Written by: Amanda Katz (Guestblogger Extraordinaire)
After a lengthy discussion that centered around my support for HSUS and the ASPCA, I asked Nathan Winograd via Facebook whether he supported Caboodle Ranch a failed hoarding/rescue of 700 cats. He responded that he had made no statement about the ranch, then asked me a number of questions that seemed to be sparked by my cover pic of the HSUS baby seal campaign. Here is my response to him, which came after a long series of back and forth between Winograd, myself and several other people.
Mr. Winograd – You have asked posters on your Facebook page not to put words in your mouth, yet your latest reply to me certainly puts words into mine. You seem to have made all kinds of assumptions and accusations about what I think and believe, when all I did was ask if I could post openly on your page! I am going to go ahead and share my thoughts openly, even though you removed my civil comments and banned me.
First regarding Caboodle Ranch. I am glad to see you say you would condemn a place that is causing prolonged suffering and death to animals, even if that place calls itself No Kill. That is exactly what Caboodle Ranch did.
You seem to be questioning the evidence against Caboodle Ranch solely because some of it came from PETA and ASPCA, which you claim lie about the facts. However, it is hard to see where the evidence that PETA and ASPCA got about Caboodle was a lie. Photos and video don’t lie, which is exactly why Big Ag. interests in several states are trying to pass Ag-Gag laws banning undercover investigations — and why the Caboodle defenders sound exactly like factory farmers talking about Mercy for Animals when they claim the photos and videos were doctored, staged, etc.
In the Caboodle Ranch case, PETA sent an undercover investigator at the request of several former volunteers to document the cruelty and neglect that caused the death of hundreds of cats. PETA’s investigation provided local authorities with the evidence required to shut down the ranch. At that point, local authorities asked the ASPCA to remove all 700 cats. The ASPCA housed the cats for months while the legal proceedings were sorted out, provided extensive rehabilitation and medical treatment, and eventually adopted all but the very sickest of cats into new homes.
Even if you don’t believe PETA or the ASPCA about Caboodle Ranch, there is plenty of other evidence available. Before PETA and ASPCA were ever involved, the owner sued a former volunteer turned whistleblower for defamation and lost — it is this court case that provides much of the evidence against Caboodle Ranch, such as the financial records showing that Caboodle took in much more in donations than it paid in care for the cats, and that its owner used donations for the cats to pay for trips and clothing.
That evidence, combined with evidence from PETA and the ASPCA was certainly convincing to the courts, as the judge cited it in his order awarding custody of the cats to the local sheriff. If all you do is read this court order, you will get a good idea of conditions for the animals at Caboodle Ranch.
Yes, I support the HSUS — and Other Organizations
You have also asked several questions of me. I will do my best to answer them, though you may not like the answers.
I do support the HSUS, as well as ASPCA and PETA. I also support Best Friends, and believe it or not, I support some of what you do as well. You may not think that is possible, as you have made a concerted effort to draw a line in the sand between yourself and every other national animal welfare organization. But I do not take such a black-and-white view of these issues.
First, regarding HSUS, you have presented a number of allegations on your Facebook page. I can’t answer all of those, but I can answer some, and I believe you are misconstruing their actual work and position on the issues. For example, regarding dogs rescued from fighting operations, your description of the HSUS position does not include the fact that they changed their position on this issue back in April 2009 — almost four years ago. At the time of the Vick case and the Wilkes County case, when asked, they did advise the court to euthanize the dogs. That is not the same thing as “lobbying” — the court asked, and they provided an answer. Moreover, at the time euthanasia was the standard recommendation for all dogs removed from fighting operations — most humane organizations made the same recommendation.
Fortunately the HSUS was mature enough to reconsider this position and change its recommendations to advocate for individual evaluations. Again, that happened almost four years ago now, yet you continue to write about HSUS as if euthanasia is their current position when it is not. Moreover, the HSUS remained true to its word with the rescue of 200 dogs from a fighting operation in Ohio in 2010. All but the sickest of dogs were rescued and placed into new homes.
