Food Storage

One of the biggest battles that animal shelter staff might face is the war waged with mice.  If an animal shelter stores their pet food in the paper bags associated with pet food, you are likely to attract mice.  Although low on the food chain, mice are a clever species that will thwart your efforts to demonstrate your mastery over their tiny brains.

Pet food should be removed from the paper bags and put into tight sealing containers.  Any spillage should be picked up and removed from the area.   If you decide to wage a full-out war with your mice, make sure that if you are using a commercial block bait to poison the mice, keep your volunteers away from the food supply area.  A volunteer might not recognize the bait for what it is and think that it is a doggie chew toy.

It has always been my policy to not give opened donated food to my animals.  Pet food had expiration dates and opened packages expire faster.  You can always put donated food in your pet pantry for homeless pet owners. I like to keep my animals on a constant food diet and mixing up their food at each meal with cause intestinal problems.

Never let your pet food be stored for any length of time.  Buy what you need and use what you buy.  Avoid storing food in moist areas, pet food can quickly circum to moisture and become moldy.  Constantly check expirations dates, especially on donated food.  If the donated food is given to you in clear plastics baggies, you might consider just throwing it out.  Always keep in mind that you are responsible for the animal in your care and you should never take shortcuts.

Heating Systems, A Construction Issue

A number of years ago, imbedding hot water lines into the concrete of dog kennels became a fad.  The idea was that running hot water under the kennel would keep the dog comfortable in the winter.  Of all of the heating systems that we have experimented with, this was our worst idea.

Without proper controls, there s a high probability that a hot water system could burn the dogs.  Many contractors got too carried away in laying the heater hose and did not create any cool areas.  At best, the underground heating system should only make up a quarter, but no more that a third of the kennel area.  In northern climates, it is probably best to place the system against exterior walls to keep the cold out.  There should ALWAYS be sufficient room to allow a dog to move away from the heated area to find a more comfortable spot.

If burning your dogs is not enough to worry about, wait until one of the underground lines burst; then your fancy heating system becomes worthless in an instant.  Animal shelters are usually kept long past their useful life, the more “junk” that you incorporate into your shelter design is the more junk that will go bad.

While we are on the topic of temperature, we have some false notion that dogs prefer to live at the temperature comfortable for humans.  Many northern breed dogs prefer must cooler temperatures.  I have witnessed so many people freaking out when the heating system failed an the temperature of the kennel dropped below fifty degrees.

First Adoptions Rights

There are not too may perks associated with working at an animal shelter; but the one perk that employees have will come back to bite you over and over again.  Animal Control Officers and animal shelter employees are the first people to see the highly desirable animals when they come in to the shelter.  The notion of “first come, first serve” on adoptions give your employees an advantage over the public.  You will have to decide if it is worth the aggravation in dealing with public complaints when employees are allowed first adoption rights.

Many animal shelters establish policies that always give the public first rights to the animals for adoptions; after all, they will constantly remind you that they pay your salary.  You have to decide if that is fair treatment of your employees.  However, you should keep in mind that the gene that makes for hoarders exists in many of your employees and you will have to limit the number of animals that employees can adopt.  It is not fair to the public if you have an employee who gets first adoption rights on a dozen animals each year.

The best way to balance first adoption rights is to limit the number of animals that a employee can adopt.  You will have to constantly  monitor your employees to make sure that you never adopt to them when they are in excess of the number of animals allow by zoning laws.

The same issues that you have with your employees will also play out with your rescue groups although many rescue groups claim their purpose is to “rescue” animals, they will demand to be given the most highly adoptable animals that don’t need rescued.  Since they don’t have a steady donor base, they need the highly adoptable animals to help fund their operation.  If they are helping you with moving pitbulls, then I usually offer them some of these animals as a perk.

As with every aspect of animal welfare, you have to monitor your policies so that they are in the best interest of your animals.  If you are notice a high rate of adoptions by one of your employees, you have to consider the possibility that he or she has become a hoarder or are selling animals on the side.  Limiting staff adoptions will help prevent both of those problems.

Fourth of July Fireworks

If any good has come out of our pandemic, it is from decisions from local communities to do away with their Fourth of July fireworks celebrations.  This may be the first time in many years that our animal shelters do not fill up with terrified pets.  All that remains is the persistent popping of firecrackers from neighborhood children, both young and old.

I liken a firecracker to a Twitter account: there are many people who become annoyed at your tweets, but you can’t stop yourself from firing off a tweet anyway.  Due  to the sensitive nature of pet’s hearing, firecrackers are quite annoying; to the point that some animals become terrified.

Every year, many animal shelters post instructions as to how pet owners should prepare for the Fourth of July.  If you live in a mountain State, you also have to prepare for Pioneer Day.  It comes down to finding a quiet place for your pets and placing identification on the pets.

