Budget Comparisons: Is it apples to apples?

One of the reoccurring methods that we have used during budget deliberations is attempting to show how our budget compares to “like” jurisdictions.  It is our hope that making an apples to apples comparison with a similar  jurisdiction might help get us a larger apple.  Unfortunately, in making many comparisons, we find many oranges thrown into the mix.

The first hurdle  to overcome is realizing how an organization’s infrastructure is manifested on the budget sheet.  Many infrastructure items, like fleet management, Human Resources, and IT are covered by other departments.  If funds have not been allocated for those, but are covered by those department’s budgets, then you are not going to see the true picture of the cost burden that animal services poses to the community.

One of the best indications of determining costs is to create a per capita evaluation to determine how organizations compare.  In the early days of comparing statistics between organizations, we began to understand that far too many oranges were mixed into our fruit  salad  of statistical comparisons.  In Florida, I took part, working with other service areas to try to create a even  field of statistical comparisons as part of the Florida Benchmarking Consortium.  Although we found the per capita bases solid, we based our statistics on number of events per 1,000 population.  In this way, smaller organizations could be compared against larger organizations.

When I was working out a contract with another jurisdiction for animal control services in Salt Lake County, I encountered one jurisdiction that felt that they should only have to pay for the added cost of providing services to their city.  They knew that we already had an infrastructure in place and felt it unnecessary to pay into an existing infrastructure; thereby, not paying their “fair share”

This type of thinking is what goes on in the heads of government officials when they begin looking for a nonprofit to take over their animal control program.  They want to pay less and getting an organization willing to fundraise to keep services flowing is just what they are looking for to cut costs. Too often a nonprofit organization will become over eager to assume the task of running an animal control program, only to find that they have walked into a battle of funding the program fundraising long term.

It is a challenge when taking on budget comparisons.  It is important to see the picture as to how line items are allocated.

What our animal shelters can tell us about the Coronavirus

Animal shelters  are in the business of fighting viruses.  The shelters become a litmus test for the viruses that affect pets in our communities.  Due to  the lack of pet owners failing to vaccinate their pets, animal shelters face a constant battle against viruses.

Rule one:  The greater the population of animals in your shelter, the greater the outbreak.  In animal shelters, capacity controls are necessary to prevent continual outbreaks.  Social distancing is nearly impossible in a shelter because shelter staff are constantly feeding and clean up after the animals.  Shelter staff are the main cause of spreading viruses in a shelter due to shortcuts they take in the cleaning/feeding processes.

Rule two:  The more movement of animals within the shelter will spark a wider outbreak throughout the shelter.  People who are violating the stay at home rule to attend meetings with other people will continue the widespread impact of the virus.

Rule Three:  Vaccinations are a long term solution, it does to help in the short term. Generally vaccinations take five to six days to being providing sufficient antibodies to protect the animal.  People will be foolish to think that a vaccination will protect them immediately.

Rule Four:  Viruses spread due to lax measures that people take during an outbreak (see Rule One).  We are a foolish species that believes that we are above the effect of a virus.  People think they are invincible and we are a society of law breakers; otherwise, why to we hear on the news about the police having to break up crowds of people.  Most notably are the church goes who believe  that God has a protective hand on them.  James 5:16 says that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  Is the test of your faith worth your life?  In addition to faith, God gave us a brain.  Something that we don’t use nearly enough.

We exploit our freedom.  We did not  fight for our freedom, we were born into it.  It has become our core.  We value our freedom over any other thing and we fail to recognize our folly when we exceed its boundaries.  One example is our freedom of speech that we take for granted because we believe that freedom gives us the right to say what ever we want, whether it is truthful or it is fiction.  Another example is our freedom of movement where our right to move about is more important to us than the threat that we pose to others around us.  Every day we see evidence of the misuse of the intelligence that God gave us.

Fifteen minutes of fame.

Social media has created a new generation of people eager to get their fifteen minutes of fame; no matter how stupid they have too look to get it.  They take videos of them licking items in the grocery store and even licking toilet seats in airplane lavatories.  Social media has shown us just how stupid people can behave and they put it out for the whole world to see.  How dumb can you get.

There is something very reckless with this group of people, even dangerous; only to gain a small portion of notoriety.   We are witnessing the birth of a generation that has become unable to control their natural instincts; a clear proof that evolution has failed us.

