|Yesterday, I published a response to a mailing sent by Animal Humane Society. Filled with misinformation, and some would argue out-and-out lies, the mailer has been raising eyebrows as well as the ire of animal advocates in Minnesota and beyond.|
The mailer was on the topic of the Minnesota Companion Animal Protection Act, a proposed law that, if it became law, would make the killing of healthy and savable pets in shelters what shelters have always said it was: a last resort. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Animal Humane Society - who has been the leading cause of death for healthy companion animals in Minnesota for decades - is opposing MN CAPA.
The fact that AHS is opposing the bill is causing some of their supporters to sit up and take notice. But, it is the WAY they are opposing it that is making a growing number of people really angry.
Some would call the content of the mailing about MN CAPA lies. Others might choose to say that it is filled with misinformation. Some might use even stronger words. Who at AHS is responsible for the content of the mailer is anyone's guess.
There is, however, a piece of writing from AHS for which the person responsible is known. It is a letter written on AHS letterhead and signed by their President, Janelle Dixon. The content of this letter is even more egregious, in some ways, than the other content in the mailing. Click the image at the top of the article to read the entire letter. With people from all over Minnesota and beyond discussing the mailing, and the false information it provided, I wanted to take some time to address the content of Dixon's letter.
Dixon opens her letter by making some basic statements AHS has made before. She claims that they have reduced so-called "euthanasia" by 41% and that they now have an 81% placement rate. As I have written before, if that is true, it is good news. It is, however, worth noting that AHS has not published their actual intake/placement statistics since 2009. Even though this is near the end of 2011, there have been no statistics published for 2010. Given the organization's history of fudging data and other "facts" I would very much like to see the raw numbers before we start celebrating. Dixon also talks about their "Bound for Home" program, which they have been promoting recently.
The cornerstone of the program is a change in policy. No longer can people show up and surrender animals. They need to schedule appointments and pay fees in advance.
Not surprisingly, this practice is reducing intake to AHS shelters. It is, however, not the only reason fewer animals are ending up at AHS. In years past AHS used to maintain municipal impound contracts with dozens of cities in and around the Twin Cities Metro area. For a variety of reasons (check some of the links on the right side of this page) AHS has lost most of these contracts. That means that fewer stray animals are coming to them.
This combination of factors is making AHS shelters "emptier" while pushing more animals onto other organizations. Don't get me wrong... that is actually good news. Other organizations are more likely to do what they can to save animals, in my opinion. As I write this, AHS has fewer than 20 dogs available for adoption at each of their 5 shelters. And the numbers they have now are at about a 6 month high, in my experience.
At the same time, shelters from all over the Metro are packed full of dogs and cats... more so than in past years. Bound for Home is clearly emptying AHS shelters by filling other shelters in the area.
Again, I am not complaining. I believe Bound for Home is a good thing. If AHS is unable or unwilling to provide care for animals that come to them, the animals SHOULD go elsewhere. But, lets not confuse why AHS likely has a lower kill rate these days.
From there, Dixon's letter continues. She writes that these "breakthroughs could soon be erased" if CAPA becomes law. Really?! How would that happen? How would CAPA prevent them from implementing any of their Bound for Home activities? Would it prevent them from scheduling appointments for intake? Would it prevent them from collecting a surrender fee? The obvious answer to all of those questions is that if the bill became law, it would not change any of those things.
From there, the letter gets down-right strange.
Dixon writes, "Instead of allowing us to partner only with our trusted rescue organizations (we currently work with 80+), this bill permits any unregulated animal organization to seize pets from a shelter - without having to prove their ability to provide quality care.
In that statement she gets several points wrong.
Most importantly: MN CAPA would not provide ANY rescue organization with authority to "seize" any animal from any animal shelter. It does, however, require that before killing a savable pet, a shelter must make the pet available to rescue groups from a list of groups the shelter manages. Furthermore, it would prohibit the shelter from denying rescue organizations from being on the list based on arbitrary criteria.
Additionally, rescue groups are "regulated" in a variety of ways. Specifically, MN CAPA requires they be registered 501(c)3 nonprofits whose mission is animal rescue, and in legal "good standing". Their board, staff, or other affiliated members, etc. cannot have any animal cruelty charges pending. They can also not have prior convictions.
So, Dixon's statement is just plain false. But, her letter gets even worse.
Dixon wrote, "Exhaustive paperwork and certification must be completed by veterinarians and administrators, which will needlessly drain away funds and reduce the time they can spend on the direct care of animals."
I would be curious to know what "exhaustive paperwork" to which Dixon is referring. The bill does require that before being deemed unsavable, a licensed veterinarian must certify they have an incurable ailment. But, providing a medical diagnosis is a standard part of any veterinary work. Furthermore, operating a basic animal care facility requires that veterinary records be kept. It is, therefore, unclear, how this requirement would add any additional paperwork to any animal shelter. If they have veterinarians on staff, and if they are putting down pets due to incurable illness, you would think this paperwork would be being done already. And, if not - shame on them!
As bad as that is, Dixon's letter gets even worse.
Dixon says the bill requires that animals be "doubled up in cages". That it totally untrue. The proposed Companion Animal Protection Act only says that if the shelter has available room for animals, they cannot kill a savable animal.
Dixon also writes that "extended holding periods are mandated for all surrendered animals, needlessly delaying adoption and multiplying the costs of sheltering many of the 30,000 animals we take in every year. And, again, she got it entirely wrong.
MN CAPA , if enforced, would only require a waiting period before KILLING an owner surrendered animal. It allows for the immediate transfer of the animals to another rescue, or the adoption of the animal. However, in the event the family of a pet changes their minds after leaving a pet at a shelter, they should have a minimal period of time during which they can know their 4-legged family may be available from that shelter, or another rescue in the area.
It is hard to know why Dixon got so much wrong in her letter. Is she deliberately lying about MN CAPA? If so, why? Did she just not read the bill? If so, why would she comment on it?
Regardless, the letter should provide her Board sufficient cause to question her judgement in deciding to publish such a misleading letter. Futhermore, one has to wonder, why is AHS really so opposed to CAPA, which is sure to save more lives?
Ask Your Legislators to Support MN CAPA
More on CAPA:
Overview of MN CAPA
MN CAPA is modeled after a similar law, which passed UNANIMOUSLY in Delaware in 2010.
MN CAPA is based on the Hayden Law in California, which has been credited with saving tens of thousands of animals every year for the last 12 years.
MN CAPA will save tax payers money by improving the efficiency of municipal animal shelters.
Download the MN CAPA Language
More on AHS:
Attorney General Asks AHS to Report Statistics Accurately
How the Twin Cities Will Become No Kill
A Tale of Four Cities
AHS Agrees to Stop Illegally Killing Cats- Sometimes
Pledged Reforms Too Little & Too Late for Humphrey and Thousands Like Him
Summary of Legal Arguments in Stray Cat Dispute
Chronology or the Animal Humane Society Stray Cat Craziness
Deaths of St. Anthony Cats Were as Unnecessary as They Were Predictable
St. Anthony Cats Page
K9 Officer Destroyed at AHS