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  • Writer's pictureSusan Houser

News Roundup 9-13-15

On September 8th, San Antonio’s Animal Care Services (ACS) announced that it had met the No Kill standard of a 90% live release rate (LRR). Sounds great – but the news report, and another report, said that the shelter is defining the national standard for No Kill as 90% of healthy and treatable animals. That’s wrong – the generally accepted No Kill standard is 90% of all intake. I’ve never heard of No Kill being defined as saving 90% of healthy-treatables. My perusal of the stats posted on the ACS website did not indicate that they will be at 90% or better for their latest fiscal year, which ends at the end of September – instead it looks more like the LRR for the year, calculated by the standard Asilomar method, will be closer to 85%. I’m a big fan of the San Antonio effort – they are working really hard and the 85% or so that they have achieved so far is a fabulous accomplishment under the circumstances they are dealing with. They want to do even better. They are transparent, posting their full statistics online, and I do not think they were intentionally trying to deceive anyone. In fact, San Antonio would be on my short list of amazing American cities working to improve shelter lifesaving. But I don’t think they should be saying that saving 90% of healthy-treatables is “No Kill,” because that isn’t a generally accepted definition of No Kill. And the LRR for any individual month should not be used as a basis to claim No Kill, in my opinion, since LRR can vary a lot from month to month during the year. So ACS – keep up your wonderful work, but please wait to claim No Kill status until you have chalked up an LRR of 90% or above based on total intake, for an entire year. I’m sure that will be soon.

The six public shelters in Los Angeles take in about 55,000 animals per year. For fiscal year 2014-2015, the “save rate” was 78.5%. For dogs the number was 88.4%, which is encouraging, but for cats it was only 68.7%. Best Friends announced last July that they had run the numbers from 2014 and decided that the best way to increase lifesaving for cats would be to open a second kitten nursery. Best Friend’s existing kitten nursery in Los Angeles is currently caring for about 2150 kittens per year, but they want to add another 4400 kittens each year to the effort. If that plan is successful, it should make a huge difference in the Los Angeles live release rate.

The Humane Society of Silicon Valley, which won the Shorty Award earlier this year in the Best Social Good category for its “Eddie the Terrible” marketing campaign, is back with another bizarrely hilarious proposal. This time they are looking for fosters for ringworm kittens.

I posted a couple of weeks ago that two of the four counties in Michigan that still used a gas chamber to kill shelter animals had stopped the practice. Now one of the two remaining counties, Cass County, has announced that it will stop using its gas chamber by January 1, 2016, if not sooner. The remaining Michigan county that still uses a gas chamber, Branch County, had its shelter damaged by a fire last May, but unfortunately the gas chamber was not damaged. County officials may bar the use of the chamber once the shelter is repaired and reopened. Meanwhile Sandy City, Utah, will stop the use of its gas chamber beginning next year.

The leaders of the city of Waco and McLennan County had a “state of the city and county” dinner recently. The major achievement mentioned by the Waco mayor was how the city has increased the live release rate at the public shelter since taking it over two years ago. There has been a trend in the past year or two for cities and counties to realize that having a No Kill public shelter is an important asset. Kudos to the Waco mayor for understanding the value of what Waco has achieved and how much it says about the city.

Another city that realizes the value of No Kill is Atlanta. This story quotes the chairperson of the board of LifeLine, the non-profit contractor that has revolutionized Atlanta’s shelters, on the importance of a lifesaving shelter in attracting new people to Atlanta. LifeLine has recruited over 100 rescue partners since taking over the contracts in 2013 for the two shelters that serve Atlanta.

The American Bird Conservancy strikes again, as a participant in a stealth plan to try to destroy TNR in Washington, DC. The nation’s capital has come a long way toward No Kill in recent years, and TNR has been a big part of it. Now the city’s Department of the Environment is asking the city to adopt its proposed Wildlife Action Plan, which, on pages 145-146, asks that government-sanctioned TNR programs in the district be re-examined. Instead of returning the cats to their territory after sterilization, the plan suggests that they be taken in by shelters (this is code for saying that the cats should be killed, since most of them are feral and not adoptable) and that the government should support the “cats indoors” program. I hope the city doesn’t fall for this. Adams Morgan, a neighborhood in DC, was the site of a groundbreaking TNR project in 1990 that led to the formation of Alley Cat Allies. The TNR project gradually reduced the number of feral cats and now there are none where the original colony was. I’m sure that Alley Cat Allies and other groups will present the overwhelming evidence in favor of TNR as not only the most humane but the most effective and least costly method of feral cat control. The Washington Humane Society, which currently does TNR, was blindsided by the plan (they were not consulted) and they are arguing against it. There is something a little absurd in the idea of the District trying to make itself into a replica of how nature was in the time before people poured concrete over everything. If the bird people really want to protect the birds, they would be better off using their energy to promote “smart growth” for new construction in the District rather than persecuting cats.

There are several other important cat-related stories this week:

  1. The New Yorker has a video on TNR that does a good job of showing how much work and care goes into TNR. Unfortunately the video cites the cat predation numbers from the infamous 2013 Smithsonian study without comment on how unlikely those numbers are on their face, but that is a flaw in an otherwise good video.

  2. The Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has found that veterinarian Kristen Lindsey (whose name you may recall from a controversy over an allegation that she had killed a cat with a bow and arrow) committed an unspecified violation. More details will be announced in October.

  3. HSUS has two “Rethinking the Cat” symposiums coming up, on September 18 in Indianapolis and September 24 in Madison, Wisconsin.

  4. A recent study posted on PlosOne points out that there are lots of people who are feeding feral cats but not taking them in for TNR. Dr. Emily Weiss connects the dots by asking if we should be seeking ways to recruit these people, not necessarily to do TNR themselves, but to take responsibility to contact organizations that do TNR.

  5. Asheville’s city council has unanimously approved Brother Wolf’s bid for permission to open a cat cafe in the “heart of downtown.”

  6. Don’t miss this blog by Dr. Kate Hurley on what makes a “good and worthwhile life” in animal welfare.

A few more news bits in what has been a busy week:

  1. A rescue group that started helping the Smyth County Animal Shelter in Virginia last year reports that it has decreased the shelter’s euthanasia rate from 89% to 14%.

  2. The Elizabethton/Carter County shelter in Tennessee has a new director with big plans to increase its live release rate.

  3. El Paso, Texas, may be the worst city in the United States for shelter animals.

  4. Here is a thoughtful article about some of the problems in Dallas with free-roaming dogs.

  5. “Urgent” pages have saved a lot of lives, but they can also create a lot of counterproductive drama. This post on the Maddie’s Fund blog describes one shelter director’s innovations for running a more effective Urgent page.

  6. This article about the new Virginia law on animal shelters gives more attention to PETA’s views than to the proponents of the law, but it gives an idea of the battle currently being waged.

  7. Hillary Clinton, pet parent to two mixed-breed dogs, had a great response to a question about puppy mills, saying that they are terrible places for animals and we need to do more about them.

  8. Hand2Paw, a Philadelphia non-profit, helps young people who have aged out of foster care at age 18 with no place to go by providing volunteer and intern experience working with homeless animals at local shelters. Some of the young people have been hired as shelter workers.

  9. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg animal shelter has successfully implemented a managed admission plan. The plan, which includes helping owners to retain their pets, has reduced admissions by a startling 30%. The shelter reports that the community has embraced the new plan.


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