Monday, November 24, 2008

Achieved Purpose?

A couple of years ago San Francisco city leaders spearheaded the movement to pass SB861, the state legislation that permits municipalities to enact local BSL for the purpose of controlling overpopulation. Since that time, the city has remained the only one in the Bay Area and one of very few state-wide to avail themselves of this option. The city’s ordinance requires pit bulls, as determined by Animal Care and Control, over the age of 6 months to be spayed/neutered unless granted an exception. The fines collected from those who fail to comply are to be utilized not to provide low cost or free pit bull S/N, but rather to fund the ‘pit bull breeding permit program’ – a system for issuing permits to those who would like to breed their pit bulls.

You may be asking yourself ‘what’s the problem?’ After all, we all generally agree that we would like to see a dramatic decrease in pit bull breeding and an end to casual backyard breeding. Beyond the fact that we know voluntary S/N programs work best, and BSL comes with horrible unintended consequences like difficulty finding a rental that will accept your dog, San Francisco has enacted what politicians like city mayor Gavin Newsom rail against the state and federal governments for – an unfunded mandate. In this case the mandate is imposed by the city on the citizens.

While the rest of the Bay Area encourages and supports pit bull owners in their efforts to do the right thing and S/N their dogs through low cost and free services, San Francisco’s efforts are limited to fining those unable to afford to do the right thing. Take for example, a nurse I spoke with recently. A city employee and native, she’s spent her professional career devoted to treating incarcerated youth. A dog lover, she’s only owned rescued dogs and does not discriminate by breed. Are you getting the impression that she’s a good person and responsible citizen yet? A few weeks ago, by way of a friend of a friend, she came into possession of a young female pit bull puppy. When the San Francisco SPCA would not accept the dog, she stopped by SF ACC where she got the distinct impression the dog’s chances of survival were slim. Though she has 2 small dogs already, she decided to try to find the puppy a new home herself. Since then she’s been crate training, house training, exercising the energetic pup for hours every day and searching for a place to spay her. At about 6 months old, the dog is required to be spayed under SF’s ordinance. The unintended rescuer wants to comply, wants to be responsible and doesn’t want to pay a fine, but she cannot find an affordable spay clinic in San Francisco. The prices quoted for spay of a dog over 40 pounds range from $350 - $450; euthanasia is substantially cheaper. Local rescues can probably get a cheaper rate through their arrangement with vets based on their non-profit status, but because SF still has an overpopulation problem despite their BSL, San Francisco rescues report that there’s ‘no room at the Inn’.


One bright spot in the S/N situation in San Francisco is the FREE mobile S/N service offered twice a month by the Peninsula Humane Society. PHS provides the service that SF based organizations should be providing. Unfortunately, the need is far greater than the space available and from what I hear, people routinely line up at 5am for the first come, first served program and it still often takes several weeks before actually getting in for service – a burden, even a barrier, for residents with full time jobs and families.

The fate of this pup remains to be seen. If only the Good Samaritan lived in the East Bay, South Bay, on the Peninsula or even in Sacramento, she could easily do the right thing for the dog and the community. If only she had morning after morning to wait in line for weeks. Unfortunately she lives in San Francisco, works a full time job with a shift that ends at 8am, and as a result, may be unable to save this dog from euthanasia after all. If the purpose of San Francisco’s BSL S/N ordinance is to decrease the city’s pit bull population, in this case, I guess maybe it worked.


14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, a ray of light is, that PHS offer low cost S/N at their location(San Mateo, I believe). Just need to get an appointment to save a nice chunk of money, AND do the right thing :)

Anonymous said...

A suggestion.....why not UCD/VMTH? They are more than reasonable. And they keep the pup overnight as precaution. From Bay area, fairly close.

Anonymous said...

