Bergen County Animal Shelter Keeps on Killing Pets in 2018

Over the last several years, I wrote numerous blogs about the high kill Bergen County Animal Shelter. You can view my blog from last year here. That blog also includes links to my prior Bergen County Animal Shelter blogs.

These blogs revealed Bergen County Animal Shelter killed huge numbers of animals for absurd reasons. Additionally, the shelter illegally killed animals during the state’s seven day protection period.

Was Bergen County Animal Shelter still a high kill facility in 2018? Does the shelter comply with state law?

Shelter Kills Dogs at a High Rate

Bergen County Animal Shelter continued to kill many dogs in 2018. You can view all the shelter’s dog and cat intake and disposition records here. Overall, 10% of all dogs, 24% of pit bulls, 4% of small dogs and 10% of other medium to large sized breeds lost their lives at the Bergen County Animal Shelter during the year. As a comparison, only 1% of all dogs, 1% of pit bulls, 2% of small dogs and 1% of other breeds lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2018 despite that shelter taking in many more dogs in total and on a per capita basis. If we just count dogs who Bergen County Animal Shelter had to find new homes for (i.e. excluding dogs reclaimed by their owners), 18% of all dogs, 36% of pit bulls, 8% of small dogs and 18% of other medium to large sized breeds were killed or died at the shelter. To put it another way, around 1 in 5 nonreclaimed dogs, more than 1 in 3 nonreclaimed pit bulls and around 1 in 5 nonreclaimed other medium to large size breeds lost their lives at the Bergen County Animal Shelter. Thus, all types of medium to larger size dogs entering the Bergen County Animal Shelter had a significant chance of losing their life.

Bergen County Animal Shelter hardly adopted out any dogs. Despite being a well-known county shelter in a high traffic area, the facility only adopted out 279 dogs during the year or less than one dog per day. Furthermore, 74 of those adoptions were small dogs, which shelters have to do little work to adopt out. Bergen County Animal Shelter only adopted out 131 medium to large size dogs, which included just 57 pit bulls and 74 other medium to large size breeds. This works out to less than five pit bull adoptions and around six other medium to large size breed adoptions a month.

The shelter also sent very few medium to large size dogs to rescues. While my recent dog report card blog on the state’s shelters showed Bergen County Animal Shelter had plenty of space to adopt out all of its nonreclaimed dogs, one would think the facility would at least try to send dogs it was going to kill to rescues instead. In fact, Bergen County Animal Shelter only sent 26 out of 360 medium-large size dogs to rescues and other shelters in 2018. Even worse, Bergen County Animal Shelter only transferred 3 out of 141 pit bulls to rescues and other shelters during the year. In fact, Bergen County Animal Shelter killed 11 times more pit bulls than it sent to rescues and other shelters. As a comparison, Elizabeth Animal Shelter sent 29 pit bulls to rescues in 2017 or 10 times as many as Bergen County Animal Shelter. Despite the shelter’s policy of contacting rescues prior to killing, I’ve personally never seen Bergen County Animal Shelter ever make a public plea to rescues to save dogs the shelter was going to kill. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter would rather kill medium to large size dogs than actually ask for help to save these animals.

Too Many Cats Lose Their Lives

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat statistics in 2018 were also not good. Overall, 29% of cats lost their lives or went missing. If we just count cats the shelter had to find new homes for (i.e. excluding owner reclaims and cats “released” through TNR and other programs), 34% of these cats lost their lives. These death rates were 28% and 32% for cats one year and older and 11% and 11% for kittens that were 6 weeks to just under one year old. Thus, cats were not safe at Bergen County Animal Shelter.

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s neonatal kitten statistics were far worse than the overall cat kill rate. Specifically, 62% of kittens under 6 weeks old lost their lives. If we only count animals that were not reclaimed or released, 94% of kittens under six weeks old lost their lives. Furthermore, if the 158 under 6 week old kittens listed under “released” went through the shelter’s TNR program, that raises serious ethical questions as young kittens have high mortality rates on the streets.

While I tabulated the cat statistics by age, I note the shelter’s cat age statistics were grossly inaccurate last year. Therefore, the shelter may have provided incorrect age information this year.

Most troubling, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat death rates were significantly higher in 2018 than in 2017. The cat death rate increased from 16% to 29% while the nonreclaimed cat death rate rose from 20% to 34%. While Bergen County Animal Shelter’s dog statistics improved marginally, the shelter’s sharp increase in cat killing is alarming. Specifically, the number of cats killed increased from 277 cats to 420 cats while the number of cats who died or went missing increased from 17 cats to 149 cats.

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat statistics were also much worse than Austin Animal Center. While 28% of cats and 34% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives at Bergen County Animal Shelter in 2017, only 4% of cats and 5% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2018. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cats were seven times more likely to lose their lives than cats at Austin Animal Center.

Remarkably, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s underlying records revealed many differences from what it reported in the statistics it submitted to the New Jersey Department of Health. While the shelter likely complied with the state health department’s rules in counting cats who were brought in for TNR, these numbers significantly skew the shelter’s numbers. Based on the Shelter Animals Count methodology and common sense, shelters should not count cats they bring in only for purposes of neutering and releasing. The 2,525 cat difference between total outcomes on the New Jersey Department of Health report and the underlying records likely relate to the TNR program. Similarly, the 2,446 more cat adoptions on the state health department report also likely represent cats who were neutered and released. As a result, the state health department report significantly increased the denominator in kill and death rate calculations and therefore understated the shelter’s real kill and death rates.

Interestingly, the shelter’s state health department report had 71 killed cats in the “Other” outcomes category. However, the total cats killed and died/escaped were the same in the report sent to the state health department and the shelter’s underlying records. As a result, the kill rate statistics based on the state health department report understated the real kill rate.

Inability to Produce Critical Data

Unfortunately, I could not conduct a length of stay analysis as I did in the past due to the shelter’s new software system. Instead of using a well-known shelter software system, Bergen County Animal Shelter uses a program few people have heard of. When I requested intake and disposition records with intake dates and outcome dates, the shelter only provided me a small portion of the animals it took in. When I questioned this data, the shelter stated the software could only provide disposition dates for animals impounded within the last month. While I strongly believe the shelter must legally provide a custom report prepared by the software provider under the Open Public Records Act of New Jersey, I did not wish to delay this blog due to a protracted legal case.

Frankly, I’m shocked Bergen County Animal Shelter uses software that can’t produce key length of stay data. Length of stay, broken out by key animal populations, intake categories and outcomes, is essential for shelters to monitor performance and plan for the future. For example, increased average lengths of stay can lead to overcrowding and increased disease rates as well as higher costs. The fact Bergen County Animal Shelter switched from a shelter software that easily produced this data to a new program that can’t speaks volumes about the incompetence of the shelter’s leadership.

Illegal Killing of Animals Before Seven Days

While Bergen County Animal Shelter could not provide length of stay data for all animals, it could produce length of stay data for animals who had an outcome within a month after they arrived at the facility. Therefore, I was able to identify animals the shelter killed before state’s seven day protection period ended. You can see a list of the animals here.

New Jersey animal shelter law clearly states shelters must not kill animals, whether they are strays or owner surrenders, for at least seven days. Furthermore, the New Jersey Department of Health issued guidance summarizing the law’s requirements:

Pursuant to State law (N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 a. through l.) all municipalities must have a licensed animal impoundment facility (pound) designated where stray and potentially vicious animals can be safely impounded. Impounded stray animals shall be held at the pound for at least seven days (i.e., 168 hours) from the time impounded before the animal is offered for adoption or euthanized, relocated or sterilized, regardless of the animal’s temperament or medical condition.

Animals that are voluntarily surrendered by their owners to licensed pounds or shelters shall be offered for adoption for at least seven days prior to euthanasia or shelter/pound management may transfer the animal to an animal rescue organization facility or a foster home prior to offering it for adoption if such a transfer is determined to be in the best interest of the animal.

In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during the seven day hold period if both of the following conditions are met as discussed in this section of the New Jersey Department of Health’s July 30, 2009 inspection report on Associated Humane Societies-Newark.

  1. If a veterinarian deems euthanasia necessary for humane reasons to prevent excessive suffering when illness and injury is severe and the prognosis for recovery is extremely poor
  2. Only a licensed veterinarian should perform euthanasia in the above situation and they must clearly document the humane rationale in the animal’s medical record

Bergen County Animal Shelter killed large numbers of animals before seven days. Overall, the shelter killed 134 dogs and cats prior to seven days. 129 of the 134 animals killed during the seven day protection period were cats. While some cats may have been hopelessly suffering, its highly unlikely most of these animals were. For example, my blog for 2017, my blog for 2016 and my blog for 2015 uncovered numerous animals the shelter illegally killed before seven days and the animals were not hopelessly suffering. Furthermore, several animals in the 2019 list of killed animals before seven days had reasons for surrender, such as as allergy, aggression and losing home, that indicated the animals were not hopelessly suffering.

Bergen County Health Department’s Bogus Inspections of Itself

The Bergen County Health Department runs the Bergen County Animal Shelter and inspects itself. As expected, the Bergen County Health Department gave itself a “Satisfactory” grade in 2017. The inspection report, which contained illegible handwriting, looked like someone spent two minutes preparing it. Similarly, the Bergen County Health Department did the same thing in its December 27, 2018 inspection report. Most noteworthy, the inspector completely missed the animals Bergen County Animal Shelter illegally killed before seven days in both 2017 and 2018. As of August 28, 2019, the Bergen County Health Department has not inspected Bergen County Animal Shelter in 2019.

Bergen County Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for nearly six months in 2018 and around two months and counting in 2019. Under N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.8(b), a shelter’s license expires on June 30th each year. N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2 requires a shelter to comply with state law and receive a Certificate of Inspection for the current licensing year. In other words, a shelter must be inspected and found to comply with state law by June 30th of each year to have a license to operate. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for nearly six months in 2018 and should not have a license to operate the shelter as of August 28, 2019.

Bergen County Residents Must Demand Much More

Sadly, Bergen County Animal Shelter continues to fail the animals entrusted in its care. Despite its $2.6 million budget or $970 per dog and cat impounded, Bergen County Animal Shelter continues to kill large numbers of its animals. As you see in the table below, Bergen County Animal Shelter receives more government funding per impounded animal than Austin Animal Center and kills dogs at rates ranging from 4-18 times more than Austin Animal Center. Similarly, Bergen County Animal Shelter kills cats at rates ranging from 3-13 times more than Austin Animal Center. Thus, Bergen County taxpayers are getting ripped off by this failing animal shelter.

Clearly, Bergen County continues to operate a regressive animal shelter. As I discussed previously, Bergen County residents should be outraged that their tax dollars support a high kill shelter that conducts illegal activities and their elected leaders tried to deceive their constituents into believing it was “no kill.” If you live in Bergen County, please contact the following elected representatives and tell them you expect Bergen County to hire a top notch shelter director who will adopt the 11 step No Kill Equation and achieve live release rates well over 95% like Austin, Texas and many other communities have.

  • James Tedesco III, Bergen County Executive: 201-336-730; countyexecutive@co.bergen.nj.us
  • Tracy Silna Zur, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-628; Tracyzur@co.bergen.nj.us
  • Thomas J. Sullivan, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6277; tsullivan@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • Joan M. Voss, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6279; jvoss@co.bergen.nj.us
  • Mary J. Amoroso, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6275; mamoroso@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • David L. Ganz, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6280; DavidLGanz@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • Germaine M. Ortiz, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6276; gortiz@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • Steven A. Tanelli, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6278; STanelli@co.bergen.nj.us 

New Jersey’s Highest Kill Shelters in 2018

Recently, I wrote a blog discussing decreased killing at New Jersey animal shelters in 2018. This blog will explore the 2018 statistics in more detail and assess the current status of the state’s animal shelters.

Most New Jersey animal shelters voluntarily report detailed data to state authorities. Last month, I shared the 2018 summary statistics for New Jersey animal shelters on my Facebook page. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Health requests each licensed animal shelter in the state to submit animal shelter data for the previous year. Animal shelters voluntarily submit this data in the “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” The New Jersey Department of Health takes these Shelter/Pound Annual Reports and compiles the number of dogs, cats and other animals impounded, redeemed, adopted and euthanized to prepare its Animal Intake and Disposition report. However, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include additional information on how animals were impounded (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, rescued from in-state facilities, rescued from out of state shelters, and cruelty/bite cases/other) and disposed of (i.e. returned to owner, adopted, sent to rescue/another shelter, and died/missing/other outcome). Additionally, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include the number of animals in shelters at the beginning and end of the year as well as the maximum number of animals facilities can hold. Thus, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include very important data not found in the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report.

I compiled the data from these reports and analyze the results in this blog. 2018 statistics for each New Jersey animal shelter are listed at this link. You can also view each “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” at this link.

