Monday, February 4, 2013

Humane CARE or CAREless Reporting

A recent news article on has a community of pet owners questioning an animal shelters practices and the integrity of the reporter who wrote it.

Co-Director, Kristy Gardner of Cedar Bend Humane Society shared with KWWL reporter, Danielle Wagner CBHS' annual statistics declaring that 12,000 animals were "handled" by the shelter and AC officers yet, the article only produces the intake, disposition and euthanasia for 5,171 of them leaving 6,000+ animals unaccounted for by a city/county run shelter.

That leaves 6,829 or 57% of the animals "handled" by CBHS unaccounted for.

CBHS website says that they annually care for approximately 10,000 domestic animals, not 12,000 but also state that they help "homeless animals from the smallest gerbil to the largest injured mastiff". Yet, no small animals or any other are listed, only cats/dogs.

In the beginning of the article Ms. Wagner reports:
The total number of cats and dogs actually entering the shelter last year was 5,171.
At the end of the article Ms. Wagner misleads the reader to believe there were even more animals saved with a breakdown:
Some other numbers for you from 2012 at the Cedar Bend Humane Society:
  • 1,031 "cats/dogs" were were surrendered by pet owners (20%)
  • 2,283 "cats/dogs" were strays brought into the shelter (44%)
  • 1,181 "cats/dogs" were brought in by Animal Control (23%)
  • 676 "cats/dogs" came in from surrounding communities (13%)
If you add up the numbers above, you will notice they total the exact same amount as reported in the beginning of the article: 5,171 which could lead a reader to believe that 10,000+ animals were saved. But instead it's a repeat of what is already posted still leaving 6,829 animals unaccounted for and 981 MIA.

Next, the breakdown of the disposition of those cats/dogs that DID make it into the shelter was:
  • 1,319 "cats/dogs" were adopted (26%)
  • 842 "cats/dogs" were returned to owner (16%)
  • 162 "cats/dogs" euthanized by owner request. (3%)
  • 1,867 "cats/dogs" were killed by the shelter (36%) Their breakdown is:
    • 453 injury/illness (9%)
    • 208 aggression (4%)
    • 629 feral cats (12%)
    • 577 "other (11%)
But that only totals 4,190 not 5,171. That leaves 981 animals reported entering the shelter, but no stats on what happened to them? Killed? Adopted? Mising? Simple math would have brought forth questions for clarification but apparently Ms. Wagner didn't ask them or cared to print it.

The intake/disposition numbers of the animals that entered CBHS' are not all that is in question either. Their euthanasia numbers are equally as troubling. And again, they are only providing stats for "cats/dogs" not the entire 12,000 that they handled. Those are still MIA!

If we start by defining the difference between the term "euthanasia" and "kill" you'll see why I keep using the word "kill".
"Euthanasia" by definition is:...the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.
"Killing" or to "Kill" by definition is: to deprive of life; cause the death of; to put an end to; to destroy the vital or essential quality of
Based on these defintions I'm certain that at least 50% probably more dogs/cats alone were "killed" not "euthanized". Questions that demand answers are:
  • What illnesses/injuries determine an animal untreatable or unfixable?
  • If the animal has a treatable virus/manageable disease/or fixable injury what does the shelter to prior to tagging it for euthanasia?
  • Who is trained or who does the shelter use professionally who has the training to properly assess if a dog has aggression issues, which type they are and whether they can be rehabilitated.
  • What programs are in place to help feral Cats and if so what are they?
  • Does CBHS or is CBHS working on a program whereas feral cats can be brought in, and given time to assess properly or do they have or are trying to have offsite facilities/barns for them to go. Does CBHS have a network of rescues/barns/sanctuaries who can assist them when they have colonies of cats to care for? If so, what are they?
  • Is CBHS aware that some FeLV cats that test positive never have the disease? And that FIV+ is NOT a death sentence but a very manageable virus whereas cats can live long happy lives? What programs are in place or are being put in place to offer these types of animals and what education is CBHS offering to end the mass killing of cats in these situations?
  • How does CBHS determine the difference between a "feral" cat and a "unsocialized" or "scared stray" if they are not allowing adequate time to assess them?
  • What determines "other" for any animal to be killed?
Most likely if you can get answers to these questions, you will find that CBHS has no plans or programs in place now or in the near future to do better at saving lives.

Summary: Out of 5,171 cats/dogs that entered the shelter:
    • 42% cats/dogs saved.
    • 39% cats/dogs killed. 
    • 19% cats/dogs status is unknown (981)
which means that:
  • Less than HALF of what CBHS "handled" was brought into the shelter and given a chance to survive.
  • Less than HALF of the cats/dogs that were brought in survived in their care.
  • Over HALF were killed and 50% or more of those didn't need to be
  • Less than 1/4 of cats/dogs disposition that entered the shelter is missing or unreported.
So even if these numbers are wrong, Ms. Gardner's pride in their organization's efforts is disturbing. That an above average paid shelter director of a city/county funded organization can't even save 50% of the animals in their community? Don't get me wrong, running a shelter is hard work, but I wouldn't be proud of killing more than I saved.