It is absurd that there are no low cost or free options in San Francisco provided by the city or by organizations based in the city. Pit bull owners who cannot afford spay or neuter surgeries have virtually no options. Even if they would happily spay or neuter their dogs, they are criminalized and forced to hide their dogs or give them up to a city shelter that rarely adopts out pit bulls. At the very least fine and permit money collected should be used to provide spay and neuter surgeries for pit bulls.

Anonymous said...

SF/SPCA offers a low-cost S/N program for all breeds of dogs and cats whose owners live in SF. They offer free spays and neuters for all breeds of dogs and cats if a SF citizen is homeless or low-income. This clinic is the same one that performs the S/N surgeries (often with medically needed add-ons, such as urgent dental work) for Vet SOS, the mobile van with a veterinarian and volunteer vet techs, that also operates in San Francisco and provides free services to homeless and low-income citizens unable to go to the SF/SPCA in person. PAWS vouchers are also good at the SF/SPCA spay and neuter clinic and also at the SF/SPCA vet hospital.

Scheduling a S/N appointment at the SF/SPCA might be a few weeks out for this really kind rescuer, but if she calls a few times before the appointment there may be a cancellation that she can take?

Anonymous said...

A few weeks to get an appointment at SFSPCA? What a crock. This city has rejected its pit bulls in every way. I don't know how it can maintain its reputation as pet friendly when people are expected to travel to San Mateo to comply with the discriminatory law.

Anonymous said...

I just heard that Marin Humane is fixing pits for free the week of Jan 26, so I bet that's the week of this year's Pit Fix. It should mean that other shelters around the Bay are also doing it for free.

I'm shocked at the dearth of resources for people in SF, of all places.

JamminJosie said...

Do you guys benefit from Maddie's fund? I'm in the Phoenix, AZ area and Maddie's fund helps over a dozen local vets provide pit bull spay and neuter free for residents of our county. Check it out: http://www.maddiesfund.org/projects/maricopa_spay.html

Maybe this is something your SPCA or AC&C could work towards. People make an appointment so they can do it around their work schedule. They don't have to stand in lines like what you are describing. It really is a great program.

Anonymous said...

Don't know that it's really all that easy to qualify for low cost or free services from SF/SPCA spay/neuter clinic. A friend of a friend recently found herself with a pit bull to re-home (another person trying to do the right thing!) and made an appointment at the SPCA clinic for a neuter. On the day of her appointment she brought him in and they wanted $350 to neuter a healthy, 7 month old male dog. That's absolutely criminal! She walked out (and made at appointment to bring him to PHS' clinic in San Mateo.)

Dan said...

I think it's important to point out dogs and cats are euthanized in SF, due to the pet overpopulation. Wingnuts like Nathan Winograd, that condemn shelters for putting down dogs that they can't find homes for, claim SF has gone no kill. The fact is that SF is NOT no kill, and no major city realistically can be no kill until we get rid of puppy mills and reduce breeding.

Anonymous said...

San Francisco is NOT No Kill, it was years back which is what Winograd is referring to. He does not believe San Francisco is currently a No Kill city. He is actually assisting groups like fixsanfrancisco.org in working towards making San Francisco No Kill once again. Animals aren't dying in shelters because of pet overpopulation alone, they are dying because shelters aren't giving them the opportunity to be adopted. Low cost S/N is becoming scarce, unlike in the past, and that is the first obstacle in controlling the pet population. In addition shelters are placing labels on animals which deam them "unadoptable" even if there are people out there willing to work with them or take them into their homes. They are not giving them the rehabilitation, be it behavioral and/or medical, they deserve/need to be placed in homes. The San Francisco SPCA is even going to the extent of bringing in animals from outside of San Francisco County who are "more adoptable" and adopting them out while they decline San Francisco animals (who don't meet their "criteria") from Animal Care and Control. These declined animals are then slated to be killed, unless a rescue group (who are already overloaded with adoptable animals many that have been declined by the SF SPCA) can take them . San Francisco can very well be a No Kill city as it once was, there just needs to be support and cooperation amongst the shelters and rescues of the city. Politics and labels are really what is getting in the way of making San Francisco a true No Kill city.

