Owner Requested Euthanasia

I was recently reading an article in which a woman surrendered her dog to her local animal shelter expecting the shelter to euthanize her dog. She later discovered that her dog was still alive and had been adopted into another home. Feeling cheated, she demanded the return of her dog.

Animals are considered property, so an owner has the right to kill their pet, as long as it is done humanely. Over the years, I encountered so many lame excuses from owner deciding to euthanize their pet that I changed our policies. I got tired of hearing those lame reasons and decided someone had to act on behalf of the animals.  I decided that I could not allow pet owners to make that decision.  I won’t euthanize an animal based on their reasoning skills but felt I must use my own.  As such, I changed our policies to require any animal up for euthanasia should be the property of the animal shelter.

Sometimes it is just obvious when an animal comes through our doors that the animal needs to be euthanized. I have seen many animals that were kept long after when it should have been done and more than once I considered charging the owner with animal cruelty. If the owner has asked to be present when the animal is euthanized, I consider the animal’s condition and the competency of the person performing the euthanasia.

I make it very clear that my organization doesn’t do owner-requested euthanasia. When an owner surrenders their pet to me, it becomes mine. I decide its final fate. If I decide that the animal has been well cared for and is now in need of euthanasia; I will see that it is performed as soon as possible. If the owner wants to be present, I’ll remind them that we are euthanizing my animal and not theirs. They can always go to their own veterinarian to have “their” animal killed. But, again, if they have been good owners and I have competent staff working in the euthanasia room, I may consider allowing them to be with the animal during its’ last moment.

Let’s face it, I have had outstanding people who were a wiz at performing euthanasia, but I would never allow them to EVER talk to an owner during this sensitive time. Hell, I’ve had staff that I tried to keep from ever talking to anyone. Some people are good with animals but fail horribly being around people.

Some of the feedback on this article had many people feeling that the shelter was wrong to not euthanize the dog and even demanded that the dog be returned back to the previous owner. My response, if it had happened in my shelter, when she surrendered her dog to me, that it isn’t her dog anymore. She signed the dog over to me. I’m now the owner. I will make the decision that I think is best for the animal and if she ever came into my shelter to adopt, I would probably turn her down. I know, I know, I am a public employee whose job is to serve the people. So….. fire me!

For the most part, we public servants have to serve people, but there is a balance that must be kept and we sometimes have to stand up for the animals when they fall into the hands of stupid people. As they say, “I’m sorry if my commonsense has offended you!”

Veterinary Colleges

In this morning’s new paper, I read that one of our colleges is opening a veterinary school. I thought to myself, “What a wonderful opportunity for the local animal shelter.”

I started my career in animal welfare in Pullman Washington. I could not have picked a better place to start. I was living in Idaho and earning my Wildlife Resources degree when I took the job in Pullman. The City of Pullman used to pull their Animal Control Officers from the students attending the Veterinary College at Washington State University. My background as a military working dog handler gave me a boost into the position.

The Veterinary College and I developed a close working relationship. They needed my help in dealing with abandoned pets and assisting them in making the difficult decision of euthanizing an animal. I got a lot in return.

The College had a problem with people delivering their pets to them for treatment and then abandoning their pets when they got their bill for services. I accepted those animals. Frequently, strays were brought to them that required extensive treatment. Without an owner present, I would aid the College’s veterinarians in deciding to save the animal or euthanize it. In this manner, I helped relieve them of the liability in making that decision.

In return, they would provide the training that I required. I worked with their Head of Ornithology to learn how to capture and handle birds of prey. They taught me how to use chemicals in the capture of animals. My experience was so great, that in the first years that the National Animal Control Association began offering an annual training conference, they did so in Pullman so that they could teach nationally the things that I was learning locally.

Throughout my career, I had the opportunity to work with colleges. In Fairfax County, I worked with a college that trained veterinary technicians and they incorporated much of their study time with hands-on training at the shelter. In Alachua County, I worked with Florida State University where veterinary students would provide hands-on training once a week at the shelter. It is a natural fit for veterinary students to work at their local shelter. A wise shelter director will aid them in seeing that fit.

