Sunday, August 29, 2010

Leave Those Cats Alone

This poor kitten has little chance of survival
Regardless of whether the cat is the most beloved and pampered pet or the wildest outcast, shelter policies that claim to be based on humane policies view cats without a human home to protect them as feral. Since they have no owner is it better to take them to the shelter and kill them rather then to allow them to survive on their own?

The palace of mirrors were cats are selected
The endless road, cold bloody moons and the wailing of the chimes
The empty rooms were their memories are protected
The angels voices whisper to souls departed from better times

Eden is burning
Either brace yourself for the night
Or your hearts must have the courage
For the changing of the guard - Bob Dylan

Information obtained through open records paints an even more dismal outlook of survival for cats in Gwinnett County. In June of 2010, Gwinnett Animal Control & Enforcement took in 480 cats killing 468 of them. Only 12 cats survived the shelters slaughter.

In other words, the shelter was only “able” to save less then THREE PERCENT of the cats entrusted to their care in the month of June.

Yet, despite these dismal, pathetic numbers there was no discussion whatsoever on addressing this issue at the July 2010 animal advisory meeting. The fact our shelter manager doesn’t consider this wholesale slaughter a “problem” is troubling. The fact that she offers no alternatives paints but another bleak picture of incompetent leadership.

A Glance Back at Feline Death by Numbers

Year End       2007     2008     2009

Clayton          1867     2095     2258

Cobb              3394     4058     4000

Dekalb           1077      1896     1843

Fulton               464        400      565

Gwinnett         3169      4025    4588

Over 10,000 cats have been slaughtered by this animal control administration since opening our new EIGHT MILLION DOLLAR shelter in the fall of 2007.

I use the word slaughter for a reason – any healthy animal who is trapped, captured or stolen and subsequently put into an environment where death is the only outcome has not been rescued, it has not been humanely euthanized – it has been cruelly slaughtered.

I first wrote in June of 2008 about the issue of a rabid shelter plan that aggressively went out picking up wandering cats only to bring them to slaughter in our shelter. My hope was that by raising awareness the compassionate voices in our community would holler and scream for this killing to stop.

Instead, even those voices claiming a stake in protecting cats, including ferals, has been uncharacteristically silent. Instead of condemnation there was but another rash of excuses that not only condoned the killing but allowed it to grow by 50% by year end 2009.

Now, we have reached a point were over 97% of the cats are being killed in one month alone – still no outrage. At what point do we as “No Kill Advocates” justify cutting deals “to save a few more” while turning our backs on the thousands who will die in the process?

Are we so afraid of failure that we have lost our moral voice? This author would rather fight for moral high ground rather then crawl through the dirt and dead carcasses to negotiate with the “terrorists” who are responsible for this slaughter.

Isn’t that what NO KILL ADVOCACY is all about? How do you advocate for “some” or a “few” of the animals? Only Allison Cauthen would do that.

Offering up the key to life and death for so many animals (dogs and cats) simply to grandstand and promise something that is morally offensive while ignoring the silent screams of those who are slaughtered is nothing short of repulsive.

It’s a sell out and one should question the motivation that makes these lives expendable. Can you imagine a situation where a negotiator agreed “give me a few and kill the rest”? This author can’t and won’t.

Frightened by what looms ahead?
Until this shelter administration answers the question “why do we kill healthy animals” this battle for No Kill will continue. The reason they won’t answer is because there isn’t a morally acceptable response to that question except that we don’t have the moral authority to continue taking innocent lives.

What is a feral cat?

You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks.
You that never done nothin'
But work to destroy – Masters of War

Though feral cats are members of the domestic cat species and are protected under state anti-cruelty laws, they are typically fearful of people. They are NOT a danger or health risk to the community.

The question that needs to be raised is does our local policy of picking up and killing stray feral cats violate the state’s anti cruelty laws meant to protect them “in their habitats”? We don’t get questions answered by being silent an d looking the other way – we get answers by confronting the abusers and holding them accountable for THEIR actions.

Feral cats live and survive outdoors, yet have no chance of survival and are killed once they reach the shelter.

Of course, there is no moral justification for killing a cat simply because the cat lives in the wild. This fact is backed up with a national opinion poll that shows 81% of Americans who believe it is more humane to leave a stray cat outside to live out her life then have her caught and killed.