Garbage Data Raises Serious Questions About New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Statistics

Most New Jersey animal shelters do not properly account for their animals. Simple math dictates the number of animals at a facility at the beginning of the year, plus all animals coming in during the year, less all animals leaving for the period, should equal the number of animals a shelter has at the end of the year. Stunningly, 56 out of 92 shelters reporting these dog statistics and 59 out of 91 facilities submitting this cat data failed to get this right. This raises serious questions about the accuracy of these shelters’ reported statistics. 32 of the 56 shelters with flawed dog statistics and 34 of the 59 facilities with incorrect cat statistics should have had more animals at the end of the year than reported. While these errors could have been due to incorrect counts of the number of animals at facilities, these shelters may have not recorded outcomes, such as animals who were killed, died, or went missing. To put it another way, 2,002 cats and dogs should have had outcomes reported and did not. Thus, there is the potential that as many as 2,002 additional dogs and cats were killed, died or went missing from New Jersey animal shelters than were reported in 2018.

Even worse, a number of animal shelters reported having a different number of animals at the end of 2017 and at the beginning of 2018. Obviously, shelters should report the same number of animals at the end of the prior year and the start of the current year. However, 32 of 92 shelters reported different numbers of dogs at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. Similarly, 37 of 91 shelters reported different numbers of cats at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. The worst offenders are listed in the tables below:

Shelters may have failed to classify animals adopted out and sent to rescues properly. Both Paterson Animal Control and Elizabeth Animal Shelter reported no animals were sent to rescues and all dogs and cats leaving their facilities alive were owner reclaims or adoptions. However, intake and disposition records I reviewed at both of these shelters in recent years revealed almost all “adopted” animals are actually rescued. One has to wonder how many other facilities failed to properly classify adoptions and rescues properly. This data is very important as it provides details on the burden rescues and other shelters are taking on from these facilities.

We need better oversight of New Jersey animal shelters’ data reporting. Currently, these statistics are voluntarily reported and most shelters are not taking this seriously. For example, I noticed a large number of reports were submitted many months after the end of the year. This data should be easy to compile since facilities can utilize animal shelter software programs, some of which are free, to do this task. Furthermore, New Jersey animal shelter laws mandate facilities maintain much of the raw data found in the Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Unfortunately, New Jersey Department of Health inspections routinely find shelters do not properly keep records on animals. We need to make the data reporting mandatory for animal shelters as the shelter reform bill, S725, does along with serious penalties for significant errors (especially if deliberate). In order for animal shelters to take data reporting seriously, we may also need to require audits of these reports. Thus, these results show we need stronger laws and the New Jersey Department of Health to play a greater role in ensuring reported animal shelter statistics are in fact accurate.

Despite the errors in these reports, the data provided still reveals important information.

More Animals Losing Their Lives in New Jersey Animal Shelters Than Disclosed in Summary Report

The more detailed data in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports allows one to more critically examine the percentage of locally impounded animals dying in New Jersey’s animal shelters. The following table summarizes my analysis of the kill rate calculated from the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report and the data reported in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports.

This year I revised the cat statistics to remove an estimate of the cats St. Hubert’s transfers in and quickly transfers out through its Sister Shelter WayStation program. Previously, I made this adjustment only for dogs. Since St. Hubert’s is effectively acting as a middle man and not holding these animals very long, it makes sense to exclude these dogs and cats from the various kill rate statistics. If I did not exclude these animals, I would understate the dog and cat kill rates due to inflated intakes and outcomes numbers. Therefore, I removed all of St. Hubert’s dogs transferred out from the intake and outcomes figures in the metrics. Since St. Hubert’s primarily uses the Sister Shelter Waystation program to quickly transfer in cats and send them to out of state facilities, I only backed out the cats St. Hubert’s transferred to out of state organizations in the various kill rates. This adjustment increased the dog kill rate (intake) from 5.5 to 6.3% and the cat kill rate (intake) from 16.1% to 16.3%.

The Animal Intake and Disposition report prepared by the New Jersey Department of Health only allows one to calculate the number of animals killed as a percentage of total animals impounded or intake. I prefer calculating the kill rate as a percentage of outcomes rather than intake as this metric directly compares positive and negative outcomes. Using intake may depress the kill rate since shelters can simply hold animals for a long time to the point of overcrowding. Calculating the kill rate based on outcomes rather than intake caused the dog kill rate to increase from 6.3% to 6.4% and the cat kill rate to increase from 16.3% to 16.7%.

To calculate the statewide kill rate, we must also back out transfers from one New Jersey animal shelter to another state facility to avoid counting animals still in the state’s shelter system or registering two outcomes for the same animal (i.e. one New Jersey animal shelter transfers a dog or cat to another state facility which then adopts out the animal). This adjustment increases the dog kill rate from 6.4% to 6.8% and the cat kill rate from 16.7% to 18.0%.

In addition, we should increase the kill rate for animals who died or went missing in shelters. In the past, I’ve labeled this metric the death rate as these animals are likely dead or in a very bad situation. Unfortunately, the Shelter/Pound Annual Report includes animals who died or went missing in the “Other” outcome category. The “Other” category contains positive live releases, such as TNR for cats, at a few shelters. While including the “Other” category in the death rate for most shelters is appropriate (i.e. those facilities that don’t do TNR or don’t include cats released through TNR programs in “Other” outcomes), I’m no longer doing this due to an increasing number of shelters implementing TNR. Instead, I calculated the kill rate by subtracting out “Other” outcomes from total outcomes. If a shelter specifies the number of animals included in “Other” that left the shelter alive, I count this as “Other Live Release” and do not back these amounts out of total outcomes. After making this adjustment, the dog kill rate remained at 6.8% and the cat kill also stayed at 18.0%. For those interested in seeing the estimated death rates, you can find them in the supporting spreadsheet.

Also, many shelters transport easy to adopt animals from out of state which artificially increases live release rates. To properly calculate the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives, we need to adjust for transports. Unfortunately, shelters don’t break out their save rates by local and out of state animals. However, most likely nearly all of the out of state animals (primarily puppies and easy to adopt dogs and cats) make it out of shelters alive. Therefore, I back out the number of out of state transports from total outcomes to estimate the local kill rate. This adjustment increases the New Jersey dog kill rate from 6.8% to 9.2% and the state’s cat kill rate from 18.0 to 19.3%.

Also, I estimate a maximum local kill rate by including the number of unaccounted for animals described in the section above. Making this adjustment increases the maximum potential New Jersey dog kill rate from 9.2 to 12.9% and the maximum potential state cat kill rate from 19.3% to 21.3%.

Some animal shelters quickly return large percentages of their animals to owners. At these shelters, the populations served are typically well-off and animals are licensed and have microchips. To account for the animals facilities actually have to shelter, I calculated a kill rate for non-reclaimed animals and a maximum potential kill rate for non-reclaimed local animals. The non-reclaimed kill rate and maximum potential kill rate for dogs is 9.7% and 21.0%. Non-reclaimed cats had a 20.4% kill rate and a 22.9% maximum potential kill rate. Thus, the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives in our state’s animal shelters may be much higher than the state summary report suggests.

Kill Rates Extremely High at a Number of New Jersey Animal Shelters

Dogs and cats are likely to lose their lives at a number of New Jersey animal shelters. Shelters with the highest kill rates for dogs and cats (excluding very low intake facilities) are listed in the following tables:

Thus, both dogs and cats have a very good chance of leaving many New Jersey animal shelters dead rather than alive.

In terms of raw numbers, the following shelters killed the most animals:

Many shelters fail to account for large numbers of their animals. As discussed above, a shelter’s number of animals at the end of the year should be calculated as follows:

Beginning number of animals + animals impounded – animals leaving the shelter

Unfortunately, a large number of shelters take in far more animals than they can explain where they went. Shelters having the highest numbers of unaccounted for dogs and cats are listed in the following tables:

Dog and cat kill rates at many shelters may be even higher if these unaccounted for animals are counted as killed. If we only consider animal shelters which reported transporting few or no animals in 2018, facilities with the highest dog and cat kill rates considering the unaccounted for animals described above are as follows:

Thus, the plight of dogs and cats may be far worse in New Jersey animal shelters when we consider the unaccounted for animals.

Shelters Turn Their Backs on New Jersey’s Animals

New Jersey animal shelters rescue far more dogs from out of state than from other New Jersey animal shelters. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters transferred in 10,131 dogs from out of state animal shelters and only rescued 2,399 dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters. However, St. Hubert’s frequently transfers a substantial number of its transports quickly to its partners in New Jersey and other states. If I back out St. Hubert’s transfers of dogs to out of state organizations, the number of transports decreases from 10,131 dogs to 6,360 dogs. While the state’s local kill rate decreased in 2018, it is likely the local kill rate would have decreased by more if not for the massive number of out of state transports.

While perhaps some shelters, such as Animal Alliance in Lambertville, take animals from nearby New York or Pennsylvania animal control shelters, the overwhelming majority of these dogs most certainly came from down south. In fact, New Jersey animal shelters transported more dogs from out of state than dogs who were killed in New Jersey animal shelters. This number does not include additional out of state dogs transported into New Jersey by rescues operating without a physical facility. Shelters transporting the most dogs from out of state were as follows:

Shelters Do Far Worse with Animals Requiring New Homes

Since dogs reclaimed by their owners typically have licenses and/or microchips and quickly leave the shelter, its informative to look at dogs shelters have to find new homes for. To get a better idea of how organizations are doing with animals they actually have to shelter, I also examined what percentage of non-reclaimed dogs lose their lives at each facility. Shelters with the highest non-reclaimed dogs kill rates are as follows:

Shelters with the highest maximum non-reclaimed dogs kill rates are as follows (excluding facilities that reported transporting many dogs in and taking very few animals in):

Shelters Leave Animal Enclosures Empty While Dogs and Cats Die

New Jersey animal shelters fail to use their space to save animals. Based on the average number of animals at all of New Jersey’s animal shelters at the beginning and the end of 2018, only 62% of dog and 75% of cat capacity was used. Given December is a low intake month, I also increased these populations to an average intake month. This adjustment only raised the dog capacity utilization to 70%. While this adjustment did increase the cat capacity utilization to over 100%, it is highly unlikely this happened in reality. Shelter inspection reports I’ve reviewed often did not reveal significantly larger dog and cat populations in the summer and winter months. This is likely due to the influx of highly adoptable kittens having short lengths of stay and shelters killing cats with empty cages.

Many animal shelters with low kill rates failed to rescue animals with their excess space. Additionally, other shelters used little of their available space and still killed a large percentage of their animals. Some examples after increasing the population (and therefore capacity utilization) based on the adjustment discussed above are as follows:

Thus, many New Jersey animal shelters are killing dogs and cats despite having ample space to house these animals.

New Jersey’s animal shelters continue to fail the state’s animals. The state’s animal shelters only impound 8.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 New Jersey residents. If we just count animals originating from New Jersey, the state’s animal shelters only impound 7.4 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. As a comparison, the average community in the country impounds anywhere from 14 animals per 1,000 residents based on estimates from Animal People Newspaper and No Kill Movement. Despite New Jersey shelters impounding a fraction of the animals other no kill communities take in on a per capita basis, the state’s animal control facilities continue to kill and allow animals to die under their care. Even worse, many of these shelters can’t even properly keep track of how many animals leave their facilities dead or alive. Our state’s animals deserve far better treatment than this. Contact your local city council members and mayor and demand better from the animal shelter serving your community. We can do so much better and it is time our shelters operate this way.

New Jersey Animal Shelters Kill Fewer Animals in 2018, but Some Red Flags Exist

In 2017, New Jersey animal shelter statistics significantly improved. This decrease in killing was driven by decreased animal intake and increased numbers of animals adopted out, sent to rescues and released through TNR programs.

How did New Jersey animal shelters perform in 2018 compared to 2017? What caused these changes? What shelters had positive and negative impacts on the state’s kill rates in 2017?

Killing Decreased Significantly in 2018

The tables below summarize the statewide dog and cat statistics in 2018 and 2017. To see how I calculate the various metrics, please review the footnotes in this link and my blog analyzing the 2015 statistics. You can view the full 2018 statistics here and the 2017 statistics here.

This year I revised the cat statistics to remove an estimate of the cats St. Hubert’s transfers in and quickly transfers out through its Sister Shelter WayStation program. Previously, I made this adjustment only for dogs. Since St. Hubert’s is effectively acting as a middle man and not holding these animals very long, it makes sense to exclude these dogs and cats from the various kill rate statistics below. If I did not exclude these animals, I would understate the dog and cat kill rates due to inflated intakes and outcomes numbers. Therefore, I removed all of St. Hubert’s dogs transferred out from the intake and outcomes figures in the data below. Since St. Hubert’s primarily uses the Sister Shelter Waystation program to quickly transfer in cats and send them to out of state facilities, I only backed out the cats St. Hubert’s transferred to out of state organizations in the data below.

All dog and cat statistics improved in 2018 verses 2017, but at a much slower rate when compared to 2017 verses 2016. The dog kill rates decreased, but at about one half to two thirds the rate those kill rates decreased in 2017 verses 2016. Similarly, the cat kill rates decreased in 2018 verses 2017, but this decrease was only at about 30%-40% of the rate those kill rates decreased in 2017 verses 2016. While we’d like the kill rate decreases in 2018 verses 2017 to equal or exceed the decreases in 2017 verses 2016, the kill rate decreases in 2017 verses 2016 were extraordinarily large. Additionally, as shelters kill fewer animals, the remaining animals become more challenging to save. That being said, this data may suggest shelters need to invest more efforts in programs to get animals out of their facilities alive.

