At least 34,973 cats and 22,909 dogs lost their lives in Michigan in 2013 at county run and private animal “shelters” who refuse to implement successful No-Kill programs which would keep these animals alive and able to be adopted. After returning some of the stray pets to their owners, state shelters killed 33.6% of the dogs and 39.4% of the cats they had a responsibility to care for and adopt into new homes. Although the shelter statistics from the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture no longer track how many of these pets are litters (six months or younger), a staggering percentage of these babies have been continuously killed over the years by shelters who don’t spend any time or resources to save them.
The 11 worst animal shelters in Michigan account for more than 40% of the cats and dogs who are killed in our state. These shelters include: Michigan Humane Society, Detroit Animal Control, Genesee County Animal Control, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Animal Control, Saginaw County Animal Care Center, Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center, Michigan Anti Cruelty Society (Detroit), Kent County Animal Shelter, Bay County Animal Control, Berrien County Animal Control and Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement. The Michigan Humane Society killed 2272 dogs in 2013 and Detroit Animal Control killed 2889 cats – the highest numbers listed in the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture’s 2013 shelter report. More than a dozen animal shelters didn’t report their numbers at all in 2013 so the overall euthanasia numbers are actually higher than mentioned earlier.
No-Kill shelters are defined by most in the animal rescue community as a shelter who does not kill for space – they do not kill adoptable animals, pets who can be medically and behaviorally rehabilitated and adopted. These shelters usually have a 90% and higher save rate.
Animal advocates in Michigan have been networking, going to conferences and working together to do what they can to make Michigan a No-Kill state, so they were excited to hear that on September 11, 2014, Michigan Senator Steven Bieda along with many other Michigan senators introduced Senate Resolution 0178 – A No-Kill Resolution. Their resolution encourages Michigan animal shelters and pounds to adopt a “No-Kill” philosophy in dealing with homeless pets. You can see the resolution here. This resolution has bipartisan support with seven Republicans and five Democrats listed on the bill as sponsors. Although the bill doesn’t mandate shelters to be No-Kill, it is still certainly a step in the right direction and a “call to arms” for animal advocates to make their County shelters more accountable to the animals and the taxpayers by utilizing proven methods to stopping the killing. SR 0178 has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture. You can find out how contact them here with your support and you can also find out how to contact YOUR Michigan State Senator to support this bill here.
Too many animal shelters across our state kill dogs and cats who are too “old”; need any sort of medical care; are difficult to handle because they are stressed out in the shelter; are too young (shelters kill puppies and kittens because they don’t want to bottle feed them or use foster homes); and they kill dogs who “look like” a Pit Bull or are black in color or are larger because the shelter workers believe they are harder to adopt out. There are all sorts of excuses they will give to execute a pet who used to be a family pet – a small furry soul who used to have a life to look forward to – a bed to sleep in, a teenage boy to play ball with and sunny days to enjoy. But upon entering many Michigan animal shelters, merely because they entered one with a bad shelter director and an uncaring County government, their days are numbered. A quote from Nathan Winograd from his book “Redemption” sums up the state of many animal shelters across the nation and why animal control agencies were created – “to warehouse and kill animals at the lowest possible cost.”
The sad thing is that these animal shelters don’t have to be stuck in the old-school ways of doing things. There are numerous animal shelters across the state – and the country – that are No-Kill. They are successful. They are saving lives. They work in affluent and poor counties, Republican and Democrat ran counties, rural and urban areas… what do they all have in common? Most of them implement what has become known as the No-Kill equation which has been released by the No Kill Advocacy Center, an organization founded by Nathan Winograd, one of the leading No-Kill advocates in the country.
The No-Kill equation contains programs that successful No-Kill shelters implement including: partnering with rescue groups, utilizing volunteers, having a foster care program, participating in TNR (trap-neuter-return), pet retention help to keep pets in homes, a comprehensive adoption program, public relations and community involvement, medical and behavior training and rehabilitation, high-volume low-cost spay and neuter programs, proactive redemptions so pets get home to their owners and the most important of all – a hard-working and compassionate shelter director. Because without a good shelter director, none of these programs can happens.
It has become apparent, over the last few years especially, that many in the animal welfare field are dissatisfied with the antiquated 1919 Dog Law of our state as well as how animal shelters are closely regulated (or not) and the state’s penal code as it relates to animals. Representatives from the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture were on hand at the Pet Fund No-Kill conference this month and someone in the crowd was trying to get a straight answer about who watches out for dogs in cages in animal shelters who aren’t walked.