CBHS' mission is to provide humane care for all animals under their protection and yet 39% of the animals that wound up in their care were murdered with little explanation as to why.

In addition the reporter appears to be defending CBHS with her statement of:
You might wonder why other shelters can be no-kill. Those shelters often pick and choose which animals they take in. Cedar Bend doesn't have that option. It takes every animal that is brought in.
I was bothered more by the careless reporting with this comment than the ignorance behind the statement by Ms. Wagner. Perhaps she should actually visit or contact a no-kill organization before reporting such biased comments. But more recent postings from this writer clearly shows she is simply a stenographer for CBHS rather than a journalist for An abuse of the pen and an insult to it's readers.

So let me provide some clarification about no-kills:

The truth is that no-kill organizations receive more calls, save more lives and are making a larger impact on the animal world than the kill shelters spewing out large numbers deceptively getting the public to think they actually saved the lives of that many. Reasons pet owners contact no kills are:
  • Many pet owners have no idea who to call should their pet go missing or lost and contact the first listing they google. In many cases that's a no kill shelter or rescue because they are sought out for help more than kill ones. 
  • Shelters operating hours are primarily during business hours Monday through Friday and closed on weekends when most people are working. Stray calls tend to double in the evening hours between 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm and heavier on the weekends when the working population is out and about to take notice of the animals in need on our public streets.
  • Owners wanting to relinquish their pets seek out no-kills not kill shelters.
  • They have had bad experiences with their local animal control or kill shelter.
  • They have learned the truth that many of these organizations are more about profit than they are the care of the animals and saving lives.
Which brings up another issue, which in reality has backfired on the traditional shelters own practices.
  • Kill shelters have open admission because they claim that owners will abandon their animals if they have no place to go. Not true. Most people seeking a place for their animal don't have the heart to abandon their animal uncared for and consider it cruel. They seek out no kills as a guilt free solution. In many cases when confronted with euthanize your own pet or work to save it, they opt to save it, when viable solutions are offered. Some of these include:
      • Behavior counseling and training classes for behavior issues
      • Rehoming assistance (pet remains in the home until a new one is found)
      • Shelter/Rescue Networking can provide multiple solutions for a pet owner to keep their pet or if absolutely necessary, safely find new home for it.
      • Assistance with food, medical care, exercise, temporary housing and more.
      • Pet Loss Counseling. When all else fails and no viable solution is welcomed by the pet owner, then assist the pet owner as they say goodbye. It's not a shelter or rescue's responsibility to take responsibility for your pet and kill it for you.
      • There are many more solutions and there are extenuating circumstances that do justify the surrender of a pet...but in most cases, responsible pet owners, if given the knowledge and assistance will keep their pet.
  • Kill shelters have created and enabled a mindset that "pets" are merchandise and disposable and have contributed to the overcrowding in all shelters and rescues through their own actions such as:
    • Irresponsible adoptions. Not screening applicants thoroughly and properly increasing return rates.
    • Unaltered animals being adopted allowing "mistakes" or "oops" litters to happen.
    • "Specials" on adoptions (i.e. 2 for 1 cats.) These create a sale type purchase rather than a lifetime commitment mindset.
    • Easy disposal options. Accepting returns without counseling or problem solving with the pet owner to help keep the pet in their home when at all possible decreasing  kennel spacing for those who really need them.
    • Pets as Prizes: Numerous shelters have held lotteries for animals that are popular or in high demand.
    • Same Day Adoptions. Emotionally based adoptions have a 50% chance of being returned 1-3 years later.
    • Minimal screening of applicants. Adopting a pet for a lifetime requires more than signing a bill of sale (adoption form). It requires preparing the adopter in all aspects of being a pet owner from financial, to long term care, to understanding the breed/species they are adopting.
Open admission shelters criticize no-kill operations calling them "limited intake institutions that force them to kill" with the effort to get people to think that they are swamped with animals and saving their precious lives. And yet, CBHS doesn't have any of the viable programs in place that in fact, have proven in kill and no kill organizations across this county to save lives.

Regardless of how you feel about the "kill vs. no kill" debate, the stats published for CBHS in this article should prompt questions and demand clarification and answers by everyone who owns a pet, because it could be your companion that ends up in the hands of caretakers like these with a 16% chance of it being returned to you (even chipped and tagged) and a greater chance (39%) of it being killed. More disturbing is there is a 57% chance that you will never know what happened to your pet and from the lack of  a response seeking clarification they don't have any plans to tell you either!

The reporting by Ms. Wagner is equally disturbing and careless. This type of yellow journalism should bring equal disgust to anyone who reads it and people should ask to find people who can report without passion and prejudice bringing forth accurate facts and not personal opinions.