The reason that I mention this is that you may be inviting volunteers into your shelter looking to be a social media sensation; he or she is on the constant lookout for something (anything) to receive social media notoriety.  These folks will see something in the shelter and instead of brining it to staff’s attention will likely post it on social media.  Let’s face it, some of your volunteers will use the relationship they have with their shelter to gain social media fame or to push their own agenda.

Live only for today.

I have to admit that I have struggled with the new generation coming into the work place; they have such a cavalier attitude towards life and work ethics.  It is so demonstrate as to the “kids” crowding beaches in south Florida on spring break during a pandemic.  They are carefree as they live for today and drag home a virus for tomorrow.

In the work place we are faced with a new group of employees that have no concept of dressing for work; it is as if they grew up without a mother to direct their “street appearance.”  The adorn themselves with excessive tattoos (and piercings)  and wear tight clothing that would embarrass a normal person.  It seems it is a generation trying to shock the generations that came before them.

The most obvious show of their lack of work ethics is the use of sick leave.  Instead of saving sick leave for what it is intended, employees today use the sick leave to extend their days off; commonly calling in sick on their last day of work or they first day back from being off (or both) in an attempt to work shorter work weeks. It is not uncommon that employees use their sick leave and vacation leave as soon as they accumulate it and cannot understand why they have no leave when they want to take off during the summer.  Oddly, they think it is the employer’s fault that they are denied leave when their leave has been exhausted.

In my generation, it was not uncommon that we might accumulate thousands of hours of leave for an emergency.  With the current generation, it is not uncommon to see people little or no leave.  No one saw the pandemic coming, but the new generation attempted no preparation for it.  They only live for today.  And worst yet, they will never see the role that they played staying home from work without a paycheck.

“The Virus”

I usually meet with my brother for breakfast once a week and we have picked the local hospital’s cafeteria as the place for the best breakfast food… go figure.  The other day we were met at the entrance  of the hospital by a guy wearing a face mask who inquired  as to our health. It appears that you now need to be healthy to enter a hospital.  This is consistent with my visit to the grocery store where all of the hand sanitizer is sold out.  It appears that we are taking the virus threat seriously.

As I watch the news and witness the reaction and overreaction to this new strain of a virus, I realize that the world is looking in to the fishbowl of running an animal shelter.  Third world countries that engage in poor vaccination protocols experience the highest contamination rate; just as we experience in areas of our cities that fail to vaccinate our pets.

Just as the CDC is chasing down infection sources, we in the shelter fight to keep people from touching every animal as the walk through our shelters.  As infected people callously walk around in public, we have callous people walking through our shelters.  Just as these callous people play a role in the death of people by spreading germs, we experience the same thing in animal shelters.  People seem to ignore the hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere; they are usually visible from any point in an animal shelter.  Just unused.

While working in the South, we constantly fought feline panleukopenia.  We had a infected colony of cats in one county and just as we cleaned up one outbreak  in the shelter, animal control officers would go out and begin trapping cats from that colony to bring to the shelter.  We had a constant battle going  on with those animal control officers.  They could never see the big picture that the one or two feral cats that they were removing from a specific area could potentially impact the entire shelter’s cat population.  It is most difficult to deal with callous people, especially when they are in your own profession.

I wish people would take seriously the threat that they pose to shelter animals as they have taken to the threat of not wanting to be exposed to a new virus.

Donating to Charities

Around this time of the year, I become disillusioned with my decision as to who I have decided to donate to.  I walk away from the experience feeling that I was scammed.  Charitable organizations put too much junk in the letters that they mail out to request donations.  I have received more return address labels to last me several lifetimes.  I used to think the little note cards were cute, now I am just irritated by them.

I have to make weekly trips to my Post Office to clean out my mail box that is usually overflowing with donation requests; so, clearly the charities are selling their mailing lists to other charities; which I think is stupid because we ALL live on a limited income and a charity  might sell my name and address to another charity that I might choose to donate to rather than the original  organization; and in doing so, they cram my mail box with unwanted junk.

