Monday, January 30, 2012

Gwinnett Task Force - No Kill Discussion

At a recent meeting of Gwinnett's Animal Task Force local "no kill expert" Valerie Hayes was asked why Tompkins SPCA was being labeled as an open admission no kill shelter when in fact recent news reports out of Ithaca seemed to suggest that do to overcrowding issues the shelter was "limiting" admissions based on available space at the shelter. 

Hayes denied such claims and insisted that Tompkins is STILL the oldest no kill community since Winograd took over in 2001.

Here's a recent item in the Ithaca news.

Tompkins SPCA at capacity

Ithaca -- The SPCA of Tompkins County has reached capacity with 230 cats and kittens currently in the shelter, according to executive director Jim Bouderau.

Tompkins County residents who need to surrender a pet are asked to call to schedule an appointment. While it's unusual for all spaces in the shelter to be filled at this time of the year, according to Bouderau, reaching capacity means that the no-kill shelter can only accept pets based on the availability of space.

To make an appointment, Tompkins County residents should call 607-257-1822 ext. 237. Appointments are required year-round for the surrender of dogs or puppies.    12:17 PM, Aug. 2, 2011
Copyright © 2011 All rights reserved.

While Hayes presentation of the "No Kill Equation" had some helpful discussions it was equally surprising when Hayes seemed to stumble over questions posed on how much it cost to implement the "NKE" at no kill communities like Austin's TLAC or Washoe County NV.

One would assume after studying no kill under Winograd for at least the last few years this information would be readily available during the presentation yet Hayes seemed baffled by the question.  The facts are that Austin Tx budgets in excess of $6 million a year for animal control while Washoe County's budget is in excess of $4.2 for a community with half the population base as Gwinnett County.

Clearly while these programs are noble the real question is are they affordable to taxpayers during these budget crunching times?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How NOT to file an open records request

In a blog posted on No Kill Revolution "No Kill Columbus (GA)" accuses the county of violating the "Open Records Act" by not complying with an open records request seeking information on Columbus County's Animal Shelter. Here's the link to that request:
The request filed by No Kill Columbus should serve as an example of how NOT to file an open records request that basically asks the county to provide "everything you know plus what you don't know" in that request. Since the law also allows the county to charge for the time and copy expenses of answering an open ended request like that it only surprises me that the county didn't respond with a quote for researching all of the information requested.
A much more practical and useful approach at obtaining open records is to be specific about the information you are seeking and limit each O.R.R. to specific information on each issue rather than such a "catch all" approach.

Lastly, creating an adversarial relationship with the county leaders that you will need to have support you in your reform efforts is a sure way not to have any of your concerns listened too. You might very well win the battle of showing up the other side but in the process you will also lose a much larger war in which only the animals suffer. The "no killers" simply don't get that.
Here are two examples of open records request that are effective in obtaining information from your shelter.
If seeking an individual pet's info
Open Records Request Form
December 26, 2011
Monica, Lt Respess,
Pursuant to Georgia Open Records Law (O.C.G.A 50-18-70) you are hereby requested to make available for review or copying all files, records, and other documents, notes, correspondence that refer, reflect or relate to:

Animal ID # is 20741
The shelter thinks I am YOUNG
I will be available for adoption starting on 12/03/2011

This request includes all intake notes, all documents, correspondence and memoranda used in determine final disposition.

If this request is denied in whole or part, you are required by O.C.G.A. 50-18-72(h) to cite in writing the specific statutory exemption upon which you relied, as required by law. Please waive all costs associated with this request, or first inform of such costs as required by law.

I look forward to hearing from you.

It is also a simple process to get monthly shelter numbers by simply storing a standard templete requesting that info and updating the dates as  needed.  Here's an example you can copy to obtain those numbers.
Open Records Request Form

January 3, 2012

Monica, Lt Respess,

Pursuant to Georgia Open Records Law (O.C.G.A 50-18-70) you are hereby requested to make available for review or copying all files, records, and other documents, notes, correspondence that refer, reflect or relate to:

End of month shelter (numbers) for months January 2011 through the month end December 2011.

