Determining Adoption Fees

Most shelters have a price list for charging fees for the animals that they routinely adopt from their shelter; but, on a rare occasion, an animal come into the shelter that isn’t on the fee schedule. Usually, the animal is an exotic bird or reptile.

Over the years, I discovered that the easiest way to determine the fee to adopt an animal is one-half of the market value. When you are ready to adopt the animals, you call three local suppliers that sell the animal and then charge one-half of the average of those three vendors.

The problem that you face is that pet stores are disappearing and getting three estimates is becoming harder. Fortunately, you have the internet to help you determine the fee. Keep in mind that other factors enter in as to the health or condition of the animal that will decrease the animal’s fee. If the prospective adopter is going to face large veterinary fees, you might consider decreasing the fee to allow for the cost of owning the animal.

When it comes to exotic animals, you need to consider the skill that is necessary to care for the animal. You should not adopt to anyone who comes into the shelter on a whim to adopt an exotic animal; and, of course, you should not adopt wild or venomous species AT ALL.

The Joy of Fostering

I came across an old photo of my wife playing with a litter of foster puppies. The photo reminded me of one of the joyful hazards of working in an animal shelter. I was a sucker for taking foster animals home. Based on the number of photos that I found, I am reminded of the large part they played in my life.

The animals are the reason that many of us get into the animal welfare profession, but our contact with people seems to overshadow that during shelter hours. It was so nice to come home to my foster children.

It is too easy to get caught up with the “work” of animal welfare, but by living as a foster family, you never forget why you are doing what you are doing. If you ever get overwhelmed, find an animal to cuddle with.

Volatile World

Even on a good day, the animal welfare profession is volatile. I’ve seen videos of animal control officers having a dog sicced on them as they approached the front steps. In another incident, an officer spoke with the owner, on his front porch, concerning an issue with his dog and he calmly walked back into his house and blew his brains out. Those were issues from years ago. People today have much shorter fuses.

Portland Oregon is a good example that people have been raging for such a long time that they don’t know how to stop. The greatest worry that we have as animal control officers is looking like a police officer. Police officer are being shot just for doing their jobs.

I’ve always said, “People are looking for an opportunity to express their rage.” That is truer than ever before. It has become increasingly more important for our employees who work with the public to avoid alterations. Today, minor altercations seem to lead to violent attacks. Be aware of the tools you have available to you to protect yourself. If you don’t carry pepper spray, now is a good time to start. You are likely to get into less trouble by using pepper spray than using your catchpole to protect yourself from another person.

If you don’t feel right about a situation, always keep in mind that you can walk away.

Detroit Dog Attack

Recently a four-year-old was attacked in Detroit. There is nothing new about this attack, we see articles about dog attacks every week.  What is interesting is the wordsmithing calling the dog a mastiff shepherd.  Is this someone’s attempt at avoiding the term Pitbull mix?  As of this writing, no owner has come forward.  

Also interesting is Detroit’s Animal Control pronouncement of reducing the number of dog bites from  400 to 200.  This going to be extremely difficult because we are coming out of the Pandemic in which children have been isolated for a year.  Many of us are coming out of locked doors to enjoy the fresh air.  There is something about playing children and loose dogs that don’t mix.  

During the Pandemic, we were so focused on mask-wearing that pet owners did not take this opportunity to discover the art of responsible pet ownership.  The best way to bring about a reduction in dog bites is to put more officers on the streets to round up stray dogs.  I don’t know how this is going to play out when we have entered an era of defunding the police.  Many people will see the need to take up firearms to protect themselves, but, let’s face it, an inexperienced gun owner is more likely to hit the child than the dog.  And shooting a dog that is loose seems excessive.

I don’t know what prompted Detroit Animal Control to announce efforts to reduce dog bites.  Isn’t that something that they should have been doing all along?  Was this announcement just a response to the media when asked what they are doing to keep children safe?  We all know that the only way to keep children safe from dogs is for the dog to have a responsible owner.  Unfortunately, dog owners are not moving quickly towards this end.  Whatever Detroit’s plan, I wish them every success.

