Twenty Three Thousand

Animals killed by Maricopa County in 2010

MCACC at it again

I’m Back. It’s been months. The actions of MCACC spur me on, not to mention I have more hours free at the moment. Might as well put them to good use.This is in response to MCACC telling a local group that it was too much trouble to help them have offsite adoption events featuring county dogs.

Dear MCACC shelter director,

Last time I looked you were still killing a lot of animals EVERY DAY. There are lots of  people that want to stop this, as I’m kind of sure you kind of do as well, as long as it doesn’t cost you any money. Fact is, to stop killing animals it means putting programs in place to do so. This occasionally might mean a bit of inconvenience on the part of yourself and your employees. But you know, I’m sure that the act of saving more  lives will motivate your employees to spend a little extra time helping to put these programs in place and to work with willing volunteers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any successful shelter, and who wouldn’t want to be successful? After all, a success rate of 50-60 percent is pretty unacceptable , isn’t it? Anywho, you presently have PAWS volunteers willing to compromise and work with you to bring animals out to the public, which is the only way they’ll be adopted because your business has never hired someone who knows how to market the animals in your care.

Recently you had an adoption event cancelled because of a lack of volunteers. I somehow don’t understand how a facility with over 600 volunteers couldn’t come up with a few for whatever event this was. A few volunteers willing to save lives. Could it be that there is not adequate communication with the volunteers? Some years ago I sat in the adoption bus for 3 hours as a volunteer while the bus burned up gas with at least 15 adoptable animals,  and one adopter showed up. Of course, the fact that the bus was there was never publicized. Who wouldn’t want to volunteer for that again?

Anyway, since you no longer want to work with groups to do offsite adoptions of MCACC animals, I’m sure next time the kill statistics for MCACC come out you can once again say “There’s nothing we can do” (quoting Rodrigo Silva from a 12 news video) when you are killing 93 animals a day during puppy/kitten season.


Death Reclassified- Again

 It’s always 1984 at MCACC. Their newest claim is that they are not going to kill any adoptable  or treatable animals. Here is their verbage-

During January, February and March 2012 MCACCS will not euthanize treatable and managable animals. If you have any questions contact Tom Hope. Thank you.

Well Ta-Da!!! Remember that this government facility supported by our dog license revenues, donations, and city contracts doesn’t and hasn’t euthanized a healthy and adoptable animal since 2005. (hold your snickers and guffaws please) Well now we have a new category for those on the E-list, one that we hardly ever saw before. EUT-AS. All of a sudden all these animals are horribly injured and just can’t be helped!!!

Lets review. We know that because they do not utilize the steps of the No Kill Equation, they have to kill for space. The director instructed his employees to make sure enough animals were classified as fearful and sick with URI so that he could continue this claim. They would rush the kennels scaring the animals,  and if there was one sneeze or cough, on the list you would go. Sorry doggie and kitty. Now, good is bad and bad is good. Those same animals have become the “horribly vicious” and “we can’t afford to treat this ” sick with conditions such as slight lameness. Oh I long for the good old days when animals with so many issues were ignored,adopted out or given to rescues. At least they had a chance.


The Humane Society, “Pet Overpopulation”, and the Latest Innocent killed

I usually write about Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, partly because I was a volunteer there and saw things that the public wouldn’t see. Also because it is a tax supported institution, although they love to tell you they aren’t. I guess those mandatory dog licenses and city contracts worth millions aren’t taxes, but I beg to differ.  Anyway, the Arizona Humane Society runs off of donations from the public, and I can scream all day about their kill rate to no avail. But this week, an incident occurred, the media actually wrote about it, and some of their donors are upset. It’s about time.

This summer, Az Humane ran a big billboard and print ad campaign. Damaged animals were pictured with the words Pet Overpopulation next to them. This insidious message linking injury and abuse to the myth of “pet overpopulation” infuriated me, not only because these two things have nothing to do with each other, but that they can continue to raise money using this false link and people will continue to blindly believe it. This poor organization that supposedly takes in all of society’s damaged goods because you don’t spay and neuter your pet then has the right to do just about anything  necessary to those “spare animals” to get through each day with a roof over their heads. Well this week they did what they always do, but it didn’t turn out so well. And the media finally covered it.