Please provide the following:

Intake canines strays picked up
Intake felines strays picked up

Intake canine owner surrenders
Intake feline owner surrenders

Canines Euthanized
Felines Euthanized

Canines Handled
Felines Handled

Animals adopted
Animals rescued

Canines returned in the field
Felines returned in the field

Canines reclaimed from shelter
Felines reclaimed from shelter

Please mail report to

An open records request can provide insight into shelter issues.  Keep it simple and respectful and you will be provided that information.  Open Records Request are obviously not fruitful when asking for information that does not exist.  Asking policy questions from clerical personnel is not an effective way to recieve that information either.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gwinnett's Policy of Killing Owner Surrender's

Killing Owner Surrender’s

Current policy at animal control is to immediately kill owner surrenders that do not include documented vaccination records when surrendered. It is unacceptable under any humane context to kill a pet simply because the surrendering owner did not or could not provide proof if such vaccinations.

The current management excuse for this abusive abhorrent policy is that unvaccinated pets pose a "disease" issue for the shelter. Fact is stray pets picked up in the field do not come with vaccination records either.

This issue of senselessly killing "undocumented" owner surrenders has been discussed numerous animal advisory meetings and yet the policy is still in effect. How we adopted such a foolish excuse for killing owner surrenders has never been clear.
One reason given for killing owner surrenders who were not current on vaccinations was "this (owner’s surrendering unvaccinated pets) is not allowed because the public started using this service as a "sick" pet drop off to avoid veterinary care"

So, in other words, our shelter is punishing irresponsible "dead beat" pet owners who are too cheap to vet their dogs by killing the dog? 

I first became aware of shelter’s policy on killing owner surrenders a few years ago when a citizen shared a story of an old beagle that had been dropped off at the shelter by her owner. This poor old girl was dragged back to the euthanasia room howling in fear only minutes after her owner left.

I can only imagine how frightened she was. Sentencing a dog to death for the actions of an irresponsible owner solves nothing, the dog is now dead and the owner is still irresponsible. The only difference is OUR SHELTER is irresponsible for participating in that killing.

If the issue in our community is pet owners who can’t afford to take their dogs to the vet then shouldn’t that issue be addressed rather than implementing a program that kills the dog who is already victimized?

Since the county doesn’t want or need to accept the responsibility of placing these pets we must establish a policy of making ALL owner surrender’s available to rescue partners as a first option rather than simply taking them into the shelter. All owner surrenders need to be transferred to licensed rescue partners groups for fostering and placement OR the shelter must vaccinate these pets while providing the same vigilance in seeking new homes as the strays are afforded.

Through an outsourcing partnership with the rescue community pet owners could work closely in finding these pets new homes without costing taxpayers in the process. In practice, rescue groups are better prepared to conduct home inspections, hold off site adoptions, evaluate application options and match up pets to new owners then public shelters.

A progressive animal services unit should be able to offer pet retention alternatives to help aid owners surrendering their pets at the shelter. A trained volunteer staff with strong people and customer service skills is needed to answer calls and counsel pet owners surrendering pets at the shelter on resources and rescue partner options that might be available instead.

The road to "no kill" should always include making the necessary changes in policy that stops the senseless killing "one dog" at a time.  

To read more on the issues facing advocates as we revitalizing our animal welfare policies;

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Death of innocence, lies, damn lies and statistics

20741 Gone but not forgotten
Animal ID # is 20741 -- I am a FEMALE, PEN 129 - LABRADOR
The shelter thinks I am YOUNG
I will be available for adoption starting on 12/03/2011

Webster's dictionary describes "skittish" as 1. Nervously excitable;; 2. Shy, coy or timid; 3.a. Excessively lively or frivolous; 3.b. Undependable : fickle.

Killing a young, year old dog simply because it is "skittish" is reprehensible.  What's missing from Webster's a definition which describes "skittish" dogs are the words "dangerous, not trainable or not adoptable".