Although the Dept. of Agriculture has guidelines to use when they inspect the shelters and a checklist to go through as you can see in this inspection report, they said they had no jurisdiction over the exercise of a dog in an animal shelter. As you can see in the inspection report, they check that the size of the cage is adequate (enough space for the dog to stand up and move around), but they claim that the exercise of a dog in an animal shelter involves the penal code. However, I don’t tend to agree with them on that point considering that their own form also says “daily care of animals” under line item #12. In what part of the universe is walking a dog NOT part of its daily care? At a minimum, every dog owner who reads this story feeds, waters and walks their dogs EVERY DAY as part of their daily care. The state’s penal code states that “adequate care” includes sufficient exercise in addition to food, water and other necessities. If not, a pet owner could be charged with neglect. Do the same laws not apply to our animal shelters?
If the exercise of a dog at an animal shelter is part of the penal code (enforced by the County Sheriff) and the Sheriff’s Department runs the shelter, how exactly is this problem supposed to get solved?? Does that mean a concerned citizen and taxpayer should print out a copy of this penal code and file a complaint with their local Sheriff’s office if the animals in the shelter are not being walked? Yes, that seems like that would be a good action to take – and in writing. Animal advocates have a duty to protect the animals in their shelter once they find out who is supposed to regulate their care. We must follow through and make sure to hold these government workers accountable to the laws of the state. With an underfunded and overworked Dept. of Agriculture and not enough staff to give the attention that is needed to animal shelters who don’t comply with the law, shelters will continue to get away with bad conditions and inhumane killing unless people speak up. Citizens need to watch their shelters at a local level while we wait for state laws to catch up with the realities of present day.
Because many animal lovers are upset about how their County animal shelters are operated and are appalled at how many cats and dogs are killed, they are starting to realize that they must get political. Animal shelters are usually ran at the discretion of the local Sheriff Departments and Animal Control Officers as well as by Board of Directors. That is all at the County level – a place where taxpayers can make a difference and let their voices be heard. They are attending their County and City Commissioner’s meetings, paying attention to animal issues and speaking out during public comment. They are doing what they can to hold their politicians accountable for the decisions they make regarding their local animal shelters. More and more animal advocates are also forming non-profit “friends of” groups to help the animal shelters adopt out more animals by networking the shelter animals, volunteering and more. They are contacting their politicians about local, state and federal laws that impact animals.
Genesee County animal advocates are right in the middle of politics and this November is going to mean a lot to Genesee cats and dogs if the politicians that they support win their Commissioner seats. Many residents in Genesee County have been trying to make changes for the animals so that they are kept in better conditions and less of them are killed. They cite a lack of transparency at the shelter including locked wards that are off limits to the public and volunteers. Director Lazar was invited to the Pet Fund No-Kill Conference, all expenses paid, and declined the offer. Taxpayers in Genesee County want a shelter director and a County government that does right by the animals and they continue to fight for those cats and dogs in the shelter who can’t speak for themselves. It’s been a hard road and they decided that if the politicians that are in office won’t listen to them, they will work to get new ones elected. They have a “slate” of their own animal-friendly candidates – Board of Commissioner candidates. This is important because the Board oversees Animal Control, they choose the Director of Animal Control and have the power to hire and fire. They can set goals, expectations and policies.
According to GRACE Genesee Residents for Animal Control Evolution) there are three of nine Commissioners who consistently vote in favor of the animals and progressive change at the animal shelter – Jamie Curtis, Mark Young and Tony Brown. In order to have any hope for improvements, they need at least five Commissioners who care and will take action. The election for the Commissioners will be cast is on Tuesday, November 4th. This could be the most important day ever for the animals in Genesee County. It could mean quick improvements for the shelter as well as a positive path for the future. If you are a resident of Genesee County, please click on this genesee county voting info link to find out how your vote can impact the lives of dogs and cats in your county.
For others who want to have an impact on local and state animal welfare, besides getting active in your local communities through groups that already exist, you can also join “Mi-PACA” – Michigan Political Action Committee for Animals.
They welcome all animal lovers to join with them to create a dynamic, growing voting bloc of animal welfare advocates to elect representatives who support animal protection and shelter reform. You can sign up for a voting bloc here. They assign coordinators to cities and counties to go to commissioner meetings and keep an eye on animal issues when they come up. They currently don’t give money to candidates because their focus is on voting and issues – and those issues are bipartisan. They will, however, endorse (or not endorse) a candidate or issue.
Some of the issues they concentrate on are:
• Shelter Reform
• Ending BSL (breed-specific legislation)
• Puppy Mills and Commercial Pet Sales
• TNR (trap-neuter-return) and SNR (shelter-neuter-return)
• Law Enforcement Aggression Against Pets
When it comes to the No-Kill Revolution, which many are joining, there are many ways to get involved in your own community and at a state level. Please get involved and do what you can to make Michigan a better place for homeless animals.
Tagged: no-kill legislation in michigan