Working in the animal welfare profession, you will become amazed at the large numbers of animals that enter your shelter without identification.  You’ll will also be amazed at the failure of people to look for their lost pets.  Cats are particularly troublesome because their return rate is less than fifteen percent.  People just don’t seem to be interested in looking for their lost cat.

Animal Shelters go to great lengths  to help  pet owners find their lost pet, like posting pictures of animals during their intake  process at the shelter and posting them on their website.  Pet owners just don’t seem to utilize the tools to help find their lost pet.  I had one pet owner tell me, “It is just too much work.”

Dilemma

We have become a society in which many of its members exercise their rights without consideration of others.  Recently, we have had incidents in which people are harmed when they inadvertently find themselves in the path of people engaged in “peaceful” protests.

One of the advantages of staying home as part of the pandemic is that we are safely distant from the harm of those peaceful protesters.  So far, no one seems to have an answer for how we should behave, if we were in our own vehicle and suddenly surrounded by angry people beating on your car.  An incident in Utah proves that protesters are capable of shooting into vehicles with unarmed occupants.  So you are faced with either sitting still and waiting to be harmed or putting your foot on the gas and plow your way out of the crowd.  Are you responsible for the people you injure in your escape?

The same hold true to people protecting their property.  If a crowd of people are coming down your street burning businesses or homes, to what level may the property owner protect their property?  Lethal force seems to be excessive when we compare the life on a person to that of property.  So?  What do you do?

As is consistent with my writing style, I tend to get sidetracked.  So, this time I am going to try to get sidetracked back on the issue of animal welfare.  You are walking down a street or a path and a dog comes rushing at you.  You cannot read the dog’s mind, so you don’t know the dog’s intent.  You have either (or both) a gun or a walking stick (it seems that life now requires that you carry one or the other).

You, of course, take a defensive stance.  You might yell, “Get this dog under control.”  It is a common practice that people frequently walk their dogs off leash without thought to other people out walking (this callous attitude is what has helped me fund my retirement).  Yelling will proved to be a moot point, because callous dog owners are slow to respond to the problems that they create.  So, do you take action against the dog, or wait until the dog has bitten you to prove the dog’s intent?  If you allow the dog to get that close to you, the dog might be too close for the walking stick to be effective.

We are increasingly faced with situations that are caused by people exercising what they consider their rights over the rights of anyone else.  Somehow, they have gotten it into their heads that looting and burning is a side affect of their right to protest.   More that ever, we have to work out scenarios in our minds in preparation for the unexpected.  Once you have figured out how you would handle a situation, you need to worry about to what extent are your permitted by law to protect yourself.  How would your actions play out in court?

Fourth of July

We have a large portion of our society who are so focused on what our Country is not that they have forgotten what we are.  Sometimes we need a little reminder:

The Declaration Of Independence

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature; a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;

For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;

For imposing taxes on us without our consent;

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury;

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses;

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies;

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments;

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection, and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions, we have petitioned for redress, in the most humble terms. Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

The Impact on Animal Welfare in Defunding Police Departments

Many animal control programs are under police department’s management.  in the current efforts to defund police departments, many cities will make token efforts to support taking funds away from their police departments.  Police departments will begin eliminating or reducing staffing in noncritical areas.

Most police departments consider their animal control program as a noncritical area.  It is a strongly held belief that protecting people is more important than protecting pets.  Who can disagree?

As police struggle to meet new funding challenges, they will be force to reassess funding for noncritical services.  Police departments may find it necessary to  stop responding to calls relating to animals and only respond to calls that are an immanent threat to people.

When calls are received about vicious dogs, Police officers may be forced to respond because their trained animal control officers have been fired in the forced reduction in force (RIF).  The untrained police officers will not have the skillset to capture the dog(s) alive.

The reductions to our police departments are going to change the safety of our communities and change the way communities deal with animal welfare issues.  Many communities will lose the buffer that protects them from the elements that would cause them harm.

I have to admit that I have encountered many folks who could not resolve their own problems.  It disturbed me that we have become far removed from our pioneer ancestors.  Many in our communities have become helpless.  If any good comes out of eliminating  services, maybe these people will be force to start to start taking care of themselves and not depend on others to do it for them.

Continuum of Force

The continuum of force is becoming a greatly debated issue with police tactics.  It might be best to illustrate the continuum as a ladder that requires a person to start at the lowest rung to reach a desired goal.  Although police officers and animal control officers have different job duties, they both use the continuum to complete their job.  The greatest difference between the two professions is that animal control officers can back away, if the job places them at immediate risk; they can always call a police officer to protect them.  Although this post is not to discuss the pros and cons of animal control officers carrying guns, it demonstrates that as long as police officers carry guns, it is not so necessary for animal control officers to do so.