Intentionally killing any cat is a criminal offense in all fifty states, regardless of ownership. Yet, when animal control picks up a stray or feral cat knowing that it will be killed upon entering the shelter shouldn’t that be criminal (sanctioned by the very entity empowered to enforce the anti cruelty laws) as well?

Many times these “feral” cats become friendly with the caregiver and decide to come inside after they trust the person. In addition, many cats we help are actually abandoned stray cats who wind up outside through no fault of their own.

The cats that are friendly are the ones we put up for adoption and work hard to find them loving homes. The other truly feral cats are not happy being inside. They prefer to live in their cat colony or environment where they exist.

There are an estimated 50 million feral cats in the United States living in groups known as colonies. Dedicated individuals and organizations practice a non-lethal strategy known as Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) to reduce their numbers and improve the health and safety of cats and communities. With TNR, cats no longer reproduce, and nuisance behaviors are reduced or eliminated.

Without TNR, the majority of feral kittens do not survive to adulthood, and almost 100 percent of the feral cats brought to shelters are killed because they cannot be adopted as pets. –
Feral Cat Program of Georgia

To learn more about the “Feral Cat Program of Georgia”

Do feral cats have a “right” to live?

Behaviorally speaking the answer again appears to be that feral cats are wild animals and should be treated by animal control as such. We no more have the right to address feral cats through "trap and kill" policies as we do to the wholesale slaughter of other wild animals such as birds, rabbits, squirrels or raccoons.

If a pet cat is abandoned or runs off and gets lost in the woods, has kittens and the kittens that grow up wild because they have no contact with people, are they wild or domestic? Technically, they would be domestic because of domesticated parentage but don't all domesticated cats ultimately come from the wild?

The concept of “rescuing” a cat that has been abandoned by killing it is not only repulsive but immoral. Defining a feral cat as a "nuisance" in the absence of any nuisance behavior is simply an excuse to justify this ignorant behavior.

Society goes to great length to protect "wild animals" with great efforts being placed on "allowing" man to live amongst them. Why are feral cats not afforded those same protections?

The reality is that all animals living in the wild face hardship—and feral cats are no exception. Since no animal groups support the trapping and killing of other wild animals—raccoons, rabbits, fox—why do we reserve this fate for feral cats?

Current shelter policy not only allows for the trapping of cats but animal control condones, supports and encourages this illegal trapping by supplying the traps. Citizens can bait these traps therefore encouraging cats to enter their property where they are captured and delivered to animal control to be killed.

We can argue semantics about whether the cats should be contained but the fact remains for animal control to condone and encourage the illegal trapping and subsequent killing of these cats is not only irresponsible but should be viewed by the community as abuse of power that sanctions animal cruelty.

At the point that OUR animal control participates in the rampant slaughter of any species they lose all credibility in enforcing any of our laws that are designed to protect animals.

The fact remains that the leading cause of death for cats in Gwinnett is not irresponsible pet owners, it’s not pets who die from neglect or abuse but it’s the killing of healthy cats at the hands of the very entity entrusted to protect them from this abuse – animal control.

Since animal control makes no effort to determine whether these cats being turned into the shelter have owners or are truly homeless or are truly feral, a system is put in place that allows and encourages people who dislike cats with an easy option to kill them.

The right to choose death as a “humane alternative” for wild animals?

No time to choose when the truth must die
No time to lose or say goodbye
No time to prepare
For the victims that die
No time to suffer or blink
No time to think

Socialism, Hypnotism, Patriotism, Materialism
Fools making laws for the flapping of jaws
The sounds of the keys as they go clink clink
But there’s still no time to think - from Dylan's No Time to Think

One of the excuses used for killing feral cats is that these animals suffer by being “forced” to live their lives in the wild. Think about that, animal control is ending an animal’s life so it might potentially spare it from future suffering?

In fact, the shelters current “rescue coordinator” has been quoted as saying that “she has no problem with killing all the feral cats that come through the shelter”.

Determining that feral cats can’t lead meaningful lives is not an opinion (since it isn’t a fact it can only be an uneducated opinion) shared by others in the community, especially the dozen of feral cat rescue groups who work diligently to save these precious lives. What gives anyone the right to negotiate away this compassion for saving lives – even feral cats – including those who wave a No Kill Banner?

