How Lake County Animal Shelter Became an Elite No Kill Facility

In my last blog, I detailed how Lake County Animal Shelter performed exceptionally well in 2019. Despite meager funding, having an inadequate physical facility and receiving little rescue support, Lake County Animal Shelter attained sky high live release rates, adopted out many dogs and cats and placed its animals quickly. So how did Lake County Animal Shelter accomplish this?

No Kill Learning provided excellent analyses in an August 2017 blog and in a January 2019 documentary film. After a five year shelter reform effort led by advocate Steve Shank, voters elected certain Board of County Commissioners in 2016 that supported no kill. Around this time, Lake County decided to take over the shelter from Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Lake County Sheriff’s Office operated the facility as a traditional kill shelter. During this time and for a period after taking the shelter over, Lake County used Mike Fry from No Kill Learning to help the county make the facility no kill. On January 15, 2017, Lake County took over the shelter and began to operate it as a no kill facility.

While other no kill consultants do good work, No Kill Learning stands out due to his comprehensive approach. No Kill Learning focuses on shelters fully implementing the No Kill Equation. The No Kill Equation, which was created by Nathan Winograd, consists of 11 programs to responsibly reduce the number of animals coming into shelters and increase the number of pets leaving those facilities alive. Additionally, these programs improve animal care while the pets are in shelters. In other words, this approach makes sure shelters run as proper no kill facilities.

Lake County Animal Shelter hired Whitney Boylston as the shelter director in the middle of 2017. Whitney formerly was a teacher and a counselor for pregnant teens. Additionally, she worked in a high volume spay/neuter clinic and assisted in Hurricane Katrina animal rescue efforts during her college years. Also, Whitney previously volunteered with Lake County Animal Shelter when it was a kill shelter and co-founded LEASH Inc in 2015. LEASH Inc focuses on helping Lake County Animal Shelter and other local facilities save lives and provide quality care to their animals. Like many successful no kill shelter directors, Whitney did not work in an animal shelter prior to her hiring.

Whitney clearly fullfills the No Kill Equation’s “Hard-Working, Compassionate Shelter Director” program. As Nathan Winograd states, this “is the most important” No Kill Equation program since the shelter director implements the other ten programs. Based on my conversations with Whitney, I was struck by her commitment to not killing. Specifically, Whitney, who makes all euthanasia decisions and personally euthanizes almost every animal, will only make that call if she would do the same for her personal pet. Additionally, Whitney is very sharp and understands the importance of targeting programs for vulnerable animals, such as the “Wait-til-8” program that keeps vulnerable young kittens out of the shelter until they are older. Similarly, Whitney uses a very data driven approach to make decisions that I rarely see in animal sheltering. Finally, Whitney is very personable, which may be due to her background working with people, that clearly is beneficial to implementing the other No Kill Equation programs that require great people skills. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter has the right person at the top to operate as an elite no kill facility.

Data Reviewed

To understand how Lake County Animal Shelter became so successful, I obtained the shelter’s “Kennel Statistics Report” for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. These reports list the total numbers of animals coming into the shelter and their outcomes. Additionally, these reports break out not just major intake and outcome categories, such as owner surrenders and adoptions, but also list key subcategories. Therefore, its easy to understand a lot about the shelter from just looking at these reports.

In the tables below, I compared the shelter’s outcome results for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. I labeled 2015 and 2016 “Pre-No Kill” and 2017, 2018 and 2019 “No Kill” (technically the facility was a kill shelter for the first 14 days of 2017, but I labeled the year as “No Kill” since the shelter was no kill for the other 351 days). Over the years, the shelter refined and improved its subcategories of intakes and outcomes. Therefore, some changes over the years resulted from data categorization revisions rather than substantive events. As a result, I focused on the real movements in the data and also talked with Whitney Boylston to get a better understanding of the shelter’s performance during these years.

No Kill Culture Ceases Dog Killing

Lake County Animal Shelter’s dog death rate data clearly shows the shelter’s no kill culture. While the shelter had modest decreases in the dog and nonreclaimed dog death rates from 2015 to 2016, these death rates dropped like a rock when the shelter went no kill in 2017 and significantly decreased in 2018 and 2019. Given dogs are far more challenging to save when a shelter has a very low death rate, the shelter’s improvements in 2018 and 2019 are extremely impressive.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s rationales for euthanizing animals over the years illustrate this culture change. Once the shelter went no kill in 2017, behavioral euthanasia dropped by 55%. In 2019, behavioral euthanasia dropped significantly more and was 93% lower than in 2016. Similarly, Lake County Animal Shelter’s medical related euthanasia (not counting owner requested euthanasia) significantly dropped after the shelter went no kill and continued to decrease in both 2018 and 2019. Most telling, the shelter euthanized 7.63% of all dogs for owner requested euthanasia in 2016, 0.45% in 2017, 0.00% in 2018 and 0.07% in 2019. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter stopped killing for convenience after the shelter went no kill and continued to raise the lifesaving bar afterwards.

The shelter uses a unique enrichment method to prevent dogs from developing behavior problems at the shelter. Whitney Boylston applied her teaching background to treat the shelter like “pre-school.” Dogs get “story time”, where they listen to an audio book, “music time”,  the “scent of the day”, where different scents are sprayed for the animals to sniff, “snack time”, where they get special treats, “nap time”, where no one enters the kennels during the lunch hour, and most importantly, “playtime.” Playtime consists of dog playgroups, which the shelter got around 75% of the dog population into each day during 2019. The dog playgroup program alleviates stress, particularly for large dogs like pit bulls, and also helps volunteers and shelter staff understand the animals to make good matches with adopters. Therefore, Lake County Animal Shelter put in place the No Kill Equation’s behavior prevention and rehabilitation programs.

The shelter’s no kill culture allows it to save dogs that many other facilities would quickly kill. Lake County Animal Shelter treats every dog as an individual and considers past problems in context. For example, a dog that had bitten once before before due to a specific trigger or an extraordinary circumstance that wouldn’t exist in a different home. The shelter fully discloses the animal’s past history both in a conversation and in writing and counsels the adopter to ensure the adopter can handle the animal. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter works with its community to save lives instead of just automatically killing animals with manageable issues.

Lake County Animal Shelter also made numerous improvements to its veterinary care after it went no kill. The shelter director reallocated her budget to increase veterinary spending by around 50%. Also, the shelter does as much veterinary work in-house as possible to save funds. The shelter also created a parvo ward in a barn on the grounds of the shelter that eliminated parvo deaths. In addition, the shelter’s managed intake program for owner surrenders requires such animals receive vaccinations 2 weeks prior to admission. Finally, the “Wait-til-8” program, which keeps young vulnerable kittens out of the shelter, reduces kitten deaths and the risk of more widespread disease outbreaks. As a result, the shelter fully implemented the No Kill Equation’s medical prevention and rehabilitation programs.

Despite the shelter ending the killing of healthy and treatable dogs, the shelter did not limit dog intake after it went no kill. In the pre-no kill years, Lake County Animal Shelter took in an average of 2,947 dogs each year compared to an average of 3,044 dogs in the no kill years.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s managed intake and pet retention programs ensure the shelter only takes in owned animals requiring re-homing. Under the shelter’s managed intake program, the shelter counsels adopters to help see if the owner can keep the animal or safely re-home the animal on their own. However, the program has proper guardrails around it where the shelter immediately takes in emergency cases and admits animals typically within two to three weeks (i.e. not an endless wait-list that some shelters have). The shelter also provides a list of low cost veterinarians, free food and dog training classes to owners wanting to surrender their animals (adopters also get free dog training classes). Finally, the shelter gives pet food to a human food pantry to ensure pet owners in need are able to feed their animals. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter implemented the No Kill Equation’s pet retention program.

Owner Reclaims and Adoptions Drive Dog Live Release Up

The following table details what outcomes increased Lake County Animal Shelter’s dog live release rate from 2016 to 2019 (note the “Transfer % number in the “Change” column does not compute exactly due to rounding). As the table shows, the shelter sent more dogs to their owners and to new adopters after the facility went no kill. In fact, these live outcomes increased so much they more than made up for rescues pulling significantly fewer dogs.

Innovative Programs Send More Lost Dogs Back to Their Families

Lake County Animal Shelter’s dog return to owner improvement is among the best I’ve ever seen. Typically, I see socioeconomic factors drive differences in return to owner rates between shelters. In other words, wealthier people tend to microchip and/or license their dogs and also can afford steep reclaim fees. Since almost all shelters make little effort to find the owners of lost pets, the socioeconomic status of the people in a shelter’s service area generally explain differences in owner reclaim rates. In fact, I only know of two shelters that have had significant success in increasing the percentage of dogs returned to owners. The first, Sacramento, California’s Front Street Animal Shelter, had its dog return to owner percentage of outcomes increase 8% from 2016 to 2019. However, this was less than Lake County Animal Shelter’s 10% improvement over the same period. Additionally, much of Front Street Animal Shelter’s efforts, such as low cost microchips, free license tags and giving pet owners resources to find their pets after the owner text messages the shelter, puts the onus on the pet owner rather than the shelter. Finally, Front Street Animal Shelter’s return to owner rate increased significantly after it received $250,000 from the Petco Foundation in 2018 to fund its text message based lost pets program. While Dallas Animal Services has had an impressive increase in its dog return to owner rate, much of this was due to its animal control officers returning dogs to owners in the field (i.e. without going to the shelter). Since Lake County Animal Shelter does not do field services, returning dogs to owners in the field is not something it can do. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter’s performance with lost dogs is among the best I’ve ever seen.

Lake County Animal Shelter makes great efforts to return dogs to their owners rather than taking the passive approach most shelters use. First, the shelter does thorough investigations when there is any potential lead on an owner. For example, the shelter may 1) contact microchip companies to find an owner of an animal with an unregistered chip and 2) look on social media for the owner or their relatives when the shelter doesn’t have current owner contact information. Similarly, if someone thinks the dog might belong to someone they only know the first name of, the shelter will search property records in the neighborhood. Additionally, the shelter has volunteer “pet detectives” that look at the shelter’s dog intake records and stray dog photos and match those with lost dog reports in the community (such as on lost pet Facebook pages). Finally, the shelter waives/reduces reclaim fees when the owner has a financial hardship, drives pets to owners homes if needed and allows owners to reclaim their animal before or after normal operating hours. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter actively tries to find pet owners under its “proactive reunification” program.

The shelter also uses several technological solutions to help owners find their animals at the shelter. First, the shelter offers $10 microchips to owners who reclaim their pets. Second, the shelter lists all stray dogs, cats and other animals, including photos, on the stray animals section of its web site. This web site section also contains a link to Finding Rover, which takes a photo of the pet that the owner uploads and matches it against a photo of that animal if its on the shelter’s web site. Third, the stray animals section of the shelter’s web site has a link to pawboost.com, which allows owner of lost pets and finders of lost pets to have the animals automatically posted to the lost and found pet Facebook page in the area. Fourth, people can directly schedule an appointment to reclaim their pet on this part of the web site. Finally, this web site section has a link to the ASPCA’s guide for helping owners find their lost pets. As a result, the shelter gives owners of lost pets great resources to help find their animals.

The following tables show how these programs collectively increased the number of dogs returned to owners and the percentage of dogs returned to owners after the shelter went no kill.

The potential impact of specific return to owner programs are detailed in the following table. The “Microchip” category likely reflects aggressive efforts to find hard to locate owners of pets with microchips as well as the $10 microchips the shelter offers to owners of reclaimed pets. The “Web” category includes people reclaiming their pets through the shelter web site, social media and an app, such as Finding Rover. Therefore, the stray animals web site section as well as the pet detective program likely impact these numbers. The “Adoption” category has return to owners where the shelter reduces the reclaim fee to the shelter’s much lower adoption fee and vets the animal as if it were adopted (i.e. spay/neuter, vaccinations, microchip, ID tag). Finally, the “Field” category reflects dogs that Lake County Sheriff’s animal control officers drove back to their owners. While its difficult to pinpoint the precise impact of every return to owner initiative, its clear these programs collectively increase owner redemptions.

High Powered Dog Adoption Program Drives Lifesaving

Lake County Animal Shelter’s dog adoptions skyrocketed after the shelter went no kill. In the no kill initiative’s first year, dog adoptions increased by 46%. By 2018 and 2019, dog adoptions increased 77% and 61% from the 2016 levels. While total dog adoptions decreased from 2018 to 2019, this was primarily due to the shelter taking fewer dogs in during 2019. On a percentage of outcomes basis, dog adoptions increased the dog live release rate by 15%, 20% and 19% in 2017, 2018 and 2019 from the 2016 metric. Thus, dog adoptions played a huge role in making Lake County Animal Shelter no kill.

The shelter does several things to increase adoptions. First, the shelter became much more welcoming to the public and has a “much more positive atmosphere.” Second, the adoption fees are low ($20 for dogs, $10 for cats and those adopting a second cat pay no fee). Additionally, the shelter places great efforts in offering an excellent adoption counseling experience. As part of that experience, the shelter and its volunteers get to know the animals well and make great matches between pets and people. Even with the shelter adopting out far more challenging animals than most facilities, Lake County Animal Shelter had a normal dog adoption return rate of 9% and an extremely low cat adoption return rate of 3%. Additionally, the shelter takes very engaging photos of their pets, and shares them on active and creative Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages as well as Petfinder and Adopt a Pet. Finally, the shelter gives adopters a chance to adopt animals for 24 hours before a rescue can take the pet. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter aggressively markets their pets and offers great customer services to adopters when they visit the shelter.

Lake County Animal Shelter also does not include breed labels on its cage cards. A peer reviewed study, which you can find here, found breed labels, particularly for pit bull like dogs, prolonged length of stay and reduced the adoption chances of these animals. While the shelter does include breed labels in the adoption paperwork an adopter receives, leaving the breed label off the cage card allows an adopter to fall in love with a dog without being negatively biased by breed. Thus, removing breed labels from cage cards helps the shelter adopt out dogs, particularly its pit bulls.

No Kill Equation programs that get animals out of the facility also assist Lake County Animal Shelter’s adoption efforts. The shelter’s very large foster program, which I discussed in my last blog, 1) allows potential adopters too see if animals are a good fit (i.e. trial adoptions), 2) gives animals, particularly longer stay dogs, a break from shelter stress and 3) gets young kittens that are vulnerable to disease out of the shelter. Lake County Animal Shelter makes it easy to foster by allowing people to apply online and also notifying individuals when animals are available for fostering. The “Wait-til-8” program has a similar effect of keeping young vulnerable kittens out of the shelter until they are older and highly adoptable. Thus, the shelter is able to help many vulnerable animals, whether its due to behavioral issues or susceptibility to disease, get/stay out of the facility or become placeable until people can adopt these animals.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s volunteer, managed intake and medical and behavior rehabilitation programs also help the shelter adopt out animals many other facilities would kill. As described above, these programs make the animals healthier and more adoptable.

The shelter’s excellent public relations and community involvement engages the public to adopt and help save lives. The shelter routinely appears on media, such as radio shows. In one great example, Whitney Boylston did a short video for a local newspaper talking about the shelter’s success and asking the public to adopt after the facility received an influx of animals. Another example is where the shelter talked with a local newspaper to ask the public to watch movies and eat popcorn with shelter cats (i.e. reduces stress to make cats less susceptible to disease and helps the cats become more socialized to make the animals more adoptable). In another example, the shelter teamed up with local firefighters on a local news channel to promote an adoption event. Similarly, the shelter’s Facebook page used creative videos to engage the community to foster, adopt pets that get delivered on Christmas under the Santa Paws program and adopt dogs from play groups. Additionally, Whitney Boylston reached out to the fire department for them to help build cat portals, which reduce shelter stress and risk of illness and help shelters adopt cats out quicker. Thus, the shelter’s strong outreach to the community significantly aids its adoption efforts.

The following table details the dog adoption subcategories from 2015 to 2019. While some of the groupings changed over the years, we can glean some interesting information. Over the years, the Pend HW TX adoptions, which is where the shelter adopts out a heartworm positive dog and the adopter must schedule a heartworm visit (the shelter tracks to see if treated or not), increased. The Pre program, which is where up to three people sign up to adopt a dog during the stray/hold period if the owner does not reclaim the animal, resulted in many adoptions after the shelter started the initiative in the last couple of years. Also, dogs adopted out of foster homes increased a lot in recent years likely due to the shelter’s large foster program. Finally, offsite adoptions, which take place at a local PetSmart, increased after the the shelter started the initiative in 2017.

Rescue Efforts Focused on Most Vulnerable Animals

While “rescue partnerships” are a key No Kill Equation program, shelters need to put parameters around them. Certainly, high kill shelters should allow rescues to pull any animal. On the other hand, no kill shelters only need rescues to pull the most vulnerable animals that the shelters cannot save or would have great difficulty doing so. Therefore, no kill shelters should institute policies to encourage rescues to save the most vulnerable pets, whether those animals are at the facility or at other shelters.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s policies and performance encourage rescues to save the most vulnerable pets. As mentioned above, Lake County Animal Shelter gives adopters a chance to adopt animals for 24 hours before a rescue can take the pet and also lets adopters reserve animals during the stray/hold period. These policies ensure rescues only pull animals that wouldn’t otherwise be quickly adopted out. Finally, Lake County Animal Shelter’s high live release rates encourages rescues to pull from other shelters that kill many animals.

The tables below show rescues pulling fewer dogs in total and on a percentage of outcomes basis after the shelter went no kill. In other words, Lake County Animal Shelter significantly increased its dog live release rate despite receiving less rescue assistance.

The dog transfers subcategories show rescues primarily pull vulnerable animals. Specifically, rescues mostly pulled dogs for medical and behavior reasons and nursing puppies and their mothers.

No Kill Cat Culture 

As I mentioned in my last blog, one can calculate the cat live release by including or excluding cats brought to the shelter and returned to caregivers under the Operation Caturday program. Under the “Operation Caturday” program, Lake County Animal Shelter neuters and vaccinates “unowned” and “free-roaming” cats and frequently returns the animals to caregivers or the locations where the cats were found without identified caregivers. In order to make an apples to apples comparison to prior years and present conservative figures, I excluded 226 cats (211 adults and 15 kittens) in 2018 and 636 cats (587 adults and 49 kittens) in 2019 from the outcomes in the tables below.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s cat death rates massively decreased after the shelter went no kill. As the tables below show, the shelter’s cat death rate dropped from 44% just before the facility went no kill to just 9% in 2019. When we look at just adult cats, 51% of cats lost their lives in 2016 and under 10% lost their lives in 2019. Similarly, the kitten death rate decreased from 35% to 9% from 2016 to 2019.

The shelter’s decision to stop killing cats for behavior, such as being feral, significantly helped cats. Just prior to the shelter going no kill in 2016, Lake County Animal Shelter killed 25% of cats, 37% of adult cats and even 10% of kittens for behavior. In both 2018 and 2019, the shelter did not kill a single cat for behavioral reasons.

Lake County Animal Shelter also significantly decreased its killing/euthanasia of cats for medical related reasons. Overall, the shelter killed/euthanized 10-12% of cats for health reasons before it went no kill and only euthanized 4% of cats for medical reasons in 2018 and 2019. While the shelter euthanized significantly fewer adult cats for medical reasons after it went no kill, the drop in kitten killing/euthanasia from 13%-14% before the shelter went no kill to just 3% in 2018 and 2019 is notable. Most impressively, the shelter stopped taking in healthy strays after it went no kill. Therefore, the shelter took in a greater percentage of more challenging cats after it implemented the no kill policies. Clearly, the shelter’s veterinary care improved and the shelter’s commitment to not killing treatable animals became strong. Additionally, the “Wait-til-8” program that keeps vulnerable young kittens out of the shelter until they are older also likely contributed to the decreased kitten euthanasia for medical reasons in 2018 and 2019.

The shelter’s data on cats who died or went missing also shows the no kill effort’s success. Often, shelters going no kill will have a somewhat high number of cats dying due to the shelter making efforts to save animals that traditional shelters kill. Despite Lake County Animal Shelter going no kill, cats who died or went missing did not increase. In fact, the percentage kittens that died or went missing substantially decreased from 2016 to 2019. The “Wait-til-8” program almost certainly contributed to this.

As with dogs, the shelter stopped killing cats under the guise of “owner requested euthanasia” after it went no kill.

Despite Lake County Animal Shelter saving so many more cats, it did not reduce the number of cats going through its doors. While actual cat intake (which excludes 226 cats in 2018 and 636 cats in 2019 brought to the shelter and returned to caregivers) slightly decreased after Lake County Animal Shelter went no kill, the total number of cats the shelter impounded or helped through Operation Caturday was similar before and after Lake County Animal Shelter went no kill.

When we look at the cat intake numbers more closely, we see Lake County Animal Shelter took in more cats that needed sheltering. As the table below shows, Lake County Animal Shelter impounded significantly more owner surrendered cats after the shelter went no kill. When the public views a shelter as a safe place, those individuals are more likely to be willing to surrender their animals when they can’t care for them. On the other hand, stray cat intake, and especially feral cat and over the counter cat intake, significantly decreased. Shelters should not take in healthy stray cats who are not in danger since such cats 1) clearly are receiving good care in the community, 2) are far more likely to find their way home and 3) often experience stress and disease risk in even the best shelters. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter took in more cats that needed sheltering after it went no kill.

The cat intake data also shows how the Operation Caturday program saves lives. Based on my discussions with Whitney Boylston, the shelter often is able to redirect stray cats brought to the shelter by the public (i.e. “Stray OTC”) to Operation Caturday where the shelter sterilizes, vaccinates and returns the cats to their outdoor homes. When we examine the stray OTC data over the years, the decrease is almost entirely offset by the increase in the number of cats neutered, vaccinated and returned under the Operation Caturday program. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter is redirecting its resources to save cats now and in the future by investing in its community cat sterilization program.

Adoption and Return to Field Programs Save Cats 

The following table details what outcomes increased Lake County Animal Shelter’s cat live release rate from 2016 to 2019 (note some numbers in the “Change” column do not compute exactly due to rounding). As the table shows, the shelter adopted out many more cats and also released more cats to outdoor homes after the facility went no kill. While cats returned to owners did not increase, adult cats, which are likely harder for owners to find, did get returned to owners more often possibly due to the shelter’s lost pet reunification efforts discussed above. As with dogs, these live outcomes increased so much they more than made up for rescues pulling significantly fewer cats.

Cat Sterilization Program Saves Cats at and Outside of the Shelter

Lake County Animal Shelter’s return to field data shows this program saved significant numbers of cats. After the shelter went no kill, it started sterilizing, vaccinating and returning cats to their outdoor homes. In 2018, Lake County Animal Shelter created Operation Caturday and significantly increased the scale of this program. Under Operation Caturday, the public pays just $10 for the spay/neuter and vaccination services. As the tables below show, Operation Caturday had a significant impact on the adult cat live release rate.

The shelter also sterilized many additional cats through the Operation Caturday program. As mentioned above, I excluded cats brought by the public to the shelter for spay/neuter and vaccination services under this program. While these cats do not impact the shelter’s live release rate, these services do the following:

  1. Help limit future cat intake by reducing kitten births
  2. Significantly reduce outdoor kitten deaths, due to large percentages of newborn kittens typically dying outdoors, as a major study showed

If we counted these cats in the shelter’s outcomes, 19% of all cats and 32% of adult cats served by the shelter went through this program. When we add the cats returned to field counted in the statistics above, 22% of all cats and 38% of adult cats served by the shelter went back to their outdoor home spayed/neutered and vaccinated. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter implemented the No Kill Equation’s “High Volume, Low Cost Sterilization” and “Community Cat/Dog Sterilization” programs to help control cat intake at the shelter and reduce kitten deaths on the streets.

Cat Adoptions Dramatically Increase After Shelter Goes No Kill

Lake County Animal Shelter’s cat adoption data shows the shelter’s transformation after it went no kill. After going no kill, the shelter doubled its cat adoptions in total and more than doubled them on a percentage of outcomes basis. In fact, Lake County Animal Shelter’s cat adoptions have steadily increased on a percentage of outcomes basis in the years after the facility went no kill. As described above in the dog adoptions section, many initiatives increased cat adoptions.

