adoptable animals” they killed. For example a neonate (under 8 week animal) is not adoptable, aggressive dogs are not adoptable, old / sick dogs or cats are not adoptable, and this list goes on and on. So therefore this number is deducted from their kill numbers. If this shelter takes in 100 animals and adopts out only 40, of the 60 remaining, 25 might be sick, 15 are labeled as aggressive, 15 are neonates. This shelter only counts 5 as being killed “per se.” Now this shelter is operating at a 95% Live Release or 5% euthanasia. This places this shelter in the very top of the game. BUT is it honest?
Shelters that kill for space are frowned upon because on the surface it seems WRONG! So instead shelters are forced to pad their numbers. Better to say that the animals killed were not adoptable. Or is it. I say NO!
I’ve had this discussion / argument over and over again. I would prefer to be honest and say YES, we had to kill these animals because there was no room and no one adopted them instead of lying on the souls of these animals that had to be killed and then their behaviors or health lied about. Don’t get me wrong, if there is an animal that is a danger to society (a true danger) I have no problem killing it (same for a person in my opinion – but I digress).
If I lie about an animal’s health and say that this kennel cough was a serious illness and the animal was justifiably killed or the dog that barks at his kennel door is aggressive and again justifiably killed – NOW I have a big problem. Let’s put the focus onto the public and give them the chance to adopt, let’s show that shelters do have good dogs and cats and other animals. Let’s strive for shelters that really shelter. Let’s make shelters a place that will treat illness with medicine and behavioral issues with training. Shelters that will work with the public and a public that will work with shelters to reduce the number of animals that are killed there. Let’s strive to shut down backyard breeders and dog fighters, work with feral cat groups and look for a society where animals are safe, humans are compassionate and people work together for a common good. Let’s open our eyes to the honesty that may hurt but will lead to a solution instead of putting our heads in the sand.
Transparency may not be easy to look at, but without knowing the truth we may just think that everything is OK, when it really isn’t.
First off, let me tell you the question: How do we ever solve the problem of all the dogs in the shelters?
Now that you know the question, you’ll have to ponder the answer… and to many there may be no answer. No way to ever see that every animal is safe, that they all get rescued and to be sure that every animal is loved for their entire life. It can be a pretty daunting task, and many give up. The problem is that every time a good person gives up, many more dogs die. I said a long time ago, “you can’t save all the animals in the world, but you can save one.” That has become my slogan and my mantra. I know that every life I touch and each life I save is saved because I care. If I didn’t care or if I gave up, that life might not be saved. Then I focus on the home-front and know that my dog has a forever home with me, and even if we have to live in my car, we will be together until one of us dies.
Now, onto the question at hand, what is the answer? Well there are a few. There are several things that have to happen to solve the pet over population situation. Let me first say that in this country we don’t really have an “overpopulation” problem, we simply have too many pets that people don’t want in particular colors, breeds and temperaments. There are people buying and looking for dogs all the time. And to simply state we have an overpopulation problem, does not address the issue. We have, in many cases, an ignorance problem. We have people who get dogs and don’t understand them or even grasp the concept that this dog will grow up. We have people who don’t train their dogs, don’t spay / neuter and others who are just plain idiots, those that breed their dog with the neighbor’s dog in order to show their children the miracle of birth. I would think it better to have a child watch a sex film, and then take them to the hospital and have them watch the birth of a child. That is more along the lines of what would make sense. Seeing a dog hump another dog and then 8 puppies born would not be realistic. People who do this are down right stupid. Dog breeding to show a child the miracle of birth is senseless. Unless of course you want to march your child down to the shelter a few months later and show them a barrel full of puppies, dead puppies. The one’s that didn’t get a home because of all the people exploring the miracle of child birth with their children. Read more …
As most people know, I am not one to run from controversy or conflict. My background in eastern studies have taught me that one must face the enemy head on in order to win, and one should fight with honor. I have lived by my honor my entire life and fought for what I believe in even when the odds seem insurmountable.
