In this case, the shelter requested a comprehensive shelter evaluation from Cornell University's Shelter Medicine Program. Among the report's findings:
- The organization's by-laws and mission statement have failed to adequately define its "No-Kill" policy.
- The shelter does not currently have definitions and guidelines for determining which animals are adoptable and unadoptable.
- There is no formal behavioral assessment for dogs.
- The shelter keeps dogs with severe behavior problems for prolonged periods of time.
- [E]uthanasia will still be necessary for humane reasons for animals with terminal illnesses, severe behavior problems, or who pose a threat to the safety and/or health of people or other animals.
- It is inhumane for shelters to refuse to euthanize an animal because of a "no-kill" policy if they do not have the resources available to provide appropriate treatment and ensure a good quality of life.
- Adopt specific protocols to keep the number of unadoptable dogs entering the shelter to a minimum. (For strays: Unadoptable dogs should be euthanized following any legally required holding period[.] For owner-surrenders: Unadoptable dogs should not be accepted by the shelter.
- Animals with the following conditions should not be accepted by PHS for placement. (List includes dogs with history of resource guarding, high prey drive, bite history to humans, and animals with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes)
- Euthanasia is indicated for the following animals: (List includes dogs adopted and returned for aggression, dogs with history of aggression, resource guarding, high prey drive, and bite history)
Detailed instructions for killing aggressive dogs follow. There are also a number of pages in the report devoted to breaking up dog fights.
These recommendations are puzzling to me in that, to my mind, they reflect a philosophy the opposite of no kill. In fact, they seem far more in line with the antiquated thinking which has resulted in society becoming accustomed to the killing of healthy/treatable pets as the norm. That is, the wrong thinking which those committed to no kill strive to overcome.
As disturbing as it is to read recommendations made in a general sense, it becomes downright tragic when the report gets into specifics on the dogs at PHS:
- Thirty-seven of the 47 dogs being housed at PHS during our visit had been there longer than one year. Of these, twenty-seven dogs had been housed for longer than two years, and 15 dogs had been housed for longer than 5 years.
- The behaviors observed during our visit indicate poor welfare of many of the dogs housed at PHS.
- 17 hours a day in a 6' X 4' run with almost no human interaction, 15 of those hours in total darkness
- 7 hours a day in outdoor pens with some, but not all, dogs receiving occasional human interaction such as a walk
- Behavioral enrichment and aerobic exercise: little to none
- Most dogs can see other dogs at all times which increases stress
- The high anxiety and abnormal behavior displayed by the long term residents negatively impacts new arrivals and is particularly hard on small dogs, perpetuating a cycle of stressed out dogs
- Behavior modification is unrealistic and inappropriate for the severity and duration of aggression exhibited by many of the dogs housed at PHS.
- These dogs compromise the shelter's reputation and public image.
21 dogs are designated as having a bite history. I don't know how the bite history was determined for all these dogs but it doesn't appear clear that the individual dogs have each had an opportunity to be evaluated by a canine behaviorist. Presumably a behaviorist would make recommendations for behavior modification and a program implemented with periodic re-evaluations made on a case-by-case basis. I see no evidence of that. In other words, I see no documented efforts of any kind to help these dogs. The report basically states that any such efforts would fail and "disposition decisions" need to be made for these dogs. And I say, if that's your attitude, why are you involved in no kill?
I don't know what has happened or will happen to the poor dogs described in this report. There has been a recent change in the Board but I don't know what, if any, effects this change will have. In the meantime, I will be keeping a good thought for "Kindness, Justice and Mercy to all Living Creatures" at the Putnam Humane Society.