The link to the story is here.  But basically they did what regressive shelters always do. When an animal comes into the shelter and there are no laws against killing it (such as a stray holding period) , it is cheaper to kill the animal as soon as possible. Owner surrenders are often led directly to the needle even though the people surrendering them think they will be put up for adoption. No shelter will tell the truth about this to the people surrendering. The same thing happens when people turn in strays hoping that the owner will be found. I talked to many unhappy people at county that had held pets in their homes for a period of time and then turned that pet in thinking the home would be found. They express interest in the animal, and are told to come back.They come back in a few days only to find out the pet was killed.

 Well so much for pet overpopulation and shelter “overcrowding”. They took a person’s pet because he didn’t have the means and they wouldn’t tell him the truth or take a credit card over the phone. They wouldn’t direct him to any low cost vet care. The story details are truly sad but they happen every day in the kill shelters of Maricopa county and Az Humane. For the situation to change in favor of the animals we have to demand new leadership, better shelter policies, progressive no kill policies, and shelter accountability to both donors and taxpayers. And most of all, we have to turn that fundraising blame game around and put the blame where it really falls- on the shelters themselves.

Customer Service at MCACC

Stroll down the corridors of MCACC and you might see an employee. You might see a volunteer. Or you might not. Looking for a dog to adopt and want to be shown a particular animal or just ask a question? You might be out of luck, find no one and give up, or you might stroll to various other parts of the building to look for employees or volunteers. In this case you will probably be better off finding an older volunteer, than an employee who always seems to be busy and will give you minimal  answers. Customer service in the kennels is not a high priority. Lives are lost because of this.

Most open admission county shelters constantly tell you that they don’t have the resources to hire more staff. But this isn’t about staffing numbers. It’s about efficiency, attitude, and wanting to save lives. Successful shelters with save rates in the 90% and above percentile don’t have any more resources, yet somehow attract customers and adopt their way out of killing. MCACC could do this if it wanted to.

Volunteers at MCACC are allowed to come and go as they please, and there is no management of how many are there at one time.  This is not a life-saving policy, and is wasteful of the most important resource – volunteer time. Regressive shelters use volunteers as an afterthought, and MCACC still does this. Every hour that the shelter is open for adoptions, volunteers should be there. Volunteers can be the smiling face answering questions about a dog, greeting customers (yes, MCACC those people strolling down the kennel aisles are customers), and explaining shelter policies to those who are confused. Volunteers can explain the different dog breeds, and perhaps would be acquainted with the dog in question to answer specific questions. Volunteers could counsel people with returns and owner surrenders so that they know the possible fate of their decisions.

If MCACC wanted to attract more customers, they would use their volunteers as customer service people. They would also have a code of conduct for their employees, most of whom act like the public is a disease to be avoided. Walk down the aisles, and if you find an employee at all that employee is likely to give you a very short answer and try to run off. If Macy’s ran it’s stores like this they wouldn’t have any customers. But of course, Macy’s is not trying to hide their procedures from the public.

The receiving area is another nightmare. Once I was standing in line outside(you know, outside the door that is closed while they are killing animals) and when they opened the door the employee yelled loudly and rudely “stand behind the line!”  This is the typical employee response to people who are fostering and adopting animals as well as those who are surrendering.  Of course, MCACC could use volunteers at receiving to find out why people are there and to possibly steer them in another direction, but shelter management prefers to play the “resource” card and continue with crappy customer service and unhappy employees greeting confused customers.

Successful shelters have managed to recruit, train, and schedule enough volunteers so that all adoptable animals are taken care of while in the shelter and given a real chance every day to be adopted. Until MCACC admits that it needs to change the way it treats and uses volunteers, lives will be lost. And no matter what management claims, they are not trying or even attempting to participate in the successful steps of the No Kill Equation.

MCACC and the No Kill Equation Part 2

Last week I found a stray dog in my front yard. I could tell he was pretty old, and I couldn’t  bare to see him wandering the streets only to be taken in by county. We brought him in, took his picture, posted him on Craigslist and posted pictures around the neighborhood.  His owner saw his picture that evening when returning home from work, and another dog found his way home. Posting this dog took me less than an hour of my time. This was the third time this year a dog went home from my house because of a few simple steps.