Transgenderism in Animals

After writing the last blog, it dawned on me that researching the impact of transgender animals in animal shelters might be another source of alternative income. Hey, don’t laugh. Google it! Others are writing articles as to transgenderism isn’t just a human thing. Just think about the confusion we would experience in regendering all of the animals in our animal shelters. This notion is so stupid that it deserves further research. This is your chance to be on the cutting edge of Woke Research. The idea is so stupid that you’ll probably find people begging to fund your study. Hell, they might even fund your entire budget.

Alternative Funding

Let’s face it, animal sheltering budgets are among the lowest priorities for government funding. It is incumbent upon animal shelters to seek other funding sources. One funding source that seems to be unlimited is research on climate change. A smart animal shelter director would approach government sources to explore the impact of pet food intake on methane production. The idea is to test various pet foods to see which ones would give pets the least amount of gas. Granted, you and I know that the results would be inconclusive, but that is basically the same results that other climate researchers find anyway. If money is going to be wasted, it might as well be wasted on feeding your shelter’s animals.

One word of caution, stay away from pet sterilization research. If the Woke learned that we are sterilizing animals without their consent, we would be in a sh*t storm of outrage. People would claim that we are attacking an animal’s reproductive rights. So let’s keep that a secret because if we were forced to allow animals to maintain their reproductive state, we would only be forced into killing more animals after they are born.

I know, I know, I should have thought up this stuff years ago and not waited until after I retired; but, I suppose if I had broached this years ago, I would have been forced to retire much earlier. The world has become a much crazier place and I think now is the time to allow one crazy idea to take its place with the rest of the crazy ideas out there.

Universal Safe Word

I don’t know what triggers dreams; this one I suppose was caused by a jury notice that I received, that triggered a backflash to a previous jury selection that I once sat on. In this dream, I was being questioned as a jury select and asked, “Can a woman say ‘no” and not mean it?”

I responded “It doesn’t matter. ‘No’ is a universal safe word that means no. It isn’t up to the man to determine the truth of the statement, it is a word that should cause the man to do everything in his power to stop what is happening. ‘No’ is a very powerful word and it can turn an act of passion into an act of rape.”

This was a very powerful dream for me; otherwise, I would not have placed it here. Any man who doesn’t honor this simple word should have his member cut off. If a man violates this trust, you know how I’ll rule on your jury.

Failed Programs

Throughout my career, I wanted to put my name on a couple of innovative programs. I have listed below a few disappointments in the process.

As a new fledgling in Pullman Washington, I wanted to praise people for being responsible pet owners. Back in those days, you could actually find them. So I started ACO looking for RPOs. The acronyms didn’t catch on. I had to keep explaining that it said “Animal Control Officer looking for Responsible Pet Owners.” Again, that didn’t catch on. While on patrol, I would stop a person walking with their pet to check for the obvious: a license tag, a poop pickup baggy, and the general good health of the animal. If they met those requirements, I had a bag of goodies, even a signed certificate from the Mayor. I think most people didn’t like being loaded down with those goodies while walking their dogs. Oh well.

My most disappointing project was helping battered women in Salt Lake County. In the program, I worked with the local police, the community services program, and the women’s shelter. The idea was that many women wouldn’t leave an abusive situation because the option of leaving the situation forced leaving a pet behind. So, we would take in the woman’s pet while she sought a new life. The first woman had two dogs. Once her dogs were secure in the animal shelter, she then went into a women’s shelter. After a few days, we couldn’t reach her. Her friends later claimed that “she climbed into the cab of the first truck driver that came through town.” She had dumped her dogs on us. In the following months that we worked the program, we had only helped one woman. What was left was all of the abandoned pets that were left behind in the shelter. In many cases, I think the pet would have been better off being left with the woman’s partner. I am afraid that many women take the pet away from their partner just to be mean. This program had all of the makings of being a wonderful program and to this day, I am still upset over how it played out.

