Yesterday was the Committee hearing on AB487 at the State Capitol. We wanted to share the testimonies that were read and also brought forth to the committee for their review. Lost Dogs of Wisconsin believes in preserving the human/animal bond. We are the only state organization that does this. This bond can only be preserved by keeping the stray hold the same while trying to implement new processes for a good Return to Owner system for lost pets in the state of Wisconsin.
Statement from Susan Taney
Good afternoon, my name is Susan Taney. I have been in the animal welfare sector for over 25 years from managing /working in shelters to running individual rescues. However, today I bring a rather unique perspective, as I have been helping coordinate the reunions of lost and found dogs for the last 6 years. I am the co-founder of Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Lost Dogs of America and the founder of Lost Dogs Illinois.
Through this experience, I have found out what works and what doesn’t. Based on that experience I have come to the overwhelming conclusion that the general public does not know what to do when they lose their loved family member or when the public finds a lost pet.
This SHOULD be a major concern for municipal shelters as these families with lost pets are not only to be considered clients of the facility, but they are also the taxpayers who are paying for the shelter’s services. If finding their lost family member takes time and the shelter is not allowing that time, the shelter is doing a great injustice to both the client and the taxpayer.
I would like to bring to your attention to a recent set of guidelines put forth by the ASPCA regarding what they consider to be the minimum standards that shelters and stray holding facilities should be doing to help reunite lost pets in shelters. Many states have adopted these practices by law. At this point Wisconsin has not yet adopted any of these practices.
Examples are (just to name a few):
- Shelters must check for ID, including microchips, tattoos, etc., at the time of intake.
- Shelters must serve notice to identified owners of stray animals, and the hold times for stray animals must account for mail delivery.
- Shelters must provide public notice, appropriate to the community, of stray animals entering the shelter.
- Shelters should be authorized and encouraged to reduce or waive redemption fees.
Most Wisconsin shelters and stray holding facilities do not meet these minimum standards recommended by the ASPCA. We lack the basic framework for a good Return to Owner system for lost pets. AND now Wisconsin wants to lessen the time owners have to find their pets.
Proponents for the bill have suggested that other national cities that are achieving a 90% or better live release rate are doing so because they have a shortened stray hold. In fact, there is no correlation between short stray holds and save rates. You can find plenty of shelters with short stray holds and horrific kill rates. And again, without any standardized reporting in Wisconsin by animal shelters to our Department of Agriculture, it is very difficult to do any analysis of the data.
In the last 20-30 years, the status of animals has been elevated from the barnyard to the bedroom. They are now loved family members. It is time to change our mindsets and fix the system. Please amend AB487 to remove the portion that reduces the stray hold from 7 days to 4 days in order for every loved family member to go home. Lessening the stray hold period only manages to get the pets out of the shelter sooner; it does NOT effectively promote getting the pets back to their families. We believe implementing new processes while retaining the 7 day stray hold will be far more effective.
Thank you for time and consideration.
Statement from Rob Goddard
I am writing to you about my concerns regarding bill AB487. I am the developer and operator of a National Database for Lost & Found Pets. My concern regarding the bill is the reduction in the stray hold time from 7 days to 4 days. The issue regarding court case dogs is entirely different and both issues should be addressed separately.
Through my experience in working with many groups and shelters regarding strays, there are three main issues that I want to raise that are affected by the reduction in hold time.
1. Currently, when a pet goes missing in a populated area, the animal could be taken in at many different shelters. When shelters do not provide photos and other information about their intakes online, it makes it extremely difficult for the owner to visit each shelter, every vet clinic, search websites, Facebook pages, newspaper ads and also physically search for their pet. Often times, their pet is found within just a few days, but other pets take longer to find.
2. Pet owners away on vacation that have left their pet with a pet sitter or a boarding facility, may not even be aware their pet has gotten out and is missing. The extra few days makes a big difference.
3. Often times people finding pets are not notifying shelters or surrendering the pet to the local shelter as they fear for the pets safety. Reducing the stray hold time will not improve this situation.
Once a National Database is in place where every lost and found pet is listed and everyone knows where to look to see if their pet has been found and is at a shelter, then reducing the stray hold time then reducing the stray hold time then may make sense. But not at this time.
Please amend AB487 to remove the portion that reduces the stray hold from 7 days to 4 days. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Statement from Karen Smith Burns
I am writing to you about my concerns regarding bill AB487.
In October of 2013, one of my cats, Lily, became frightened by window repairmen and escaped through one of the windows. I left food and water out for her, but didn’t see her. I decided to check the abandoned house where I had found her a couple of years before. She was there, but wouldn’t come to me, so I left food and water for her. I repeated this process a couple of times. After not seeing her for a couple of days, I started checking the MADACC website for female cats. I did not see her. After about a week, I decided to look at all of the pictures of cats on the website. At that time, I thought that Lily had a microchip. (I later found that I had somehow missed getting her microchipped along with my other pets). I found her under the category of undetermined gender. Although it was a few minutes after the shelter closed, I called MADACC’s number. Thankfully, someone answered and said I could see the cat in the morning. I also e-mailed a couple of friends who worked at MADACC to try to ensure that no mistakes were made and she was not going to be killed before I got there. (She was a “fraidy cat” and not too cooperative with the staff). I went to MADACC the following morning. Lily was very glad to see me. She cooperated with staff to get her immunizations updated and get a microchip.