I'm certain that CBHS and Ms. Wagner have put themselves on the radar with animal advocates and only the public can make institutions and their staff be held accountable for their actions. Add your comments to the article or write KWWL and ask them to provide clarification for those comments that don't add up. Contact the Board of Directors at Cedar Bend Humane Society and ask the questions posed in this article and see if you can receive some clarification for the 6,000+ animals unaccounted for.

ASK! DEMAND! DO SOMETHING...If you don't, then people like this will continue to participate and facilitate in the killing of millions of animals across this nation. And those who give every minute they can to save a life from these types of institutions will become discouraged and quit. And that is exactly what places like CBHS are hoping for.

To learn more about the no-kill movement and all the alternative ways there are to save a life check out these resources:


  1. Outstanding article, well researched and written. A must for anyone interested in learning the truth about the kill factories disguised as animal shelters and rescues.

  2. Great article and well stated to bring out the true numbers out of the mess that KWWL "reported". As for "feral" cats, they are automatically killed at CBHS. There is no chance for them even considered. How do I know that? My neighborhood had a feral cat problem and the person picking them up had no problem telling me and a neighbor that they would automatically put down due to diseases. No evaluation for diseases is done if they are put down right away.

    1. Thank you. Not to pry, but can you provide more information on the "feral" cat situation at CBHS. For example how do they determine or assess that a cat is a true "feral"?

  3. Very good article, well-written and much needed. Maybe CBHS should do some research on how other shelters have successfully found ways to adopt feral cats or neuter them and return them to their "stomping grounds." And it sounds like they at least need a bookkeeper who can make the numbers come up right!

    My local animal shelter in Western North Carolina is close to being a no-kill shelter and our county is close to becoming a no-kill county -- it takes effort and imagination, but it can be done. Sounds like CBHS AND KWWL should go back to the drawing board!

    1. Thank you for commenting Jackie. Your insight and experience volunteering for a shelter that is turning no-kill is always invaluable..and offers hope.

  4. It's nice to share the progress of a business, but it is important to share the information accurately. I find the discrepancies between the original article and this blog disheartening. Whether the reporter got it wrong or the shelter didn't submit it correctly, those who would take notice could see the numbers don't add up.

    I do understand people questioning these numbers, especially those more connected with the issues. Hopefully the reporter will provide some clarification for it's readers.

    The comments under the original article are very informative as well and I found them informative.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I'm hoping the reporter will do a follow up story and offer some neutral ground this time. She has professed to be an avid volunteer for CBHS in her blog which can be found here.

  5. The questions posed here are well thought out and I hope Cedar Bend steps forth and offers some answers.

    It is their right to operate their business anyway they want, but I would hope that they would care enough about the public's perception that they would offer some answers.

    Great article....good information.

  6. Great information. Explains options are available rather than euthanasia. Will share and hope others will too!

    1. Thank you. Please consider sharing it with your social network. Hopefully it will provide insight to animal lovers so they make informed decisions if and when they have to use or support a shelter.

  7. Good blog.
    I feel when you look at % of Kill numbers, the only numbers you look at to come out with a true % is Kill versus Adopted.
    The other animals they "handled" were either DOA, owner euthanize requests, owner returns, they were never animals they had to make a decision to kill or adopt out, that's smoke and mirrors when they try to bring all those numbers in as part of the Kill/Adopted ratio.
    And don't forget those 981-6000+ out in the atmosphere un-accounted for, those may still need to go to the Kill side as we all know they were not adopted.
    So if it is 1867 Killed and we know the majority of these animals were treatable, and adoptable be they puppies or kittens needing help to survive, an animal with some behavior issues or just plain scared or a senior pet killed, well because it's "old", only a small % were truly dangerous or suffering and needed to be euthanized. So, only 1319 Adopted, that is well over 60% killed and then you add those out there floating around on paperwork, the number may be far higher.
    They are mass killing animals, spin it anyway you want but just be honest, you are killing out of laziness, spite, lack of compassion and because you can.
    No one in larger numbers only a few not afraid to speak up have kept the spotlight on this locally and No Kill Nation who is Nation wide also call out this deception and killing. The public is starting to catch wind of this.
    And it's about time they listened to more then the over paid Shelter Directors in this State.

    1. Thank you for your comment. My purpose was to take the facts that were printed in the article and dispute those that just didn't make sense. While I did add my personal views at the end, I tried to remain neutral when disputing the facts. Not always easy, but I tried.

  8. They really can't run their business anyway they want, they can kill all day long, but they have boundaries like any other place and are set to an even higher standard as they operate on others hard earned money and have the public believing they are a refuge a safe place, a caring place, when it's just not true.
    They have been dishonest forever in these places, and have bullied, retaliated against people and used the animals in a horrific manner.
    They adopt animals out, they Kill more then they save, that is so wrong.

    This reporter has in one way helped the animals and in another failed them by continuing to take the side of this Kill Shelter and trying to get people to believe what is really black and white is maybe gray and we just don't understand!