Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dogs Killed To Keep Kennels Empty

The city and police are killing dogs as they enter the shelter in order to keep a specific number of kennels empty so that they can clean the facility.

It was pointed out in June that the Animal Control bid was, at least, suffering a conflict of interest what with the Police Chief reviewing the bids as well as submitting a police bid for the handling of AC. Not to mention he was sitting on the bid award committee. At worst case, what with seven city employees having ties to the Foundation via spouses, it was rigged in the true fashion of back door politics. (Please go here, and here, for a little additional background coverage. You'll have to excuse the fact that the actual city paperwork showing the interconnectedness of the groups has been pulled from online records. Convenient. I have been told that a few people made copies of these records before their disappearance and am trying to get copies to post.)

Where's the Foundation in all of this? It cries at the top of its lungs that the HSCC was awful, but the Foundation is NOT doing a thing about this. Smacks of insider practices when the Foundation will go after the Humane Society for the very things it's turning a blind eye to when it's the city. I have to ask myself, what kind of group is it that sits idly by knowing what is happening and does nothing? Why would a group, which touts itself the supporters of animals and collects great amounts of funds in its purported efforts to help them, has not stepped forward and actually made a difference when it's truly needed? I have to ask myself how I could have been so naive as to not see this in them when I was donating time and money to help build the new shelter.

Oh, yes, the regional Humane Society came and looked at the shelter. That's the same regional group that attends every Fur Ball and was emailed to support the shut-down of the HSCC by the mayor and Foundation individuals. (Though the city received a non-committal answer in response stating that the regional HSUSA position must be that of consulting.)

Nobody seems to be able to answer whether or not the Animal Control bid was awarded. If so, then the city should have at least $230k over and above the old operating budget of the Humane Society and it would be interesting to know what they're doing with it, other than kill animals to keep open kennels.

Some private citizens and vets are aware of the empty kennel requirement and are paying for boarding out-of-pocket in order to keep cats and dogs out of the shelter in order to re-home them, knowing they'll be killed if sent to the shelter.

If the bid hasn't been awarded, then why? On July 3rd, at the City Commission meeting, an extension of 30 days was granted. That's long past. What's the deal?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Pound

Over at Electric City Weblog an interesting post was put up a while ago by GeeGuy. You can find it here

It garnered a response with a question about the Pound which you can find here

So, what IS going on over at the Pound?

Let's talk cats first. The city's response when they receive a call about a cat rescue is "we can't do anything," OR, "leave it, it'll come down out of the tree by itself." The fire department says they don't have the equipment to rescue cats (though, I must say, at least they went out to try on ONE occasion I'm aware of.) The last two rescues I observed were of cats in trees for over 3 days. They were rescued by The Tree Man.

For many years now, The Tree Man has voluntarily taken out his equipment, day or night, rain or snow, and rescued any cat. He does this without charge. He was acknowledge for this civic service by the Humane Society of Cascade County (HSCC). He is still doing it.

Only ONE Animal Control Officer calls him for rescue help. This ACO can only do that when HE knows about the need. So, many cats are simply left stuck for days on end, sometimes in bad weather, up the tree. The city does NOT call him.

The city is also handing out baited traps to people in order to catch cats on the loose. Problem is, many cats are being destroyed at the pound as they are unable to hold them. The claim is that these cats are considered feral. Many may be, many may not be. And, yes, we do have a cat problem in GF, no getting around that.

Dogs. Three separate reports came to me that the individual currently physically running the pound took a blue heeler out of its kennel, off leash, and outside, where it was hit by a car. Luckily, there were no injuries. However, the dog was then taken to the person's home as a foster. Being a heeler, it nipped and or bit a person (report came from this individual). They had the dog put down. This happened, even though I'd given the name of a rescue group for the dog. What fool puts a Heeler in a house with kids? What fool thinks that the name "heeler" means nothing?

Great to know that the person running the pound doesn't know diddly about dogs.

