Thursday, April 29, 2010

How not to lower your city's euthanasia rate

Perhaps I am being old-fashioned, but I was always led to believe that people who are members of various city and state committees and commissions are in charge of improving a certain situation.

This is why reading the past two years of Animal Shelter Commission notes bothered me so much - the members of the Commission don't seem interested in lowering our fair city's euthanasia rate, and getting the DAS spay/neuter clinic going. Instead, they obsess about:

Enforcing the unenforceable laws. The Intact Animal Permits are a good example. Why don't these people realize that running a city in police-state fashion is not going to work? There are two types of people who own intact animals: breeders of purebred animals, and people who can't be arsed to have their animals fixed. Both types are going to either ignore, or be resentful, of this law - especially when they find out that they're required to attend a "responsible pet ownership" class. Sort of like the blind leading the not so blind...

Pursuing personal vendettas. Thankfully, some of the most recent ones - like the Gideons, Texas Pawprints, and Companion Animal Network - seem to have ground to a halt after some spectators stood up at recent Commission meetings and complained about them. Bullies are generally cowards at heart, and can often be stopped by a single confrontation.

Administrative, paper-pushing stuff. This came up at this month's meeting, when a Commission member decided that she still didn't have enough committees to run. (But then thinking up new sub-committes beats doing REAL volunteer work - the kind that gets your hands dirty.)

Although the new sub-committees are supposed to improve things at DAS, and the sub-committee members were supposed to "get with Kent" regarding their suggestions for improvement, Kent Robertson's facial expression during this discussion suggested that he'd just learned that he needed a couple of root canals.

Add on stuff like the endless discussion of the Jumbotron (some big sign at the new animal shelter). I don't know why this makes me snigger, but it just does.

Just in case any of the Commission members are not familiar with how other cities have drastically lowered their euthanasia rates, I will be posting details of some of the more encouraging success stories in the next few days. Some of them DO read this blog.

Here is a link to a PDF brochure with details of Washoe County, Nevada's success in going no-kill. One of the most impressive figures is the increase of volunteers - from 30 to 1,300 - and the understanding that volunteers play a vital role in decreasing euthanasia and pet surrender rates. For one reason or another, DAS has an abysmal record of recruiting/keeping volunteers, but show no interest in recruiting more - or finding out why they don't stay.

Most cities worked with the No Kill Advocacy Center, Nathan Winograd, and/or others who realized that the old modus operandi needed to be discarded.

The case of the disappearing agenda

Even though it was pretty dull, the Animal Shelter Commission finally published an agenda for their HSUS meeting on Tuesday. I don't have a clue how this meeting went, as nobody wants to talk about it, even Commission members who update their Facebook/Twitter pages on a daily basis. (Was it that bad?)

Problem is, when I visited the City Secretary's web site to snag a copy of the agenda for posteriority, I found that it was gone:

Also, the minutes for the Animal Shelter Commission's February meeting still haven't been posted, although they were finalized during their recent meeting. Considering that there is usually no difference between the draft and final versions, I can only assume that City Hall is having more of those darn scanner problems.


Found a copy I'd printed out, so I scanned it for posteriority. To enlarge it, click on it once - depending on your browser you may be able to click on it again to make it life-size:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

tonight's date with HSUS

I will not be able to make to DAS tonight, but if anyone else does, feel free to send a report/your opinions to:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Skippy's on the ball again

I admit that, after reading up on the HSUS' current management and agenda, I am convinced that spending $25K for an HSUS rep's advice on running Dallas Animal Services is a waste of time for DAS, and a waste of money for the anonymous donor who coughed up. (I've been told that the Party Line about collecting the $25K fee from many donors is crap - a single person paid the $25K HSUS fee.)

During the Thursday Animal Shelter Commission meeting, there was talk about the HSUS/DAS meetings being confidential. When Skip Trimble, the Commission's Chair, questioned this requirement, get this:

He admitted that he hadn't read the HSUS' contract with DAS.

An attorney who doesn't read contracts?

Just about everyone in the smallish public gallery looked aghast.

Then there's that pesky state code called the Texas Open Meetings Act that the Commission thinks does not apply to them. See previous post.

The HSUS plans to meet with DAS next Tuesday at 7:00pm at the shelter on Westmoreland. If you're feeling brave, might as well try to crash the party - but get some legal advice first. Seems that, even if you're a local taxpayer who paid for the multi-million dollar bond that built the new shelter on Westmoreland, you have no say in how it's run.

