Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Commissioner Beaudreau "Create Animal Welfare Task Force"

Commissioner Beaudreau has issued a statement on the animal welfare issues facing his county in his January "A Note from Mike" newsletter.  The newsletter inself addresses a number of important issues in our district - here is the section that relates to animal welfare issues.

Mike writes: "I spent some time during the holidays thinking about my 2011 goals, and I would like to share them with you:

"The county should create an Animal Welfare Task Force that would make recommendations to improve the way our animal shelter operates and to make any needed modifications to the animal control ordinance.  This would include looking at how animal control is handled in peer counties, the composition and reporting responsibility of the Animal Advisory Board and the possibility of involving more volunteers at the shelter."

The task force itself will follow the path taken by "Engage Gwinnett" with the focus on animal welfare issues.  We appreciate Mike efforts in bringing these important discussions forward.  We support any transparent discussion that brings about positive change at our shelter, is inclusive and gives pet owners a voice in this process.

We look forward to continuing our discussion with the county commissioners, it is through this collaboration that all of our voices will be heard.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2010 - Animal Advisory Reform Resolution

Today, I will go in front of the BOC once again to ask for an Up or Down vote on this proposal. All of the talking points are in this recently written article that discusses the changes built into the Animal Advisory Reform Resolution.

Here's a link to a complete analysis and talking points for Animal Advisory Reform Resolution proposed.

We need letters supporting this resolution to be sent to the board of commissioners and Glenn Stephens, the county administrator. To put it simply, this resolution gives YOU - the pet owners in our community - a VOICE in making recommendations and giving advise on animal issues to our commissioners.

Allowing or blocking this resolution from an Up or Down vote will be viewed as an attempt to block citizen involvement in our animal welfare issues.

In the event that the BOC "chooses" to take this action "We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett" is prepared to challenge the legality of any advisory commission that EXCLUDES voter input.

This issue isn't one that is up to negotiation - we want and demand that our voices are part of the political process. I would encourage our commissioners to understand the will of pet owners in our community and to expedite this important issue to a public hearing on the commissioner's calendar.

We are prepared to organize a citizens advisory council which will circumvent any not recognized advisory council by submitting our issues, questions and proposals directly TOO the elected officials WE voted for to protect our interests This might not be the most effective way of governing but we'll leave that choice to the commissioners themselves. Like I said, this isn't open for negotiation.

Citizens are encouraged to email, call their commissioner supporting our resolution. Contact info as follows:

District 1 Commissioner: Shirley Lasseter
(R); 2012

District 2 Commissioner: Lynette Howard
(R); 2014

District 3 Commissioner: Mike Beaudreau
(R); 2012

District 4 Commissioner: John Heard
(R); 2014

Glenn Stephens - County Administrator

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We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett

Trailed by20Hounds

Monday, January 17, 2011

We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett - Shelter Report 2010

A sand so white and sea so blue
Can’t match our tear stained eyes
How many moons and many June’s
Before we let them leave alive

The following spreadsheets are a compilation of six years of shelter statistics – including three years from the old shelter (2005-2007) and three years with our new shelter. The data represents only the live animals that entered the shelter. Since the shelter officially opened in the last quarter of 2007 some of the numbers for 2007 were skewed upwards

                            **********OLD SHELTER********* **NEW SHELTER***
                             **2005** **2006** **2007** **2008** **2009** **2010**

Felines Handled
Felines Strays            1707       1771        1981         2487         2836       1318
Felines Surrendered   2642       2257        2051         2343         2298       2486
Felines Total Incoming  4349    4028        4032         4830         5134       3804
Felines Killed                3084    3079        3169         4025         4588      3232
Felines Picked Up Owner  57      28            43             18           108              32

Total Canine/Feline In    9,868    9,107     9,174       10,437     11,063       8,845
Total Out Alive              4609      4136     4660          4049        4157        3567
Total Out Dead              5229      5399    5842          6991        7608        5707

After three years of a steady increase in “stray cats” the number of stray cats picked up in 2010 went from 2,836 in 2009 to 1,318 in 2010. While the number of cats surrendered at the shelter increased slightly from 2,298 in 2009 to 2,486 in 2010 the overall effect was a cat intake number of 5,134 in 2009 dropping to 3,804 in 2010 or a net decrease of 1,330.

That number mirrors the drop in cats killed from 4,588 in 2009 to 3,232 in 2010 or 1,356 that were saved by simply leaving them alone.

That in itself might be a feel good statement, but for taxpayers the “potential savings is in the range of between $120,000 and $150,000 (*** see note) in animal control costs.