One of the biggest problems we face in picking up stray animals is the large number of pets who roam the streets without identification. Twice, working with the National Animal Control Association, I was given a grant to buy an ID engaging machine for use in Milwaukee Wisconsin, and again in Roanoke Virginia. The idea was to ensure that every pet leaving the animal shelter was wearing a new collar and identification tag. This program proved that the only ones interested in seeing pets with identification were the shelter staff. Over and over again we witness the same pets being picked up without ID, returned to their owner with new identification, and picked up again with no ID. It felt like the pet owners were going out of their way to keep identification off their pets. This was such an eye-opening experience for me that anytime I had a chance to facilitate an ordinance change, I would make it mandatory for any pet that came to the shelter three or more times without wearing identification to be microchipped.

Probably the biggest failure that we experienced was dealing with an ordinance in Portland Oregon that required anyone selling puppies to be required to have a “selling permit.” The notion was to identify the folks who were filling up our shelter with the puppies that they couldn’t sell so that we could encourage them to spay/neuter their breeding animals. The newspapers were “supposed” to include the pet permit number in the new paper ad. None of the newspapers complied because they felt that we were overstepping our authority. The ordinance did little to stop the overcrowding in our shelter. Let’s face it, people will breed their pets to get a few dollars for a couple of puppies in the litter and then abandon the rest of the litter; they would continue to do this year after year after year. The worst part is that when the animals are dumped on us, the owners act like they are doing us a favor. In the animal welfare business, you have to suffer more than your share of idiots.

Another major failure was offering a deferred payment plan so that people could bail their pets out of the shelter without having to pay the full amount of the impoundment fees. We kept seeing incidents of people walking away from their pets when faced with the cost of paying a fee to get their pets out. I thought that allowing a 60-day deferment would offer up an opportunity to get the dog home (let’s face it, people mostly don’t come looking for their lost cat) and offer them some time to make payments.

It turns out that once the pet is back home, lost are the thoughts of ever making good on the payment plan. I only remember a few (I mean I can count on two fingers) the number of people who honored their agreement. Collections companies claimed that there was too little incentive for them to go after the owners because pet owners were the most stubborn people they ever had to deal with.

Keep in mind that the recidivism rate for these dog owners is high. So little time goes by that the dog is once again in the shelter. Of course, the idea of offering a deferment plan goes out the window and the owner is now faced with past and present fees. You are once again giving the owner a chance to abandon their pet at the shelter. I have to admit that some owners angered me so much that I wanted to charge them with animal abandonment for walking away from their pets.

In case it just dawned on you that you were missing a tool in your toolbox, there is a problem with charging people for animal abandonment when dumping their pets on you. The major provision of animal abandonment is to abandon an animal without any provision of providing adequate care. Hey, animal shelters provide “adequate care.” Unless you have a specific ordinance of dumping an “owned animal” at the animal shelter, my earlier suggestion of charging the owner is BS. But that doesn’t prevent you from writing the ticket and seeing if it changes the mind of the owner. In my mind, there should be a law, but animals are considered property and a person can disown their property at any time.

The only place in which the deferment plan had any hope of working was in Virginia where I worked with county tax collectors to treat pets as property. People paying their property bills would see an added charge for the deferred payment. I know what you are thinking, “So what do you do with renters?” Good question, in Virginia, they also tax your vehicle as property. So the renters are covered (if they own an automobile) as well. I know, it is a mean way to deal with the issue, but it kept people honest. But now, looking back, I see that integrity is a concept that belongs only to a few people that I have encountered.

Running an animal shelter has its share of disappointments, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up. Your job is to care for every animal that comes into your shelter, even if that means that you have to deal with their owners. The animal side of the business is very rewarding. The people side of the business rewards you with war stories that you can later share with your friends.

Unfunded Mandates

Our Governor announced his desire for our State to become a “No-Kill State” and maintain that status. On the surface, that sounds swell; but, anytime I hear about a governing body wanting to pass down mandates to lower communities, I think of the Haden Bill in California that passed down such severe mandates that many animal shelters had to close shop. State governing bodies tend to know little to nothing about the dynamics of running local animal shelters. California proved that.

At a time when my State passed laws outlawing DEI in schools and businesses, they enacted their own version of DEI onto insurance companies where they demanded that all animals be treated the same. So insurance companies were forced to raise their rates so that poodles and pit bulls could be treated the same. Since legislators know so little about dog breeds, I worry that our Governor knows little about the dynamics of running an animal shelter.