Does something about this not ring true - legally or ethically?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Some Notes from yesterday's Shelter Commission meeting

Since this meeting was not posted ahead of time, I wasn't able to attend. But I've received some intelligence about the topics discussed.

Not much new, really - there was the same amount of obsessing over non-essentials.

One member, who is already sitting in a whole shitpot of committees, thought up a bunch of sub-committees for committee members to join. The public was not treated to the names or responsibilities of the sub-committees.

The most disturbing subject was the HSUS visit. Seems that even though they are being paid$25k to show up and tell DAS what they're doing wrong, the HSUS rep is demanding that their meetings with Animal Services be confidential. In other words, no public may attend.

This appears to be in violation of certain state codes, but instead, members of the Commission discussed how they could get away with keeping the meeting confidential. Remember, we have lawyers and judges in the Commission.

The only hopeful element was a new Commission member, Gloria Blum. She had no problems pointing out the shortcomings at the animal shelter, including a Yorkie with newborn puppies in the Lost and Found section that had not been provided with any sort of shelter or proper bed. She said "they were just on plastic, or on the cement floor". When she discovered the scene, most of the dog's puppies were already dead, and the two survivors were obviously suffering. Kent Robertson's explanation? It was a "training issue". Yeah, right.

More Commission highlights coming up as I receive them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Agenda for tomorrow's Shelter Commission Meeting

I think they're playing it safe.

Click here to view the Agenda for the April 22 Animal Shelter Commission meeting.

Animal Shelter Commission meets tomorrow - but it wasn't posted

Having received two e-mails asking me if I were attending the April 22 meeting, but being unable to find a single mention of it at the Dallas City Hall web site, I finally called the City Secretary's office.

Seems that the Animal Shelter Commission IS meeting tomorrow - 1:30 pm in room 6E South - but it was not posted online because of "scanning problems".

However, according to the Texas Open Meetings Act, notice of this the meeting has to be posted 72 hours prior to the start.

Who is buying into the "scanning problems" excuse?

Anyone who shares my concern about the Commission should attend if at all possible. There is a growing contingent of citizens - and rescuers - who believe that the Commission is not acting in the best interests of Dallas County's animals, or their owners. Showing up in person is an excellent way of letting them know.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Coming soon: DAS inspection videos

I am currently editing videos shot by volunteers during various DAS inspections of the Texas Pawprints shelter. I hope to begin posting them by the end of the week, but my workload is piling up so they may not appear until next week.

The reason I'm not planning to initially post each inspection in its entirety - at least not here - is that they're kind of long and not exactly action-packed.

However, to stop any accusations of selective editing, spin, or anything else, I do plan to eventually post each inspection video in its entirety, as long as there aren't any shots of DAS inspectors or volunteers picking their noses or scratching. One gets the impression that the Animal Control inspectors aren't part of the vendetta, and are only doing their jobs.

(Well, unless you've been sucked into it like Federico Chavez - check out his odd e-mail series from last month. I've yet to receive an explanation from him, and neither has the e-mails' recipient.)

So if the rumor factory had you wondering what was really going on ... it'll be here soon in living color.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why fostering may be hazardous to your fosters' health

Over the past couple of years, rescue volunteers who foster animals in their own homes are becoming increasingly nervous. This is because the 2008 changes in the City Code required them to register with the city, especially if their total number of animals in their homes ever exceeded the new limits. And if you ever foster one dog or cat with a litter of babies, chances are you're over the limit.

The Dallas Animal Advocates' blog sure makes the foster registration requirement sound like a nice deal, doesn't it? I've copied and pasted part of a 2008 blog entry here:

Second, foster families who work with local animal welfare organizations can also register with Dallas Animal Services so you can continue your life-saving work. Foster exemption applications will be considered individually so that we make sure we’re not exempting actual hoarders. And by allowing the director of DAS to consider each foster request individually, we’ve given them the ability to set the limit high for those good, experienced fosters that can handle a lot of animals. Details on this process soon also!

Here's the catch - or catches.

Anyone who registers as a foster will be eyeballed by the director* first, and also agrees to unannounced inspections. Think about it ... what if you've been at work all day, you have six foster cats, and DAS decides to drop by five minutes after you arrive home - before you can clean the litter boxes and check on food and water. If you don't have friends in low places, you run the risk of your fosters being seized and killed because of a stinky litter box or two, or for any other reason - no matter what their state of health. You won't have a chance to appeal the seizure for months, long after your fosters have all been killed by DAS. So much for your "life-saving work".

If you think I'm exaggerating, please take a look at the Commission minutes for 2008 and 2009, and the comments published within this blog.

