Maintaining Shelter Standards

When I began in the animal welfare profession euthanasia rates were over 90 percent.  35 years later, we are experiencing placement rates at 90 percent.  We have come a long way and there are plenty of people wanting to claim credit for our success.  Many animal shelters have euthanasia rates under 5 percent.

Ten years ago, Delaware created a law that prohibited a shelter from having any empty kennels; I was opposed to Delaware’s law, it created a crisis every time that an Animal Control Officer brought in a stray animal, because there were no empty cages.  Experience teaches every shelter manager to know the number of cages that must be empty to accommodate intakes.  In addition to the number of animals that are delivered by officers, the public is at your front door delivering animals.  No one is going to ask a person to hold on to the animal until someone can go back and “make space.”

Colorado decided to go further, animal shelters cannot euthanize, even if they lack cage space.  Since no  kill has become a moot issue in our shelters as the reach or exceed 90 percent placement rates, politicians are eager to move shelters to the next evolution of animal sheltering:  for the shelter to become a “socially conscious shelter.”   A shelter that does not concern itself with the practical side of animal sheltering but look only to the needs of the animals.  On the surface, this sounds like a great idea.  A socially conscious shelter doesn’t have to worry about cage space.  Whether or not there is cage space, you find a spot for the animal.  And then, try to provide care.

The concept of “just one more animal,” is the premise that starts every animal hoarding situation.  I had to oversee a seizure of 700 cats in which the organization started with just a few and just kept accept “just one more” cat.

The politicians like to get their faces in the media showing their support for saving the animals.  When they are done, they leave one more unfunded mandate and leave the local jurisdictions responsible for administering the mess that they have created. Every community is difference; they allocate different budgets and enjoy different mores.  Due to the uniqueness of communities, they should be allowed to enact their own laws.

What role will the State of Colorado have when they have to deal with shutting down rural animal shelters for either failing to comply with the new law or that they have become hoarders and have insufficient funds and staffing to care for the newfound burden placed on them by the State.

Animal Shelters have a responsibility to care for the animals that come to them.  Forcing them to start hoarding animals is going to diminish the general care that they can provide.  Under the right circumstances, this new law will have unintended inhumane consequences as animal shelters are force to hold  animals beyond their capacity of space and staffing.

The Evolution of Riot Control. When are we going to learn?

This is an odd topic to be found on this blog, but images of the “peaceful protects” that I’ve seen on the nightly news appear similar to watching a dog fight.   As an old cop, I am puzzled as to the current state of police officer tactics in performing crowd control.

I entered the field of law enforcement as a military cop in the early 70s. Crowd (riot) control was administered by pushing crowds using psychology; military personnel put their bayonette on their M-16s and used a technique of “stomp and drag” to maneuver the crowd. Stomp and drag was how the military personnel moved, by stomping their left foot forward and dragging their right foot up to their left foot. The cadence was very effect, but hard on the sole of your right boot. Even sheaving the bayonette, it was an impressive sight.

The next iteration was using shield and batons to physically push crowds where you want them. This is the technique that I think police are attempting to use ineffectively because they are missing the most important element of using water cannons. Modern day looters like to set fires, fire trucks are the perfect solution to today’s crowd control. Water cannons (fire hoses) can be used to push rioters back, while putting out the fires that the looters started. I am sure that politics play into the role, or lack of role, of bringing fire trucks in at the start of riot, but wait until the neighborhood is in flames. I have to say that water cannons were the most effective crowd control device of all times. As a K-9 officer, we and our dogs were pale in the face of the effective use of those cannons. Although, I have seen the effect of turning loose a dog to get the attention of a crowd.

As best as I can tell, the current technique in crowd control is what I would refer to as a “snowball fight.” A snowball fight is where one side lobs over a bunch of “snowballs” and then the other side lobs some back. In the old days, kids would cheat by putting a rock inside a snowball; now  people put gasoline inside bottles. The side with the most snowballs won.

A rule that seems to be forgotten is in the old days, if you showed up at a snowball fight, you were a participant. Today, we have a new term of “innocent bystander.” So, a person can decide at will if they are an active participant or step back from the action and call themselves an innocent bystander. The media seems to think that if they are in the midst of a snowball fight, they are protected. If you stand on one side, you might get tear gassed or hit with a rubber bullet; but, if you stand on the other side, you get hit with gasoline, fireworks and blinded by lasers. Protesters are cleverly disguising themselves as media personnel in hopes of using that as camouflage to get closer to the police lines.