Potential, because in order to capture those savings a management team familiar with the concept of changing with the communities needs is needed. Now, if that gets your attention read on, we CAN save more.

One might suggest not picking up strays cats placed the community or cats at risk thus justifying the huge yearly expenditures for the “catch and kill” enforcement model, yet, there isn’t any statistical data to support that.

***cost figures based on manpower, equipment needed for catch/impound, cost of intake handling, cost of care and manpower during housing, costs of killing and cost of disposing of waste.****

One would think that the “excess” cats would find their way to the highways as “road kill” yet, in 2010 the number of dead cats picked up off the road dropped as well from 263 in 2009 to 153 in 2010.

We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett applaud this policy change and encourage the county to adopt a “Trap/Neuter/Release” program in partnership with the “Feral Cat Rescue Community” completely outsourcing forever the issue of feral cats in our county.

The goal should be zero for the number of stray cats picked up by animal control in 2011. Attaining that goal alone would result in another 1,300 cats not entering the shelter allowing the shelter to focus on providing shelter and top notch adoption/rescue opportunity thus relieving the county of the cost and negative stigma of simply killing these cats as well.

We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett strongly encourages a task force committee study the alternate Trap/Neuter/Return programs. Madison County (GA) embraces a trap/neuter/release policy because it SAVES MONEY.

This “task force committee” approach is hallmark too success in business. There could not be a better time for this county to reach out to it’s citizens for help in attaining our shared goals. It certainly is a better approach then to continue squandering this trust instead.

Note: There wasn’t any increase in 2010 in the number of cats that were adopted or that went to rescue. That would have been another cost savings as well.

FACT - Despite killing 98 cats in December 2010 there were only SEVEN cats available for adoption when I visited the shelter on January 6th 2011.

I am also disappointed that ANY cats were killed in December of 2010 since little effort was made trying to promote adopting/rescuing these cats out AND there was plenty of empty cage space. It should be appalling to all citizens that our leadership in animal control places so little value with these cat’s lives.

No cat should be killed as long as there is ONE space available to keep it’s alive – that’s not providing shelter – that’s slaughtering an innocent cat.

Shelter numbers for dogs

                                                 Gwinnett Shelter Stats 2005 thru 2010
                           **********OLD SHELTER********* **NEW SHELTER***
                          **2005** **2006** **2007** **2008** **2009** **2010**

Canines Handled
Canines Strays       3026         3068         3095         3539         3823          3455
Canines Surrendered  2493     2011         2047         2068         2106          1586
Canines Total Incoming  5519  5079        5142         5607         5929           5041
Canines Killed         2145         2320        2673         2966         3020          2475
Canines Picked Up Owner 891   860          865          924           885            936

The number of dogs picked up as strays picked up from 3,823 in 2009 to 3,455 or a drop of over 10%. Likewise, owner surrender’s dropped from 2,106 in 2009 to 1,586 in 2010 or close to 25%. The combined result was a drop in canine intake numbers from 5,929 in 2010 to 5,041 in 2010.

Dogs killed 2009     3,020
Dogs killed 2010     2,475

Dead dogs picked up from the road 2009     320
Dead dogs picked up from the road 2010     249

We like to think that these numbers are the result is from the responsible pet owners feeling less intimidated into surrendering their responsibility under the threatening guidelines of the old animal “nuisance” ordinance that the county had the courage to correct.

We recommend offering low cost retention services like microchipping where pet owners would be guaranteed at least one “free ride home” for any pets picked up that whose owner can easily be identified.

We encourage the county to investigate expanding cost saving programs offering low cost spay/neuter services, low cost vaccination programs and pet retention consulting under a revamped and retooled animal services unit.

Partnering with the Rescue Community – A Dismal Failure

                           *********OLD SHELTER***** **NEW SHELTER***
                         **2005** **2006** **2007** **2008** **2009** **2010**

Animals Adopted   2326       1756         1982         1906         2093          1583
Animals Rescued    1335       1492        1770          1201         1071          1016

Citizens Visiting Shelter (2009)     32,308
Citizens Visiting Shelter (2010)     27,791

The number of citizens visiting the shelter fell off in 2010 by 4,500 visits. The number of pets sent to rescue continues to drop – adding to the cost of running the shelter.

The number of pets adopted from our new shelter dropped as well. Adoptions fell by 25% from 2,093 in 2009 to 1,583 in 2010. This is disappointing as well.