What chance does this cat have when this is the best our shelter can do in promoting her life?
Kill them she does – that much is a fact. Cats that enter the shelter must pass a unscientific, unproven “temperament test” which identifies their characteristics as domesticated or feral. With the shelter consistently reporting killing nine out of ten cats in either group there doesn’t appear to be much difference in the survival rates of domesticated or feral cats.

The fact remains, those cats determined to be “feral” are killed immediately as opposed to a domesticated cat being held the state mandated period for stray animals. This policy of labeling a cat un adoptable simply because the shelter has determined it is feral defies a state law that states “all stray animals are to be held in order that their owners might reclaim them.

The result of applying this unsupportable policy is that cats misidentified as feral are killed immediately. Thus cats that might have owners, who “test” as feral, are also being illegally killed. There are documented cases where citizens have had their domesticated (yet outside) cats killed simply because they failed an unscientific temperament test administered by an animal control officer who has predetermined that all “wild cats” are better off dead.

The Secret War to Kill Feral Cats

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm dumb
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though you claim I'm dumber than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do. – Bob Dylan

Even the wildest cat can learn to live around humans and may even exhibit pet like behavior to the person who feeds him. Those locally who care for feral cat colonies cats witness cats who rub up against their legs and even perhaps purr, just like pet cats. Don't mistake their aloofness as being a symptom of a dangerous nuisance animal.

Contrary, even the most pampered house cat that escapes and runs loose in the wild can survive with the deftness of the most voracious raccoon, rabbit, squirrel or other wild animal. Wouldn't that cat deserve the same respect and rights of survival as any wild animal?

We cannot continue with punitive enforcement that includes rounding up feral cats. This only discourages compassionate citizens from caring for these homeless cats. It also drives caretakers “underground” making them harder to reach and help.

If a person is feeding feral or homeless cats, they will be loathe to turn to the shelter for low cost spay/neuter help, rabies vaccinations or other support because doing so not only the entire feral colony of risk even though doing so does not violate any of the counties leash laws, pet limits or licensing requirements.

Why does Gwinnett Animal Control view an un-owned cat’s life as a series of brutal experiences? Are our policies enforced to "protect" these cats from future suffering? How do we justify using our animal control policies to systematically slaughter animals who are guilty of nothing more then being animals surviving in the wild?

Ultimately, while there are no leash law requirements for cats, there are state and local laws that protect animals that live in the wild from citizens who might choose to capture and kill them – yet – our animal control policies not only condone and participate in these “acts of cruelty” but perform the final act of taking an animals life at the very shelter financed with our tax dollars.

A law that should protect them from acts of cruelty was ignored over 4,500 times in 2009 alone. While the numbers are staggering the concept of visualizing the size involved in stacking 4,500 dead cats is mind boggling – and depressing.

Ninety cats EVERY week were killed in 2009 alone.

The palace of mirrors were cats are selected
The endless road, cold bloody moons and the wailing of the chimes
The empty rooms were their memories are protected
The angels voices whisper to souls departed from better times

Eden is burning
Either brace yourself for the night
Or your hearts must have the courage of the changing of the guard - Bob Dylan

To be effective, cat lovers and No Kill advocates, must confront those responsible – rather then ignore the excuses that legitimize this killing.

With a 50% increase in feline killing from 2007 to 2009 we can no longer ignore the excuses used to slaughter cats in our community. While this author is NOT a cat person the numbers alone scream out for reform. We must put an end to the feline policies that allow this mass killing to continue. This open season on cats can’t be negotiated away – it must be stopped.

The Economics of Running a Slaughterhouse

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
War can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the blood
That runs down your drain.

You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you sit back and watch
When the death toll gets higher
You hide in your shelter
As the innocent blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to allow feral cats
To exist in this world
For threatening their babies
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins. – author’s adaptation of Dylan

We have a shelter management team that enjoys killing – is addicted to the power that killing represents – that is why things never get any better at our new EIGHT MILLION dollar shelter that should be called what it is – a slaughterhouse for displaced animals.

There are more sinister reasons for the excessive slaughter of cats in our county.

It’s all about funding, job security and the county making a profit off the suffering of innocent animals. Think about this – if we weren’t able to substantiate – or pump up our kill numbers coming out of our new shelter wouldn’t we citizens demand downsizing the animal control staffing and budget?

