Sunday, October 30, 2011

using intimidation in Wilmington DE

According to the animal control officers interviewed in this news report, Wilmington DE has been rounding up dogs from low income people who can't afford special licensing fees and spay/neuter surgeries and warehousing them since 2000. Some are housed in overcrowded kennels for up to two years until they get too sick to keep. The euthanasia numbers must be staggering.

Mandatory Spay Neuter. San Francisco tells us that it's working for them, yet the city shelter recently alerted its public that it would not be able to accept any more dogs because of overcrowding. Pit bulls (as well as other breeds) continue to pour in the doors. SF-based rescues post desperate ads for foster homes on Craigslist, and dogs that can't be reached in time continue to die.

Are laws that target pit bull owners working? This report from DE is one of the most to-the-point demonstrations we've seen of the practice in action. Please take a minute to watch the video attached to the news report and tell us what you think.

Wilmington "crack down."

In the meantime, pit bull owners have been streaming in to fill appointments for free spay neuter surgeries offered at our recent Celebrate Your Pit Bull fair. From one event, thirty four surgeries completed on site and 58 are scheduled. One gentleman told me "Thank you. You saved my life. My female got pregnant by her son and I didn't have money to end the pregnancy." She was spayed during the event. Her son is getting fixed this week. Photos of the event.

When it's so easy to help under-served dog owners get their dogs fixed using a welcoming, voluntary approach, why would anyone want to use coercive laws and intimidation?

28 comments:

Lauren said...

Thank you for your always thought-provoking posts. The overwhelming trend seems to be if you offer education and assistance, people and their dogs will come and will eagerly soak up all you offer.

Your responsible lead-by-example approach has caused me to a) become more educated about training and becoming an advocate for my own pit bull type dog, and b) led me to point others in the direction of your blog and training videos to begin to educate others.

Boris said...

Great post - addressing the keys to changing behavior:
"One seeks to help the individual solve problems s/he faces, rather than merely helping to solve
the problems s/he presents to others." (www.behaviorlinstitue.org)

I believe the folks enforcing these poorly designed 'mandates' go home feeling frustrated and demotivated.
At a 'fair', we've seen everyone including volunteers going home smiling and empowered as they all walk off into the sunset 'butts waggin'.

Come make it happen in Tx,

p.s. - like the new WEB lay-out but lost the +1 and f like boxes?

Lynn (in Louisiana) said...

and your video on the sidebar --> reiterates your point beautifully

Anonymous said...

I think it's important to clarify that the Delaware SPCA only handles animal control for the city of Wilmington. The Kent County SPCA where I am employed handles animal control for the rest of the state of Delaware. The Kent County SPCA does not support BSL or breed bans. We recognize that these type of laws are not effective. We have a voluntary free spay/neuter program called the PAWS (Pit Bull Advocacy & Wellness Services) Program that was just created 6 months ago. Through this program we choose to support the community through outreach and services instead of punishing the community. This article only refelcts a small portion of the state and it seems to provide a limited perspective with a strong negative bias towards the breed which may not reflect the whole community. There are advocates for the breed in our state and we are working hard to make changes in Delaware. We could really use your support to help us combat the negative plublicity. Thank you for bringing attention to this issue.

Jaime Lay
www.kcspca.org

Rhonda K. in Delaware said...

Donna, this article makes me sick to my stomach. I just need to clarify I volunteer with the Kent County SPCA, which handles animal control for all of DE except the city of Wilmington. The KCSPCA has recently created a voluntary free program called PAWS (Pit Bull Advocacy and Wellness Services) that is providing free wellness and spay/neuter services to all of DE. As you know, it's hard to overcome such negative publicity and also obtain the necessary funding. Do you have any advice to help with the multitude of issues this biased article has raised?

Dianne said...

I thought Delaware had passed one of the strongest No Kill CAPAs. What happened?

Anonymous said...

Compelling argument - Your shots and altering faires are first class success stories for all of us to take notice. We need to go out to our communities and provide the services that truly make the difference.

Lynn in N. Cal

Anonymous said...

HOLY F***! I just watched the video and am sick to my stomache. Come on people - there has to be a better way and the only alternative to date are providing the services to the community. We all know this type of handling of the dogs and people lurks in the back of our heads - but to watch it in the video sickened me.

Lynn in N. Cal

Jackie said...

Watch any episode an "Animal Cops", and the exact same type of law enforcement is recorded year after year. That is basic animal control, enforcing the laws of all the cities, counties and states. These officers are just enforcing the laws that exist there. Nothing new.

Donna said...

Jamie, Rhonda - Thank you both for commenting and for telling us about PAWS. As awful as this article is, you're right in that it raises issues that need to be examined - not only for Wilmington but anywhere that we see bsl including mandatory s/n. I'm sure readers would love to know more about your program so they can see how it's been working and of course to support your work.

Jackie - Bad laws are written all the time. The law highlighted in this article is being used to target dog owners who don't have the resources to comply. You're right in that this kind of profiling is "nothing new" - and it's a reminder of how much work we have to do before we can be considered a humane society.