The shelter’s adoption subcategories reveal the success of certain No Kill Equation programs. After Lake County Animal Shelter went no kill, the shelter reported many cats adopted from foster homes. While the shelter previously didn’t have this subcategory, the significant growth in the foster program certain contributed to these numbers. Additionally, the Pre program, which is where up to three people sign up to adopt a cat during the stray/hold period if the owner does not reclaim the animal, resulted in many adoptions after the shelter started the initiative. Also, the shelter adopted out working or barn cats after it went no kill. While these adoptions did decrease after 2017, this may be due to the shelter returning more sterilized cats to the community through the Operation Caturday program. Finally, offsite adoptions, which take place at a local PetSmart, increased after the the shelter started the initiative in 2017.

Rescues Take Cats Most Needing Help

Lake County Animal Shelter’s transfers data in the following tables show the shelter relying far less on rescues after it went no kill. While the adult cats transferred decreased significantly, the number of kittens transferred decreased much more. This is due to Lake County Animal Shelter adopting out more kittens as well as the shelter’s “Wait-til-8” program keeping vulnerable kittens out of the shelter.

As the tables below show, rescues primarily pulled cats with medical issues, cats who stayed at the shelter a long time and kittens that are typically vulnerable to disease in a shelter. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter allowed rescues to focus on the cats most needing help.

Comprehensive Implementation of the No Kill Equation Makes Lake County Animal Shelter an Elite Facility

At the end of the day, Lake County Animal Shelter succeeds since it comprehensively implements the No Kill Equation. As the following table shows, Lake County Animal Shelter fully implemented the No Kill Equation. These programs responsibly reduce animal intake, improve animal care, increase live animal outcomes and generate community support to do so in a fiscally responsible manner. Simply put, Lake County Animal Shelter does what it takes to save lives and is a role model for all shelters to follow.

Florida’s Fantastic Animal Shelter

Lake County Animal Shelter is a large animal control facility in central Florida. The shelter takes significantly more animals in than the largest animal control facility in New Jersey. On a per capita basis, Lake County Animal Shelter impounds more than twice as many animals than New Jersey animal shelters take in from within the state.

Lake County went no kill on January 15, 2017. Before this time, Lake County Sheriff’s Office ran the facility as a traditional kill shelter. After a long shelter reform effort, Lake County (i.e. Lake County Animal Services) took over the shelter on January 15, 2017. Prior to taking the shelter over and for a period of time after, Lake County hired No Kill Learning to ensure the shelter properly operated as a no kill facility. No Kill Learning’s documentary video tells this moving story in greater detail. You can watch that video here.

What kind of job did Lake County Animal Shelter do in 2019? How does Lake County Animal Shelter compare to traditional shelters?

Data Reviewed

To better understand Lake County Animal Shelter’s performance, I obtained detailed shelter intake and disposition records. Intake and disposition records list each individual animal the shelter took in and their outcome. I used the 2019 records to conduct the analyses below. Additionally, I used the 2018 report to calculate the length of stay for some animals that came in during 2018, but had an outcome in 2019. You can find the 2019 report here and the 2018 report here. Also, you can find a summary of the 2019 statistics here.

In order to see if the shelter did not count any animals it euthanized/killed, I also reviewed additional documents. Specifically, I checked the shelter’s Controlled Substance Logs for euthanasia drugs and outside veterinarian bills. These documents indicated the shelter did not euthanize/kill any animals “off the books.”

Finally, I obtained Lake County Animal Shelter’s 2019 fiscal year budget and 2020 fiscal year budget as well as Lake County Sheriff’s 2019 fiscal year budget for animal control and the same budget for 2020 fiscal year. I compared this data, which covered the 2019 calendar year, to financial information from other shelters below.

Amazing Live Release Rates

Lake County Animal Shelter saved virtually every dog that arrived in 2019. Overall, only 1.1% of all dogs, 2.1% of pit bull like dogs, 0.5% of small dogs and 0.7% of other medium to large size dogs lost their lives or went missing at the shelter. In other words, Lake County Animal Shelter saved approximately 99% of all dogs, 98% of pit bull like dogs, 99% of small dogs and 99% of other medium to large size dogs. Even if we only look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners, only 1.5% of all dogs, 3.1% of pit bulls, 0.8% of small dogs and 1.1% of other medium to large size breeds lost their lives or went missing in 2019. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter saved almost every dog it took in last year.

To better reflect Lake County Animal Shelter’s pit bull statistics, I included American bulldogs in the pit bull data. Typically, I only include traditional “pit bull” like breeds, such as American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and bull terriers. In the shelters I’ve reviewed, the facilities took few American bulldogs in. However, Lake County Animal Shelter impounded large numbers of American bulldogs during 2019 as the following table shows. Furthermore, the American bulldog statistics, which were excellent, were not quite as good as the traditional pit bull data. Thus, I included American bulldogs to provide a more clear picture of Lake County Animal Shelter’s pit bull performance.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s pit bull numbers are especially noteworthy. Despite taking in 811 pit bull like dogs in 2019, Lake County Animal Shelter saved 98% of these animals. On a per capita basis, Lake County Animal Shelter impounded 2.2 pit bulls per 1,000 people in 2019 compared to my estimate of New Jersey animal shelters taking in just 0.9 pit bulls per 1,000 people from the state in 2018. In other words, Lake County Animal Shelter saved 98% of its pit bull like dogs even though it took in around two and a half times as many of these dogs on a per capita basis as New Jersey animal shelters. Similarly, Lake County Animal Shelter adopted out 1.3 pit bulls per 1,000 people compared to the 0.5 pit bulls per 1,000 people New Jersey animal shelters would need to adopt out to achieve a 95% dog live release rate. As a result, Lake County Animal Shelter’s results prove New Jersey animal shelters can do a far better job with their pit bull like dogs.

Lake County Animal Shelter also had excellent cat numbers. Overall, only 7.3% of all cats, 5.9% of 1 year old plus cats and 9.1% of kittens under 1 year old lost their lives at Lake County Animal Shelter in 2019. Even if we exclude cats who were reclaimed by owners and placed through the return to field program, only 9.7% of all cats, 9.4% of 1 year old plus cats and 9.9% of kittens under 1 year old lost their lives in 2019. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter saved almost all their cats of various ages.

My analysis did not differentiate between older (6 weeks to just under 1 year) and younger (under 6 weeks) kittens due to Lake County Animal Shelter’s innovative “Wait-til-8” program. Under this program, the shelter asks the public to care for kittens until they reach 8 weeks of age. Since young kittens are highly vulnerable to disease in a shelter, especially one with a poor physical design like Lake County Animal Shelter, this makes sense. The shelter provides wellness services every two to three weeks where the shelter weighs the kittens, deworms them and gives vaccinations. Additionally, Lake County Animal Shelter gives the people supplies, such as food, litter and kitten milk replacements. When the kittens reach 8 weeks, the shelter takes them in. Since Lake County Animal Shelter does not impound these animals until they are older than 6 weeks, these under 6 weeks old kittens are not counted in its statistics. Therefore, the shelter only takes a small number of under 6 weeks old kittens that are typically much more difficult animals. As a result, breaking out under 6 weeks old kittens would not provide useful information and would create a misleading picture when comparing to other shelters.

One can view the shelter’s cat sterilization program in different ways when calculating the cat death rates. Under the “Operation Caturday” program, Lake County Animal Shelter neuters and vaccinates “unowned” and “free-roaming” cats and frequently returns the animals to caregivers or the locations where the cats were found without identified caregivers. Per my discussion with shelter director, Whitney Boylston, the shelter impounds these cats and can place some animals through other programs, such as return to owner or adoptions. Therefore, one can make the argument the shelter should include these animals in its statistics based on the Shelter Animals Count data reporting guidelines that state such cats are included if the animals are “admitted for sheltering” and not “only for a service or services (sterilization and/or vaccination).” On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of Operation Caturday cats are brought in by a caregiver and returned to that caregiver (i.e. shelter operates like a clinic assisting TNR efforts and should not count these cats in its statistics).

To provide full transparency, I calculated alternative death rates using two methods to exclude these animals. Under the first method, I reduced returned to field and total outcomes by the 636 cats brought to the shelter by the public under Operation Caturday. The second death rate calculation decreased returned to field and total outcomes by the 678 cats returned to caregivers. This calculation is more punitive and likely overstates the cat death rate since stray cats may be returned to caregivers (i.e. these should always count in the statistics). Even with the more conservative cat death rate calculations, the shelter still had no kill level cat statistics.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s statistics are more impressive given the physical facility is poor and the shelter receives little rescue assistance. As No Kill Learning noted in its March 2017 progress report on Lake County Animal Shelter, the physical shelter presents significant issues relating to disease management and animal behavior. In other words, the physical facility makes it difficult to save large dogs with behavior issues and cats who have medical problems or are vulnerable if they become sick. Additionally, rescues pull few animals from Lake County Animal Shelter (10% of dogs and 4% of cats). While rescues pulling few pets due to Lake County Animal Shelter taking care of business is great news (i.e. rescues can pull animals in danger at kill shelters), it presents a challenge to achieve very high live release rates/low death rates. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter’s performance is remarkable given these challenges.

Animals Quickly Leave Shelter Alive

Lake County Animal Shelter’s dogs quickly left the shelter. Overall, all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size dogs left the shelter in 19.2 days, 29.0 days, 7.3 days and 20.2 days. Additionally, Lake County Animal Shelter adopted out all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size dogs in just 30.0 days, 43.9 days, 10.3 days and 31.4 days. Given this shelter’s extremely high dog live release rate and it transferring few dogs to rescues (i.e. Lake County Animal Shelter adopts out more challenging dogs than most shelters), these short adoption length of stay figures are impressive.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s length of stay data also reveals the shelter makes strong efforts to save all dogs. Overall, the shelter euthanized all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size dogs in 31.4 days, 40.1 days, 44.7 days and 17.9 days. As a comparison, Animal Care Centers of NYC killed all dogs, large dogs, medium dogs and small dogs in just 3.6 days, 6.0 days, 3.9 days and 0.9 days in 2018. Clearly, Lake County Animal Shelter makes significant efforts to save the small number of dogs it euthanizes instead of just quickly killing such animals.

The shelter’s pit bull length of data looks better without including American bulldogs. As the table below shows, American bulldogs stayed at the shelter longer than the traditional pit bull breeds. If we only look at traditional pit bull breeds, these dogs had an overall average length of stay of just 22.6 days and were adopted out in 36.3 days. Thus, the pit bull length of stay data would look better if I did not include American bulldogs.

Almost all Lake County Animal Shelter dogs left the shelter quickly. The following table shows the distribution of the dog lengths of stay. Remarkably, 69% and 80% of dogs left the shelter within 10 days and 19 days. In fact, 96% of all dogs left the shelter within 96 days. Simply put, substantially all dogs left the shelter within three months or so. While a very small number of dogs did stay a lot longer, this is normal at high performing no kill shelters that strive to save rather than take lives. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter achieved no kill by quickly placing almost all of its dogs.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s cats also quickly left the facility alive. Overall, all cats, 1 year old and older cats and kittens less than 1 year old left the shelter in 23.6 days, 19.7 days and 28.5 days. Additionally, Lake County Animal Shelter adopted out all cats, 1 year and older cats and kittens less than 1 year old in just 33.3 days, 33.6 days and 33.1 days. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter achieved a high cat live release rate by quickly placing these animals.

While the shelter euthanized cats quicker than dogs, this make sense. Since the shelter euthanized cats for severe medical reasons rather than for behavior, cats should be euthanized quicker. Additionally, injured cats, such as those hit by cars, often have a much more dire outcome than dogs.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s overall cat length of stay was still short even if we exclude cats returned to caregivers. If we exclude these cats, the overall average length of stay was 29.2 days, 27.9 days and 30.6 days for all cats, 1 year old and older cats and kittens less than 1 year old. Similarly, these figures would only rise to 29.6 days, 28.4 days and 30.7 days for all cats, 1 year old and older cats and kittens less than 1 year old if we exclude all cats returned to field (i.e. with or without an identified caregiver). Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter’s cats quickly left the shelter alive even without its return to field program.

Substantially all Lake County Animal Shelter cats left the facility quickly. The following table shows the distribution of the cat lengths of stay. 57% and 70% of cats left the shelter within 13 days and 32 days. In fact, 96% of all cats left the shelter within 89 days. As with dogs, a small number of cats did stay substantially longer, but this is normal at a high performing no kill shelter that strives to save virtually every animal. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter achieved no kill by quickly finding live outcomes for substantially all of its cats.

Lake County Animal Shelter Only Euthanizes Dogs for Legitimate Reasons

Lake County Animal Shelter limits behavioral euthanasia to truly aggressive dogs. As you can see in the following table listing the reasons Lake County Animal Shelter used to euthanize dogs in 2019, the shelter only euthanized 0.40% of all dogs for behavioral related reasons (i.e. severe behavior issue, court order and dangerous). Remarkably, Lake County Animal Shelter meets the No Kill Advocacy Center behavioral euthanasia target (i.e. under 1%) that even many no kill shelters claim is too lofty. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter limited behavioral euthanasia to truly aggressive dogs.

Similarly, Lake County Animal Shelter only euthanized hopelessly suffering dogs for medical reasons. As the table below shows, the shelter euthanized just 0.41% of dogs for medical issues (i.e. severe illness, severe injury and owner requested).

The shelter also limited behavioral euthanasia for pit bull like dogs to truly aggressive animals. Lake County Animal Shelter only euthanized 0.86% of all pit bulls for aggression, behavior and court order reasons. Lake County Animal Shelter also met the No Kill Advocacy Center all dogs behavioral euthanasia target (i.e. under 1%) for supposedly difficult to save pit bulls. As with all dogs, Lake County Animal Shelter only euthanized a very small number of all pit bulls for medical reasons (0.49%).

Lake County Animal Shelter’s separate traditional pit bull and American bulldog data shows the same pattern. The shelter only euthanized 0.95% of traditional pit bull breeds and 0.70% of American bulldogs for behavioral reasons. Similarly, the shelter only euthanized 0.57% of traditional pit bull breeds and 0.35% of American bulldogs for medical reasons.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s reasons for euthanizing small dogs showed it only euthanized hopelessly suffering animals. The shelter euthanized no small dogs for aggression and other behavioral reasons. Given small dogs do not pose a serious danger to adult people who are dog savvy, this is exactly what we should see at every shelter. As the table below shows, the shelter only euthanized 0.39% of small dogs for severe medical reasons.

The shelter also only euthanized other medium to large size dogs for legitimate reasons. Lake County Animal Shelter only euthanized 0.37% of other medium to large size dogs for behavioral related reasons. The rest of the other medium to large size dogs were euthanized for severe medical problems (0.36% of other medium to large size dogs).

Lake County Animal Shelter Limits Cat Euthanasia to Severe Medical Issues

The table below lists the reasons Lake County Animal Shelter used to euthanize cats in 2019. As you can see, the shelter only euthanized cats for severe medical reasons (i.e. severe illness, severe injury and rabies test). Most impressively, Lake County Animal Shelter did not kill a single cat for behavior or aggression. Given shelters should never kill cats for aggression or behavioral reasons, this is an incredible achievement since 3,376 cats had outcomes (2,740 cats excluding the 636 Operation Caturday animals) at Lake County Animal Shelter in 2019.

Lake County Animal Shelter also euthanized almost no cats for rabies risk. As Hound Manor mentioned in its blog, few animals killed for rabies testing end up having the disease. The shelter killed just one cat to test for rabies. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter did not needlessly kill cats to test for rabies.

Finally, Lake County Animal Shelter’s small number of cats euthanized for medical reasons indicates the shelter limited this to hopelessly suffering animals. The shelter only euthanized 3.17% of all cats for medical reasons. Even if we exclude the 636 cats the public brought to the shelter under Operation Caturday, this figure only rises to 3.91%. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center euthanized 2.75% of all cats for medical reasons in 2018 even with Austin Pets Alive pulling significant numbers of cats with serious medical issues (some of these probably were euthanized by Austin Pets Alive or died). Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter’s data indicates it limited cat euthanasia to hopelessly suffering animals.

Lake County Animal Shelter Uses Many Foster Homes

Lake County Animal Shelter sent 349 dogs, 79 cats and 721 kittens to foster homes in 2019. Overall, 12% of all impounded dogs went to a foster home after arriving at Lake County Animal Shelter. Similarly, the shelter sent 25% of all cats and 31% of all cats excluding cats brought to the shelter by the public under Operation Caturday to foster homes. In particular, the shelter sent 48% of all kittens to foster homes. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter sent large numbers of dogs and cats to foster homes in 2019.

Significant numbers of dogs went to foster homes for “shelter break sleepovers” and many nursing and underage kittens also went to foster homes. As you can see in the table below, Lake County Animal Shelter sent 336 adult dogs to foster homes under its “shelter break sleepovers” program. Per a 2018 interview with shelter director, Whitney Boylston, the shelter uses this program to 1) allow potential adopters too see if animals are a good fit (i.e. trial adoptions) and 2) to give animals, particularly longer stay dogs, a break from shelter stress. Similarly, Lake County Animal Shelter sent 98 nursing kittens and 584 underage/underweight kittens to foster homes. In other words, the foster program served as a mechanism to save the most vulnerable animals (i.e. young/unhealthy kittens and dogs experiencing shelter stress) and to facilitate adoptions. Thus, the foster program played a significant role in allowing the shelter to achieve high live release and adoption rates.

Lake County Animal Shelter Greatly Outperforms New York and New Jersey Animal Shelters

The tables below compare Lake County Animal Shelter to several New York and New Jersey animal shelters. In the table, I presented Lake County Animal Shelter’s data with and without the 636 cats the public brought to the shelter under Operation Caturday. The New York and New Jersey shelters’ data come from my most recent detailed analyses published last year. The shelters and my prior blogs are as follows:

  1. 2018 Franklin Township Animal Shelter: Blog 1 and Blog 2
  2. 2018 Bergen County Animal Shelter
  3. 2018 Animal Care Centers of NYC (NY ACC)
  4. 2018 Northern Ocean County Animal Facility and Southern Ocean County Animal Facility (Ocean County Animal Facility)

The tables’ key metrics fall into the following broad categories:

  • Animal intake: This measures the difficulty a shelter has to handle its animals. For shelters taking a significant number of pets in, the per capita data (expressed here as per 1,000 people in the shelter’s service area) is more relevant since it indicates how many people can help the shelter through donating, volunteering and adopting animals (i.e. higher numbers indicate the shelter has a more difficult job).
  • Total revenue per animal: This metric measures how much money the shelter has to save each animal. Shelters with lower amounts face more challenges. Lake County Sheriff’s Office’s animal control field services budget was added to Lake County Animal Shelter’s total revenue in the first table to properly compare it with the shelters having field services. The adjusted revenue per dog and cat figures exclude the 636 cats brought to Lake County Animal Shelter by the public under Operation Caturday. For Bergen County Animal Shelter, I included the cats going through its TNR program in the total revenue per dog and cat figure and excluded these animals in the adjusted amount (these cats were not counted as impounded in the shelter’s software report and therefore are excluded from the dog and cat intake figures).
  • Rescue %: This metric indicates how much rescue support a shelter receives. For no kill shelters, low numbers often indicate rescues choosing to save animals at more risk elsewhere. At high kill shelters, low figures frequently are due to shelters not reaching out to rescues and/or having poor relationships with them.
  • Death rates and reasons for killing: These metrics show how well a shelter avoids killing animals or not.
  • Per capita adoption rates: These metrics indicate how well a shelter adopts out animals.

Lake County Animal Shelter Faces Greater Challenges

Lake County Animal Shelter faced a more difficult situation with animal intake. Overall, Lake County Animal Shelter impounded two to ten times (two to nine times without the 636 Operation Caturday cats) as many dogs and cats in total than the New Jersey animal shelters. While NY ACC took many more animals in, this shelter serves a far larger human population. On a per capita basis, Lake County Animal Shelter impounded 6 times (5 times without the 636 Operation Caturday cats), 4 times, 2 times and 3 times as many dogs and cats as NY ACC, Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility. Thus, Lake County Animal had a much greater animal volume challenge than the New York and New Jersey shelters.

The New York and New Jersey animal shelters also received far more funding per animal than Lake County Animal Shelter. NY ACC, Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility received 2.2 times, 1.3 times, 1.5 times and 3.3 times the funding per dog and cat. When we exclude Lake County Animal Shelter’s 636 cats brought into Lake County Animal Shelter by the public under Operation Caturday and the many cats going through Bergen County Animal Shelter’s TNR program, NY ACC, Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility received 2.0 times, 2.3 times, 1.4 times and 2.9 times the funding per animal. Furthermore, Lake County Animal Shelter impounded a much greater percentage of dogs which cost much more to care for. Dogs made up 47% of Lake County Animal Shelter’s intake compared to 36% at NY ACC, 14% at Bergen County Animal Shelter, 32% at Franklin Township Animal Shelter and 32% at Ocean County Animal Facility. When we exclude the cats brought in by the public to Lake County Animal Shelter under Operation Caturday and the many cats going through Bergen County Animal Shelter’s TNR program, dogs made up 53% of intake at Lake County Animal Shelter and 27% at Bergen County Animal Shelter. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter was massively underfunded compared to the New York and New Jersey animal shelters.

Lake County Animal Shelter also did not get unusually large rescue support compared to the other shelters. While Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Bergen County Animal Shelter (dogs only) got less rescue support, its likely due to these high kill shelters’ dysfunctional policies and processes. On the other hand, NY ACC sent 3 times and 16 times (13 times without the 636 Operation Caturday cats) the percentage of dogs and cats to rescues and other shelters than Lake County Animal Shelter. Similarly, Ocean County Animal Facility transferred slightly more dogs and pit bulls and 6 times (5 times without the 636 Operation Caturday cats) as many cats to rescues and other shelters than Lake County Animal Shelter. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter’s success was not due to rescues providing unusually large levels of support.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s No Kill Culture 

Lake County Animal Shelter’s dog death rates were shockingly lower than the other shelters. NY ACC, Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility had dog death rates 20 times, 9 times, 10 times and 8 times higher than those at Lake County Animal Shelter. Similarly, nonreclaimed dog death rates were 16 times, 11 times, 17 times and 11 times higher at NY ACC, Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility compared to Lake County Animal Shelter.

Pit bulls lost their lives at much lower rates at Lake County Animal Shelter. Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility had pit bull death rates 11 times, 10 times and 7 times higher than those at Lake County Animal Shelter. Nonreclaimed pit bull death rates were 11 times, 18 times and 9 times higher at Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility compared to Lake County Animal Shelter. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter did a massively better job with its pit bulls.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s cat death rates were like night and day compared to the other shelters. NY ACC, Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility had cat death rates 1.6 times, 4 times, 6 times and 7 times higher than those at Lake County Animal Shelter. Even when excluding the 636 Operation Caturday cats, NY ACC, Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility had cat death rates 1.3 times, 3 times, 5 times and 5 times higher than those at Lake County Animal Shelter. Similarly, nonreclaimed cat death rates were 1.2 times, 4 times, 5 times and 5 times higher at NY ACC, Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility compared to Lake County Animal Shelter. As a result, Lake County Animal Shelter performed far better at saving its cats.

The New York and New Jersey animal shelters killed much greater percentages of dogs for behavior and medical related reasons. NY ACC, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility killed dogs for behavior at 16 times, 10 times and 16 times Lake County Animal Shelter’s rate. Similarly, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility killed pit bulls for behavior at 18 times and 15 times Lake County Animal Shelter’s rate. NY ACC, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility killed dogs for medical reasons at 33 times, 11 times and 4 times Lake County Animal Shelter’s rate. Thus, Lake County Animal Shelter operated with a commitment to not killing while the other shelters frequently used excuses to kill.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s lifesaving ethic also stood out when examining why the other shelters killed cats. While Lake County Animal Shelter did not kill a single one of the 3,376 cats who had outcomes (2,740 cats without the 636 Operation Caturday cats) for behavior in 2019, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility killed an astonishing 18% and 36% of their cats for behavior in 2018. Similarly, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility killed cats for medical reasons at 1.7 times (1.3 times without the 636 Operation Caturday cats) and 2.6 times (2.1 times without the 636 Operation Caturday cats) Lake County Animal Shelter’s rate.

Lake County Animal Shelter’s Adoption Program Stands Apart

Lake County Animal Shelter adopted out far more dogs on a per capita basis than the New York and New Jersey animal shelters. Overall, Lake County Animal Shelter adopted out 15 times, 10 times, 7 times and 9 times as many dogs per 1,000 people as NY ACC, Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility. Furthermore, Lake County Animal Shelter adopted out 13 times, 15 times and 10 times as many pit bulls per 1,000 people as Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility. Lake County Animal Shelter also adopted out 19 times more large and medium size dogs per 1,000 people than NY ACC. Simply put, Lake County Animal Shelter’s dog adoption program blew the other shelters’ adoption programs out of the water.

