Prince George's County (Maryland) Animal Management set a record during the month of June 2011, when their Monthly Report showed that 970 animals had been killed at the Animal Services Facility (ASF). This killing represented 72% of live animals taken in. This disturbing trend is even more outstanding when compared to many jurisdictions which are transforming their open admissions municipal shelters into positive community resources, and saving 90% or more of all animals.
How did we get here?
The current Administrator of Animal Management, Rodney Taylor, was appointed by the then Director of the Department of Environmental Resources, Mr. Samuel Wynkoop, in 1998. During the intervening years, Mr. Wynkoop was replaced by other Directors of DER, the last of which was Mr. Charles W. Wilson. Mr. Wilson realized that all was not what it could be at the ASF and, beginning in July 2009 with the opening of the new facility, attempted to implement changes in programs and policies that would improve outcomes. Mr. Taylor, who had become entrenched at the ASF, resisted, and made only superficial changes which did not result in measureable improvements. After the inauguration of County Executive Baker, Mr. Wynkoop was reappointed to the position of Director of DER. Mr. Wynkoop has stated that he is "fond of Rodney Taylor". Mr. Taylor receives a salary of over $125,00 per year, about twice that of his counterparts in other jurisdictions.
Spinning with words
It's important to take note of the misuse of words by Mr. Taylor. According to the dictionary, the term euthanasia applies to ending the life of an individual with a terminal illness or irremediable suffering. Absent those conditions, the term euthanasia does not apply, kill is a more accurate term. The use of the term euthanasia in place of the term kill is a euphemism, intended to conceal what is really happening.
Excuses, excuses, ...
When asked about the dismal performance of Animal Management during June, Mr. Taylor responded,
|"The actual figure is that 873 animals were euthanized in June 2011 at our facility. 195 of those animals were owner requested euthanasia for medical or behavioral reasons, 186 were feral cats, 46 were pit bulls (a breed not legal to own in Prince George's County), 23 were severely aggressive animals, 40 were animals with serious medical issues that a veterinarian advised we put down, and 126 were neonatal kittens without moms. When you look at the numbers that way, it's not quite the same."|
Let's do some analysis of those numbers.
The actual figure is that 873 animals were euthanized
The figure 873 which Mr. Taylor quotes as a total, excludes 97 "Wildlife" that were killed. Mr. Taylor gives no other reason why they were killed, except that they were "wildlife", as though "wildlife" were an incurable disease.
Rodney Taylor proudly claimed in a letter to Mr. Bradford Seamon, Prince George's County DCAO, on May 25, 2011, that "AMG has a total of 11 wildlife rehabilitators." The Monthly Report does not indicate that any animals were transferred to Wildlife Rehabilitation.
195 of those animals were owner requested euthanasia for medical or behavioral reasons,
The owner who brings an animal into the facility should first be offered assistance to deal with medical or behavioral conditions. This can correct many problems. Most owners would prefer to save the life of their pet, if there is a solution to the problem. Many medical and behavior problems have simple solutions. If the owner still prefers to relinquish the animal, the animal becomes the property of the County and the disposition should be in accordance with the policies in place. Euthanasia should not be done simply because a previous owner requested it. The ASF should have medical treatment and behavioral rehabilitation programs which will allow most of the animals to be adopted. The Animal Services Facility is not a veterinary clinic and ASF employees should not be practicing veterinary medicine without a license, so euthanasia should be done only after a veterinarian's diagnosis of a terminal illness or irremediable suffering.
186 were feral cats,
On July 31, 2010, Mr. Charles W. Wilson directed Rodney Taylor that Animal Management would sanction TNR. Rodney Taylor suggested that it be done in cooperation with a non profit organization which had been operating a successful TNR program in the county for more than a decade. If he had completed this assignment as directed, there would be no need for these cats to be in the facility in the first place.
46 were pit bulls (a breed not legal to own in Prince George's County),
Until this law is revoked or repealed, these dogs should be transferred to another jurisdiction which does not discriminate based on appearance. Animal Management has been given the authority to transfer these animals outside of the county rather than kill them.
23 were severely aggressive animals,
It is a frightening experience for an animal to be brought into a kennel, with all of the strange noises and smells. Prince George's County does not have a proper behavior evaluation program. There should NEVER be an animal that is brought in and killed on the same day. There must be time for adjustment to the new environment. It is not possible to evaluate the personality in a single day.
40 were animals with serious medical issues that a veterinarian advised we put down,
40 animals is about 3% of the live intake. That sounds about right. Sadly, these conditions will always occur and there will always be a reason to euthanize a small percentage of animals that are taken in. Experience shows that this number is never more than 10% of the live intake, at the very highest. It is interesting that in this single case where the term euthanize is appropriate, Mr. Taylor uses the term put down.
126 were neonatal kittens without moms.
Neonatal kittens do not need a mother to survive if there is an effective foster program in which volunteers have been trained in neonatal kitten care.
In a letter to Mr. Seamon on May 25, 2011, Rodney Taylor said that they were "working on" a foster program. Actually, Mr. Taylor has been "working on" that program for years. Also, Rodney Taylor had an offer for in-house instruction, free of charge, for staff and volunteers, in the care of neonatal kittens, but he refused the offer. These kittens were killed because Mr. Rodney Taylor is incompetent.
When you look at the numbers that way, it's not quite the same.
An analysis of the numbers actually exposes all of the many ways in which the Administrator of Animal Management has failed, even ignoring assignments given by Mr. Charles W Wilson, the previous Director of the Department of Environmental Resources.
"Good to Great" or "Bad to Worse"?
During his campaign, Candidate Rushern Baker expressed the intention to reduce the kill rate at the ASF. He promised to "get the right people working at the shelter". The critical change that has sparked the transformation of every open admission municipal shelter that has achieved a consistent 90% save rate has been a change in leadership. Jim Collins, in his book, "Good to Great", establishes Rule #1: "Get the right people on the bus."
County residents who would like to see more respect for our pets and more lives saved, as is being done in many other jurisdictions, should exercise their right to petition the government for redress of their grievances:
While a candidate,
Please sign the petition, and if possible,
follow it up with a letter or a phone call
Rushern L. Baker III, County Executive
Address telephone calls, letters, and emails to:
Rushern L. Baker III, County Executive
Phone: (301) 952-4131
Bradford Seamon, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer
Phone: (301) 952-4547
County Administration Building, Suite 5032
14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772-3070
Timothy W. Saffell, the author of this column, is President of Prince George's Feral Friends, SPCA, PO Box 1036, Bowie, MD 20718 (301-262-6452, www.PGFerals.org)
He is also the producer of Compassion Watch TV, available on the internet at www.CompassionWatch.org .
This message was sent to you because we thought that you would be interested in the humane treatment of homeless animals. If you would prefer not to receive messages from us in the future, simply reply to this message and let us know.