* Who's the director? According to the City Code, it's: (14) DIRECTOR means the director of the department designated by the city manager to perform the duties assigned in this chapter or the director's authorized representative. So, the director in charge of upholding the city code can be just about anyone. And if you're familiar with City Hall to even a slight degree, you may have already realized the inherent danger of this.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Agricultural zoning? WTF?

This interesting little story arrived in my e-mail earlier today, forwarded by a blog reader.

Some background first: There is a Web site called that publishes a collection of news sites based in major cities. Rebecca Poling - a member of the Animal Shelter Commission - is editor of the Dallas Examiner's Animal Rescue section. I don't know if this is something she's paid for, but I took a look and she seems to post quite a bit.

She recently published an article about no-kill shelters, and ended it by erroneously claiming that Dallas only had two.

"Dog & Kitty City and Operation Kindness are the only "No-Kill" shelters in Dallas."

If you scroll down, there are a few comments. One commenter pointed out that there were more than two no-kill shelters in the DFW area, and mentioned a few of them, including Texas Pawprints. (New readers unfamiliar with Pawprints may want to check out my March postings.)

Seems Rebecca knows - or thinks she knows - all about the shelter. This is her reply, copied and pasted from the Comments section:

Regarding your comment about the Texas Pawprints shelter: I did not mention Texas Pawprints because I saw an article online earlier this week that says the City "effectively closed the shelter building maintained by Texas Pawprints". It explains the "Pawprints shelter building is zoned commercial." Animal shelters are only allowed in areas zoned AA (Agricultural) without a special permit which requires Residential Adjacency Review.

Goodness! If you click on the entry posted here on March 1st, you'll see that the online article she's referring to is ... the March 1st posting of this blog.

It gets better.

Since I deal with zoning now and again at work - although not nearly as much as I used to - I decided to look up the DFW Humane Society of Irving shelter at, which is the Dallas Central Appraisal District Web site . Guess what - the shelter is zoned Commercial. I then searched for Dallas Animal Services and it's zoned Commercial as well. Furthermore, you won't find anything about Agricultural zoning at

To top it all off, keep in mind that Dallas Animal Services found the Pawprints shelter irresistible - that is, when they could remember where it was. They dropped by at least seven times in two years, but it never once occurred to them to raise any zoning issues.

Only when they failed to manage to issue a single cruelty citation did they pass the buck to Code Compliance, who finally dropped by to scream "Zoned Residential! Off with their heads!"

And they couldn't even get that right.

I wonder who put Code Compliance up to this? I really can't see anyone in that department coming into work and thinking "Hey, let's go hassle a shelter that we've never received a legitimate complaint about." They have more fun hassling builders, anyway. It pays better.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Legal opinions needed

One quickie before I leave...I received this link over the weekend. It's verbose but still suggests that the current searches and seizures carried out by various animal control facilities, humane societies and SPCA chapters are illegal.

Clicking on the additional links on the left-hand side of the site takes you to more cases where animal owners lose their animals for no valid reason - and often lose much more. It's scary, police-state stuff.

I have not had time to investigate the legal implications, so comments regarding possible violations of the US Constitution (due process and other sections) are espeically welcome.

One particular irony is that some rescuers who rescued sick animals from local animal control facilities were promptly accused by the same AC facility of cruelty as they were found with sick animals in their possession. Since a sick animal generally does not recover overnight, this sort of ridiculous harassment will discourage any rescue who is willing to work with them. And more of them will die.

It reminds me of how many animal control facilities will euthanize animals with ringworm, even though it's more unsightly than anything else. It's a skin condition that causes temporary hair loss and it's not caused by a worm. It's caused by a fungus that's almost identical to the fungus that causes athlete's foot. So it's like getting the death penalty for athlete's foot.

My ex-girlfriend fostered several cats and kittens with ringworm and she's still walking around unscarred. She swore by tea tree soap, as seems this keeps the fungus from spreading to people.

FP is traveling...

... it's partly business and partly vacation. So I may not be able to update and answer emails for the next 2-4 days.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Animal Shelter Commission minutes for 2009

To read and/or download a PDF of the Animal Shelter Commission minutes for 2009, click here.

I'm afraid it's not much of an improvement over the 2008 minutes. There seems to be a lot of discussions about trivialities, and little discussion of important stuff. One member seems absolutely obsessed with Intact Animal Permits-a miniscule number.

This particuarly bothered me: the Commission admitted that one local judge automatically rules that all animals seized in cruelty cases be "humanely destroyed". (See Page 24.) This happens before the person or persons accused of cruelty are found guilty or innocent. But this barely earned more than a suggestion that the judge be educated about animal cruelty and options.