The New York and New Jersey animal shelters’ cat adoption programs also paled in comparison with Lake County Animal Shelter. Lake County Animal Shelter adopted out 11 times, 4 times, 3 times and 6 times as many cats per 1,000 people as NY ACC, Bergen County Animal Shelter, Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Ocean County Animal Facility.

Lake County Animal Shelter is a Role Model Shelter

Clearly, Lake County Animal Shelter is an elite organization. The shelter effectively limited euthanasia to hopelessly suffering animals and dogs that are truly aggressive. Additionally, it accomplished this by quickly finding live outcomes for its animals. Remarkably, Lake County Animal Shelter achieved this with a terrible physical facility, which will be replaced soon, a large number of animals coming in, meager funding and little rescue support. Simply put, Lake County Animal Shelter steps up and does what it takes to save its animals.

As the comparison with New York and New Jersey animal shelters showed, Lake County Animal Shelter’s challenges were far more daunting and the facility’s performance was on a different planet. In other words, regressive shelters in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere can’t credibly make excuses up for this disparity. Instead of defending the status quo, regressive shelters should study Lake County Animal Shelter and replicate what its doing. If these regressive shelters do this, not only will many animals live, but the organizations and their people will become happier and healthier.

St. Hubert’s Kills Newark’s Homeless Dogs

March 11, 2020 Update: I revised this blog for additional data I had received. While the dog statistics improved slightly, the overall conclusions remain the same. The additional cat data suggests St. Hubert’s had a good cat live release rate as opposed to my previous uncertain conclusion. However, St. Hubert’s cat live release rate was largely driven by a very high amount of rescue assistance.

Newark has long had severe problems with Associated Humane Societies-Newark. Over 50 years ago, the modern form of AHS-Newark began with a corrupt contract that a court threw out and resulted in AHS long-time Executive Director, Lee Bernstein, being sentenced to jail. In 2003, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation issued a scathing report on AHS that found the organization raising massive amounts of money and failing to properly care for their animals. Over the years, state health department inspectors found horrific problems and former Mayor Cory Booker tried to build a new no kill shelter to replace AHS-Newark.

My analyses revealed this shelter was high kill and broke state law. In 2015, I published a blog about how animals primarily impounded from animal control in Newark during 2014 fared at the shelter. Remarkably, 84% of dogs and cats, 93% of cats, 70% of dogs and 81% of pit bull like dogs with known outcomes lost their lives. Subsequently, I posted a blog about AHS-Newark violating state law left and right and requested the New Jersey Department of Health inspect the shelter.

The New Jersey Department of Health found horrific problems at AHS-Newark in 2017. You can read the August 22, 2017 inspection here, the September 26, 2017 inspection here and the October 20, 2017 inspection report here. Overall, the problems were so severe that authorities charged Executive Director, Roseann Trezza, with animal cruelty. Ultimately, the prosecutor and Roseann Trezza entered into an agreement in or around May 2018 to supposedly bar Ms. Trezza from the Newark shelter for two years and make her pay a $3,500 fine in exchange for dismissing the charges.

In 2018, Newark and AHS had several contract disputes that created major crises. In March 2018, AHS attorney, Harry Levin, sent a letter to Plainfield and Belleville stating it suspended providing animal control and sheltering services to Newark. While AHS and Newark ultimately came to an agreement, the arrangement fell apart in the Fall of 2018 and AHS-Newark refused to accept Newark animals after November 7, 2018.

Newark and Large Animal Welfare Organizations Exclude Animal Advocates from Process to Replace AHS-Newark

After AHS-Newark decided to stop taking in Newark’s homeless animals, Newark officials scrambled for a solution. During October 2018, Newark officials considered sites to build a city owned shelter. Two of those sites are listed below.

Newark Proposed Shelter Site 1

Newark Proposed Shelter Site 2

Additionally, Newark’s then Deputy Mayor and Director of Economic and Housing Development, John Palmieri, stated a shelter would cost $15 million, which would be funded by municipal bonds. Furthermore, the Newark official said the city could get the shelter built within 15-18 months. However, Mr. Palmieri noted finding an operator was an issue given Best Friends declined to run a city owned shelter.

On October 31, 2018, Newark held a meeting with large animal welfare organizations. As you can see below, the attendees included two St. Hubert’s executives, the Humane Society of the United States New Jersey Director, Best Friends Northeast Regional Director, Liberty Humane Society’s Executive Director, New York City Mayor’s Office Animal Welfare Liasion and several members of the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness. Most notably, the meeting did not include a single animal advocate.

Subsequently, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced a deal for St. Hubert’s to provide sheltering services through the end of 2018 and that the city and Liberty Humane Society were negotiating a contract for 2019 (Liberty Humane Society ultimately did not enter into an agreement with Newark and St. Hubert’s continued its arrangement in 2019). At the time, I was happy to see Newark ditch AHS-Newark, but was concerned that St. Hubert’s would also kill animals. These concerns were based on my personal experience with St. Hubert’s, stories I heard over the years about the organization’s behavioral evaluations and the fact the shelter primarily serves areas with few challenging dogs. After reviewing St. Hubert’s contract with Newark, I publicly asked St. Hubert’s to provide details on how it would handle Newark’s animals to avoid killing them. Subsequently, I expressed deep concerns about St. Hubert’s not publicly disclosing what the outcomes of its Newark animals were and the City of Newark not making progress on building its own shelter.

At the end of April 2019, St. Hubert’s terminated its arrangement with Newark citing “financial hardship.” Furthermore, St. Hubert’s stated the “homeless animals in Newark will be best served by a centrally located facility that can provide ample resources and care.” However, St. Hubert’s also told NJ Advance Media that “The needs for a city that size are bigger than we can sustain without being a detriment to our other programs.” Ironically, St. Hubert’s admitted it continued with its “regularly scheduled rescues and transports throughout New Jersey and the United States” during the time it contracted with Newark. In other words, St. Hubert’s was not serious about saving Newark’s homeless animals since it interfered with their transport based pet store business model. As a result of St. Hubert’s move, the City of Newark had no animal shelter provider for a day. With no other alternative, the City of Newark contracted again with AHS-Newark at around a 50% greater monthly cost than it previously had with AHS-Newark.

What kind of job did St. Hubert’s do with Newark’s homeless animals? Did St. Hubert’s live up to the progressive ideals it portrays to the public? What effect will the St. Hubert’s and other animal welfare organizations’ arrangement have on Newark’s homeless animals in the future?

Data Reviewed

In order to get a better understanding of the job St. Hubert’s did with Newark’s homeless animals, I requested the intake and disposition records for each individual dog and cat the shelter took in from Newark during its contract term. Unfortunately, the City of Newark did not give me records for every animal. However, I did get records for a significant number of animals that gave me an understanding of how St. Hubert’s handled the Newark contract. You can see those records here and here.

St. Hubert’s Kills Large Number of Newark’s Homeless Dogs

St. Hubert’s had large percentages of their Newark dogs lose their lives. Overall, 35% of all dogs who had known outcomes lost their lives. If we just look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners, 54% of all these dogs lost their lives. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only had 1% of its dogs and 2% of its nonreclaimed dogs lose their lives in 2018. Thus, St. Hubert’s had its Newark dogs lose their lives at 35 times and 27 times Austin Animal Center’s rates for all dogs and nonreclaimed dogs.

Newark pit bulls fared far worse at St. Hubert’s. 47% of all pit bulls and 68% of nonreclaimed pit bulls with known outcomes lost their lives. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of its pit bulls and 2% of its nonreclaimed pit bulls in 2018. As a result, St. Hubert’s had its Newark pit bulls lose their lives at 47 times and 34 times Austin Animal Center’s rates.

St. Hubert’s also had too many small dogs and other medium to large size breeds from Newark lose their lives. Overall, the shelter had 18% of small dogs and 25% of other medium to large size breeds with known outcomes lose their lives. Frankly, shelters should be able to save nearly all small dogs due to the fact such animals cannot seriously injure dog savvy adult owners. Even the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, which is far from a progressive facility, only had 1% of small dogs lose their lives in 2017Austin Animal Center only had 1% of small dogs and 1% of other medium to large size breeds lose their lives in 2018. Thus, St. Hubert’s had both small dogs and other medium to large size breeds lose their lives at 18 times and 25 times Austin Animal Center’s rates.

Since St. Hubert’s did not have known outcomes in many of the records provided to me, it is useful to do an adjusted analysis assuming some of the ending population animals were adopted out. The table below assumes all dogs placed into foster homes or dogs adopted on a trial basis were adopted out. Under these assumptions, the death rates for all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size dogs were 29%, 39%, 14% and 21%. The nonreclaimed death rates using these assumptions were 40%, 53%, 17% and 38% for all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size dogs. Thus, St. Hubert’s Newark dog statistics were still terrible even when assuming large numbers of dogs were adopted out.

The final dog analysis assumes St. Hubert’s adopted out all Newark dogs in the ending population. While I believe this is unrealistic, it is useful to see how St. Hubert’s performed using the most generous assumption. Under this assumption, the death rates for all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds were 16%, 20%, 9% and 13%. The nonreclaimed death rates using these assumptions were 19%, 23%, 11% and 17%. Thus, St. Hubert’s Newark dog statistics were still awful even when the shelter received the most favorable assumption.

Cat Data Suggests Good Performance Due to Rescue Assistance

St. Hubert’s overall Newark cat statistics indicated death rates were slightly high. Overall, 11% of all cats, 11% of adult cats and 13% of kittens with known outcomes lost their lives. The nonreclaimed death rate was 13% for all cats, adult cats and kittens.

St. Hubert’s Newark cat statistics assuming live releases for all cats who were adopted out on a trial basis or placed into foster homes were good. Overall, the death rates using these assumptions for all cats, adult cats and kittens were 8%, 10% and 4%. The nonreclaimed death rates were 9% for all cats, 12% for adult cats and 4% for kittens.

The data suggests transfers to rescues and/or other shelters played a significant role. Overall, transfers to other organizations exceeded adoptions for both all cats and adult cats. For adult cats, transfers exceeded adoptions by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. If some of the trial adoptions and animals sent to foster homes ultimately were transferred and not adopted out, transfers to rescues and/or other shelters would have played an even larger role. Thus, St. Hubert’s seemed to disproportionately rely on other organizations to save the cats it took in from Newark.

St. Hubert’s cat statistics assuming all cats with no known outcomes were adopted out were very good. Overall, the death rates using this assumption for all cats, adult cats and kittens were 5%, 6% and 4%. The nonreclaimed death rates were 6% for all cats, 7% for adult cats and 4% for kittens. However, this generous assumption likely is not right since shelters frequently kill cats who stay at shelters for longer periods.

St. Hubert’s Absurd “Community Outreach” Claim

St. Hubert’s asserted Newark had a “pet overpopulation” problem and the organization was “dedicated to getting to the root cause” of it in its Spring 2019 newsletter. Newark Animal Control’s data showed AHS-Newark impounded 3,281 dogs and cats from Newark or 11.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 people during a 12 month period in 2017-2018. As a comparison, no kill communities in Kansas City, Missouri, Lake County, Florida and Austin, Texas took in 21.8, 17.4 and 15.1 dogs and cats per 1,000 people in 2019. Thus, St. Hubert’s claim that Newark has a “pet overpopulation” problem is not true since communities taking in significantly more animals on a per capita basis and in total achieved no kill.

St. Hubert’s attempt to solve this so-called “pet overpopulation” problem was inadequate. In that same newsletter, St. Hubert’s stated it provided free spay/neuter to 238 cats (who they said were mostly outdoor or community cats) and 33 dogs during a one time event. While I’m happy St. Hubert’s offered this service, these numbers would never make a dent in the dog or community cat population in Newark. Based on the methodology from St. Hubert’s own analysis from May 2014, the City of Newark should have between 20,896 and 47,015 community cats and 22,311 dogs. Therefore, St. Hubert’s spay/neuter effort would have sterilized 0.5% to 1.1% of Newark’s community cats and 0.1% of the city’s dogs. While a St. Hubert’s press release stated a slightly higher number of dogs and cats received free spay/neuter services (375 animals), this would only modestly increase these percentages. Based on a recent study showing sterilization rates of 60%-80% of a community cat population being needed to make a substantial reduction in the population, St. Hubert’s spay/neuter efforts clearly were not sufficient. Similarly, the low percentage of the Newark dog population sterilized at the clinic also shows this will have no real effect on dog intake at AHS-Newark. While St. Hubert’s claimed they would do more clinics if they got funding, I’ve not seen the organization make a substantial effort at doing this. Thus, St. Hubert’s spay/neuter effort is a public relations ploy rather than an effective no kill strategy.

Dog Data Consistent with St. Hubert’s Killing “Rescued” Newark Dogs

Recently, St. Hubert’s shocked animal advocates after it killed four dogs it “rescued” from AHS-Newark. St. Hubert’s killed the four dogs, Avery, Sumo, Bowser and Andy, after holding the animals for just 18 days. While St. Hubert’s claimed these dogs were severely dog aggressive, all the dogs were Associated Humane Societies-Newark “event” dogs. When I was a volunteer at AHS-Newark, we typically took the best behaved dogs to adoption events due to the obvious behavior challenges these events posed (i.e. many people, other dogs, etc.). As you can see in the pictures below, and by the fact these dogs participated well in these events, St. Hubert’s reasoning makes no sense. Additionally, AHS Assistant Executive Director, Ken McKeel, also came to the conclusion that these dogs could have been placed. Furthermore, animal welfare groups saved nearly every dog from the Michael Vick dog fighting case (i.e. proving organizations can even safely place many dogs used for fighting). Given St. Hubert’s operates a huge dog training facility, this organization had more than enough resources to do great things for these dogs.

The reality is St. Hubert’s did virtually nothing, but poison these dogs to death. How do I know? The shelter killed ALL four dogs on the same exact day after less than three weeks in their so-called shelter. In fact, the AHS Assistant Executive Director stated St. Hubert’s would not place these dogs after just nine days. Frankly, it defies logic that St. Hubert’s would conclude ALL four dogs were beyond help at the exact same time and after such a short period.

These events prove new St. Hubert’s Chief Operating Officer, Michelle Thevenin, was the wrong choice for the job. Ironically, Humane Rescue Alliance, the Washington D.C. based organization that recently acquired St. Hubert’s, announced Michelle Thevenin’s hiring on the very day St. Hubert’s conducted its fake “rescue” of these dogs and fundraising ploy. Ms. Thevenin previously ran a shelter in New Hampshire, and more recently, a limited admission shelter in Georgia. Humane Rescue Alliance stated the following in its press release:

Thevenin is deeply committed to growing St. Hubert’s best-in-class WayStation transport program.

Additionally, the Humane Rescue Alliance press release said:

She is committed to growing the WayStation and building capacity to help more animals and people.

Michelle Thevenin proved that she is firmly committed to St. Hubert’s and Roger Haston’s transport driven pet store business model. In other words, transport the easy to adopt dogs to raise money and receive large adoption fees, and kill the local dogs (i.e. adult pit bulls) that may require just a little work. This philosophy aligns with Humane Rescue Alliance’s own terrible performance with large dogs and pit bull like dogs in Washington D.C. and Humane Rescue Alliance celebrating Roger Haston last year.

Clearly, New Jersey legislators, animal advocates and animal welfare organizations should not consider St. Hubert’s an authority on any animal sheltering issues. Simply put, St. Hubert’s is controlled by an out of state organization looking to make itself, and its CEO who made $335,698 in fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, rich rather than helping New Jersey animals.

Simply put, St. Hubert’s views large dogs, particularly pit bulls, as expendable. St. Hubert’s own data from its Newark contract, its treatment of Avery, Sumo, Bowser and Andy prove that.

St. Hubert’s and National Animal Welfare Groups Enable AHS-Newark to Continue Doing Business as Usual

While I believe the national organizations involved in getting St. Hubert’s the Newark animal sheltering contract had good intentions, the end result made things worse for the city’s homeless animals. In November 2018, the City of Newark faced immense pressure to replace AHS-Newark. Given the very public and heated dispute between the City of Newark and AHS-Newark at this time, the City of Newark was unlikely to continue contracting with AHS-Newark. In other words, the City of Newark would likely have had to come up with an alternative, including running the shelter itself. Thus, the national organizations and St. Hubert’s brokered a deal that allowed the City of Newark to avoid taking this necessary action.

Unfortunately, St. Hubert’s own data and actions prove it never wanted to solve Newark’s animal sheltering crisis. Instead, it got some good news headlines and gave the City of Newark and AHS-Newark the political cover to continue contracting. After six months and St. Hubert’s abruptly walking away from its arrangement, the City of Newark made the case AHS-Newark changed and could be a viable sheltering solution:

The Associated Humane Societies (AHS) has a new board and both a vision and approach to achieving its mission to support the health and welfare of animals at risk,” said Dr. Wade. We are looking forward to a progressive relationship with them as we continue to canvass the city for a facility and location that would be appropriate for animal sheltering and in turn provide us with a long term solution.

As with past promises to build a new shelter, the City of Newark is unlikely to act without a sheltering crisis. Based on the New Jersey Department of Health’s refusal to inspect any animal shelters in over a year, we will probably not get the state health department to inspect AHS-Newark anytime soon. Since bad inspections historically drove media coverage of failing shelters, the City of Newark will face no pressure to replace AHS-Newark.

Sadly, AHS-Newark is regressing to its old ways. Last November, AHS Assistant Executive Director, Rob Russotti, resigned due to the AHS board refusing to allow him to make positive change at the shelter:

“I can unequivocally state that I was disappointed with my expectations of support, and an ongoing antiquated culture by certain members of the board,” Russotti said. “I did meet with internal resistance and undermining to my progressive initiatives which were supported by respected animal welfare organizations and the community.”

Recently, new AHS Assistant Executive Director, Ken McKeel, stated he will not allow rescues to pull small dogs, kittens and puppies unless they “take an older longtime resident or two.” As I stated in a Facebook post, this policy will increase killing at this regressive shelter for the following reasons:

  1. Not allowing rescues to pull more adoptable pets will lead to these animals staying at the shelter longer and cause less resources to go towards saving the harder to adopt animals.
  2. It will increase the shelter’s average length of stay (since AHS-Newark does a poor job with adoptions) and that will result in more sick animals and pets with behavior issues.
  3. Rescues are not likely to pull more hard to adopt animals just to get some easier to adopt pets. These rescues will simply go to other shelters.
  4. AHS-Newark is destroying its relationship with rescues who it will desperately need when the shelter becomes full.
  5. Many rescues will likely not pull animals since they have to make an appointment with an organization that is notoriously difficult to deal with.

With Roseann Trezza’s two year probation period barring her from officially running AHS-Newark expiring this spring, AHS-Newark will likely continue its decades long practice of regressive sheltering. Furthermore, AHS-Newark now receives around 50% more money from the City of Newark than before the St. Hubert’s contract. As such, AHS-Newark will surely feel emboldened to do whatever it wants.

Clearly, the St. Hubert’s debacle proves the animal shelter establishment in New Jersey and the United States cannot implement real shelter reform. Instead, as in most no kill communities, no kill advocates must engage in a long political campaign to force Newark and the other AHS-Newark contracting municipalities to create a real no kill shelter.

Roger Haston’s Ridiculous Kill Shelter Model

Last January, I wrote about Dr. Roger Haston’s “The Future of Animal Welfare” presentation at an Animal Care Centers of NYC sponsored event. Dr. Haston, who was serving as the Chief of Analytics at PetSmart Charities at the time, was giving the same presentation at events held by shelters across the nation. While I acknowledged Roger Haston made some good points, I was deeply disturbed by his anti-pit bull and pro-killing shelter animals views. Furthermore, I addressed a number of problems with the arguments and so-called facts he presented. Subsequently, Animal Farm Foundation wrote a blog refuting many of Dr. Haston’s points and futile attempts to get Dr. Haston to address these. Additionally, Nathan Winograd dismantled Dr. Haston’s pro-killing arguments.

Shortly thereafter, Roger Haston left PetSmart Charities. Currently, Dr. Haston’s Linkedin profile states he is the President of the Institute for Animals. Unfortunately, I could not find anything about this organization. However, Dr. Haston’s Linkedin profile states the following about his position:

Strategy development, though leadership, research and leadership development services for the animal welfare industry. Focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship between people and animals.

Based on this description, it seems Dr. Haston may provide consulting services to animal shelters. Given the views Dr. Haston expressed in his “The Future of Animal Welfare” presentation, it seems kill shelters could look to him for guidance. In other words, kill shelters might look to his analyses as a way to argue against no kill.

What is the analytical basis of Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill views? Does this analysis make sense? Does this analysis match reality?

Haston’s Anti-No Kill Model

While Roger Haston did not present the model he used as the basis for his recent “The Future of Animal Welfare” events, a presentation from several years before may provide this information. In January 2015, when Dr. Haston was the Executive Director of Colorado’s Animal Assistance Foundation, he gave a presentation titled “Beyond Labels: Understanding the True Impact of Live Release Rates and Intake Policies” in a Society of Animal Welfare Administrators webinar. You can view the presentation here and the accompanying slides here.

Dr. Haston uses an interesting and robust statistical method, stochastic modeling, to conduct his analysis. Most animal sheltering data models, such as the one I created, use “deterministic modeling.” Deterministic modeling yields the same results from the inputs or variables included. On the other hand, stochastic modeling, incorporates the varied results an input or variable could have to predict the results generated from those variables. Therefore, in theory stochastic modeling is a powerful statistical tool.

While the deterministic model I use to target New Jersey animal shelter performance (amounts of animals shelters should adopt out, send to rescues and euthanize) is simpler theoretically, I reduce much of the sources of variability and therefore weaknesses of this type of model. For example, I analyze animal intake on a monthly basis, which accounts for higher intake during warmer months, and incorporate the breeds of dogs and ages of animals shelters impound and the overall adoption demand in a region. Furthermore, since I assess past performance, much of the input data I use has no variability at all. Therefore, my model performs quite well when I compare it to the actual benchmark shelters’ performance I use.

In a nutshell, Dr. Haston uses various shelter data estimates to make future projections. For example, he forecasts if a shelter will exceed capacity, what will happen when it exceeds capacity and what the facility’s future financial performance will look like.

Rigged Assumptions Lead to Anti-No Kill Results

Dr. Haston’s model would yield the same general conclusion regardless if he used stochastic or deterministic modeling. Why? He uses excessive animal intake and insufficient shelter capacity, excludes some of the quickest ways animals leave shelters and ignores how shelters would act if they exceeded capacity.

In Dr. Haston’s model, he assumes the shelter takes 3,000 dogs in during the year and the facility can hold 150 dogs at one time. Additionally, he assumes, based on an undisclosed sample of shelters, that different classes of dogs (from most to least adoptable) make up different portions of shelter intake and have varying average lengths of stay.

Using standard animal shelter capacity calculations, which assume animals come in evenly during the year, the shelter would have to on average move its dogs out of the shelter in 18.3 days or less to avoid consistently going over capacity. However, Dr. Haston’s model, which is based on each major class of dog’s average length of stay, shows these dogs would have an average length of stay of 32.0 days. Thus, a less sophisticated model would also show this shelter quickly exceeding capacity.

If there is anything to take away from this blog, this is it. Why? These key assumptions drive Dr. Haston’s subsequent conclusions that no kill animal control shelters severely restrict intake, are filled with animals few or no people want and financially implode.

Under Dr. Haston’s model, a shelter only adopts out or euthanizes an animal under the assumption all dogs are owner surrenders. Obviously, that is not realistic since stray dogs usually are a larger source of dog intake than owner surrenders. In addition, owners sometimes reclaim dogs they previously surrendered.

Typically, owners reclaim lost dogs within a few days since the animals usually have a license and/or a microchip that allows shelters to quickly identify the owner. Therefore, the model yields an excessively long average length of stay since it excludes owner reclaims.

To incorporate owner reclaims into the analysis, I used Tompkins County SPCA’s most recent statistics. Dr. Haston appeared to use Tompkin County SPCA’s adoption length of stay based off his citation of Brown, et al., 2013. While Dr. Haston did not give the full reference of this source, I believe it is this study that takes place mostly at Tompkins County SPCA from 2008-2011 which I use in my own dog analysis. Since I could only find Tompkins County SPCA’s 2018 data, I used this data to compute a revised average length of stay from Dr. Haston’s model based on an assumed 3 days and 32 days average length of stay for owner reclaims and all other outcomes and the percentage owner reclaims made up of total adoptions, total euthanasia and total owner reclaims at Tompkins County SPCA in 2018. A 3 day average length of stay falls into the middle of the range of owner reclaims’ average length of stay I computed from several New Jersey animal control shelters.

