With euthanasia rate high, some seek more spending for pet spay-neuter programs

Monday, June 3, 2013 at 12:44am
053113 MACC Animal topper.jpg

(Eric England/SouthComm)


There’s been much rightful outrage over Nashville’s high animal euthanasia rate, with three-quarters of all animals that come into city custody being put down. And while that has put Metro Animal Care and Control squarely in critics’ sights, the agency has made some modest gains.

The question, some say, is how MACC could spend its resources to lower the rate even more.

Speaking at the Metro Public Health Department’s budget presentation on April 1, Dr. Bill Paul discussed the modest gains in progress over the past few years, in which total complaints and service requests, total intakes and total euthanasia have dropped year-to-year since fiscal year 2008, though total euthanasia increased slightly from fiscal year 2010 to 2011 before decreasing again in 2012, according to data presented in the March minutes of the MAAC Advisory Council.

In his budget request presented to Mayor Karl Dean, Paul included the addition of three animal control employees, two field officers and one field supervisor to respond to complaints.

The added positions would return the number of officers to the 2007 level. The new employees, Paul told Dean, would cost $150,000 a year and would be offset by raising the yearly pet licensing fee paid by owners from $4 to $6.

Dean asked if Paul had identified anything that could lead to more animals being adopted or reducing the rate of euthanasia.

“I think with more resources we could always do more adoption,” Paul said. “I think the biggest … if I was given a resource opportunity to try to intervene on this problem, where I would spend my money is to try and make spay-and-neuter more widely used and more widely accessible.”

What appears to be clear is the need to focus efforts on increasing adoptions as well as spaying and neutering services. What isn’t as apparent yet is exactly how to go about doing that.

Members of the group Concerned Citizens for Change — which has pushed Metro to lower the high euthanasia rate — asked what was being done with the “animal education and welfare” funding stream created by the Metro Council in 2009, which gets $3 from each boarding fee MACC collects.

The short answer is of the $27,823 raised so far, about $16,500 was spent last year on items such as a Samsung 55-inch monitor, a cat condo and promotional leashes, “awareness bracelets” and magnets with MACC contact info on them to be handed out to school children.

But animal control officials and council members involved say the MACC Advisory Council is investigating just how that funding stream can be used in the future, particularly as it pertains to spaying and neutering services.

In 2009, Councilman Phil Claiborne and Councilwoman Karen Bennett co-sponsored a bill that increased daily animal boarding fees and set aside $3 of each boarding charged into an “animal education and welfare” fund.

As part of the Metro Council’s budget hearing for the Health Department, At-Large Councilwoman Megan Barry submitted questions (though she wasn’t present for the hearing) for MACC officials regarding that fund and what it was being used for.

Paul answered, “Most of what it’s been spent on, frankly, so far have been educational things and things to give away to build awareness — some of them little gifts for children, when you go to a classroom and you’re teaching them to be kind to animals, those kind of things.

“Where we are right now is really trying to investigate how to put this money to a more productive use in terms of enhancing community goals like spay-and-neuter. We’re in a planning phase with how best to move forward with the funds at this time,” Paul added.

A breakdown of the items appearing in a MACC expense report shows that of the $27,800 collected in the fund so far, the two biggest items include the installation of what officials described as a cat condo listed at $4,050 for the adoption area at the Harding Place facility, as well as a 55-inch television and digital media software server to display pictures of the animals up for adoption as well as educational videos on responsible pet ownership, to be viewed by MACC customers in the lobby.

Metro also paid $1,649.77 to Francis Communications Inc. (including $690 for awareness bracelets) and $4,150 for custom printing from C Specialties Inc. for what Paul described as bracelets, leashes and magnets with the MACC contact information printed on them.

Also listed as expenses is a $450 charge from Art Pancakes Party & Wedding, for two costumes — a dog and a cat — worn by MACC employees at community events and when speaking to school children on how to be safe around animals and help take care of them.

The thought behind directing educational efforts and take-home materials such as bracelets, magnets, etc., to children is not only in line with the practices of other animal care and control operations in the region, according to MACC Director Judy Ladebauche, but also “our best resource” to reach their parents.

Sarah Martin, who’s a member of Concerned Citizens for Change, said of the use of the animal welfare and education monies so far were unacceptable.

“I think most people would agree that bracelets are not an acceptable expenditure to address the animal welfare and education.”

Martin speculated, “Twenty-seven thousand dollars would spay or neuter more than 1,000 animals.”


In March, Bennett and Claiborne reiterated their hopes at a MACC Advisory Council meeting that some of the animal education and welfare funds, of which there’s about $11,000 remaining currently, would be earmarked for use of spay-and neuter programs.

Bennett said, “We have tried to spend the last couple months having that discussion as to what that [fund] really means, because each person interprets education and spay-and-neuter differently.”

Though Bennett said it is important to have educational videos on at the facility, “In education, I frankly had hoped we’d be doing ad pieces on being responsible pet owners, spay and neuter your pet, maybe education in our local schools.”

