Sunday, August 15, 2010

Urgency of Death has No Honor

With Death Awaiting this sad soul
All animals that enter our shelter deserve a process where each has a chance of either being reunited with their family or placed in the safety of a new home.  That safety net could be through adoption right out of the shelter or by finding a suitable rescue group willing to take them in.

In today's multi tasking environment rescue groups work tirelessly on the goal of saving shelter pets from high kill shelters located throughout the state.  With so many homeless pets in the Atlanta area critically needing help - time and space are at a premium. 

Rescue groups learn how to wisely use their time and resources in order to benifit as many as pets as possible.  With the new role that the Internet and social networking play in our business and private affairs the rescue community has come to rely on these communication mechanism's as well to "get the word out."

Two of the most widely used sites are Facebook and Petfinders.  In working with either or both of these venue's progressive shelters are able to rapidly communicate a shelter's "urgent" needs, especially when it comes to dogs or cats that are facing death.  These are called an "Urgent List".

To accomplish this minimal goal of promoting a shelter pet throughout the community certain standards must be written into a shelter intake and exit procedures.  Every dog and cat that enters the shelter, whether it be a stray or owner surrender, should have an ID number assigned, a pen or kennel location, a picture for identification and information about that pet, sex, approximate age and size along with any other information that might help with the placement process.  The reality is if you perform this step right and provide useful information on either Petfinders or Facebook others can pass that information on through "crossposting".  This gives a shelter and the pet maximum coverage.

Nine out ten cats will die
That would be the goal or Breakthrough Thinking (which would move the community closer towards a "No Kill Gwinnett) that would develop a process where these standards were met, not just some of the time, but each and every time a pet entered the shelter. 

Ultimately, this process would not only provide pet owners with the service they are entitled to but would lower the costs associated with animal control as well.

Currently, Gwinnett animal control uses two data bases to list the dogs and cats held at the shelter. One listing is the Gwinnett County Animal Control website (maintained by the county) and a Petfinders site maintained by animal control.  Neither are remotely accurate, alike or kept up to date. What the consumer is left with is a confusing malfunctioning process that leads to more killing. 
While the county site has more information, pictures and the date available - that information is suspect because there doesn't seem to be a process of removing pets that aren't at the shelter and the website itself is out of date.  Petfinders is easier to access but critical information like a picture and release date are lacking.  It too seems to have many pets who aren't even at the shelter anymore.

Gwinnett's dysfunctional animal advisory council (GAAC) has studied this issue for sixteen months without any sense of urgency.  For the thousands of dogs and cats senselessly killed during this period, this couldn't be further from the truth.

The Urgency of an Urgent List

The issue of developing an urgent list for pets needing reclaim or adoption was first addressed at the  Gwinnett Animal Advisory Council's (GAAC) April 21, 2009 meeting.

GAAC board member, Carla Brown, talked about "increasing cooperation with rescues" by creating an urgent list (to compete with all the other shelters who do) of dogs and cats at the shelter, and providing details of available dogs and cats on Petfinders.  With the number of pets going to rescue having dropped by over 30% this would be a crucial step needed to bring more rescue groups into our new shelter.

July 21, 2009 GAAC meeting

Council (GAAC) members agreed there is a need for creating a list of animals, with their information and picture, that are scheduled to be killed in a few days. This list needs to be visible by network to reach more people and organizations that could adopt or take one or more of these animals. The information needs to be sent to the organizations or people or accessable rather then having them having to come to the shelter.

This list should also provide timely information for local pet owners as well seeking to find lost pets as well.  In attendance was shelter rescue coordinator Officer Chris Hughes.

GAAC Chair Gail Laberge recommended a committee be set up consisting of Carla Brown, Dennis Kronenfeld and Rescue Coordinator Officer Hughes to get the urgent list up and running. 

The purpose of any committee should be to identify a problem but more importantly to seek out a solution.  All three accepted the task.

Dekalb Animal Control puts out this information on it's pets awaiting reclaim or adoption.

Hello. My name is Sunshine. I am a beautiful and sweet young male orange and white cat. I am about 7 months old. I was turned into the shelter by my former owner who was moving and said she could not take me with her. The people at the shelter said that deserve someone who will love me forever and take me with them no matter where they go. I am a great boy. Please consider adopting me.

Sunshine's intake date: 4/16/2010

Lost and stray animals are held at Dekalb Animal Services for five (5) business days in order to give their owners a chance to reclaim them. After that time period, adoptable animals are held as long as space allows.

Gwinnett's Broken Process leads to broken dreams

The GGAC meeting scheduled on October 21 2009 was canceled due to a mix up in scheduling - there was no quorum, however Officer Hughes was in attendance.

A solution would have to wait until the next year.

January 19, 2010 GAAC meeting

Discussion of urgent list - Dennis Kronefeld, Carla Brown, Chris Hughes

Dennis Kronefeld, who represents feline interests, commented that he didn't see an urgent list working for Gwinnett Animal Shelter. With the shelter killing nine out of ten cats that enter the shelter Dennis offered nothing in it's place.  This is an interesting surrender to change a broken process especially in light of his own rescue group's reliance on Petfinders to place their adoptable pets.