After making this adjustment, the model’s average length of stay decreased from 32.0 days to 23.1 days. As a result, the difference between the average length of stay required to avoid exceeding capacity continuously and the model’s average length of stay dropped significantly.

As you will see below, several no kill animal control shelters have dog average lengths of stay around the required average length of stay to avoid perpetual overcrowding implied in Dr. Haston’s model. First, these shelters generally do a better job adopting out dogs than the facility (primarily Tompkins County SPCA from 2008-2011) Dr. Haston used and most likely adopt out dogs quicker. Second, Dr. Haston’s model does not incorporate dogs shelters transfer to rescues. Frequently, shelters can transfer dogs quicker to rescues, especially when the facilities are rescue friendly and make an effort. For example, the Paterson Animal Shelter, which is far from a progressive shelter, transferred a large percentage of all of its dogs as well as pit bull like dogs in 2015 after just seven days on average. Similarly, 2018 Animal Care Centers of NYC data I obtained showed the organization transferred a large number of dogs to rescues in ten days on average. Additionally, my 2017 analysis of Elizabeth Animal Shelter indicated dogs adopted out and transferred to rescues, which mostly were dogs sent to rescues rather than adopted out, spent only 14 days in the shelter. Thus, Dr. Haston’s failure to use role model no kill animal control shelters and dogs sent to rescues in his model makes the model yield inaccurate or skewed results.

Dr. Haston’s failure to include foster homes in his model grossly understates shelter capacity. While most people appreciate the benefits foster programs can have on both the mental and physical health of animals, many don’t realize how much extra capacity these programs can add to a shelter. For example, Dr. Ellen Jefferson provided a goal in a presentation at the 2019 American Pets Alive Conference for animal control shelters to have 3% of their annual dog intake in foster homes at a given point in time. Dr. Jefferson developed this target based on certain no kill animal control shelters’ successful foster programs. Since average length of stay incorporates animals in foster homes, we can add this to the shelter’s dog holding capacity in Dr. Haston’s example. This adjustment increases the shelter’s capacity from 150 dogs to 240 dogs.

As you can see below, the shelter in Dr. Haston’s example will normally have significant excess capacity even without accounting for animals sent to rescues and no kill animal control shelters with stronger adoption programs. While the inherent volatility of dog intake at an animal control shelter, such as a large hoarding case, could temporarily cause capacity concerns, this data shows Dr. Haston’s perpetual overcrowding and related conclusions are simply incorrect.

Real World Data Contradicts Dr. Haston’s Predictions

Dr. Haston’s model predicts a 95% live release rate animal control shelter will have a ridiculously long average length of stay. While his model implies a 32 day average length of stay based on the make-up of dogs brought to the shelter, the model actually predicts an astonishing 90 day average length of stay after one year.

Why does the model predict such a longer average length of stay? Unfortunately, Dr. Haston doesn’t explain whether he is calculating average length of stay for all the animals that came into the shelter during the period or the actual population of dogs in the shelter at a point in time. Assuming Dr. Haston calculated average length of stay of all dogs taken in during the period, which is how shelters typically calculate this metric, the increase in average length of stay from 32 days to 90 days may be due to the shelter exceeding capacity and not accepting all dogs, including many easy to adopt ones. Therefore, the harder to adopt dogs, which take significantly longer to place, will make up a larger portion of the total dog intake and increase the average length of stay.

Even if shelters consistently exceed capacity, which they shouldn’t as explained above, managed admission policies could mitigate that. For example, a managed admission shelter would be more likely to immediately accept an easier to adopt small dog than a larger dog with behavioral issues if the facility was near or at capacity. Therefore, these shelters would have  a much shorter average length of stay than 90 days if these facilities exceeded capacity consistently and restricted intake.

To analyze the Dr. Haston model’s predictions, I compared his model’s key results to actual data from three no kill animal control shelters. These shelters are as follows:

  1. KC Pet Project serving Kansas City, Missouri
  2. Williamson County Animal Shelter serving most of Williamson County, Texas
  3. Lynchburg Humane Society serving Lynchburg, Virginia during the period of my analysis

Due to the lag in non-profit financial data reporting, I had to use 2017 and 2016 data for KC Pet Project and Lynchburg Humane Society, respectively. I listed the links to the data I used in this analysis at the end of this blog.

The average length of stay computed by Dr. Haston’s model vastly exceeds the three no kill animal control shelters’ average lengths of stay. Specifically, Dr. Haston’s model predicts an animal control shelter with a 95% live release rate will have an average length of stay of 90 days while KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society had average lengths of stay of 18 days, 9 days and 19 days. In other words, Dr. Haston’s model predicted average lengths of stay five to ten times longer than these three comparable no kill animal control shelters with the same or higher live release rates. Thus, Dr. Haston’s conclusion that a 95% dog live release rate at an animal control shelter will result in the shelter holding large numbers of animals for extremely long times does not match the reality of well run no kill animal control facilities.

Successful no kill animal control shelters also have significantly lower costs than the amounts Dr. Haston’s model predicts. Dr. Haston’s model appears to only include medical and behavior costs in its “operating costs.” Unfortunately, I don’t have this subset of data for the three no kill animal control shelters. Therefore, I used each organization’s total costs, which would include other costs, such as various fixed and overhead costs, that Dr. Haston’s operating costs do not appear to include. To allocate these costs just to dogs, I used each shelter’s annual intake of dogs and cats as well as an estimate of the per animal cost based on average length of stay from the Maddie’s Fund Financial Management Tool. Even using an apparently broader measure of shelter costs, the estimated total costs per dog at KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society were $406, $287 and $635 compared to the $750 per dog figure Dr. Haston’s model predicted.

Dr. Haston’s model also understates shelter revenue at no kill animal control shelters. Specifically, Dr. Haston only measures adoption revenue. In reality, adoption fees usually fall way short of covering animal care costs. No kill animal control shelters recoup some of these costs through funding received from the governments running or contracting with them. However, no kill organizations, especially private ones, receive significant donations since the public wants to support shelters that save lives. As you can see below, the estimated total revenue per dog (allocated the same way as total costs per dog above) was $381, $453 and $701 at KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society compared to the $176 of adoption revenue per dog Dr. Haston’s model predicted.

The three no kill animal control shelters’ revenue and cost data disprove Dr. Haston’s implicit assertion that no kill leads to financial ruin. Dr. Haston’s model predicted a net loss of around $574 per dog. During the periods presented, both Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society, which received only modest government funding, turned an estimated profit of $166 per dog and $66 per dog, respectively. While KC Pet Project did have an estimated loss of $25 per dog during the year presented, this was an anomaly. Since KC Pet Project was formed in 2011 and began running a no kill animal control shelter shortly thereafter, its net assets increased from $0 to $1,146,550 due to its revenues exceeding its costs over this time period. Thus, Dr. Haston’s model predicting financial ruin at no kill animal control shelters does not match the experience of these three no kill groups.

These three no kill organizations also disprove Dr. Haston’s assertion that a 95% live release rate animal control shelter turns significant numbers of dogs away. According to widely accepted estimates, the average American animal control shelter takes in 14 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. Based on the ASPCA’s estimated total animal shelter intake in the United States, which includes animal control and rescue oriented facilities, approximately half the animals are dogs and half are cats. Therefore, the average American animal control shelter takes in around 7 dogs per 1,000 people. As you can see below, KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society took in 12 dogs per 1,000 people, 8 dogs per 1,000 people and 22 dogs per 1,000 people. In other words, these three shelters received more dogs than the average American animal control shelter. While these three no kill facilities do manage intake at times, its hard to argue they are “turning away” significant numbers of dogs and those dogs are having bad outcomes.

The three no kill animal control shelters also disprove Dr. Haston’s prediction that an animal control shelter with a 95% live release rate will do few adoptions. As you can see below, KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society adopted out 6 dogs per 1,000 people, 5 dogs per 1,000 people and 18 dogs per 1,000 people. In other words, these three shelters adopt out around as many or significantly more dogs than the average American animal control shelter takes in let alone adopts out.

Absurd Predictions When Incorporating Rescue Oriented Shelters into the Analysis

Dr. Haston laid out one scenario where a rescue oriented shelter in the community took all dogs in when it had room and the animal control shelter had a 90% live release rate. In a second scenario, Dr. Haston assumed the animal control facility had a 95% live release rate and the rescue oriented shelter in the community did not accept the least adoptable dogs (i.e. the dogs an animal control shelter with an 85% live release rate would kill). In the real world, the rescue oriented shelter’s intake policy almost always is more similar to scenario 2 than scenario 1 since most of these organizations pick and choose which dogs they take in. While some of the qualitative results of the first scenario compared to the second scenario make sense (i.e. the animal control shelter in scenario 2 will have a longer average length of stay and higher operating costs than the animal control facility in scenario 1), the actual model’s results do not match reality.

The table below compares Dr. Haston’s animal control shelter’s predicted results under scenario 2 with successful no kill animal control shelters. All three no kill animal control shelters have selective admission rescue oriented shelters in their areas. Therefore, they are operating in a similar scenario to Dr. Haston’s model. As you can see, Dr. Haston’s model predicts an average length of stay 6-14 times longer than these shelters’ average lengths of stay. Similarly, the no kill animal control shelters pulled in 3-5 times more revenue per dog, incurred 40%-73% lower costs per dog and took in more dogs than Dr. Haston’s model shelter did. Thus, Dr. Haston’s model becomes even more absurd after he incorporates rescue oriented shelters.

So how did Dr. Haston calibrate his model to real world results? He contacted 100 no kill shelters across the country about accepting a large dog with behavioral issues and almost all of the facilities did not agree to take the dog in. Since Dr. Haston did not say which shelters these were, I assume these were selective admission shelters. Given we already know selective admission shelters cherry pick their animals, including those near the three no kill animal control shelters above, this is meaningless.

If that was not bad enough, Dr. Haston used his favorite punching bag, pit bulls, at a regressive shelter to validate his model. In a slide titled “Concentration of Difficult Animals in Open Admission Facilities”, Dr. Haston cited pit bulls making up 45% of dog intake and around 25%-30% of dogs killed at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) as evidence supporting his model’s results. First, Dr. Haston citing pit bulls as “difficult” tells you much about his attitude about these animals. While dogs having a pit bull label do stay longer at shelters, a peer-reviewed scientific study proves removing breed labels significantly reduces pit bulls lengths of stay at shelters. Second, MADACC is a regressive shelter that had 21% of their dogs lose their lives last year and 32% of dogs lose their lives in 2014 (one year after Dr. Haston’s MADACC data goes up to). For example, the Wisconsin Watchdog blog detailed the shelter needlessly killing a “pit bull mix” with a potential adopter waiting in 2014. Does anyone in their right mind think this shelter was doing all it could do five years ago? Thus, the idea that rescue oriented shelters put an unfair burden on animal control shelters and that forces them to kill is absurd.

Dystopian Conclusions

Dr. Haston makes a good point that the live release rate is a key metric, but we must also look at other data as well. I fully agree with this. For this reason, my dog report card blog each year also grades shelters on the number of local animals (which often require more effort to save) these facilities take in and adopt out. Additionally, the no kill and animal welfare movements should also create other metrics of success to ensure shelters follow all parts of the No Kill Equation. That being said, the live release rate will always be extremely important given killing animals is intolerable.

Unfortunately, Dr. Haston repeats the false notion that raising the live release rate from 85% to 95% results in longer lengths of stay, increased costs and refusing animals. While I know some shelters do severely restrict intake in order to raise their live release rates, that is not what well-run no kill animal control shelters do. As the three no kill animal control shelters’ data above showed, large no kill animal control shelters take many dogs in, save around 95% or more of these animals and do so in a financially responsible way. Can a shelter have a shorter average length of stay and lower costs if it settles for an 85% live release rate and quickly kills every challenging dog? Yes, that is likely. However, the three no kill animal control shelters’ data above prove you can still achieve a very short average length of stay and have manageable costs at a 95% or above dog live release rate. Additionally, no kill animal control shelters’ revenue surge when the public realizes these facilities are doing everything possible to save their animals. Thus, Dr. Haston’s thunderous conclusions about doom and gloom for animal control shelters achieving around 95% live release rates are wrong.

Most disturbing, Dr. Haston describes an “optimal” live release rate where killing is not only acceptable, but desirable. In essence, Dr. Haston says we should quickly kill “difficult” animals, such as pit bulls, and take in more easy to adopt dogs. In other words, shelters should operate more like pet stores instead of doing the necessary work to save “difficult” animals. While Dr. Haston doesn’t explicitly state this in his presentation, he did say “we can’t adopt our way out of” the so-called pit bull problem in a presentation he recently gave. Furthermore, Dr. Haston’s 2015 presentation stated saving more lives may mean sacrificing the individual.

Sadly, Dr. Haston’s myopic view need not be true. While shelters will adopt out more easy to adopt dogs all else being equal, all else is not equal. As the no kill movement spreads, the innovative policies will spur positive change in many organizations. As organizations improve, they will responsibly reduce dog intake, increase live outcomes and therefore rescue more at risk animals. By contrast, Dr. Haston’s narrow view only allows shelters to increase adoptions by having easy to adopt animals. That is a recipe for stagnation.

What happens when shelters run out of these easy to adopt animals in the future? Apparently, they may work with “responsible breeders.” According to a recent Animal Farm Foundation Facebook live video (starting at 11:00 minute mark), the 2019 HSUS Animal Expo conference had a session on doing just this. Specifically, shelters would have “responsible breeders” breed desirable dogs for “gold level adopters” since the shelters would be filled with those “difficult” to adopt dogs “nobody wants” like pit bulls. While I can’t say Dr. Haston supports this, it is a logical extension of his kill the “difficult” dogs and adopt out the easy dogs philosophy.

At the end of the day, Dr. Haston’s and many so-called shelter leaders’ anti-no kill views are based on a deeply flawed model. Not only do the model’s conclusions violate basic ethical values, the actual quantitative predictions fall apart when we compare them to well-run no kill animal control shelters. Clearly, no organization should consider this a prediction of what real no kill sheltering looks like. Instead, shelters should consider the model useful if they attempt to implement no kill the wrong way. If that happens, then the model could show what will happen. However, Dr. Haston does not present his model this way and declares no kill/high live release rates a disaster. Sadly, Dr. Haston’s messaging ruins what could be a very good way to illustrate the perils of not implementing no kill the right way. As a result, Dr. Haston’s model will be used by lazy shelter directors to defend the status quo and not improve.

Appendix – No Kill Animal Control Data Used in Comparison to Dr. Haston’s Model

KC Pet Project 2017 Animal Data

KC Pet Project 2016 Dog Average Length of Stay (2017 data not available, but unlikely to differ significantly)

KC Pet Project 2017 Form 990 Tax Return

Williamson County Animal Shelter 2017-2018 Animal Data, Dog Average Length of Stay and Financial Information

Lynchburg Humane Society 2016 Animal Data

Lynchburg Humane Society 2016 Dog Average Length of Stay

Lynchburg Humane Society 2016 Form 990 Tax Return

Maddie’s Fund Financial Management Tool to Estimate Cost to Care for Dogs

New York ACC and PetSmart Charities Think Killing is “The Future of Animal Welfare”

A few weeks ago, I came across an invitation from the New York ACC to attend a presentation by Dr. Roger Haston from PetSmart Charities. After seeing Dr. Haston’s impressive educational background, a PhD in Geophysics and an MBA, an apparently successful professional career, and his analytical approach, I was eager to attend. In fact, I was so interested in the topics I watched two of his presentations from elsewhere. Subsequently, I went to his speech in New York City. Based on the New York ACC hosting this event and also having Dr. Haston separately teach the organization’s staff, its safe to assume the New York ACC holds similar views to Dr. Haston.

Does Dr. Haston have the right vision for “the future of animal welfare”?

Overview of Animal Welfare History

Dr. Haston’s presentation was nearly identical to ones he’s given across the country. You can view one he recently gave here. In person, Dr. Haston was articulate and presented his material in a clear and concise manner.

First, Dr. Haston provided a short history of animal welfare in the United States. As others, such as Nathan Winograd, have stated, Henry Bergh launched the humane movement with his focus on animal cruelty in New York City in the 1800’s. Dr. Haston then talked about how poor treatment of livestock in the United Kingdom in the 1960s led to the creation of the “Five Freedoms” as a humane standard for treating these creatures.

Dr. Haston then discussed the growth of the humane movement starting around 1970. These things included the creation of high volume spay/neuter clinics, eliminating cruel euthanasia methods, increased veterinarian involvement with shelters and more adoptions. He then talked about developments in the 1990s, such as the no kill movement starting, large well funded shelters, reduced intake from high volume/low cost spay/neuter efforts and increased public interest in adopting. Finally, he talked about the Asilomar Accords, which is a method of tabulating animal shelter statistics and computing live release rates that have been criticized by many animal advocates as a way to excuse shelter killing, and the growth of rescues and transports after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Dr. Haston also made some other good points. He talked about the growth of transports and how the financial incentives can lead to fake rescues selling animals. Dr. Haston also talked about the failure of the animal welfare community to reach pet owners in need in poor areas. In particular, he provided a nice example of why “free” spay/neuter is often costly to people in these areas and explains why many people don’t take advantage of these services. Finally, he made a point, which I have also long made, that we need more animal welfare organizations to merge to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

If this is all Dr. Haston discussed, I would have had a very positive review. Unfortunately, much of the rest of his presentation was repackaged excuses for shelter killing. Dr. Haston stated “conflicts and confusion” developed in the 2010s and called out no kill groups, such as Nathan Winograd’s No Kill Advocacy Center, for being divisive. Unfortunately, this set the tone for Dr. Haston’s views.

Myths of Pet Overpopulation, No Kill Shelters Severely Limiting Intake and No Kill Advocates Instigating Threats of Violence

As I’ve discussed in the past, the live release rate cannot be the only way we view shelters. Specifically, we must also ensure shelters have relatively short average lengths of stay and use large percentages of their appropriate animal enclosures to maximize life saving. In addition, we must also evaluate if and how effectively shelters implement the eleven no kill equation programs, which include humane care.

Dr. Haston provided a graph with absurd data to make the point that we shouldn’t focus on live release rates at animal control shelters. On the graph, he showed how transported dogs were generally easy to adopt. However, on the other side of the graph, Dr. Haston showed about 25% of local community intake at animal control shelters in his data set from the Pacific Northwest were “unhealthy/untreatable.” Based on the many no kill animal control shelters across the nation taking in predominantly local dogs, we know no where near 25% of dogs are hopelessly suffering or a serious threat to people without the possibility of rehabilitation. Thus, Dr. Haston seemed to just accept seemingly bad shelters words that they had all these unadoptable animals despite numerous no kill animal control shelters proving the opposite with their very high live release rates.

In another presentation he gave several years ago, Dr. Haston implied no kill leads to selective admission and shelters turning their backs on animals in need. Furthermore, Dr. Haston’s past presentation argued limited admission shelters in communities lead to the animal control shelters filling up with unadoptable animals. How do we know this is not always true? We have plenty of examples of animal control shelters achieving dog live release rates of around 95% to 99%, taking large numbers of challenging dogs and having selective admission shelters in their communities.

If that was not bad enough, Dr. Haston’s seemed to imply we should kill less adoptable dogs and transport in easier to adopt ones. He used data from an undisclosed sample of shelters, most of which I would bet are not elite no kill animal control shelters, showing intakes of certain types of dogs, such as pit bulls and Chihuahuas, exceeding their positive outcomes to insinuate we can’t save these types of dogs. In fact, he said “we can’t adopt our way out of” the so-called pit bull problem. As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve posted extensive data of high volume animal control shelters saving over 90% and up to 99% of pit bulls. You can view these blogs here, here and here. In fact when asked about saving pit bulls in shelters, Dr. Haston could only provide a nebulous and incoherent answer about solving a community problem. In other words, Dr. Haston implied until society somehow magically transforms, we would have to keep on killing pit bulls despite numerous animal control shelters proving we can save these dogs.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Dr. Haston later talked about a person who was “brutally killed by a pack of stray pit bulls.” As far as I can tell, he was simply quoting a news article that stated four pit bulls killed the victim. However, a later article stated only two of the dogs were pit bulls with the other two dogs being a boxer mix and a Queensland heeler mix. In fact, DNA tests from two forensic labs found no evidence that these dogs even killed the victim. Given many dogs are mislabeled as pit bulls, it is irresponsible for any animal welfare leader to assert “a pack of stray pit bulls” killed someone without DNA evidence supporting that claim. Even if the dogs truly were pit bulls, Dr. Haston shouldn’t be using “pit bulls” to single out these types of dogs given many breeds of dogs can and have killed people. Sadly, it seems Dr. Haston has an anti-pit bull bias.

Dr. Haston also stated shelters were underfunded and seemed to suggest we couldn’t expect great shelters without that funding. In particular, Dr. Haston had a graph showing per capita funding of shelters in various cities with New York City near the low end. In reality, the New York ACC takes very few animals in and is in fact well-funded on a per animal basis, which is the appropriate funding metric. The New York ACC received $647 per dog and cat from the City of New York based on recent data compared to Kansas City’s no kill animal control shelter receiving just $136 per dog and cat from its city contract. Even if we doubled the Kansas City shelter’s funding to account for animal control services it doesn’t currently provide, Kansas City’s no kill animal control shelter still would just receive $272 per dog and cat impounded or just 42% of the New York ACC’s government funding per dog and cat. How do these shelters succeed with such little government funding? They limit costs by moving animals quickly out to live outcomes and gain donations and volunteer support due to the public supporting their great work. Thus, Dr. Haston’s implication that we must wait until the day when money falls from trees to get shelters we deserve is patently false.

Dr. Haston also implied that the focus on live release rates and no kill led to threats against shelter personnel. In reality, no kill leaders, such as Nathan Winograd and Ryan Clinton, also tell advocates to act professionally and avoid personal attacks. To imply no kill advocates are responsible for the bad behavior of others is a cheap shot designed to discredit a movement.

Perhaps, most misleading, Dr. Haston talked about Italy’s no kill law leading to overcrowded shelters and the mafia running those facilities. While I have no idea whether the mafia runs all Italian shelters, no serious people advocate for Italy’s ban on all shelter killing. Instead, advocates argue for the Companion Animal Protection Act which requires shelters to take common sense steps to get animals out of shelters alive, responsibly reduce intake and provide elite care to animals in those facilities.

Finally, Dr. Haston points to Calgary as a solution to the “pit bull problem” and increasing public safety, but this is simply a mirage. Under the Calgary model, high dog licensing rates and severe penalties are credited with increasing live release rates (via increased numbers of dogs returned to owners) and reducing dog bites. However, as I wrote about several years ago, Calgary’s high licensing rate is due to the city’s relatively wealthy and educated population and not the so-called Calgary model. Many wealthy and educated communities also achieve high dog licensing rates and 90% plus dog live release rates.

Backwards Looking Future

Dr. Haston’s concludes his presentation by going anti-no kill. On a slide about successful messages “starting to get in our way”, Dr. Haston cites “No kill”, “Save them all” (which Best Friends has used as a call to action), “Animals should only be adopted” and “People want to kill adoptable pets” among other things. If you read between the lines, Dr. Haston seems to say “stop with no kill and saving lives” and focus on other things.

In fact, Dr. Haston states we’ve begun to reach the “limit” of lifesaving, “the anti-euthanasia movement has become unhitched from animal welfare as defined by the Five Freedoms” and “animals are starting to suffer because of it.” The Five Freedoms are as follows:

  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior
  5. Freedom from fear and distress

Most notably, the Five Freedoms do not include to most important freedom, the freedom to live. If you don’t have the freedom to live, you can’t have any of the other freedoms since you won’t be alive to experience those freedoms.

Frankly, it is impossible for shelters to give animals the “Freedom from fear and distress” if those facilities kill animals, particularly those that routinely do so. Animals sense death and to claim a kill shelter can prevent animals from fearing the ultimate abuse, which is a very real possibility, is completely “unhinged” from reality.