One of those homes belongs to an HSUS employee I know personally who slept with him in the living room every night for weeks so she could be there when he woke up with nightmares. This is hardly the hard-hearted pro-killing organization that you make HSUS out to be. For more, see “HSUS Steps Up and Seeks Help for 200 Dogs Seized from Fighting Operation” by Ledy van Kavage first published on change.org.
Why do you not present this crucial part of the story when discussing the HSUS’s recommendations on fighting dogs?
Gas chamber and Michael Vick
Regarding the allegations that HSUS has lobbied against laws banning the gas chamber, I have a very difficult time believing the HSUS did that. On the contrary, the HSUS has given grants to shelters to transition them off of the gas chamber. The HSUS also actively supports the proposed Congressional resolution by Jim Moran (D-Va.) to condemn use of the gas chamber and encourage states to ban it.
You told someone farther up this thread that the Moran resolution makes an exception for shelters, but again, I think that is a misconstrual of the facts. It is a proposed resolution, not a law, so it is not binding on anyone. The national Congress is not going to pass a law regarding shelter practices because animal shelters are regulated by state and local governments, and are not a federal matter.
However, if Congress passed a resolution condemning the gas chamber, that would be an important tool in pushing states like North Carolina to ban the practice. This would be a win for the animals that we are all trying to help. That’s why resolutions like this should be supported regardless of feelings about HSUS.
Moreover, the HSUS position on the gas chamber is clear: “The HSUS considers use of the gas chamber in a shelter setting to be unacceptable under any circumstances.” The reasons are that “Gas chambers cannot provide humane euthanasia for shelter populations,” and “Gas chambers pose grave dangers to staff.”
As for Vick, I can see why the HSUS worked with him, but it is not something I actively supported. As was pointed out to you, Vick can reach inner-city kids in African American neighborhoods in a way that you, I, or Wayne Pacelle cannot. He spoke to tens of thousands of them, and if he got even one kid to reconsider going into dogfighting, that is a good thing. Unfortunately, the Vick partnership sparked a strong backlash in the animal welfare community. For that reason, I do not think it has been a success.
However, regardless of whether the Vick program was successful, it was not done as a quid pro quo to get $50,000 out of the Philadelphia Eagles. That money did not go to line anyone’s pockets but to the End Dogfighting program in Philadelphia. The Eagles also gave $50,000 grants to two other humane organizations at the same time — the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society to build a spay-neuter clinic, and Berks County Humane Society to fund a mobile veterinary clinic.
Why do you not mention those grants in your discussion of the Eagles money? Is it possible the Eagles were simply trying to improve animal welfare in their community? All three of their grants went to animal welfare programs in Philadelphia, and with a $50,000 grant, each program could help a lot more animals.
Regarding the ASPCA, I do not know as much about them as I do HSUS, but they stepped up to save 700 cats from Caboodle Ranch, as well as 350 dogs from a failed rescue in Ohio in 2011. In both cases they were asked to help by local authorities because local shelters simply do not have the capacity to handle so many animals. And in both cases almost every animal was saved, and these were very sick animals removed from horrible hoarding situations.
This demonstrates one reason why we need the national groups. What other groups have the capacity to conduct large-scale rescues from hoarding situations, fighting rings, puppy mills, natural disasters, and other cases when hundreds of animals are in need? I don’t see that any of your No Kill shelters, as wonderful as they are, have the capacity to do that.
Furthermore, in many cases in which animals were removed from so-called rescues that were really situations of great cruelty, the rescue group had a 501c3. In fact, all the national animal welfare groups have been asked to handle major removals from 501c3 rescue organizations that were actually horrible hoarding situations. Besides the ASPCA’s involvement in Caboodle Ranch in Florida and One More Chance Rescue in Ohio, the HSUS rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed 700 cats from Haven Acres in Florida, while Best Friends rescued 800 cats from For the Love of Cats and Kittens in Nevada, 150 of which still live at the Best Friends sanctuary in Utah.