There is a 72 hour hold when animals first come in. After that, no guarantees on how long an animal has until put down. Funny, other pounds have specific time limits that are posted. You can actually go in and ask to adopt an animal that's nearing its time. Here, it must depend on the direction of the wind, I guess.

When the city took over the building, the only two state certified euthanasia techs didn't get hired. This meant that the local vets were called upon to put down animals. It's my understanding they did this on a sort of round-robin call system. One of the vets (and I wish, so as not to cause problems for the many honorable, moral, and caring vets in the town, I could offer a name, but I won't,) chose not to use an anesthesia shot prior to the death shot. The outcome was ugly. This vet is no longer called to the pound.

I know that the HSCC was required to submit a monthly report on animals picked up, held, adopted and euthanized. To date no one has been able to get their hands on any such report from the pound. Are the police not filing? Is it because the pound doesn't want the number of kills out and about? Is it because tough questions asked seem to make paperwork disappear, regardless of the subject?

I do know that the regional Humane Society has done a walk-through and given suggestions as to improvements. Funny, some of the same problems that the Animal Foundation and city cited against the HSCC were brought up at this walk-through.

Any money a person donates to the current pound goes into the city coffers. It may never reach the pound.

Being as I work all over town, as do a couple of other people, we compared notes and found that the majority consensus by citizens in GF is, The Animal Foundation of Great Falls has been raising funds (which I and these others have contributed to) for about 5 years. Why, in the past 2 years, when the need by the animals was so great, according to them, under the HSCC and now the city, has the Foundation NOT scaled back on its building plans and actually gotten an improved building up? Statement made by one individual who has donated quite a bit - There is NO evidence that they are actually worried about the welfare of the animals as much as they seem to be worried about the design and impact of their building.

Question posed at a City Commission meeting in July: Will the current shelter be no-kill? Will the Animal Foundation's shelter be a no-kill?

No answer was given. No response made. Not at the meeting, not in a public forum such as the Trib. Not by the city officials or the Foundation board members.

This is all ugly. People feel duped. And rightfully so. Here is what I see as a private citizen who has donated money, damned be the politics - I donated for a new, much needed shelter for the animals of Great Falls. I have done this since the beginning. There is over 1 million dollars sitting in an account which could be helping animals in need. It's not. Build a smaller shelter and plan for future expansion. Forget the dog park. Those animals have homes. Deal with the overcrowding, the kills, the sub-standard facility that can't handle what is happening now. Underwrite some of the costs of fostering animals. HELP the animals. That's what I gave my money and donated services for auction at fund raisers for, not to sit idle in an account when the need is clear and present.

I know this is a VERY hot topic. However, I measure everyone's care, concern and truthfulness by their actions, not their lip service. I see individuals paying for the health care and on-going maintenance of animals they personally rescue and re-home. I see individuals personally donating time, effort, income and materials to rescue, foster, rehabilitate and re-home animals. I see individuals stepping in and taking the responsibility for animals which they know will be put down in order to give them another chance. I see individuals within the HSCC still finding foster homes for dogs and cats, personally paying for rehabilitation or obedience classes, even though they don't have a building any longer.

Meanwhile, I've heard NOTHING about the award of the Animal Control bid which was extended by the City Commissioners on July 3rd. Anyone know the status?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Busy, Busy

I'm posting this short and sweet to let you know that I'm more out-of-town working dogs, than in, at the moment. It's not that I don't have anything to post, it's merely that I'm traveling.

I apologize and want to let you all know that I'll be in and out until near the first of the month. I'll try to free-up time when I'm in an internet access location to post about IG-lF

Will get back to you all soon...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Unhappy Dogs

Just had a good talk with some old friends, C. and A., who are real dog handlers. They are compassionate, intelligent, caring, good breeders, great dog handlers and steely-eyed when it comes to what dogs need to be good dogs and maintain good breeding lines. They stand with a handful of other people, a couple of whom are here in GF and others around and out of the country, that I count as friends who really KNOW dogs. And they have good dogs to prove it. And I'm not speaking of mere obedience when I say good dogs.