Decreased Intake Results in Fewer Killed Dogs

The statewide dog kill rate decreased due to New Jersey animal shelters taking fewer dogs in. New Jersey animal shelters reported killing 413 fewer dogs (432 dogs if we assume the animals in “Other” outcomes died). However, New Jersey shelters’ live outcomes decreased significantly. Given New Jersey animal shelters fell far short of my dog adoption targets I set for 2017, these results are deeply disappointing. Therefore, New Jersey animal shelters killed fewer dogs due to these facilities taking fewer dogs in rather than saving more dogs.

The following shelters contributed most to the decrease in the statewide dog kill rate.

The table below provides insight as to why these shelters decreased the statewide dog kill rate the most. As you can see, most of the shelters, which are relatively large, had kill rates over 10% in 2017. All the shelters had fewer outcomes primarily due to decreased dog intake. In particular, Associated Humane Societies-Newark’s much lower intake, which may partially be due to its loss of the Newark animal control contract in November 2018, was significant. Since these facilities have above average kill rates, these shelters had a smaller impact on the state’s dog kill rate in 2017. Finally, all these shelters, except for Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center (formerly Camden County Animal Shelter), had lower kill rates in 2018 compared to 2017.

The following table explains why most of these shelters’ kill rates decreased. In the case of Hamilton Township Animal Shelter, it adopted out more dogs. Shelter reform advocates in Hamilton pressured the shelter to improve. However, this facility was hardly doing any adoptions before and still does not adopt out nearly enough dogs. On the other hand, Associated Humane Societies-Newark sent more animals to rescues and other shelters. Like Hamilton Township Animal Shelter, Associated Humane Societies-Newark faced mounting public pressure to do better as a result of numerous negative news stories. The other facilities with decreased kill rates had fewer positive outcomes due to fewer animal outcomes, but the decrease in killing was greater. Thus, these shelters’ kill rates decreased primarily due to having fewer animals come in.

Other Shelters Increased the Statewide Dog Kill Rate

While the statewide dog kill rate dropped in 2018, several shelters partially offset this decrease. Specifically, the following shelters increased the dog kill rate, but this was more than offset by the facilities above.

The following table provides more details on these shelters. Animal Welfare Association, Humane Society of Atlantic County and Monmouth SPCA all reported higher kill rates in 2018 verses 2017. In the cases of Animal Welfare Association and Monmouth SPCA, these shelters kill rates increased from very low levels. On the other hand, Humane Society of Atlantic County’s dog kill rate increased from a shockingly high level for a rescue oriented shelter. While Trenton Animal Shelter and Atlantic County Animal Shelter reported lower dog kill rates in 2018, these shelters’ kill rates are still above the statewide average. Therefore, these shelters increased the statewide dog kill rate since both shelters took in more dogs and represented a greater share of the state’s dog intake in 2018.

The table below explains why several of these shelters’ dog kill rates increased. Monmouth SPCA reported significantly fewer dogs transferred to rescues and other shelters in 2018. On the other hand, Animal Welfare Association reported decreased adoptions. While Humane Society of Atlantic County reported more live outcomes in 2018, the shelter also killed more dogs in 2018. Therefore, Humane Society of Atlantic County’s increased positive incomes were not enough to stop the facility’s kill rate from increasing.

More Cats Leave Shelters Alive

Since Bergen County Animal Shelter included cats it brought in explicitly to TNR (not included in statistics per the Shelter Animals Count methodology) as intake and adopted out in 2018 and 2017, I replaced Bergen County Animal Shelter’s summary data with numbers I obtained via an OPRA request that excluded Bergen County Animal Shelter’s TNR cats. As a result of doing this, the 2018 statewide cat kill rate (outcomes) increased from 16.7% to 17.7% while the 2017 cat kill rate (outcomes) increased from 19.0% to 19.9%.

New Jersey animal shelters killed many fewer cats in 2018 than in 2017. Overall, New Jersey animal shelters killed 719 less cats. If we count cats that died or went missing, even fewer cats would have lost their lives in 2018. While the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports shelters fill out do not include a separate category for animals who died or went missing, shelters include these animals in the “Other” outcomes line. If we take out the cats from “Other” outcomes that certain shelters separately disclosed as TNR, “Other” outcomes (which should mostly represent cats who died or went missing) decreased by 507 cats. Thus, significantly fewer cats lost their lives in New Jersey shelters in 2018.

The decrease in killing was driven by more cats transferred to rescues and other shelters, increased adoptions, more owner reclaims and more cats sent out via TNR programs. Since cat owner reclaims generally are low at most shelters and shelters often classify cats that are impounded and then neutered and released as reclaimed, TNR efforts likely played a role in the higher number of cats returned to owners in 2018. Additionally, shelters that separately disclosed TNR cats (in “Other” outcomes) showed 298 additional cats sent out via these programs in 2018. New Jersey animal shelters adopted out 382 more cats in 2018, but its possible some of these were actually TNR since some shelters include TNR in their adoption figures. The increase in cat transfers was almost entirely due to cats transferred to out of state shelters and rescues. Specifically, 1,688 of the 1,755 increase in cats transferred relate to rescues by out of state organizations. Thus, despite shelters impounding significantly more cats in 2018, the cat kill rate decreased significantly due to increased live outcomes.

The following shelters decreased the statewide cat kill rate the most.

The following table provides insight as to why these shelters decreased the statewide cat kill rate the most. As you can see, the shelters, except for Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center, had kill rates over 25% in 2017 and all reported decreases in those kill rates. All the shelters except for South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter and Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center had fewer outcomes primarily due to decreased cat intake. Therefore, these higher kill shelters made up a smaller portion of cat outcomes in the state and that partially decreased the statewide cat kill rate in 2018.

The table below explains why these shelters’ kill rates decreased. All the shelters, except for Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Associated Humane Societies-Tinton Falls, reported increased transfers to shelters and rescues. Interestingly, both South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter and Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center reported significantly greater numbers of cats transferred to out of state organizations (South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter: 559 cats; Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center: 1,106 cats) and large decreases in transfers to New Jersey organizations (South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter: 546 cats; Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center: 984 cats). Both Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center and South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter also reported large increases in cat adoptions which is an excellent sign. On the other hand, most of the other shelters, which already did not adopt out enough cats in 2017, adopted out fewer cats in 2018. Unfortunately, this is a big red flag as high kill shelters almost never become and stay no kill unless they adopt out the bulk of their animals themselves.

Other Shelters Increased the Statewide Cat Kill Rate

While the statewide cat kill rate decreased in 2018, several shelters partially offset this decrease. Specifically, the following facilities increased the cat kill rate, but this was more than offset by the shelters above.

The following table provides more details on these shelters. All the shelters, with the exception of Associated Humane Societies-Newark, had higher cat kill rates in 2018 compared to 2017. In addition, most of the shelters had kill rates of 16% or higher in 2018. Most notably, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat kill rate per its underlying records, which I obtained under an OPRA request and used in this analysis, was significantly higher than the kill rate based on the numbers it reported to the state health department. Phillipsburg Animal Facility did not report numbers in the past and therefore it increased the statewide cat kill rate in 2018. All the other shelters, except for Atlantic County Animal Shelter, also had more outcomes in 2018 than in 2017. Since most of these shelters had kill rates that exceeded the statewide average, increased outcomes at these facilities raised the statewide cat kill rate.

The table below explains why most of these shelters’ kill rates increased. Bergen County Animal Shelter, Atlantic County Animal Shelter and Liberty Humane Society reported fewer cat adoptions and cats transferred. In addition, both Atlantic County Animal Shelter and Liberty Humane Society had fewer owner reclaims. While St. Hubert’s-Madison transferred more cats to rescues and other shelters, its cat adoptions significantly decreased. Therefore, St. Hubert’s increased positive outcomes did not make up for its increased cat intake. Like St. Hubert’s, Vorhees Animal Orphanage’s increased positive outcomes were not great enough to make up for its increased cat intake.

Shelters Impound Less Dogs and More Cats 

The tables below detail the change in dog and cat intake at New Jersey shelters in 2018 verses 2017. Since Bergen County Animal Shelter did not break out the sources of their intake in their underlying records provided to me, I excluded this shelter from the cat intake analysis. As mentioned above, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat intake and outcome numbers on its state report are overstated and I used its underlying records in the outcome analysis. However, this shelter did not have a large change in its cat intake. Additionally, I removed all St. Hubert’s transfers out from the out of state dog rescue figures and St. Hubert’s out of state transfers out from its in state cat rescue figures based on the reasoning discussed above.

Overall, New Jersey animal shelters took in 1,427 less dogs during 2018 than in 2017. New Jersey animal shelters took in over 900 fewer stray dogs during 2018 than in 2017. The state’s shelters took 5% fewer dogs in as owner surrenders and 6% fewer stray dogs. While managed intake programs can decrease owner surrenders, they do not affect stray numbers. Therefore, the decrease in stray dog intake may be related to decreased animal control efforts, animal control officers returning dogs to owners in the field (not counted as shelter intake) or simply fewer stray dogs. If ACOs really are not impounding dogs that need help or ones that are a public safety threat, that does not help people or animals. As a result, we should monitor this number in the future and explore why stray dog intake is decreasing.

New Jersey animal shelters rescued far fewer dogs after making the St. Hubert’s adjustment described above. Most concerning, New Jersey animal shelters rescued 19% fewer dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters in 2018. While rescues and out of state shelters picked up some of the slack, it was not enough as overall transfers out decreased in 2018.

On the other hand, New Jersey animal shelters took in nearly 50% more dogs due to cruelty cases, bite cases and other reasons. Trenton Animal Shelter and Burlington County Animal Shelter reported a 231 dog and a 230 dog increase to these other sources of intake. In November 2018, Burlington County Animal Shelter coordinated the handling of a 161 dog hoarding case in Shamong. On August 1, 2018, county prosecutors along with local police took control over animal cruelty law enforcement. While we can’t definitively state this caused the increase in this other category of dog intake, it seems like this may be the case. Typically, other sources of intake in this category, such as bite cases and puppies born in shelters, are not large and do not vary much. Additionally, the 2018 cruelty/bite cases/other figure of 1,504 dogs was significantly higher than any of the amounts recorded over the past five years (937 to 1,293 dogs). Thus, animal advocates should monitor this figure to see how the new animal cruelty law enforcement system is working.

New Jersey animal shelters impounded more cats in 2018 than in 2017. With the exception of a slight decrease in owner surrenders, all other types of cat intake significantly increased. Interestingly, cruelty/bite cases/other also increased, but not as much as for dogs. However, as with dogs, the other types of cat intake in 2018 (1,111 cats) was significantly higher than any of the amounts from 2013 through 2017 (728 to 895 cats) after removing Bergen County Animal Shelter’s other intake figure (this shelter appeared to classify many cats brought in for TNR in this category in several years). As a result, the new animal cruelty law enforcement system may also be driving the significant increase in other types of cat intake.

Advocacy Works

Overall, New Jersey’s 2018 animal shelter statistics are good news. While decreased dog intake was a major driver of the reduced dog kill rates in the state, shelters did achieve higher cat live release rates due to generating more live outcomes.

Clearly, growing animal advocacy efforts are pressuring shelters to improve. Individuals contacting their elected representatives puts pressure on shelters to do better. Similarly, donors communicating their concerns to privately run facilities also makes it difficult for these organizations to not make positive changes. Most importantly, this pressure provides strong incentives to these shelters to work with boots on the ground animal advocates, such as TNR groups, rescues and shelter volunteers. Thus, the synergistic efforts of no kill advocates and people working directly with animals helped drive the state’s improved animal sheltering statistics.

That being said, the reduced positive outcomes for dogs is a troubling sign. If shelters continue to rely too heavily on rescues, they will not save all healthy and treatable dogs. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters must invest in behavioral programs to treat dogs who need help and do a much better job adopting out dogs. Otherwise, shelters will reach a plateau and not increase their dog live release rates anymore.

Roger Haston’s Ridiculous Kill Shelter Model

Last January, I wrote about Dr. Roger Haston’s “The Future of Animal Welfare” presentation at an Animal Care Centers of NYC sponsored event. Dr. Haston, who was serving as the Chief of Analytics at PetSmart Charities at the time, was giving the same presentation at events held by shelters across the nation. While I acknowledged Roger Haston made some good points, I was deeply disturbed by his anti-pit bull and pro-killing shelter animals views. Furthermore, I addressed a number of problems with the arguments and so-called facts he presented. Subsequently, Animal Farm Foundation wrote a blog refuting many of Dr. Haston’s points and futile attempts to get Dr. Haston to address these. Additionally, Nathan Winograd dismantled Dr. Haston’s pro-killing arguments.

Shortly thereafter, Roger Haston left PetSmart Charities. Currently, Dr. Haston’s Linkedin profile states he is the President of the Institute for Animals. Unfortunately, I could not find anything about this organization. However, Dr. Haston’s Linkedin profile states the following about his position:

Strategy development, though leadership, research and leadership development services for the animal welfare industry. Focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship between people and animals.

Based on this description, it seems Dr. Haston may provide consulting services to animal shelters. Given the views Dr. Haston expressed in his “The Future of Animal Welfare” presentation, it seems kill shelters could look to him for guidance. In other words, kill shelters might look to his analyses as a way to argue against no kill.

