Opposing Force

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IMG_0955The Maryland Animal Shelter Standards Act, filed as HB 494, is the most comprehensive animal shelter reform bill in the
history of Maryland. It is a truly bipartisan effort that will save countless animal lives, bring about greater transparency and accountability in taxpayer-funded shelters throughout the state. HB494 will end convenience killing, including making it illegal for shelters to kill animals when rescue groups are willing to save them. Similar laws in other states save nearly 50,000 animals a year, have reduced killing statewide by 78%, have led to save rates of 94% and higher, and have cut millions of dollars in wasteful spending.

The Maryland Animal Shelter Standards Act will help lost and homeless pets to find homes, require commitment to a sound care protocol to guarantee compassionate care for the animals, mandate thorough intake procedure, create Transparency and Accountability.

The question is, why would a national animal welfare organizations like the ASPCA, a state wide organization like PAWS (Professional Animal Shelter Workers of Maryland), Harford County Humane Society, BARCS in Baltimore, Talbot County Humane Society and some other organizations oppose life saving measures? Simply said, this organizations are against ending convenience killing, against compassionate care for animals, against transparency, against accountability. Just recently the above mentioned groups made the following suggestion to be added to HB494:

I would recommend adding a requirement within this bill where shelters must tell the owner that the animal will be euthanized at the time of intake.

This is a very disturbing statement coming from a organization claiming to have the best interest of the animals in mind. How is it in the best interest of a animal to be killed?

The main problem with animal shelters in Maryland is that there is absolutely no oversight and there are no state regulations. Basically animal shelters in Maryland can operate any way they want. Last year, the Maryland Dog Federation has sent PIA (Maryland Public Information Act) requests to all animal shelters in the State of Maryland, requesting shelter intake and outcome data. Several animal shelters did not answer at all to the PIA requests. One of them was the Talbot County Humane Society, one of the main opponents to HB494.

It also should be noted that a member of the PAWS organization made 2 intimidating phone calls to the place of employment of one of the co-authors of HB494. This sure gives the term “Professional” a whole new meaning.

Is it really that difficult and complicated to implement HB494 in a animal shelter? No, not at all. As example, the Allegany County Animal Shelter exceeds the requirements of HB494 for about 5 years now. The Allegany County Animal Shelter, located in the poorest County of the State, is the first and only open admission No Kill shelter in the State of Maryland. The story of the Allegany County Animal Shelter has been captured in a Documentary in 2013 and maybe some of the answers can be found there:

Life Is Hope

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The number one cause of death for companion animals in the US is the animal shelter. Every single day more than 6000 companion animals are being needlessly killed by people that are suppose to protect them and care for them.

Tragically, in the U.S. today, we have a system of facilities where animals are routinely neglected and abused, places where the normal rules of compassion and decency toward animals to which the vast majority of people subscribe simply do not apply. And most ironic of all, given that we are told that these facilities protect animals from our own neglect and abuse, is that this system of death camps is defended and celebrated by the nation’s largest animal “protection” organizations: HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA. These organizations tell us that the killing is not the fault of the people in shelters who are actually doing the killing. But it is their fault. They are the ones who do it. It is right in their job description. They signed up for it. And that is not what kind hearted animal lovers do. And because kind hearted animal lovers won’t do it, they don’t work in these agencies. Or if they do, they don’t last.

 

To man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime.”


Romain Rolland, Nobel Prize 1915

 

While this quote was written in 1915, in many communities across the country it still holds true almost 100 years later. Luckily, the landscape of animal welfare has dramatically changed in the last 15 years and hundreds of communities across the country have implemented life saving measures for companion animals in animal shelters. Communities raised up to protect and care for companion animals in “their” community, creating a safe heaven for lost or unwanted pets.

Community members introduce Legislation, like CAPA (Companion Animal Protection Act), to make sure that companion animals are protected and cared for instead of being taken to the kill room and needlessly killed.

