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.”

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.

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.

 

Teaching Old Dogs Bad Tricks

I read that TSA is having a problem with their 77 million dollar canine program in detecting explosives.  It should come as no surprise; dog handlers have track records for training the dogs to become lazy.

When I was working US Customs in Thailand, I decided that I wanted to test the effectiveness of our canine team at the airport.  I watched as the dog handler hide his training aids and listened to the sound of his voice when the dog neared one of those aids.  It was clear that not only was he leaving his scent on the training aid, he was also giving the dog verbal clues as to when to alert on the substance.

The only way for me to test my theory was to empty the amnesty  box in the bathroom and use the drugs that I found there as my own training aids.  I hid the drugs among the luggage and even hinted my suspicions to the dog handler of making a find.  I watched the team work and I even pointed out some “suspicious” bags.  Nothing!

When they were done, I asked the dog handler to come over as I removed the drugs from the various bags.  I pointed out to him that he ruined a perfectly good working dog for the US Air Force.

The problem with training dogs is to not to “trick” them into finding the drugs.  It is also important to not present them with a threshold.  When you use the same amount of drugs time after time, the dog becomes trained to that threshold amount and will possibly not alert to drug amounts below or above that threshold.  When training our dogs on the Mexican Border, we usually carried around baggies of marijuana for training the dogs; but, we would roll joints and check out kilos of marijuana to vary the training.  In case if you are wondering, we found an Officer working for Border Control who would roll our joints and place them in a container away from our scent.

In true training exercises, it is important to vary the amount of the substance and never, never get your own scent on the training aides.

TSA screwed up a perfectly good system of using dogs by not having someone doublechecking the dog’s abilities.  That task is usually performed by the dog handler and he/she is just going to screw the dog up.

Because of the extra work that we performed with our dogs on the Border, we would consistently find everything from a roach to hundreds of kilos.  Once, wanting to test my dog’s abilities, DEA called me in to search a car.  I was getting readings all over the place with my dog.  Since it is odd for DEA to use our dogs, I figured out that they had already found the heron and had sat it down in various places within the car.  You have to keep in mind that the dog is not looking for the drug itself, it is looking for the smell of the drug.  Each time the drug was moved, the smell remained.

Tracking dogs work in the same manner.  The first thing that a dog senses is a disturbance.  When my dog was running too fast around a car, I would reach over and rub a finger against the car.  The second time around the car, the dog would detect that disturbance and slow down his search.  That is why it was so difficult for my dog to search the vehicle for DEA when  they had disturbed the hell out of the vehicle by having their officers crawling all over it.

The disturbance causes the dog to use his (we mostly worked with male dogs) senses to better understand the disturbance.  If presented with an article of clothing, the dog would reference each disturbance that he came across against that of the clothing.  Thus, being able to track the line of disturbances to whoever or whatever you were looking for.

The most effective way to utilize a dog, is to allow the dog to work down wind of the object you are seeking.  It is easiest to work a dog outdoors, where you can feel the wind; but, indoors air flow works the same way.  Even though we didn’t smoke, we would carry a cigarette with us into a building to watch the air currents.  Air conditioning systems really cause air to move in funny ways.

TSA dog handlers need to constantly watch air currents as well as distractions; movement and noise around the dog can easily distract him.  When a dog becomes distracted the handler has to have enough sense to take the dog back over the area when he became distracted.

Using dogs is a good idea.  I hope TSA can better figure out how to use them properly.

Diet

One of the biggest decisions that you’ll make running an animal shelter is determining the diet for your animals.  In the early years of this profession, diet was less of an issue because holding times were much shorter; by the time that an animal had adjusted to his or her shelter diet, the animal had reached the end of his or her holding time.

Now, with few animals coming into shelters, shelters have minimum hold times that exceeded our maximum hold times in the past.  Many States have adopted holding times that exceed 10 days.  With the longer holding times, it was not uncommon that a pet owner would surrender their pet to the shelter as a stray when going on vacation.  The impound fee and boarding for the animal upon their return was cheaper than boarding their pet at a kennel or with their veterinarian.  Granted it was a stupid thing to do, but this way, their animal got free vaccinations.