Creating Your Own Hazmat Kit

It is not uncommon in our profession to be called upon to enter a house that presents environmental concerns. After visiting your first house, you will quickly decide that you need to prepare for your next.

Your first consideration is clothing. You will want disposable coveralls, shoe covers, and gloves. Most homes that will require your hazmat kit will be rich in fecal matter. You’ll want to get as little of that on your clothing as possible.

You may be going into a methane/ammonia-rich environment and a facemask will become necessary. You’ll need to decide if you want a full facemask that covers your entire face or a half mask that just covers your mouth and nose. It is important that you get the right size mask. You’ll want the methane/ammonia cartridge on your mask. If you find it hard breathing with a facemask, you can opt for a forced air respirator that takes the burden off of your lungs when trying to suck air through your cartridge filter.

You might consider purchasing a methane detector. The detector can give you the probable cause to enter the house and proved the health department the ability to condemn it. Some of the most successful operations I have experienced are working with my local law enforcement and health department. It doesn’t hurt to have your fire department’s hazmat team available. Although, I have been at locations where the hazmat teams refused to enter the home.

The most important item that you’ll want to have is flea spray when you exit the home. You may want flea spray as a regular item in all of your animal control trucks. Maybe two or three cans. You’ll be glad that you did.

Don’t forget the Duct Tape for taping the wrists and ankles of your overalls. And keep garbage bags available so that you have a way to dispose of your disposable garments when you are finished.

Each incident that you become involved with will aid you in deciding what items need to be added to your hazmat kit. The key to your kit is to keep you safe.

Use of Force

One of the worst things for the public to see is the use of a catchpole on a dog that has never been on a leash. Even the most experienced Animal Control Officer will receive criticism on a perfect capture.

One of the animal trainers from another humane society complained to me about the excessive force used by one of our Animal Attendants. As things usually go, the complaint found its way to our Executive Committee. Fortunately for us, we had cameras throughout the facility that allowed us to show the incident for all to critic.

This incident showed that the animal trainer was looking for an excuse to criticize our organization. Although the criticism was unfounded, we still had to ask ourselves if it is necessary for that particular animal to be walked on a catchpole, rather than a leash.

The decision to use a catchpole is dependant on the person’s experience and training, as well as the potential behavior of the animal. Although I hate seeing animals on catchpoles, I know that animals can be unpredictable and the safety of my staff comes first.

When you decide to use a catchpole, you should always be alert to the amount of pressure of the noose. Nothing will freak out an animal more than being choked. The noose should be only sufficiently tight enough to prevent the animal’s escape. If an animal begins fighting at the other end of your catchpole, you should not fight the animals, but rather use the animal’s movements to herd the animal to your truck. Once at your truck, position the animal muzzle away from you so that with your free hand you can lift the animal up into your truck. At this point, the catchpole is to be used to safely position the dog to prevent you from being bitten.

It is generally never a good idea to attempt to use a catchpole on a cat; however, sometimes you might be faced without the proper equipment. Always try to place the noose around the neck and one leg. Attempt to keep the cat on the ground until you can scoot a carrier or place a net to further secure the cat.

We live in a world of cell phones. If you think that your capture is going to look bad, call for additional help. Having additional assistance will aid you in a humane capture. After each capture, critic yourself. Each capture will help you decide if you are properly equipped to handle your next capture.

You have to ask…

Several years ago I wrote about the five freedoms that we try to provide the animals in our care; these freedoms provided the minimum standard of care that we should provide.

Recently we are seeing photographs of the conditions in which immigrants are being forced to live in.  Although this is an animal welfare blog, humans are animals too.  There is a reason that President Biden doesn’t allow the media in to see the conditions these people are living in.  It reminds me of how an animal shelter looks every morning before staff has started cleaning.  We too, prefer to have the media come in after we’ve cleaned.

Whether our President accepts his responsibility or not, he invited these people to come to our country and failed to prepare for their arrival.  He can blame this on the previous President all he wants, but this is HIS CRISIS!