I believe that all of the junk that goes into those donation letter requests is misspent and diminishes the amount that goes to the charity.  Some charities go overboard.  The one time I appreciated an organization going overboard was a veterans group who sent me a stack of Christmas cards.  I only mail one Christmas card and the donation letter provided me with a card to send to my sister.  I think they sent me a half dozen cards so I am good for the next several years; any additional cards that they send later this year will go to waste.  The other day, one donation request letter was so full of junk that the Post Office had to place it in a package box to deliver to me.  It looks like midyear the veterans group sends out a request with a stack of all season cards,  so I am all set with get well cards and birthday cards. What a waste.

I am beginning to believe the only saving grace of the massive amounts of charity junk mail is to keep the Post Office a float.  I would be willing to pay a little extra with my Post Office box rental to have them toss out all of that junk mail… like we have scam filters on our emails.

I get really irritated by the charity requests that glue coins onto their request, whether a dime or four nickels.  Infrequently, I get a check from a charity for a small amount like $1.50 or $3.  The idea is to make you open the envelop to see what the check is about and then make a plea to not cash their check and help their cause.  I have  no  interest in donating to a cause that waste my money to pay for the people who cash those checks.  I could  just as well walk around town handing out dollar bills.

This disillusionment that I feel is that these are good charities that do good things, but most of my donation goes to the administrative overhead of trying to get more donations, that in turn, goes to getting even more donations.  I hope some where down the line a few dollars actually get spent helping the animals, children, or veterans that I really wanted to help; but I will never know because I don’t trust the process.


Finders of Lost Pets

If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will see that I tend to be unforgiving of ignorant pet owners who wait days or weeks before looking for their lost pets.  Finders of lost pets frequently have that same genetic disposition when attempting to find the owner of a lost pet.

Commonsense should dictate that actions of the person finding a lost pet; but, I find it necessary to spell it out for the many who cannot figure out  the path to returning a pet to its owner.  The first step is to check the animal for identification… a collar is a good sign.  If there are no tags attached to the collar, take the collar off and exam it to see if anyone has written anything inside the collar.  Put the collar back on the animal and note the color and material that the collar is made of.

Take the dog to your local animal shelter to have the animal scanned for a microchip.  Animal shelters are more likely to have access to a universal scanner than your veterinarian.  Shelter staff can help you identify the breed of the animal and will photograph the animal in the event that an owner comes in looking for the dog.  The animal shelter should be the first stop for an owner to look for their lost pet.  A reasonably  smart owner will look for their pet at the animal shelter within hours of losing their pet; so, a reasonably smart finder to quickly report the dog found there.

Some animal shelters are required by law to take custody of the animal.  If you wish to keep the animal, shelter usually give the finder of the animal first adoption rights.  The benefit of surrendering the animal to an animal shelter is that it will likely receive vaccinations and a medical examination.  Prior to adopt, the animal will be sterilized.  If you want to keep the animal fertile, you are not the kind of person that should be reading my blogs.  The primary reason to adopt from an animal shelter is that the animal becomes legally yours.

Many States have laws that provide for the “Finders of Lost Property.”  If you follow the steps contained in those laws, you can claim ownership.  Some States have no such laws, so the finder can never claim legal ownership.  If your State allows for a person to claim ownership, that person will need to place two ads in a “newspaper of competent jurisdiction”.  That means that you need to post the found ad in the newspaper that is most likely read by people in the community where you found the animal.  If you post the two ads, then after six months the animal is yours to keep.  This is a sicky issue and even though you follow all of the rules, if an owner comes forward, it may be necessary for a judge to make the final decision as to which owner has the greatest rights to the animal.  Many times the judge will rule on which owner provided the most medical care to the animal.

One of the most difficult efforts to find a lost pet is when the finder brings in an animal that is found in a rest stop.  I had one case in which the finder travelled through two States before delivering the animal to an animal shelter.  This is when convivence overrules commonsense.  There are commonsense rules that an owner can do prior to losing their pet, following those rules when travelling are even more critical.

The fact is that most finders will do the least possible work to find the pet’s owner.  So given that obstacle, the owner needs to make it easy on the finder to locate the owner.  This is nearly an impossible task because owners do not take serously the need to place and keep identification on their pet.  I worked in two animal shelters in which we printed identification tags for people whose pets came in without identification, we even included a collar.  We would see time after time the same animal coming  in without the tag that we provided.  In one jurisdiction, I changed the law to allow us to microchip an animal that has  come into the shelter three times without wearing a tag.