Sadly, Dr. Haston is just repackaging the long disproven claim that no kill equals hoarding and poor care. Numerous no kill animal control shelters, such as Williamson County Animal Shelter in Texas, Kansas City’s KC Pet Project and Virginia’s Lynchburg Humane Society, achieve average lengths of stay for dogs of just one to three weeks. Clearly, these shelters are not warehousing animals. Will these shelters sometimes during an emergency, due to say a hoarding case, double up kennels or even place a dog in a temporary enclosure for a very short period of time? Yes. Apparently, according to people like Dr. Haston, we should just immediately kill a dog instead of doubling him or her up in a kennel or putting the animal in a temporary enclosure for a day or two. This is akin to saying we should kill children in refugee camps since they aren’t experiencing all their “Five Freedoms.” If no one in their right mind would assert that for people, why would a so called animal lover demand animals be killed when obvious lifesaving alternatives exist?

In reality, shelters fully and comprehensively implementing the No Kill Equation not only provide these freedoms, which frankly are the bare minimum, but provide elite care and the most innovative programs to keep animals happy and healthy. For example, the full version of the Companion Animal Protection Act requires shelters provide high levels of veterinary care, socialization to animals, rigorous cleaning protocols and the most humane ways of euthanizing animals. In fact, traditional shelters, the ones Dr. Haston likes to lionize, are the very organizations opposing the Companion Animal Protection Act and its high standards of humane care.

Dr Haston provides nebulous goals that mirror what poorly performing kill shelters have stated for years. Specifically, Dr. Haston says we should have the following goals:

  • Preserving and building the relationship between all pets and people
  • Eliminating, cruelty, suffering and abuse
  • Maintaining public trust and safety

The goal of “Preserving and building the relationship between all pets and people” is vague and conflicts with shelter killing. What exactly does Dr. Haston mean? How does he measure this? What are the metrics he uses to show success? In the presentation, he provided none rendering this goal meaningless. In contrast, when shelters needlessly kill healthy and treatable animals they destroy the relationship between pets and people by directly killing their pets (i.e. when shelters kill animals before an owner reclaims the pet or kill animals families had to surrender). Furthermore, kill shelters send the message to people that their pet lives do not have value. If the “professionals” kill a pet for cost or convenience, why shouldn’t a regular pet owner who is having some problem?

The goal of eliminating cruelty, suffering and abuse is laudable, but the greatest amount of companion animal cruelty, abuse and suffering occurs in regressive shelters. Virtually everyone supports ending animal cruelty. In fact, this is why I spent a large amount of time and money helping pass a new law to professionalize animal cruelty law enforcement in New Jersey. However, routine, systemic and institutional abuse occurs in many of the nation’s kill shelters. After all, if you ultimately will kill an animal, what difference does it make if the animal is in discomfort shortly before you take its life? Sadly, time and time again, we see high kill shelters abuse animals before committing the ultimate abuse, killing. Remarkably, Dr. Haston not only fails to demand shelters to stop killing, he seems to want us to increase that killing by telling us to not criticize shelters needlessly killing animals.

The “Maintaining the public trust and safety” goal is also a hidden attack on no kill. This goal, when you view it in context with the entire presentation, implies shelters must kill a good number of pets to protect the public from animals. The No Kill Movement has long supported shelters euthanizing dogs that truly are a serious threat to people with no reasonable hope of improving when reputable sanctuary options don’t exist. In fact, No Kill Learning talked about this recently. However, successful animal control shelters’ data show at most, a few percent, or as little as 0.2% at Austin Animal Center, of all dogs coming into such shelters are truly dangerous to people and can’t be fixed. In fact a University of Denver study found that severe dog bites did not increase in Austin during the time its dog live release rate skyrocketed to a very high number. Thus, the implication that proper implementation of no kill and public safety are not compatible is simply not true.

While Dr. Haston clearly is an intelligent, successful and articulate person, I think his own involvement with traditional animal welfare organizations has clouded his thinking. Dr. Haston served on the board, and ultimately was the chairman, of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. Over the years, this organization opposed no kill just as Dr. Haston apparently does. Ultimately, he started a full time career as the Executive Director of the Animal Assistance Foundation before moving onto PetSmart Charities. The Animal Assistance Foundation muzzles organizations which use “divisive language” by making them ineligible for grants. So if an organization calls out a high kill shelter for needlessly killing animals, the Animal Assistance Foundation will apparently not give them grant money. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Animal Assistance Foundation Statement of Position on Community Responsibility provides many excuses for killing animals yet does not demand those organizations not kill animals. Thus, Dr. Haston clearly has his own biases and we should take that into consideration.

At the end of the day, Dr. Haston mars his valid points with his support for shelter killing. How can one credibly talk about preserving the bond between pets and people when this very same person condones shelter killing? How can a person talk with authenticity about ending animal cruelty when that same individual enables the ultimate abuse, which is killing? Simply put, you cannot talk coherently about helping animals if you support needlessly killing those same creatures.

Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill message is dangerous for animals due to his influence. Given he speaks around the country, has an impressive background, is articulate and represents a large animal welfare organization, many people could be swayed by his pro-killing message. Furthermore, PetSmart Charities holds the purse strings on large amounts of animal welfare grants. If PetSmart Charities incorporates Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill views into awarding grants, this could disadvantage no kill organizations and enable pro-killing groups in the future. Thus, its imperative that no kill advocates challenge Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill message.

Given the New York ACC’s continued failure to end the killing at its shelters, is it any wonder why they brought Dr. Haston in to “educate” the public and teach its own staff? Despite what the New York ACC hoped to achieve, the public will see through an impressive resume and a slick presentation to see the New York ACC for the poorly perfoming and high kill sheltering organization that it is.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Breaks the Law and Kills Healthy and Treatable Animals in 2017

My last blog detailed Elizabeth Animal Shelter killing more animals in 2017. Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s dog death rate nearly doubled and its cat death rate increased by nearly 50% in 2017 compared to 2016. Furthermore, the shelter hardly adopted out any animals themselves, but instead relied almost entirely on rescues.

What reasons did Elizabeth Animal Shelter use to kill animals in 2017? Were they justified? Did the shelter continue to violate state law as the shelter did in 2016?

Shelter Kills Large Numbers of Dogs for Aggression

Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed too many dogs for aggression/behavior. As the table below shows, the shelter killed 9% of all dogs for aggression/behavior. On the other hand, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.2% of all the dogs it took in for aggression/behavior during 2017. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed dogs for aggression/behavior at 45 times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also killed too many dogs for treatable medical reasons. During 2017, the shelter killed 3% of all dogs medical related reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized around 0.8% of all dogs in 2017 for medical reasons. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed dogs for medical reasons at four times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Dogs Killed.jpg

The shelter killed even more pit bulls for aggression/behavior. During 2017, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 25% of the pit bull like dogs it took in for aggression/behavior. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.3% of the pit bulls it took in during 2017 for aggression/behavior. To put it another way, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed pit bull like dogs for aggression/behavior at 83 times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

As with all dogs, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed too many pit bulls for medical reasons. Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 5% of all pit bulls for medical reasons in 2017. However, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.6% of all pit bulls in 2017 for medical reasons. As a result, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed pit bulls for medical reasons at eight times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Pit Bulls Killed.jpg

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also killed more dogs for aggression/behavior in 2017 as compared to 2016. The shelter killed 9% and 6% of all dogs for aggression/behavior in 2017 and 2016. Similarly, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed 25% and 18% of pit bull like dogs for aggression/behavior in 2017 and 2016. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s dog and pit bull kill rates for aggression/behavior increased by nearly 50% in 2017.

Dog ID# 15-D was a 5 year old pit bull surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on April 20, 2017. According to the owner, the dog had no aggression/behavior problems or medical issues. While the owner mentioned the dog was not compatible with other dogs and cats, the owner stated the dog was good with kids and adults and was house trained. Despite this dog obviously not having aggression issues with people, the shelter’s veterinarian labeled the dog “not friendly” and killed him after just two weeks at the shelter.

15-D Surrender Form.jpg

15-D Dog Killed at Ellizabeth Animal Shelter

15-D Euthanasia Record

Harley (Dog ID# 24-F) was a ten year old pit bull like dog surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on June 29, 2017. While Harley’s owner mentioned the dog was not compatible with other dogs and cats, the owner stated the dog was good with kids and adults and was house trained. Even though Harley’s owner clearly indicated the dog was good with both kids and adults, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Harley seven days later for “human aggression.”

Dog 24-F Elizabeth Surrender Form.jpg

Dog 24-F Elizabeth Euthanasia Record.jpg

Hawk (Dog ID# 19-H) was a two and half year old pit bull like dog surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on August 24, 2017. According to Hawk’s owner, Hawk had no aggression/behavior problems and was not sick or injured. In addition, Hawk’s owner stated the dog was good with other dogs, kids and adults and was house trained. Despite these facts, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Hawk two weeks later for alleged human and animal aggression. Furthermore, the records did not indicate the shelter made any rehabilitation efforts to fix these so-called behavior issues.

Dog 19-H Elizabeth Surrender Form.jpg

Dog 19-H Elizabeth Euthanasia Record

Rocky was a one year old pit bull like dog surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on March 13, 2017. According to Rocky’s owner, the dog was not sick or injured and had no aggression/behavior issues. After seven days, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Rocky and cited parvo and bloody diarrhea as the reasons. Furthermore, the veterinarian’s invoice suggests Elizabeth Animal Shelter did not treat Rocky other than possibly giving him a parvo vaccine on the day they killed him (the vaccine could have been administered to another dog).

Elizabeth Animal Shelter failed Rocky in every way. Assuming the dog was not sick when he arrived at the shelter, the shelter would have been able to treat Rocky as soon as he displayed symptoms. If the dog was displaying parvo symptoms when he arrived at the shelter, Elizabeth Animal Shelter would have broken state law by not providing prompt medical care since Rocky did not see a veterinarian until seven days later. Instead, Elizabeth Animal Shelter should have treated Rocky with fluid therapy, anti-nausea medications and antibiotics and given him several fecal and blood tests. Most importantly, parvo virus is highly treatable and shelters, such as Austin Pets Alive, are saving around 90% of puppies who contract parvo. Adult dogs, such as Rocky, would certainly have an even higher chance of surviving this disease if the shelter properly treated this dog. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter either waited too long to treat Rocky or simply found it easier and cheaper to kill him.

Dog ID 11-C Elizabeth Surrender Form.jpg

Dog ID 11-C Euthanasia Record.jpg

Dog 11-C Vet Invoice.jpg

Shelter Kills Too Many Cats for Aggression and Questionable Medical Reasons

Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed large numbers of cats for aggression and other behavioral reasons. Overall, the shelter killed 9% of all cats citing aggression/behavior and feral as the reasons. Frankly, shelters should never kill cats for behavior and large animal control facilities, such as Austin Animal Center, prove it is possible.

The shelter also killed too many cats for medical reasons. Overall, the shelter killed 11% of all cats due to various medical reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 4% of their cats for medical reasons even though rescues took a much smaller percentage of cats. Given rescues take so many cats at Elizabeth Animal Shelter, it is highly likely a number of additional ill/injured cats died or were euthanized shortly after rescues took the animals.

2017 Elizabeth Animal Shelter Cats Killed Reasons

Ke Ke was a one year old cat surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on April 13, 2017. Ke Ke’s owner stated he had no behavior or aggression issues, no health problems, was good with cats, adults and kids and was house trained. Despite Ke Ke being obviously adoptable, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed him 16 days later stating the “cat is very aggressive and feral.” Clearly, this cat was scared in a shelter environment and Elizabeth Animal Shelter used that as a basis to kill him.

7-D Cat Elizabeth Animal Shelter Surrender Form.jpg

7-D Cat Elizabeth Animal Shelter Euthanasia Record.jpg

Tiger was a six month old cat surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on October 5, 2017. The owner stated Tiger had no behavior or aggression problems, no health issues, and was good with cats and kids. Despite the owner stating the cat was not aggressive, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed her just seven days later for having a “Severe Behavior Issue.”

4-J Cat Elizabeth Animal Shelter Surrender Form.jpg

Cat 4-J Elizabeth Animal Shelter Euthanasia Record.jpg

Kitty was a four year old cat surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on November 11, 2017. The owner stated Kitty was good with dogs, kids and adults and was house trained. While the owner stated the cat had no illnesses or injuries, they did note the cat had urine issues. After just five days, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Kitty for having “bloody urine.” While bloody urine can be caused by a serious disease, such as cancer, the shelter did not document the cat was hopelessly suffering. Furthermore, cats with blood in the urine, which is also known as hematuria, can be treated. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter may have illegally killed Kitty during the seven day protection period and made little effort to save her life.

7-K Elizabeth Animal Shelter Surrender Form

7-K Elizabeth Animal Shelter Euthanasia Record

Chester was a three month old kitten surrendered along with his sister, Diamond, to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on November 30, 2017. According to the owner, the two kittens were good with dogs, cats, kids and adults and were not sick or injured. In addition, the owner requested the shelter keep the animals together. After 20 days, Elizabeth Animal Shelter killed Chester for having bloody diarrhea. No records provided to me indicated any effort to treat this kitten.

18-K Elizabeth Animal Shelter Surrender Form

18-K Elizabeth Animal Shelter Euthanasia Record

18-K Elizabeth Animal Shelter Veterinary Invoice

Shelter Becomes Less Transparent

As I reported last year and in 2016, Elizabeth Animal Shelter’s legally required euthanasia records did not comply with state law. Specifically, the records did not identify the euthanasia drug the shelter used (the records stated “Euth.” which could mean Euthasol or just an unnamed euthanasia drug) and the method of euthanasia. Furthermore, the euthanasia records in 2016 and 2015 indicated euthanasia was not conducted humanely based on the shelter using pure ketamine in excessive doses as a tranquilizing agent. Finally, many of the legally required weights listed in the euthanasia records were convenient numbers, such as those ending in a zero or five, and possibly suggested the shelter did not weigh animals before administering tranquilizers and euthanasia drugs.

Elizabeth’s Health Officer told me the shelter moved its euthanasia activities to its veterinarian’s office in 2017 and did not have euthanasia records. Furthermore, I found many killed animals, particularly cats, were only included in the veterinarian invoices and not the shelter’s records. While the shelter can have animals killed/euthanized at an outside veterinarian’s office, the shelter must maintain all of the euthanasia records as well as intake and disposition records at the shelter as the New Jersey Health Department of Health’s July 23, 2014 inspection report on Linden Animal Control stated. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter violated N.J.A.C. 8.23A 1.11 (f) (4) and 1.13 (a) and (b).

Elizabeth Animal Shelter may have illegally killed cats before seven days passed. While the shelter stopped routinely illegally killing owner surrendered animals in 2016, the shelter’s veterinarian killed many cats at his office that the shelter did not include in its intake and disposition records. If the shelter’s veterinarian did not hold these animals for seven days, and the animals were not hopelessly suffering, the shelter would have violated the state’s stray/hold period found in N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16. Overall, I found the shelter failed to include nearly 40 cats in its intake and disposition records that were killed at the shelter veterinarian’s office. Almost all the cats the veterinarian listed as ill or injured did not have sufficient documentation in the records provided to me to prove these cats were hopelessly suffering. Furthermore, the veterinarian killed a number of cats for aggression or being feral. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter may have illegally killed large numbers of cats before seven days passed.

Shelter Has No Disease Control Program, No Recent Inspection Reports and Does Not Keep All Required Records

Elizabeth Animal Shelter currently has no disease control program. While the city’s Health Officer assured me a draft program was under review by the Elizabeth Dog Control Committee last year, the city did not provide me a disease control program this year despite repeated requests under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act. Under state law, a shelter must have a disease control program in order to operate. In 2016, the New Jersey Department of Health made this explicitly clear:

If a facility does not have a disease control program established and maintained by a licensed veterinarian, the facility cannot be licensed to operate in New Jersey.

Therefore, Elizabeth Animal Shelter must put an appropriate disease control program into place as soon as possible.

Furthermore, the City of Elizabeth failed to provide me any legally required health department inspection reports that were conducted in 2017 and 2018. Under state law, a shelter must be inspected each year, by June 30 of that year, and show compliance with shelter statutes to receive a license to operate in that year. As a result, Elizabeth Animal Shelter was illegally operating an animal shelter since it should not have had a license to operate the facility after July 1, 2017.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter also failed to document the breed on many cats it took in as required by N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13 (a). The shelter should start doing so especially since it does not require much effort.

Shelter Continues to Illegally Transfer Stray Animals During the Seven Day Hold Period

Elizabeth Animal Shelter transferred and adopted out 38 dogs and cats during the seven day stray hold period in 2017 (almost all went to rescues). 31 of the 38 animals were cats which often have very low owner reclaim rates. Of the 31 cats, 21 were kittens which are highly susceptible to catching deadly illnesses in animal shelters. However, only two of the seven dogs and 10 of the 31 cats were released for medical reasons. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter appeared to release most of these animals during the seven day hold period for reasons other than medical treatment.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter should retain ownership of the animals it releases during the seven day hold period. In other words, Elizabeth Animal Shelter should have the rescues and adopters “foster” these animals during this time. After seven days, the rescuers and adopters should then take ownership of the pets. While animals are being fostered, the shelter should keep photos and other records as well as the rescue’s/adopter’s contact information to allow someone to redeem their pet. Similarly, individuals or groups fostering these animals must return pets back to the owners during the stray hold period. Thus, Elizabeth Animal Shelter can easily comply with state law, give owners a chance to reclaim their lost pets, and create much needed space to save lives.

Elizabeth Animal Shelter Must Make Bold Moves to Improve

Clearly, Elizabeth Animal Shelter must fix many basic sheltering issues. Specifically, the shelter must pass rigorous inspections every year, create and implement a robust disease control program, keep proper records and comply with the stray/hold law. Simply put, Elizabeth Animal Shelter must follow the law.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Animal Shelter continues to act as if its above the law. Despite my blogs over the last couple of years alerting the shelter to its violations of state law, it continues to break state law. Ultimately, the New Jersey Department of Health must inspect this shelter to force it to take these blatant violations of state law seriously.

Elizabeth animal advocates must step up and resume the activism they conducted in 2014. At that time, the promised volunteer/contractor was the major change the city made to placate animal advocates. As the data from my last blog and this blog show, this person, at least in her current part time role, is not enough to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals in Elizabeth. Instead, the city must create a No Kill Implementation plan similar to the one in Austin, Texas that mandates the shelter fully put the No Kill Equation into place and achieve a minimum 90% live release rate. Furthermore, the City of Elizabeth can hire a no kill consultant, such as No Kill Learning, to help the shelter put this plan into place. If the City of Elizabeth makes these changes, Elizabeth Animal Shelter will finally become a facility that saves rather than takes lives.

Plenty of Homes Exist for Shelter Dogs and Cats in New Jersey and Cumberland County

Recently, I criticized Cumberland County SPCA’s practice of spaying obviously pregnant cats in a Facebook post. Specifically, I stated the shelter clings to the objectively false “too many animals not enough homes” narrative when it justifies spaying visibly pregnant cats. While spaying obviously pregnant cats is common in animal welfare, there are organizations heavily involved with TNR that do not do so. When a pregnant cat is spayed, the shelter kills the mother’s kittens via a forced abortion where the kittens suffocate to death or, if the kittens can breathe on their own, by taking them out of their mother and injecting them with Fatal Plus poison.

Despite my post laying out clear data on why Cumberland County SPCA does not have to kill these kittens, I received largely fact-free criticisms from several people working at Cumberland County SPCA as well as certain individuals in the rescue community. For example, people claimed pet overpopulation exists and cited shelter killing and rescues having trouble adopting out cats and kittens as support for these claims. Does Cumberland County SPCA and any New Jersey animal control shelter really need to kill these kittens?

Market Research Data Proves Shelter Killing is Unnecessary

No kill leader, Nathan Winograd, has preached that shelters do not need to kill due to “pet overpopulation” for a decade. While national groups, like HSUS and the ASPCA, opposed Mr. Winograd and the no kill movement for several years, even they agreed that more than enough homes exist for the animals coming into shelters in 2014. As you can see in this video from HSUS Expo 2014 citing data used by the Shelter Pet Project, approximately 17 million people in the country will acquire a dog or cat each year and would consider obtaining that animal from a shelter or rescue. Around 3 million of these animals are killed in shelters each year. If shelters can increase their market share by adopting out dogs and cats to 3 million of those 17 million potential homes, shelters will no longer kill healthy and treatable animals. Thus, shelters and rescues must persuade 18% of these 17 million households to choose to adopt.

The HSUS Expo 2014 also had Dr. Emily Weiss from the ASPCA and Todd Cramer from PetSmart Charities support the concept that more than enough homes exist for shelter animals. During their presentation, they touted customer friendly adoption processes (i.e. open adoptions). Furthermore, another speaker showed how many shelters and rescues would refuse to adopt to the other presenters, who are obviously good pet owners, using overly restrictive adoption polices that drive potential adopters to breeders and pet stores. Therefore, the idea that shelters do not have to kill is supported by both the leaders of the no kill movement and the traditional animal sheltering industry.

New Jersey Animal Shelters Have More Than Enough Homes for Cats

The American Pets Product Survey, which is the original source of the information above, recently issued updated data. Using this data and demographic statistics, I was able to compute reasonable estimates of just how many pets New Jersey residents acquire each year relative to the number of pets state shelters kill in a year.

The table below summarizes the New Jersey cat adoption market. Initially, we must estimate the number of cats that live in New Jersey households. Based on the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Survey, 94,200,000 cats live in the country’s households. By taking the percentage New Jersey households are of United States’ households, we can estimate 2.5% of the 94,200,000 cats in U.S. households are in New Jersey homes. Given the home ownership rate in New Jersey and the country are identical and fewer residents in New Jersey (15%) live in homeowners associations, condos and co-ops compared to the country as a whole (21%), New Jersey residents do not face greater pet owning restrictions than the country as a whole. Therefore, using estimates in New Jersey based on national data is reasonable.

We must then compute the number of cats in New Jersey homes and how many cats New Jersey residents acquire each year. To do that, we multiply 2.5% by the 94,200,000 to estimate 2,384,490 cats live in New Jersey homes. Under the assumption cats spend 10 years in a home and people replace those cats, we can estimate New Jersey residents acquire 238,449 cats each year. While the average cat lives longer than 10 years, many people acquire adult cats and cats also become lost. Therefore, the average time a cat is in a home is likely around 10 years.

Next, we must compare New Jersey animal shelters’ share of the market to the averages of several high performing animal control shelters. Based on the data above and recent statistics from Virginia’s Lynchburg Humane Society, Nevada Humane Society’s Washoe County and Carson City facilities and Kansas City, Missouri’s KC Pet Project, these shelters have 47%, 34% and 22%, respectively, of the cat acquisition markets in their communities. All three organizations serve more challenging areas than the average New Jersey animal shelter as shown by their communities’ poverty rates (Lynchburg Humane Society: ~16%, Nevada Humane Society: 13% and KC Pet Project: 18%) exceeding New Jersey’s poverty rate (10%). Furthermore, a greater percentage of households are rented in these three areas (i.e. more pet restrictions) than New Jersey. If New Jersey’s animal shelters obtained the average of these three shelters’ cat market shares (35%), New Jersey animal shelters could adopt out 82,294 cats each year. Given New Jersey animal shelters needlessly killed 9,138 cats in 2016 (i.e. total cats needed to reduce all state animal shelters’ kill rates to 8%), New Jersey animal shelters would only need to adopt out 9,138 or 15% of the additional 59,056 cats these shelters should adopt out.

Clearly, New Jersey animal shelters can adopt out far more cats then they do.

NJ Cat Supply and Demand

Cumberland County SPCA Has More Than Enough Homes to End the Killing of Cats

The same analysis for Cumberland County yields a similar result. As you can see below, I used Cumberland County’s number of households as a percentage of New Jersey’s households to compute the number of available homes in the county. Based on the average percentage (35%) the three benchmark animal shelters above make up of the cat adoption market, Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out 1,306 cats or nearly two and a half times more than the 547 cats the shelter adopted out in 2017. In other words, the shelter could attain a no kill level cat live release rate of 92% (i.e. a proxy for no kill status) and even rescue a little more than 100 additional cats from other facilities if it simply replicated the average cat adoption market share of these three role model shelters. While Cumberland County Animal Shelter does take in more cats than the average shelter in the state, this analysis shows more than enough homes exist for its cats.