Due to my job and other problems, I was perhaps not as aggressive in my hunt for Lily as I should have been. However, I think that work and other concerns might cause other pet owners to need more time than 3 or 4 days to locate a lost pet.”
I am very thankful that the shelter had to keep Lily for a week before she was scheduled to be killed. She is in the room with me now and is doing just fine.
Statement from Kay Frederick
I could not disagree more with the “logic” put forth by Spiros and Petrowski. Nor, as I have learned, do the many fine small rescue groups in the state.
As someone who lost a pet, I can attest to needing the longer time period. First, we were on vacation when our dog disappeared (not uncommon as I have learned), so it was three days before I could begin looking for my girl. Next, she disappeared from East Troy farm area, so I had a minimum of three shelters to check. The Racine County shelter is located at the east end of the county, adding to my distress. One major issue, of which I was unaware so you may be also, is that giving shelters a verbal description of your pet gives you a false sense of security. I received calls, only to find that the animal was nowhere close to matching a description of my Annie. This meant that I had to visit these sites and make a visual check of animals that had been brought in.
I’m really distressed that the authors would once again pull that “taxpayer money” language since owners are charged a hefty amount when, and if, they retrieve their beloved pet, as is an adoptive family. So that’s just political jargon meant to perk the ears of the uninformed!
If they, or you, truly wish to reduce the amount of time a lost animal is in shelter, you will require all rescue facilities to post a digital image of pets after a 48 hour period. This is of no cost to them and would be of huge benefit to both lost animals and their families. You would also require all pet owners to have microchips implanted. These are measures that would actually help return an animal to its family.
Lastly, to say that a reduced hold is of benefit to the animal is, frankly, absurd. Yes, being in the rescue facility would be traumatizing. But to think that being taken from there by anyone other than their family members would not just be another trauma, shows a lack of caring and understanding. As a person who has done rescue work, I have seen these poor animals go through these times of being passed off to a loving home. To them, all they understand is that it is not family.
Statement from Kat Albrecht
On behalf of the members and supporters of Missing Pet Partnership, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reuniting lost companion animals with their owner/guardians, I wanted to comment on the proposed legislation of Assembly Bill 487 and the Senate companion bill SB450.
It is my understanding that the State of Wisconsin is considering reducing the stray hold requirements on impounded dogs and cats in Wisconsin animal shelters from 7 days down to just a 4 day hold. Although I am sure this has been proposed for the purpose of lifting a “burden” from taxes by saving them money, I can assure you that a reduction in stray holding times as proposed will only create more burdens on your tax payers due to the permanent displacement of loved companion animals. It is difficult enough for tax payers to recover their missing pets as it is, and forcing them to know how and where to search for their missing pet in such a restricted time frame only reduces the chance that lost dogs and cats will be returned home.
Instead of decreasing the hold times, Wisconsin shelters should consider maintaining their 7 day hold time and adopting innovative lost and found programs which include making certain that they are following the position statements outlined by the ASPCA which include that “Shelters must establish a reasonable process for matching stray animals admitted to the shelter with reports of lost pets received by the shelter from owners.” Sadly, most animal shelters are simply not taking the time to cross reference lost pet reports with the animals held in their cages. Instead, shelters are passively waiting for the owner of the stray animals to show up at their facility and when no one shows up, this is blamed on “uncaring” owners and the focus of the shelter is to rehome the animal. In reality, when dogs and cats escape from their families it causes conflict and chaos in the life of the pet owner. The majority of families return home from work only to discover their pet escaped from their home (Day 1 of holding period at the shelter). They may drive around their neighborhood, but they are not able to go to their local animal shelter since by the time they find out where it is, the shelter is closed. They do what they can that night (on line perhaps) but the next day, they must go to work (Day 2). Sometimes they are able to get permission to take the following day (Day 3) off of work, but more than likely they will have to wait until the weekend before they will have the time and ability to drive down to the local shelter. If your stray holding periods are reduced from 7 days down to 3 or even 4 days, people whose dogs and cats go missing on Monday will likely be adopted out to new families (or euthanized) by the time the pet owner can get there (Saturday).
Instead of reducing stray holding times, Missing Pet Partnership encourages animal shelters to instead adopt innovative lost pet recovery programs, to educate their staff and volunteers in how to counsel the public in lost pet recovery techniques, and to partner with on-line lost pet recovery sites like Lost Dogs of Wisconsin, Lost Dogs of America, and HelpingLostPets.com. Shelters that have taken these proactive, progressive steps to increasing lost pet reunifications have seen remarkable increases in their RTO (“return to owner”) rates and a decrease in the numbers of animals that they must take in. Through training provided by Missing Pet Partnership, one shelter in Lynwood, Washington increased their RTO to 27% (the national RTO rate on dogs is only 16%) while another shelter in Boston quadrupled their RTO on lost cats. Recently I co-presented a national webinar hosted by The Humane Society of the United States called, “Five Steps Shelters Can Take to Increase Cat Reclaims.” This webinar is available for free online for anyone, including Wisconsin animal shelter staff and volunteers to learn more about preventing lost cats from ending up in shelters in the first place. The webinar can be found here: http://www.animalsheltering.org/trainings/keeping-cats-homes-5-steps-shelters-can-take-increase-cat-reclaims
An increase in education and adopting cutting edge lost pet recovery programs, rather than reducing the stray hold times, is what is needed to help more animals. The proposed reduction from 7 days to 4 days will dramatically decrease the percentage of pet owners in the state of Wisconsin who are able to recover their lost pets.