Sunday, January 15, 2012

No Kill - Is there anybody out there?

One of the "experts" who has been extended an invitation to speak about "No Kill" is Valerie Hayes. Who is Valerie Hayes and what qualifies her as an expert on "no kill"?

Hayes includes in her resume her attendance at the national "No Kill Conference" given in Washington DC in 2010 and 2011. Valerie Hayes arranged a "Nathan Winograd" book signing to Douglasville in the spring of 2010.

Here locally, It was Winograd who prepared a shelter evaluation several years ago in Henry County. While Henry County has made significant progress in resolving many of the animal welfare issues it has faced Winograd failed to provide any oversight support that might have continued to move that progress forward.

Since taxpayers determine the amount of funding allocated for animal control budgets ultimately it is the taxpayers who share the blame for inadequately funding these shelters with enough resources to save all the pets dumped by those same irresponsible breeders and pet owners.

Winograd believes that since there is no pet overpopulation and that irresponsible breeder’s are not responsible for shelter killing because "it’s not the irresponsible breeders who kill these dogs – it’s the uncaring shelter directors who do the killing".

Winograd claims (in his book Redemption released in 2007) that pet overpopulation is a myth because there are over 17,000,000 people who will be in adding a family pet every year. He further reasons that if the shelter and humane community would only step up and loosen their adoption standards, drastically reduce their adoption fees or simply start giving these pets away we will become a nation that saves over 90% of our shelter pets.

Winograd places the rest of the burden on reaching the magical 90% "live save" rate on the rescue/humane community which simply must work harder to reach and maintain those numbers.

What is a "No Kill Expert"?

Aside from the extreme "No Kill" agenda that Hayes supports the real question Gwinnett’s task Force should consider are what are Valerie Hayes qualifications when it comes to shelter reform. Has she been successful or is she even working on shelter reform in her own community?

Valerie Hayes lives in Carroll County which has a "live save" rate of less than 20% while Cowetta County has long been a problematic shelter as well. There has been no improvement in either community’s kill rates since Winograd gave his presentation over twenty months ago.

Of course, there are No Kill "success" stories in Redemption that merit discussion. Three "No Kill" communities are Tompkins SPCA in Ithaca NY (where Hayes volunteered in the early 2000’s under Winograd); Austin Texas, which has the similar demographics as Gwinnett; and Washoe County (Reno) NV.

To be clear, it is noble that these communities have been successful in saving this 90% but the cost associated with these programs will not work in Gwinnett.

Tompkins SPCA

Tompkins SPCA is often cited as the one of the first "open admission" no kill shelters that has sustained that status ever since Winograd made the no kill transition in 2001. Tompkins SPCA derives some of it’s funding through public money but also funds the huge deficits with private donations.

Tompkins County NY has a population base of around 100,000 people or about fifteen % the size of Gwinnett. It’s animal control cost range from $800,000 to $1,000,000 each year. Since implementing it’s no kill plan the shelter has consistently battled an overcrowding problem that has on an average off over 250 dogs in it’s kennel alone.

This overcrowding issue resulted in the shelter implementing a "relief valve" policy in 2007 that turned away owners seeking to surrender a pet whenever the shelter was full. Tompkins SPCA has been operating as a "limited admission" no kill shelter since 2007.

Turning away pet owners seeking to surrender pets in communities like Gwinnett creates a variety of problems that no kill fails to address. 

Washoe County NV

While the Washoe County NV no kill program is equally successful it suffers from the same problems only on a larger scale. Washoe County has a population base of around 400,000 citizens.

Washoe’s AC’s annual intake numbers are around 15,000 dogs/cats each year almost twice the number handled in Gwinnett. Washoe County allocates a annual budget of $4 to 4.5 million in public funding for animal control costs for a community half the size of Gwinnett. An equal or even greater of funding comes from the private "humane" community as well.

Austin Texas No Kill Model

Austin Texas is now the role model for success in No Kill. Austin TX has a population of 800,000, which is about the size of Gwinnett.

Austin has a huge shelter intake problem with a shelter that churns over 24,000 pets every year shelter at a cost of between $6 to $7 million a year in public funding along with an equal amount of private funding.

Gwinnett’s shelter intake numbers in 2011 were less than 8,000 dogs and cats entering our shelter. Yet, Austin’s policies still resulted in over 2,000 dogs and cats being killed in their "no kill" community compared to Gwinett’s number of 3,800 killed. These are all talking points that one would hope that the Animal Task Force needs answers too.

Is No Kill too divisive to be effective in Gwinnett?

As a die-hard Winograd supporter, Hayes promotes "No Kill" on various face book pages including the "Atlanta Animal Welfare Examiner" and "No Kill Revolution".  Note: to date, Hayes has offered no information or solutions to Gwinnett's animal welfare issues in any of her articles she has written.

Among comment posted on Atlanta Welfare Examiner Hayes writes "One of my favorite bloggers, the indefatigable YesBiscuit just got a FB page. Head on over and 'like' her page!

Yesbiscuit is an ex-breeder named Shirley Thistlewaite, who is also a self proclaimed "no kill" expert.

To understand Shirley and her knowledge of the issues Gwinnett faces in solving OUR animal welfare issues one needs only read a blog "Yesbiscuit"
recently wrote about the Georgia SPCA. In her blog Shirley writes;

"The Georgia SPCA describes itself on its web site as "a "no kill" organization". I’m not sure why they put the term no kill in quotes although perhaps some insight can be gained from reading the director’s comments in a CBS Atlanta piece this week"

Valerie Hayes provided the following comment in response to Yesbiscuit’s attack;

Atlanta Animal Advocate says:
October 6, 2011 at 11:33 am

"The Georgia SPCA is a tiny little organization with a big name. They get media attention because of their big name, but they are really just a very small rescue group that takes in less than $350,000 total a year including adoption fees and donations. Almost all the rescue groups in the Atlanta area charge similar fees to the GA SPCA, mainly because their vet bills are so high and because most people in the Atlanta area donate money to the Atlanta Humane Society instead of other animal groups even though AHS has tens of millions of dollars in the bank that they don’t use. And Atlanta Humane isn’t and doesn’t claim to be no kill, so you ought to be admonishing them or Atlanta Pet Rescue instead. Atlanta Pet Rescue is a bigger organization than GA SPCA (takes in over $1 million a year), but for the most part Atlanta Pet Rescue will ONLY take in the most highly adoptable creme-de-la-creme dogs – small dogs and purebreds and they charge between $275-$425 for their dogs."

See comments
While her views on local no kill and rescue groups are divisive, it is Hayes lack of knowledge on cost factors, political realities, shelter overcrowding and community safety that the task force should be concerned about.

Taxpayers can not pay for the cost of services needed to keep pace with saving over 90% without seriously addressing the intake issues that drive both costs and killing that result from pet overpopulation. Thoseresolved by focusing solutions on breeder licensing and providing citizens with more access to responsible animal services including low cost spay/neuter, pet retention programs and expanded partnerships in our community.

We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett have offered a plan that will continue with the progress we have witnessed in reducing both shelter intake, shelter killing and the costs associated with maintaining a quality animal services unit.

Our proposal "Breaking with tradition to revitalize animal services" lays out in detail the steps needed to we move our "animal sheltering" model to an "animal services" model where services are provided our community’s pet owners. It is this blueprint that becomes the road map for helping pet owners become not only responsible pet owners in the care of their pets but responsible citizens as well.

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