Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA
PG Adopt-A-Classroom -- Compassion Watch TV
Holistic Health Care for Pets -- No Kill Prince George's County, MD
November 2, 2011
Prince George's County Animal Management Division (AMD) posts Monthly Reports including animal intake and disposition counts on its web site. Although the information is a bit misleading, it has only been recently that any data at all has been available about animals at the Animal Services Facility (ASF) in Upper Marlboro.
My first encounter with this sort of data was when it was printed in the Prince George's County Budget for 2007. In this exceptional case, there were three consecutive years, with figures for "Animals Handled" and "Adoptions". Using those figures, it was possible to compute the percentage of the "Animals Handled" that were "Adopted". The result showed an increasing number of "Animals Handled" and a decreasing percentage of those animals that were being "Adopted". (I'm using quotes, here, and throughout, to indicate when a term is used that does not actually have the meaning that one might assume. I'll clarify later.)
I had the opportunity to show the graph of this data to Mr. Charles W. Wilson, then-Director of the Department of Environmental Resources. His physical reaction was very obviously one of shock. His eyes got big and his head jerked back.
On one occasion, when I made reference to the numbers on the chart, Rodney Taylor, currently the Administrator of AMD responded ...
|"This is completely false, since the total number of animals actually HANDLED in our facility for the year 2007 was only 15,719 which includes all strays, owner surrendered animals, wildlife, dead animals picked up on streets, illegal pit bulls and owner-requested euthanizations. Your numbers far exceed the total number of animals we actually even handle in a year."|
So, he demanded ...
|"Please divulge your source of information so that I may correct the information that is being put out there."|
When I replied that I was quoting data from the County Budget for 2007, which I assumed that HE had supplied, the conversation was over.
As a result of Mr. Wilson's efforts to enforce transparency, Mr. Taylor was forced to begin publishing Monthly Reports of Animal Management data in March 2010. These reports are available on the Animal Management website. Although this seemed like the beginning of openness on the part of Animal Management, the report shows only three figures, "Animals Handled", "Adopted", and "Euthanized". These broad categories provide cover for what is really happening at the Animal Services Facility.
The Monthly Report for June 2011 indicated that there had been a record high of 970 animals killed. It reported:
Animals Euthanized (Total = 970)
Animals Handled 1,739
In an effort to justify the killing of so many animals, Mr. Taylor broke the number down and thereby explained many of his own failures. In my analysis of his explanation, I computed that there had actually been approximately 1291 (give or take a few dozen) live animals brought into the facility in the month of June, which showed that the 970 killed was approximately 72 percent of live intake.
Wondering where the number 1291 comes from? If you scan the Monthly Report for numbers that mean either animal intake or outcome, you only find "Adoptions", "Animals Euthanized", and "Animals Handled". Since "Adoptions" and "Euthanized" are obviously outcomes, you might think that "Animals Handled" must be intake. But, if 1739 animals were taken in, and you subtract 321 "Adoptions", and 970 "Euthanasias", you are left with 449 animals. It is unlikely that there was a net gain of 449 animals (449 more in the facility at the end of the month than at the beginning) in June.
Let me start by explaining my use of quotes around and the real meaning of the terms.
A secret: "Animals Handled" does not mean the number of animals that were actually handled. The counts of telephone calls reporting animals lost and animals found are accumulated and, even though nobody at the ASF ever touched any of these animals, the number is included in the count of "Animals Handled". As you can see from the Budget 2007, it looks good, as long as nobody actually tries to analyze it.
"Animals Handled" also includes carcasses that have been collected from along the roads. These animals were actually handled, but they are not available for adoption, since they are dead.
If you start with the "Animals Handled" and subtract out the lost animal reports, found animal reports, roadkill picked up, you come up with the Live Intake. The actual number is impossible to know from the report, however, because the number of lost animal calls, found animal calls, and roadkill pickups are not reported, and the report does not include the figure for Live Intake. "Animals Handled" also includes some live animals that have been brought into the ASF, but will be redeemed by their owners. From the report, we can not tell how many. Taking this route, it is impossible to tell from the Monthly Report how many animals were really available for adoption.