So, politicians have stepped up to determine the rules of engagement, limiting the types of snowballs that the police can use. So you take away all of law enforcement’s snowballs and you are left with a lopsided playing field. The politicians have not even asked that the protesters put down their maultoff cocktails because they don’t want to recognize that the protests have become violent.  As some politicians call it, “A summer of love.”

After we have learned our lesson from the idiot idea to defund our police, I hope that when we restore the police to their rightful place and that we give them the tools to property do their jobs. I suspect that companies that sell riot control vehicles are going to make a lot of money as we look back to our current failure in handling angry mobs. We were ill prepared and the politics worked in favor of mob rule.

If, on the off chance that you came across this blog in a search for your new riot control vehicle.  I have found that the water hoses mounted at bumper level appear to be most effective.  It is like playing pool in which you put the rioter “in the corner pocket.”  These vehicles make is safer for the police and less harmful to the mob.

Since this is my blog, I would like to make some recommendations:  paint ball guns can be used effectively in riot control. Police can “paint” the rioters with permanent dye or skunk oil (or both).  The dye helps identify who attended the riot and the skunk oil helps the rioters decide if they want to come back the following night.  A word of caution, skunk oil will cause the riot area to stink for months, as anyone would know who has driven a country road.

Covid 19 and Animal Sheltering

Animal shelter personnel have always had to face the danger of passing diseases throughout their shelter.  We know that the most likely transmission of diseases between animals is through human contact.  The worst offenders are our staff and volunteers.  Some of our staff are just predisposed to kissing each animal that they come into contact with.  During the Covid 19 outbreak, this practice has to stop.

We need to remind staff that their duty is to care for the an animal until the animal’s owner comes forward to reclaim the animal.  It would be horrible to find out that shelter staff is the cause of spreading the Covid 19 virus from them, to the animal, and then to the animal’s owners.

Once an animal is made available for adoption, the risk of infection becomes greater in that multiple people will come into contact with the animal as it is presented for adoption.

As we have always concerned ourselves with the spread of disease within our animal shelter, we must now take further measure to in sure that we don’t let our guard down in spreading disease outside our shelter.

Anger

I’ve noticed that the world has become an angrier place. We see people getting in fights over the most insignificant things.   Fights in fast food lines.  Fights over the wearing of face masks.  Fights over encroachment of one’s personal space.

We are entering a new anger phase in which gun sales are increasing. Some communities are reporting a shortage of bullets.   

It should come as no surprise that guns and anger don’t mix.; and yet, we are seeing an increase of violence in our larger cities. This demonstrates the biggest problem with our 2nd Amendment, it allows for the purchase of guns by crazy people. The percentage of crazy people are increasing. You can spot them on the news every evening.

More guns, More crazy people. Defund the police. We have become a society of idiots. The purpose of this rant is that it is becoming more and more dangerous dealing with pet owners. If you have followed along, for any length of time, in reading this blog, you know that I have mentioned that ours is a very volatile profession. And now, you will be interacting with people who have developed shorter fuses and may be armed.

The best part of being an anima control officer is being able to back away from a situation that is starting to get out of control. Since most animal control officers are not armed, backing away is a good strategy. Due to police shortages, you may be out in the field without police backup. Talk to your police department to make clear when and where they will pull your bacon out of the fire.

More than ever, you must me aware of your surroundings. You need to read the situation and accept the situation when the person clearly isn’t going to listen to you. If you find yourself in a fight, you have failed.

So, everyone fails once in a while, so as you are watching your surroundings, you should always be looking for tools to  help you get out of the situation. Never stand where you become boxed in and become acquainted with the tools that you carry. Tools that you carry to protect your from dogs can be effective on people; but, please don’t use my name when you are talking to the media about putting a catchpole on a person. However, the catchpole, clipboard and cans of Halt might aid you in getting back into your truck. Don’t just sit in the truck, drive a few blocks away to put distance between you and the angry person.

Animal Welfare is a wonderful profession, but it requires that you be constantly aware of your surroundings. Be safe out there.

The Impact on Animal Welfare in Defunding Police Departments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Gainesville Florida

A few days ago, I wrote about an incident dealing with a pedophile employee.  Given our profession of dealing with children, we need to keep a constant vigilence.

While working in Gainesville Florida one of my volunteers began sending  scathing letters to the City Council about an incident involving the adoption of a puppy.  You know the type of incident in which all of your employees and volunteers begin fighting over a new puppy that has come in the shelter.  Many shelters opt to deny first adoption rights to staff and volunteers for such scenes that they make.  Anyway, the guy thought that he could force the adoption if he took his case to the City Council.  The guy wasn’t smart enough to realize that we were a county operation and he should have been sending his letters to the County Commission.