When you have to call in FEMA, you know that you have a disaster on your hands.  When you have to bring in volunteers to provide support for FEMA, then you are in real trouble.  It seems that everyone, except the President, is coming to terms recognizing the problem that we face.

Without getting all political, I believe that we should minimally provide these arriving immigrants with the same care that we provide our shelter animals or send them home; in the shelter business, we call that limited admissions.

Reoccurring Theme with Dog Bite Incidents

A recent incident of dogs attacking and killing a New Jersey child causes me dismay as the dogs’ owner failed to heed previous warnings about the danger his dogs presented to the community.  These cases continue to arise because pet owners are not held accountable for their dog’s actions and as such are not properly charged with reckless endangerment or homicide.  Prosecutors need to understand that simply having the animals euthanized is insufficient justice.  The animals had to pay the price for bad owners; now the owners need to feel the hand of justice for the terror they unleash upon their community.

Who Do You Serve?

One of the greatest challenges that you’ll face is the constant question as to who do you serve?  Many people getting into the animal welfare profession will tell you that they are “here for the animals.”  That is a noble cause, but are animals all that you serve?

When you start your job, you are going to find competing demands as to who you serve.  You’ll have to have some loyalty to the bureaucrats who hired you, after all that in addition to the salary that they pay you, they control the purse stings for your organization.  You will find it critical to your cause to quickly respond to commission or council members.  Having friendly folks on your commission/council will be advantageous at  budget time.  I had a County Manager in Florida who wanted to drastically cut our budget; fortunately we have several “friends” on the Commission who stopped him and in the end our budget was increased.

Do not forget that you have your community to serve.  Don’t worry, there will be plenty of them to remind you that they pay your salary.  No matter how demanding that they can become, they are your primary responsibility.  Every thing that we do much insure the safety of your community.

Your volunteers may expect that they become your primary focus.  In Virginia we had volunteers that wanted to “drive the boat.”  They wanted animals to supersede our mission to keep our community safe.  They were very vocal  in our community.  In previous posts, you will see that this was a problem for many shelters in Virginia.  Too many shelters gave in to the forces that wanted them to adopt potentially dangerous dogs.  Many of them later faced lawsuits for failing in their duties to protect the public.

Above all else, you have to serve yourself.  You have to protect your personal and professional integrity and that of your organization.  I got into a lot of hot water with my Board because they didn’t like condescension caused by volunteers not getting their way.  Sometimes even your Board of Directors forget who they are supposed to serve.  You must be willing to risk your job in order to keep your community safe.

The most important factor in your career is to constantly maintain the balance to those who you serve.  “Be true to thy own self.”

What is in a Name?

As a result of the Movement to Defund the Police, Police Departments are facing the same issue that Animal Control organizations have faced for years.  For some reason,  Community leaders think that an organization’s name is everything.  Animal Control Officers have faced the gambit of Pound, to Animal Control, to Animal Services, to Animal Care and Protective Services.  The fact is that changing a name does little.  If you want to see more community support, you need to fund the organization sufficiently to allow it to do their job.

Police Departments are undergoing name changes to Department of Public Services.  To me, a “public service” includes trash pickup.  The purpose of Defunding the Police movement is to stop officers from arresting people.  The fewer people arrested of minor crimes will reduce the number of minorities going to jail.  If a community is serious about wanting every community to be treated the same, then the solution is to fund racial sensitivity training to encourage our officers to see into the mind of the minorities that they come in contact with.  I am not talking about the idiotic training that claims that there is something wrong with people born white.  Racial equality is not reached by suppressing whites.  Racial equality is to show the community that everyone is treated the same.  It should  also show that when arrested, that people should act the same.  If you act like a butthead when you are arrested, you should not expect the same treatment as someone how respects the officer arresting you.

Changing the name of an organization will do nothing.   It takes the proper funding and attention to an organization to facilitate change.  It should not restrict an officer from applying the sufficient force to keep from getting hurt, or doing their jobs.  The best thing that a community can give to their employees is to provide them the necessary training to do their jobs correctly.  Unfortunately, during budget cuts, employee training is the first to go.