Cumberland County, NJ Cat Market

State Has Plenty of Homes for Shelter Dogs

New Jersey shelters have even more homes available for their dogs than cats. Based on the average dog market share of the three benchmark shelters (23%), New Jersey animal shelters could adopt out 47,430 more dogs than they do now. Since the state’s animal shelters needlessly killed 2,168 dogs in 2016, they’d just have to reach 5% of the 47,430 additional dog adoptions to ensure every New Jersey animal shelter had at least a 95% dog live release rate. Furthermore, data from the 2017-2018 American Pets Products Survey indicates New Jersey animal shelters could adopt out 36,156 medium and large size dogs. In fact, this exceeds the 33,463 dogs the state’s shelters impounded in 2016.

NJ Dog Supply and Demand

Cumberland County SPCA Can Adopt Out Many More Dogs

Cumberland County SPCA also has many more homes available for their dogs. Based on the three role model animal shelters’ average market share of the dog acquisition market, Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out 507 more dogs than they did in 2017. Since Cumberland County SPCA needlessly killed 42 dogs (46 dogs may have lost their lives if the four dogs the shelter listed as “Other” outcomes died) in 2017, they’d just have to reach less than 10% of the 507 additional dog adoptions to ensure the shelter had at least a 95% dog live release rate. Furthermore, data from the 2017-2018 American Pets Products Survey indicates Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out 574 medium to large size dogs out a year. Thus, Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out many more dogs and stop killing healthy and treatable dogs.

Cumberland County Dog Supply and Demand

Plenty of Homes Exist in My More Conservative Analysis

Each year, I use a model I created to target the number of dogs and cats every New Jersey animal shelter should adopt out, send to rescue and rescue from other facilities. You can read more about these models for dogs here and cats here.

New Jersey animal shelters could adopt out far more dogs and cats than they unnecessarily kill according to my model. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters could adopt out over 32,000 more cats or four times as many cats than they currently needlessly kill. Similarly, the state’s animal shelters could adopt out nearly 12,000 more local dogs (i.e. excluding transports) or five times more than they currently needlessly kill.

NJ Cat Adoption Potential - NJ Animal Observer Model

2016 NJ Shelters Dog Adoption Potential

While Cumberland County SPCA impounds more cats than most New Jersey communities, the same trend holds for this shelter. Specifically, Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out 712 more cats while it needlessly killed 549 cats (630 cats if we assume the 81 cats classified as “Other” outcomes died). Interestingly, rescues and other shelters pulled over 150 more cats than my model targets for Cumberland County SPCA. Thus, Cumberland County SPCA received more than enough rescue assistance.

CCSPCA 2017 Cat Adoption Potential - NJ Animal Observer Model

Cumberland County SPCA’s dog data is ever more favorable. Specifically, Cumberland County SPCA could adopt out 209 more dogs per my model while it needlessly killed 42 dogs (46 dogs if we assume the four dogs the shelter classified as “Other” outcomes died). Furthermore, the rescue community did more than their fair share by rescuing around 120 more dogs than I target for Cumberland County SPCA.

CCSPCA 2017 Dog Adoption Potential - NJ Animal Observer Model.jpg

Reaching Adopters Requires High Quality Customer Service

Frequently, I see regressive shelters and certain rescues complain about too many animals and not enough homes while these organizations make it difficult for people to adopt. Many shelters and rescues create an adversarial relationship with potential adopters by requiring various documents and other hurdles to “prove” their worthiness to adopt. Some examples are as follows:

  • Home checks
  • Landlord references and/or home ownership documents
  • Veterinary references
  • Personal references
  • Household pet veterinary records
  • Mandating all family members go to adopt the animal at the same time
  • Requiring existing household dogs go and visit the dog a family wants to adopt
  • Requiring fenced in yards
  • Barring families who work from adopting
  • Not allowing families with children to adopt (when the animal does not have serious behavior problems)
  • Denying adoptions when an existing pet is not spayed/neutered even when the shelter/rescue will alter the adopted pet.

While I could write paragraphs on why these policies end up killing shelter pets, the Humane Society of the United States’ Adopters Welcome guide provides excellent explanations on why these policies do not work along with supporting studies. The key points about these policies are as follows:

  1. Make potential adopters feel like criminals
  2. Cause people to provide “the right answers” and not share other information
  3. Reduce the number of good pet owners who can adopt
  4. Extend the time animals stay with shelters and rescues that ultimately lead to increased killing for space, more stress and behavioral deterioration in shelter animals and higher disease rates in shelter animals

After adopting out animals the conventional way through rescues my spouse and I fostered for, we switched to an “open” or conversational based adoptions process similar to the HSUS Adopters Welcome policies. Instead of using a check the box adoption approval process, we develop relationships with adopters. We spend a good amount of time talking with the adopter, getting to know them, and helping them determine whether the pet is a good fit. As a result of the relationships we develop, the adopters almost always become “friends” with us on Facebook and we often see the pets enjoying life in their new homes.

Why Many Shelters and Rescues Ignore Data That Saves Lives

So why do shelters ignore the clear evidence that more than enough homes exist for homeless animals, particularly in New Jersey? When shelters and their staffs kill animals, they must rationalize this fact especially if they love animals. If not enough homes exist, these individuals can then say they have no choice. This rationalization, which may have been true decades ago when shelter intake was far higher, is embedded in the culture of many shelters and even many rescuers. Thus, these people will often get angry when they learn killing shelter pets is in fact avoidable.

The reasons many rescuers also believe in pet overpopulation is more complicated. As I indicated above, some long-time rescuers may still view the world as it was decades ago when pet overpopulation really did exist. On the other hand, some rescuers may require the pet overpopulation myth to rationalize their close friendships with individuals running kill shelters. Finally, some cat rescuers, particularly those practicing TNR, may see the large numbers of community cats and be frustrated they can’t find homes for every one of them. While finding a home for every single community cat is not realistic, community cats do in fact thrive outside. Therefore, some TNR practitioners may conflate community cats with those in shelters to incorrectly conclude not enough homes exist for the much smaller number of cats in shelters.

Shelters and rescues frequently use onerous and counterproductive adoption processes due to the people they typically encounter not representing the pet owning public. Many shelters and rescues often deal with people who must surrender their animals as well those that may abuse their pets. However, this is a tiny percentage of the pet owner population. For example, New Jersey animal shelters impounded 67,594 dogs and cats in 2016 from the state while 4,655,071 dogs and cats live in New Jersey homes per the estimates above. In other words, only 1.5% of the dogs and cats in New Jersey homes entered a shelter as a stray, an owner surrender or in a cruelty seizure in 2017. However, even that estimate is too high since shelters impound many community cats with no owner. If we just look at dogs, New Jersey animal shelters only took in 1.1% of the dogs in New Jersey homes. Even this number may be too high since many dogs arriving at shelters were lost due to an accident and the owner quickly reclaimed the animal. If we exclude all reclaimed dogs from these calculations, only 0.6% of dogs in New Jersey homes would end up in a shelter. Thus, many shelters and rescues are judging potential adopters based on around 1% of New Jersey pet owners.

Many shelters and rescues may use overly strict adoption processes due to personal reasons. Unfortunately, I’ve encountered some people running shelters and rescues who believe they are morally superior to others and/or are on a power trip. While these people may claim their adoption processes are there to protect the animal, I find they enjoy having power over people who are emotionally attached to an animal they want to adopt. In extreme cases, I’ve seen overt racism involved. Finally, I’ve found some individuals running shelters and rescues to lack people skills and openly claim they hate people and love animals. While there is no crime in having that view, organizations would save more lives if they have individuals who like people interacting with adopters.

At the end of the day, the animal welfare movement must make logical decisions based on objective data rather than myth and folklore if we are to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals. The sooner we do that, the sooner will will achieve a no kill New Jersey and a no kill nation.

Austin Animal Center’s Awesome Year

Austin, Texas has become synonymous with no kill success. While Austin Animal Center exceeded the 90% live release rate many consider as being no kill in 2012, the shelter’s live release rate increased sharply in 2016. The shelter’s success in 2016 was spearheaded by Director of Animal Services, Tawny Hammond, and Deputy Chief Animal Services Officer, Kristen Auerbach, both of whom came over from Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Virginia.

Hound Manor performed a fantastic analysis of Austin Animal Center’s 2016 results. This analysis utilized various computer programming techniques to extract incredibly useful data from Austin’s open public data on its web site. While I don’t have the skills to replicate such an analysis, I was able to obtain some key data I frequently use in my New Jersey animal shelter analyses.

Tammy Hammond left Austin Animal Center in May 2017 to join Best Friends and Kristen Auerbach resigned in July 2017 to take over Pima Animal Care Center in Tuscon, Arizona. How did Austin Animal Center perform in 2017? Did the shelter continue its success without two of its key leaders?

Incredible Live Release Rates

Austin Animal Center saved virtually every dog that arrived in 2017. Overall, only 1.3% of all dogs, 1.1% of pit bull like dogs, 1.5% of small dogs and 1.2% of other medium to large size dogs lost their lives or went missing at the shelter. Even if we only look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners, only 1.8% of all dogs, 1.7% of pit bulls, 2.1% of small dogs and 1.6% of medium to large size breeds lost their lives or went missing. Thus, Austin Animal Center saved almost every dog it took in last year.

Austin Animal Center’s pit bull numbers are especially noteworthy. Despite taking in over 1,900 pit bull like dogs in 2017, Austin Animal Center saved 99% of these dogs. On a per capita basis, Austin Animal Center impounded 1.9 pit bulls per 1,000 people compared to my estimate of just 0.9 pit bulls per 1,000 people taken in by New Jersey animal shelters as a whole. In other words, Austin Animal Center saved 99% of its pit bull like dogs even though it took in twice as many of these dogs on a per capita basis as New Jersey animal shelters. Similarly, Austin Animal Center adopted out 0.8 pit bulls per 1,000 people compared to the 0.5 pit bulls per 1,000 people New Jersey animal shelters would need to adopt out to achieve a 95% dog live release rate. As a result, Austin Animal Center’s results prove New Jersey animal shelters can do a far better job with their pit bull like dogs.

Austin Animal Center 2017 Dog Statistics

Austin Animal Center also had amazing cat numbers. Overall, only 5.3% of all cats, 7.2% of adult cats, 1.9% of kittens 6 weeks to just under one year and 8.5% of kittens 6 weeks and under lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2017. Even if we exclude cats who were reclaimed by owners and placed through the shelter-neuter return program, only 6.4% of all cats, 11.1% of adult cats, 2.2% of kittens 6 weeks to just under 1 year and 8.6% of kittens under 6 weeks old lost their lives. Thus, Austin Animal Center saved almost all their cats of all ages.

Austin 2017 Cat Statistics

Austin Animal Center Only Euthanizes Dogs for Legitimate Reasons

The table below lists the reasons Austin Animal Center used to euthanize dogs in 2017. As you can see, 75% of the euthanized dogs were due to severe medical reasons (i.e. suffering, at veterinarian).

Austin Animal Center limits behavioral euthanasia to truly aggressive dogs. Hound Manor’s blog on Austin Animal Center’s 2016 data found the shelter euthanized a similar percentage of dogs for behavioral reasons in the final quarter of fiscal year 2016 as the No Kill Advocacy Center targets (i.e. under 1%). As you can see below, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.15% of all dogs for behavioral related reasons (i.e. aggression, behavior, court/investigation). Even if we add rabies risk and none, Austin Animal Center would have only euthanized 0.22% of all dogs for behavioral reasons. Thus, Austin Animal Center limited behavioral euthanasia to truly aggressive dogs.

Austin Animal Center also reduced the number and percentage of dogs euthanized for rabies risk. As Hound Manor mentioned in its blog, few dogs killed for rabies testing end up having the disease. In fact, the New Jersey Department of Health’s guidelines state shelters should not euthanize dogs for rabies unless they have clinical signs of the disease. Austin Animal Center euthanized 5 dogs (0.05% of all dogs) in 2017 compared to the 14 dogs (0.14% of all dogs) reported by Hound Manor in fiscal year 2016.

Austin Animal Center 2017 Euthanized Dogs Reasons

The shelter also limited behavioral euthanasia for pit bull like dogs to truly aggressive animals. Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.26% of all pit bulls for aggression and behavior. In fact, this number was nearly identical to the percentage of all dogs euthanized for behavioral related reasons. The other 0.58% of all pit bulls euthanized were suffering. When you couple this data with the results of a recent study showing severe dog bites did not increase after Austin implemented its no kill plan, it proves shelters can in fact safely adopt out large numbers of pit bull like dogs.

Austin Animal Center 2017 Pit Bulls Euthanized Reasons

Austin Animal Center’s reasons for euthanizing small dogs followed this same pattern. The shelter only euthanized one dog for aggression and other behavioral reasons (0.03% of all small dogs). This is quite close to my standard that shelters should never euthanize a small dog for aggression. Almost all the other small dogs were euthanized for severe medical issues (i.e. suffering, at veterinarian).

Austin Animal Center 2017 Small Dogs Euthanized Reasons.jpg

The shelter also only euthanized other medium to large size dogs for legitimate reasons. Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.18% of other medium to large size dogs for behavioral related reasons (i.e. aggression, behavior, court/investigation). Even if we add rabies risk and none, Austin Animal Center would have only euthanized 0.30% of all dogs for behavioral reasons. Virtually all the rest of the other medium to large size dogs were euthanized for severe medical problems.

Austin Animal Center 2017 Other Dogs Euthanized Reasons

Austin Animal Center Limits Cat Euthanasia Primarily to Severe Medical Issues

The table below lists the reasons Austin Animal Center used to euthanize cats in 2017. As you can see, around 90% of the euthanized cats were due to severe medical reasons (i.e. suffering, at veterinarian). While 5% of the euthanized cats and 0.2% of all cats who had outcomes cited “medical”, its possible these were severe medical issues that warranted humane euthanasia. Similarly, Austin Animal Center’s very low numbers of cats euthanized for no documented reason or for being underage (6 cats, 2.41% of euthanized cats and 0.10% of all cats who had outcomes) may indicate clerical errors rather than the shelter killing cats for no good reason. Most impressively, Austin Animal Center did not kill a single cat for behavior or aggression.

Austin Animal Center also reduced the number and percentage of cats euthanized for rabies risk. As Hound Manor mentioned in its blog, few animals killed for rabies testing end up having the disease. Austin Animal Center euthanized 7 cats (0.11% of all cats who had outcomes) in 2017 compared to the 23 cats (0.34% of all cats who had outcomes) reported by Hound Manor in fiscal year 2016.

These statistics indicate Austin Animal Center pretty much only euthanizes hopelessly suffering cats. Given shelters should never kill cats for aggression or behavioral reasons, this is an incredible achievement since Austin Animal Center had 6,569 cats who had outcomes during the year.

Austin Animal Center 2017 Cats Euthanized Reasons

Austin Animal Center’s Partner Helps the Shelter

Austin Pets Alive has been a major reason the community achieved no kill status. Historically, this organization pulled animals directly from the kill list at Austin Animal Center. In other words, instead of cherry-picking easy to adopt animals like many rescues do, Austin Pets Alive takes on the most difficult animals. As a result of taking on these tough cases and the organization’s strong desire to make Austin no kill, Austin Pets Alive developed and implemented a host of cutting edge programs. Examples, such as dog playgroups, a Canine Good Citizen training and certification program and large scale fostering help save the lives of large dogs that are most likely to lose their lives in shelters. Other programs, such as parvo and ringworm treatment and barn cat placements save vulnerable animals. In addition, Austin Pets Alive’s owner surrender prevention program helps owners keep animals and avoid giving them to Austin Animal Center. Thus, Austin Pets Alive has historically focused on its community to help Austin Animal Center achieve no kill status.

Austin Animal Center is relying less on Austin Pets Alive than in the past. In 2012, when Austin Animal Center first exceeded a 90% live release rate, it sent 29% of its dogs and 51% of its cats to Austin Pets Alive and other shelters and rescues. Last year, it only sent 22% of its dogs and 28% of its cats to Austin Pets Alive and other organizations. As a result, Austin Pets Alive has been able to assist other Texas shelters since its local animal control shelter truly achieved no kill.

Austin Animal Center Sets a New Bar for Lifesaving

Austin Animal Center has continued to improve over the years. While Austin Animal Center benefited from having an amazing rescue oriented shelter, Austin Pets Alive, help, Austin Animal Center has really stepped up its game. You can see some of the innovative programs, such as progressive animal control, breed neutral adoption policies, a large scale foster network, innovative social media use and a huge and effective use of volunteers in this story. As a result of these efforts, Austin Animal Center has effectively limited euthanasia to hopelessly suffering animals and dogs that are truly dangerous.

While Austin Animal Center’s success is hard to match, the animal control shelter serving the area just to the north, Williamson County Animal Shelter, also is extremely successful. Despite having a significantly smaller budget per animal than Austin Animal Center (approximately 40% less after adding an estimated $200 per animal to Williamson County Animal Shelter’s budget for animal sheltering only) and receiving less rescue support for both dogs (Austin Animal Center: 22% of outcomes; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 10% of outcomes) and cats (Austin Animal Center: 28% of outcomes; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 11% of outcomes), Williamson County Animal Shelter came close to reaching Austin Animal Center’s live release rates for dogs (Austin Animal Center: 98.7%; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 98.0%) and cats (Austin Animal Center: 94.7%; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 90.2%).

Williamson County Animal Shelter also had very impressive adoption numbers. While Austin Animal Center’s per capita adoption rates of 4.6 dogs and 3.2 cats per 1,000 people are excellent, Williamson County Animal Shelter’s per capita adoption rates of 5.0 dogs and 6.7 cats per 1,000 people are even higher. Similarly, Williamson County Animal Shelter scored much better using my dog adoption model taking into account shelter capacity and owner reclaims (Austin Animal Center: 118% of target dog adoptions; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 251% of target dog adoptions). Williamson County Animal Shelter’s high score was primarily due to it quickly adopting out animals. This is reflected in the shelter’s short average length of stay figures (dogs: 8.0 days, cats: 13.4 days).

The key point is that Austin Animal Center is not unique. Since an animal shelter taking in over 7,300 dogs and cats in 2017 (i.e. higher intake than the largest New Jersey animal shelter) next door to Austin can achieve similar success, this proves Austin Animal Center was not taking homes away from animals in nearby areas. If anything, Austin Animal Center and Williamson County Animal Shelter likely spurred innovation at both facilities through raising standards and learning from each other.

New Jersey animal control shelters can achieve similar success. In 2016, Associated Humane Societies, New Jersey’s largest animal sheltering organization, took in $1,354 of revenue per dog and cat impounded. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center had a budget of $715 per dog and cat and Williamson County Animal Shelter only had a budget of $416 per dog and cat and total revenue of $493 per dog and cat after adding $200 per dog and cat for animal control services (shelter does not pick up animals). Thus, New Jersey’s largest animal welfare organization takes in far more money per dog and cat yet its Newark facility is high kill and had horrific state health department inspection reports.

Clearly, shelters like Austin Animal Center and Williamson County Animal Shelter prove most animal control shelters can achieve high live release rates and attain real no kill status (i.e. only euthanize hopelessly suffering and truly dangerous dogs). The time for excuses has stopped and its now time for action.

Associated Humane Societies-Newark’s Atrocious Inspection Report

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with Associated Humane Societies-Newark’s horrific history. In 2003, State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation (“SCI”) issued a scathing report on AHS. Specifically, the report stated AHS failed its animals on a grand scale:

The history of AHS’s shelter operation has been dominated by deplorable kennel conditions, inhumane treatment of animals by workers, mismanagement and nonexistent or inadequate medical care. The problems were neither singular nor occasional. The accounts and descriptions provided by members of the public and former and current staff members, including veterinarians, paint a bleak picture of shelter life. The reality for the animals belied AHS’s propaganda that its “sole purpose” has been “the care and welfare of animals” and that it has “a high adoption rate.”

The New Jersey Department of Health found AHS-Newark violating state law left and right in 2009. This inspection revealed AHS-Newark did the following:

  1. Illegally killed animals during state’s seven day hold period
  2. Left dead rotting animals in shopping carts outside
  3. Let dogs live in filthy kennels covered in feces
  4. Failed to properly treat sick animals
  5. Did not isolate sick animals from healthy ones
  6. Failed to properly clean animal enclosures
  7. Had an inadequate disease control program
  8. Did not list weights of animals and methods used to kill animals
  9. Did not properly keep animal intake and disposition records
  10. Facility needed repairs to prevent injury to animals
  11. Allowed animal enclosures to deteriorate to the point they could not be properly cleaned

Sadly, the New Jersey Department of Health continued to find significant issues during another inspection in 2011. The inspection report noted dogs housed in kennels with a collapsed roof and workers throwing damaged roof material directly over these dogs. Additionally the report stated outdoor drains were in severe disrepair, no isolation areas for sick large dogs existed, automatic dog feeders were filthy, dogs were exposed to contaminated water and chemicals during the cleaning process, and some animals were not receiving prompt medical care.

Last year, I wrote a blog highlighting potential violations from 2014. Specifically, records I examined suggested AHS-Newark may have violated state law as follows:

  1. Illegally killing animals during state’s seven day hold period
  2. Failing to properly treat sick animals
  3. Not keeping proper animal intake and disposition records

As a result of this review and the City of Newark’s Department of Health and Community Wellness failing to conduct robust inspections, I requested the New Jersey Department of Health inspect AHS-Newark.

After animal advocates got word of a joint New Jersey Department of Health and Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness inspection (undoubtedly the New Jersey Department of Health did most, if not all, of the work) last week, AHS-Newark attempted to downplay the results. Specifically, the organization made a Facebook post that included the following language suggesting AHS-Newark just needed to refine a few processes to make sure it is “operating at the highest level”:

Associated Humane Societies (AHS) Newark branch has recently been inspected by both the NJ State Health Department and the City of Newark Health Department. We are working closely with both agencies to ensure we are operating at the highest level we can so we may provide the best service possible to both the animals and the public. We look at this as an opportunity to review and improve our processes and to retrain established and new staff.

Was AHS-Newark being fully transparent with its statement? Does AHS-Newark have massive problems? Has AHS-Newark consistently had the same issues? What kind of “service” does AHS-Newark provide to the animals and the public?

You can view the inspection report here and the related photos here. All photos posted in this blog were originally sourced from the New Jersey Department of Health’s August 22, 2017 inspection of AHS-Newark.

AHS-Newark Violates State Law on a Massive Scale

According to the inspection report, AHS-Newark did not comply with state law to such an extent that the City of Newark could not issue the facility a license.

1.2 (a) and (b) The facility is not in compliance with these rules, therefore a satisfactory certificate of inspection for the current licensing year by the local health authority cannot be issued. The facility is currently unlicensed and a license for the current year cannot be issued by the City of Newark until the facility is brought into significant compliance.

Illegal Killing During Seven Day Protection Period

AHS-Newark illegally killed both stray and owner surrendered animals during the seven day protection period. In fact, AHS-Newark illegally killed many animals according to the inspectors. Given AHS-Newark violated this law in 2009 and should have known from my blog last year that it potentially violated the law in 2014, the shelter has no excuse for these actions. To make matters worse, AHS-Newark illegally killed surrendered animals at the shelter and its clinic next door. Clearly, AHS-Newark has no respect for life since it can’t wait a mere seven days to kill animals.

1.10 (a) 1. and N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 Many animals were being euthanized before being held the required 7 days after intake or impoundment. Records showed that stray and surrendered animals that were received at the facility by animal control officers and other individuals were being euthanized within the mandatory 7 day holding period. Stray impounded animals are required to be held at least 7 days to provide an opportunity for owners to reclaim their lost pets. Examples of animals euthanized within the required 7 day holding period include but were not limited to the following ID numbers: 22392, 22393, 22394, 22395, 22396, 22397, 22398, 22399, 22400, 23831, 22847, 22856, 23999, 24000, 22684, 23708, 23732, 23733, 19517, 22937, 22945, 22944, and 22936.

Animals were also being accepted for elective euthanasia and were being euthanized on intake. Although the animals were being taken to the medical ward section of the facility for euthanasia to be performed, the owner of the animal was paying the euthanasia fees directly to the animal facility at the front desk. The veterinary medical ward is not a separate entity from the animal shelter and impoundment facility. In the case of an owner surrender, the facility is required to offer the animal for adoption for at least 7 days before euthanizing it, or may transfer the animal to an animal rescue organization facility or a foster home prior to offering it for adoption if such transfer is determined to be in the best interest of the animal by the shelter or pound.

