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Danville Humane Society Director Defends Against "No Kill" Policy Campaign

ANIMAL WATCH

ANIMAL WATCH - In a bold, hard-hitting editorial, “A line has been crossed:’ Danville Area Humane Society leader responds to recent campaign,” posted on June 27 by Bobby Allen Roach, Star-Tribune editor, he questions Best Friends Animal Society’s motives for attempted intrusion into decisions of the Danville Humane Society regarding “No Kill” and its policy on feral cats. 

The public discussion of this matter was generated by Danville Humane Society’s Director Paulette Dean, who has headed the shelter since 1984, according to the report. 

It is important that this message is read from Los Angeles to New York and everywhere across the country so that donors to “No Kill” programs realize that some animals—like certain people—do not have the skills to adapt to a loving home; but they also should not be kept alive in cages in overpacked “No Kill” shelters, where they are driven by fear of other animals and/or they are dangerous to employees or potential adopters. 

(See:  “No Kill” Policy is Blamed for the Brutal Dog Attack on LA Animal Services Supervisor Leslie Correa)

All animal shelters have limited space and in order to provide a humane experience for the animals, managers must make difficult decisions, including euthanasia, to assure there is continually available space for loving, unwanted pets to have the opportunity to find new homes. 

As demonstrated in the recent tragedies in overcrowded Los Angeles shelters, there is an obligation to take preemptive steps to prevent both suffering and attacks. Keeping dogs overly stressed in cages and kennels where they can barely move is a living death for the animal and creates a ticking timebomb. 

(See:  LA Animal Services Shelter Supervisor Severely Injured by Dogo Argentino/Pit Bull Dog Awaiting “Rescue” 

Cats, feral cats and “No Kill”

Many cats brought to shelters are not feral but have not been properly socialized or were left outdoors and then are expected by owners to find the home they did not provide.  

Best Friends recommends they be spayed and released as “community cats” so that they do not risk adding to the euthanasia statistics. But, what does that mean for the animal?  Creating a nuisance on private property or leaving them to survive the hazards of the streets without a reliable source of food (or water) is obviously inhumane.  

They may become food for wildlife that they attract; such as, coyotes, or they may be targeted as a toy and torn apart alive by wandering dog packs.  

Cats are hunters and will expand their territory as the food supply is consumed, thus there is the serious issue of the decimation of small wildlife, butterflies and birds which maintain the balance of our environment. 

Society needs to accept that euthanasia is not a cruel process but a necessary protection for the animal that cannot be safely placed in a home. It is unlikely a truly feral cat will ever become an indoor pet. It is more likely they will be considered a nuisance or a health hazard by most homeowners whose yards become bathrooms; and, if the local animal control agency will not pick them up, they will take it into their own hands to poison or otherwise remove them from their property. 

But releasing them in a Trap/Neuter/Return-to-Field program is exactly what Best Friends Animal Society insists Pauline Dean and hundreds of other shelter managers should do. Los Angeles Animal Services is one of the largest examples and trappers are stating that the biggest problem is that they cannot get spay appointments for weeks and sometimes have to release the cat and attempt to trap it again., and shelters are refusing to accept them unless critically ill or injured, according to reports.  

 DANVILLE HUMANE SOCIETY DIRECTOR SPEAKS OUT

The Star-Tribune provided a statement by highly respected Danville Humane Society Director Paulette Dean, who affirmed, “Our purpose is to promote the welfare and humane treatment of all animals.”

Bobby Allen Roach, editor, of the Star Tribune writes that Dean felt compelled to tell her story because “groups from as far away as Utah have set their sights on destroying the humane society’s reputation through a campaign of misinformation and misuse of data.”  

Specifically, she states, “In November last year, DAHS was approached by Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in Utah in 1984.

“A woman who works for Best Friends in New York reached out by phone,” Dean said. “She offered help by transferring some cats to their shelter there. Ms. Velasquez and I had a couple of very frank phone calls. I told her we would be willing to send cats to New York, but I wanted an agreement signed that they would be kept inside. She said she would check, but Best Friends normally did not agree to sign anything.” 

“The conversations were cordial,” she explained.

But, “It wasn’t long before Dean heard from Best Friends again, the Star Tribune reports.

“Shortly after we posted our annual intake report, she called again,” Dean explained. “The tone had changed. She said they were sending us an offer of help. I asked what would happen if we didn’t accept their offer and was told, ‘Make no mistake. We will not forget and we will do what we need to do.”

Director Dean said, “We carefully reviewed their offer and declined on the deadline date of March 1.”

“To accept their offer, we would have had to become a limited-admission shelter and that would not be good for the animals or the community. The only way a shelter can be ‘no-kill’ is to turn away animals,” she said 

She added a very real concern that people do not realize there is “no magical place for these animals to go” and explained that the reality results in very sad and cruel consequences for animals.”

“Our work to help animals is being held to one number and one number only,” Dean explained. also know that they include sick, injured, dying ones…The animals aren’t numbers; they are living creatures who don’t deserve to suffer and die a lingering death because we closed our shelter doors.”

BEST FRIENDS OBSESSION WITH “NO KILL”  IS IT ALL ABOUT ANIMALS?

“The campaign—dubbed “Danville Deserves Better” by Best Friends—held a kickoff event on June 1 at 2 Witches Winery & Brewing Company in Danville.” 