Thanks to Bidenomics, people are facing harsh inflation. Many of us have to find ways to cut back to just survive. During these troubling times, people are choosing to cut back on their pets so as not to be forced to cut back on the beer. The number of animals being surrendered to animal shelters is high. So, our Governor picks this time to demand animal shelters become no-kill.

The only true solution to no-kill is to bring an end to breeding. If we sterilized every pit bull and pit bull mix in the country, we could solve 70% of the pet overpopulation in animal shelters within a few years. If the Governor wants to help with the situation, instead of making it worse, he could fund low-cost spay/neuter centers around the State.

The good news is that our State has 2 billion dollars left over from last year’s budget. He has the money to help shelters. Is any of that money going to be available to animal shelters? Of course not. That is why we call these things unfunded mandates. But let’s face it, we have a homeless problem and increased crime due to our illegal immigrant invasion. Is any of those funds going to provide more police? Probably not. So where do we decide to put this money in time of our current crisis? A baseball stadium.

Will a baseball stadium help animals? Nope! Will a baseball stadium help the homeless? Nope! Will the baseball stadium decrease crime? Nope! The only thing that a baseball stadium can bring to our community is the entertainment district that will surround the stadium. We just might finally get a nice new restaurant that will serve a good hotdog.

State bodies have to stop making life harder for those who run animal shelters. Their job is to see the big picture. The older that I become, I see our governing bodies becoming more nearsighted.

Internal Memos

As director of your shelter, you need to treat memos like you would on social media. I used to have a saying to never write anything that you don’t want to see on the front page of the Washington Post. If you think that is a silly saying, wait until that happens to you. Fortunately for me,  My memo allowed me to be welcomed by the DC news media.

When I arrived in Fairfax County, I discovered that most of the County’s agency directors feared the media. They avoided the media like the plague.  I used my newfound relationship with the media to further the cause of my animals.

The first thing you need to do when taking a new job running an animal shelter is to make friends with your local media. You can do that by being open and honest with them. That memo? Well, I no longer remember what the memo was about, but the news media recognized that I was being open and honest with my staff as I was with them.

The greatest side benefit of being friends with the media is during budget considerations. Your local council or commission is not going to defund one of their organizations that is a darling with the local media. I remember countless times when the County Commission stepped forward to save my budget when the County Executive was hellbent on defunding my budget when working in Florida. Next to the local news media, making friends with your council or commission can only have a good impact.

Showboating

Showboating: The act of showing off.

In spite of my staff wanting their social media to go viral, they all seemed to express a fear of dealing with live media. Anytime that the news media showed up at the shelter, my staff would disappear. Unless you have a staff position to deal with news stories, as the Director, you’ll become the face of your organization. Not necessarily a bad thing.

If the media is at your shelter to highlight the available animals, your staff will shine. Animal shelter staff can’t help but take an interest in the animals that they care for. It is like asking a mother to show off pictures of her children.

I have watched my staff come out of their shells when telling the media about their favorite shelter animal. When addressing the news media, I tell my staff to tell only the truth about an animal. Staff and volunteers are guilty of making up stories to help sell an animal. So telling the truth is the most important item. Next is to only show animals that have shown no signs of aggression. And finally, show a mix of breeds. This rule is important because pit bulls remain in your shelter longer, so your staff will spend more time befriending them.

When animal shelters show only pit bulls, people will associate your shelter as the pit bull shop. That is easy to understand when 70% of your animals are pit bulls. You need to throw in other breeds to convince your community that you have more than pit bulls to offer. It is like the way auto dealers bring in people to their sales lot by showing a flashy car on television and then once they are on the lot, they can show them their entire inventory. Animal shelters have to work the same way.

So, What is the Deal with Pit Bulls?

Some would say that there are two things about pit bulls:
1. They are the most maligned breed of dog.
2. What is a pit bull? It is the most frequently misidentified breed of dog.

I claim that pit bulls get into so much trouble because their owners do not recognize their potential to do harm.