Also, although the director of Texas Pawprints was acquitted of misdemeanor animal cruelty charges in 2008 - the jury came back with an acquittal in literally nine minutes - she is still on the Shelter Commission Agenda over a year later (Page 65 of this PDF). How many members of this commission are in on this vendetta?

Other factors are equally disturbing. For example, there isn't a single useful discussion about lowering the euthanasia rate at Dallas Animal Services (DAS), which is still hovering around 80%. There's also a discussion about a member of the public who went to DAS in the hopes of adopting a dog, yet left without adopting as she and her friends found the "overall condition of the shelter and the lack of staff to be very disturbing".

Other local shelters - Carrollton and Plano - have made some impressive reductions in their euthanasia numbers. Why can't they manage this at DAS? Barely 20% of the animals who end up at DAS survive.

One suggestion: The members of the Animal Shelter Commission should be required to spend a minimum number of hours per month at the DAS as volunteers. Perhaps if they had to assist with daily euthanasia, their thoughts would be more sharply focused on reducing the numbers of animals killed.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

props to Joe Skenesky and the staff at Carrollton Animal Services

From, some good news for a change:

THIRD WEEK OF NO EUTHANASIA IN CARROLLTON: All week Joe Skenesky and the folks at the Carrollton Animal Services shelter have been dispatching e-mails updating the progress of adoptions and rescues. Yesterday, Joe sent this note: “Another great week, all of the animals have been either adopted or rescued. This makes 3 weeks in a row we have not had to euthanize. I thank you and the animals thank you for all of the hard work everyone has done to help these animals. We could not be as successful as we are without each and every one of you.”

Now, from Joe’s note we can glean this: The Carrollton shelter is working hard and keeps saving the lives of strays and surrenders who wind up in its care.

What does this mean? It means what it means in every city in the nation: The burden of properly caring for animals still is on the shoulders of the public. People have to work harder to keep animals out of shelters. The responsibility is squarely on the shoulders of every person who says, “I’d like to have puppy” or “I’ll take that kitten.” If you commit, stay committed. These are lives, not playthings.

Perhaps the Metroplex Animal Commission could learn some lessons from the Carrollton shelter instead of wasting $25K with the HSUS - an organization that does not run a single cat/dog shelter. One factor, according to local rescuers, is that Joe and his staff work with as many local rescues and shelters as possible - not just as select few blessed by the Animal Shelter Commission, as DAS does.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Clicky here for bad news

Here is a link to the Animal Shelter Commission's archived minutes for 2008.

Nice work keeping up, Skip - you're only three years behind.

Recently your correspondent received the PDFs of the Animal Shelter Commission's minutes for the year 2008. It's a 61-page document and most makes depressing reading.

Some of it, however, makes outrageous reading.

Let's see: on Page 12, within the minutes for the January 2008 meeting, the address 5210 Bonita is mentioned - the first Texas Pawprints shelter. However, Pawprints moved out in May 2005 because a more suitable property was found.

5210 Bonita was eventually turned into a boarding facility by the veterinary clinic around the corner on Henderson.

However, the folks at DAS and Skip Trimble never noticed this. Here's a verbatim excerpt from the Animal Shelter Commission minutes:

Officer Chavez provided a Cruelty Report of five current cruelty cases. Mr. McDaniel agreed to revisit the 5210 Bonita case that involves over one hundred cats in a residence. Mr. Trimble suggested the civil seizure of those cats since they are being cruelly confined. Mr. Curington said he would look into it with Dr. Thorne next week.

Let's look at this excerpt closely:

  1. 5210 Bonita was NEVER classified as a residence. Before moving in, Texas Pawprints went through the usual City inspection. After moving out, Vickery Place Animal Hospital turned it into The Cat Cottage, a feline boarding facility. This facility is still in business today.
  2. Texas Pawprints moved out of 5210 Bonita in 2005 - yet Mr. Trimble thinks that the group is still there in 2008. Wakey wakey, Skip! I can only guess that whoever showed up to do a civil seizure was pretty freakin' embarrassed.

I'll be publishing more excerpts later - including the decision that, although the Pawprints shelter director was acquitted of misdemeanor animal cruelty charges in 2008, that the Animal Shelter Commission would continue to harass her and the group. That pearler is in another month's minutes.

If you'd like an emailed copy of the 2008 minutes, drop me a line. I can't offer it for upload here as this blog template doesn't have that functionality. (Actually it does now - check out the blog entry above this one.)