To: Jon Snyder
CC: Andrew Rowan
Thank you for your response.
Unfortunately, it is clear the your continued use of MCAS as a national
shelter model reflects a grave misunderstanding of local realities. I will address each of your comments in turn.
“MCAS has made improvements to their
shelter routine which has proven to be very successful in developing an
effective and progressive shelter enrichment program and their
suggestions are intended to benefit other agencies struggling to meet
the emotional needs of animals in their care.”
That is not true. MCAS
continues to adhere to kenneling animals in the traditional fashion,
socially isolated, alone and frightened behind closed Intake doors until
after three days for stray animals they are taken to a testing room,
“tested” once on non-standardized temperament test without regard to their
physical or emotional condition and, based on the decision of one
non-credentialed kennel attendant, killed or allowed to live. Animals
are killed based upon pre-determined formulas. Most are killed. That is clear from the agency statistics.
Open Paw, allegedly introduced in January 2007,
is an in-shelter stress reduction program for cats and dogs. The public
records indicate that no stress reduction efforts are made at MCAS to
improve the emotional lives of animals before testing. That is clearly
documented in animal status public record reports available upon
request. Unredeemed strays tested after 3 days of isolation in Intake
are tested “as is” injured, pregnant, clearly fearful, or starved,
stressors that clearly confound testing validity. No effort is made to
alleviate these stressors that affect outcome. Animals that are injured
must qualify for medical care addressing their injuries by first passing
a behavior assessment. Records confirming
this are also available upon request. Claims of caring for animals
emotional lives are simply false. After passing a BA, some may qualify
for foster homes outside of MCAS where Open Paw principals are applied.
For example, a staff person noted in May 10, 2010, records that the shy
dog that had a marginal BA pass wouldn’t make it on MCAS’s adoption
floors and required Open Paw fostering. An individual animal already
assigned to the adoption floor also may qualify for Open Paw activities.
MCAS does not have the emotional enrichment activities they claim for
the stray animals in their care. Application is selective.
MCAS has been increasingly criticized by the
community for its kill rate. It escalates year after year. MCAS’s kill rate is completely incompatible with
the agency’s claims of excellence in caring for the emotional lives of
animals through the implementation of Open Paw. From 2006 to 2007 when
Open Paw was reported to have been implemented, MCAS Director Michael
Oswald claimed a 10.5% reduction in euthanasia for dogs. That difference
and figure disappeared when adjusted for changes in Intake numbers.
There has been no improvement whatsoever in agency statistics since the
reported adoption of Open Paw in 2007, an in house animal stress
reduction program intended to make more animals adoptable.
That alone should give you reason to question their claim.
These are the figures for 2006, the year before
Open Paw was supposedly initiated: Live release rate, 49.6%;
save rate for unredeemed animals, 35%; kill rate for unredeemed
animals, 57.4%. These are the figures
for 2009 after 3 years of Open Paw: Live release rate, 46%;
save rate for unredeemed animals, 35%; kill rate for unredeemed animals
56.35%. The live release rate in fact
was higher in 2006 before Open Paw was adopted, by 4 percent, the only
minor notable change.
Open Paw lists minimal mental health requirements for
dogs few, if any, of which appear to be in effect at MCAS, i.e. daily
basic training and mental stimulation such as walks; canine
companionship, either housed with other dogs, or daily 20 minute
play/training sessions; interaction with at least 20 people a day
including at least five unfamiliar persons on a long list of enrichment
activities. It is meant to include all dogs not just a few chosen dogs. Resident animals at MCAS do not receive the
enrichment that Open Paw advocates. You have to read the records to know
that or visit adoption kennels anonymously. No
one is allowed into Intake. The doors are closed and windows papered
over. Open Paws’ vision for shelters is to raise the bar for basic domestic animal care and
by doing so to improve adoption and save rates. Open Paw has failed to
be fully or properly implemented at MCAS. It exists in name only
primarily for advertising purposes.
“We are very impressed with MCAS’s
commitment to making positive changes in their community. As a founding
member of the Animal Shelter
Alliance of Portland—a coalition of public and private shelters—ASAP is
working collaboratively to end the euthanasia of healthy , socialized
dogs and cats in Portland area shelters.”
MCAS takes credit for group policies and
programs that have little or nothing to do what they actually practice
in their own individual programs, or subscribe to as policies. They
often do not choose to follow group recommendations. If there were a
founding member of this group, it would be OHS. MCAS is not required nor
does it adhere to or endorse or follow all of the recommendations of
the group. While the group tries to work
positively on the image and status of pit bulls and their numbers at shelters,
MCAS carries on a documented de facto covert ban that requires the
killing of pit bulls en masse ( 85% to 90%)
at testing levels that allow all other
breeds to go to adoptions or rescue. That practice has been confirmed by
outside expert analysis. That is not an ASAP policy. Does HSUS condone
the practice of breed bans and/or de facto breed bans? Records and an
outside expert analysis confirm that practice.