Working from the opposite direction, though, if you add up the outcomes: 321 "Adoptions" + 873 domestic "Euthanized" + 97 wildlife "Euthanized" you get 1291. It's safe to estimate that approximately the same number of animals came in that went out, give or take a few dozen, which will average out from month to month. Therefore we can guess that approximately 1291 live animals were left after owner redemptions. These are potential adoptions. Of these, a very small number (less than 10%) will be either terminally ill or suffering (in June the number was 40 which is 3%), or not rehabilitatable.
Another secret: "Adoptions" are not all adoptions. Most people think that when a family goes to the ASF, picks out a pet, fills out an application, and takes the pet home, that is an adoption. Not so. In fact about 2/3 of the "adoptions" were actually animals that were transferred out to Rescue Groups. So when you see 300 "Adoptions", for example, that really means about 100 animals were adopted and about 200 were transferred to Rescue Groups. The number 321 for "Adoptions" should rather be labeled "Live Release".
Rescue Groups are small non-profit organizations that "do a much better job at adopting animals than we do", we are told by Animal Management. These small organizations are typically all volunteer, with no building, and no budgetary allocation, so they raise all of their own revenues from donations contributed by their volunteers and friends. The Rescue Groups foster (including feeding and veterinary care), advertise, hold adoption events, receive and evaluate applications, and adopt the animals into a home.
In spite of the fact that the Animal Management Division has a brand new 37,000 sq. ft. building, a budget of $3-4 Million per year, and a staff of employees, Rescue Groups, most with no building, no budget, and no staff are able to place twice as many pets in homes.
Yet another secret: "Euthanasias" are not all euthanasias. According to the dictionary, the term "Euthanasia" applies to ending the life of an individual who is terminally ill or irremediably suffering. AMD does very few of these -- maybe 1-3% (40 in June, 2011). If those circumstances are absent, the term "Kill" is more appropriate. Applying the term "euthanasia" when it is really "killing" is to employ a "euphemism".
I can not be completely accurate since the open government that existed in Prince George's County when Mr. Wilson was the Director of DER, died when he left. I can only estimate.
In addition to the many factors which have been left out, the actual numbers are approximately,
~1291 Live Intake, potentially adoptable
In 2009, there were 845,000 residents living in 322,000 households giving homes to 433,000 pets in Prince George's County. Considering the lifespan of those pets, every year Prince George's County residents demand 32,000 animals as replacements for their pets that die. The ASF only takes in about 8,000 live animals annually that become available for adoption. Why can't we adopt all of the animals and run out of stock? If we did, we would still be meeting only 25% of the county's demand for pets. Why do compassionate animal lovers feel that they must form non profit Rescue Groups in order to rescue animals from the Prince George's County Animal Services Facility so that they will not be killed? One excuse is "Too many pets, not enough homes." As you can see, that is just an excuse which is not supported by the facts.
Actually, a lot of excuses are bounced around, but none of them are good reasons. There are an increasing number of jurisdictions around the US and the world, who are joining the 90% Club -- open admissions municipal shelters who are saving 90% or more of all animals presented to them. Susanne Kogut, Director of the Charlottesville/Albemarle County SPCA, which runs the only shelter for her City and County came to the Prince George's County Animal Services Facility, at the invitation of Mr. Wilson, and gave a presentation about how her pound was transformed into a real shelter in 18 months between 2005 and 2007, and has been saving 90%+ of all animals presented to them ever since.
One thing that is in common among all of the jurisdictions that have been transformed, is that it happened as a result of a change in leadership. The new, innovative leadership did not require a resume full of progressively responsible experience in a high kill pound. This type of experience is actually a handicap. Most of the transformational leaders had no prior experience in shelter management, but were simply dedicated to saving lives. This allowed them to think outside of the killing box and implement innovative approaches.
Just as Jim Collins found in the research for his book, "Good to Great", Rule #1 is "Get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off of the bus, and get the right people in the right seats." AFTER you have done this, the bus will go in the right direction.
Mr Rushern Baker, as a candidate, acknowledged the need to get the right people working at the shelter and promised to do so. Rodney Taylor, is driving the AMD bus in the wrong direction and is headed off of a cliff. It's time to make it clear to the Baker administration that we will no longer tolerate Rodney Taylor's failures. Please tell Mr. Baker that it's time for him to live up to his promises.
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
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 .
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