Donna said...

I'm told by a frustrated commenter that this webform is having issues and their recent comments did not post. Sorry about the snafu. Please try again if you're hoping to add to this conversation.

ForPetsSake said...

It's frustrating to me as a vet tech to see people try to care for their pets but don't have the financial means to do so. It feels that although there are needs for good homes and people willing, breed restrictions, and cost make pet ownership a luxury in our society. Ridiculous! I know if I didn't work where I do, (with employee benefits) I'd struggle for each vet and food dollar for my dogs. Thank goodness for organizations like Bad Rap that enable all people to spay and neuter their dogs. Have a good Halloween and find joy today in being "one of the good guys".

Jackie said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with the comment forum. I think you are picking and choosing who you want to post, depending on if it agrees with your views.

It is your blog, so I guess you have that right.

Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

You are so right. Free, low-cost, and wonderful S/N programs exist in so many places; the trick is to get them to the people who need them. Making anything mandatory is not going to solve that problem.

Donna said...

(Jackie - I did not have the luxury of seeing comments that the poster says were lost.)

ForPetsSake. Good points and a topic worth exploring. Your post makes me think of the dogs that come in to shots fairs with blown knees. What do you tell a family who can't begin to pay their utilities much less ortho-surgery for their dog? Your dog is going to live in excruciating pain and at some point you'll have to decide if he can't take it anymore? You might not be able to find (or afford) a vet who'll put him down for you, so take him to the shelter where you may or may not able to be with him when he dies? Your kids don't deserve to have a dog until you can have a cushion to cover those unexpected vet costs? A whole other topic from discriminatory laws that mandate that someone fork out s/n surgery fees "or else" -- But in the same vein of dogs becoming luxury items for the middle class.

Samantha Laine said...

Gonna leave Wilmington for a minute, check crack down report later. Too damn similar and gut wrenching -- to here, Charlotte, NC. Only difference is wait time here for destruction is much less. But numbers destroyed daily weekly monthly is horrific. Pit bulls account for 50-60% stray impounds. No adoption. Miniscule transfer to rescue. I do believe you guys painted it brilliantly on JONNY JUSTICE poster. Stereotypes victimize. First the people, then their companions. Makes it oh so easy for AC to keep killing wheels turning, inventory balanced. Takes a whole lotta elbow grease or carrot stick politics to convince powers that be to put prejudices and stereotypes to the side. To look for a solution. Thanks for this post, and for the forum.

Samantha Laine said...

A m e n.

Amber said...

What kills me is the number of pit bulls killed right here in my own area. I live right outside of Stockton, CA a few years ago they FINALLY started adopting them out in the local shelter. Yet our shelters are overflowing, euthanasia rates are sickening, and all people like me can do is sit back and watch as hundreds of dogs are killed day after day. I can only do so much with a limited income and we only try to educate others. It just seems sometimes like the breeding of pit bulls here will never end and we will keep seeing a staggering number of euthanasias.

Donna said...

Amber - the central valley really is another world and looks just like our area did 10 years ago. Don't disparage, tho. Change can happen relatively quickly when the right personalities line up and get busy. If you're working on this issue with others, lay out some realistic goals in 1, 3, 5 and 10 year increments. What you can make happen in one year's time may not look like much, but once you get your groove on, you can watch it roll into what you want to see happen 5 years from now. I've almost forgotten what it's like to see sick, overcrowded dogs in the shelter we work with -- but 10 years ago it looked like hell. So much can change if you stay stubborn!

Anonymous said...

I've researched and spoken to several vet and vet techs. I have a male APBT (licensed and papered) and I've found in my search for a healthy and happy dog that you should not get larger dogs fixed until they are 2 yrs old. This is the time that bone and muscle density slow their building. There is no scientific proof that getting your animal fixed will prevent aggression. What about us responsible owners? What happens to our dogs? Just an fyi.. Chihuahuas were recently placed on the public nuisance list in Australia. BSL can and will effect us all. Thomas Jefferson said; All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. Let's not remain silent. And let's not let tyranny gain that foothold! Let's fight for the breed we all know and love. "The Nanny Dog." Angie and/or Blue Herron on f.b.

Jaime Lay said...

Hi Donna,

Yes, the program that we have recently created is called PAWS (Pit Bull Advocacy & Wellness Services). This is a voluntary program for Pit Bull type dogs in Delaware. We provide free spay/neuter, vaccines, and microchips. We also have a food pantry that provides free food to pet owners. Here is the link to find out more about our program.

http://www.kcspca.org/shelter-programs/paws-program.html

Amber said...

Donna, Do you have any advice that a person like me (an individual not directly involved with an organization due to not liking some of the rescues around me short of a few) could take and use to help the dogs around me? Its heartwrenching when you are constantly surrounded by dogs in need, people ignorant to the issue, and breeding their dogs as much as possible to get money and fighting dogs. The crime rate in stockton makes it scary to try to do much but I feel the strong need to do SOMETHING!

