If there’s one thing all high-kill shelters have in common, it’s predictability. They trot out the same excuses, engage in the same behaviors, and use the same methodology to attempt to sweep facts under the rug. And while these sad patterns lead to tragic losses of life, they are, in a way, beneficial to those of us trying to stop them, as they allow us to anticipate standard responses and react accordingly.
One typical strategy by most high-kill shelters is to deem animals “unadoptable”, IE, aggressive or sick, as an excuse to slaughter them. When animals are categorized in this fashion, it allows these shelters to manipulate their statistics, and even theoretically fall in line with the vague standards of the Asimolar Accords. One shelter that’s been adept at fooling the public with this strategy for many years is the NYC ACC. This organization led the public to believe that they didn’t kill ANY healthy or adoptable animals, all the while they were killing them for contracting kennel cough or for taking issue with the rubber hand during bogus temperament tests.
One of the latest shelters to come under fire for their disreputable kill practices is the Michigan Humane Society. Recently, four of the 18 members of the shelter’s board resigned in protest over their outrageously high kill rate: 70%. Even as intake has dropped, the kill rate increased from 66% to 70% since 2000.
And the shelter’s excuse?
Cal Morgan, CEO, actually continues to claim that his shelter places 100% of all adoptable animals. So, despite the fact that No Kill communities across the US have demonstrated that in excess of 90% of all animals are saveable, according to Morgan, the animals of Detroit are somehow inferior, and only 30% are saveable.
“With most of MHS’s animals coming from Detroit, Morgan said a culture of dog-fighting and irresponsible ownership brings cruelty cases that often cannot be saved. He said stray dogs and cats can come with behavioral issues and health problems that MHS officials say are untreatable,” the Detroit Free Press reported.
There’s that tired old excuse again: “OUR community is different. We have unique problems and No Kill isn’t possible here.” Bullshit.
In reality, the problem lies with the shelter’s policies and procedures. It’s easier to kill than to treat illness; it’s easier to kill than to work on behavior modification; it’s easier to kill than to market animals effectively. And thanks to the vague and subjective Asimolar Accords’ “standards”, the shelter has previously managed to fool the public (and donors) into believing they were saving all the animals they could.
“Each animal is assessed using the same protocols as other shelters in determining whether an animal can be treated — the Asilomar Accords. Unhealthy and untreatable animals are unlikely to be saved by care or ‘have a medical or temperamental problem that would present a danger to themselves and others,’ according to the guidelines,” says the Free Press.
It all boils down to the definition of unhealthy and untreatable. The Asimolar Accords offer these categories, but are exceedingly vague about what they mean.
Would you consider an animal with kennel cough “unhealthy”, when it can be treated with a simple, inexpensive course of meds?
Would you consider an underweight stray who doesn’t want to relinquish his food “untreatable”?
“Former MHS employees and volunteers say healthy and mildly ill animals are euthanized and that untreatable cruelty and neglect are not the case in the bulk of dogs and cats that come in,” the Free Press article says.
As the No Kill Advocacy Center says about the Asimolar Accords: “In addition, and perhaps most disturbing of all, these categories are vague in and of themselves, leading to misuse and misapplication – such as calling a kitten with ringworm “untreatable,” or making a decision that a dog who is scared and incredibly shy has a “temperamental characteristic that poses a health or safety risk or otherwise makes them unsuitable for placement.”
“Animal welfare experts say the protocols are vague, which can add to the confusion over euthanasia rates. There is no prescribed list of what ailments to treat or not, so decisions of life and death are subjective — if the decision is made to spend the time and money treating an animal, then that animal is treatable, said Tanya Hilgendorf, executive director of the Humane Society of Huron Valley in Ann Arbor,” the Free Press adds.
Donor Tom Mackey (who gave $1 million to the MHS for a new Detroit shelter) has been shocked by the Michigan Humane Society’s statistics, and has offered to pay the $30,000 fee for Maddie’s Fund to assess the shelter’s operations. Morgan has refused.
Sound familiar? Entrenched leadership is afraid of the light of day. Even on someone else’s dime, Morgan is uninterested in lifesaving assistance. He thinks a 70% kill rate is just peachy.
Shall we tell him otherwise? Let’s stand with the protesting board members and other community groups speaking out against Morgan and his ridiculous operations. MHS is a private organization, so they’re not governed by city or county bodies – but we can still express our concerns. It’s time for MHS to find a new director, one whose primary concern is lifesaving.
While I was unable to find contact information for the remaining board members anywhere online, you can contact the Michigan Humane Society administrative offices to voice your outrage here (please, be respectful):
30300 Telegraph Road, Suite 220
Bingham Farms, MI 8025