We got to talking about why dogs have problems. Why so many are in shelters, euthanized, given away, abandoned, ignored, spoiled or taken to trainer after trainer.

The answer is simple - people. And in the dog's life people come in three important forms, breeders, owners and trainers.

The majority of individuals in all of the three forms do everything they do only from a human perspective, for self-gratification, for money and for their own egos. Some even go so far as to combine and manage to indulge in all of these. The dog is expected to do all the adapting.

Possibly when people really learn to KNOW dogs, how they think, what they need, when they need it, what they do when they get it or don't get it, how they communicate, what makes them mentally, socially, physically and psychologically secure and healthy - maybe then the majority of dogs won't be considered problems. Maybe then the majority of dogs won't HAVE problems. Maybe then people will see the majority dogs behaving as truly happy dogs.

My best to missed friends...Jill, Annie, Jack, Belle and Roz, to name a few

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Cavalier - GF's Newest Assistance Dog

Discussing the Cavalier, which is Great Falls' newest Assistance Animal, had people calling and emailing me with questions. Many people are curious as to exactly what this dog does as an Assistance Animal. The Cavalier's handler has written a piece, which I have added below, about the dog's responsibilities, duties and skills.

I'm the owner of the Cavalier that Susan has posted about in the last few blogs, and I believe that I need to clarify the Cavalier's role. She is my co-therapist. I utilize her with children that have been diagnosed with severe emotional disturbances.

Her primary place of work is at an office; however, a child may be exhibiting behaviors that are interfering with their ability to cope in the public (school, childcare center, stores, etc.) When discussing what the Cavalier's responsibilities would be, Susan thought it would be best to certify her as a 'Psychiatric Service Dog', because a child may be experiencing distress within the public arena and the dog would be needed to assist the child in processing what is occurring so that they may continue with their life. This would be in the format of being a crisis response dog,
and with all of these differing responsibilities the Cavalier needs to occasionally have public access rights. Because a therapy dog only works within specific arenas and does not have rights to enter the public, this would prohibit the amazing and unique work that this Cavalier does.

The Cavalier has been trained to have specific responses to a myriad of DSM IV-TR diagnoses that a client may have. She is trained to patiently and quietly maintain a down position in order to allow a child, who has experienced severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse, pet her and tell her their secrets. This is therapeutic in that the child can get the help they need to change their situation; they learn to trust someone through trusting the dog first. I have witnessed children disclosing this type of response within minutes of meeting the Cavalier that may otherwise have taken several sessions. In continuing to work with the dog, the children learn what is good and what is bad touch and how to use their words to establish these boundaries. She also works with children with low self-esteem, and she has learned how to be cued by these children and respond to their requests which enhances their self-esteem and self-confidence. She has accompanied children to school and other new situations that have, in the past, had such severe anxious symptoms that they would become physically ill and avoid the situation. When working with children that are oppositional and defiant she has learned to encourage them to comply with adults and authority figures through her behaviors and responses when they are exhibiting these behaviors.

It is important that I know that the Cavalier can respond in any situation and any public place that we may be in; therefore, you may occasionally see me working with her by myself within the public. These training sessions provide learning opportunities for the dog and are a part of her life, so if we need to respond in a crisis situation she is not concerned with everything happening around her - she is only concerned with the client, their needs and doing her job.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

There are therapy dogs and Therapy Dogs

My last post discussed Service Dogs. This is an area of many subcategories and, after receiving a few phone calls yesterday, it seems I need to clear up some confusion. I will try to break this down so that it may be understood easily by the layman.