To learn more about how to get involved in changing YOUR community to a true animal welfare community that values life, visit the following websites:

http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org

http://www.nokilllearning.com

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The 800lb Gorilla in Maryland

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Yesterday, the Maryland Department of Agriculture announced the recipients of the spay& neuter grant:

The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) – through its new statewide Spay and Neuter Grant Program – is awarding nearly $475,000 in grants to 14 nonprofit and governmental organizations across the state to provide low-cost spay and neuter services targeted to low income pet owners. A total of 51 applications, requesting more than $1.8 million were received.

From the Maryland Department of Agriculture:

This exciting program is designed to reduce the number of unwanted cats and dogs euthanized in shelters across the state.

How was the money distributed? 14 organisations in Maryland received grant money for spay & neuter efforts. From this 14 organisations:

5 Organisations are in the Baltimore area, receiving a total of $158,615

4 Organisations are in Prince Georges County, receiving a total of $163,062

Leaving just $153,323 for the rest of Maryland.

It needs to be noted that Prince Georges County has a Breed Specific Legislation in place that will kill any Pit Bull type dog by default.

The organisation Maryland Votes for Animals as well as the HSUS are the main parties behind the law that made the spay & neuter grant possible. Both organisations are hailing the grant program as a way to reduce shelter intake and shelter killing in the State of Maryland.

Studies have shown that spay & neuter alone does not reduce shelter intake or shelter euthanasia. As example, Dr. Ellen Jefferson from Austin, TX pointed out in her study “Using data to make Austin a No Kill City” that altering 60,000 animals in Austin between 1999 and 2008 did not lower shelter intake or shelter euthanasia in Austin, TX.

The real issue with the spay & neuter grant in Maryland, and the 800lb Gorilla, is the fact that it does not address or help the animals that are mostly being killed in Maryland’s so called animal shelters: stray and feral cats. It is specifically mentioned in the grant that the money can not be used for TNR efforts which of course leaves the doors wide open to continue the mass killing of stray and feral cats.

Way to go, MVFA and HSUS. The stray and feral cats thank you for your efforts.

Shelter Stories: Mikey

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Here at the Allegany County Animal Shelter in Cumberland, MD we are proud of what we are doing. We believe that every animal entering the shelter deserves a chance of a new life. Most animals we take in are being adopted out in to loving homes rather quickly. Every now and then however, for reasons we don’t really understand, animals are staying at our shelter a little bit longer. So did, as example, Mikey who was with us for 2.5 years. For some reason he always was overlooked by potential adopters, was too big, too strong, one of “those dogs”, too dangerous and many other things. Dogs like Mikey, who are with us for a longer period of time, receive special attention through individualized kennel enrichment and socialization tailored to the individual dog. On October 18th, we had our largest Adoption event of the year, “Barktoberfest” Downtown Cumberland, MD. About 2 month prior to the event, I started preparing Mikey for that special event. My goal was to make it special for him and my idea was to use him as a camera dog, wearing a GoPro Camera on his back:

Mikey6In the morning of October 18th, Mikey and I went in to the Truck and we drove Downtown. We both were nervous but after about 30 minutes we became comfortable with the unusual situation and the fun started:

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Mikey met a lot of people and a lot of other dogs, just being himself like he had always done that. Then, Mikey caught the attention of two young Ladies who really seem to love him. Some pictures were taken, phone calls were made and then……Mikey was adopted. A last hug and good bye to Mikey: Mikey4 Mikey went home with a wonderful family and now is living a wonderful and well deserved life: Mikey10 There is so much to learn from Mikey’s story which is why I wanted to share his story. Mikey’s story also is my story and our story. It is who and what we are: The Shelter of Hope

In Memoriam: Dr. Sophia Yin

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Widely popular California veterinarian and behaviorist Sophia Yin tragically committed suicide on Sunday.  From her obituary in the Sac Bee:

Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and internationally recognized pioneer in the field of animal behavior as it relates to training pets, died Sept. 28 of suicide at her Davis home, according to the Yolo County coroner’s office. She was 48.
[…]
Dr. Yin taught animal owners and trainers to reward animals for positive behaviors as they occur and to remove rewards for bad behavior. In addition, she developed and promoted “low-stress handling” techniques for treating and working with animals in veterinary clinics, zoos, shelters, groomers and other care settings.