Very few animals that come into an animal shelter are wearing any sort of identification.  Most of the identification that is on an animal is worthless.  I had an animal come in with only the animal’s owner name.  I searched the driver’s license database for the surrounding States and found the owner in a neighboring State.  Don’t expect your animal shelter to make those kinds of efforts.  I just like to test my ability to find an owner.  Don’t count on a dog tag to be your primary identification.  I found an old dog tag that was issued by Jefferson County, it had a phone number without an area code.  Do you have any idea as to how many Jefferson Counties we have in the United States.

The biggest mistake that pet owners have is to not update the information on their pets.  Most microchip searches fail because the microchip is  either unregistered or goes to an old address.  Fortunately, the Post Office works with us to locate the owner’s new address.  I have discovered that many veterinarians will microchip an animal for the owner, but not keep a record as to who they sold the microchip to.  If you do not register your microchip, we go back to the veterinarian who was sold the chip.  If the veterinarian doesn’t not keep those records, you wasted you money on a microchip.

So, the trick to helping the finder of your lost pet, you need to have current identification on your pet with sufficient information.  If you put your phone number on the ID, include your area code.  Hint to License Clerks:  never print your phone number on a dog license without including an area code.

Although I don’t like microchips because people put to much faith in them.  I still recommend microchipping your pet because it seems that the  first thing that an animal loses is its collar when running loose.  I figure that a good samaritan finds your dog, takes off the collar to get a better look at the identification tags and while looking at the tags, the dog runs off again.  So a good rule is to place a leash of an animal when taking off the dog’s collar.


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) gained their early notoriety  with shock and awe tactics.  Their campaigns to end the use of animal pelts as articles of clothing revealed the naked bodies of many of their volunteers at public and private functions.  Obviously  it was an organization that you can get behind.

My first encounter with PETA was early in my profession when one our community’s pets mauled a young girl.  As the decision was being made as to what to do with the dog, I got a phone call advising me that if any harm came to the dog, I would be killed.  The caller identified himself as being from PETA.

I notified the local press, because I wanted to discredit the mentality of that caller so as to prevent any further foothold of people in my community to stand behind an aggressive dog over the life of a child.  The newspaper called PETA for their response.

I have  to admire Ingrid Newkirk for her response that PETA values all life and it is inconsistent with their mission to harm a human.  She advised the reporter that her organization has many volunteers who fail to follow strictly their organizational values.  In the years that followed, her words were a prophecy that I witnessed over and over with my own volunteers.

Over the years PETA has been criticized for their tactics that seemed inconsistent with their mission of doing no harm to animals.  Recently, I caught a CNN article claiming that they wanted to eliminate the term “pet.”

The Oxford Dictionary already includes animal in their definition of PETA’s new word for pet: “companion”.   PETA has declared the word “pet” as being derogatory.  Anyone who has ever cared for a dog will know that a dog isn’t debased by the term “pet”.  Cats, on the other hand, view humans as servants and being called a “pet” by our cat would be the closest thing to a kind word ever offered by a cat.  Lovers often call one another by pet names.

I understand where PETA is coming from; we live in a “woke” world and words have new meanings.  We have become a society in which words are used to declare our awareness of the plight of the world.  But the people who chain up thier dog in their backyards are no where near being the woke people who PETA hopes that they are.

Hard Lessons

It isn’t necessary to learn lessons the hard way, you can prevent yourself from harm by watching some other damn fool do it the wrong way. Here is a list of things that can make your animal welfare life easier:


Feral cats can chew or claw their way through almost any material. If the animal handling gloves, that you have purchased, claim they are safe for cats, don’t believe them.

When a cat gets loose, they always believe that elevation is it way to escape. This is when you discover that ceiling tiles are generally insufficient for containing a cat. If you use a specific room for moving a cat from a cat carrier or trap to a feral box or cage, secure your ceiling tile with weight or screens to keep them from breaching the room. In Florida, we seem to always have a cat roaming above our ceiling tiles most of the time. It is a bad place for staff who have to deal with the urine (from above) or have a cat falling through the tile on top of them.

Fishing nets are a good method to catch a loose cat. Make sure the netting material is deep enough that you can flip closed the netting to keep the cat from escaping a second time. When releasing a cat from a net, keep in mind that it is going to be VERY angry; protect all of your body parts.

