Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Happy Cats at MadCat - new hope in '08

frankly i've been a little depressed since my last post for reasons stated therein. i won't rehash that now, but there is no question the road to a No Kill Madison will not always be smooth and easy.

luckily, there is exciting news on the cat front. our main focus right now are the cats being brought to DCHS and their likely outcomes. that being said, we are looking for programs that directly support these endangered felines with focused lifesaving programs. we are talking about direct-diversion from our local kill-shelter.

there are a number of "alt" cat-rescues that operate in the Dane County area, but none with this direct focus. they are not receiving the majority (if any) of their cats from the primary (and only) kill-facility in Dane County. the outcomes are now understood by everyone. (more below)

there is a new member of the Dane County rescue community and it's called HappyCat. they are addressing the problem i describe. this will be a facility-free foster-and-placement network designed to divert cats from DCHS and place them in foster-care until loving (and suitable) homes can be found. nobody dies - hence the happy part. facility-free is a key-ingredient for stretching lifesaving dollars.

the plan sounds great - now how about the people? no plan succeeds without capable leadership and this will be no exception. the ladies behind this are Tonja and Sherry - hardcore veterans of the Dane County rescue circuit. they came to us for consultation and to negotiate for resources. we were deighted. we already have the first adoption-fair scheduled for this Sunday at MadCat-West (noon-to-3pm). join them there to learn more (no website yet).

ok, so what about resources? the biggest hurdle for any cat rescue is veterinary care - coverage, if you will. Sherry and Tonja have wisely partnered with Dr. Laurie Peek of Maddie's Fund and DCHS for full medical coverage of every cat in their program. think about that. just thank the powers that be. what about the rest (food, litter, etc.)? HappyCats at MadCat is a joint-venture and with the generous support of Madison's cat-lovers, we expect that the needs of our feline friends will be exceeded.

so we have a new plan with resource-support, and leadership to back it up. i have one warning. this group is essentially an extension of DCHS and the cats in the program are technically still in their custody (hence the medical coverage). could this backfire in some strange way when priorities are at stake and well-meaning folks disagree? could this be some strange horrible Trojan Horse of cat death? why would we give DCHS one more chance?

i don't know. i honestly don't have all the answers when it comes to this No Kill journey we are on. but i know we have to keep trying new things and learning from our mistakes. i think that's what we are all trying to do here. maybe it will work...

update: things went well at the first event. congrats to the HappyCat team!

Friday, January 04, 2008

DCFoF sees big changes - board resignations

I suppose when you can't find the story somewhere else and everyone is asking about it, you might as well tell it yourself. In short, the cats living at the DCFoF enclosure at MadCat-West were not receiving adequate daily care. We define adequate daily care at a minimum to include food, fresh water, two poop-scoops (morning/evening), and some form of human interaction each and every day.

This problem has been continuous, with many promises and excuses made over the years, none of which seemed to really close the care-gap we were seeing. DCFoF leadership refused to commit to our basic care standard, especially the morning/evening cleaning ritual (the most "gruelling" job). When we tried to bring the problem to the attention of the group again recently, our messages were censored from the group as a whole (thanks, Yahoogroups!). (more below)

The censoring of the "wake-up call" message to fellow group members was a big deal. This essentially meant that the problem would get stovepiped, delegated, and avoided yet again. The cats demanded better and so did we. I sent a follow-up to as big a group of names as I had lying around that I knew were members. I'll post this message soon (don't want this post to run too long).

When members started asking the leadership what this was all about, the wagons began to circle. We were attacking the group, throwing out the cats, or threatening to call in animal-control. The care of the cats was the last thing on anyone's mind. Why were these issues being brought up? What is the history of this problem?

In the resulting turmoil, two board-members resigned their positions, citing serious concerns that the board was essentially "rigged" or used as a rubber-stamp for the whims of an inside clique of leaders. Those resigning were frustrated that there was no intention of giving these conerns serious consideration, but rather a desire to attack the messenger and escape the situation.

Since all of this took place, what is left of the board has decided to move the "unsocialized" cats out of the MadCat-West facility and focus remaining resorces on upgrading their friendly-room program (perhaps addressing the issues we were demanding action on).

There are still lots of unresolved issues and raw feelings on both sides at the moment. Many want to know what the future holds for the relationship between DCFoF and MadCat - me as much as anyone. I truly hope this gets fixed and that the group is able to wrestle back control of itself and the care of the cats it serves. In a community that kills 40% of the cats it sees brought to the local shelter, we need to start demanding some real changes in the way our programs and services interact.

more info will come out on this, but the main thing is the cats and whether we have well-led, well-resourced programs to serve their needs. Let's hope we can get there...