“Using statistical reporting methods that
are becoming the standard in the animal sheltering profession, (
advocated by Andrew Rowan) MCAS’s euthanasia per 1000 human population
is 5.2 per while the national average
reported by Merritt Clifton, Editor of Animal People is practically 15
comment that “MCAS’s euthanasia per 1,000 human population is 5.2 per”
is especially troubling. If that measure has any value, it is in
the comparison of communities. It has no
application to individual elements of the community’s successes or
failures because, when applied to a single shelter, it wholly ignores
the performance of all the other groups and individuals who contribute
to the community’s performance.
an example will help. In Multnomah County, the Oregon Humane Society
manages to adopt about 95% of the nearly 10,000 dogs and cats admitted
to its shelter, about 60% of all adoptions in the county. Given
the fact that any “euthanasia rate” is the inverse of the community’s
“save rate,” it should be obvious that OHS’s extraordinary efforts and
success play a very large role in reducing the numbers of animals that
would be euthanized if OHS were not present. In fact, if we were
to assume that OHS did not exist and assigned its dogs and cats to
MCAS’s tender mercies and applied the agency’s own unredeemed animal
“kill rate” (56.35%) to the new arrivals, the total number of
county-wide euthanasias would climb by over 5,500 and its’ euthanasia
rate would jump to about 13 per 1000 human population. The moral –
one with which I believe HSUS’s own Andrew Rowan will agree – is that it
is a mistake to use a regional euthanasia rate to assess the
effectiveness of a single agency. It is an even greater error for
that mistake to cause HSUS to endorse a failing agency. Under your
single misapplied litmus test an individual agency with an excellent
performance record would be considered a failure in a high volume kill
community; while conversely, a failed agency could hide its dismal
performance behind the excellence of the community as a whole.
The facts speak for themselves. They
are objective and completely verifiable. You have not been provided
them. It would be laughable if it were not
so tragic that HSUS believes a save rate of 35% for unredeemed animals
(the rate for MCAS for two year running, 2008 and 2009) should be the
standard for the country, one other shelters should be taught to
achieve. MCAS is coming under increasing criticism and fire for their
failure to the public and homeless animals. By
providing false information to you to obtain an endorsement from HSUS,
the intention is to use HSUS to deceive the public and deflect attention
from their failed policies and practices. HSUS
will lose national trust and credibility when the facts are out. They will be. Facts endure. It
is a high price.
MCAS can present at a conference when they have
genuinely improved their save rates and honored the facts, the lives of
homeless animals, and this community’s values. Involving HSUS in a cover
up is shocking and unethical behavior. Your first allegiance should be
to animal protection, not to an agency that has failed.
Gail O’Connell-Babcock, Ph.D.
Watchdog/Citizens for Humane Animal Legislation
SW Tualatin-Sherwood Road #508
Sherwood, OR 97140
Telephone: 503.625.4563 Fax: 503.925.8299
Postscript: All supporting documents
available upon request. Temperament
testing practices attached. Electronic
Inventory records are also available.
John Snyder of
HSUS's letter of explanation
Thank you for your inquiry.
Wayne asked me to respond to you and
I’m sorry for the delay in my reply, but with the flooding in Nashville much of our
time and resources have been spent identifying a new Expo location and
then making the necessary changes to schedules and accommodations.
I know you are disappointed to see
Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) presenting at Expo, but, as a
municipal agency, we view the implementation of Open Paw as valuable
insight to be shared with other attendees. MCAS has made improvements to
their shelter routine which has proven to be very successful in
developing an effective and progressive shelter enrichment program, and
their suggestions are intended to benefit other agencies struggling to
meet the emotional needs of animals in their care.
In addition, we are very impressed
with MCAS’s commitment to making positive changes in their community. As
a founding member of the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland (ASAP)—a
coalition of public and private shelters—ASAP is working collaboratively
to end the euthanasia of healthy, socialized dogs and cats in Portland
Lastly, using statistical reporting
methods that are becoming the standard in the animal sheltering
profession (advocated by Andrew Rowan), MCAS’s euthanasia per 1,000
human population is 5.2 per , while the national average reported by
Merritt Clifton, Editor of Animal People is approximately 15 per
Gail, I admire your continued
advocacy, and I hope that even if we disagree about MCAS, we can find
other areas in which we can work together in the future.
Start planning now to attend Animal Care Expo
2010, the nation's premier animal welfare conference! For information
on the May 12-15th event in Nashville,
Tennessee, visit www.AnimalSheltering.org/expo
or call 1-800-248-EXPO.