Records Suggest Killing and Euthanasia May Not Be Humane

AHS-Newark violated various euthanasia provisions of state law. Specifically, AHS-Newark did not:

  1. Post proper written euthanasia/killing instructions to assist people in conducting the procedure humanely
  2. Weigh animals prior to killing/euthanasia to ensure animals received proper doses of sedatives and killing agents
  3. Specify the method of killing/euthanasia

If AHS-Newark failed to provide enough sedatives, animals could experience emotional distress. Similarly, if AHS-Newark did not provide enough Fatal Plus and verify the animals’ deaths, animals potentially could have been placed into the facility’s incinerator while still alive.

1.11 (f) Written instructions were not posted in the euthanasia area that included the dosages by weight in pounds of all euthanasia, immobilizing, and tranquilizing agents used at the facility. Animals were not being weighed prior to administration of euthanasia, immobilizing, or tranquilizing agents. The weight recorded on an animal’s record at the time of intake was being used to calculate the dosages of these substances, but the weight on intake may not be the same weight of the animal at the time it is euthanized. Euthanasia records were not maintained that contained the body weight and dosage of all euthanasia, immobilizing, and tranquilizing agents administered to each animal. Dosage and usage logs were being maintained in a euthanasia log book, but this information was not available in the records reviewed by inspectors at the time of this inspection as required. (See 1.13 for more details.)

1.13 (a) Inspectors went to the medical ward of the facility and were provided with a stack of euthanasia records for animals that had been euthanized at the facility within the past month, but these records did not include the intake information and the description of the animals as required. The inspectors were unable to correlate the intake information and record numbers of animals that were obtained at the front desk to most of these euthanasia records. The weight of the animals was not being recorded on these paper records and the method of euthanasia, such as IV, IC, or IP, was not recorded in these records. Some of the euthanasia records were also missing the amount of euthanasia and tranquilizing agents that had been administered to these animals in addition to the species and description of these animals that had been euthanized.

Dead Animals Treated Like Trash

According to the inspection report, AHS-Newark had “bags of dead animal carcasses” next to the outside portion of its dog enclosures and close to its incinerator. Clearly, these bodies were outside for a long period of time since “a swarm of flies” were around the corpses. To make matters worse, more carcasses were dumped along with actual trash in a shopping cart just like the 2009 inspection report found. What kind of terror did the live dogs in the nearby enclosures feel with this stench of death in the air?

1.3 (d) There were bags of dead animal carcasses that had attracted a swarm of flies and were placed inside the gate adjacent to the dogs housed in the outdoor enclosures. These bags were stored outside of the walk-in refrigeration unit in the fenced area where the incinerator is located. There were additional bags of carcasses and trash stored in a red shopping cart in this same area that were also covered with flies.

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AHS-Newark Allows Disease to Spread Like Wildfire

Despite AHS taking in over $9 million of revenue last year, AHS-Newark failed to have a a supervising veterinarian establish a legally required written disease control and adequate health care program. Prescribed medicines were not administered to animals or given improperly according to shelter documents.

1.9 (a) The supervising veterinarian had not established a written disease control and adequate health care program at the facility and a disease control program was not being sufficiently maintained under the supervision of the veterinarian. Medications that had been prescribed by the veterinarian were not being documented as being administered as prescribed on the prescription label. Daily medication administration logs were missing several days, indicating that the medication may not have been administered on those days; daily medication logs were not being maintained and were not available on the shelter side of the facility; a prescription label for enrofloxacin prescribed to a dog with ID number 23466, stated to administer one tablet per day, but the medical chart on the computer stated twice per day.

The inspection report noted AHS-Newark did not separate sick animals from healthy ones. Isolating sick animals with contagious diseases is the cornerstone of any disease control program. In a shelter environment, one sick animal can quickly infect dozens more.

Shockingly, AHS-Newark did not provide veterinary care to a number of sick animals. Instead, it allowed a poor “listless” dog with “thick green nasal discharge” to sit in the main kennels. The animal caretaker in charge of medical care’s response? The dog “doesn’t look sick now.” Even worse, AHS-Newark kept dogs awaiting spay/neuter surgeries with coughing dogs having various contagious diseases. Since AHS-Newark typically only spays/neuters animals after someone adopts a pet, many adopters may have received a dog who was sick.

1.9 (f) Animals with signs of a communicable disease were not separated from other healthy animals and placed in an isolation room in order to minimize dissemination of such disease. Dogs that were said to have been diagnosed with Kennel Cough Complex by the supervising veterinarian and were prescribed medications, were housed in the general population. A brindle pit mix housed in kennel number 124 in the main kennel area of the facility, appeared listless and had thick green nasal discharge (pictures 3105 and 3106). This dog was not seen by a veterinarian and was not receiving medical care and was not moved to an isolation room. When this dog was pointed out by the inspector to the animal caretaker in charge of medical care, the caretaker stated that the dog “does not look sick now.” Animals in the general medical ward room, including one of the larger dogs that was heard coughing, were prescribed treatment for various illnesses and communicable diseases, but there were also healthy animals housed in this room that were awaiting spay or neuter surgeries before being released to their adoptive families.

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Even worse, AHS-Newark failed to even treat sick animals in the general population. If spreading disease to other animals was not bad enough, the inspectors specifically stated “animals exhibiting signs of stress were not provided any type of relief.”

Animals that were exhibiting signs of illness were housed with the general population and several animals that were being housed in the basement isolation room were not reported to and were not under the care of the supervising veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs of stress were not provided with any type of relief. The disease control protocols established for the highly contagious isolation room located in the medical ward section of the facility were not being adhered to by the animal caretakers. (See 1.9 (d) through (h) for details.) There were signs on the door to two cat rooms that stated do not use until approved by Dr. Reich (the supervising veterinarian) but the manager and staff stated that they did not know why those signs were placed on the doors and why those rooms could not be used.

AHS-Newark staff allowed disease to spread from the isolation area to the rest of the facility. Animal shelter employees must wear various protective clothing and gear to avoid transmitting highly contagious diseases to healthy animals. Despite clear written instructions on the wall outside the isolation area, the AHS-Newark animal caretaker wore their gloves in the isolation area and outside of this space. In fact, this person even walked into the general medical area with these gloves exposed to highly contagious diseases. To make matters worse, the animal caretaker also took two water bowls from the isolation area to the general medical ward and the person stated they hose off litter boxes from the isolation area outside. Thus, AHS-Newark created conditions for disease to rapidly spread through and outside the facility.

1.9 (f) 1. There was a sign posted on the wall outside of the highly contagious isolation room located at the end of the hallway in the medical ward area of the facility that contained instructions and procedures to control the dissemination of disease. The sign listed two veterinarians to contact for questions, but neither of these veterinarians were listed as the supervising veterinarian for the facility. The animal caretaker that was cleaning the cages in this highly contagious isolation room was not adhering to the posted instructions. The instructions stated to wear personal protective equipment, including gowns and shoe coverings and gloves, and to remove PPE when leaving the room. The person that was cleaning this room on the day of this inspection left the room several times during the cleaning process, and was not wearing gowns or shoe coverings as instructed on the sign. This person did not remove gloves before leaving this room and walked to the restroom to fill a water bowl, touching the door handle with the used gloves on, and later walked to the general medical ward room at the other end of the hallway to use the utility sink and again to get paper for the cages in the highly contagious isolation room. When questioned, the animal caretaker stated that bowls from this highly contagious isolation room are cleaned in the utility sink located in the general medical ward room and litter boxes are taken outdoors and hosed off and cleaned outside. This practice of cleaning litter receptacles and other items outdoors, both from the isolation rooms and the general population creates the potential for disease transmission to the outside of the facility.

AHS-Newark locked up feral cats in a hidden prison. According to inspectors, the room’s glass walls were completely covered with cardboard preventing people from looking inside. Furthermore, inspectors couldn’t even see inside after removing the cardboard due to accumulated filth.

1.9 (d) Cats that were difficult to handle and classified as “feral” cats were housed in enclosures that contained glass walls that were completely covered with cardboard and newspapers. These cats could not be observed for signs of disease, illness or stress. When the inspectors pulled off a portion of the cardboard to try and view these cats, the glass beneath was too dirty to see through clearly. This enclosure door contained a padlock so the inspectors were unable to open the door to get a better view of the cats and the conditions inside this enclosure.

To make matters worse, the shelter provided no hiding boxes, soft bedding, resting benches and individual housing compartments to allow these cats to hide from other cats in order to relieve stress. Stressed cats are more likely to contract diseases. Simply put, AHS-Newark threw so-called feral cats into this room until they met their fate (presumably killing).

1.9 (d)2. The hiding boxes that had previously been used in the “feral” cat enclosures were removed due to deterioration and had not been replaced with alternate suitable hiding boxes. There were approximately 27 cats housed in one of these enclosures and these cats were not provided with soft bedding and hiding places, resting benches, or individual housing compartments to hide from other cats in the same enclosure in order to relieve stress.

AHS-Newark’s dog enclosures were kept in such disrepair that staff could not disinfect these places. Therefore, once disease spread from the isolation area or other places, the dog kennels probably became and stayed infected. If that wasn’t bad enough, AHS-Newark’s food storage area was also prone to harboring disease for the same reasons.

1.4 (f) The interior surfaces of the main dog kennel enclosures and throughout the facility were in severe disrepair. The layers of accumulated peeling paint and broken concrete in the animal enclosures and throughout the facility created crevices that were unable to be readily cleaned and disinfected. The food storage room had holes in the walls at the floor that had been filled with expanding foam. This foam was not cut back, leveled, and covered with an appropriate product to create a smooth surface before being painted which resulted in numerous nooks and crannies that could not be readily cleaned and disinfected.

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To make matters worse, cats in group housing resided in rooms with carpeted cat trees that contained accumulations of dried feces or vomit.

There were carpeted cat trees and sisal rope cat scratchers in the communal cat rooms that contained an accumulation of hair and dried feces or vomit. These cat trees and rope items cannot be cleaned and disinfected and need to be removed and replaced with suitable items as discussed with the manager at the time of this inspection. The window ledge in the communal cat room was in disrepair and was unable to be readily cleaned and disinfected; the caulking was in disrepair at the viewing window ledge and needed to be resealed.

AHS-Newark also may have provided contaminated food to animals. The shelter did not scrub off particles on food and water bowls. Water dispensing devices had accumulated grime. In the basement isolation area sink, AHS-Newark had a bowl of food with black mold growth. One has to wonder how long this food bowl sat there.

1.7 (e) and (h) Animal food bowls were not being scrubbed clean before being disinfected. Food and water bowls were emptied and sprayed down with a disinfectant, but were not scrubbed clean before the disinfectant was applied. There were food particles left on the inside surfaces of the food buckets after the disinfecting process and there was an accumulation of grime on the automatic waterers that the inspector was able to scrape off with her fingernail after the disinfecting process was completed. The manufacturer’s instructions for this disinfectant requires that food contact surfaces be scrubbed before disinfection and the instructions state “Then thoroughly scrub all treated surfaces with soap or detergent and rinse with potable water before reuse.” These food and water receptacles were not being scrubbed with a soap or detergent appropriate for food contact surfaces followed by a thorough rinse with potable water after this disinfectant was applied.

The utility sink located in the basement isolation room contained stainless steel bowls that had not been cleaned. There was a large serving spoon in one of these bowls that had caked on food, and the food in the bowl appeared to have signs of decomposition and black mold growth.

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Similarly, AHS-Newark’s food storage area was a disaster. According to the inspection report, the shelter did not regularly clean this area and it accumulated spilled food, pigeon feathers and other debris.

The food storage room was not being cleaned regularly and there was an accumulation of spilled food, trash, pigeon feathers, and debris under and between the bags and boxes of stored food. The areas between and under the roll out banks of stainless steel caging contained an accumulation of dirt, trash and debris and were not being cleaned.

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If all of this was not bad enough, AHS-Newark did not even clean its kennels properly. Specifically, the geniuses at AHS-Newark sprayed disinfectant in kennels before removing all the feces. Even after using a rake to remove the feces, they did not remove “a thick layer of feces that remained on these surfaces.” Thus, the shelter did not disinfect the animal enclosures.

1.8 (c) Enclosures were not being thoroughly cleaned and rinsed as required by the manufacturer’s instructions before the disinfectant was applied to non-food contact surfaces. The disinfectant was being sprayed into the kennel enclosures before the feces were removed from these enclosures. The animal caretakers were instructed to scoop the feces from the enclosures, but after they scooped with a rake, there was still a thick layer of feces that remained on these surfaces that was not scrubbed off and rinsed away before a fresh application of disinfectant was applied. The manufacturer’s instructions state “Thoroughly clean all surfaces with soap or detergent and rinse with water. Apply fresh Use Solution to floors, walls, cages and other washable hard, non-porous environmental surfaces.”

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AHS-Newark Leaves Animals in Inhumane Conditions

AHS-Newark left a live skunk in unspeakably cruel conditions. According to the inspection report, the shelter picked up a live skunk at 7:00 am or 7:30 am and subsequently left the animal in direct sun in a blanket covered carrier on a concrete surface with air temperatures as hot as 87 degrees. The inspector found the animal at 11:20 am. Undoubtedly, the actual temperature inside the carrier was hotter since it was on a concrete surface. To add insult to injury, AHS-Newark left the skunk next to a bag of dead animals and an incinerator. The shelter effectively left the animal to die in these hot temperatures and allowed the skunk to sense its fate with the bag of slaughtered animals and incinerator close by. The AHS manager initially told the inspector no animal was in the carrier, but when the inspector showed them the skunk, the AHS manager stated the skunk was dead. Would AHS-Newark have placed this live animal into the incinerator if the inspector was not there? Only after the inspector notified shelter personnel did AHS-Newark move the skunk to a cooler place. What medical care did AHS-Newark ultimately provide? Killing later that day.

1.5 (a) A live skunk was found inside a small animal carrier which was completely covered with a heavy, black and white heather blanket and placed in direct sunlight on a concrete surface. The outside air temperature was approximately 85 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit at the time the skunk was found by the inspector at approximately 11:20 AM. This skunk was found adjacent to a bag of dead animal carcasses in the fenced area between the outdoor animal enclosures where the incinerator is located. When questioned, the manager stated that the carrier was empty, but when the inspector lifted the blanket and saw the skunk, the manager said the skunk was dead. The inspector told the manager that the skunk was alive and needed to be moved immediately out of the direct sunlight and placed in a cool location. The manager moved the skunk over several feet out of the direct sun and shortly after, the skunk was placed in the hallway of the building and was euthanized later that day. Records indicated that this skunk was picked up at 7:00 or 7:30 AM that morning (report shows 7:00 AM over written with 7:30).

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The shelter left a poodle in an enclosure on cardboard instead of proper bedding. As a result, the animal had urine soaked fur on its rear end and could not remain dry and clean.

1.6 (a) 4. A white poodle type dog housed in the small dog room had urine soaked fur on its rump and its legs and was unable to remain dry and clean. A large sheet of cardboard was being used as bedding in some of the small animal enclosures, which may be sufficient for cats that are provided with a separate litter receptacle, but this cardboard is not readily absorbent and liquids bead up long enough for the animals contained in these enclosures to become contaminated.

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AHS-Newark housed a mastiff in such a small enclosure that the animal could not turn about freely and lie in a comfortable position.

1.6 (a) 6. There was a large black mastiff type dog, ID number 23294, housed in a small enclosure, cage number 176, located against the back wall of the main basement housing area. This enclosure did not provide sufficient space for this dog to turn about freely and to lie in a comfortable normal position.

If this dog did not endure enough torture, the poor creature was left in the dark. How dark was his kennel? During the day, the inspectors could only see a reflection of the animal’s eyes and a shaded figure from outside the enclosure.

1.4 (d) There were lighting fixtures that needed repair throughout the facility, including the lighting fixture in the basement above enclosure number 176 that housed a large, black mastiff type dog. The lighting in this enclosure was insufficient and only the reflection of the eyes and a shaded figure of the dog could be seen from the front of this enclosure. (This dog can be seen in picture 3159 because of the camera flash.)

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Animals other than cats and dogs did not escape AHS-Newark’s neglect. According to the inspection report, the exotic animal room contained an “accumulation of rabbit feces and urine” and “most of this feces and urine had dried and adhered to these surfaces.”

The room where the exotic animals were housed contained an accumulation of rabbit feces and urine on the walls, on the electrical outlet, behind the filing cabinet and on the floors and baseboards around and under the rabbit enclosures and the filing cabinet. Most of this feces and urine had dried and adhered to these surfaces. There were white urine stains from the rabbits that had dried and set on the floor tiles surrounding these rabbit enclosures. The bars of these cages and the wheels contained an accumulation of feces and other dirt and debris and were not being cleaned and disinfected daily as required.

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AHS-Newark also failed to properly exercise dogs residing in small kennels as required by law. To make matters worse, AHS-Newark did not even allow dogs with a “vicious disposition” in the basement or in the small dog room to go for walks or to exercise in larger dog runs at all.

1.6 (h) Adult dogs confined in cages of less than double the minimum standard size were not being exercised in runs at least twice a day or walked on a leash for at least 20 minutes per day. Dogs housed in the basement enclosures and dogs housed in the small dog and cat room were not provided with runs to exercise and only some of these animals were being walked on a leash daily. The few dogs that were walked on a leash were said to be provided with a maximum of 5 to 10 minutes of walking time and there was not enough staff available to walk each dog for at least 20 minutes per day. Dogs with a vicious disposition that were housed in the basement or the small dog and cat room were not walked at all and did not have access to an exercise run.

AHS-Newark left several ill and injured dogs in enclosures without providing veterinary care. Two dogs appeared to have blood in their urine, one dog had diarrhea and vomited, and a third dog had an open wound on its paw. Even several dogs in the so-called basement isolation area did not receive veterinary care.

1.9 (d)1. Two dogs housed in the main dog kennel area appeared to have blood in their urine (pictures 3098 and 3099) and a shepherd type dog, ID number 23882, housed in the general housing area of the basement had diarrhea and had vomited its food. A white bully type dog had an open wound on its paw and there was no evidence that this dog was provided with medical care (picture 3157). Several animals that were housed in the basement isolation room were exhibiting signs of illness but the manager stated that these dogs had not yet been seen by a veterinarian and were not receiving medical treatment. Examples include ID numbers 23694, 23090, and 23572. Numerous animals housed in the medical ward holding room were prescribed medication, but the medical treatment logs were incomplete. Examples include, but were not limited to, ID numbers 23063, 22870, and 23378.

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AHS-Newark’s housing facilities were deplorable. According to the inspection report, “there were holes in walls in numerous rooms large enough for rodents to traverse.” Additionally, the inspection report noted “concrete flooring and block walls were in severe disrepair throughout the entire facility, with large cracks and chunks of missing concrete.” AHS-Newark even left “a large chain-link gate balanced on top of the outdoor dog enclosures; a strip of welded wire hardware cloth with exposed sharp pointed wires” hanging over the outdoor dog enclosures with a bowl, a bottle and other debris on top of these kennels. Simply put, AHS allowed its Newark facility to fall apart despite taking in around $8 million of revenue on average each year for the last decade.

1.3 (a) The housing facilities for animals were in disrepair. There were holes in the walls in numerous rooms that were large enough for rodents to traverse. Concrete flooring and block walls were in severe disrepair throughout the entire facility, with large cracks and chunks of missing concrete. The concrete flooring was peeling off in sheets. There was a large chain-link gate balanced on top of the outdoor dog enclosures; a strip of welded wire hardware cloth with exposed sharp pointed wires was hanging over the outdoor enclosures; and a bowl, a bottle with unknown contents and other items and debris were found on top of these animal enclosures. There were screws protruding from the wall in the “feral” cat enclosure where the original hiding boxes had been removed.

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In fact, the inspectors appeared concerned that a wall located at the door to the exterior kennels could collapse.

There was a large structural crack near the upper portion of the wall located at the door to the exterior kennels, where the concrete blocks or cinder blocks had separated and moved away from the inside wall. The attendant stated that this wall had not been evaluated by a qualified engineer and it was not determined if the wall would collapse.

The inspection report noted numerous facility problems that could injure animals. In the following example, AHS-Newark left damaged dog beds in enclosures that had exposed screws and sharp edges.

1.6 (a) 7. Many of the raised dog beds had damaged metal and plastic hardware that join the legs to the frame and support the beds. This hardware had exposed screws and sharp edges that could cause injury to the dogs. Some of these beds had damaged areas with sharp points from broken plastic legs and other chewed areas that could cause injury to the dogs.

Similarly, another dog enclosure contained a drainage pipe with no cover that could injure a dog’s legs:

1.6 (a) 2. There was a large, round, open drainage pipe in an outdoor dog enclosure that was missing a cover, which left an opening in the floor. This hole could cause leg injuries to the dogs housed in this enclosure.

The shelter’s main and outdoor dog kennels were exposed to water. HVAC vents were leaking water in the main dog kennel area. Water leaked from an air handling unit in the basement into an animal enclosure. Runoff from clogged gutters overflowed into the outside dog area. Therefore, dogs were housed in areas exposed to leaking water.

The air conditioning system was not being properly maintained or had not been properly installed to control water runoff from the various units. Water was leaking from the inside of the HVAC vents in the main dog kennel area; water was leaking from the air handling unit in the basement into an animal enclosure; and there was a heavy stream of water from an unknown source that was flowing off the roof into the gutter. The gutter was clogged with debris and this runoff was overflowing into the outside dog kennel area.

AHS-Newark’s ventilation systems had systemic problems. Despite the inspection taking place in August, AHS-Newark provided insufficient ventilation to dogs housed in the basement. Ventilation systems in other areas were filthy and/or in disrepair.

1.4 (c) The ventilation in the basement was insufficient to provide for the health and comfort of the animals housed in these rooms. The large exhaust fan in the general animal housing area of the basement was not being used at the time of this inspection, and the ventilation that was previously installed had been disconnected. The vent cover in the isolation room was cracked and contained an accumulation of dirt and debris. The ventilation covers in the general housing areas and other rooms throughout the facility also contained an accumulation of dirt and debris and needed to be cleaned. The plastic ventilation duct connected to the portable ventilation unit in the isolation room was improperly installed and was hooked to a piece of welded wire hardware cloth that was covering what appeared to be an obscured basement window opening. There was a piece of plexiglass type of plastic partially covering this window opening on the inside, in front of the hardware cloth.

The shelter’s basement, which houses dogs, had debris with “a long, roundworm like appearance” and other debris that had “the appearance of soaked rodent droppings.”

There was an accumulation of unrecognizable debris, some of which had a long, roundworm like appearance (possibly fibers of some sort), intertwined with small oblong pieces of debris that had the appearance of soaked rodent droppings. This debris had accumulated in the far corner under the utility sink located against the front wall in the basement.

If that was not bad enough, the upper storage area above the inside dogs kennels had “an excessive accumulation of rodent droppings.” Not only did AHS-Newark dogs have to live in poor conditions, but they had large amounts of rodent feces nearby.

There was an accumulation of rodent droppings in an upper storage area over the inside dog kennels and an excessive accumulation of rodent droppings in the long florescent light fixture in this same area.

Why did the shelter harbor so many rodents? The inspection report notes pet food was spilled all over the facility. Furthermore, AHS-Newark kept bags of donated food in a “haphazard” pile 3 to 4 feet high against a wall that facilitated rodent infestations.

1.3 (c) Food was spilled on top of food bags and on the floor between the wooden pallets in the food storage area located in the basement. Pieces of kibble were also found spilled in numerous locations throughout the facility, including in rooms that were not being used. Kibble was found between the fins of the baseboard radiators and under these radiators, under cages, in corners, behind storage items, inside cages that were said to have been cleaned, and there were pieces of kibble found next to rodent bait stations.

Bags of dry food that were said to have been recently donated were stored haphazardly in a pile approximately 3 to 4 feet high and touching the wall in the basement food storage room. Bags of purchased food were also stored against the wall. Food should be stored away from the wall and in a manner to facilitate cleaning in and around the bags of food, to prevent rodent harborage and infestation and to allow for sufficient ventilation to prevent moisture accumulation and molding of food.

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Improper Intake and Disposition Records Raise Concerns of More Killing

The inspection report noted AHS-Newark failed to include the ultimate disposition of a number of animals in its records. In other words, we don’t know what happened to these creatures. If AHS-Newark failed to record what happens to all of its animals, its kill rate may be higher than it reports.

1.13 (a) Computer records were being maintained, but staff was unable to access certain disposition records, including the required euthanasia documentation, and the paper records were incomplete. Inspectors were provided with a stack of paper intake records for animals received at the facility for the past month, but these records did not include the disposition records for these animals, and the inspectors were not provided computer access to review the records for these animals. A few records were selected by inspectors and the office staff could provide the disposition information for a small number of animals, but most of this information and the details were not readily available and the euthanasia information was inaccessible to the staff at the front desk.