Instead, even dogs that enter Gwinnett's "dysfunctional" Animal Shelter that are listed as "friendly" are being killed for picking up this deadly disease  called being "skittish".

One such victim of this abusive shelter policy that lacks any credible reasoning that justify taking an animal's life is a sweet one year old female lab mix only who's destiny turned out to be two numbers - she was listed as "20741" and she was 1 of 116 dogs killed in Gwinnett's "dysfunctional" Animal Shelter.

Open Records for this poor dog are disturbing.  They show a callous somewhat hateful nature of our animal control which allowed this poor dog and her running mate to be killed even though the shelter made little or no effort to seek alternatives which would have saved both of these precious animals.  It was a blatant act of betrayal that we should all be ashamed of.

The facts on these two are clear, they were picked up a few days after Thanksgiving and would be dead less than a week later.  They were deaths that didn't need to happen nor should have happened in a professionally run shelter.  Sadly, this happens all the time at Gwinnett's dysfunctional shelter and we citizens must insist that this senseless killing be stopped.

According to the Open Records Request the following time line was reported;

(Sunday) Nov 27, 2011 11:54 PM  - Call # P113312034

Nov 28, 2011 12:04 AM:  Officer Ryan Banaham writes in his report;

On 11/27 at 23:14 I impounded two stray canines.  Both canines are female lab mixes.  The black lab mix limps with the rear right leg.  Canine does not appear to be in any pain.  Will have officer Velazquez follow up.  Owner unknown.  Negative scan #1727.

Dec 4, 2011  8:35 AM  aid #20741 10-0 (killed) due to skittish behavior per 1707  1703

Dec 4, 2011  8:37 AM 10-0 (killed) aid #20740 due to possible URI per 1707  1703

Dec 5, 2011  1:57 PM  Dispatch K Arrington took a phone call from a Jim Henley who thought AID20740 might be his dog.  The dog had been euthanized (killed) the day prior, and the remains cremated.  Mr Henley was hoping to know if the dog had spots on it's tongue.  I contacted his wife 706-###-#### and advised her we had euthanized the dog and were not able to determine any further details.  1703 

Two young one year old dogs alive when they were picked up, described as friendly according to their intake sheets were DEAD less than seven days later with no effort whatsoever being made to find their owners or to consult the rescue community for help.

The reason these two are now dead doesn't matter.  Could that reason be the rumors of morale issues at the shelter on who was being scheduled to work the holiday weekend?  I don't know.  Could it be overcrowding - the answer to that is no.  Could it be that either suffered from an illness or condition that wasn't easily treatable - the answer is again no.  Could it be that the management practices at the shelter ALLOWS this killing to continue?

What is really sad is that while the shelter staff and management showed absolutely no concern about saving these two dogs the same can't be said by the rescue community. 

In fact, with no help from Gwinnett's rescue coordinator several local rescue advocates were working frantically trying to find a suitable rescue group to take these two in but since the shelter only made them available for "rescue" for one day these two were killed when in all likelihood help was on the way.

Here's a thread that was posted during those critical 48 hours when our hopes for these two just suddenly disappeared do to the thoughtless actions of the shelter staff that killed these two for no reason.

What allows an officer employed by animal control to come back to work after celebrating their Thanksgiving Weekend with his family including his family of pets; to return to work a few days later and take the lives of two innocent dogs who could have simply been tossed a dog dish full of food and left alone in a half empty shelter defies common. 

There is NO ROOM for the sadistic thought process that allowed these two dogs to be not only be killed but to be killed tow minutes apart while each were probably in the same room. 

I can only imagine the fear that went through these tow dogs minds in their final moments and even though I never had the privilege to meet either my heart is broken nonetheless.  I could not let them die in vain as if their lives were so insignificant that they were reduced to a statistic on the shelter's yearly shelter numbers. 