It is that “fear” of downsizing that drives our current management team – run by the Gwinnett Police Department - that refuses to even acknowledge that killing isn’t even necessary. What size budget would be needed to handle an animal control services unit that welcomed volunteers, welcomed partnerships with the rescue community and worked diligently towards rapidly moving animals out of the shelter ALIVE rather then turn them into ashes and dust?

Since we have an absence of proactive management that seeks to improve operations, we are left with a lazy unsupervised staff that works hard at doing nothing to save lives or save the taxpayers money. Not only do we taxpayers receive lousy or no service for our tax dollars. We are repeatedly punished and accused of being part of the problem.

A few months ago the Gwinnett Police Department put in for a rate increase for those who surrendered an animal to the shelter. In our compassionate community this rate increase would have been welcomed IF the result was the animals being surrendered were offered opportunities to be adopted or placed into qualified rescue groups. Instead, we have a policy were owner surrenders are routinely killed almost immediately after arriving at the shelter. It has become profitable or a cost savings to kill these pets as soon as possible so that the money collected can go into the police department’s general fund.

Think about how much money is collected by duped pet owners who think their contribution will help their pet find a new home? It’s outrageous that these animals are killed for no good reason except we have policies in effect that reward expedient killing for profit.

"We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett" demand an end to the policy of killing ANY owner surrender until every effort at placing them safely has been explored. If they enter the shelter without shot records the shelter should use the money paid by pet owners to vaccinate these pets and make them available for adoption or rescue.

“Regardless of whether or not you’re a “cat person”, taxpayers around Atlanta spend over $15 Million taxpayer dollars each year dealing with homeless animals. Research proves that killing animals does not effectively reduce the number of homeless pets, including feral cats. Only spay/neutering and in the case of feral cats “Trap-Neuter-Release” has been the only proven success in controlling feral cat population numbers.” - Alley Cat Rescue

With a substantial portion of our animal control budget being allocating at “cracking down” on “stray cats” this is an area where long term cost savings can be realized by simply implementing a more effective, HUMANE feline cat policy.

That is why “We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett” advocates for ALL animals to have an equal right to live. We will not accept saving a few while ignoring the critical masses simply because current management is feeling the heat of our criticism and complaints.

This is all about “too little – too late”, we no longer have any confidence that the current leadership can be trusted to work in any honest partnership with the rescue community. We not only support “regime change” but will aggressively push for that needed change. There are compassionate leaders in our animal welfare community who share our dreams and goals that this killing must and can stop.

Working side by side with a killing mentality is not an option we will support. Through education we will arm an army of compassionate soldiers to engage in this change. It is this author’s belief that once the citizens of Gwinnett are presented with the facts they alone will make the right compassionate choice on how our community moves forward in our relationship with our homeless pets.

We must unify and must speak out loudly demanding NEW MANAGEMENT. No more excuses – no more wholesale slaughter of the innocent.

While the shelter industry claims to be in continuous development,
So are the tempers of it’s citizens. – I said that

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul. - Dylan

Please use YOUR voice to defend the lives of the innocent who continue to be slaughtered.
Citizens in our community who agree with my comments are encouraged to let their voices be heard by contacting their elected commissioner - here's the contact information.  Phone messages work too.

Gwinnett Police Department
Chief Charlie Walters
770 513 5000

Animal Advisory Board 
Gail Leberge Chairperson and Lawrenceville Kennel Club
Shelter Manager
Mary Lou Repress New Shelter Director
Gwinnett County Commissioners
Commission Chairman:

Charles Bannister

District 1 Commissioner: Shirley Lassiter

District 2 Commissioner: Bert Nasuti

District 3 Commissioner: Mike Beaudreau

District 4 Commissioner: Kevin Kenerly

1 comment:

  1. I actually find this sad. I do TNR, it is not hard or expensive. It only costs me $20 a cat, and I try to spread out the cost. Having feral or even wild cats around, that are fixed, is a good thing. It helps keep down the rodent population for one. Dont think they kill songbirds, they only do that if they are terribly hungry, they usually leave them alone. I hate people saying they will make the birds go away. I take care of a colony outside my apartment, and still hear birds singing in the morning.