The Difference between Service Animals, Therapy Animals, Companion Animals and "Social/therapy" Animals

Service animals are legally defined (Americans With Disabilities Act, 1990)

28 CFR 36.104 - Definition of Service Animal Revised February 18, 2001, to read:

Assistance animal means an assistance dog, and may include other animals specifically trained to perform physical tasks to mitigate an individual's disability. Assistance dogs include: guide dogs that guide individuals who are legally blind; hearing dogs that alert individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to specific sounds; and, service dogs for individuals with disabilities other than blindness or deafness. Service dogs are trained to perform a variety of physical tasks including but not limited to pulling a wheelchair, lending balance support, picking up dropped objects or providing assistance in a medical crisis. The presence of an animal for comfort, protection or personal defense does not qualify an animal as being trained to mitigate an individual's disability and therefore does not qualify said animal as an assistance animal.

A service dog is a type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people who have disabilities other than visual or hearing impairment. Examples of these include psychiatric service dogs, mobility assistance dogs, and seizure response dogs.

In the case of the Cavalier I mentioned yesterday, this dog has passed an Assistance Dog Test and qualifies, due to appropriate responses to specific clinically diagnosed disorders in patients, in both the office and public setting as a (psychiatric) service dog. This dog also is clearly identified by her Service Dog vest and patch.

Service dogs and their handlers enjoy special protection under the U.S. Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which gives them equal access to anywhere the general public is allowed, such as restaurants, public schools, parks, taxis, and aircraft.

Therapy animals are not legally defined by federal law, but some states have laws defining therapy animals. They provide people with contact to animals, but are not limited to working with people who have disabilities. They are usually the personal pets of their handlers, and work with their handlers to provide services to others. Federal laws have no provisions for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public accommodation that have "no pets" policies. Therapy animals usually are not service animals.

There has been some confusion and some heated debate about psychiatric service dogs (PSDs). First let's clarify the difference between a therapy dog and a psychiatric service dog. A therapy dog is an individual's pet which has been trained, tested, certified and insured to work in hospital, nursing home, school, and other institutional settings. The therapy dog and his partner visit to cheer patients, to educate the community, to counter grief and stress, and generally be good canine ambassadors within the community. Most therapy dog partners are volunteers, but some states recognize professional therapy dogs partnered with therapists and other mental health professionals. Therapy dogs are not service dogs.

Under U.S. law, persons with therapy dogs are NOT granted the right to enter businesses with their dogs which do not permit pets. They do not get to fly in the cabins of aircraft because they are therapy dogs, nor do they get to live in "no pets" housing because they are therapy dogs.

Companion animal is not legally defined, but is accepted as another term for pet.

"Social/therapy" animals likewise have no legal definition. They often are animals that did not complete service animal or service dog training due to health, disposition, trainability, or other factors, and are made available as pets for people who have disabilities. These animals might or might not meet the definition of service animals.

I had a nice chat with Billie Smith of Therapy Dogs, Inc., the group which tests, utilizing a local trainer, and registers the dogs in Great Falls for use in our hospital, school and nursing home settings. She said:

"It is a goal of Therapy Dogs Inc. to provide registration, support, and insurance for members who are involved in volunteer animal assisted activities. These activities include, but are not limited to, visits to hospitals, special needs centers, schools, and nursing homes. Our objective is to form a network of caring individuals who are willing to share their special animals in order to bring happiness and cheer to people, young and old alike. Our dogs and their handlers are not trained to be Assistance Dogs. They are nowhere near that level of training. Neither the dog or their owner/handler is covered by our insurance to enter public places other than those with whom we've made arrangements. They do not have public access rights under the ADA law. If one - or any - of these dogs is being promoted as being able to have public access this is wrong and it shouldn't be happening. "

So, for those of you who own businesses which have the "no pets" sign, you must allow service dogs and service dogs in training into your establishments and they will be clearly and easily identified by their equipment, vest & patch, identification tag or a combination of these. You may require any other dog to leave.

I hope this makes it easier for those of you with businesses that have "no pets" posted. Any other business may make the personal choice of admitting any dog, at any time.