Research from Nathan

This is what we need, more research. Hopefully Nathan will reveal more details of these studies later. However, his faith in S/N programs and TNR may be misplaced, because LA has ratcheted up the number of spay/neuters it subsidizes significantly for the last five years yet cat impounds remain static and are actually up this year.

For effective spay/neuter, you need to do it in the poorer and ethnic neighborhoods more than in Chatsworth or West LA.

Also, Nathan, if you are reading this, how about using a larger type face with more space between lines and paragraphs? The space is free and makes it so much easier to read. I added a line after each paragraph below, and it helps, but I can't add space between the lines.

The Costs of Saving Lives

The Costs of Saving Lives

A survey of animal shelter funding and save rates conducted by the No Kill Advocacy Center finds that if communities want lifesaving success, they should invest in leadership.

One shelter saved 90% of the animals. Another saved only 40%. One community has seen killing rates increase nearly 30%. Another has caused death rates to drop over 50%. There was, however, no correlation between success/failure and per capita spending on animal control. In other words, the difference between those shelters which succeeded and those which failed was not the size of the budget, but the commitment of its leadership.

Roughly, per capita funding ranged from about $1.50 to about $6.30. Save rates ranged from 35% ($2.00 per capita) to 90% ($1.50 per capita), but they did not follow any predictable pattern. There were shelters with an 87% rate of lifesaving spending only $2.80 per capita, and shelters with a 42% rate (less than half of the former) spending more than double that (at $5.80 per capita):

In other words, the amount of per capita spending did not seem to make a difference. What did make a difference was leadership: the commitment of shelter managers to saving lives.

While communities should provide adequate funding, only throwing money at the problem will do very little without leadership committed both to lifesaving and to accountability. In King County, WA, the City Council has spent millions of additional dollars since three independent evaluations in 2007 and 2008 revealed high rates of illness, deplorable conditions, cruelty and uncaring at King County Animal Care & Control (KCACC). In fact, the King County Council has never denied a funding request for KCACC. But no improvement in animal care has been made. Animals continue to languish, continue to get sick because of poor care, continue to go untreated, continue to suffer, and continue to die.

In Portland, OR, likewise:

Over the course of the past few years (fiscal years 2003 though 2008), a period during which the total number of animals brought into the shelter increased by only 5 percent and the agency’s budget increased by 50 percent (to a current $4.6 million), nearly every measure of the agency’s performance documents failure. Adoptions are down by 40 percent (dogs) and 18 percent (cats). Nearly half of the dogs not returned to owners are killed; so too are nearly two-thirds of cats. The “kill rate” is now well above rates in neighboring counties facing far more severe budget limitations. Thousands of dollars are squandered on adversarial enforcement efforts that have achieved no meaningful improvement in the public’s safety. The number of animals saved by cooperating life-saving organizations and individuals, a number widely recognized as a key measure of community support, has dropped by 40 percent.

That doesn't mean that governments should continue underfunding their shelters. Shelters with low per capita spending claimed difficulty sustaining programs. As a result, the study should not be used as an excuse by self-serving politicians to reduce shelter budgets.

It does mean, however, that to really make an impact, communities must also invest in progressive leaders willing to embrace the programs and services which make No Kill possible. In the final analysis, the most important element of the No Kill Equation is: A hard working, compassionate animal control director who is not content to continue killing by hiding behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes” or regurgitating tired clich├ęs about public irresponsibility.

Please note: The data is preliminary and still being analyzed. Some additional findings of the study included that municipal shelters save more lives than private shelters with animal control contracts, and that municipal shelters paid more for animal control than when private shelters performed animal control under contract. The conclusion for the latter finding was that governments tend to underpay private shelters for the service, at the expense of saving lives and the long-term financial health of these SPCAs and humane societies.

Private SPCAs and humane societies have been subsidizing animal control for so long that it has become the unfair and unreasonable expectation of municipalities that these private non-profits should continue to do so.

Assuming that the agencies will retain these contracts despite compensation levels that fail to cover the actual costs of running animal control, and regardless of whether they are No Kill or killing shelters, governments are, in effect, having shelters use private donations to subsidize a government mandate. As a result, these shelters are using money raised for adoptions, medical care, and other lifesaving work to pay the cost of sheltering and killing stray and seized animals under their animal control obligations. Donor funding may also be used to enforce often arcane and inhumane animal laws (e.g., breed bans, cat leash laws, feeding bans, pet limit laws) which are inconsistent with lifesaving.

There are other notable studies as well:

Breed Bans are Economically Wasteful. Not only are dogs needlessly being killed because of them, but they are also wasteful financially. A new study commissioned by Best Friends shows the high economic cost of breed bans, without the corresponding public safety benefit. The study demonstrates that breed discriminatory legislation tends to exhaust limited resources in already under-funded animal control programs by flooding the system with potentially “unadoptable” dogs due to the ban. It is not that the dogs themselves are dangerous. The vast majority (roughly nine out of ten) are healthy, friendly, or treatable. It is that the legislation declares them to be “unadoptable” and slated for execution. Costs to regulate or ban the animals can run into the millions and provide no help to prevent dog bites. At a time when communities are declaring bankruptcy, this is yet one more reason why breed bans should be abandoned.

Too Many Homes, Not Enough Animals. The Maddie’s Fund keynote from No Kill Conference 2009 was based on a study by the Ad Council. It shows that 17 million people are going to bring a new pet into their home next year and have not decided where that animal will come from. They can be influenced to adopt from a shelter next year, where there are roughly 3,000,000 available animals.

Cost is the Primary Barrier to Spay/Neuter. Alley Cat Allies has a new study that shows while most housecats are neutered, the primary factor for neutering rates in household cats is income. The lower the household income, the lower the sterilization rate. The primary reason cited was cost. The research also found that low cost sterilization of unaltered feral cats would have a dramatic impact on impound and death rates in shelters.

This research reaffirms what we have known in this movement since at least the 1970s when the city of Los Angeles opened the nation’s first municipally funded spay/neuter clinic in the United States for low-income pet owners and saw sterilization rates increase, and impound/death rates at local shelters plummet. Another study several years ago in Mississippi found 69% of pet owners with unspayed/unneutered animals would get them sterilized if it were free, a fact which is not surprising for a state with some of the lowest per capita incomes in the nation.

It also reaffirms a ten year JAVMA study of feral cat impound and death rates in Ohio. It reaffirms an analysis of impound dates at animal control done in San Francisco in the mid-1990s that found upwards of 75% of kittens are from feral moms. It reaffirms early to mid-1990s-era studies (one in Santa Clara County, CA and the other in San Diego, CA) putting the percentage of sterilized housecats at or around 80%. And it reaffirms many others going back decades.

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