It all starts with the uniform.  When I first started in the animal control profession, my boss, the Police Chief, wanted me to wear a uniform.  He had boxes of left over uniforms when the department updated their uniforms.  I convinced him to allow me to wear an off-the-shelf work outfit from JC Penney’s.  I wanted a uniform that I could easily wash and made me look more like a UPS driver than a cop.

The Police Chief insisted that I wear a badge.  He didn’t see the humor when I showed up with a tie-tack as a badge.  I explained that I  crawled through bushes and might lose “a real badge.”  We agreed on something that was larger than the tie-tack and smaller than the police officer’s badge.

I bring up this war story to show that the uniform is the first rung of the continuum.  In most circumstances, the uniform is sufficient for most reasonable people to accept the authority of the police officer and in recognizing that, no further force is necessary.  Unfortunately, we have stopped being reasonable people.  People now go out of their way to escalate their engagements with police officers.    As such, the officer needs as many  nonlethal tools as possible.

Given recent protests, people are complaining about the nonlethal tools that the police officers are using on looters.  The looters are complaining that they don’t like to be hit with rubber bullets or sprayed with pepper spray.  So, City Councils are banning the use of many nonlethal tools.  The fewer the tools, the more that can go wrong.  In the military, we used firehoses to breakup riots, unfortunately, those firehoses are needed to put out the fires that are started by the looters.

You might be saying that many peaceful nonlooters were harmed by rubber bullets and pepper spray.  I would think that if you are standing in a crowd that is looting and burning buildings, you are pretty stupid standing around to watch.  When people get out of control, it is a good time to pack up your protest and go home.

People go out of their way to confront police officers.  It is all the more reason that animal control officers should not dress up like a police officer.  We are not trained to verbally deal with those altercations.  Given how people are trying to push police officers up the steps of the continuum of force, animal control officers are ill prepared.  Given that City Councils are taking away the tools that are necessary for police officers; police officers are finding that as they are be pushed up that continuum, many  rungs or missing and the jump to lethal force is becoming shorter.

I have encountered many animal control officer who want to become police officers.  Our profession is a good stepping stone to that honorable profession; but, now is not the time to make ourselves look like police officers.  We are witnessing a major increase in the number of crazy people wanting to harm them.

The  best thing that we can learn from the recent interactions that the  police are facing is to know when it becomes necessary to back away.  Unfortunately, police officers are not in a profession in which they can take our lead.

In our profession, we have the following steps:

  1. Verbal – coaxing an animal to come to us.
  2. Snare – using a snappy snare to catch a shy animal.
  3. Ketch Pole – using a ketch-pole to handle a potentially dangerous animal.
  4. Live Trap – to catch an animal that we cannot get close to.
  5. Tranquiller dart – to catch the animals that cannot be caught by any other means.

In looking over our list, maybe we could loan a few of our tools to the police.  Kidding!  (Or am I?).  I know, I know, in this day of people carry around a chip on their shoulders, some would say that I am suggesting that we treat people like animals.  I just might be suggesting that we need to treat people in a way that keeps them and the police from getting hurt.  Like the way things were done when the police officers could use pepper spray.  Which, by the way, is an excellent tool for animal control officers for self defense.

Techniques for Catching Stray Dogs

I want to share a few techniques that I used to cut down on the time you spend on dealing with shy stray dogs.  The first thing that should go through your mind when seeing a dog that you think is running loose is to decide if your assessment is correct.  Is the dog really running at large?

Many laws state that an animal that is not constrained within its owner’s property is considered at large.  It makes perfect sense because an unconfined dog can rush out to harass a child on the sidewalk; however, I would discourage impounding the dog unless you see the dog leave its yard.  I think a citation or warning is better suited to these situations.  You do not want to develop a reputation in your community for stealing dog from their property, even if it is lawful.

For dogs that you see running loose in the street, you should first attempt to chase the dog home.  I have witnessed many animal control officer choose to impound all loose dogs and take them to the animal shelter so that they don’t have to deal with the dog’s owner.  If an animal control officer is not doing everything in their power to return a dog to its owner, then he or she is just a dogcatcher.  Using citations in the field is an effective means to keep your animal shelter from becoming overcrowded.  Also, a large segment of pet owners will abandon their pets.  Returning a pet to the owner helps prevent owners from abandoning their pets.  Even if they refuse to take their pet back, they still violated the law and deserve a citation.

As per my writing style, I am going on a short tangent.  Many animal control officers want shelter staff to issue citations when the owners come into the shelter to reclaim their pets.  If you are charging pet owners impound fees, then I believe a citation for the dog running at large is a duplicate charge and is unnecessary.  The same goes with licensing violations; if you require the purchase of a dog license when the animal is reclaimed, then issuing a citation for a license violation becomes a moot issue.  Most judges would throw out the citation and it becomes a waste of everyone’s time.