It’s not uncommon for caretakers to put the emotional well being of others, including animals, first. But you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. It’s not bad to put your needs first

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Understanding No Kill in Allegany County and beyond

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The Truthiness of Animal Welfare in Allegany County

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10628013_681724345226238_1519685440934874543_nI walked for the first time in to the Allegany County Animal Shelter by the end of 2010. There were about 15 dogs sitting in kennels in the first kennel room and in another room a handful of cats. The majority of the dog kennels was empty and so was the second kennel room located in the back. I already knew, before I even entered the shelter, that many animals were killed on a daily basis. However, hearing this and then actually seeing the results of the daily mass killing was a haunting experience. As I walked through the shelter I also entered a small room in the back of the shelter. The room contained nothing but a large silver metal table in the middle and a collection of ropes and muzzles. It was the kill room. A second door was leading me outside, where a large walk-in Freezer was located. I opened the door. The freezer was filled with large black garbage bags, containing the dead bodies of dogs and cats that had been surrendered to the shelter or picked up by animal control as a stray animal.

Until then, the shelter killed more than 85% of all the animals they took in. Often owner surrendered animals were directly dragged from the front lobby to the kill room, injected with sodium pentobarbital and then discarded like garbage in the walk-in freezer.

The practice of the mass killing in the Allegany County Animal Shelter was largely supported by the local animal welfare and rescue community which also was heavily involved in the Animal Shelter Control Board to oversee shelter operations. Of course, this very same people were and still are very vocal against our No Kill efforts in Allegany County. In the almost 4 years of being the only Open Admission No Kill Shelter in the State of Maryland, the Allegany County Animal Shelter saved roughly 6000 animals resulting in a constant live release rate of 94% and higher.

The Allegany County Animal Shelter is not perfect, mistakes are being made and the failure of Animal Control to respond in a timely manner was partially the reason for the death of 9 dogs. I talked about our failure on Animal Wise Radio, a nation wide broadcasted radio show and also in a open letter to the Allegany County community.

In yesterdays Animal Shelter Control Board meeting, the animal welfare voices from the past of course came forward again trying to derail our No Kill efforts and to re-establish the killing of healthy and treatable companion animals.

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Killing is the ultimate form of violence. While cruelty and suffering are abhorrent, while cruelty and suffering are painful, while cruelty and suffering should be condemned and rooted out, there is nothing worse than death, because death is final. An animal subjected to pain and suffering can be rescued. An animal subjected to savage cruelty can even become a therapy dog, bringing comfort to cancer patients, as the dog fighting case against football player Michael Vick shows. There is still hope, but death is hope’s total antithesis. It is the eclipse of hope because the animals never wake up, ever. It is the worst of the worst—a fact each and every one of us would recognize if we were the ones being threatened with death.

During the meeting, even references to PETA were made. It is hard to believe that anybody wants the advice or even support from a group like PETA. PETA believes animals should be killed, even if they are not suffering. In the last 11 years, PETA has killed 29,426 animals, including those they themselves have called “healthy,” “adoptable,” “adorable,” and “perfect” and even after promising that they would find the animals a home. They do not have adoption hours, they do not have an adoption floor, they do not market their animals, and most are killed within 24 hours. They have called for the automatic killing of all dogs who look like “pit bulls” in shelters. They have called for the round up and killing of even healthy feral cats. They have defended poorly performing and even violently abusive shelters. And they fight shelter reform legislation to mandate the common sense programs of the No Kill Equation, such as TNR and rescue rights. Whatever methods PETA uses to justify shelter killing should be approached with the understanding that PETA is motivated by a very different set of priorities than the vast majority of people, and a set of priorities that are in fact the opposite of that which is generally ascribed to them given their name and reputation. Although they try to obscure their true agenda by working to convince their supporters and animal lovers that they believe killing is a regrettable necessity, in truth, their more candid statements and most significantly, their actions, reveal that those who work at PETA believe that life is suffering, the living want to die and killing them is, as Ingrid Newkirk herself stated, a “gift.”  

Is that really what the majority of people in Allegany County would like to see happen? I don’t think so. I believe in people and I believe people love animals.  