If you are able, you should keep a cat in the same cage for the duration of its care at your shelter. If the cat comes in with a disease, each time you move the animal, the larger the contamination area becomes. I know that this is an impossible task, but try to stop the people who like to touch the nose of each cat that they pass. Visitors to the shelter have no concept of disease control. Staff who fail to follow cleaning protocols are equally to blame for the spread of disease in a shelter.

One of the issues that concern animal shelter employees is pregnant women coming into contact with cat feces and contracting toxoplasmosis.   An embarrassing moment for me was warning a woman with a significant belly bump of contracting toxoplasmosis  while pregnant.  She asked me what I was talking about, she wasn’t pregnant.  It is one of the risk of being a public servant: embarrassing yourself.


You cannot read a pitbull dog. Just because it is wagging its tail does not mean that it won’t try to bite you. I know that it is politically incorrect to say that a pitbull is different from other breeds, but after you retire, you can reflect back on the number of times that you misjudged the breed.  But to be sincerely honest, the problem with pitbulls, is that there is an insufficient number of people who are able to be responsible pet owners.  Most people get away from being irresponsible pet owners because their pets cannot rise to the point of being a danger to society.  Chihuahuas  are probably the most danger breed, but their size doesn’t allow them to rise to being able to break the skin on a person.  You can get away with being an irresponsible pet owner if you own a Chihuahua.  All of the mastiff breeds demand a responsible owner, but few of their owners act in a manner of being responsible.  For those of us in this profession, we call that job security.

If you have a dog birthing, make sure that your drain system has small enough holes as to prevent a neonatal puppy from falling into the draining system. I think the T-Kennel system is the best for shelters, except when being used for birthing. The system is intended to have a catch basin, but many contractors think they are unnecessary. In addition to puppies, the system also passes chew toys. You can’t imagine how expensive it is to tear up your flooring to remove a crew bone lodged at a “L” joint in your plumbing system.

Not every dog should be given a blanket to lay on. I have had to order surgery on many animals that ate their bedding when they got bored. Those same dogs will chew up the plastic piping that make up doggie beds. Let’s face it, some dogs are just going to have to sleep on the floor.

Many shelters perform laboratory tests animals during their stay. If you choose the test that tests for Lyme Disease, be prepared to be treating a third of your dog intake population, if you are located in the East. I suspect that anywhere you have a deer population, the abundance of deer ticks will be your source. After all, how many dog’s have never gotten ticks?

Speaking of ticks, if you ever get a dog that is brought in lethargic and covered in ticks. Although the dog will mostly look near death, many dogs recover well once the ticks have been removed. I have witnessed dogs recover that your first thought would have been to euthanize the dog.

Set up an isolation room next to the area where animal control officers are unloading dogs. If they suspect a dog having Parvo, that dog should be isolated and the path to that isolation room should not be one that is travelled by healthy dogs. The isolation room is where the cleaning protocols are most strictly followed; don’t leave these rooms to be cleaned by lazy staff who take shortcuts.

The best tools for approaching an unknown dog in the field is your metal clipboard. The clipboard makes an excellent shield. You can use it to block the dog or, if necessary, feed it to the dog. The second-best tool is your catchpole. Keep the loop open because you cannot catch a dog with a closed loop. If you are dealing with a vicious dog, go ahead and allow the dog to chomp down on the loop. If you can chinch down on the mouth, you can call in backup to bring a second catchpole to get around the dog’s neck. I know it always looks horrible when you have an animal on a catchpole, but officer safety must always come first. If you don’t think that you can handle the situation, then back away and consider chemical capture instead of physical capture. A word of caution, if you have police backup, if they think you are losing the fight, they may end up shooting the dog. Sometimes the best advice to give arriving police officers is to stay in their vehicles. Fortunately, many police departments train their officers in catching dogs and they carry a catchpole in their vehicles.

The trick to our business is having the right tools, at the time that you need them. I learned the hard way that stepping out of the vehicle without my catchpole is very, very stupid. I had a Rottweiler attack me and all that I had was a leash in my hand. At least, I was smart enough to carry a can of Halt. The owner filed a complaint against me for spraying their dog. A Police Sargent came out to investigate and nearly shot their dog when the dog attacked him. Needless to say, the complaint was ruled unfounded. I’ve always claimed that the owners of large aggressive dogs are too stupid to accept the fact that their dogs present a danger to the public and ill prepared animal control officers. But, to this day, I realize I could have avoided all of this by grabbing the catchpole as I got out of my vehicle.