What is the analytical basis of Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill views? Does this analysis make sense? Does this analysis match reality?

Haston’s Anti-No Kill Model

While Roger Haston did not present the model he used as the basis for his recent “The Future of Animal Welfare” events, a presentation from several years before may provide this information. In January 2015, when Dr. Haston was the Executive Director of Colorado’s Animal Assistance Foundation, he gave a presentation titled “Beyond Labels: Understanding the True Impact of Live Release Rates and Intake Policies” in a Society of Animal Welfare Administrators webinar. You can view the presentation here and the accompanying slides here.

Dr. Haston uses an interesting and robust statistical method, stochastic modeling, to conduct his analysis. Most animal sheltering data models, such as the one I created, use “deterministic modeling.” Deterministic modeling yields the same results from the inputs or variables included. On the other hand, stochastic modeling, incorporates the varied results an input or variable could have to predict the results generated from those variables. Therefore, in theory stochastic modeling is a powerful statistical tool.

While the deterministic model I use to target New Jersey animal shelter performance (amounts of animals shelters should adopt out, send to rescues and euthanize) is simpler theoretically, I reduce much of the sources of variability and therefore weaknesses of this type of model. For example, I analyze animal intake on a monthly basis, which accounts for higher intake during warmer months, and incorporate the breeds of dogs and ages of animals shelters impound and the overall adoption demand in a region. Furthermore, since I assess past performance, much of the input data I use has no variability at all. Therefore, my model performs quite well when I compare it to the actual benchmark shelters’ performance I use.

In a nutshell, Dr. Haston uses various shelter data estimates to make future projections. For example, he forecasts if a shelter will exceed capacity, what will happen when it exceeds capacity and what the facility’s future financial performance will look like.

Rigged Assumptions Lead to Anti-No Kill Results

Dr. Haston’s model would yield the same general conclusion regardless if he used stochastic or deterministic modeling. Why? He uses excessive animal intake and insufficient shelter capacity, excludes some of the quickest ways animals leave shelters and ignores how shelters would act if they exceeded capacity.

In Dr. Haston’s model, he assumes the shelter takes 3,000 dogs in during the year and the facility can hold 150 dogs at one time. Additionally, he assumes, based on an undisclosed sample of shelters, that different classes of dogs (from most to least adoptable) make up different portions of shelter intake and have varying average lengths of stay.

Using standard animal shelter capacity calculations, which assume animals come in evenly during the year, the shelter would have to on average move its dogs out of the shelter in 18.3 days or less to avoid consistently going over capacity. However, Dr. Haston’s model, which is based on each major class of dog’s average length of stay, shows these dogs would have an average length of stay of 32.0 days. Thus, a less sophisticated model would also show this shelter quickly exceeding capacity.

If there is anything to take away from this blog, this is it. Why? These key assumptions drive Dr. Haston’s subsequent conclusions that no kill animal control shelters severely restrict intake, are filled with animals few or no people want and financially implode.

Under Dr. Haston’s model, a shelter only adopts out or euthanizes an animal under the assumption all dogs are owner surrenders. Obviously, that is not realistic since stray dogs usually are a larger source of dog intake than owner surrenders. In addition, owners sometimes reclaim dogs they previously surrendered.

Typically, owners reclaim lost dogs within a few days since the animals usually have a license and/or a microchip that allows shelters to quickly identify the owner. Therefore, the model yields an excessively long average length of stay since it excludes owner reclaims.

To incorporate owner reclaims into the analysis, I used Tompkins County SPCA’s most recent statistics. Dr. Haston appeared to use Tompkin County SPCA’s adoption length of stay based off his citation of Brown, et al., 2013. While Dr. Haston did not give the full reference of this source, I believe it is this study that takes place mostly at Tompkins County SPCA from 2008-2011 which I use in my own dog analysis. Since I could only find Tompkins County SPCA’s 2018 data, I used this data to compute a revised average length of stay from Dr. Haston’s model based on an assumed 3 days and 32 days average length of stay for owner reclaims and all other outcomes and the percentage owner reclaims made up of total adoptions, total euthanasia and total owner reclaims at Tompkins County SPCA in 2018. A 3 day average length of stay falls into the middle of the range of owner reclaims’ average length of stay I computed from several New Jersey animal control shelters.

After making this adjustment, the model’s average length of stay decreased from 32.0 days to 23.1 days. As a result, the difference between the average length of stay required to avoid exceeding capacity continuously and the model’s average length of stay dropped significantly.

As you will see below, several no kill animal control shelters have dog average lengths of stay around the required average length of stay to avoid perpetual overcrowding implied in Dr. Haston’s model. First, these shelters generally do a better job adopting out dogs than the facility (primarily Tompkins County SPCA from 2008-2011) Dr. Haston used and most likely adopt out dogs quicker. Second, Dr. Haston’s model does not incorporate dogs shelters transfer to rescues. Frequently, shelters can transfer dogs quicker to rescues, especially when the facilities are rescue friendly and make an effort. For example, the Paterson Animal Shelter, which is far from a progressive shelter, transferred a large percentage of all of its dogs as well as pit bull like dogs in 2015 after just seven days on average. Similarly, 2018 Animal Care Centers of NYC data I obtained showed the organization transferred a large number of dogs to rescues in ten days on average. Additionally, my 2017 analysis of Elizabeth Animal Shelter indicated dogs adopted out and transferred to rescues, which mostly were dogs sent to rescues rather than adopted out, spent only 14 days in the shelter. Thus, Dr. Haston’s failure to use role model no kill animal control shelters and dogs sent to rescues in his model makes the model yield inaccurate or skewed results.

Dr. Haston’s failure to include foster homes in his model grossly understates shelter capacity. While most people appreciate the benefits foster programs can have on both the mental and physical health of animals, many don’t realize how much extra capacity these programs can add to a shelter. For example, Dr. Ellen Jefferson provided a goal in a presentation at the 2019 American Pets Alive Conference for animal control shelters to have 3% of their annual dog intake in foster homes at a given point in time. Dr. Jefferson developed this target based on certain no kill animal control shelters’ successful foster programs. Since average length of stay incorporates animals in foster homes, we can add this to the shelter’s dog holding capacity in Dr. Haston’s example. This adjustment increases the shelter’s capacity from 150 dogs to 240 dogs.

As you can see below, the shelter in Dr. Haston’s example will normally have significant excess capacity even without accounting for animals sent to rescues and no kill animal control shelters with stronger adoption programs. While the inherent volatility of dog intake at an animal control shelter, such as a large hoarding case, could temporarily cause capacity concerns, this data shows Dr. Haston’s perpetual overcrowding and related conclusions are simply incorrect.

Real World Data Contradicts Dr. Haston’s Predictions

Dr. Haston’s model predicts a 95% live release rate animal control shelter will have a ridiculously long average length of stay. While his model implies a 32 day average length of stay based on the make-up of dogs brought to the shelter, the model actually predicts an astonishing 90 day average length of stay after one year.

Why does the model predict such a longer average length of stay? Unfortunately, Dr. Haston doesn’t explain whether he is calculating average length of stay for all the animals that came into the shelter during the period or the actual population of dogs in the shelter at a point in time. Assuming Dr. Haston calculated average length of stay of all dogs taken in during the period, which is how shelters typically calculate this metric, the increase in average length of stay from 32 days to 90 days may be due to the shelter exceeding capacity and not accepting all dogs, including many easy to adopt ones. Therefore, the harder to adopt dogs, which take significantly longer to place, will make up a larger portion of the total dog intake and increase the average length of stay.

Even if shelters consistently exceed capacity, which they shouldn’t as explained above, managed admission policies could mitigate that. For example, a managed admission shelter would be more likely to immediately accept an easier to adopt small dog than a larger dog with behavioral issues if the facility was near or at capacity. Therefore, these shelters would have  a much shorter average length of stay than 90 days if these facilities exceeded capacity consistently and restricted intake.

To analyze the Dr. Haston model’s predictions, I compared his model’s key results to actual data from three no kill animal control shelters. These shelters are as follows:

  1. KC Pet Project serving Kansas City, Missouri
  2. Williamson County Animal Shelter serving most of Williamson County, Texas
  3. Lynchburg Humane Society serving Lynchburg, Virginia during the period of my analysis

Due to the lag in non-profit financial data reporting, I had to use 2017 and 2016 data for KC Pet Project and Lynchburg Humane Society, respectively. I listed the links to the data I used in this analysis at the end of this blog.

The average length of stay computed by Dr. Haston’s model vastly exceeds the three no kill animal control shelters’ average lengths of stay. Specifically, Dr. Haston’s model predicts an animal control shelter with a 95% live release rate will have an average length of stay of 90 days while KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society had average lengths of stay of 18 days, 9 days and 19 days. In other words, Dr. Haston’s model predicted average lengths of stay five to ten times longer than these three comparable no kill animal control shelters with the same or higher live release rates. Thus, Dr. Haston’s conclusion that a 95% dog live release rate at an animal control shelter will result in the shelter holding large numbers of animals for extremely long times does not match the reality of well run no kill animal control facilities.

Successful no kill animal control shelters also have significantly lower costs than the amounts Dr. Haston’s model predicts. Dr. Haston’s model appears to only include medical and behavior costs in its “operating costs.” Unfortunately, I don’t have this subset of data for the three no kill animal control shelters. Therefore, I used each organization’s total costs, which would include other costs, such as various fixed and overhead costs, that Dr. Haston’s operating costs do not appear to include. To allocate these costs just to dogs, I used each shelter’s annual intake of dogs and cats as well as an estimate of the per animal cost based on average length of stay from the Maddie’s Fund Financial Management Tool. Even using an apparently broader measure of shelter costs, the estimated total costs per dog at KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society were $406, $287 and $635 compared to the $750 per dog figure Dr. Haston’s model predicted.

Dr. Haston’s model also understates shelter revenue at no kill animal control shelters. Specifically, Dr. Haston only measures adoption revenue. In reality, adoption fees usually fall way short of covering animal care costs. No kill animal control shelters recoup some of these costs through funding received from the governments running or contracting with them. However, no kill organizations, especially private ones, receive significant donations since the public wants to support shelters that save lives. As you can see below, the estimated total revenue per dog (allocated the same way as total costs per dog above) was $381, $453 and $701 at KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society compared to the $176 of adoption revenue per dog Dr. Haston’s model predicted.

The three no kill animal control shelters’ revenue and cost data disprove Dr. Haston’s implicit assertion that no kill leads to financial ruin. Dr. Haston’s model predicted a net loss of around $574 per dog. During the periods presented, both Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society, which received only modest government funding, turned an estimated profit of $166 per dog and $66 per dog, respectively. While KC Pet Project did have an estimated loss of $25 per dog during the year presented, this was an anomaly. Since KC Pet Project was formed in 2011 and began running a no kill animal control shelter shortly thereafter, its net assets increased from $0 to $1,146,550 due to its revenues exceeding its costs over this time period. Thus, Dr. Haston’s model predicting financial ruin at no kill animal control shelters does not match the experience of these three no kill groups.

These three no kill organizations also disprove Dr. Haston’s assertion that a 95% live release rate animal control shelter turns significant numbers of dogs away. According to widely accepted estimates, the average American animal control shelter takes in 14 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. Based on the ASPCA’s estimated total animal shelter intake in the United States, which includes animal control and rescue oriented facilities, approximately half the animals are dogs and half are cats. Therefore, the average American animal control shelter takes in around 7 dogs per 1,000 people. As you can see below, KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society took in 12 dogs per 1,000 people, 8 dogs per 1,000 people and 22 dogs per 1,000 people. In other words, these three shelters received more dogs than the average American animal control shelter. While these three no kill facilities do manage intake at times, its hard to argue they are “turning away” significant numbers of dogs and those dogs are having bad outcomes.

The three no kill animal control shelters also disprove Dr. Haston’s prediction that an animal control shelter with a 95% live release rate will do few adoptions. As you can see below, KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society adopted out 6 dogs per 1,000 people, 5 dogs per 1,000 people and 18 dogs per 1,000 people. In other words, these three shelters adopt out around as many or significantly more dogs than the average American animal control shelter takes in let alone adopts out.

Absurd Predictions When Incorporating Rescue Oriented Shelters into the Analysis

Dr. Haston laid out one scenario where a rescue oriented shelter in the community took all dogs in when it had room and the animal control shelter had a 90% live release rate. In a second scenario, Dr. Haston assumed the animal control facility had a 95% live release rate and the rescue oriented shelter in the community did not accept the least adoptable dogs (i.e. the dogs an animal control shelter with an 85% live release rate would kill). In the real world, the rescue oriented shelter’s intake policy almost always is more similar to scenario 2 than scenario 1 since most of these organizations pick and choose which dogs they take in. While some of the qualitative results of the first scenario compared to the second scenario make sense (i.e. the animal control shelter in scenario 2 will have a longer average length of stay and higher operating costs than the animal control facility in scenario 1), the actual model’s results do not match reality.

