Mon, 5 Mar 2007 11:05:14 EST


Propaganda is no substitute for the facts about Multnomah County Animal Services downward spiral and increasingly dismal performance. The excuses for failure are wholly unacceptable. The fact that Michael Oswald is a long time county bureaucrat shouldn't shield and excuse him from performance standards. Multnomah County government promised change. Was that just another empty political campaign promise? What is the excuse for the facts that more animals are killed and fewer saved in Multnomah County?

Whatever performance measure one uses, it is patently obvious to anyone that deaths have dramatically gone up while adoptions have gone down at MCAS during Oswald's tenure. The sharp decline in death rates was due to his predecessor, Gary Hendel. Michael Oswald assumed the directorship on March 3, 2003

Multnomah County Animal Services - Animal Trends

FY 00 Live dog Intake: 3,915    dogs killed: 1,140         dogs adopted: 1635
FY 01 Live dog Intake: 4,350    dogs killed: 890            dogs adopted: 1278
FY 02 Live dog Intake: 4,400    dogs killed: 1,019         dogs adopted  1243
FY 03 Live dog Intake: 4,210    dogs killed: 762            dogs adopted  1176  
FY 04 Live dog Intake: 4,346    dogs killed: 754            dogs adopted  928
FY 05 Live dog Intake: 4,422    dogs killed: 1,136         dogs adopted  811
FY 06 Live dog Intake: 4,600    dogs killed: 1,259         dogs adopted  765

This is only one of many performance measures that demonstrate decline and deterioration under Michael Oswald. There are many many others. Using Michael Oswald's preferred performance measure, one that allows him to take undeserved credit for owner redeemed dogs never within the "pool" of animals whose lives MCAS could end or save, his kill rate has gone up by fifty percent from 18% in 2003, when he took office, to 27% in 2006.  Adoptions have steadily and dramatically declined.  Even fosters and transfers for dogs are steadily going down from 560 in FYI 2003 to 430 in FYI 2006.  The picture is dismal for cats as well. In FYI 2003, 55.6% of impounded cats were killed while 26% were adopted.  In FYI 2006 60% of impounded cats were killed while homes were found for only 18%. The facts fairly shout out at you while Multnomah County government does absolutely nothing. Surely this merits investigation.
Should Multnomah County government call a dramatically increased death rate and a steadily declining adoption rate "success"? 

FACT: Over the past three years within the pool of dogs over whom Michael Oswald has had disposition control, the frequency of killing has nearly doubled; the rate of adoptions has dropped by nearly 50%.  MCAS now kills nearly 60% of all dogs over which it has life or death authority, and finds new homes for only about 25%.  In all of FY 2006, MCAS adopted out only 765 dogs, down from 2005 numbers of 811. The rapid steady decline in adoptions, complemented by a sharp incline in deaths has occurred since Michael Oswald became director. 

FACT: MULTNOMAH COUNTY GOVERNMENT'S COVERT PIT BULL EXTERMINATION PROGRAM:  At least 85% of dogs labeled "pit" or "pit bull mix" are killed automatically within days of entering the MCAS "shelter." Elsewhere at the Tompkins County SPCA in Tompkins County, New York, for example, 86% were deemed adoptable" and successfully rehomed. Pit bulls and pit bull types are killed en masse at MCAS because Michael Oswald has instituted his own breed specific countywide pit bull ban. The separate and unequal standards Michael Oswald has applied to pit bulls and pit bull types has nothing to do with public safety or poor temperament.  It simply permits breed prejudice to translate into government sponsored mass killing. All is well that is hidden well.

FACT: Excessive killing has not translated into greater public safety. There has been no demonstrable reduction in bite incidents since Michael Oswald took over Multnomah County Animal Services. His arbitrary homespun temperament testing program where formulas that mandate automatic killing substitute for thought and judgment neither predict adoptability nor prevent bite incidents. No, killing more, an astonishing 50% more, has not translated into reduced dog bites or a more educated responsible public. 

FACT: In 2000 a Citizens' Task Force recommended shelter reform consistent with this community values. The recommendations called for improving community education while striving for a reduction in shelter deaths. Instead Multnomah County dramatically increased killing. Enforcement continues to be adversarial, expensive, and penalty based. Escalating fines often force animal surrenders.  As a reward for surrendering one's animal to be killed: "Your money or your dog's life", the fines are waived, Multnomah County's unique version of animal sacrifice. The usual excuses just don't fly: limited budget, limited space," difficult population." It is simply easier to cull and kill than it is to change. There is no excuse.      


Government "spin" is no substitute for accurate information, nor are irrelevant shiny distractions, self congratulatory awards posted on the wall. As long as Multnomah County's Board of Commissioners excuses this agency's conduct and grants a free ride to a fellow employee as a retirement gift (he's one of us), the public and its companion animals will pay an overwhelming price. It's about competence and honesty in government. And it is time to take action, now.  Michael Oswald has had his chance. Now let this community dig its way out of the wreckage of his term in office. 


Gail O'Connell-Babcock,Ph.D.
Citizens for Humane Animal Legislation/Watchdog
16004 SW Tualatin-Sherwood Road, Box 508
Sherwood, OR 97140