We live in a funny world. We argue as to whether we are pet owners or pet care takers. We try to determine whether a dog is better off being the property of its owner or that the animal has individual rights of its own. Basically, it is a combination of both of these; otherwise, acts of animal cruelty would be legal. One area of argument is whether an owner has the proprietary right to kill their pet. It is not uncommon for a pet owner to come into the shelter to ask that their dog be euthanized; the reason is usually based on something legitimate as health or age, but often the reason may be illegitimate as to their inability to care for the pet or not wanting anyone else to own their pet. So, shelters argue the legalities of complying with an owner’s wishes. I’ve always said, “to hell with the owner’s wishes, do what it right.” I explain to the owner that they are surrendering their pet to the animal shelter. The pet becomes the property of the animal shelter. They are no longer a part of the decision-making process, other than providing the health and behavior of the animal’s past issues. In most cases, the owner will make a good decision; but in others, their decision won’t hold water. I don’t think animal shelters should be in the business of killing animals just because the owner wants their pet dead. Some will say, “But hey? The pet is the owner’s property and you have an obligation to follow the owner’s wishes to kill their pet!” And my response is that when an owner surrenders their pet for euthanasia, the shelter becomes the new owner of the pet. Our job is to do the right thing for the pet and not act upon the request of an idiot owner. If you have an doubts on this issue, tell the owner that they are free to take the shelter to court and have a judge issue a mandatory order in the matter. Judges are in the business, as we are, in dealing with idiots.

Guns in the work place:

This seems like an odd topic, but stay with me. Open carry guns are intended for only one purpose: to intimidate others. If you are really serious about your Second Amendment Rights, you would conceal carry your firearm. I was a law enforcement officer in the military and for the US Treasury Department. I carried a gun for the purpose to intimidate anyone thinking of attempting harm to me. In my last employment, a young lady walking in to the animal shelter with a weapon. She came to argue about the fees for her impounded dog. She explained to me that she had just been discriminated against when she walked into a McDonald’s restaurant wearing the gun. She told me she had to open carry because she was too young to be able to purchase a conceal carry permit in Virginia. If you have ever watched a police officer, you might see that the officer might rest his hand on his gun, it isn’t because he or she plans to use it, it is just a comfortable resting spot. While I was talking with this gal, she moved her hand to her gun, keep in mind she was wearing the gun to intimidate me into lowering her impoundment fees. A soon as her hand reached the gun’s handle, I jumped up towards her and yelled, “Get you hand away from your gun.” It scared the hell out of her and it should. In rethinking the incident, I probably should have refused to meet with her without a police officer being present. As much as I support our gun rights, there are some people who wear them for the wrong reason. In our profession, we deal with these folks. To this day, that gal is probably retelling the story about being kicked out of McDonalds and nearly attacked by an animal shelter director, all because of she wanted to exercise her second amendment right. And for the record, she paid all of the fees. You do not have to work in an unsafe environment, if you are dealing with a character that makes you feel unsafe, call the police. Keep in mind the response time for your locality, in many places you can have an officer at your door in 3 to 5 minutes; in other areas you might not see one for days… plan accordingly.

Control the situation. I had a guy that picked up one of our telephone handsets and used it to take a swing at one of the ladies working our front counter. I ordered him off of the premises. He asked me how could he reclaim his dog if he could come on to the property. I told him that he either needed to find a friend who could act civil or deal with off our property. He asked to meet me in the parking lot, I told him that the parking lot was on the premises and he wasn’t allowed there. I met him across the street. We live in a society of people who think they should always get their way. I live in a world in which I want to treat everyone the same. I spent a career dealing with that conflict. The nice think about blogging is that you are free to tell war stories and people will either read them or not.


Customers are not always right, but don’t let them know that. Help out the ones that you can and try to find alternate solutions for those that you cannot. Fee deferments are a bad idea, unless you can convince your local clerk’s office or treasury office to oversee the deferment. I have never seen a case in which the pet owner made good their deferment. It is frustrating to take on this task yourself and the paperwork will wear you out. The only time a deferment works is if the pet is ever impounded again and then the owner is faced with the new impound fees along with paying the old. When the amount gets up that high, the owner will most likely abandon the animal. There is no justice in that solution for the animal. Your local Clerk’s Office oversees property taxes; sometimes both vehicle and housing. They are able to put leans on a person property if they fail to pay.