They are listed as killed when they should have been listed as being "adopted" or "transferred to rescue".  Instead of being alive living in a foster home and being taught to be well socialized pets they were killed and tossed into the incinerator.   

That is but one of thousands of failures with our current management at the shelter that reeks a stench that goes all the way up the chain of command to the inept management of our shelter by the Gwinnett Police Department.  If there ever was a reason to privatize our shelter and to bring in professional humane management this senseless slaughter of illness is an example.

Facebook help was on the way

On Facebook (a social networking tool that the shelter refuses to use) we find the following thread and comments on the picture included with this article;

Helping Animals at Gwinnett County Shelter. I like to watch my dogs sleeping, they look like angels.
December 1, 2011 at 12:23am ·

Kristin Bruns What's her status please??!!
I'm in in pensacola Fl. What GA Rescue can help me???

December 5, 2011 at 10:35pm ·

Carley Tigrett Omg this is the cutest thing I have ever seen! How old is this dog and male or female?
December 5, 2011 at 11:00pm

Kristin Bruns Female, young! I can find out tom am! Under a year for sure :) She's beautiful! :)
December 5, 2011 at 11:12pm

Carley Tigrett She is def beautiful! Can u find out if she is house trained, a chewer and stuff like that? U can email me at
December 5, 2011 at 11:29pm

Helping Animals at Gwinnett County Shelter. killed confirmed !!!!!!! :*(
December 6, 2011 at 1:19pm

Samantha End Bsl Lanata why has she been killed if theres ppl asking about her?
December 6, 2011 at 1:24pm

Kyle Bridgeman aw no way i would have had her she looks like my lab
December 6, 2011 at 1:35pm

Lisa Cacici are u kidding me?????? this beautiful girl was put down?????? why did they do it so fast if there were people trying to rescue her? she was only available for adoption for the last couple of days! i am sick over this. so sad
December 6, 2011 at 2:12pm

Kristin Bruns I can't stop crying!!! There has to be something we can do!
December 6, 2011 at 2:22pm

JennyLee Savingdogsandcats What a shame. I don't get it
December 6, 2011 at 9:25pm

Elizabeth Hanson WHAT!! OMG..:-(((( .. devastated...
December 6, 2011 at 9:31pm

Merrilee Bauman Why did they kill her? Don't the shelters get the messages that people are interested?
December 6, 2011 at 11:50pm

Sandi Kasmarsik she was only adoptable on the 3rd! I'm so sad...Why? this is Wrong! Ugh They didn't even give her a chance.
December 7, 2011 at 3:47am

Kristin Bruns She was actually only off her "hold" 3 days & was pts because they said she was "skiddish"?!?!!! Tell me that isn't aweful;(((( She was just scared....a puppy! :(
December 20, 2011 at 9:48pm

Even though I requested all the documentation centering around the death of 20741 I was not provided any behavioral analysis that was used to determine how the dogs temperament went from being "friendly" on the intake evaluation to "skittish" needs to be killed six days later.  Nor can I find any documentation on which vet examined the other lab mix and determined that A) she had a "possible URI" and that the illness was not treatable with a prescription that costs less than a few dollars.

In my experience the reason this documentation isn't included in the file is because personnel who are not qualified to make these life ending decisions are doing so nonetheless.  There is also no documentation on exactly who signed off on killing this pair despite that too being required as part of the shelters Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) as well.

We will continue to have innocent animals betrayed and killed until the rescue and pet loving community demands that change.  That change will NOT come about if WE allow our leaders to hold the task force meetings under a veil of secrecy where citizens nor the media are allowed to participate in the meetings seeking to put an end to this senseless betrayal.

Please add your voice demanding change that while it won't bring back these two precious young vibrant dogs at least their senseless slaughter would not be in vain.  We are tired of the excuses on why Gwinnett is one of the only county animal control agencies in the Atlanta area that does NOT promote pet placements on Facebook.  We're tired of a rescue coordinator who works harder finding excuses to kill than she does finding suitable rescue places for these dogs to go.  It's long past time this inept management is sent packing.