The table below compares Dr. Haston’s animal control shelter’s predicted results under scenario 2 with successful no kill animal control shelters. All three no kill animal control shelters have selective admission rescue oriented shelters in their areas. Therefore, they are operating in a similar scenario to Dr. Haston’s model. As you can see, Dr. Haston’s model predicts an average length of stay 6-14 times longer than these shelters’ average lengths of stay. Similarly, the no kill animal control shelters pulled in 3-5 times more revenue per dog, incurred 40%-73% lower costs per dog and took in more dogs than Dr. Haston’s model shelter did. Thus, Dr. Haston’s model becomes even more absurd after he incorporates rescue oriented shelters.

So how did Dr. Haston calibrate his model to real world results? He contacted 100 no kill shelters across the country about accepting a large dog with behavioral issues and almost all of the facilities did not agree to take the dog in. Since Dr. Haston did not say which shelters these were, I assume these were selective admission shelters. Given we already know selective admission shelters cherry pick their animals, including those near the three no kill animal control shelters above, this is meaningless.

If that was not bad enough, Dr. Haston used his favorite punching bag, pit bulls, at a regressive shelter to validate his model. In a slide titled “Concentration of Difficult Animals in Open Admission Facilities”, Dr. Haston cited pit bulls making up 45% of dog intake and around 25%-30% of dogs killed at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) as evidence supporting his model’s results. First, Dr. Haston citing pit bulls as “difficult” tells you much about his attitude about these animals. While dogs having a pit bull label do stay longer at shelters, a peer-reviewed scientific study proves removing breed labels significantly reduces pit bulls lengths of stay at shelters. Second, MADACC is a regressive shelter that had 21% of their dogs lose their lives last year and 32% of dogs lose their lives in 2014 (one year after Dr. Haston’s MADACC data goes up to). For example, the Wisconsin Watchdog blog detailed the shelter needlessly killing a “pit bull mix” with a potential adopter waiting in 2014. Does anyone in their right mind think this shelter was doing all it could do five years ago? Thus, the idea that rescue oriented shelters put an unfair burden on animal control shelters and that forces them to kill is absurd.

Dystopian Conclusions

Dr. Haston makes a good point that the live release rate is a key metric, but we must also look at other data as well. I fully agree with this. For this reason, my dog report card blog each year also grades shelters on the number of local animals (which often require more effort to save) these facilities take in and adopt out. Additionally, the no kill and animal welfare movements should also create other metrics of success to ensure shelters follow all parts of the No Kill Equation. That being said, the live release rate will always be extremely important given killing animals is intolerable.

Unfortunately, Dr. Haston repeats the false notion that raising the live release rate from 85% to 95% results in longer lengths of stay, increased costs and refusing animals. While I know some shelters do severely restrict intake in order to raise their live release rates, that is not what well-run no kill animal control shelters do. As the three no kill animal control shelters’ data above showed, large no kill animal control shelters take many dogs in, save around 95% or more of these animals and do so in a financially responsible way. Can a shelter have a shorter average length of stay and lower costs if it settles for an 85% live release rate and quickly kills every challenging dog? Yes, that is likely. However, the three no kill animal control shelters’ data above prove you can still achieve a very short average length of stay and have manageable costs at a 95% or above dog live release rate. Additionally, no kill animal control shelters’ revenue surge when the public realizes these facilities are doing everything possible to save their animals. Thus, Dr. Haston’s thunderous conclusions about doom and gloom for animal control shelters achieving around 95% live release rates are wrong.

Most disturbing, Dr. Haston describes an “optimal” live release rate where killing is not only acceptable, but desirable. In essence, Dr. Haston says we should quickly kill “difficult” animals, such as pit bulls, and take in more easy to adopt dogs. In other words, shelters should operate more like pet stores instead of doing the necessary work to save “difficult” animals. While Dr. Haston doesn’t explicitly state this in his presentation, he did say “we can’t adopt our way out of” the so-called pit bull problem in a presentation he recently gave. Furthermore, Dr. Haston’s 2015 presentation stated saving more lives may mean sacrificing the individual.

Sadly, Dr. Haston’s myopic view need not be true. While shelters will adopt out more easy to adopt dogs all else being equal, all else is not equal. As the no kill movement spreads, the innovative policies will spur positive change in many organizations. As organizations improve, they will responsibly reduce dog intake, increase live outcomes and therefore rescue more at risk animals. By contrast, Dr. Haston’s narrow view only allows shelters to increase adoptions by having easy to adopt animals. That is a recipe for stagnation.

What happens when shelters run out of these easy to adopt animals in the future? Apparently, they may work with “responsible breeders.” According to a recent Animal Farm Foundation Facebook live video (starting at 11:00 minute mark), the 2019 HSUS Animal Expo conference had a session on doing just this. Specifically, shelters would have “responsible breeders” breed desirable dogs for “gold level adopters” since the shelters would be filled with those “difficult” to adopt dogs “nobody wants” like pit bulls. While I can’t say Dr. Haston supports this, it is a logical extension of his kill the “difficult” dogs and adopt out the easy dogs philosophy.

At the end of the day, Dr. Haston’s and many so-called shelter leaders’ anti-no kill views are based on a deeply flawed model. Not only do the model’s conclusions violate basic ethical values, the actual quantitative predictions fall apart when we compare them to well-run no kill animal control shelters. Clearly, no organization should consider this a prediction of what real no kill sheltering looks like. Instead, shelters should consider the model useful if they attempt to implement no kill the wrong way. If that happens, then the model could show what will happen. However, Dr. Haston does not present his model this way and declares no kill/high live release rates a disaster. Sadly, Dr. Haston’s messaging ruins what could be a very good way to illustrate the perils of not implementing no kill the right way. As a result, Dr. Haston’s model will be used by lazy shelter directors to defend the status quo and not improve.

Appendix – No Kill Animal Control Data Used in Comparison to Dr. Haston’s Model

KC Pet Project 2017 Animal Data

KC Pet Project 2016 Dog Average Length of Stay (2017 data not available, but unlikely to differ significantly)

KC Pet Project 2017 Form 990 Tax Return

Williamson County Animal Shelter 2017-2018 Animal Data, Dog Average Length of Stay and Financial Information

Lynchburg Humane Society 2016 Animal Data

Lynchburg Humane Society 2016 Dog Average Length of Stay

Lynchburg Humane Society 2016 Form 990 Tax Return

Maddie’s Fund Financial Management Tool to Estimate Cost to Care for Dogs

Austin Attains Amazing Live Release Rates in 2018

Austin, Texas has become synonymous with no kill success. While Austin Animal Center exceeded the 90% live release rate some people consider as being no kill in 2012, the shelter’s live release rate increased sharply in 2016. The shelter’s success in 2016 was spearheaded by Director of Animal Services, Tawny Hammond, and Deputy Chief Animal Services Officer, Kristen Auerbach, both of whom came over from Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Virginia.

Hound Manor performed a fantastic analysis of Austin Animal Center’s 2016 results. This analysis utilized various computer programming techniques to extract incredibly useful data from Austin’s open public data on its web site. While I don’t have the skills to replicate such an analysis, I was able to obtain some key data I frequently use in my New Jersey animal shelter analyses. Using this data, I did an analysis of Austin Animal Center’s 2017 results last year. This data showed the shelter achieving extremely high live release rates for cats, dogs, pit bulls, young kittens and other types of animals.

Tammy Hammond left Austin Animal Center in May 2017 to join Best Friends and Kristen Auerbach resigned in July 2017 to take over Pima Animal Care Center in Tuscon, Arizona. How did Austin Animal Center perform in 2018? Did the shelter continue its success without two of its key leaders?

Incredible Live Release Rates

Austin Animal Center saved virtually every dog that arrived in 2018. You can find a link to the data I used here. Overall, only 1.2% of all dogs, 1.1% of pit bull like dogs, 1.5% of small dogs and 1.0% of other medium to large size dogs lost their lives or went missing at the shelter. The death rates for all dogs and other dogs decreased by 0.1% and 0.2% from 2017 while pit bulls’ and small dogs’ death rates remained the same as in 2017. Even if we only look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners, only 1.6% of all dogs, 1.8% of pit bulls, 2.1% of small dogs and 1.3% of other medium to large size breeds lost their lives or went missing in 2019. Thus, Austin Animal Center saved almost every dog it took in last year.

Austin Animal Center’s pit bull numbers are especially noteworthy. Despite taking in 1,930 pit bull like dogs in 2018, Austin Animal Center saved 99% of these dogs. On a per capita basis, Austin Animal Center impounded 1.6 pit bulls per 1,000 people compared to my estimate of New Jersey animal shelters taking in just 0.8 pit bulls per 1,000 people from the state. In other words, Austin Animal Center saved 99% of its pit bull like dogs even though it took in twice as many of these dogs on a per capita basis as New Jersey animal shelters. Similarly, Austin Animal Center adopted out 0.7 pit bulls per 1,000 people compared to the 0.5 pit bulls per 1,000 people New Jersey animal shelters would need to adopt out to achieve a 95% dog live release rate. Furthermore, Austin Pets Alive and other local rescues adopt out additional pit bulls in the Austin area. As a result, Austin Animal Center’s results prove New Jersey animal shelters can do a far better job with their pit bull like dogs.

Austin Animal Center 2018 Results

Austin Animal Center also had amazing cat numbers. Overall, only 4.4% of all cats, 5.9% of adult cats, 1.9% of kittens 6 weeks to just under one year and 7.0% of kittens under 6 weeks lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2018. As compared to 2017, the all cats’, adult cats and neonatal kittens death rates decreased by 0.9%, 1.3% and 1.5% while the older kittens death rate remained the same. Even if we exclude cats who were reclaimed by owners and placed through the shelter-neuter return program, only 5.4% of all cats, 9.5% of adult cats, 2.1% of kittens 6 weeks to just under 1 year and 7.0% of kittens under 6 weeks lost their lives in 2018. Thus, Austin Animal Center saved almost all their cats of all ages.

Austin 2018 Cat Statistics.jpg

Austin Animal Center Only Euthanizes Dogs for Legitimate Reasons

The table below lists the reasons Austin Animal Center used to euthanize dogs in 2018. As you can see, 74% of the euthanized dogs were due to severe medical reasons (i.e. suffering, at veterinarian).

Austin Animal Center limits behavioral euthanasia to truly aggressive dogs. Hound Manor’s blog on Austin Animal Center’s 2016 data found the shelter euthanized a similar percentage of dogs for behavioral reasons in the final quarter of fiscal year 2016 as the No Kill Advocacy Center targets (i.e. under 1%). As you can see below, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.10% of all dogs for behavioral related reasons (i.e. aggression, behavior, court/investigation). Even if we add rabies risk and none, Austin Animal Center would have only euthanized 0.14% of all dogs for behavioral reasons. Thus, Austin Animal Center limited behavioral euthanasia to truly aggressive dogs.

Austin Animal Center also reduced the number and percentage of dogs euthanized for rabies risk. As Hound Manor mentioned in its blog, few dogs killed for rabies testing end up having the disease. In fact, the New Jersey Department of Health’s guidelines state shelters should not euthanize dogs for rabies unless they have clinical signs of the disease. Austin Animal Center euthanized two dogs (0.02% of all dogs) in 2018 for rabies risk compared to the five dogs (0.05% of all dogs) from 2017 and 14 dogs (0.14% of all dogs) reported by Hound Manor in fiscal year 2016.

Austin Animal Center Dogs Euthanized Reasons

The shelter also limited behavioral euthanasia for pit bull like dogs to truly aggressive animals. Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.05% of all pit bulls for aggression, behavior and court/investigation reasons. In fact, this number was only one half of the percentage of all dogs euthanized for behavioral related reasons. In other words, pit bull like dogs were significantly less likely to be aggressive than other similar size dogs. Most of the rest of the pit bulls euthanized were suffering (0.41%). 0.1% of pit bulls (two dogs) were euthanized “at veterinarian” or for “medical reasons”, but its quite possible these animals were also hopelessly suffering. When you couple this data with the results of a recent study showing severe dog bites did not increase after Austin implemented its no kill plan, it proves shelters can in fact safely adopt out large numbers of pit bull like dogs.

Austin Animal Center Pit Bulls Euthanized Reasons 2018.jpg

Austin Animal Center’s reasons for euthanizing small dogs followed this same pattern. The shelter euthanized no small dogs for aggression and other behavioral reasons. Given small dogs do not pose a serious danger to adult people, this is exactly what we should see at every shelter. Almost all the other small dogs were euthanized for severe medical issues (i.e. suffering, at veterinarian). While two dogs did not have a reason for their euthanasia, its possible they could have been hopelessly suffering.

Austin Animal Center Small Dogs Euthanized Reasons 2018

The shelter also only euthanized other medium to large size dogs for legitimate reasons. Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.18% of other medium to large size dogs for behavioral related reasons (i.e. aggression, behavior, court/investigation). Even if we add rabies risk and none, Austin Animal Center would have only euthanized 0.22% of all other medium to large size dogs for behavioral reasons. Almost all the rest of the other medium to large size dogs were euthanized for severe medical problems.

Austin Animal Center Other Dogs Euthanized Reasons

Austin Animal Center Limits Cat Euthanasia Primarily to Severe Medical Issues

The table below lists the reasons Austin Animal Center used to euthanize cats in 2018. As you can see, around 90% of the euthanized cats were due to severe medical reasons (i.e. suffering, at veterinarian). While 4% of the euthanized cats and 0.1% of all cats who had outcomes cited “medical”, its possible these were severe medical issues that warranted humane euthanasia. Similarly, Austin Animal Center’s very low numbers of cats euthanized for no documented reason (2 cats, 1% of euthanized cats and 0.03% of all cats who had outcomes) may indicate clerical errors rather than the shelter killing cats for no good reason. Most impressively, Austin Animal Center did not kill a single cat for behavior or aggression or for being underage.