Officer Hughes did not attend the meeting nor was there any indication that she offered any input on the issue.  Her absence and lack of interest was not explained, nor should it have been acceptable for a critical aspect of her job responsibility that is so obviously lacking.

Carla Brown, who works closely with others in the rescue community, commented she thinks it can work and would bring recommendations to the called meeting on March 2nd (2010).

Such a defeatist and lackadaisical attitude by two crucial members of this committee before seriously researching the issue is telling with the need to reform the GAAC.  This attitude does not explain how other shelters like Fulton County are able to provide a mountain of timely information about all of it's dogs and cats needing rescue.  The fact is Gwinnett is one of few major county's that doesn't provide access to this crucial information.

With support from only one of the three committee members, with the other two bored with the discussion,  things would only get worse for the dogs and cats urgently needing an urgent list..  The "Urgent List" was about to die a horrible death.

March 16 2010 GAAC meeting

Urgent list - Carla Brown is putting together and will give to Chris Hughes (once again Hughes was not in attendance even though she still was assigned to this committee). Carla also commented that beginning May 1st (2010) Gwinnett AC will receive new software that will make an urgent list easier to implement and maintain.  Dennis Kronefeld offered had no input on the discussion.

April 20 2010 GAAC meeting

Urgent list - Carla is working on an email format with a cute picture of the animal and a detailed description of the animals personality and facts about the animal.  Carla suggested that volunteers could come to the shelter and take several shots of the animals in a variety of locations, other then cages to better capture their personalities.

Once again, Dennis offered no comments or suggestions and Officer Hughes didn't bother to attend. 

Will YOU help me - do YOU care?
Since successful implementation would require input and cooperation from her department her failure to show an interest in this discussion dooms any process that the council might recommend.   With no explanation or excuse coming from her boss, the shelter director, one can assume that the issue of providing timely information to the community on pets needing rescue is urgent with management either.  The reality is this crucial step should be part of any intake procedure performed not by volunteers, but by the person in charge of checking animals in.

The bottom line is that not only do these lists increase the number of pets rescued but they save the taxpayers money.  It costs LESS money to send pets back to their owners or to rescue then it does to hold and kill them.  This is one of many reasons why "We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett" has no confidence in the shelter's current management team.

July 20 2010 GAAC meeting

The lack of urgency in developing a communication tool for pets facing death at our shelter dies a horrible death as the "Urgent List" is dropped from the GAAC meeting agenda.  This despite a shelter report of over 60% of all dogs and cats being killed at the shelter in the previous month. 

This wouldn't be the first time that GAAC Chair Laberge dropped a shelter discussion issue that didn't effect her "AKC world view" of our county's animal welfare issues. Laberge represents breeders in our community who in effect compete for the same homes that as shelter pets - is it any wonder why she's not enthused about promoting competition?

The GAAC admits defeat, agrees that the solution others have implemented is far too complicated for our shelter and that the alternative of killing these nameless pets is an attractive alternative.

The fact that management can not see the connection of extremely pathetic kill numbers and a lack of urgency in providing minimal information on the animals THEY are killing suggests they simply have accepted killing as a logical conclusion for a majority of pets they are entrusted to care for. 

This low level of service is not only unacceptable by any community standards but costly and wasteful of the resources provided as well - including our county's multi MILLION dollar investment in a new shelter..  What's really sad is in the old shelter under the previous shelter manager we provided more information and more cooperation with the community then what we have now.

So, we are left with the age old question - what are the metrics of communication provided by those operating our animal control department.  From the county's web site it is stated:

The Gwinnett Police Department operates the Animal Shelter to enforce animal control laws and to shelter animals that have strayed, gotten lost, or been turned over for adoption. With pet overpopulation on the rise, we're proud to report a decrease in incoming animals and an increase in animals placed to individuals and rescue groups through our shelter. 

The problem with this statement is not only is it downright inaccurate - the shelter is NOT reporting a DECREASE in incoming animals (as reported in Dismantling the Killing Machine) the number of cats entering the shelter is UP by 50% and the number of dogs entering the shelter is UP by 20% from our old shelter.

There is NOT an increase in adoptions and the number of animals placed in rescue is DOWN by over 30 % for the last three years .  If the shelter can't be honest with it's appraisal on these critical issues why should we believe them with any statements they make?

Breakthrough Thinking - the solution is obvious

Please, before it's TOO LATE?
Breakthrough thinking doesn't require reinventing the wheel to solve every problem a shelter might face.  In fact, in this case, the solution might be as simple as evaluating the current process for intake and outtake on animals that go through the shelter to determine whether that process is being followed.  If the process needs to be rewritten then the answer might be as simple as contacting other shelters like Dekalb or Fulton (or a number of other shelters) and asking for their process and input on implementing an Urgent Notification system. 

Breakthrough Thinking requires a willingness to ADMIT that there are problems - problems that are easily overcome.  A basic premise that anyone can break out of self-defeating, traditional modes of reasoning once these accept that change is inevitable.  We will not change nor will we see improvement until we recognize the urgency for this change.

No comments:

Post a Comment