If you ever have to relay bad news to a customer, take them aside. It seems that a person is more likely to act out if there is an audience. Then the cell phones come out. YouTube seems to be a one-sided vehicle of the truth. Although, it does make you wonder about the large number of videos of customers attacking their restaurant server. Seeing how volatile that people become is a good reason to take a second look at their Second Amendment rights. I did not intend for this to appear that I am climbing up on a soapbox, but the people that you see acting out are the same people that come through our doors. If people become violent over a lunch order, how are they going to act out that their dog has been euthanized or adopted because they waited two weeks to bail their dog out? I’ve never worked in a place that allowed employees to carry firearms. You’ll have to come up with a plan. I’ve always removed heavy objects that can be thrown at an employee off of the front counter.


Most animal shelters use a computerized system to track the management of the animals that flow through their shelters. To be effective, the more data that you put in the system the better. But we live in a profession in which our staff thinks data entry is a waste of time and they are good at finding shortcuts. Most computer systems are either animal or incident centric. Each system has a weak point as to beating the system. Since real incidents involve relationship between animals, people, and incidents our systems break down. A relational database system would be too complicated for our employees. Our employees don’t like complicated data entry. The system breaks because we don’t track households. Households have addresses, people, incidents, and animals. So, with our current systems, we may not recognize the household relationship. Why does that matter? Well, a different household member could bail out their pet and staff not realize that the animal is a habitual offender (keep in mind, most people do not keep identification on their pet). Or the owner of record reclaiming the dog claiming is not the dog is not the same dog that was declared dangerous. If you have a dangerous dog ordinance, this is one of the few good reasons to use microchips.

In Jacksonville, the City purchased a system to track government vehicles. I believe it was intended for the sanitation fleet. We managed to get our vehicles on the system and it was very helpful when people could call in and want to know the arrive time of an officer. We could check the computer and see that the vehicle was a block away. Knowing where your officers are makes for a safe environment, but, if some of your officers are goof-offs, they may not appreciate it. We once got a complaint of erratic driving by one of our officers; sure enough, the records showed the officer going 55 mph in a 35 mph zone.

On the same notion as officer safety, in Salt Lake County we had a policy that our officers undergo a drug test following a vehicle accident. In one incident, we were convinced that the other driver was at fault, but our driver tested positive for meth. We’ll never know if the meth was a cause of the accident, but you can assume that our driver could have been driving more aggressively that needed. Given the new era of better living through chemistry, I think drug testing employees is becoming more and more necessary. However, if you choose to test all of your staff at once, you might end up with a staffing shortage. Test the director first, so that no one can complain that it isn’t being fairly administered.

In Atlanta, we had a telephone system that recorded every call. If you want to spend half of your life listening to audio files in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, record your telephone calls. Trying to find video files on your camera system is hard enough, but audio files are worse. The disadvantages to recording telephone conversations is that it is not worth the one or two times that you found they were of value. Some phone systems allow the staff to record a conversation that appears to be turning bad. Make sure you are aware of the laws concerning recording phone calls in your State.

In a few places, we used radios for the shelter staff. In this way, if you need one employee to come to the front counter, you didn’t get three who responded to the intercom call. The first person to head to the request could radio that they were in route to the front counter. As with any tool, it is only as good as the people using it.


Cities and counties have difficulty in trying to figure out where their animal control organization should fit within the structure of their government. In my career, my organizations have been under the police department, twice under environmental services, three times it was its own department, once under public works, and once under neighborhood services. As much as I hate to be under the police department, it is usually the best place for funding and for backup when you need help. The problem with being under another department, your overseers won’t have any concept of our staff dealing with the public as a law enforcement organization.

Many governments separate field services from shelter services. Usually the animal control officers are under the police department and the shelter is placed in a miscellaneous department. The main advantage for the animal control officers being under the police department is that in many cases they are permitted to carry a gun. Let’s face it, in the crazy world, it is becoming more and more necessary to arm our employees. But there is nothing in our profession that requires that we engage in a shootout. Animal control officers can back away from a scene that they see going bad.