Austin Animal Center also euthanized few cats for rabies risk. As Hound Manor mentioned in its blog, few animals killed for rabies testing end up having the disease. Austin Animal Center euthanized 11 cats (0.18% of all cats who had outcomes) for rabies risk in 2018 compared to 7 cats (0.11% of all cats who had outcomes) in 2017 and 23 cats (0.34% of all cats who had outcomes) reported by Hound Manor in fiscal year 2016.

These statistics indicate Austin Animal Center pretty much only euthanizes hopelessly suffering cats. Given shelters should never kill cats for aggression or behavioral reasons, this is an incredible achievement since Austin Animal Center impounded 6,036 cats during the year who had outcomes.

Austin Animal Center Cats Euthanized Reasons

Austin Animal Center’s Partner Helps the Shelter

Austin Pets Alive has been a major reason the community achieved no kill status. Historically, this organization pulled animals directly from the kill list at Austin Animal Center. In other words, instead of cherry-picking easy to adopt animals like many rescues do, Austin Pets Alive takes on the most difficult animals. As a result of taking on these tough cases and the organization’s strong desire to make Austin no kill, Austin Pets Alive developed and implemented a host of cutting edge programs. Examples, such as dog playgroups, a Canine Good Citizen training and certification program and large scale fostering help save the lives of large dogs that are most likely to lose their lives in shelters. Other programs, such as parvo and ringworm treatment and barn cat placements save vulnerable animals. In addition, Austin Pets Alive’s owner surrender prevention program helps owners keep animals and avoid giving them to Austin Animal Center. Thus, Austin Pets Alive has historically focused on its community to help Austin Animal Center achieve no kill status.

Austin Animal Center is relying less on Austin Pets Alive than in the past. In 2012, when Austin Animal Center first exceeded a 90% live release rate, it sent 29% of its dogs and 51% of its cats to Austin Pets Alive and other shelters and rescues. Last year, it only sent 21% of its dogs and 27% of its cats to Austin Pets Alive and other organizations. As a result, Austin Pets Alive has been able to assist other Texas shelters since its local animal control shelter truly achieved no kill.

Austin Animal Center and Austin Pets Alive Use Many Foster Homes

Austin Animal Center sent 722 dogs, 139 pit bulls, 172 small dogs and 411 other medium to large size dogs to foster homes. Overall, 7% of all dogs went to a foster home after arriving at Austin Animal Center. Unfortunately, we don’t know how many of these were very short-term fosters, such as overnight breaks from the shelter, to determine how much extra capacity all these foster homes created. However, the data indicated virtually all these dogs were in fact eventually adopted either by the people fostering the dog or another person.

Austin Animal Center sent a good number of large dogs into the program. Specifically, significant numbers of both pit bulls and other medium to large size dogs aged four months and older went to foster homes. In other words, people weren’t just fostering cute puppies that the shelter would have quickly adopted out with or without the help of foster homes.

Austin Animal Center Fostered Dogs in 2018

Austin Pets Alive has an even larger dog foster program. According to a presentation made during the 2018 American Pets Alive Conference, Austin pets Alive adopted out 2,300 dogs from foster homes and had 671 active dog foster homes as of September 2017. In addition, Austin Animal Center’s dog and cat foster programs doubled the shelter’s capacity per 2016 data from a presentation at a past Best Friends National Conference. Given fostering dogs can eliminate perceived dog behavior problems, significantly increase a shelter’s capacity to hold animals, reduce sheltering costs and bring in adoption revenues, growing foster programs is a huge priority for many progressive shelters.

APA Dog Foster Program Size

Austin Animal Center also sent many cats to foster homes. Overall, the shelter sent 13% of all cats, 4% of 1+ year old cats, 25% of kittens aged six weeks to just under one year and 5% of kittens under 6 weeks of age to foster homes at some point. While we don’t know how many of these cats were temporary or short-term fosters, the shelter ultimately adopted out nearly every single one of these animals.

Austin Animal Center Cats Sent to Foster 2018

Austin Pets Alive has an even larger cat foster program. According to a presentation at the 2018 American Pets Alive Conference, Austin Pets Alive places thousands of cats each year in over 650 foster homes. Thus, both Austin Animal Center and Austin Pets Alive, which focuses on making sure Austin Animal Center achieves the highest live release rates, have huge cat foster programs.

APA Cat Foster Program Size

No Kill Culture Raises Lifesaving to New Heights

While Austin Animal Center has attained very high live release rates, local no kill advocates continue to raise the bar. Certainly, Austin Pets Alive has created innovative and groundbreaking programs to save the animals people previously believed were destined for euthanasia. Similarly, the Final Frontier Rescue Project has been advocating for the few remaining dogs being euthanized at Austin Animal Center. In addition, this group rescues many of the most challenging dogs (i.e. the last 1%-2% at risk of losing their lives) Therefore, the no kill movement in Austin continues to improve and pressure Austin Animal Center to do better.

That being said, Austin Animal Center is not perfect. The shelter lost three of its shelter directors in the last couple of years. Additionally, there is no doubt that room for improvement exists.

Austin Sets a New Bar for Lifesaving

Austin Animal Center has continued to improve over the years. While Austin Animal Center benefited from having an amazing rescue oriented shelter, Austin Pets Alive, help, Austin Animal Center has really stepped up its game. You can see some of the innovative programs, such as progressive animal control, breed neutral adoption policies, a large scale foster network, innovative social media use and a huge and effective use of volunteers in this story. As a result of these efforts, Austin Animal Center has effectively limited euthanasia to hopelessly suffering animals and dogs that are truly dangerous.

While Austin Animal Center’s success is hard to match, the animal control shelter serving the area just to the north, Williamson County Animal Shelter, also is extremely successful. Despite having a significantly smaller budget per animal than Austin Animal Center (approximately 50% less after adding an estimated $200 per animal to Williamson County Animal Shelter’s budget for animal sheltering only) and receiving less rescue support for both dogs (Austin Animal Center: 21% of outcomes; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 7% of outcomes) and cats (Austin Animal Center: 27% of outcomes; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 5% of outcomes), Williamson County Animal Shelter came close to reaching Austin Animal Center’s live release rates for dogs (Austin Animal Center: 98.8%; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 98.1%) and cats (Austin Animal Center: 95.6%; Williamson County Animal Shelter: 92.0%).

Williamson County Animal Shelter also had very impressive adoption numbers. While Austin Animal Center’s per capita adoption rates of 3.9 dogs and 2.5 cats per 1,000 people are good, Williamson County Animal Shelter’s per capita adoption rates of 4.9 dogs and 4.7 cats per 1,000 people are even higher. This is reflected in the Williamson County Animal Shelter’s short average length of stay figures (dogs: 8.8 days, cats: 11.6 days).

The key point is that Austin Animal Center is not unique. Since an animal shelter taking in 6,371 dogs and cats in fiscal year 2018 (i.e. almost as many animals as the largest New Jersey animal shelter) next door to Austin can achieve similar success, this proves Austin Animal Center was not taking homes away from animals in nearby areas. If anything, Austin’s animal shelters and Williamson County Animal Shelter likely spurred innovation at facilities in both communities through raising standards and learning from each other.

New Jersey animal control shelters can achieve similar success. In 2017, Associated Humane Societies, New Jersey’s largest animal sheltering organization, took in an estimated $1,194 of revenue per dog and cat impounded based on the Associated Humane Societies June 30, 2017 Form 990 and its reported animal intake during 2017. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center had a budget of $884 per dog and cat and Williamson County Animal Shelter only had a budget of $463 per dog and cat and $538 of total revenue per dog and cat after adding $200 per dog and cat for animal control services (shelter does not pick up animals). Thus, New Jersey’s largest animal welfare organization takes in more money per dog and cat yet its Newark facility is high kill and had horrific state health department inspection reports.

Clearly, shelters like Austin Animal Center and Williamson County Animal Shelter prove most animal control shelters can achieve high live release rates and attain real no kill status (i.e. only euthanize hopelessly suffering and truly dangerous dogs). The time for excuses has stopped and its now time for action.

New York ACC and PetSmart Charities Think Killing is “The Future of Animal Welfare”

A few weeks ago, I came across an invitation from the New York ACC to attend a presentation by Dr. Roger Haston from PetSmart Charities. After seeing Dr. Haston’s impressive educational background, a PhD in Geophysics and an MBA, an apparently successful professional career, and his analytical approach, I was eager to attend. In fact, I was so interested in the topics I watched two of his presentations from elsewhere. Subsequently, I went to his speech in New York City. Based on the New York ACC hosting this event and also having Dr. Haston separately teach the organization’s staff, its safe to assume the New York ACC holds similar views to Dr. Haston.

Does Dr. Haston have the right vision for “the future of animal welfare”?

Overview of Animal Welfare History

Dr. Haston’s presentation was nearly identical to ones he’s given across the country. You can view one he recently gave here. In person, Dr. Haston was articulate and presented his material in a clear and concise manner.

First, Dr. Haston provided a short history of animal welfare in the United States. As others, such as Nathan Winograd, have stated, Henry Bergh launched the humane movement with his focus on animal cruelty in New York City in the 1800’s. Dr. Haston then talked about how poor treatment of livestock in the United Kingdom in the 1960s led to the creation of the “Five Freedoms” as a humane standard for treating these creatures.

Dr. Haston then discussed the growth of the humane movement starting around 1970. These things included the creation of high volume spay/neuter clinics, eliminating cruel euthanasia methods, increased veterinarian involvement with shelters and more adoptions. He then talked about developments in the 1990s, such as the no kill movement starting, large well funded shelters, reduced intake from high volume/low cost spay/neuter efforts and increased public interest in adopting. Finally, he talked about the Asilomar Accords, which is a method of tabulating animal shelter statistics and computing live release rates that have been criticized by many animal advocates as a way to excuse shelter killing, and the growth of rescues and transports after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Dr. Haston also made some other good points. He talked about the growth of transports and how the financial incentives can lead to fake rescues selling animals. Dr. Haston also talked about the failure of the animal welfare community to reach pet owners in need in poor areas. In particular, he provided a nice example of why “free” spay/neuter is often costly to people in these areas and explains why many people don’t take advantage of these services. Finally, he made a point, which I have also long made, that we need more animal welfare organizations to merge to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

If this is all Dr. Haston discussed, I would have had a very positive review. Unfortunately, much of the rest of his presentation was repackaged excuses for shelter killing. Dr. Haston stated “conflicts and confusion” developed in the 2010s and called out no kill groups, such as Nathan Winograd’s No Kill Advocacy Center, for being divisive. Unfortunately, this set the tone for Dr. Haston’s views.

Myths of Pet Overpopulation, No Kill Shelters Severely Limiting Intake and No Kill Advocates Instigating Threats of Violence

As I’ve discussed in the past, the live release rate cannot be the only way we view shelters. Specifically, we must also ensure shelters have relatively short average lengths of stay and use large percentages of their appropriate animal enclosures to maximize life saving. In addition, we must also evaluate if and how effectively shelters implement the eleven no kill equation programs, which include humane care.

Dr. Haston provided a graph with absurd data to make the point that we shouldn’t focus on live release rates at animal control shelters. On the graph, he showed how transported dogs were generally easy to adopt. However, on the other side of the graph, Dr. Haston showed about 25% of local community intake at animal control shelters in his data set from the Pacific Northwest were “unhealthy/untreatable.” Based on the many no kill animal control shelters across the nation taking in predominantly local dogs, we know no where near 25% of dogs are hopelessly suffering or a serious threat to people without the possibility of rehabilitation. Thus, Dr. Haston seemed to just accept seemingly bad shelters words that they had all these unadoptable animals despite numerous no kill animal control shelters proving the opposite with their very high live release rates.

In another presentation he gave several years ago, Dr. Haston implied no kill leads to selective admission and shelters turning their backs on animals in need. Furthermore, Dr. Haston’s past presentation argued limited admission shelters in communities lead to the animal control shelters filling up with unadoptable animals. How do we know this is not always true? We have plenty of examples of animal control shelters achieving dog live release rates of around 95% to 99%, taking large numbers of challenging dogs and having selective admission shelters in their communities.

If that was not bad enough, Dr. Haston’s seemed to imply we should kill less adoptable dogs and transport in easier to adopt ones. He used data from an undisclosed sample of shelters, most of which I would bet are not elite no kill animal control shelters, showing intakes of certain types of dogs, such as pit bulls and Chihuahuas, exceeding their positive outcomes to insinuate we can’t save these types of dogs. In fact, he said “we can’t adopt our way out of” the so-called pit bull problem. As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve posted extensive data of high volume animal control shelters saving over 90% and up to 99% of pit bulls. You can view these blogs here, here and here. In fact when asked about saving pit bulls in shelters, Dr. Haston could only provide a nebulous and incoherent answer about solving a community problem. In other words, Dr. Haston implied until society somehow magically transforms, we would have to keep on killing pit bulls despite numerous animal control shelters proving we can save these dogs.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Dr. Haston later talked about a person who was “brutally killed by a pack of stray pit bulls.” As far as I can tell, he was simply quoting a news article that stated four pit bulls killed the victim. However, a later article stated only two of the dogs were pit bulls with the other two dogs being a boxer mix and a Queensland heeler mix. In fact, DNA tests from two forensic labs found no evidence that these dogs even killed the victim. Given many dogs are mislabeled as pit bulls, it is irresponsible for any animal welfare leader to assert “a pack of stray pit bulls” killed someone without DNA evidence supporting that claim. Even if the dogs truly were pit bulls, Dr. Haston shouldn’t be using “pit bulls” to single out these types of dogs given many breeds of dogs can and have killed people. Sadly, it seems Dr. Haston has an anti-pit bull bias.