The director of MCACC says he will “become no kill tomorrow” and work on the other steps of the No Kill Equation- if he doesn’t have to do adoptions. I say that if his field officers took a few minutes in every neighborhood that a stray dog was found, which they are now presently not required to do, his intake would go down dramatically. Think of the resources saved by less intake. Think of the kennel space opened up. Think of less stress on the employees as they no longer have to kill over 23,000 animals a year. Think of all the costs incurred when an animal control officer drives to a sight, picks up an animal, drives that animal to MCACC, and that animal is subsequently housed and then killed. We are all paying for that in taxes (yes, MCACC -that money that goes towards our dog licenses is tax money)  that goes for gas, wages, kill juice, employee time and stress, kennel space and the feeble adoption attempts that county participates in.

Successful shelters are now taking in a whole lot less animals. Their field officers , some working with donated laptops, cameras and chip scanners, are returning up to 65% of their strays. With the help of volunteers that post animals found on a very timely basis, and a few knocks on doors in the neighborhood, we would never have to take in all the thousands of animals that end up at our shelters that spend a few miserable days waiting for their owners that don’t have a clue where to look for them, only to be killed.

The director of MCACC says it doesn’t have time for this step of the No Kill Equation. I say he just doesn’t want to invest the energy. Capturing and killing is faster, easier and supposedly cheaper. It’s all ok as long as the public doesn’t know the alternatives.

Just Imagine if They Used the Volunteers and Involved the Community

MCACC management spends so much time making excuses, I honestly don’t know how they get their assigned job duties accomplished.  They really need a phone message and an auto reply e-mail for all concerned citizens that call to check on the status of an animal, try to adopt an animal, or make a suggestion. It would be  “We’re sorry, all lines are busy as we are currently overwhelmed and understaffed capturing and taking  in 55,000  animals. We cannot help you at this time and please don’t call back later. If you absolutely must visit one of our facilities, please try not to take up the time of any shelter staff. Thanks in advance for your cooperation. ”  If you are a volunteer, you hear the same excuse when you make a suggestion about anything, no matter how small. They don’t have the time, space, resources, money, staff, balloons etc and the list goes on. You learn that the excuse really means that they do not want to change the way they do business or do their jobs, nor do they want to be inconvenienced in any way.  You can even offer to do stuff for free, things that might even save them time and save lives,  and they will turn it down if it requires change on their part. Pity the fool.

In order to become or even try to become a No Kill facility, MCACC needs to aggressively recruit volunteers-organized, intelligent and life-experienced volunteers that realize that their actions will save lives. These volunteers would also have to know that the shelter staff supports their actions as a means to saving lives, that neither side has anything to hide, and that all parties have the same goal. But as long as MCACC continues to operate the way it is now, those volunteers will never arrive.

Current volunteers include many young people doing service hours, and then a smaller number of adults that have braved the holocaust of county policy and are long timers. Many of the young ones walk dogs and help the public meet dogs available for adoption, although many of them don’t always use their time wisely. The older ones find their niche and work hard at whatever they do.

In a perfect No Kill world, and assuming the county would actually try to recruit a large amount of volunteers, how could volunteers save the lives of animals and do more than what they’re doing now? This list took me about ten minutes, but you get the idea…

  • take over the off site adoptions such as Petsmart so the real facilities can remain open with staff, and the mobile adoption buses can run again, of course with appropriate media coverage of their schedules
  • help desk, help line for people who might have behavioral issues with adopted animals-animal trainers would volunteer if they knew they were saving lives.
  • help desk, help line for owner surrenders- counseling and resources
  • help desk, help line for those who have lost their pets. Volunteers hit the streets in the area where the dog was found, post pics in the area and online etc. Counsel people on what to do if they lost their pet.
  • Help the media and communications employee  design posters for dog and cat sale events, design flyers actively recruiting fosters and volunteers, and help market the animals!
  • transport and do offsite adoptions at various places
  • take clear pictures of all dogs on intake with a real camera and post strays and adoptables every day

This list could go on and on, the point being that even if you ask county to try things that would not cost them money but might take a few hours of effort from employees the answer is always no. Why? Besides making their jobs more complicated, they would have to become more truthful as to why/when and where animals are killed, and then ask the community to help save these lives. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen under current shelter management.