NJ SPCA Must File Large Numbers of Animal Cruelty Charges

AHS-Newark committed atrocities against its animals on a massive scale. Frankly, I’ve never seen any New Jersey animal shelter treat animals this badly. Given this blog reported heinous conditions at many other state shelters, this says a lot. From leaving a skunk in a covered carrier during a hot August day next to dead animals and an incinerator, to leaving ill and injured animals to suffer, to allowing highly contagious diseases to spread, to illegally killing animals during the seven day protection period, to possibly killing animals inhumanely, to having dead bodies in bags and a shopping cart for apparently long periods of time near an area housing live dogs, to leaving animals in conditions where they could injure themselves, AHS-Newark proved over and over again that it must be brought to justice.

Most troubling, the inspection report found the same problems, and even some new ones, documented in the 2003 SCI report and the horrific 2009 and 2011 New Jersey Department of Health inspection reports. Roseann Trezza was the Executive Director during the 2009 and 2011 inspections and was Assistant Executive Director when the SCI issued their report. Simply put, the NJ SPCA must throw the book at Roseann Trezza. This woman should not work with animals let alone lead the state’s largest animal sheltering organization. In the past, the NJ SPCA never went after AHS. Perhaps, this was due to former NJ SPCA Deputy Chief and Board President, Terrence Clark, also being Assistant Executive Director of AHS at the time? Whatever the reason, the NJ SPCA must act strongly if it wants to keep what little credibility it has left.

Municipalities Must Terminate Contracts with AHS

AHS-Newark contracting cities and towns can no longer fund this out of control house of horrors. While taxpayers should not support a high kill shelter, they should never pay an entity repeatedly violating state law on a massive scale. If the elected officials do not terminate their contracts with AHS-Newark, their political opponents should make this a campaign issue by running ads with the elected officials’ photos and pictures and language from this inspection report. Simply put, taxpayers should not have to tolerate spending their money on an organization treating animals like literal garbage over and over.

While some people may worry about shelter capacity issues if these municipalities leave AHS-Newark, this is not a significant problem. As I’ve documented in other blogs here and here, the state’s animal shelter system has more than enough space to absorb AHS-Newark’s animals if shelters’ use their full capacity and move animals into safe outcomes as quickly as other good animal control shelters. Specifically, all the municipalities, other than the City of Newark, are not large and do not have too many homeless animals. In the case of the City of Newark, it could request the New Jersey Department of Health to allow Newark to send its animals to several facilities in order to not overwhelm any single one.

At the same time, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka must re-start former Mayor Booker’s project to build a new no kill shelter in the city. While the City of Newark whould never have been in this position if it started building the shelter as planned in 2013, it now has all the justification it needs to take on this initiative.

Residents in the following municipalities should contact their mayors using the information below and demand they terminate their arrangements with AHS-Newark.

Belleville: (973) 450-3345
Carteret: (732) 541-3801
Clark: (732) 388-3600
Fanwood: (908)-322-8236, ext. 124; mayor@fanwoodnj.org
Hillside:(973) 926-3000
Newark: (973) 733-6400; https://www.newarknj.gov/contact-us
Irvington: (973) 399-8111
Linden: (908) 474-8493; darmstead@linden-nj.org
Fairfield: (973) 882-2700; jgasparini@fairfieldnj.org
Orange: (973) 266-4005
Plainfield: (908) 753-3000; adrian.mapp@plainfieldnj.gov
Roselle: (908) 956-5557; cdansereau@boroughofroselle.com
Rahway: 732-827-2009; mayor@cityofrahway.com
Winfield Park: (908) 925-3850

New Jersey Department of Health Must Inspect AHS-Tinton Falls and AHS-Popcorn Park

Given the massive problems at AHS-Newark, one has to also wonder how AHS-Tinton Falls and AHS-Popcorn Park operate. The New Jersey Department of Health has not inspected these other facilities in recent years. As a result, we need to know if AHS-Newark’s problems also occur at its sister shelters.

State Agencies Must Replace the Entire AHS Board and Executive Leadership

The AHS Board of Directors allowed Roseann Trezza to operate her facility without effective oversight. Roseann Trezza is the President of the Board of Directors. Furthermore, many of the AHS board members are employees/former employees or have other potential conflicts of interest that seriously question their ability to oversee this failing organization. Thus, the AHS board failed over and over to fix their organization’s catastrophic problems.

After the SCI released its 2003 report on AHS, AHS Executive Director Lee Bernstein resigned and Roseann Trezza took over. However, as we’ve seen over and over during the last 14 years, all of the awful AHS leadership needed to go.

As such, the various state agencies overseeing AHS should do everything in their power to force AHS to replace its entire leadership team and Board of Directors. Despite these massive issues, including significant structural issues potentially requiring a new facility, AHS has made statement to the press giving lame excuses and portraying that its well on its way to solving the catastrophic problems. Clearly, this organization is not serious about improving itself to any significant degree. If AHS wants to continue operating animal shelters, it must change its entire organization and not make a few minor tweaks as its recent Facebook post about the inspection implied. Creating a commission with no kill leaders and other innovative figures in the animal welfare movement can help put the right people in charge of the state’s largest animal sheltering organization. As a result, we can transform AHS-Newark from a house of horrors into a temporary home that provides love, elite care, and new lives to all healthy and treatable animals.

Passaic’s Pitiful Animal Shelter

In 2004, Passaic Animal Shelter banned its volunteer group for allegedly “violating a number of policies.” However, the volunteers, who were also known as Helping Hands Passaic, also complained about the facility’s poor conditions and unnecessary killing. Therefore, Passaic Animal Shelter, like many regressive facilities, banned the volunteers in order to protect themselves at the expense of the animals.

The New Jersey Department of Health vindicated the volunteers after it issued a scathing inspection report later that year. The inspection report’s key findings were as follows:

  1. Illegal killing of stray cats during the seven day hold period
  2. Inadequate isolation of a kitten with ringworm
  3. Several cats and dogs did not have access to water
  4. Two outdoor dog runs had metal pipes with rusty and sharp edges that could cause serious injuries
  5. Improper food storage, including cleaning solution spilled on dog food bags
  6. Improper record keeping
  7. No required inspection performed by the Passaic Health Department
  8. An animal control officer left an opossum in a vehicle for two hours in 107 degree temperatures

After the inspection, the NJ SPCA issued three summonses to shelter staff for needlessly killing the stray cats during the seven day hold period and leaving the opossum in the hot vehicle. Despite this horrific treatment of animals, one of the charged staff, Marilyn Comerford, stayed on as the Animal Control Officer for 10 more years until she retired in 2014. Even worse, the City of Passaic honored Ms. Comerford, who also was the shelter manager, “for her years of dedication and service.”

How does the Passaic Animal Shelter perform today? Is the shelter a refuge for homeless animals or a place where they go to die?

Passaic Runs a High Kill Shelter

Passaic Animal Shelter killed many dogs at its shelter in 2016.  You can view the actual records here. Overall, 22% of all dogs who were impounded in 2016 lost their lives at the Passaic Animal Shelter. If we just count the dogs not reclaimed by owners (i.e. dogs the shelter had to find new homes for), 39% of all the dogs Passaic Animal Shelter took in during 2016 were killed or died. In other words, more than one out of three dogs Passaic Animal Shelter had to find new homes for lost their lives.

Passaic Animal Shelter killed large numbers of pit bulls. Of the 86 pit bulls arriving at Passaic Animal Shelter in 2016, 33 or 39% of these animals lost their lives. If we just count pit bulls Passaic Animal Shelter had to find new homes for, 58% of these dogs lost their lives. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter operated more like a pit bull killing factory than a shelter for pit bulls.

While Passaic Animal Shelter’s live release rate appeared good for small dogs and other non-pit bull like dogs, it still killed too many of these animals. 10% of small dogs and 13% of other non-pit bull like dogs impounded during 2016 and not reclaimed by owners lost their lives. As a comparison, the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, which is not a role model shelter, only euthanized 2% of nonreclaimed small dogs and 6% of nonreclaimed medium-large sized breeds other than pit bulls in 2016. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed too many small dogs and medium to large sized non-pit bull like dogs.

Passaic Animal Shelter adopted out hardly any dogs. Of the 170 dogs arriving at Passaic Animal Shelter in 2016, the facility adopted out just 8 dogs or 5% of the dogs it took in. To put it another way, the shelter adopted out just 1 dog every 1.5 months. Frankly, a single person could foster and adopt out more dogs than the Passaic Animal Shelter did last year. Given this tiny number of dog adoptions, is it any wonder why the shelter kills so many dogs?

Passaic Animal Shelter 2016 Dog Statistics

Passaic Animal Shelter also killed large numbers of cats. You can read the actual records here. Overall, 48% of the 292 cats who were impounded during 2016 lost their lives. 45% of neonatal kittens (under 6 weeks old), 43% of older kittens (6 weeks to under 1 year) and 58% of adult cats (1 year and older) failed to leave the shelter alive. Simply put, Passaic Animal Shelter performed terribly for all types of cats.

Austin Animal Center in Texas proves Passaic Animal Shelter can save all of its healthy and treatable cats. Only 5% of all cats, 7% of cats 1 year and older, 3% of kittens aged 6 weeks to just under 1 year and 5% of kittens under 6 weeks lost their lives or went missing at Austin Animal Center in 2016. In other words, the death rate at Passaic Animal Shelter was 8 to 14 times greater for cats of various ages. Therefore, despite Passaic Animal Shelter impounding far fewer cats than Austin Animal Center in total and on a per capita basis, Passaic Animal Shelter killed a much higher percentage of these animals.

Passaic Animal Shelter also hardly adopted out any cats. Of the 292 cats entering the shelter in 2016, only 32 cats or 11% were adopted out. In fact, Passaic Animal Shelter only adopted out 1 cat every week and a half. To put it bluntly, the shelter seemed to make little to no effort to adopt out its cats.

Passaic Animal Shelter 2016 Cat Statistics

Austin Animal Center 2016 Cat Statistics

Passaic Animal Shelter’s length of stay data reveals it quickly killed dogs. On average, Passaic Animal Shelter killed all dogs after 18.9 days, pit bulls after 41.9 days, and small dogs after 10.7 days. Only one dog from other breeds was killed making its 103 day length of stay irrelevant.

To make matters worse, Passaic Animal Shelter killed dogs with empty kennels. Based on an equation for determining a shelter’s population, we can estimate the Passaic Animal Shelter’s average dog population during the year. Using the 170 annual dog intake figure and the 19.3 day average length of stay for all dogs, we can estimate Passaic Animal Shelter had on average 9 dogs in its shelter during 2016. The Passaic Department of Health’s June 7, 2016 inspection report (10 dogs at facility) and Passaic Animal Shelter’s 2016 Shelter/Pound Annual Report (7 dogs and 10 dogs at facility on 1/1/16 and 12/31/16) indicate this estimate was reasonable. 9 dogs only represents 3/4 of the shelter’s 12 dog capacity per its 2016 Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed dogs while other kennels remained empty during the year.

Passaic Animal Shelter 2016 Dogs Length of Stay

Passaic Animal Shelter quickly killed cats and took too long to safely place the other cats. On average, the shelter killed all cats after 23.3 days, neonatal kittens after 20.5 days, older kittens after 29.0 days and adult cats after just 19.5 days. With Passaic Animal Shelter killing so many cats, one would expect the facility to have an easy time adopting out the remainder who should have exhibited few behavioral or medical issues. On average, Passaic Animal Shelter adopted out all cats after 56.9 days, neonatal kittens after 71.7 days, older kittens after 40.0 days and adult cats after 71.8 days. Similarly, Passaic Animal Shelter took 43.4 days to send cats of all ages to rescues with adult cats taking nearly 2 months. As a comparison, Colorado’s Longmont Humane Society, which serves as an animal control shelter, achieved a live release rate of 91% for cats over 4 months of age as well as for kittens 4 months and under with average lengths of stay of just 23 days for the older cats and 27 days for the younger cats in 2016. In other words, cats at Passaic Animal Shelter lost their lives at 5 times the rate as Longmont Humane Society despite Longmont Humane Society impounding more cats and having a 30% lower average length of stay than Passaic Animal Shelter (24.4 days verses 34.6 days).

The shelter also killed cats when empty cages existed. Based on the same equation used for dogs above, Passaic Animal Shelter only had an average population of 28 cats in 2016 compared to a capacity of 35 cats. The Passaic Department of Health’s June 7, 2016 inspection report (25 cats at facility) and Passaic Animal Shelter’s 2016 Shelter/Pound Annual Report (13 cats and 17 cats at facility on 1/1/16 and 12/31/16) indicate this estimate was not too low. While the shelter may have been full during certain kitten season months, the shelter clearly killed cats while empty cages existed in many other parts of the year.

Passaic Animal Shelter 2016 Cats Length of Stay.jpg

Passaic Animal Shelter Fails to Provide Good Reasons for Killing

Passaic Animal Shelter killed most of its dogs for no reason. Overall, Passaic Animal Shelter listed no documented reason in the records provided to me for 69% of the dogs it killed. In other words, the shelter could not even explain why it took these animals’ lives. The shelter listed “aggressive” and “unpredictable” as reasons for 11% of the dogs it killed. Of the remaining reasons for killing dogs, Passaic Animal Shelter reported 8% were for bite cases, 6% were for serious injuries, 3% were for being nervous and 3% had an undisclosed illness.

Passaic Animal Shelter Dogs Killed Reasons

Hazel was an adult pit bull surrendered by her owner to the Passaic Animal Shelter on May 22, 2016. According to the shelter, Hazel had a “good” temperament, was not “aggressive” and had not bitten anyone. Despite this dog being clearly adoptable, Passaic Animal Shelter killed her for no documented reason 12 days later.

D69 Surrender Form

D69 Kennel Card

D69 Euthanasia Record

Kahloua was a 4 year old pit bull surrendered to the Passaic Animal Shelter by her owner on August 1, 2016. Her owner wrote a letter stating the dog was “not aggressive”, was “friendly”, was “happy”, “likes attention”, has “a good appetite” and “likes to play.” The owner also informed the shelter that Kahloua barked a little bit at people at first, but stopped once she got to know them. Despite the owner’s obvious plea to not kill her dog, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Kahloua 18 days later for no documented reason.

D112 Owner Letter to Shelter

Kaholoua.jpg

D112 Kennel Card

D112 Euthanasia Record.jpg

King was a stray adult pit bull picked up at a Burger King on December 21, 2016. Passaic Animal Shelter stated King had a “good” temperament, was not aggressive and was not involved in a bite incident. Despite King being obviously adoptable and arriving at a time of the year when few animals come into animal shelters, Passaic Animal Shelter killed King just 8 days later.

D173 pt 2

D173 Euthanasia Record

Passaic Animal Shelter Kills Cats for No Reasons and Preventable Conditions

Passaic Animal Shelter killed cats using the reasons in the table below. Overall, the shelter most commonly killed cats for no documented rationale. Additionally, the facility often killed cats for exhibiting illnesses, such as Feline Panleukopenia and upper respiratory infections, that it could significantly reduce by vaccinating cats upon intake to the facility, using volunteers to provide enrichment (improves immune response to disease), cleaning the shelter properly, and reducing the animals’ length of stay in a good way. Also, many of the cats with undisclosed illnesses likely had one of these preventable diseases. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed numerous cats for no reasons and preventable causes.

Passaic Animal Shelter Cats Killed Reasons.jpg

Cat C66 was a 1 year old cat surrendered to the Passaic Animal Shelter by its owner on May 23, 2016. After just 11 days, Passaic Animal Shelter killed this cat for no documented reason.

C66 Surrender Form

C66 Euthanasia Record.jpg

Cat C188 was a 4 month old cat picked up a stray on August 25, 2016. Subsequently, the cat was surrendered to the Passaic Animal Shelter by his owner on September 6, 2016. After 21 days, Passaic Animal Shelter killed him and 3 other cats he came in with for having Feline Panleukopenia. Given the 14 day incubation period and the many other cases at Passaic Animal Shelter, it is likely Cat C188 and the other cats he came in with contracted the disease at the shelter.

C188 Intake Record

C188 Surrender Form.jpg

C188 Euthanasia Record.jpg

Frankly, the large number of Feline Panleukopenia cases at Passaic Animal Shelter are disturbing. Shelter medicine experts state shelters can greatly reduce the instances of this disease by vaccinating animals upon intake, housing cats appropriately, and cleaning effectively:

Although a scary and potentially devastating disease in a shelter, reliable vaccination on intake, effective routine cleaning with a parvocidal disinfectant, and housing that minimizes fomite transmission will greatly reduce the risk of spread. With new tools for diagnosis and risk assessment, even outbreaks can generally be managed without resorting to depopulation.

Furthermore, if Passaic Animal Shelter welcomed volunteers, it could treat cats with Feline Panleukopenia by sending these animals to specially trained fosters (technically the shelter has a foster program, but the facility does not promote fostering and few people would be willing to return fostered kittens to a high kill shelter). At these homes, the cats would receive anti-nausea drugs, antibiotics and fluid therapy in an safe environment where they would not infect other animals.

Cat C175 was a stray adult cat taken to the Passaic Animal Shelter on August 17, 2016. After 27 days, Passaic Animal Shelter killed her for being dehydrated, underweight and being icteric (i.e. having jaundice). Since this cat was at the Passaic Animal Shelter for nearly a month, she likely contracted the disease causing these symptoms at the facility.

C175 Kennel Card.jpg

C175 Euthanasia Record.jpg

Veterinarian Contracts Support Killing

Passaic Animal Shelter contracts with Rutherford Animal Hospital to provide veterinary care. On the surface, Rutherford Animal Hospital looks like an excellent choice given it is a large and modern veterinary facility. However, when one looks at the specifics in the contracts, major concerns arise.

Passaic Animal Shelter rarely vaccinates animals upon intake. While Rutherford Animal Hospital vaccinates the shelter’s animals, it visits the shelter as little as twice a week. Since Rutherford Animal Hospital, and not anyone who works at the shelter, vaccinates animals, many dogs and cats, including ones carrying highly contagious diseases, will sit in the facility spreading disease until the outside veterinarian comes to the shelter. The UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program clearly explains why shelters must immediately vaccinate animals to control diseases in their facilities:

When should the vaccine be given?

Immediately upon intake, if not sooner! In almost all cases, shelter animals should be vaccinated immediately upon intake. A delay of even a day or two will significantly compromise the vaccine’s ability to provide protection. In a cost saving effort, some shelters delay vaccination until the animal is made available for adoption, or even until it is adopted. While this does provide a service to adopters, the protective effect of the vaccine within the shelter is greatly reduced or eliminated. (In some cases, the chance of the vaccine preventing disease may be 90% or better if given the day before exposure, but will drop to less than 1% if given the day after exposure.) When possible, vaccination prior to intake is ideal (e.g. for owner surrendered animals or those returning from foster care).

Therefore, Passaic Animal Shelter’s vaccination program is ineffective and this may partially explain why the facility killed so many cats for illnesses and had so many other cats die.

Passaic Animal Shelter’s contract provides details on the veterinary funding it provides. In the City of Passaic’s contract with Rutherford Animal Hospital, Passaic only pays $1,516 per month for veterinary services and $70.82 per month to test the cats it adopts out for FIV testing. Based on the details of the arrangement outlined in Rutherford Animal Hospital’s response to Passaic’s request for proposal, the city will only pay $850 per year for the FIV testing. Therefore, Passaic could pay Rutherford Animal Hospital a maximum of $19,150 per year ($20,000 total fee cap – $850 FIV fee) to provide veterinary care (excluding FIV testing and spay/neuter which adopters pay for) or $41.45 per dog and cat the shelter impounded in 2016.

The City of Passaic’s veterinary funding is inadequate. After we back out the cost of vaccines of approximately $15.53 per animal (based on $21.25 per adult dog, $27.25 per puppy, $9.25 per adult cat and $13.25 per kitten according the Maddie’s Fund’s Financial Management Tool) from the average $41.45 veterinary care fee per animal, Passaic Animal Shelter would have just $25.92 to treat each animal for all other illnesses and injuries. Clearly, that is not nearly enough to treat sick or injured animals. Given this fee also must cover the cost of killing, the city and Rutherford Animal Hospital have strong incentives to kill any animal where veterinary treatment may be costly or might not work. Thus, the contract’s financial terms encourage killing.

Passaic Animal Shelter Veterinary Care Funding.jpg

Rutherford Animal Hospital plays a major role in Passaic Animal Shelter’s high kill operation. Specifically, Rutherford Animal Hospital “makes the final determination of status of animal for adoption, fostering or euthanasia.” In other words, Rutherford Animal Hospital approves all the absurd reasons for killing animals documented in this blog. Sadly, Rutherford Animal Hospital apparently chooses to kill for financial reasons rather than treat the shelter animals like valued clients from its private practice.

Passaic Animal Shelter’s contract with Rutherford Animal Hospital seems to indirectly cap adoptions at a low number. According to the City of Passaic’s contract for spay/neuter services with Rutherford Animal Hospital, it only pays a maximum of $6,000 per year with $80, $55 and $130 fees to spay/neuter each female cat, male cat and dog of either sex. Assuming the shelter used its spay/neuter fees based on the proportions of dogs and cats it took in (i.e. 37% dogs, 63% cats) and altered equal numbers of each sex, it could only spay/neuter 17 dogs and 56 cats. Based on the shelter’s Petfinder web site indicating the adoption fees include spay/neuter and the shelter’s policy and procedure manual indicating all adopted animals must be altered, this suggests the shelter could only adopt out 17 dogs and 56 cats for the entire year. However, Passaic Animal Shelter would need to have adopted out 39 dogs and 148 cats last year to achieve 95% dog and 92% cat live release rates. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter cannot come close to achieving no kill status based on its contract.

Passaic Animal Shelter Spay & Neuter Contractual Cap.jpg

Despite Rutherford Animal Hospital being required under its contract to maintain legally required euthanasia records, an unusually large number of dogs had weights ending in convenient numbers such as 0 or 5. Under state law, the shelter must weigh each animal prior to killing/euthanizing. If Passaic Animal Shelter only estimated weights, the shelter could have provided the wrong amount of tranquilizing and killing agents to these dogs. Thus, the shelter’s dog euthanasia records raise questions as to whether the facility actually humanely killed/euthanized dogs.

Passaic Animal Shelter Veterinary Records.jpg

Passaic Must Take a New Path

Clearly, Passaic Animal Shelter took action to protect itself at the expense of the city’s homeless animals after volunteers exposed its dirty little secrets more than a decade ago. After banning volunteers, the shelter no longer had anyone to make sure they tried to save lives. Instead, the shelter used its unilateral control to take the easy way out and kill animals needlessly. Why? The shelter’s leadership, within the facility, the Passaic Health Department, and its elected officials, simply found it easier to save a few animals and kill the rest. In fact, Passaic Animal Shelter’s “Animal Control Policy and Procedure Manual” explicitly states it will not run a no kill shelter.

Passaic Animal Shelter has more than enough resources to run a no kill facility where it only euthanizes hopelessly suffering animals. In 2016, Passaic Animal Shelter received $384 of city funding per each of the 462 dogs and cats it impounded. As a comparison, Michigan’s Chippewa County Animal Shelter only received $253 of funding per dog and cat and saved 99.5% of the 398 dogs and 99.2% the 471 cats who had outcomes in 2016. Furthermore, Chippewa County Animal Shelter impounded more animals in total (851 dogs and cats at Chippewa County Animal Shelter verses 462 dogs and cats at Passaic Animal Shelter) and on a per capita basis (22.4 dogs and cats per person at Chippewa County Animal Shelter verses 6.5 dogs and cats per resident at Passaic Animal Shelter). Unlike Passaic Animal Shelter, Chippewa County Animal Shelter welcomes volunteers and operates its facility using no kill methods. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter has no excuse for running a high kill shelter.

Passaic residents must call newly elected Mayor Hector Lora at 973-365-5510 and make sure the mayor keeps the following promise he made:

This was about leaving a legacy for our children and (setting) an example for all.

Clearly, Passaic must set an example that taking the easy way out and killing homeless animals for convenience is unacceptable. Mayor Lora can leave a legacy for Passaic’s children by turning his shelter around and allowing his constituents and others to help him do so. Teaching children the value of life and hard work is priceless. Let’s help Mayor Lora understand this.