Anonymous said...

San Francisco is NOT No Kill, it was years back which is what Winograd is referring to. He does not believe San Francisco is currently a No Kill city. He is actually assisting groups like fixsanfrancisco.org in working towards making San Francisco No Kill once again. Animals aren't dying in shelters because of pet overpopulation alone, they are dying because shelters aren't giving them the opportunity to be adopted. Low cost S/N is becoming scarce, unlike in the past (when the SF SPCA would actually PAY YOU to s/n your animal), and that is the first obstacle in controlling the pet population. In addition shelters are placing labels on animals which deem them "unadoptable" even if there are people out there willing to work with them or take them into their homes. They are not giving them the rehabilitation, be it behavioral and/or medical, they deserve/need to be placed in homes. The San Francisco SPCA is even going to the extent of bringing in animals from outside of San Francisco County who are "more adoptable" and adopting them out while they decline San Francisco animals (who don't meet their "criteria") from Animal Care and Control. These declined animals are then slated to be killed, unless a rescue group (who are already overloaded with adoptable animals, many that have been declined by the SF SPCA) can take them . San Francisco can very well be a No Kill city as it once was, there just needs to be support and cooperation amongst the shelters and rescues of the city. Politics and labels are really what is getting in the way of making San Francisco a true No Kill city.

Donna said...

Thanks for contributing anon 10:34. I have to disagree with you on your recollection of No Kill history, though.

San Francisco may have once had a vision* of No Kill, but it never stepped up for one of the most popular breeds in our cities. You know the breed I'm talking about, right? ;-)

Instead, the breed was branded unadoptable by many - a convenient way to build live release numbers that looked good enough to brag about.

BAD RAP started in 1999, back when SF was killing adoptable pit bulls as a matter of course. We absorbed large numbers of pit bulls from SF into our foster homes in our early days, but stopped when SF decided to discriminate against the breed with targeted legislation. (Our focus has since turned towards cities like Berkeley and Oakland that offer all adoptable animals their best possible efforts.)

In my opinion, SF can never achieve No Kill while rejecting any one group of animals, and one of the key changes it will have to make if it wants to try for the No Kill Prize again is to abolish the discriminatory law that shames pit bulls and their owners. We're prepared to be VERY impressed with SF if it decides to do that!

Anonymous said...

While the SF SPCA does not accept pit bulls into their adoption program (unless they're mixes and even then they're probably pretty rare at the SPCA), SF Animal Care & Control DOES, and I've heard that they do a fairly good job of screening people who want to adopt pits. So in spite of the BSL, San Francisco, and San Franciscans, have not "rejected" pit bulls -- but hopefully something can definitely be done about the fines for unfixed pit bulls going toward FREE spay/neuter for all pits.

Donna said...

Okay - why so many anons on this topic?

Anon 5:41
I have to say, breed discrimination legislation is one of the biggest rejections a breed and its owners can face. Sheltering agencies set the tone for their citizens when it comes to animal welfare issues, and pit bulls have been getting a constant blast of negative in SF since Newsome first indicated that he wanted a ban. His tuff-talk boner has dropped but the shelter dogs are still suffering from the city's very negative messaging.

Have you seen this?: http://www.sfgov.org/site/acc_page.asp?id=30911

Does it make you want to go out and adopt a wonderful pit bull today?

This kind of 'adopters beware' promotion sets a dire tone and has very real effect not only on lagging adoption rates, but on the dog owners themselves who run into city-supported stereotypes in their daily lives. I'm not sure if SF's intent was to stereotype but it's pretty thick over there. I've been hit with it myself over during a recent stray pick up episode (a bizarre story that needs to be told in full with photos when I have a minute) and it was sad, strange and rather shocking.

By the way, this criticism is no reflection on the shelter staff in SF who are stuck underneath this thing. Like someone said earlier .. Politics. Bleh.