Friday, December 21, 2007

Winograd spends an hour with Rayburn

Nathan Winograd spent an hour with Lee Rayburn to discuss his recent article about the situation at the Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) and the record of Dr. Sandra Newbury, specifically how we can reduce an out-of-control kill-rate.

the interview aired on December 19th on 92.1 the Mic. we are working on getting this audio better hosting for easier use.

read the article: Can You Kill Your Way to No Kill? - by Nathan Winograd

listen to Lee's interview with Nathan: Winograd/Rayburn - 12/19
more beans later...


Friday, December 14, 2007

Winograd sounds off on DCHS, Dr. Newbury

bringing a national perspective to our local shelter-killing problem, Nathan Winograd weighed in on the record of Dane County Humane Society, Dr. Sandra Newbury, and the solution to our "cat problem" (the problem being that we feel we need to kill them). i am rereading the article now, but i wanted to get it posted quickly so we appear sort of up-to-date. btw, the kitten pictured is one Nathan bottle-fed to save (rather than killing for convenience).

humor aside, this is a scathing indictment of the failed policies of the Dane County Humane Society under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Sandra Newbury, Cathy Holmes, and Pam McCloud-Smith. this is the same team that is just declared they are "creating a better match between the number of animals coming in and the number of animals going out" - no joke. by killing 40% of them. (more below)

we said it before and we'll say it again. when you find yourself stuck in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging. in Pam's memo to her staff, she claims that their strategy "will one day become best practice for us and other shelters." why do we keep listening to this Orwellian insanity?

as Nathan Winograd points out, "the archaic voices of tradition in sheltering are acting the same way as the doctors who put their own positions above their patients. They refuse to innovate and modernize precisely because they are threatened by the growing hegemony of the No Kill movement and what this means for their own stature in this movement."

read his piece. we'll talk. we're planning another No-Kill Madison meet-up soon, so stay posted. our cats are well-served by this work. thanks again to Nathan for taking the time to examine our circumstance and offer helpful insight. i hope we are able to put it to good use...


Thursday, December 13, 2007

DCHS unleashes a tepid response

well DCHS finally came around to responding to Vikki's article - as she points out - "sort of". for one thing, their response only went out to staff and volunteers, not the general public (who read the article they are responding to). for another thing, they do little to address the failure it describes - actually promising more of the same failed policies and practices.

you can read their letter here.

we are grateful that Ms. Kratz found our save-rate graph helpful. don't expect DCHS to be publishing anything this simple and useful anytime soon. apparently they are busy with holiday fundraising...


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

WisconsinCAT talks with Lee Rayburn

after interviewing Vikki Kratz last week regarding the "Better off dead?" article in (the) Isthmus, Lee invited me on to talk about the specific pressures cats face in Dane County and why that leads to record high kill-rates.

we are always pleased to accept an invitation to make sure our cats are seen and heard - especially in a community forum like the mic 92.1. i'll let the audio speak for itself. the show will play live in Madison at 7pm tonight on Lee's evening hour-long interview show.

listen, argue - get involved!


Monday, December 10, 2007

DCHS cat-graphs updated - holy crap!

there is no point in doing much more than just showing the damn slide. it looks considerably worse now that we factor in the kills that appear in the September/October data unavailable as of our November update (you read that right). either way, we're on-track to kill over 40% of the estimated 3,600 cats DCHS will have taken in by the end of 2007. woot.

some wonder how we arrive at these save-rate numbers. it's easy. you take the total number of cats taken in over a period of say one year. you then look at how many you killed (or died in your care) over that same period of time (kill-rate). you inverse the kill-rate and you have a save-rate (i.e. 35% kill-rate = 65% save-rate). simple, no? it really is, especially over any longer period of time. since our analysis covers a seven-year span (so far) these numbers can be said to be fairly reliable. (more below)

it's dark math, we'll agree. but it's the math that matters if you are a free-roaming cat in Dane County, the most at-risk group. we are specifically advocating on behalf of those cats, for sake of clarity. we'll put up the intake, adption, and shelter-kill data that helps us arrive at save-rate (adoptions are actually not a direct factor in save-rate, but obviously tightly linked).

anyway, it was worth posting both graphs for the books and updating anyone paying attention to this - ahem - problem...