The guy was saying such horrible things about me that I decided to check him out.  It didn’t take long for me to discover that the guy was on the State’s sexual preditor website.  I found it funny that given such a designation, that I would want to keep a very low profile.  It is amazing as to how you can destroy a person’s credibility by mentioning that fact.

He turned his energy towards creating a website.  He did an effective job of superimposing my image into a natzy uniform.  Clearly he had spent a lot of time on the website.  Maybe it was therapy for him.  I could accept the anger that he had directed at me, but I got upset over him going after my staff.  I contacted the company that was providing him the free web-space and asked them how much they vetted the folks using their site.  I explained that his triage was unfairly directed to my staff.  My mind is a little fuzzy at this point, it may have slipped out that they may not want to be known as having a sex offender using their website.  The website was shutdown within days.

I’m not a vindictive person and I have often wondered if I was righteous in approaching the volunteer that he started dating.  She was young and had a couple of young children; I have a strong protective streak.  Clearly, he had not shared that part of his life with her.  As with most sex offenders, she would have seen the large sign in his front yard.  She directed her anger at me, but I think that she was embarrassed that she had exposed her children to this guy without properly vetting him.

In our business we are not just dealing with animals, we are dealing with people.  Animal people are very caring and that makes them vulnerable in today’s world.  You have to ask yourself as to how you would handle the situation; just as I have to keep asking myself if I did the right thing.

To give you a clearer picture of the world that we live in, Google the sex offender registry of your city.  You will be amazed as to the seriousness of our plight to protect our community’s children.  Whatever the reason that earns a person’s profile on the registry, it is clear that they’ll be on that list for life.  That speaks to the concern of our judicial system to keep us safe.

But, the highlight of the Gainesville experience was a long running grant that had been awarded to the animal rescues in our community from Maddie’s Fund.  For the most part, Maddie’s Fund had given up on funding community projects because animal groups just can’t seem to work together.  They were experiencing failure after failure because animal welfare groups could not comply with the first rule of the grant: to play well together.

In Gainesville, the rescue community stepped over our large egos and joined together to form a coalition to save as many animals as possible.  Due to our success, Maddie’s Fund extended our grand several times.  We became a poster project that they could wave as a success, when they were facing so many failures with working with animal shelters.

Due to their unsuccessful experience working with animal shelters, Maddie’s Fund went off in wild directions providing grants that less impacted on community populations.  As a profession, we fail them and our communities.

Gainesville was one of the few communities that could enjoy the presence of a local veterinary college.  Veterinary colleges became a solid source of grant funding when Maddie’s fund gave up hope working with animal shelters.  One of the interesting thing about college projects, there is always a bias toward a specific area of interest; for the University of Florida, the interest was in cats.  If you every ask for a shelter assessment from a national organization or a college, look for the bias of their investigators.  Understanding their bias will help you make better sense of their assessment.

The University had developed a Shelter Medicine tract, thanks to Maddie’s Fund and we had weekly visits by veterinary students walking the halls of our shelter.  As with all of our rescue partners, we had a good relationship with the University.

Gainesville also set the stage for one of the largest hoarding cases in the United States in which we were force to seize nearly 700 cats from a local sanctuary.  As with most hoarding cases, it was a good idea that ended horribly bad.  As with all hoarding cases, the caretakes couldn’t turn off the “off button” on animal intakes.  The Humane Society of the United States was our key partner, but we were assisted by the ASPCA with veterinarians and American Humane with volunteers.  One of the key problems that we faced in handing this case, we discovered that working with a single veterinarian allows the veterinarian to make tough decisions; when you add one or two more, the committee approach to veterinary care becomes extremely expensive.  Fortunately the Humane Society of the United States help defray those costs.

We spend a lot of time matching up feral cats that had been brought into the sanctuary when a nearby jurisdiction thought they had found a solution to their feral cat problem by dumping the animals into another community.  In the animal welfare business, we are good at dumping our problems in other communities; especially when it come to dangerous dogs.  How many times have you heard a judge using old west justice by ordering an animal to get out of town?  No thought given to the new town that just gained a dangerous problem.

Having the Right Tools

Being an animal control officer is much easier than being a police officer; I’ve always been able to predict the behavior of an animal, but I am still trying to figure out people.  Given the tools that are available to animals (teeth and claws), it is necessary for animal welfare workers to have the right tools.

Muzzles:  as I have mentioned previously, if you need a muzzle for a cat, you have already lost the battle.  However, muzzles are effective tools for potentially aggressive dogs.  It is important that if you see the need to put a muzzle on a dog, that you use the right size.  A muzzle is useless if it doesn’t stay on the dog.