The biggest problem of animal control officers being separate from the shelter is that they cannot associate with the problems resulting in their field policies. In Virginia, the local animal control officers didn’t care that the shelter was overcrowded, they would laugh at us every time the brought in an animal, this was especially true when we were combating a disease outbreak. We couldn’t convince the animal control officers that their first duty was to return a dog home, they seemed to think that making the dog owner go to “the pound” was the proper treatment in punishing the dog owner. An effective animal control officer should attempt to determine where the dog lives and return the dog with a citation.

If the owner is not home, the animal control officer should never, never leave the dog at the house unsupervised. Too many times an animal control officer would put a dog back inside its fence, only to have the dog jump out again and get hit by a car. That act of compassion is one that will eventually backfire on you. Even though the owner kept the dog in that fenced yard, they will not be beyond suing you when you do it.

Relationships with other Organizations

There are three types of relationships that your shelter will have with other organizations: ones out to help you, ones out to undermine your organization, and the ones who gives the appearance that they hare helping you while undermining your organization. You will discover an even mix when dealing with other animal welfare organizations. I dealt with one organization that I could always count on to try to undermine my organization, but their bad intensions were often mixed with good deeds. It is easy to just block an organization from dealing with your shelter, but you will miss the occasional good deed that comes their way.


You have heard me railing against owners of dangerous or vicious dogs being stupid in the lackadaisical approach to confining their pets.  But the owners of venomous snakes take the cake.  These people are just downright stupid.

On several occasions I have had to oversee the care of some of the most dangerous reptiles on this planet as a result of the owner being bitten by one of their “pet” snakes.  The worst place I have found for stupid snake owners is in Milwaukee.  For some reason this city attacks these idiots.  To be honest, I don’t remember encountering a female snake hoarder, so maybe they are the smarter gender.

I’ve written about hoarding situations, but snake hoarders are the hardest cases to handle because our employees are just not trained to deal with a venomous snake.  I am still so raddled by the experience that I still care snake tongs and a snake hook in my car at all times… and I am retired.  We had one case in which a guy was keeping several large alligators in his basement as well.  Anyone who is so stupid to own these animals are not smart enough from getting bitten.  It is unfortunate that precious antivenom has to be used to continue a species from such a deleterious gene pool.

The really odd thing is that these venomous critters are freely mailed to people.  I am usually opposed to new laws, but the plain and simple fact is that we need laws to protect us from idiots.  Stopping the importation of dangerous animals to an idiot hoarder would be a good law.  Can you imagine what it would be like to live next door to someone who is keeping cobras or green mombas?  We had someone in Milwaukee who had both and many, many more dangerous reptiles.

In the old days, drug dealers would keep their drugs hidden under a rattlesnake.  Or use an aggressive pitbull to guard their stash.  I have heard about drug busts where the police stayed behind the animal control officer (with a catchpole) when they breached the door of a suspected drug dealer.  Dealing with a snake hoarder is a different matter.

Usually snake hoarders have no concept of moderation.  If you are called upon, it won’t be just a few snakes; you could easily be dealing with 30 to 80 smakes.  Fortunately, a few of them will likely not be venomous.  But, how can you tell, we are not experts in this field.  So, the first call is to your local zoo.  You are going to horribly be taking advantage of them.  In most cases the zoos cannot take your snakes because reptile hoarders take such horrible care of their animals that the snakes will likely have some disease or snake rot (I made that one up) that will prevent them from endangering their own animals.  But, what they do have is cages and handling tools that you will find useful.  Anytime that you have to handle the animals to clean their cages, let the zoo personnel volunteer for the task.  Keep in mind that the snake’s owner is in the hospital for being stupid (but, I’ve already told you that).

If you are lucky, the courts will award you the animals.  The zoo will be able to help you either find new homes or oversee the euthanasia of these animals.  Our attempts to anesthetize the snakes failed; animal shelters generally don’t keep containers for such efforts and a jerry-rigged solution may not work.  Fortunately snakes like holes.  You can devise a short pipe that the snake can crawl into that will allow you to safely inject the animal.

I hope you never have to deal with venomous snakes; but, you have to remember that we are in a business that is secured by the nature of people making bad decisions.  Our jobs are to keep the community safe, even though a large portion of that population is working against us.