Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why Is Gwinnett Killing Our Feral Cats?

With last weeks sad news that a local woman's house cat was mistakenly killed at Gwinnett's shelter after failing what appears to be the shelter's "feral cat" evaluation the question arises "why are we killing our feral cats?"

Even the wildest cat can learn to live around humans and may even exhibit pet like behavior to the person who feeds him. Those locally who care for cat colonies with feral cats witness cats who rub up against their legs and even perhaps purr, just like pet cats. Don't mistake their aloofness as being a symptom of a dangerous nuisance animal.

Contrary, even the most pampered house cat who escapes and runs loose in the wild can survive with the deftness of the most voracious raccoon, rabbit, squirrel or other wild animal. Wouldn't that cat deserve the same respect and rights of survival as any wild animal?

Behaviorally speaking the answer again appears to be that feral cats are wild animals and such should be treated by animal control as such. We have no more right to address feral cats through "trap and kill" policies as we do to the wholesale slaughter of our communities birds, rabbits, squirrels or raccoons.

If a pet cat is abandoned or runs off and gets lost in the woods, has kittens and the kittens that grow up wild because they have no contact with people, are they wild or domestic? Technically, they would be domestic because of domesticated parentage but don't all domesticated cats ultimately come from the wild?

Defining a feral cat as a "nuisance" in the absence of any nuisance behavior is simply wrong. Society goes to great length to protect "wild animals" with great efforts being placed on "allowing" man to live amongst them.

Regardless of whether the cat is the most beloved and pampered pet or the wildest outcast, shelter policies that claim to be based on humane policies view the feral cat as without a human home to protect them and therefore is better off taken to a shelter and killed. Does Gwinnett Animal Control view un-owned cat’s life as a series of brutal experiences? Is Gwinnett responsible for "protecting" these cats from continued andfuture suffering. Or is the ultimately suffering endured when these cats are rounded up and killed within hours of arriving at the shelter?

The reality is that all animals living in the wild face hardship—and feral cats are no exception. Since no animal groups support the trapping and killing of other wild animals—raccoons, rabbits, fox—why do we reserve this fate for feral cats? Wild animals would not choose to have their "suffering" to survive in the wild replaced with feline suicide so why is man so quick to make that choice instead?

If feral cats are genetically identical to wild animals, and they survive in the wild like wild animals, andthey are unsocial to humans like wild animals, and they share the same hardships as wild animals, and if they can and do live in the wild like wild animals, shouldn’t we treat them as we do wild animals—by advocating on their behalf, pushing for their right to life, and respecting and protecting their habitats?

In a humane community why should we condemn feral cats simply because of mistaken logic that some may face hardship while a vast majority peacefully co-exist in nature? I have to say I am not a "cat person" but do respect all animals rights to co-exist in our community. Wholesale rounding up of any animal must be condemned especially in light of other communities that have set up programs for feral colonies implementing trap, neuter, release in controlling the population of the colonies.

Please contact your commissioner and animal control and express your displeasure with Gwinnett's policy of killing feral cats. Slaughtering animals is not part of any animal control policy our community should support.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Foreclosure Market Killing Our Pets

The AJC ran an interesting article that only confirms what those of us in the rescue community have suspected for many months.
The housing slump and high number of homes going into foreclosure have caused shelter intake numbers to dramatically increase.
Families throughout the Atlanta area are having to make the heartbreaking decision of surrendering their family pets when they lose the family home.

Even neighborhoods like my own are not immune to this slumping housing market. A glut of older homes for sale and an over development of new homes which have caused many property owners watch the value of their homes drop. The house next door went unsold for a number of months before it too went into foreclosure last summer.

While those of us who own homes riddled with empty foreclosed homes nearby which causes concerns over decreased housing values and potential crime magnets.

While the housing market has caused a crisis for families and their pets it has also spawned a market for real estate speculators looking to cash in on the glut of foreclosed homes throughout the Atlanta area. Many of these speculators view the pets living in these homes and surrounding neighborhoods as a hindrance in cashing in on this market.

Susie Porter, a local Solid Source realtor, bought the run down home located next to the hounds and I last summer. My initial relief in watching the house being repaired would soon turn to a nightmare when Porter decided that my hounds stood in the way of her attaining her own windfall profit by quickly selling the property.

In the AJC, Susie Porter, a real estate agent from Snellville was quoted as saying "I bought the house next door out of foreclosure last year with plans to fix it up and live in it."

While honesty and ethics seem to get lost in Porter's real desire to make a quick $65,000 cashing in on her new investment property, what doesn't get lost was her obsessive hatred for "hound dogs". While moving her family in was never an option - moving my hounds out was.