Dr. Haston also stated shelters were underfunded and seemed to suggest we couldn’t expect great shelters without that funding. In particular, Dr. Haston had a graph showing per capita funding of shelters in various cities with New York City near the low end. In reality, the New York ACC takes very few animals in and is in fact well-funded on a per animal basis, which is the appropriate funding metric. The New York ACC received $647 per dog and cat from the City of New York based on recent data compared to Kansas City’s no kill animal control shelter receiving just $136 per dog and cat from its city contract. Even if we doubled the Kansas City shelter’s funding to account for animal control services it doesn’t currently provide, Kansas City’s no kill animal control shelter still would just receive $272 per dog and cat impounded or just 42% of the New York ACC’s government funding per dog and cat. How do these shelters succeed with such little government funding? They limit costs by moving animals quickly out to live outcomes and gain donations and volunteer support due to the public supporting their great work. Thus, Dr. Haston’s implication that we must wait until the day when money falls from trees to get shelters we deserve is patently false.

Dr. Haston also implied that the focus on live release rates and no kill led to threats against shelter personnel. In reality, no kill leaders, such as Nathan Winograd and Ryan Clinton, also tell advocates to act professionally and avoid personal attacks. To imply no kill advocates are responsible for the bad behavior of others is a cheap shot designed to discredit a movement.

Perhaps, most misleading, Dr. Haston talked about Italy’s no kill law leading to overcrowded shelters and the mafia running those facilities. While I have no idea whether the mafia runs all Italian shelters, no serious people advocate for Italy’s ban on all shelter killing. Instead, advocates argue for the Companion Animal Protection Act which requires shelters to take common sense steps to get animals out of shelters alive, responsibly reduce intake and provide elite care to animals in those facilities.

Finally, Dr. Haston points to Calgary as a solution to the “pit bull problem” and increasing public safety, but this is simply a mirage. Under the Calgary model, high dog licensing rates and severe penalties are credited with increasing live release rates (via increased numbers of dogs returned to owners) and reducing dog bites. However, as I wrote about several years ago, Calgary’s high licensing rate is due to the city’s relatively wealthy and educated population and not the so-called Calgary model. Many wealthy and educated communities also achieve high dog licensing rates and 90% plus dog live release rates.

Backwards Looking Future

Dr. Haston’s concludes his presentation by going anti-no kill. On a slide about successful messages “starting to get in our way”, Dr. Haston cites “No kill”, “Save them all” (which Best Friends has used as a call to action), “Animals should only be adopted” and “People want to kill adoptable pets” among other things. If you read between the lines, Dr. Haston seems to say “stop with no kill and saving lives” and focus on other things.

In fact, Dr. Haston states we’ve begun to reach the “limit” of lifesaving, “the anti-euthanasia movement has become unhitched from animal welfare as defined by the Five Freedoms” and “animals are starting to suffer because of it.” The Five Freedoms are as follows:

  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior
  5. Freedom from fear and distress

Most notably, the Five Freedoms do not include to most important freedom, the freedom to live. If you don’t have the freedom to live, you can’t have any of the other freedoms since you won’t be alive to experience those freedoms.

Frankly, it is impossible for shelters to give animals the “Freedom from fear and distress” if those facilities kill animals, particularly those that routinely do so. Animals sense death and to claim a kill shelter can prevent animals from fearing the ultimate abuse, which is a very real possibility, is completely “unhinged” from reality.

Sadly, Dr. Haston is just repackaging the long disproven claim that no kill equals hoarding and poor care. Numerous no kill animal control shelters, such as Williamson County Animal Shelter in Texas, Kansas City’s KC Pet Project and Virginia’s Lynchburg Humane Society, achieve average lengths of stay for dogs of just one to three weeks. Clearly, these shelters are not warehousing animals. Will these shelters sometimes during an emergency, due to say a hoarding case, double up kennels or even place a dog in a temporary enclosure for a very short period of time? Yes. Apparently, according to people like Dr. Haston, we should just immediately kill a dog instead of doubling him or her up in a kennel or putting the animal in a temporary enclosure for a day or two. This is akin to saying we should kill children in refugee camps since they aren’t experiencing all their “Five Freedoms.” If no one in their right mind would assert that for people, why would a so called animal lover demand animals be killed when obvious lifesaving alternatives exist?

In reality, shelters fully and comprehensively implementing the No Kill Equation not only provide these freedoms, which frankly are the bare minimum, but provide elite care and the most innovative programs to keep animals happy and healthy. For example, the full version of the Companion Animal Protection Act requires shelters provide high levels of veterinary care, socialization to animals, rigorous cleaning protocols and the most humane ways of euthanizing animals. In fact, traditional shelters, the ones Dr. Haston likes to lionize, are the very organizations opposing the Companion Animal Protection Act and its high standards of humane care.

Dr Haston provides nebulous goals that mirror what poorly performing kill shelters have stated for years. Specifically, Dr. Haston says we should have the following goals:

  • Preserving and building the relationship between all pets and people
  • Eliminating, cruelty, suffering and abuse
  • Maintaining public trust and safety

The goal of “Preserving and building the relationship between all pets and people” is vague and conflicts with shelter killing. What exactly does Dr. Haston mean? How does he measure this? What are the metrics he uses to show success? In the presentation, he provided none rendering this goal meaningless. In contrast, when shelters needlessly kill healthy and treatable animals they destroy the relationship between pets and people by directly killing their pets (i.e. when shelters kill animals before an owner reclaims the pet or kill animals families had to surrender). Furthermore, kill shelters send the message to people that their pet lives do not have value. If the “professionals” kill a pet for cost or convenience, why shouldn’t a regular pet owner who is having some problem?

The goal of eliminating cruelty, suffering and abuse is laudable, but the greatest amount of companion animal cruelty, abuse and suffering occurs in regressive shelters. Virtually everyone supports ending animal cruelty. In fact, this is why I spent a large amount of time and money helping pass a new law to professionalize animal cruelty law enforcement in New Jersey. However, routine, systemic and institutional abuse occurs in many of the nation’s kill shelters. After all, if you ultimately will kill an animal, what difference does it make if the animal is in discomfort shortly before you take its life? Sadly, time and time again, we see high kill shelters abuse animals before committing the ultimate abuse, killing. Remarkably, Dr. Haston not only fails to demand shelters to stop killing, he seems to want us to increase that killing by telling us to not criticize shelters needlessly killing animals.

The “Maintaining the public trust and safety” goal is also a hidden attack on no kill. This goal, when you view it in context with the entire presentation, implies shelters must kill a good number of pets to protect the public from animals. The No Kill Movement has long supported shelters euthanizing dogs that truly are a serious threat to people with no reasonable hope of improving when reputable sanctuary options don’t exist. In fact, No Kill Learning talked about this recently. However, successful animal control shelters’ data show at most, a few percent, or as little as 0.2% at Austin Animal Center, of all dogs coming into such shelters are truly dangerous to people and can’t be fixed. In fact a University of Denver study found that severe dog bites did not increase in Austin during the time its dog live release rate skyrocketed to a very high number. Thus, the implication that proper implementation of no kill and public safety are not compatible is simply not true.

While Dr. Haston clearly is an intelligent, successful and articulate person, I think his own involvement with traditional animal welfare organizations has clouded his thinking. Dr. Haston served on the board, and ultimately was the chairman, of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. Over the years, this organization opposed no kill just as Dr. Haston apparently does. Ultimately, he started a full time career as the Executive Director of the Animal Assistance Foundation before moving onto PetSmart Charities. The Animal Assistance Foundation muzzles organizations which use “divisive language” by making them ineligible for grants. So if an organization calls out a high kill shelter for needlessly killing animals, the Animal Assistance Foundation will apparently not give them grant money. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Animal Assistance Foundation Statement of Position on Community Responsibility provides many excuses for killing animals yet does not demand those organizations not kill animals. Thus, Dr. Haston clearly has his own biases and we should take that into consideration.

At the end of the day, Dr. Haston mars his valid points with his support for shelter killing. How can one credibly talk about preserving the bond between pets and people when this very same person condones shelter killing? How can a person talk with authenticity about ending animal cruelty when that same individual enables the ultimate abuse, which is killing? Simply put, you cannot talk coherently about helping animals if you support needlessly killing those same creatures.

Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill message is dangerous for animals due to his influence. Given he speaks around the country, has an impressive background, is articulate and represents a large animal welfare organization, many people could be swayed by his pro-killing message. Furthermore, PetSmart Charities holds the purse strings on large amounts of animal welfare grants. If PetSmart Charities incorporates Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill views into awarding grants, this could disadvantage no kill organizations and enable pro-killing groups in the future. Thus, its imperative that no kill advocates challenge Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill message.

Given the New York ACC’s continued failure to end the killing at its shelters, is it any wonder why they brought Dr. Haston in to “educate” the public and teach its own staff? Despite what the New York ACC hoped to achieve, the public will see through an impressive resume and a slick presentation to see the New York ACC for the poorly perfoming and high kill sheltering organization that it is.

Passaic Animal Shelter Has Another Poor Year in 2017

Last year, I wrote about Passaic Animal Shelter’s pitiful performance in 2016. Specifically, I wrote about the shelter’s high kill rate, the many healthy and treatable animals the facility killed and the various policies that resulted in these outcomes.

Did Passaic Animal Shelter improve in 2017? Did the shelter continue to kill many healthy and treatable animals?

Passaic Runs a High Kill Shelter

Passaic Animal Shelter killed many dogs at its shelter in 2017. You can view the actual records here. Overall, 19% of all dogs who were impounded in 2017 lost their lives at the Passaic Animal Shelter. If we just count the dogs not reclaimed by owners (i.e. dogs the shelter had to find new homes for), 32% of all the dogs Passaic Animal Shelter took in during 2017 were killed or died. In other words, around one out of three dogs Passaic Animal Shelter had to find new homes for lost their lives.

Passaic Animal Shelter killed large numbers of pit bulls. Of the 58 pit bulls arriving at Passaic Animal Shelter in 2017, 19 or 34% of these animals lost their lives. If we just count pit bulls Passaic Animal Shelter had to find new homes for, 48% of these dogs lost their lives. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed around one third of all pit bulls and nearly one half of nonreclaimed pit bulls.

Passaic Animal Shelter also killed too many other medium to large size dogs impounded during 2017. The shelter killed 21% of all other medium to large size dogs and 75% of nonreclaimed other medium to large size dogs. Since the shelter only had four nonreclaimed other medium to large size dogs, the 75% death rate might not be representative of the shelter’s overall performance.

As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only reported 1% of all dogs, 1% of pit bulls, 2% of small dogs and 1% of other medium to large size dogs losing their lives. Similarly, only 2% of all nonreclaimed dogs and all three types of nonreclaimeds dog lost their lives. In other words, Passaic Animal Shelter’s dog death rates and nonreclaimed dog death rates for all dogs and pit bulls were 19 to 34 times greater and 16 to 24 times higher than Austin Animal Center’s dog death rates and nonreclaimed dog death rates for all dogs and pit bulls.

Passaic Animal Shelter adopted out hardly any dogs. Of the 125 dogs arriving at Passaic Animal Shelter in 2017, the facility adopted out just 14 dogs or 11% of the dogs it took in. To put it another way, the shelter adopted out just 1 dog every month. Frankly, a single person could foster and adopt out more dogs than the Passaic Animal Shelter did last year. Given this tiny number of dog adoptions, is it any wonder why the shelter kills so many dogs?

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Passaic Animal Shelter also killed large numbers of cats. You can read the actual records here. Overall, 26% of the 274 cats who were impounded during 2017 lost their lives. 17% of neonatal kittens (under 6 weeks old), 17% of older kittens (6 weeks to under 1 year) and 48% of adult cats (1 year and older) failed to leave the shelter alive. Simply put, Passaic Animal Shelter performed terribly for all types of cats.

Austin Animal Center in Texas proves Passaic Animal Shelter can save all of its healthy and treatable cats. Only 5% of all cats, 7% of cats 1 year and older, 2% of kittens aged 6 weeks to just under 1 year and 9% of kittens under 6 weeks lost their lives or went missing at Austin Animal Center in 2017. In other words, the death rate at Passaic Animal Shelter was two to eight times greater for cats of various ages. Therefore, despite Passaic Animal Shelter impounding far fewer cats than Austin Animal Center in total and on a per capita basis, Passaic Animal Shelter killed a much higher percentage of these animals.