Clearly, we have not fully utilized or promoted our new shelter for the reasons it was built. The shelter was NOT built as a more efficient detention, disposal operation – it was built to service the needs of pet owners in our community.

Innovative shelter managers realize that moving a pet to rescue or finding a family to adopt ends the county’s responsibility and expense in handling that pet. .

It simply COST money to kill a pet and COST NOTHING to save it..

We call on the county to replace the current “Rescue/Adoptions Coordinator” with a qualified civilian applicant with the experience and motivation needed to build this partnership.

We encourage the county to expand on promoting shelter pets through the many social networks that other progressive shelters are using. Posting pets on Facebook saves lives and provides the rescue community with accurate information on URGENT pets. It also results in more pets being adopted and more going to rescue. That saves money.

Shelters competing for market share with other kill shelters in the region – Gwinnett chooses to NOT compete. This policy cost the taxpayers money.

When you look at the number of dogs and cats that still are being killed, you realize that if only we were “doing our best” we would reach goals on adoption/rescue that were our best efforts in the past. Those best numbers combined with fall into the 4,000 to 4,500 dogs and cats saved.

Simply by doing our best we would save from 1,500 to 2,000 pets are currently being killed by NOT doing our best.

When you add that number to the number of 1,300 stray cats that shouldn’t be being picked up in the first place and we now reduce the killing by 3,000 or more in 2011.

That is our goal. That is our target for saving lives.

Enforcement issues and warning Signs for 2011

There are warning signs from 2010 shelter report that are concerning as well.

For one, the number of complaints responded too in 2009 totaled 25,049. In 2010 animal control responded too 25,259 complaints.

Citations issued dropped off as follows:

Restraint 10-29 (2009)    685 - note – there were no warnings issued at all
Restraint 10-29 (2010)    440

License No Tag 10-43 (2009)     345
License No Tag 10-43 (2010)     171

Public Nuisance Animal 10-33 (2009)     500
Public Nuisance Animal 10-33 (2010)     290

Fact is, even citations issued for “nuisance animals” dropped as well in 2010.

Those numbers are tempered with new categories created with the revised barking/tethering ordinance passed in 2009

Barking (which used to be part of the nuisance section) 10-51B (2010)    54
Duty to be a responsible owner (2010)    140

So, while those numbers remain constant – under the new law NONE of these pet owners add to the number of pets entering our shelters but instead are resolving there pet issues through mediation or fines – just as it should be.

Vicious Animal 10-37 (2009)   39
Vicious Animal 10-37 (2010)     5

Biting Animal 10-38 (2009)   44
Biting Animal 10-38 (2010)     5

Animal Control has a huge responsibility in keeping our community safe from vicious or dangerous dogs. Despite all the media hype about ‘pit bulls” in our county being a “clear and present danger” the numbers don’t bear that out either.

Even the number of bite cases dropped from 44 in 2009 to again FIVE in 2010.

Doesn’t sound like a problem HUGE enough to pass new laws that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to enforced, especially if we’re trying to move that number from FIVE to ZERO?

A Transformation in ideology takes root

Animal Control killed 3,455 dogs and 3,232 cats in 2010. Our goal for 2011 is too reduce that number by 3,000 moving us that much closer to becoming Georgia’s first No Kill Community.

Solving our longstanding and expensive animal control issues was the foundation for which “Animal Advisory Reform Resolution” was built on. We acknowledge and support the work of Dr Tim Montgomery and Superior Court Judge Carla Brown for their role in writing this proposed resolution. We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett appreciate being given the opportunity to participate in that process.

This resolution has the overwhelming support of citizens in our community as well.

Collectively as a community, we have provided the bricks, tools and mortar necessary to build the bridge, but need the political leadership and courage to lead the way.

We respectfully request once again an UP or DOWN vote on this issue that has been held hostage for TOO LONG.

A unique opportunity for the county presents itself to selectively invest in programs that will continually lower our intake numbers moving us closer to ending all the needless killing of dogs and cats in our shelter.

We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett have provided and will continue to provide a blueprint for that success. All of our proposals will be short term budget neutral with long term cost savings of lowering intake built in.

We seek the leadership in our government, our shelter and our animal welfare community that SHARES that vision. Can we count on YOU?

We encourage our elected officials to give strong consideration to a long term strategy for it’s animal welfare issues. The focus remains to control costs and provide the citizens with the quality of animal services they and their family pets deserve.

We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett are committed to building a responsible community of pet owners by empowering our citizens to do the right thing for not only their pets but the neighborhood and community as well.

This is about working together as a community in solving our animal problems, that’s how a democracy works.


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