Okay, back on topic.  I usually carry SMALL chocolate chip cookies with me on patrol  They make for a good treat to encourage a dog to come over to me as I gently place a leash on the dog.  I know what you are thinking, but I have never lost a dog to chocolate poisoning.  The chocolate chip cookie is such an effective method for catching dogs that I have encountered dogs that would come out to my truck to get his cookie.

Another technique that works with the chocolate cookie is driving up beside a dog and opening your car door and asking the dog if he or she wants to go for a ride.  Just like using the cooking, I have had dogs that would come out to my vehicle to ride around with me in the front seat.

Having a dog riding with you makes it easier to catch other dog.  If you see a stray dog, you can climb out of your vehicle and start playing with your dog.  When the other dog sees the fun that you are having, he or she might want to get involved in the play.

Anytime you see a group of dogs together, you might assume that one of the dogs is in heat.  If you identify that dog, the other dogs will follow you anywhere.  I once picked up a group of seven or eight dogs using this method; that is why you need to carry a bunch of leashes with you when you get out of your vehicle.

A snappy snare is one of the most effective means to catch a running dog.  Ketchpoles are not effective catching a running dog; they are best used when you have a dog cornered.

If you use livetraps in catching hard to catch dogs, when a food attractant isn’t getting a dog to enter the trap, you might considering capturing urine from dogs in heat on gauze pads.  You can keep the gauze pads in baggies in the freezer for when they are needed.

Using chemical capture techniques should only be used when the dog presents a threat to public safety.  It is important to maintain your proficiency when using this method.

Keep in mind that no matter what technique you use, if you do not make the capture a fun activity for the dog, you may never be able to use that technique again.

Evolution of a Local Dog Bite Story

I was reading an article of a child being bitten by the family dog. The injuries were sufficient to pass the child from the local hospital to a larger one. At the end of the article, the author stated that the breed of the dog was removed from the article at the request of the family.

It appears that those who first read the story, saw the article before the edit had occurred: commenting about the breed being a pitbull mix.  Those who read the unedited version claim that the dog was a Rottweiler/Pitbull mix.  The interesting part of the story was the comments that followed.

Some claim that one breed is no different that another breed. Some offered up blaming the victim. One person expounded on a “recent study” that claimed that dogs never bite without reason.  The longer the comment, the more the person wants to protect aggressive breeds.  However, most people recognize the truth that victims are not always to blame and that some dogs have genetic traits of being more aggressive than other dogs.  It appears that people who see the risk of owning an aggressive dog breed can express themselves succinctly with few words; even when they joke about the bite is the result of climate change or the virus.

This is what upsets me about dog bite investigators; they attempt to bring reason to a dog bite by explaining away the dog’s behavior.  Most of their causation is the result of wild guesses.  The bottom-line is that dog and people have altercations and a dog’s most obvious way to express anger is with his/her teeth.

I am not opposed to pitbulls.   I know that most pitbull dogs will never be a problem.  I also know that the dogs that later bite someone has probably engaged in behaviors that would have warned a normally cautious person.  People tend to overlook signals that are clearly presented to them.   Failing to accept those signals for what they are will eventually get someone hurt. 

I am opposed to callous people owning large breed dogs; people who fail to see the signs.   Local officials claim that the number of dog bite incidents have increase because children are spending more time with their pets during the pandemic. It appears that during this time, more parental attention must be directed to their pets and to their children.  Let’s face it, the truth is that Pitbulls are very loyal dogs, that is why they faced the abuse of their owners in the past to engage in dog fighting.  The problem with loyalty is that it can be misplaced.  

Misplaced dog loyalty usually ends up with someone getting bitten.  The usual scenario is that the dog thinks it is protecting a family member who is just horsing around with another person.  Dogs frequently become loyal to only certain members of its family and not others.  The worst incidents is when a dog becomes jealous of a new family member.

In the animal shelter business, we frequently experienced a dog becoming furiously loyal to one or two volunteers and turned aggressive towards the staff in charged to feed or clean up after the dog.  I always drew the line with dogs that threatened staff.  Volunteers frequently voiced their descent when that line was drawn.  

Volunteers, like pet owners will see threatening behavior and not accept it for what it is.  It is not uncommon for a pet owner to express shock  at their dog’s behavior when all of the neighbors claim that they saw the incident coming.  The writing off of the behavior  places others at risk.

The main reason that the owners of the dog wanted the breed removed is because of their social media presence.   It also brings into question as to the investigation that will follow from Child Protective Services.   How do you explain away your negligence to the child as well as to your pet?

I have completed a career in dealing with the aftermath of negligent pet owners.  For that reason, I am opposed to allowing large breed dogs on to airplanes as “comfort animals.”  One option is to require the owner to provide proof of a million dollar insurance coverage to cover any incident that might be caused by the dog on the flight.  In this way, the airlines weed out those who are just scamming the system (which I believe is 95% of them).   But that is another story.