She added, “We have realized that we need to be a little bit more specific in what our hopes were with that legislation.”

The bracelets? “Not probably one of the first things I would have picked to do with the money,” Bennett said.

Claiborne said the idea for the fund when it was established certainly included in its scope buying materials to share with children in educational settings, but “we could also use this money from time to time to either supplement spay-and-neuter procedures or to cover the cost of those in some instances.”

The councilman, Paul and Ladebauche all point to partnerships with outside groups and nonprofits, such as the Nashville Humane Association.

NHA, using grant money and resources including its Rover mobile spay-and-neuter truck, has handled the bulk of such surgeries in Metro.

According to the minutes of the March 13 MACC Advisory Council meeting (the most recent available), through February of this year alone the Rover truck spayed or neutered 939 animals in zip codes 37207 and 922 in zip code 37013, which had been designated as high-risk areas. In addition, Rover spayed or neutered 117 animals during its monthly visits to MACC from October 2012 to February 2013.

And while there may be some money in the animal education and welfare fund to pilot some more spaying and neutering procedures, a big part of the problems Metro officials say they’ve run into is identifying the qualified persons to perform them.

As Claiborne pointed out, there’s only so much MACC can do with one veterinarian on staff. “It’s a resource problem, not resources in terms of dollars, but resources in terms of hands to actually do the work.”

Paul said his department is looking to create new partnerships with animal welfare organizations as well as continuing the program with NHA.

Ladebauche said, “We certainly look forward to and plan to expand the spay-neuter outreach, but it will be done in a way that is totally need-based, because we cannot be competing with private veterinarians’ practices.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people in this county that never visit their veterinarian’s office. … Those are the ones that we hope to expand our spay-neuter outreach to.”

12 Comments on this post:

By: yogiman on 6/3/13 at 5:31

Animals are like children, too many adult humans don't want them around. So if killing humans can be an 'okay' in our society by abortion, killing unwanted animals should be 'okay' by euthanasia in our society.

By: Loner on 6/3/13 at 6:49

Since the concept of human rights is so foreign to so many people in the red states, it's quite surprising to learn that there is any awareness of animal rights at all in those states.

Securing funding for pet spay and neuter programs is tough in the red states...securing funding for spaying and neutering certain human beings, would be a much easier sell.

If more people were aware of the horrors of these gas chambers for unwanted pets; there would be a greater demand for spay & neuter programs....since the ongoing pet holocaust is out of our view, it could go on forever.

They should make more videos of yelping animals being stuffed into the gas chambers and then buy ad-space on TV, to air the graphic videos...to better educate the public about the scale and degree of this tragic situation.

By: Loner on 6/3/13 at 6:57

Educating adult pet owners by educating their children seems like a round about way of doing things; why not educate the adults directly?

Airing graphic videos of pets being put down and running a daily tally of euthanized dogs and cats in the local newspapers would cut out the middle-man and directly engage the adult pet owners in a powerful and emotional way....sadly, sometimes people need to be shocked into action.

By: yogiman on 6/3/13 at 7:33

It's the animals' fault, Loner. They have too many offsprings at every birth. If they only had one at a time the people could keep them in their families easier.

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 6/3/13 at 8:18

It is sad and unfortunate that human beings cannot be kinder to helpless animals. Metro Animal Control is not at fault. The human residents are at fault for not spaying, neutering and keeping our animals at home. If we can send a man to the moon (and much farther nowdays), there should be some widespread and effective way to sterilize the animals. Killing them by the thousands shows the failure of the PEOPLE who live here.

By: girliegirl on 6/3/13 at 8:46

There is a new procedure that allows the vet to inject a drug into the testicles, thereby sterilizing him w/o the need of expensive and risky anesthesia. Alas, Metro must not be aware of it just yet.

By: dargent7 on 6/3/13 at 10:18

Yogi @ 8:33am..."It's the animal's fault..." What a brain-dead response.
A "litter" is Darwinian in that only the strong survive and Mother Nature insures that by having more than what is necessary. Knowing half will be killed or eaten.
And this village idiot harps and is obsessed 95% of his life with Obama's Birth Cert., Kenyan birth, and upbringing.

By: dargent7 on 6/3/13 at 10:18

GirlieG...Inject a drug into the testicles? Where do I sign up?

By: yucchhii on 6/3/13 at 11:03

I don't like the idea of putting an animal that is perfectly healthy down!! People who are cruel to animals should be subjected to the same treatment they give their animals!! They might be so cruel anymore!! I'd love to have a pet or two, but I'm not home enough to effectively take care of them.

By: d4deli on 6/3/13 at 11:14

Putting down so many animals each year is sad. Some people have no business having pets, as they don't know how to take care of them responsibly. Of course, that is also true of so many of the children too.
Lastly, I hate to see perfectly good meat go to waste. Not that I would want to eat dog or cat, but it is wasteful, nonetheless.