Who’s to Blame?

“what kind of crap boss am I, if I’m forcing my staff to kill pets, be stressed out and traumatizedwhen there’s an alternative?”    Indeed.

Employees at Maricopa Animal Care and Control are under alot of stress. I have seen them in the lunchroom numerous times, crying uncontrollably. I have asked them questions about a dog, only to be yelled at like I was the 300th person that day to blame them. I have heard them talk in animal control “code” when I and other volunteers are around, so that we might not know about what they’ve been doing. One joked about a “big number this morning” while I was in the room. Another commented that the smell from the truck carrying the bodies was going to get a lot worse come summer.

I have also seen incredible acts of compassion. A shelter employee who regularly kills animals in the morning coming out to my car to give my foster cat a shot, so the animal wouldn’t be traumatized. Another goes into cages of incredibly fearful animals and sits there until they stop snarling out of fear, and saves their lives.

I have also seen the bad reaction to that stress . Once I saw a dead newborn kitten and reported it to the employees. They came over to the cage, explained that new mother cats sometimes don’t take care of their young, and took the kitten out. That employee then lunged at another, laughing.  HA HA. Almost gotcha with the dead kitten. Pretty funny.

Another time an employee slammed the door of a kennel on an already traumatized cat and said, “I hate that cat”.  Wow. Imagine how much that cat really hated being at Maricopa Animal Care and Control?  This same employee screamed at a new volunteer when he was doing things that made her day “harder”.  All the time this volunteer was trying to make the environment safe for a family with young children and a hyper dog he was walking.

Another time, a volunteer was trying to show an animal to a potential adopter who was really interested. The lights turned on and off. She got yelled at. It was closing time and the people will come back tomorrow, the employee said. The people never come back tomorrow, why would they? Another animal dies.

Mitch Schneider, of Washoe County Regional Animal Services in Nevada and the author of the above quote, decided that things didn’t have to be this way. A former animal control officer, he didn’t think that the No Kill Equation would really work. He now knows it can, and sees his employees to be a much more satisfied bunch of individuals.

It is no wonder that when a shelter actually changes management and goes no kill, most shelter employees end up leaving. How could you work at a place knowing that you could’ve saved so many more lives?  I ask the same question of the management at MCACC. How can you put your employees through this everyday, and why do you keep resisting change?

Showcase a Pet and Your Boss will Think You’re Doing a Heckova Job

Maricopa County Animal Care and Control brings an adoptable dog  to most if not all of the Board of Supervisors meetings, if we are to believe a recent article in the Arizona Republic.

One dog, to prove that “shelter dogs are eminently adoptable” . ( Something tells me that the showcase dog is never a pit bull, and that the cute little showcased dogs would’ve been adopted out of the shelter system anyway…)  One dog, even though they capture and take in over 50,000 animals a year. To again quote the article,  it states that “Officials at the county Animal Care and Control Unit have found that showcasing animals to the public is an effective way to get them adopted.”  As a resident and taxpayer of Maricopa County, I would love to see the animals at these shelters showcased on a regular daily basis using the marketing techniques that successful No Kill shelters throughout the nation are using. They would no longer have to kill half of the dogs in their care. Instead, they claim to be doing all that they can, but then are stunned, surprised, and dumbfounded when they hold a pet sale that is actually advertised, and the public shows up  .

Call me cynical. Call me jaded after being a shelter volunteer and suggesting more marketing (remember they don’t want to overwhelm the media) , but  a little voice in my head thinks that the appearance of Animal Care and Control on a monthly basis at the meetings of the people who decide the budget and appoint the director, is a little bit of personal marketing that doesn’t have that much to do with animals.