Porter's claim that the dogs barked might have been confused with what she really meant "DEAD DOG'S - DON'T BARK..........". After placing her extensively remodeled "must see inside" home on the market for only ten days Porter pounced on the opportunity to have the dogs impounded under Gwinnett's radical barking dog ordinance.

According to her comments in the AJC she didn't want to see me jailed "I just want him to be reasonable." There's nothing reasonable in trying to get my hounds impounded and sent to our new county shelter where they would become simply a blip on a statistic sheet. A brand new shelter already killing for space even though it had only been open for a few short months.

While Cobb County appears to have had a 15% increase in the number of pets killed during the first five months of 2008 Gwinnett's numbers had soared 50% higher. How many of these numbers are from people who simply dump their pets? How many are from people who are encouraged to dump their pets from unethical realtors like Porter who view the family pet as "disposable". How many of the pets being killed could of and should have been offered alternatives that would have kept them out of the shelter in the first place? These are the sorry questions we all need answers to.

Sadly, Porter is not alone in taking socially irresponsible policies on marketing houses that include family pets. Are these corporate positions part of a training program to deal with dogs and cats in marketing theior listings? One of her colleagues offers this advise on "leashing the family dog" in the backyard in order to show the house. Another suggests that "pet odors" are an important consideration when trying to sell your house.

One can only guess how many family dogs and cats end up in our shelters simply because home owners act irresponsibly and follow Solid Source's "professional" advise. Of course, tying the family pet out in the back yard would be a violation of Gwinnett's anti-tethering ordinance but this seems to be inconsequential in making that sale.

Those who advocate for our community's companion animals need to speak out against "corporate" policies that put any pet at risk. Realtors who work for Solid Source who don't share these same "sorry" irresponsible opinions on selling homes with pets need to speak out as well.

Marketing of houses must take into consideration the safety of all of our family pets and not become fall out that drives the escalating shelter intake that costs far too many pets their lives.

"Through May, the Gwinnett Animal Welfare and Enforcement Center has put down 2,570 dogs and cats. Last year, during the same five-month period, it euthanized 1,720."
"I don't know if it's [foreclosures], or if it's just sorry people," says Gwinnett Police Lt. Mary Lou Respess, who oversees the center. "But we have noticed an increase" in unwanted animals.
Maybe it's the "sorry" overzealous enforcement of Gwinnett's revised animal ordinance that has animal control recommending impounding pets on fixable offenses that are contributing to this crisis.

The numbers being reported by the AJC directly contradicts the information being posted on Gwinnett's Animal Shelter web site which states: "With pet overpopulation on the rise, we're proud to report a decrease in incoming animals and an increase in animals placed to individuals and rescue groups through our shelter."

The AJC should be commended for seeking out the truth about Gwinnett's shelter numbers especially since that information IS NOT being shared with local residents. It is deplorable that OUR county animal control refuses to post updated records on the number of pets that enter and die in our shelter. Nothing has been posted since year end 2006.

Despite our shelter director's opinion it's not just the "sorry people" causing the increases in "unwanted" pets turning up in our shelter. It's the small number of "sorry" realtors like the state's witness against my hounds that drive these increases as well. It's the new direction of sorry shelter management policies that help drive this huge increase in killing by not investigations allegations before recommending impounding family pets.
Instead of developing programs to help pet owners keep their pets out of our shelter we are witnesses a wave of prosecutorial sentencing that adds to the shelter numbers.
There appears to be a disconnect with our shelter's management still convinced on blaming the "sorry people" in the community for skyrocketing intake numbers. These intake numbers include an equally disturbing number of "wanted" pets that are being forced into our shelter over minor violations of our revised animal ordinance. Correctable ordinance violations that result in forcing pets into an overcrowded shelter is simply irresponsible.
This "sorry" policy comes right out of our county leadership in animal control and the courts that should be protecting the sentinel interests of our community's pets. Our pets are not the problem - it's the owners who should face the burden of penalties under the law.
This disturbing transgression is also shared in our local court system as well. Solicitor Joe Randazzo was quoted as offering me a deal to avoid trial and jail: "give up 10 of the 25 dogs, and accept 24 months on probation." While that was an improvement over animal control's recommendation of surrendering over 20 of my hounds in order to avoid a twelve year and $24,000 fine sentence any sentencing arrangement for barking dogs that leads to even one death is simply irresponsible. Are our courts so ill advised as to how irresponsible those sentencing arrangement would be?