Catchpoles:  a catchpole is for the safety of an individual.  Anyone who has used a catchpole knows that it can be a public relations nightmare.  Many dogs have never been on leash, so you can imagine how they will respond to a pole.  Using a catchpole on a cat is much like using a muzzle; it is always hard to watch.  It is too easy to harm a cat, so make sure that you catch one of the front legs; otherwise, consider using a net.  Catchpoles are one of those tools that you should ALWAY carry away from your vehicle.  I walked up on a Rottweiler with only a leash and quickly discovered how stupid that was.

Pepper spray:  pepper spray is extremely important to carry if you are stupid enough to get out of your vehicle without a catchpole.  On a side note, the owner of the Rottweiler filed a complaint against me for using pepper spray on her dog, she should have file a stupidity complaint against me.  I had the right tools but didn’t have them immediately available.  Fortunately for me, the sergeant investigating the incident was attacked by the dog and was nearly shot.  I received no disciplinary action other than the verbal abuse I received from myself.

Nets:  nets make me think dogcatcher.  I hate using nets on poles.  My officers use giant nets in Atlanta.  I hated them, but I saw that they were very good at using them and the animals were safe… I overlooked my objections.  Nets are really the only way to catch and control aggressive cats.  The problem is getting a cat out of net and into a carrier.  I have found most gloves insufficient for handling cats.  It is also very hard to find an experienced person willing to test a new set of gloves on a cat.

Metal clipboards:  other than a brick wall, there is no better protection to keep from getting bit than a sturdy clipboard when by an aggressive dog at the owner’s front door.  When the dog rushes out the door, the clipboard is what you feed it.  You use it as a shield.  You continue feeding it until you can back away and get into your vehicle.  I’ve rarely found the owner willing or able to control their pet during one of these incidents.   If two dogs come rushing out at you, you pepper spray both and hope that the spray stops one of them.  The clipboard may be your only protection at the door, so make sure you spend the extra money to get a metal one.

Snake tongs:  I hate snakes.  The first tools I purchased when I started work as an animal control officer was a snake tong and snake hook, even though I had never encountered them in my work.  No sooner did I have the new tools in my vehicle that I got my first snake call.  So, be careful what you order.

Gloves: one of the most useful tool that I ever had was a Neptune Glove.  You probably have never hear about them because I may have been the only one who ever bought one.  It looked like an attack sleeve used in training police and military dogs, but had an additional covering of chainmail on the outside of the glove.  Although the glove was expensive, it paid for itself the night that I got called out to remove a badger from the truck of a car (long story).  Chainmail is used on smaller gloves for people working with knives.  There are gloves rated for animals, but I have never gotten anyone to test them on a feral cat.

Flashlights:  when working at night, remember that it takes two hands to work a catchpole, so make sure you get a light that you affix to your head or pole.

Duct tape and cable ties:  I can’t think of any use for duct tape while working, but it is still a useful tool.  Maybe you can tape your flashlight to your catchpole.  In a disaster, duct tape usually fixes anything… like an emergency repair to a animal carrier that lost half of its screws.  Which reminds me that cable ties are handy when you’ve lost all of your carrier screws.

CO2 fire extinguisher:  This is one of the most effective tools in breaking up dogfights.  The extinguisher provides a momentary shock to the dogs that will hopefully break up the dogfight… once administered, it is important to quickly move in with leashes or catchpoles.

The most important tool is the one you decide you need when you don’t have it; so, in each situation, think about what tools would make your job easier (safer).

Video Catch-Pole

During my career overseeing animal rescues, I have encountered situations in which new inventions were necessary.  Below is a link to an invention that I crated to retrieve animals that fallen down holes that were beyond the reach of our longest catch-poles.

Video Catch-pole

Hurricane Preparation

It is the day after the hurricane made landfall and the media is reporting that  hurricane victims are complaining that FEMA has failed to knock on their doors with food and water.  Two events are at play: the first is that the people had the opportunity to evacuate and failed to do so and second, they choose to shelter-in-place without preparation.

Why would a person weather out a storm and not be prepared?  Have we become so foolish to believe that no matter what life mistakes that we make, someone will be there to fix them for us.  And if FEMA doesn’t show up to fix our mistakes, we immediately run to the media.

No matter how prepared FEMA is for a storm, if you are going to sit out a storm, you need to be prepared to care for yourself (and your pets) for a week.  It is the commonsense portion of your disaster plan… you know, the plan that you should have made before the storm…. before running to the media.

We have become a society of victims.  We are too shortsighted to recognize that we become victims of our own foolishness.