Passaic Animal Shelter also hardly adopted out any cats. Of the 274 cats entering the shelter in 2017, only 24 cats or 9% were adopted out. In fact, Passaic Animal Shelter only adopted out one cat every two weeks. To put it bluntly, the shelter seemed to make little to no effort to adopt out its cats.

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Passaic Animal Shelter’s length of stay data reveals it quickly killed dogs. On average, Passaic Animal Shelter killed all dogs after 14 days, pit bulls after 14 days, small dogs after 11 days and other medium to large size dogs after 14 days.

To make matters worse, Passaic Animal Shelter killed dogs with empty kennels. The Passaic Department of Health’s August 25, 2017 inspection report (11 dogs at facility) and Passaic Animal Shelter’s 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report (10 dogs and 8 dogs at facility on 1/1/17 and 12/31/17) indicate the shelter was not overflowing with dogs during the year since the 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report states the facility has a capacity of 12 dogs.

2017 Passaic Animal Shelter Dog Length of Stay

Passaic Animal Shelter quickly killed cats. On average, the shelter killed all cats after 9 days, neonatal kittens after 9 days, older kittens after 12 days and adult cats after just 8 days.

The shelter also killed cats when empty cages existed. The Passaic Department of Health’s August 25, 2017 inspection report (13 cats at facility) and Passaic Animal Shelter’s 2017 Shelter/Pound Annual Report (17 cats and 13 cats at facility on 1/1/17 and 12/31/17) indicate the shelter used less than half of its 35 cat capacity during the year.

2017 Passaic Animal Shelter Cat Length of Stay

Passaic Animal Shelter Fails to Provide Good Reasons for Killing

Passaic Animal Shelter killed most of its dogs for no logical reason in 2017. Overall, Passaic Animal Shelter listed no documented reason in the records provided to me for 43% of the dogs it killed. In other words, the shelter could not even explain why it took these animals’ lives. The shelter listed “aggressive”, “behavior” or “unpredictable” as reasons for killing 39% of the dogs it killed. Of the remaining reasons for killing dogs, Passaic Animal Shelter reported 9% were for bite cases, 4% were for injuries and 4% were for being sick.

Passaic Animal Shelter killed too many dogs for aggression related problems. While Passaic Animal Shelter killed 9% of dogs for being or being aggressive or part of a bite case, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.2% of its dogs for aggression related issues in 2017. Instead of falsely labeling dogs as aggressive and just deciding to kill dogs with behavioral issues, Austin Animal Center properly judges dog behavior and rehabilitates dogs with genuine aggression issues. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed dogs for aggression at 45 times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

2017 Passaic Animal Shelters Reasons for Killing Dogs

Dog ID# D1 was a stray adult pit bull like dog that entered the Passaic Animal Shelter on January 3, 2017. The shelter labeled the dog “food aggressive” and killed him 24 days later despite having no bite history. Given that multiple studies have found food aggression tests unreliable and even the creator of one of the major food aggression tests has come out against using these evaluations, its amazing Passaic Animal Shelter would kill this dog for being food aggressive. Instead of killing these dogs, the creator of one of the major shelter evaluation methods recommends providing all adopters information on how to manage food aggression.

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Dog ID# D65 was a stray adult pit bull that was brought to the Passaic Animal Shelter on June 17, 2017. Passaic Animal Shelter killed Dog ID# 65 just 13 days later on June 30, 2017 citing a failed temperament test even though the dog had no bite history. Scientific studies on shelter temperament testing prove these exams are completely unreliable. Even the ASPCA, which is not supportive of no kill policies created one of the major temperament tests, says “euthanasia decisions should not be based solely on a dog’s behavior during an assessment or in any other single situation unless the aggression is egregious” and “when the behavior has been reported by multiple sources.” Based on the shelter’s documents below, Dog ID# D65 did not display “egregious” aggression or have aggression “reported by multiple sources” and was not provided any form of behavioral rehabilitation. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Dog ID# 65 for convenience.

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Dog ID# 53 was a stray American bulldog that was brought to Passaic Animal Shelter on May 23, 2017. Despite having no documented bite history, Passaic Animal Shelter killed her 21 days later on June 13, 2017 citing aggression. Once again, Passaic Animal Shelter provided no details as to what the aggression was and documented no effort to rehabilitate this animal.

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Passaic Animal Shelter Kills Cats for No Reasons and Preventable Conditions

Passaic Animal Shelter killed cats using the reasons in the table below. Overall, the shelter most commonly killed cats for no documented rationale. Additionally, the facility often killed cats for exhibiting illnesses, such as Feline Panleukopenia that it could significantly reduce by vaccinating cats upon intake to the facility, using volunteers to provide enrichment (improves immune response to disease), cleaning the shelter properly, and reducing the animals’ length of stay in a good way. Also, the shelter killed a number of other cats with treatable medical conditions. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed numerous cats for no reasons and preventable causes.

Passaic Animal Shelter killed too many cats for medical reasons. Based on the data below, Passaic Animal Shelter killed 11% of the cats it took in for various medical reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 4% of the cats it took in during 2017 for various medical reasons. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter killed cats for medical reasons at three times the rate as Austin Animal Center.

2017 Passaic Animal Shelter Cats Killed Reasons

Samantha was a 3 year old cat released by her owner to the Passaic Animal shelter on March 27, 2017. Despite the cat being young and weighing a healthy 10 pounds, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Samantha just 10 days later citing no reason.

C29 Surrender Form

 

C29 Cage Card

C29 Euthanasia Form

If Killing Samantha wasn’t bad enough, Passaic Animal Shelter killed another cat from the same home on the same day. Coco was a 1 year old cat who also weighed 10 pounds and was surrendered on March 27, 2017. Like Samantha, Passaic Animal Shelter killed her 10 days later on April 6, 2017.

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C30 Euthanasia Form

Fancy was a five year old cat surrendered by her owner to the Passaic Animal Shelter on May 3, 2017. After just 13 days, Passaic Animal Shelter killed Fancy for no documented reason.

C79 Surrender Form

C79 Cage Card

C79 Euthanasia Record

Veterinarian Contracts Support Killing

Passaic Animal Shelter contracts with Rutherford Animal Hospital to provide veterinary care. On the surface, Rutherford Animal Hospital looks like an excellent choice given it is a large and modern veterinary facility. However, when one looks at the specifics in the contracts, major concerns arise.

Passaic Animal Shelter rarely vaccinates animals upon intake. While Rutherford Animal Hospital vaccinates the shelter’s animals, it visits the shelter as little as twice a week. Since Rutherford Animal Hospital, and not anyone who works at the shelter, vaccinates animals, many dogs and cats, including ones carrying highly contagious diseases, will sit in the facility spreading disease until the outside veterinarian comes to the shelter. The UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program clearly explains why shelters must immediately vaccinate animals to control diseases in their facilities:

When should the vaccine be given?

Immediately upon intake, if not sooner! In almost all cases, shelter animals should be vaccinated immediately upon intake. A delay of even a day or two will significantly compromise the vaccine’s ability to provide protection. In a cost saving effort, some shelters delay vaccination until the animal is made available for adoption, or even until it is adopted. While this does provide a service to adopters, the protective effect of the vaccine within the shelter is greatly reduced or eliminated. (In some cases, the chance of the vaccine preventing disease may be 90% or better if given the day before exposure, but will drop to less than 1% if given the day after exposure.) When possible, vaccination prior to intake is ideal (e.g. for owner surrendered animals or those returning from foster care).

Therefore, Passaic Animal Shelter’s vaccination program is ineffective and this may partially explain why the facility killed so many cats for illnesses and had so many other cats die.

Passaic Animal Shelter’s contract provides details on the veterinary funding it provides. In the City of Passaic’s contract with Rutherford Animal Hospital, Passaic only pays $1,516 per month for veterinary services and $70.82 per month to test the cats it adopts out for FIV testing. Based on the details of the arrangement outlined in Rutherford Animal Hospital’s response to Passaic’s request for proposal, the city will only pay $850 per year for the FIV testing. Therefore, Passaic could pay Rutherford Animal Hospital a maximum of $19,150 per year ($20,000 total fee cap – $850 FIV fee) to provide veterinary care (excluding FIV testing and spay/neuter which adopters pay for) or $47.99 per dog and cat the shelter impounded in 2017.

The City of Passaic’s veterinary funding is inadequate. After we back out the cost of vaccines of approximately $15.53 per animal (based on $21.25 per adult dog, $27.25 per puppy, $9.25 per adult cat and $13.25 per kitten according the Maddie’s Fund’s Financial Management Tool) from the average $47.99 veterinary care fee per animal, Passaic Animal Shelter would have just $32.46 to treat each animal for all other illnesses and injuries. Clearly, that is not nearly enough to treat sick or injured animals. Given this fee also must cover the cost of killing, the city and Rutherford Animal Hospital have strong incentives to kill any animal where veterinary treatment may be costly or might not work. Thus, the contract’s financial terms encourage killing.

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Rutherford Animal Hospital plays a major role in Passaic Animal Shelter’s high kill operation. Specifically, Rutherford Animal Hospital “makes the final determination of status of animal for adoption, fostering or euthanasia.” In other words, Rutherford Animal Hospital approves all the absurd reasons for killing animals documented in this blog. Sadly, Rutherford Animal Hospital apparently chooses to kill for financial reasons rather than treat the shelter animals like valued clients from its private practice.

Passaic Animal Shelter’s contract with Rutherford Animal Hospital seems to indirectly cap adoptions at a low number. According to the City of Passaic’s contract for spay/neuter services with Rutherford Animal Hospital, it only pays a maximum of $6,000 per year with $80, $55 and $130 fees to spay/neuter each female cat, male cat and dog of either sex. Assuming the shelter used its spay/neuter fees based on the proportions of dogs and cats it took in (i.e. 31% dogs, 69% cats) and altered equal numbers of each sex, it could only spay/neuter 14 dogs and 61 cats. Based on the shelter’s policy and procedure manual indicating all adopted animals must be altered, this suggests the shelter could only adopt out 14 dogs and 61 cats for the entire year unless Rutherford Animal Hospital accepts additional payments from adopters. However, Passaic Animal Shelter would need to have adopted out 32 dogs and 74 cats last year to achieve 95% dog and 92% cat live release rates. Even if adopters could pay Rutherford Animal Hospital these spay/neuter fees, it would significantly increase the adoption fee and likely discourage adoptions. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter cannot come close to achieving no kill status based on its contract.

Shelter Makes Little to No Effort to Adopt Out Animals

Passaic Animal Shelter has little presence on the internet. At the time I’m writing this blog, Passaic Animal Shelter has just two cats and no dogs up for adoption on Petfinder and no animals listed for adoption on its Adopt a Pet web site. In fact, neither web site provides any information on how one can even adopt a pet from this facility. The shelter’s actual web site also does not list any animals up for adoptions and provides no details on how one can adopt a pet.

Passaic Animal Shelter also is virtually never open to adopters. The shelter’s adoption hours are as follows:

Monday: 8:30 am to 9:30 am; 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm; 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Tuesday to Friday: 8:30 am to 9:30 am; 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Saturday: 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Sunday: Closed

In other words, the shelter is just open four hours a week when working people could come in to adopt. Remarkably, the shelter is open just two hours for the entire weekend and is closed on Sundays. Does this look like a shelter that is working hard to save its animals?

Passaic Must Take a New Path

Clearly, Passaic Animal Shelter makes little to no effort to saving lives. After banning volunteers over a decade ago, the shelter no longer had anyone to make sure they tried to save lives. Instead, the shelter used its unilateral control to take the easy way out and kill animals needlessly. Why? The shelter’s leadership, within the facility, the Passaic Health Department, and its elected officials, simply found it easier to save a few animals and kill the rest. In fact, Passaic Animal Shelter’s “Animal Control Policy and Procedure Manual” explicitly states it will not run a no kill shelter.

Passaic Animal Shelter has more than enough resources to run a no kill facility where it only euthanizes hopelessly suffering animals. In 2017, Passaic Animal Shelter received $564 of city funding per each of the 399 dogs and cats it impounded. As a comparison, Michigan’s Chippewa County Animal Shelter only received $242 of funding per dog and cat and saved 99% of the 311 dogs and 99% the 490 cats who had outcomes in 2017. Furthermore, Chippewa County Animal Shelter impounded more than twice as many animals in total as Passaic Animal Shelter (804 dogs and cats at Chippewa County Animal Shelter verses 399 dogs and cats at Passaic Animal Shelter) and about four times more on a per capita basis (21.3 dogs and cats per 1,000 people at Chippewa County Animal Shelter verses 5.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 residents at Passaic Animal Shelter). Unlike Passaic Animal Shelter, Chippewa County Animal Shelter welcomes volunteers and operates its facility using no kill methods. Thus, Passaic Animal Shelter has no excuse for running a high kill shelter.

Passaic residents must call Mayor Hector Lora at 973-365-5510 and make sure the mayor keeps the following promise he made:

This was about leaving a legacy for our children and (setting) an example for all.

Clearly, Passaic must set an example that taking the easy way out and killing homeless animals for convenience is unacceptable. Mayor Lora can leave a legacy for Passaic’s children by turning his shelter around and allowing his constituents and others to help him do so. Teaching children the value of life and hard work is priceless. Let’s help Mayor Lora understand this.