In the early years , pet food companies worked with animal shelters in an effort to gain a greater market share.  Purina instituted a program that provided adoptions kits that included pet food samples, owner’s guide, and coupons.  For many, many years I used Purina’s mainstream line of products for the animals that I cared for.  I’ve had a loyalty  to them for a long time.

Diarrhea is the  first indicator that you have purchased a bad diet. The problem is that animals have a very delicate digestive system and they’ll experience diarrhea when switching to a new diet.  So, animal shelters should expect loose bowel movements during the first few days.  If you continue to experience diarrhea after a few days, it might be time to look at what you are feeding your animals.  I have made many bad decisions as to food purchases; so, when you are facing budget constrains, the food should not be an item that you compromise on.

Many shelters are turning to designer food labels and with the hold times exceeding months, that may not be a bad idea.  Hills and Purina are two of the companies that provide shelter feeding programs.  Each time I attempted to enter into a contract with Hills, I was faced with a requirement in their contract that required that I only feed their product to my animals unless THEY approved the change in diet.  I could not EVER agree to them making every decision when I felt another product was in the best interest of an anima that I was caring for.  I got very excited when I learned of Purina’s shelter program and then learned that they were only pushing their designer labels and not their regular line.  The designer labels are still a budget obstacle for most animal shelters… especially when trying to explain those costs to a city/county commission.

In many places, I found that it was just easier to shop locally for my pet food; however, keep in mind that stores take a dim view with you wipeout their entire pet food section.  It is a good idea to work with the store to oversee your deliveries and you can pickup the food on the loading bay than wheeling multiple carts through their store.

Many  shelters are donated pet food.  Most of the time the food is an open package that the pet didn’t like.  The constant change of diet from donated pet food is hard on an animal’s stomach.  Most of the time, I have set aside donated food to give to rescues or people in need.  I have always believed that I need to provide a consistent diet to my animals.

The first shelter I ran was in Pullman Washington.  I was fortunate that I had access to Washington State University and would frequently get the left over food that they used for nutrition studies.  I also participated in Alpo adoption events in which the participating shelters were rewarded in pet food.  I had a wonderful lady who sent me monthly amounts of cat food.  The reason that I bring this up is that there is always a way to feed your animals; the trick is to let folks know what you need; be specific about your needs.

Giving in to Common Sense

Every week my brother and I get our cardio workout by sharing our thoughts on the state of the world.  We usually have breakfast together, but the stay at home laws limit us not to phone calls.  You could not find two people more opposite  in the expression of our views.  I see the fallacy in his views as he sees them in mine.

Our discussion turned to the people making the news by violating their stay at home orders.  I see these people as exercising their constitutional freedoms and assisting mother nature in shaping our gene pool through natural selection.  My brother, a retired fire fighter, sees these people engaged in activities that place other people at risk. I see his point.

In my eyes, I believe that  stupid people should be allowed to engage in their stupid activities because it is mother nature’s way of removing deleterious genes from our gene pool.   I failed to see the risk that these folks play in their efforts to become sick.  Paramedics, doctors and nurses are placed at risk because people engage in idiotic behavior.  We experience similar issues in the animal welfare profession in dealing with the outcomes of dangerous dogs.

There is always a group of people who get excited when you make a decision to euthanize an animal that you think is too dangerous to be adopted.  Sure, they can find a family to take the dog, but you have to worry about the kind of people who would want to bring an aggressive dog home to live with their children.  We live in a world where people willing agree to get into situations that are well over their heads.

Let’s face it, I may be the only person who is enjoying staying at home.  But, your right to walk about as you wish should not put other people at risk.  Give your first responders a break and do everything you can to keep yourself well and those around you.  That includes bringing home aggressive animals into a neighbor with small children.  Someone in the world has to start making smart decisions.

Give the Constitution a rest and do something for someone other than your self; help protect our first responders by following a few rules.  It is the least that we can do for them.

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.