The Allegany County Animal Shelter is work in progress and always will be. Improvements are being made to ensure care and safety for the animals and the public.

Nobody is satisfied with failure. I’m not.  

 

Allegany County Animal Control Changes

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Changes for Animal Control of Allegany County are underway after the death of 9 dogs on McGill Dr. in BelAair. Becky McClarran, President of the Allegany County Animal Shelter Management Foundation, informed yesterday (8/21/14) the County Commissioners and the public about the immediate changes that already have taken place and changes that are still pending and being worked on to guarantee a better follow up on calls and reports from the public:

  •  dedicated phone line with separate phone number for Animal Control
  • administrative assistant for Animal Control to answer phone calls and dispatch Animal Control
  • daily management review of Animal Control phone log to make sure all issues have been addressed the same day.
  • Introduction of a new mapping system as it is used by Emergency Services to keep better track of complaints.

This are the immediate steps that have been taken by the Allegany County Animal Shelter to serve the public better and faster. Further changes are pending due to on-going review of Animal Control operations.

Also see previous Blog

Open Letter to the Allegany County Community

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8/18/2014

Dear Community of Allegany County,

the community of Allegany County always played a important role in the change and the success of the Allegany County Animal Shelter. I can not say enough how much I thank the community for all the support we received over the last 3 ½ years.

The events from last week at the McGill Drive have affected me personally. I have worked very hard over the last 3 ½ years to bring the shelter out of the dark. My sweat, my blood, my tears and my heart is in that shelter, every day and every night, every week, every month and every year. There is no excuse for my and our failure. We failed to respond to the calls and safe the dogs. It is a tragedy that I take very personal. I’m embarrassed and devastated, I’m sad and I’m angry all at the same time that I let the community down and that the 9 dogs are dead. I have carried the bags with the dead dogs out of the house. It was my darkest most terrible hour in the last 3 ½ years. I wish I could turn back time and undo what happened but I can’t. It just is not possible.

I apologize to you, the community of Allegany County, for my failure. I’m sorry that I let this happen. I’m sorry that I failed the 9 dogs and I’m sorry that I failed you, the community who always supported me over the last 3 ½ years. I fully understand if you are angry at me. I would feel the same way.

From here on out, I have to work even harder and become even better so that this will never happen again. I can not allow that this will ever happen again.

I’m so sorry that I failed you.

Peter Masloch

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The story as it was reported in the Cumberland Times News:

http://www.times-news.com/news/article_2e673860-2418-11e4-94b1-00

 

My Interview on Animal Wise Radio:

 

 

 

Interview with Douglas Anthony Cooper

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dac4Douglas Anthony Cooper has written bestselling novels, and recently wrote a series of articles highly critical of PETA and in support of the national No Kill movement.
This work, “PETA’s Death Cult,” appeared in the Huffington Post, and was a finalist for the Canadian Online Publishing Awards, in the category of “Best Online-Only Article or Series of Articles.”
Douglas Anthony Cooper has also written for various magazines and newspapers, including Wired, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone. He won a National Magazine Award in Canada for a travel essay in Saturday Night. A piece in Travel + Leisure won the Lowell Thomas Gold Medal from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation in 2004, and was collected in The Best American Travel Writing 2004.
In his newest project, Douglas Anthony Cooper is working on a Seuss-like picture book that is suited for children as well as for adults. It is about the life and adventures of “Galunker”, a Pit Bull type dog.
His partner on this is Dula Yavne, a fabulous illustrator from Tel Aviv, whose work has been shown around the world.

No Kill Alegany County (NKAC):  How and why did you get involved in animal welfare and the No Kill movement?

Douglas Anthony Cooper (DAC): Well, it started when I fell in love with dogs. I was always keen on animals, but not really obsessed with dogs until my girlfriend insisted that we get one — and now we have four. A friend alerted me to the mass slaughter of dogs by PETA; I was furious, and decided to write a piece about it. While researching that I came across Nathan Winograd’s article about Newkirk. And it just took off from there.