By: pipecarver on 6/3/13 at 1:09

You mean to tell me that with all the corporate and privately-owned vet clinics in this town, these bunch of rocket scientist cannot figure out a way to implement a spay-neuter program? Metro has the resources to place an "Invitation to Bid" in the newspaper. Assign a Metro Purchasing Agent to assist the powers that be with writing an advertisement. Award the contract(s) to private for-profit businesses, based on price and capabilities. It's done everyday with everything else. I'm NOT suggesting an "Entitlement Program," but something to get the ball rolling. If nothing else, test it out for a year or two. There are contracts already awarded for the medical supplies required. They just need a qualified Vet to do the work.

Right now, my long-time Vet is having trouble keeping the doors open (primarily due to the corporate chains undercutting their fees). I'm sure there are many other Vets in similar situations who would appreciate the opportunity to bid on the contract. Perhaps a group of recent graduates would like the opportunity. Why not set up resident program for those about to graduate from Vet School. They need experience; and Lord knows, it beats the euthanasia alternative.

With all the push to to reduce government staffing / sub-contracting to the private sector, I would hope this might be considered. No one is unfairly "competing" if everyone is clearly given the same opportunity (as any other private Vet) to bid on the contract.

They have the funds to at least help fix the problem. Use the money "on the animals," not televisions, costumes and bracelets.

By: chetuno on 6/3/13 at 6:42

I. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
Low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter will quickly lead to fewer animals entering the shelter system, allowing more resources to be allocated toward saving lives.

2.. Feral Cat TNR Program
Many communities throughout the United States are embracing Trap-Neuter-Release programs (TNR) to improve animal welfare, reduce death rates, and meet obligations to public welfare.

3. Rescue Groups
An adoption or transfer to a rescue group frees up scarce cage and kennel space, reduces expenses for feeding, cleaning, killing, and improves a community’s rate of lifesaving. In an environment of millions of dogs and cats killed in shelters annually, rare is the circumstance in which a rescue group should be denied an animal.

4.. Foster Care
Volunteer foster care is crucial to No Kill. Without it, saving lives is compromised. It is a low cost, and often no cost, way of increasing a shelter’s capacity, improving public relations, increasing a shelter’s public image, rehabilitating sick and injured or behaviorally challenged animals, and saving lives.

5. Comprehensive Adoption Programs
Adoptions are vital to an agency’s lifesaving mission. The quantity and quality of shelter adoptions is in shelter management’s hands, making lifesaving a direct function of shelter policies and practice. If shelters better promoted their animals and had adoption programs responsive to the needs of the community, including public access hours for working people, offsite adoptions, adoption incentives, and effective marketing, they could increase the number of homes available and replace killing with adoptions. Contrary to conventional wisdom, shelters can adopt their way out of killing.

6. Pet Retention
While some of the reasons animals are surrendered to shelters are unavoidable, others can be prevented—but only if shelters are willing to work with people to help them solve their problems. Saving animals requires communities to develop innovative strategies for keeping people and their companion animals together. And the more a community sees its shelters as a place to turn for advice and assistance, the easier this job will be.

7.. Medical and Behavior Programs
in order to meet its commitment to a lifesaving guarantee for all savable animals, shelters need to keep animals happy and healthy and keep animals moving through the system. To do this, shelters must put in place comprehensive vaccination, handling, cleaning, socialization, and care policies before animals get sick and rehabilitative efforts for those who come in sick, injured, unweaned, or traumatized.

8.. Public Relations/Community Involvement
Increasing adoptions, maximizing donations, recruiting volunteers and partnering with community agencies comes down to one thing: increasing the shelter’s public exposure. And that means consistent marketing and public relations. Public relations and marketing are the foundation of all a shelter’s activities and their success. To do all these things well, the shelter must be in the public eye.

9. Volunteers
Volunteers are a dedicated “army of compassion” and the backbone of a successful No Kill effort. There is never enough staff, never enough dollars to hire more staff, and always more needs than paid human resources. That is where volunteers make the difference between success and failure and, for the animals, life and death.

10.. Proactive Redemptions
One of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims. Primarily shifting from passive to a more proactive approach—has proven to have a significant impact on lifesaving and allow shelters to return a large percentage of lost animals to their families.

11. A Compassionate Director
The final element of the No Kill Equation is the most important of all, without which all other elements are thwarted—a hard working, compassionate animal control or shelter director not content to continue killing, while regurgitate tired clichés or hiding behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes.”

12. Comprehensive Implementation
To fully succeed, however, shelters should not implement the programs piecemeal or in a limited manner. If they are sincere in their desire to stop the killing, animal shelters will implement and expand programs to the point that they replace killing entirely. Combining rigorous, comprehensive implementation of the No Kill Equation with best practices and accountability of staff in cleaning, handling, and care of animals, must be the standard.