Monday, May 21, 2012

Fear, loathing, frightening cats to death

Fear and loathing in the kill room

Euthanasia Methods Under Fire.

Please do something about ip's in ALL the cats...not just the wild ones. It's enough to make grown men cry when they are forced to do that method". Anonymous text from the euth room - a cry for help.

Gwinnett's Animal Task Force has been instrumental in uncovering a number of shelter practices that scream out for change. One such abhorrent practice exposed is the killing of "fractious" cats by intraperitoneal injection.

While there had been rumors of abhorrent killing methods being used in the "euthanasia room" the policy was validated at an animal task force meeting by temporary shelter director Captain Bruno and Animal Control Kennel Supervisor Charles Johnson.

Citizens and pet owners in Gwinnett should be outraged that OUR OWN animal control staff entrusted with enforcing animal neglect and cruelty laws has in effect been inhumanely killing cats by the thousands.

How long has I.P. been the preferred method for killing feral cats? Management, advisers and staff overlook blatant animal abuse for years. Over 14,000 cats have met their demise having been killed in such a painstaking method in our shelter since it opened in the fall of 2007.

What is I.P. or intraperitoneal injection?

Even intravenous injection is not possible, euthanasia drugs such as pentobarbital can be injected directly into a heart chamber or body cavity. While intraperitoneal injection is fully acceptable it may take up to 15 minutes to take effect in dogs and cats.

In California, performing IC injections on a fully conscious animal is a crime.

The "Euthanasia Best Practice for Companion Animals" was developed to provide organizations with information to ensure that when performed, euthanasia is done in the most humane way.

Live animals should never be able to witness euthanasia taking place. Pre-sedation or pre-anesthesia should always be an option or consideration to be used for the welfare of animals.

True euthanasia of a suffering animal brings about a peaceful death. In many ways euthanizing an animal to help end it's suffering is the ultimate gift we humans can offer our loyal often lifelong companions as long as that passing is dignified.
Killing an innocent animal in a painful, frightening manner is not dignified, it's an act of animal cruelty.  This is a classic example of what happens when a department that has no experience or business running an animal shelter is allowed to oversee shelter operations.

Ultimately, it was GPD Chief of Police Charles Walters responsibility to only hire competent shelter directors yet Walters appointed Lt Respess to a position she had no previous experience in nor qualifications to fill.

The results of this extremely poor management choice was a department that now has seen three of it's top supervisors, including Lt Respess, reassigned and forced into early retirement not for killing 14,000 cats and countless dogs but for "running a hostile work environment". 

Additionally several other animal control officers have been suspended from the internal investigation.  How many highly paid supervisors and officers looked the other way while animals were being killed in this hostile work environment?

Clearly, this is troubling. But what's more troubling is discovering that the shelter failed to update their "standards operating procedures" for over five years now. It is simply NOT acceptable that animal control lack the pride in job performance that allowed animal control officers to leave tags on citizens doors advising them that their pet had been picked up and would need to be reclaimed at the old High Hope Road address.

After spending several million dollars building a state of the art shelter Charles Walters management staff didn't have the pride to even change out their warning stickers.

Would we allow other department to send up water bills, court summons or any OTHER legal paper work advising us to report to the WRONG address? Why do we allow an incompetent animal management team to do exactly that for over four years now?

If this was a "Keystone Cops" moment it might just be comical but it is not. This about citizens pets, parts of our family, that are being killed through sheer negligence.

Time for serious change is now"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -
George Santayana

Critical life saving recommendations from Animal Task Force Policy Committee must be implemented NOW, including:

  1. Revised euthanasia criteria: to require sign-off by the rescue coordinator, shelter director, and a veterinarian, with written justification for the decision by each approver
  2. Revised euthanasia method for cats: we will address sedation prior to the lethal dose, and restrictions on the use of catch-poles for restraint.
  3. Implement TNR program.
  4. Feral cats: referral program to a Planned Pethood-sponsored team to promote TNR or relocation in lieu of drop-off by the public for killing at the shelter
  5. Website update: cross-train so that more than one person has the ability to add and remove animals from the site, and the site can be kept current and each animal has photo posted within 24-hours of entering the shelter.
Reform, restructure or simply rid the shelter of incompetent management?
How much change is enough?There seem to be three phases in change in our personal lives that apply to shelter reform as well. The first phase of change is developing the conviction to change. That is when the community or the community's leadership decides the problems at the shelter are real and that it's time to do something about it.

One could suggest that in assigning a task force to evaluate problems at our shelter we have the conviction to change but a community having conviction still needs leadership committed to bringing about that change. The conviction coming from our leadership could simply be because the leadership is tired of hearing all the citizen complaints and realize that ultimately not doing anything could be detrimental in a political sense.

The second phase to bringing about dramatic change is commitment. While I recognize the commitment to bring about change with the inspired work of the animal task force I don't see that commitment for change coming out of the county leadership.

That commitment for change requires those locked into the status quo of failure to relinquish the control they have on a failing process. Most people feel that commitment to change is the end of the road, when ultimately commitment to change is the beginning of taking a new path towards building a successful and highly respected animal services unit. Commitment requires the demonstration of seriousness by doing, or in some cases, by not doing.

The third phase is conversion. The converted have already passed through the conviction to change and commitment to bringing about change thus anxiously awaiting the reality of change that collectively all worked so diligently in bringing about. The converted are not tempted at taking shortcuts in the process or to return to the destructive, deadly ways of the past..

While it is certainly culturally and morally wrong take the life from an otherwise healthy adoptable animal, it is callous and outrageous to cause those same innocent animals to suffer a painful undignified death as part of that killing process.

Hiring Competent Professional StaffHiring a qualified shelter director becomes paramount to building a quality animal services unit. Having a knowledgeable leader who provides quality "do it right the first time" best practices in animal sheltering services saves the community the cost of providing unquality services. Quality best practices saves lives, saves taxpayer money too.

It should be obvious from the onset that people perform to the standards of their leaders. If the leadership thinks staff doesn't care about customer service and saving lives, then staff won't care. Hiring unqualified leadership to manage our animal control process costs more than simply hiring a qualified manager. A quality animal services director not only has the skills and experience needed to run a successful animal services unit but more importantly has the vision of what that success entails.

Should we as citizens continue to tolerate the leadership of our animal control department to run our shelter like a prison, like a jail or like an execution center or should we demand that OUR shelter is run as an animal shelter where our communities homeless pets are kept safe and out of harms way while our citizens and humane community works diligently in finding resources where they can be rehomed?

The time for serious reform in Gwinnett is way past do. Our current animal control structure under the Gwinnett Police Department is broken - it can't be fixed. This is no longer about providing our communities homeless pets with best sheltering practices . Ours is simply an issue of understanding RIGHT from WRONG.

Animal control and enforcement needs to be separated split from an animal services unit and run by a professional manager that reports directly to the county administrator.