This was the case recently when I weighed in on the Best Friends Animal Society deal with Los Angeles Animal Services. In short, LAAS considers giving Best Friends (BF) a $14 million dollar state of the art facility. On the surface this seemed like a great idea to me. After all, BF is a $50 million a year empire, imagine how much good they could do for the pets. Well, looking a little deeper, my fears were realized. In general I’ve learned that if something is too good to be true, it usually is. That would be the case here.
There are a couple of objections that I, as well as others offered (although they were never addressed by BF or LAAS).
1. Why would BF not take in any strays, animal surrenders or at risk animals from the neighborhood? That is after all the most important service a “shelter” must provide.
2. Why would BF be able to operate the shelter as an adoption facility and spay neuter clinic, this in a facility that was built to be an animal control center, i.e. shelter?
3. Why would LAAS offer this facility at a $1.00 a year lease to BF and not to a local LA based rescue group?
On top of this a major concern, actually my primary concern is: How will this help the animals at risk in LA Shelters and in LA in general?
There is a simple issue at stake, many animals in shelters are considered less adoptable than others. Those working in rescue understand that shelters are overrun with certain breeds, colors and temperaments. Sprinkled in among these pets are the cute, sweet, young and friendly dogs. The only saving grace the less adoptable animals have is that someone may fall in love with, and see the amazing potential of a dog that, on the surface, seems un-adoptable. In reality these animals are often much better pets at their core than the cute, fluffy ones that people rush to the shelter to see. The greatest hope these dogs have is that someone will stumble upon them while looking for someone else.
This hope is ripped away when rescue organizations “cherry-pick” the “fluffies and leave behind the needy. Rescue groups come in two varieties, the opportunistic and those doing the hard work of rescue. Those doing the hard work despise those that rush the shelters, pick up the cute puppies for $50 and then “sell” them at adoptions for $500. Adoption fees are supposed to be there to supplement rescues for the exorbitant expenses involved in rescuing truly “at risk” animals – not to turn a healthy profit for the “non-profit.” But there are those who operate this way.
I’m not saying that BF will take this stance at this new facility, but there is no language to prevent this. It is up to Best Friends to pick their dogs from LAAS Shelters, and since it is the goal of BF to adopt out dogs, I find it hard to imagine that they would choose un-adoptable animals. After all, after a BF adoption event, those animals not adopted out don’t get transferred to BF in Utah, the local rescue is left trying to board, foster or ship the dog to get them a home.
If it were the goal of a multimillion dollar organization to help, it’s quite easy to do. Look at the Heigl Foundation, they partner with rescue group and donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to help animals at-risk. With large sums of money, transports can be paid for, training set up for dogs, spay/neuter for inner city residents with mobile spay/neuter vans, and the list goes on. None of these were offered in this proposal. Furthermore, try to find one of these big organizations in a smaller community, for example the inland empire here in LA. This area consists of Riverside, San Bernardino, Lake Arrowhead, etc. This area is killing tens of thousands of animals because no help is available. These areas don’t receive the media attention that West LA, Downtown LA or the San Fernando valley receive. Yet there are rescuers busting their asses trying their best to save animals at risk there.
As a rescue, behaviorist and animal rights activist, I have visited some of the best shelters and several of the worst. My heart goes out to animals at risk everywhere, but in particular to those who have ZERO chance of adoption – those that get locked into shelters in areas where there is no funding, and no one coming to help them. These areas need help! They don’t need a fancy magazine or new adoption centers… they need someone to step up and help.
So, I ask you, when it comes time to make donations, please consider the hard work of the groups that are busting their asses to save animals in places you don’t want to go, consider those that are functioning on a shoe string. These groups don’t receive any help from the big money organizations that send you the fancy mail and have celebrity spokespeople. Just think about it. Think about what is best for the animals. The big organizations that pop into your mind first are not at your local shelters saving animals. Even though you see their t-shirts at the photo ops, don’t kid yourself into thinking that they are there long after the photo has been snapped. I know!