Phil said...

I choose to believe that everyone involved is good intentioned. Of course, that may not be true, but I really hope so. Perhaps I'm just in an optimistic mood. The good I see from this story is that people are agreeing that we should spay and neuter are dogs. I can remember a time when even that was hotly debated. Clearly the approach is wrong, but at least we're taking steps in the right direction.

Donna said...

Hi Amber - Have you checked out the animal welfare groups in your area to see if you can find a way to plug in? It's so much easier on the heart to have comrades during this work. If no groups, then maybe you can find a couple of like-minded people who feel the same way you do and want to organize something? We felt pretty hopeless until we met a few pit bull owners in the late 90's. It's amazing what a few fired people can get accomplished when they put their minds to it. Good luck!

Hi Phil. You're good to be an optimist. The hard part of being an optimist with this particular story is that people who can't afford to spay/neuter their dogs are having them confiscated, and those that are taken are being warehoused until (according to the report) they get so sick that they have to be destroyed. I'm not able to find a silver lining in that scenario. What do you think?

Jackie said...

Why have any laws at all? Why not just let people do what they want completely voluntarily. Since everybody is so good all the time, and everybody does every thing right all the time, why have any laws at all?

Because people don't do the right thing all the time, and don't make the best decisions. Laws are designed to regulate what people do, and give them consequences when they decide to break the laws.

Why have speeding laws? Why have laws to prevent people from robbery and murder?

Mandatory spay/neuter is the same. Like most laws, some people will follow them, some people will not and some people will do both throughout their lives.

Not spaying or neutering is like allowing the murder of millions of animals every year because, for whatever reason, they don't spay/neuter their pets. Because animals are still considered property and things, many people still see the murder of animals like burning a pile of wood in the back, breaking up an old chair, or picking up the trash in the morning. Has anybody seen how the barrels of dead animals in a shelter are picked up? They are thrown in a garbage truck like your trash can on your street.

Instead, when you see an animal as a living, breathing sentient being, murdering them in shelters because they were allowed to be born because somebody did not spay their female, who got loose "again" and bred "again" with Duke down the road, it is harder to allow there constant murder in shelters.

I see that as a crime that can be controlled tremendously with mandatory spay/neutering laws, along with a lot of other ideas. Pet over population is multi-faceted, and mandatory spay/neuter is a very large part of solving the problem.

Just because a city has a mandatory spay/neuter law does not mean everybody will follow it, just like any law. If a law is not enforced, people will not follow it. If I did not not see CHP all along the roads where I travel, I might push the speed limit a bit more. However, I always have in the back of my mind, "get a speeding ticket, my insurance goes up, or I get into an accident." I think like that, however, a lot of people still break the law. That is human nature.

Compare that to if no speed limit laws existed. Can you imagine how dangerous the roads would be 10 times more than they already are.

Laws exist in all civilized societies. If you don't agree with the law, break it and see how far you get. If you don't agree with the law, get it changed.

mjmmorales said...

Thanks bad rab Linda & Donna for all the training help.Badrappitbull.org rocks :)

Mandy said...

I have to add a comment that does not necessarily agree with your viewpoint. I work for a humane society in Michigan (an open-admission facility, which we have to be because we are responsible for housing all the strays of our county). We have the highest save rate of any shelter around us, and are very pro-pit. We take them in, we adopt them out. We run low-cost vaccine clinics, we offer free spay/neuter services to those who need it (especially designed for pit bulls, but we won't turn a dog away). And despite all our efforts, pit bull breeding and fighting continues to be a huge problem in one local city. That city recently passed a mandatory spay/neuter law for pit bulls, and while I was initially appalled... I am now in support of it. So many of the pit owners that come through our doors under this law tell us that they are glad it was passed, because when ACOs come to their door to enforce it, they are told about our program. They would have never heard of it otherwise. Most of these people are good owners who don't have the resources to get the vet care their dogs deserve, and are thankful that the law has brought up awareness for the program. Of course, there are the exceptions. But what we are trying to do is not punish owners... but end irresponsible backyard breeding, and end pit bull fighting. So far, it seems to be working, and we haven't had much negativity about it. I hope that continues.
Now... so long as that is the only legislature they pass, I will be happy.

Donna said...

What you are getting Mandy, is the low hanging fruit so to speak. These are the same people who would happily come out and get their dogs fixed if there were no law and if they had been alerted to a program.

What you will not get I'm sorry to say, are many of the people who are on the fence about the surgery. I guarantee you that you are no longer seen as a friendly resource to them, but instead, an enforcement agency who wants to punish them for having an intact dog. These same people will hide their dogs away and decide to avoid your training classes and public events that celebrate pit bulls.

You'll also likely get a backlash from landlords who believe something must be wrong with the breed if the city has restricted the ownership of the dogs. Why would you want to rent to a family with a dog that needs to be regulated? I'm very, very sorry that your city chose to go this route and wish you every success in building back the relationships that will be hurt by it.