Adoptions? Not in my skill set…

The director of MCACC recently stated that his shelter could “go no kill today” if rescues could take all the adoptable animals off his hands, so that he wouldn’t  have to spend money on adoptions. He could then focus on the other steps of the No Kill Equation. This was stated numerous times in a meeting with the group No Kill Maricopa County, shelter staff, and the local Alliance for Companion Animals, a group made up of director Rodrigo Silva, a local animal lawyer, and rescues who benefit from being partners with MCACC. My first thought on hearing this? Gosh, if they took away half of the work listed on my job, I could do that other half alot better I bet! And I could still get paid the same.

People are incredulous when they hear that the director of the supposedly second largest animal shelter in the nation really doesn’t want to do his job, and incredulous that he wants others to take responsibility for the lives that come into his shelter. This director continues to take the salary of an Assistant County Manager who is only at the shelter 3 days a week.  He claims to understand the No Kill Equation and claims to want to implement it, but his claims ring false. Those lives are coming in  partly because of his refusal to follow the steps of the No Kill Equation. He could have been doing progressive steps all along that would’ve decreased the intake and fate of thousands of animals a year if he had chosen to do so. Instead, he wants to put the responsibility of those lives on the already overcrowded rescues that try to save so many animals. In fact, many of those rescues supposedly agree with county rhetoric that killing is necessary because of pet overpopulation…but of course, that “agreement” is necessary because their New Hope status could be pulled if they didn’t.

So what could our supposedly tranparent and pet overpopulated county have been doing all this time? At no cost to them, they could have used volunteers as pet counselors for those relinquishing their pets. Successful shelters who do this  stop 60% of those who are relinquishing or returning pets they have adopted. All it takes is communication with the public as to the what will happen to their pet in the shelter system, and pet behaviorists to help with adjustment problems with newly adopted pets. They could instruct their animal control officers to knock on doors in surrounding areas where stray animals are found, and to use donated laptops, microchip scanners,  and volunteers to post pictures of strays to find owners before the animal ever has to be brought to the shelter. Just imagine if even 40% of the intake at MCACC never made it to the shelter.  It could happen if they tried, but they’d rather blame the public, say they don’t have money, and then kill the animals they don’t have space for. So even if a rescue were to take alot of animals from MCACC on a daily basis, the killing would continue, because this shelter director doesn’t really want to implement life saving strategies. If he did, the killing would’ve stopped years ago.

When does an offsite adoption center exist? When the public knows it’s there.

The last kitten I fostered for MCACC spent three weeks at one of their new offsite adoption centers. Three weeks, at a time when there were not many kittens available. The only explanation was, and still is, that the public did not and still does not know about these adoption centers.

MCACC loves to paint the picture of hard-working employees trying to save the lives of the supposedly bazillion animals that the irresponsible public dumps on them. They also profess to understand and follow the steps of the No kill Equation. They opened up two offsite adoption centers to get the animals out to the people, so they said. They held big hoopla parties when they opened. Media and government attended. Yee-hahhh!! Behind the scenes, however, they didn’t mention a few things that were going to change. Because they didn’t have the “resources” , (meaning of course, that they didn’t utilize volunteers and the willing public) , they were closing each of their regular facilities one day a week for adoptions, only offering limited services.  Oh and by the way, the mobile buses with adoptable animals that had been running 4 days a week would no longer run, not that those were ever advertised anyway. In fact, once I spent 3 volunteer hours in the mobile adoptions bus in a remote pet store parking lot on a weekday morning, and apparently no one knew we were going to be there. We had several visitors,  one adoption, and burned about a million gallons of gas. But I digress.

My kitten sat in a remote adoption center that no one knew about even though it had just opened. I had been assured that once a foster animal goes to one of these centers it was safe, but later learned that employees move animals to and fro and some get killed anyway. What kind of business model spends so many employee hours, burns so much gasoline, and takes away from normal business hours at it’s normal locations  to work at a location that no one knows about?  Could it be a shelter director that doesn’t want to do adoptions and just wants to say that MCACC just really tries to adopt animals in it’s care? Or could it be a really lousy communications  policy that doesn’t want to “overwhelm the media”?  Several years ago when I was posting, or trying to post, the mobile bus events every month in the local newspapers, I would not get the calendar from the MCACC  media person until the first week of the month. Yep, they had those buses out. But the irresponsible public, who had no idea they were there, never stopped by. Just like they’re not stopping by at the offsite adoption centers now.

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