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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Mattfield

The Other Victims of Closed Shelter Intake

A few days ago, I posted about closed intake shelters and the problems caused when their "wait lists" for surrender and stray intake force people to skip the shelter, search for rescues, and when unsuccessful, abandon animals.


There is another set of victims when a shelter elects to be closed admission in order to lower intake, avoid euthanasia, and maintain positive public image: Lost cats.

When a shelter refuses to intake any cat, there is a chance that the cat turned away was a lost owned cat. The cat may not even be local; cats can escape from carriers at the vet, or in some sad cases, abusive partners, roommates, or family members have dumped a cat far from home.


Animal control and cagey town health departments will avoid intake of cats by saying things like this on their websites:


From Paterson's animal control website


From Old Bridge's animal control website


These never-ending tricks by towns to avoid intaking or responding to calls about stray cats are extremely dangerous and reduce the odds to near zero if your cat escapes your home, a carrier, or is dumped by someone. Some animal control officers claim that their training has taught them to determine by driving by or visually observing a cat whether the cat is feral, friendly, or owned. Take it from a rescue that has dealt with over 600 cats/year ranging from super friendly to wild feral, this is simply not true. Let's use Tinky, a Whiskers Graduate, as an example.


Tinky


Tinky has a home and is a strictly indoor cat. She is extremely friendly with the people she knows, but hides from anyone new and if she escaped outside, would need to be trapped. She is fearful of other cats and people she does not know.


Let's say Tinky's carrier fell apart at her vet in Old Bridge and she escaped into the parking lot, many towns away from her home. In the time that Old Bridge's animal control gave her to "return home," Tinky is not going to make the trip two counties away or survive for very long in an unknown area. Her ONLY hope for survival would be if someone sees her and she is picked up by animal control. During the 7 day stray hold, her owner would be able to call all shelters and have a chance at recovering her. Instead, she is left outside to wander in unfamiliar territory, probably never getting home and likely being hit by a car in her confusion to find her way home.


The same is true if Tinky got out in Paterson or any towns their animal control contract serves. Paterson has decided not to answer calls about cats - stray, injured, sick - and by doing so, left Tinky as good as dead. She does not know the outdoors, and although she acts feral and runs away, she is a friendly owned cat that will never make it home.


By the way, towns making these ad hoc policies are illegal. The state office of public veterinary health issued a statement reminding animal control officers that they cannot refuse to respond to calls about cats.

Even in towns that do respond to calls about cats, it is customary to do a "drive by" assessment if a stray cat is called in. Any cat that does not come trotting up in an extraordinarily friendly manner (not very common in frightened cats in new territories) would be categorized as a feral or untamed cat and left outside. Once again, Tinky loses out on a chance at a reunion with her owner.


While it's easy to say "the shelter's full, we want to keep euthanasia rates down," this is a short-sighted and cruel approach that also results in death - but after days of terror and injury.

If shelters are not large enough to accommodate the needs of a town, animal control officers are some of the only people in a position to escalate this concern and push for appropriate resources, and they have an obligation to do so.

Instead, many elect to serve as bouncers, with their main duties being to turn people away and avoid intake, not acknowledging that they did not just sentence an animal to be abandoned or worse. The refusal is not even logged, and the shelter achieves its goal of deceptively low intake numbers.


Instead of dumping on rescues and forcing them to shoulder an unpaid burden of intake duties, shelters can intake and allow shelter partners to pull at-risk cats from the shelter population (even during stray hold) as is done in many large cities with open intake shelters. Cats remain safe in temporary shelter stray hold until rescues can coordinate pulls and find space, instead of being held hostage by an online threat to "step up or this animal is going outside."


Right now, the majority of shelters and animal control refuse to work with rescues but tell people they turn away to go "call a rescue." The public's and rescues' warranted mistrust of NJ animal control has resulted in both not reporting to animal control when they find a friendly cat. The cat might be rehomed or transferred to another rescue far away without the owner ever knowing or able to contact them.


Refusing to intake cats results in deaths that are far more cruel and numerous than those that occur from open intake shelter policies. Why deny an animal the chance of being reunited, adopted, or transferred out to a rescue simply because you want to keep numbers down without fighting for resources needed to do your job? Or simply stating "we're full" to taxpayers instead of intaking and being proactive with shelter partners to assist when rescues are needed to pull cats? Public opinion should never be more important to a shelter or town than putting in the effort to prevent cruelty and suffering.


If animal control and shelters continue to operate in a municipally enabled vacuum while the rest of us scramble with their unfinished workload, closed admission shelters will continue to kill more cats outside the doors of the shelter than open admission shelters ever did.

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9件のコメント


不明なメンバー
2023年5月11日

I wholly agree with this blog. If shelters ASKED for what they need to do their jobs, versus resorting to their usual tactic of deny, deflect, and diffuse, they would find that most of us are actually willing to fight for them. No one, and least of all any rescuer burdened with having to take up their slack, doesn't want to see the shelter thrive and succeed. However (!), that being said, don't tell us your shelter lacks space or manpower while you're also taking in animals from outside your contractual service areas. In Jersey City, for example, our local shelter took in 232 animals from outside Jersey City and Hoboken, while turning many of our actual residents away all…

いいね!
Elizabeth Mattfield
Elizabeth Mattfield
2023年5月11日
返信先

I don't think it's entitled at all to expect that your tax dollars paid to your municipality are used for your municipality.

To add to the frustration, we have attempted to report noncompliant animal control action to the state public health vet, only to be ignored. The state public health vet is supposed to be the check for the local animal control but now has even stopped responding to certified mail.

Thank you for reading and supporting this blog (I know the comment section can be cumbersome and wonky). Kathy and I would love to hear more about what actually goes on in these towns so your input is extremely valuable. Perspectives like yours are what drove us to change…

いいね!

itslrd
2023年5月10日

The link is not uploading. this is the explanation. Darcy Is the ACO supervisor at LHS. Does this explanation make sense🙄?

いいね!
Elizabeth Mattfield
Elizabeth Mattfield
2023年5月11日
返信先

Also, I used OPRA to obtain the outline for the ACO training certification class from the NJ DOH. A day dedicated to NJ's "best practices." In another post, we do link to the state's published "best practices" and this definitely does not appear to align! It seems the training is a bit of a joke but some ACO instructors are making money.


いいね!

itslrd
2023年5月10日

Despite claiming to be an open admissions shelter and having contracts with both Jersey City and Hoboken, Liberty Humane Society refuses to intake cats. Soace is not the issue as they take cats from shelters outside of Jersey City & Hoboken. Here is the reason and it is one only an idiot would accept.


https://share.icloud.com/photos/081Y0t2AmONbMoETTPpYtmdPg


いいね!
Elizabeth Mattfield
Elizabeth Mattfield
2023年5月10日
返信先

The more we research public records and receive information like this, it is clear that NJ's guidelines for best shelter practices are not even being read let alone followed. It also appears that ACO training does not align with state law regarding animal control responsibilities.

いいね!

amydee1117
2023年5月07日

This a big eye opener for me. I had no idea this is what has been going on 'behind the scenes'. Thank you for sharing.

いいね!
Elizabeth Mattfield
Elizabeth Mattfield
2023年5月07日
返信先

Yes, all of this was obtained through public records. Many towns do not even keep logs of calls to animal control!

いいね!
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