The crux of the issues announced by Best Friends was that “Danville’s animal shelter currently saves only 17 percent of the dogs and cats that enter its facility. The average save rate for shelters in the state of Virginia is over 83 percent. Danville deserves better!”

The media release described Danville Deserves Better (DDB) as a “locally focused, community-driven initiative with the express goal of engaging the community to build a groundswell of support for lifesaving change at the Danville animal shelter.”

DDB is spearheaded by BFAS, a “leading national nonprofit animal welfare organization with a mission to achieve no-kill in every shelter across the country by 2025,” the release said. 

At the bottom of the on-line campaign notice, it invites readers to sign up and states, “By providing your mobile number, you are giving your consent to receive calls and SMS/MMS messages from Best Friends Animal Society.” 

TRAP/NEUTER/RELEASE OF CATS – A CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE  

Dean said that opponents of DAHS want people to believe that everyone but DAHS wants trap-neuter-release to be implemented, which is “the practice of trapping, neutering, vaccinating, ear-tipping for identification, and releasing feral cats in an attempt to manage feral cat populations.”

But that is not true, she explains, because most calls about feral cats are asking for their removal.

The tactics employed by Best Friends and “Danville Deserves Better” were outlined in a May 8 press release,” the article adds. 

Dean said the stance of these organizations is deceptive by design.  Paulette Dean summarized, “The misinformation and outright lies astound me,” “From what other shelters who have endured this type of campaign told us, we knew it would be brutal.. 

Now, it is a campaign to annihilate DAHS and assassinate the character of anyone who supports the organization. A line has been crossed,” Paulette Dean claims. :We have chosen the high road of not responding to each post and comment,” Dean said. Every adoption decision, from largest dog to smallest hamster is made with this thought in mind—what if this animal belonged to my beloved grandmother and she asked me to find a good home for her beloved companion? Is any home better than no home?”

“DANVILLE DESERVES BETTER” STATES ITS GOAL

“Communities all over Virginia have found ways, with and without help, to reach no-kill, which is defined as 90% of the animals that come into the shelter leave alive,” said Katie Fine, Danville Deserves Better Campaign Manager. “So, it is possible for the animals of Virginia, but in Danville, it seems to be that that’s just not happening.” 

Fine assured the Star Tribune that Danville Deserves Better is focused on getting Danville to achieve a 90 percent save rate, which she said is the no-kill benchmark.

She also said the campaign is “completely open and transparent and is taken directly from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to whom the local Danville shelter self-reports,” and that Best Friends goes through “several layers of review” to assure there is no misrepresentation of facts.”

When asked about the aggressive behavior and, in some cases, threatening both on and offline, Fine said that the campaign is intended to be a positive one.

“Danville Deserves Better and Best Friends strongly condemn any hateful or threatening rhetoric,” Fine said. “Best Friends strives to operate in a positive, kind, and uplifting manner and encourages all members to do the same. There is no place for threats or violence in the animal welfare movement and such behaviors have never been tolerated. Danville Deserves Better was created in response to, and as an outlet for, Danville area residents with the energy and desire to bring about change in the local animal sheltering system that they do not believe reflects their values. 

“Having been on the ground the last few months, what Best Friends has found is a major schism and lack of trust between portions of the community and the shelter. This is not conducive to the success of any community’s animal services teams or for the dogs and cats in the shelter.” 

“According to Fine, the average save rate nationally in shelters in 2023 was 83%, up from 81% in 2022, while DAHS’s save rate decreased from 26% in 2022 to 17% in 2023, demonstrating a 34% drop in the number of animals saved in one year.

She agreed that 2023 was a challenging year for shelters, citing lower placement rates for large dogs, economic struggles, and an increase in people buying from pet stores and breeders rather than adopting from shelters.

Dean said that the path forward is where the greatest disagreement between these organizations lies.

We do not believe animals should be warehoused in shelters for years. Adoption partners, and we have very good ones, do not take animals they believe they won’t be able to find homes for.”

“People can help by spaying/neutering their animals,” Dean said. “We have a very strong program and have for 32 years. They can help by taking advantage of our next free microchip clinic on July 13.” 

She added, “They can help by spending one week at the shelter before they criticize. I guarantee that people who think they understand what we see will quickly realize they don’t. We spend our work lives in a very cruel place, surrounded by horrible sights and gut-wrenching stories.”

WHY IS DANVILLE, VA, A THREAT TO BEST FRIENDS’ CAMPAIGN?

The 2024 population of Danville, VA, is 41,589, according to  World Population Review.  

We have to wonder why launching such an aggressive campaign in a relatively small city is so important that Best Friends would risk such bad publicity.  

Is it that Paulette Dean is a strong and well-respected expert on animal sheltering who opposes Trap/Neuter/Return and can articulate her reasons from years of experience, and this is an effort to discourage her from speaking out?

MEDIA, DANVILLE MAYOR AND COUNCIL SUPPORT PAULETTE DEAN

Editor Bobby Allen Roach, the Star Tribune, the Mayor and Council have all announced that they are supporting Paulette Dean and not supporting the release of feral and pet cats into communities to fend for themselves and suffer from hunger, injury and weather conditions just so that they won’t show up on shelter statistics.

More info:   A line has been crossed:’ Danville Area Humane Society leader responds to recent campaign

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a contributor to CityWatch.)