Monday, September 17, 2007

Will they ever learn?

Lake County Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, is considering a change in the price of their rabies tags. Madhu Krishnamurthy writes, in a Daily Herald article entitled "Rabies shots might cost more for non-neutered pets," that the county is considering an increase in the cost for rabies vaccinations and that owners of unaltered pets will have to pay three times the cost of an altered pet vaccination. There already is a differential for altered vs. unaltered pets, but the proposal will increase that differential substantially.

"Under the current proposal, rabies tag fees for pets that haven't been spayed or neutered would rise from $25 to $40 for a one-year tag and from $50 to $125 for a three-year tag. Tag fees for spayed and neutered pets also will increase but are much cheaper: $10 for the one-year tag and $25 for the three year tag."

Anthony Smithson, Lake County Health Department environmental health services director, gave the following quote as a rationale:

"Our fees for non-neutered animals have always been higher. If we raise the fees high enough, they might decide to just have the surgery instead."

But if you raise the fees too high, someone with an unaltered pet won't bother getting the vaccination at all! These people are already irresponsible for not altering their pets; they are not suddenly going to grow a conscience and insist their pet be vaccinated damn the cost.

To get people to behave the way we want them to behave, we have to give incentives, not penalties. A penalty will accomplish the exact opposite of the desired behavior, which in this case will be not getting the pet altered along with not getting the pet vaccinated for rabies. Why does animal control want to create disincentives and penalties that will keep people from vaccinating their pets? That I just don't understand.

My questions for Mr. Smithson - Lake County already has a price differential for vaccination of altered vs. unaltered pets. How's that working out for y'all? Are people altering their pets to avoid the higher vaccination price? If not, what makes you think making the cost even higher will work?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Boks v Taylor

Ed Boks, LA shelter director, has a new piece in his blog that is a rebuttal to an op-ed piece in the LA Daily News. The link to Susan Taylor's op-ed is:

The link to Ed's rebuttal is

I'm not an Ed Boks fan, but Susan Taylor is not any better. Here's a quote from her article that strikes me:

"Aggressive dogs are often put in kennel runs with frightened, docile animals that are attacked if they attempt to eat or get a drink of water.

This happens so frequently that the department's medical expenditures have skyrocketed in recent years from sewing up helpless dogs who've been ripped apart.

Apparently, Boks finds this preferable to euthanizing - and adding to his kill numbers.

Wow! Read that last line again. She seems to be annoyed that Boks finds providing veterinary care for an injured animal preferrable to euthanizing that animal. She is saying that an animal with a treatable injury incurred at the shelter itself should be euthanized.

What am I missing here?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nathan Winograd's book - first thoughts

My copy of Nathan Winograd's book, "Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America" arrived last Friday and I've been trying to read a little every day. I was going to wait to write something until I had finished the book so I could give a complete review and encourage people to read it, but forget that. GO GET THE BOOK NOW AND START READING!

This is a revolutionary book. I've alternated between rage and tears over it. Let me give you a small taste of the book and why it's so important that we all read it.

In June at the DC City council hearing on DC's proposed animal control ordinance, a group of bird enthusiasts (I can't remember the group's name) argued against the ordinance's inclusion of a TNR requirement for feral cats. They claimed that feral cats decimate song birds and wild migratory bird populations. This took me by surprise, and in the back of my mind since that hearing I've wondered about how to respond to this argument. Here's a taste of what Nathan says on the topic:

The final argument that the HSUS has made to oppose TNR is that cats are not "native" and are killing native birds and other species. Others have joined this chorus...

In a joing campain called "Cats Indoors" established by the American Humane Association, the American Bird Conservancy and the HSUS, the organizations claimed that "scientists estimate that cats kill hundreds of millions of birds each year and three times as many small mammals." The coalition's resulting Cats Indoors campaign would later go on to say that

"scientifc studies actually show that each year, cats kill hundreds of millions of migratory songbirds. In 1990, researchers estimated that "outdoor" house cats and feral cats are responsible for killing nearly 78 million small mammals and birds annually in the United Kingdom. University of Wisconsin ornithologist, Dr. Stanley Temple estimates that 20-150 million songbirds are killed each year by rural cats in Wisconsin alone."

Both of these claims fly in the face of evidence, and neither of the studies cited stands up to scrutiny. In the British study, a bird advocate asked a small number of people living with cats who allowed the cats outside to record any birds and small mammals their cats brought home. The researcher then took that number, multiplied it by how many cats he guessed lived in England, and came up with the astonishing number of seventy-eight million. The methodology, to put it mildly, is unscientific; the "study" is nothing more than an oversimplified formula of multiplying a guessed number of cats in England by how many birds a small number of cats brought home. Since the world is not that simple, statistical models are not created by merely multiplying two numbers. The study's formulation is, in the words of one reviewer, "irresponsible and reflects a feeble understanding of basic science."

