Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What is all this No Kill talk?

"The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair." -- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams (1952 - 2001).

If today is typical of any other day at Gwinnett Animal Control today will be the last day on earth for a dozen or so dogs and cats who's "number" has come up.

The decision to end a pet's life falls entirely on shelter managements lap. They alone have the ability to choose life by sparing that pets life while exploring every opportunity of finding safe refuge instead. Part of that process is putting into effect policies that promote life rather then focusing on blaming others, including this writer, for their own failed policies.

Since the shelter opened in late 2007 shelter killing has increased by over 30%. In effect, the new management team, led by Gwinnett’s Police Chief Charles Walters, squandered the legacy of departing manager Sam Jeannes by gutting programs and relationships that were already in place.

Lt Respess
Statement from the county web site "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."

This statement is not only inaccurate but dishonest in the appraisel of our shelter's performance to the public.  Shelter intake is not on the decrease and in fact adoptions and the number of pets going to rescue has dropped dramatically.

Instead of continuing on a path of working closely with the rescue community in helping to find resources for the pets that went through the shelter, the new management "team" decided to go after those involved in rescue, especially those who had "more animals" then management felt was appropriate.

Armed with a recently passed draconian animal ordinance that differed in scope with the community's values, it became open season on pet owners. Gwinnett has always been a county where pet owners were only limited with the number of pets they could own by the ability to provide responsible care for each and every one of those pets.

These policies implemented by the new shelter management team are not only increasing the number of animals killed at our shelter but they are a costly, inefficient and ineffective use of tax funding used to support our animal welfare programs.

For the last two years I have been addressing the same issues that plague Gwinnett's Animal Control with policies that only fueled more killing, not less. For two years our political process has squandered any chance of reversing these disturbing trends by failing to address the problems with the changes needed to implement success.

Gwinnett's $8,000,0000 New Shelter
Now, we are facing a cultural difference were the issue has been raised why our shelter management chooses to kill any healthy pet when there are proven alternatives available. That cultural difference is at the heart of a “no confidence” decision for shelter management endorsed by We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett.

The only long term solution to solving this cultural disagreement over WHY we allow our animal control to kill without reason is to push for a change in management, whether that change be though efforts to privatize the shelter or whether that effort simply involves finding a more competent management team.

This process is going to be difficult - there are going to be naysayers who defend the current managements positions that allow them to kill without being questioned. The naysayers will point fingers and place blame – some have even pointed fingers in this author’s direction.

These naysayers will suggest we go back to square one and negotiate with shelter management to try and “do better” or “do more” or even worse “save a few more”, but this writer is no longer willing to settle for saving a few more while with a systematic breakdown has that allows animal control to kill far too many.

As I wrestle with my conscience (yes, I do have one) it has become obvious that the solutions are to demand that the killing of healthy animals must stop. This is not about saving a few more – it’s about saving ALL of the healthy animals that go though our shelter. That is the only animal welfare policy that should be endorsed by a community of compassionate people who understand the role that animals have in our lives.

In reality it is animal controls responsibility to improve their operations so those lucky ten live. It’s our responsibility as advocates to be resolute in fighting for saving ALL the healthy pets. There can be no compromise.

The current director has had plenty of opportunity to change on her own. She has had THREE YEARS to implement her own "life saving" policies and to hold employees accountable for doing their jobs and in that effort she has failed.

She has refused to open up the shelter to volunteers; she has refused to implement an intake procedure that places information and pictures of the animals being killed on the Internet for citizens to see. She has refused to hold her employees accountable for being respectful of citizens who enter the shelter.

She has refused to implement any policies that would lower the dreadful death rate for cats entering the shelter – as if their lives are meaningless. She has refused to meet with all members of the rescue community to provide assurances and support to contradict her early heavy-handed enforcement activity that has effectively prevented many rescue groups from partnering with our shelter.

Instead of an honest dialog on improving the results at the shelter we have received nothing but excuses and dishonest rhetoric. When excuses and dishonest rhetoric fail to quiet those demanding a more responsive life saving results she resorts to the illegal use of threats and intimidation to hide the truth.

Others disagree with my assessment - that is their right. Nonetheless, our group "WE the Pet Owners of Gwinnett" will continue in our role of educating other pet owners on the issues. The fact is, after two years of discussions with shelter there is no common ground where we can agree on to move forward.

Any promise to do better at this late hour is “too little – too late”. We cannot wait in the hopes that things will get better next year or the year after. Thousands of dogs and cats will die in the interim – something we advocates must consider before accepting a compromise that only moves the ball forward a few inches.

An offer to work “more” with rescue or to allow “more” volunteers into our shelter is only something that we are entitled to in the first place. It should be the shelter’s responsibility to work closely with rescue and to have an open transparent volunteer program that allowed for community oversight in the process.

We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett will continue to advocate for the rights of rescuers to follow their passion without fear of retribution or retaliation from animal control. Our decision not to work with current management certainly can't be viewed as part of the problem. We didn't create this problem but do remain steadfast in ending it.

“Indeed, as I suggested earlier, I think we’re in a period of profound change. Governments are going to have to rethink their roles and responsibilities. And the people we serve are going to have to rethink their expectations of government.”
Chairman Bannister’s comments January 2010 “State of the County” speech

Yes, Chairman Bannister, we are going through a period were citizens are demanding profound change. As leaders, your role is to remove the obstacles that prevent us from succeeding in attaining our dreams.

Change never comes easy, it requires the courage to admit that the process is broken and must be fixed. Yet, the reason we elect officials to govern for us to to be resilient in bringing about the change that improves the standards of our lives and makes Gwinnett a better place to live. Failure doesn’t live in Gwinnett – success does.

The question we pose is “why wouldn’t the community be better served with a new shelter manager who is willing to work openly with all responsible pet owners in the community? Aren’t we entitled to the same high standards in lour animal welfare programs as we are to other services supplied by our county?

One of the issues still on the table is the reform of our county’s Animal Advisory Council that will for the first time give a voice to citizens who own pets in making recommendations to improve our animal welfare policies. If you want and expect the private sector to help solve some of the county’s problems then you need to provide them the tools to do that job.

Everyone who has looked at this issue agrees that the current animal advisory council doesn’t serve the interest of the community but instead functions only to buffer and excuse poor policies and lack of service that results.

Support No Kill Gwinnett by using your voice in demanding more from our political authorities who continue to look the other way while thousands and thousands of animals continue to die.

It’s one thing to use a promise of lowering our shelter’s kill rate as a political platform but it’s entirely different to ask our politicians to have the leadership backbone to introduce resolutions that require these life saving programs to be put in place.

You improve NOTHING if you do NOTHING – if there’s one thing we all can agree on is our political process has failed the animals in Gwinnett.

If you can’t change the process of failure then you need to change the people who were elected to fulfill those processes. There shouldn’t be any politicians who should feel secure in getting the pet owners votes without listening and acting on our concerns.

Until we change the culture into simply saying NO we won't kill for No reason this senseless killing will continue. As long as the killing continues, “We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett” will continue to advocate for a cultural change to end this senseless practice – that’s what No Kill is all about.

1 comment:

  1. I do not live in Gwinnett - but fully support and admire what you are doing! God speed to you all!