The problem that faces the pit bull is that anytime a person is maliciously attacked or killed, the pit bull is frequently blamed. Maybe the media finds that a pit bull attack creates more “clicks.” I dispute this claim because if a Chihuahua had caused the death of a person, that would be real news.

Many years ago, pit bull owners were breeding dogs for increased aggression; whether their intent was for dog fighting or just “having the meanest dog on the block.” Communities saw the effect of this selective breeding and when deaths by pit bulls were on the rise, they started banning the breed.

The pit bull has been so frequently bred with other breeds that it is nearly impossible to identify them. Due to this overbreeding, animal shelters usually have 70% of their dog population with a wide forehead that appears to be a bulldog breed. You see kennel after kennel full of a generic pit bull-type dog.

As such, it is easy to blame the pit bull for every altercation that comes along because they have become the most common breed. For a long time, animal welfare organizations pitched the saying: “punish the deed, not the breed.” Many national organizations created position statements that pit bulls are just like any other breed (so ignore all of those news reports to the contrary).

In our woke* society, people come out of the woodwork when their local newspaper reports on a “pit bull-related death.” Those folks want everyone to believe that the pit bull is a friendly dog, even if it goes on a rampage once in a while. It is comments like I just made that convince them that pit bulls are maligned. I’ll admit it, I am one of the first people to malign the breed because I have investigated a large number of dog bites. The pit bull is most known for the fatalities that they cause.

So in keeping with the philosophy that everything should be equal and treated the same, communities that previously banned the pit bull started rescinding their laws. Many communities passed laws that ban anything breed-related. The new anti-breed laws even impacted insurance companies that charged a high premium on people who owned, what they believed to be dangerous dogs. The new laws added to the high inflation that we were facing due to insurance companies having to spread the cost of dog bite incidents over all of their policyholders.

The casual pet owner should not own pit bulls. Most people are too lazy to be pet owners, so owning a pit bull becomes very troubling. Most of the other breeds don’t impact the community with an irresponsible pet owner. But, pit bull ownership requires a close watch on their dog.

Some folks will dispute that claim because they have children who constantly abuse their pit bull; most other breeds would not tolerate such abuse. I have to agree; but, when a pit bull ever gets to the point of being fed up, there likely will be a funeral.

The bottom line is that pit bulls are goal-oriented dogs. Most breeds will bite once or twice and then move on; unless they are in a pack. Pit bulls seem to create a pack of one; they continue to attack beyond what is necessary. There have been so many cases of victim dogs showing submission to a pit bull and the pit bull just continues on with the attack until the other dog is dead. That is the reason that people claim that pit bulls have animal-aggressive tendencies. Even when used in dog fighting, the owners have to carry break sticks to force their dog from continuing the attack; few pit bulls will discontinue an attack with simple voice commands.

Pit bull’s violation of the “doggie code” is why I have such an issue with the breed.  Nearly every breed will honor the code to back off when the other dog shows submission.  Pit bulls do not even honor the code towards people; they will continue to extract the greatest damage until someone stops them.  It is for this reason that pit bulls demand to have the most responsible of owners.

I get tired of people going on and on about the malignment of pit bulls. They fail to consider the fact that maybe the pit bull has in some way contributed to its bad reputation. The pit bull is one of the few breeds that become extremely dangerous in the hands of a bad owner. Having worked a lifetime in the Animal Control profession, the fact is that most people are bad pet owners. Although most people get away with being a bad pet owner; the pit bull owner doesn’t have as much leeway.

There are so many good pit bulls out there. Most of them will never harm a child. They are not a ticking time bomb; but, you should still treat them as if they were. Despite all of the policy statements that pit bulls are no different than any other breed; you should closely watch them. A little extra vigilance might be necessary to prevent a family member from being killed.

The “experts” are not always right. Pit bulls are different from other breeds.

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* I use the term “woke” to describe the diversity, equity, and inclusion philosophy running rampant in our society and how it is the same notion used to protect pit bulls: everyone and everything is treated the same without regard to the obvious dissimilarities. Example: honor students being forced to work at the level of the least productive students, thus normalizing academic achievement (and creating a generation of nonachievers).