Science, by contrast, asks qualitative questions: How did the birds die? Did the cats kill them? Were they road kill or fledglings who would have died anyway? Was there any indication of disease in the prey? Was the catch freshly killed or were the birds dead for days? All of these answers could have been found with very little effort, but the author ignored them. More importantly, the study also ignored the fact that several hundred birds in the village where the study was conducted must die each year to maintain a stable population and that the village's bird density was nine times higher than the rest of Britain! These latter facts lead to Jeff Elliott's inescapbale conclusion after he analyzed the study:

"Taken togehter, these elements suggest another interpretation: cats are simply weeding out birds from an overcrowded population. Nor are they apparently catching healthy birds at their peak of winged life; wintertime is most stressful on birds that are old or sick, and fledglings tumbling down from nests could account for the high count in early summer. And with only 130 dead sparrows recorded...the cats kill - or find - less than half the numbers that must be annually culled to sustain their population."

- end of quote from the book

Now if I ever have to respond to the "song bird" argument, I know exactly how.

This is an incredible book and a must read for everyone! The book is available through Barnes and Noble, and you can find more information at I'll try to write more when I finish.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

There are definately better ways!

Michael Fitzgerald does a moderately okay job on pointing out the pitfalls in a cat licensing law proposed in Stockton CA in a post entitled "Cat tags: noble cause, many flaws". Cat licensing is, to put it mildly IMO, stupid. Compliance is dismal and it accomplishes nothing. But Michael ends his article with:

"Despite all the holes one can punch in the proposed law, its proponents deserve credit for declaring a halt to the unchallenged extermination of thousands of animals. On that part, I'm with them. You should be, too.

If I could suggest a better way, I would. Can you?

Contact columnist Michael Fitzgerald at (209) 546-8270 or

Oh yeah, I can suggest some better ways! Let's start with determining the source of the animals in Stockton's shelters, then implementing policies directed at those specific sources. If the main source is strays or ferals, TNR and support for spay/neuter to low income homes. Low income families who can no longer afford to keep their pets will either set them free (strays) or surrender them to the shelters. They ain't never gonna buy no license! Whatever the source is, it must be known first and then an appropriate policy applied or nothing will work.

What's the danger in trying cat licensing? Simple - it lulls people into a false sense that they are trying something, and that's worse than trying nothing. Other methods that could work won't be tried. Enacting an unenforceable law that will have almost no compliance is not a good idea at all! We don't need more laws, especially laws that won't work. We need solutions.

So let's all let Michael know there are better ways than a law no one will obey.

"Financial Woes Add Up to Pet Surrenders"

An article on the website (from Appleton, Wisconsin) entitled "Financial Woes Add Up to Pet Surrenders" says what cat breeders have been saying all along - low income families just cannot afford veterinary care for their pets.

The article describes the increase in shelter turn-ins for July 2007 vs. July 2006:

"Monthly pet surrenders rose 31 percent in July compared to the same month last year — from 172 in July 2006 to 226 last month — the association reported Friday."

"Shelter admission reports show dogs and cats entering the shelter last month totaled 504, up 86 animals, or 21 percent, compared to July 2006.

All of that year-to-year increase was attributable to a 34 percent increase in cat and kitten admissions, which rose from 278 in July 2006 to 373 last month, a difference of 95 animals."

The shelter officials say these increases are from a surge in surrenders. When people are broke or destitute, they surrender their pets. The shelter in the article takes surrenders without a fee, otherwise these animals would become strays. This begs the question - how many of the strays we see in shelter intakes all over the country are from people too poor to care for their animal who can't pay a fee at a shelter that will not take a surrender without a fee? If someone cannot afford a pet, they will find someplace to dump the poor animal. Fee or no fee at a shelter, the animal will arrive there eventually.

This is a sad situation. When a family has to chose between food for themselves or keeping the family pet, it's heart breaking. But if this is the source for shelter intakes, what good will mandatory laws and fees do?

Monday, August 20, 2007

The No Kill Guy

Nathan Winograd, the guy behind the No Kill Advocacy Center, has started a new blog. His first post is about the reasons why organizations like HSUS and PETA portray the goal of shelters becoming no kill so negatively - self-preservation. It's a good post, I can't do it justice in a summary. I'm looking forward to Nathan's new book and his upcoming book tour. I'll report on the book as soon as I get it and read it.