NKAC: You have become a fixture and outspoken Advocate for the No Kill movement: you have written several articles for the Huffington Post condemning PETA and the mass killing of companion animals in animal shelters. What does the No Kill movement mean to you, and in what way has it changed your life?’

DAC: Well, to me it’s just a no-brainer: once you realize that some three million adoptable shelter animals are being killed annually — for no reason — it’s pretty hard not to get involved. And for me, the most effective way to contribute is through writing — that’s what I do. Once I started covering this, it snowballed: partially because I realized just how many enemies that No Kill has, and just how vicious they are. It’s crucial to stand up to them. This is one of the most important political campaigns in the nation — a revolution in animal welfare.
It’s completely changed my life. Not simply because I have all sorts of lovely new enemies across the continent, but because I’ve never really had the opportunity to devote myself completely to an unambiguously good cause.

NKAC: Your newest project is a picture book about a pit-bull-type dog with the name “Galunker”. Tell us a little bit about it. Who is Galunker, how did you come up with the idea, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

DAC: Partially it’s an effort to make up for my own bigotry. For years I swallowed all the misinformation about pit bulls: that they had locking jaws, were uniquely dangerous, etc. My girlfriend finally convinced me — after presenting me with all of the statistics and studies — that I was just wrong. Completely wrong. And this kind of widespread error is responsible for a million pit bulls killed every year in shelters. It’s not a trivial mistake.
One of the things that inspired me was the story of Michael Vick’s pit bulls. The rescuers had been told that these were some of “the most dangerous dogs in America”. Not only were they NOT dangerous, but one went on to become a therapy dog in a hospital.
So I came up with a children’s story about a rescued fighting dog, Galunker, who terrifies everyone — and who is scheduled for execution at the shelter — until one small girl, Blinky, discovers that he’s in fact harmless and completely lovable. So it’s her against the world: she’s determined to save this dog from the evil woman who runs the city’s shelters. The woman’s name is Ms. Breezy Pacifical Ooze (a take on Breed Specific Laws). Blinky is, like Galunker, a misunderstood outsider: a tiny girl with an eye patch, who has questionable social skills. They become this heroic pair.
And then I stumbled over the work of this fabulous illustrator, Dula Yavne — I thought she’d be perfect for the project, so I approached her. She dove right in, and has come up with fabulous illustrations. Really great.

NKAC: Today, May 27th 2014, is the start of the Galunker Kickstarter project. Can you tell us what Kickstarter is and how it works?

DAC: Dula and I were both aware that there was no way we were going to get a traditional publishing house to release a kids’ book about a pit bull. Both of us have had our work distributed worldwide, but we were told that with regard to Galunker, “we might as well create a children’s book about meth.” The misconceptions are just too widespread. So we decided to turn to Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is a so-called “crowd funding” organization — it’s a way of raising funds for various things, including artistic projects: indie CDs, books, etc. What happens is that you put together a complete proposal, describing the project in detail, and you invite people to “pledge” funds. Depending upon how much money they give, they become entitled to certain rewards: say, a signed first-edition, or a t-shirt with Galunker printed on it, etc. For people who pledge a lot, we’ll have Dula paint a portrait of their dog. (This will be available to only a few people — it’s a lot of work, and she’s a perfectionist.)

NKAC: Do you have any plans for more picture books? Perhaps more Galunker adventures or any other projects you have in mind and would like to share with us?

DAC: If this takes off, we’ll certainly contemplate a series. Either a sequel to Galunker, or more books devoted to misunderstood animals. Dula and I have discovered that we love working together.
And we have strong reason to believe that it will take off: pit bulls have a hugely committed community of activists, and they’ve shown real support for this book. These dogs need all the help they can get.

NKAC: Anything you would like to add?

DAC: Just that the first few days really matter. If people could pledge this week, we’d really appreciate it: Kickstarter projects require momentum, and then they just keep rolling. Also, it would be stunning if animal advocates were to mention Galunker on their blogs, etc. Anything to get the word out. That’s how crowd-funding works: it’s all about making as much noise as possible. And we think this is a truly important project.

 

Thank you, Douglas Anthony Cooper, for this interview.

 

Galunker on the web

Galunker on Facebook

Kickstarter