All of these so-called rescue groups had a 501c3, yet they all involved extreme animal suffering. Perhaps this is why the national groups have not testified in favor of CAPA laws that would require local shelters to turn over animals to any rescue group that asks. While most rescues are wonderful organizations, clearly some of them are not — to send an animal to one of these places would condemn it to prolonged suffering and death.
A 501c3 alone is simply not enough to ensure that a place calling itself a rescue is not a death camp. Again I think you have misconstrued the position of the national organizations on this issue. While you say they have lobbied against the CAPA bills, that is not the case in the instances I have read about, such as Best Friends which remained neutral on the CAPA proposal in New York.
Personally, I think shelters should work more with rescue groups and would support a version of CAPA that provided some kind of standards for rescue groups to meet before shelters were legally required to send animals to them. I am not sure what those standards would be, but would support, for example, formation of an accrediting body for shelters and rescues similar to the organizations that accredit top zoos (Association of Zoos and Aquariums), and quality exotic animal sanctuaries (Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries). Shelters and rescues would have an incentive to achieve accreditation because accredited organizations are more likely to draw donations and be awarded grants.
We All Want to End Shelter Euthanasia
As I said earlier, while I don’t agree with some of your positions, I do support other things you do. The No Kill Equation is a list of best practices that every shelter should be striving to accomplish, and many shelters are already incorporating some, most or all of its elements into their operations. Others are not.
There is no doubt that some shelters are in dire need of reform, and I am glad your group is there to demand that they do it. But there is a difference between criticism meant to reform bad practices and a scorched earth campaign meant to destroy the very infrastructure we need to help animals. I think that your rhetoric often crosses the line into destruction rather than criticism.
Moreover, I cannot agree that there is no such thing as pet overpopulation, or that adoption alone can end shelter euthanasia. Increased adoption is certainly an essential part of what must be done, including concerted efforts at better marketing and placement of animals. Other tactics to help save large groups of animals should be supported, such as a creating a Parvo ward for puppies and a bottle baby ward for kittens, provided they are properly staffed to avoid suffering.
But we also must reduce the number of animals flowing into shelters, particularly from puppy mills and unaltered street cats. Low-cost spay-neuter for low-income areas is vital, as is legislation regulating high-volume dog breeders. Why endorse one tactic to end shelter euthanasia (increasing demand) but not another (decreasing supply)? Surely there is room for a variety of tactics to achieve this important goal.
You say that no one can provide numbers showing there are fewer homes than animals needing to be placed. That is because such national numbers do not exist. We have an idea how many animals are in shelters, but we have no idea how many are being advertised on Craig’s List and other online forums, how many stray cats are on the streets, how many people get cats from accidental litters that a friend had, etc.
The actual number of homeless animals is much, much higher than what is in shelters. For every person who gets a cat at a shelter, many more get cats from friends or the streets. That is direct competition for shelter animals and must be considered in these calculations of supply and demand. Furthermore, the animals who are in shelters do not always match what people are looking for. Most people don’t want pit bulls, yet half of dogs in shelters are pits or pit mixes. People want kittens, not adult cats, yet shelters are overflowing with adult cats. People don’t want black animals.
I’m not saying that’s right. I think it’s terrible. But regardless of what I think, someone who comes to a shelter looking for a kitten or a Pomeranian is not going to walk away with an adult black cat or a pit bull. So it’s not a matter solely of numbers. It is also a matter of preferences. Shelter director Karel Minor makes this point eloquently.
To say that people who disagree with your interpretation of these complex issues are “pro-killing” is simply not accurate. On this page I have seen you tell people who spend their entire life outside of work rescuing animals that they are pro-killing. I believe that is a misrepresentation of their hard work and counter-productive. With so many animals suffering, we need ALL tactics, ALL groups working together.
You have noted that the number of no kill communities is rising. They achieve no kill by working with others in their communities to constructively solve problems, not through vicious attacks and infighting.
I look forward to the day when all animal advocates can work together to help animals in need, when there is room for all tactics and programs to end shelter euthanasia, and when we can end this vicious infighting that is a much larger threat to the animal welfare movement than any external enemy ever could be.