Our No-Kill Effort
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Impossible You Say?
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On May 4, 2005 the Rancho Cucamonga City Council expressed its intent to terminate all contracts with San Bernardino County for administration of the Rancho Cucamonga Animal Shelter and the City’s animal control services. The Council further indicated it will move as quickly as possible toward a no-kill shelter format. The County has been the City’s shelter administrator since 1996. A formal vote will be taken at the next meeting.
Every member individually rebuked the County for failing to follow the Council's unequivocal edict, that all impounded animals should be held a minimum of 30 days before killing them. Mayor Pro Tem Diane Williams additionally chided the County’s poor customer service and failure to set standards for its employees during a time the County knew it was under scrutiny. Sam Spagnolo cited a pattern of failing to provide adequate services. Dennis Michael said that it is clear a transition is overdue. Rex Gutierrez said the County's conduct was disappointing. Mayor Bill Alexander suggested the Council set a time frame of no more than 120 days to convert to city-run services. He also suggested that a no-kill consultation contract be expanded to include help in making the administration switch. With subdued anger, Alexander peered down his glasses at a pound official and said that everyone would be better served if the County would apply its efforts to converting nearby Devore's pound into a no-kill shelter and let the City set its own course solo. Devore is considered to be one of the worst pounds in the Inland Empire. It is currently administered by the County.
Firing the County has been under consideration by the Council for several months. Rescuers and activists have cited dozens of examples of mistreatment of animals and deplorable customer service. Over 1,000 residents signed a petition for reform of the City’s shelter. The petition was initiated by this website.
"Michelle Dawson was instrumental in bringing about these remarkable, rapid-paced events" said Vikki Shore, director of No-Kill NOW. Dawson is the right-hand assistant to Jack Lam, the City Manager. Lam is considered to be one of the most influential leaders in the community.
"Ms. Dawson has been listening to shelter complaints, verifying facts and reporting her findings to Lam and other Council members. She has even visited no-kill shelters in other counties to learn about their operations. She has probably worked harder than anyone in the City to bring about these changes. Clearly she didn't start out with shelter reform in mind. She merely set out on a fact-finding mission. It was the County’s own actions that eventually convinced her that changes need to be made as soon as possible. Lam has backed her all the way.
"If I had to spotlight the person most responsible for the County’s downfall, it would have to be Dan Avera of the County’s Public Health Department. Despite his promises to the City, his actions belie his resistance to change and resentment of criticism.
"In March I called Mr. Avera after reading a news article stating he thought no-kill advocates should speak directly with pound personnel to advance their cause. We spoke briefly and he said he was happy to communicate. But a few days later I asked for his help in putting a hold on an impounded dog I wanted to advertise for adoption. She appeared to be the happiest and most hopeful dog within the shelter. Avera never answered my calls or fax and the dog was killed. That was my first reality check that he was not really sincere about making changes. When I implored Avera to respond, stating I was crying and heartbroken and wanted an explanation, he never answered. I shared this tragedy with Lam and Dawson who contacted Avera. He told them he left several messages for me but I never received even one.
"My next experience with Avera followed a couple weeks later. I learned that when someone called the pound expressing interest in an animal they saw on the website, they were told, "We don’t take names or put holds on animals. You’ll have to wait until the hold time is up and when that time comes if anyone else is interested there will be a lottery and you might not get the animal anyway." The pound staff refused numerous requests to take the caller's name.
"Pound supervisor, Mark Scinta, told me less than 5% of animals, if that, are fortunate enough to have a lottery. So you'd have to ask, why would the staff even bring up a discouraging lottery that was unlikely to ever occur, during an initial phone inquiry? And what company on the planet would refuse to take a name of a willing purchaser of their product who came clamoring at their door to close a sale? As a trained salesperson I was horrified that the pound staff was literally chasing away adoption prospects. A million dollars worth of advertising couldn’t help increase adoptions as long as calls continued to be handled this way. I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness when I realized that thousands of animals must have died these past 9 years solely based on this practice alone. But the good news was that we could probably increase adoptions by at least 10-20% without spending a dime. All we had to do was simply change the way inquiries are handled.
"So I wrote a script parroting what the pound staff was telling callers. Then I created a new script stating what the staff should be saying. I sent these to Lam and some Council members. Everyone agreed that something needed to be changed immediately. I agreed to provide free sales training to the pound staff in order to immediately benefit the animals. Dawson spoke with Avera, who promised to contact me. He never did.
"After more follow up calls from Rex Gutierrez and Dennis Michael, a meeting was held between Dawson, Avera and Tim Johnson, the assistant to Paul Biane, County Supervisor. I received an email from Michelle stating the County would be contacting me to commence training. The County never called.
"I later learned that the County hinted that I should shut down my website, www.nokillnow.com, before any training began.
"Here's a final example. I called Avera
about an Australian Shepherd at the pound who was obviously suffering and
not receiving medical treatment. Her name is Taz. She’s still there if
anyone can save her. She had been hit by a car several days before and was
crying and holding up her paw to which a huge piece of tissue was
hanging. I was there for 4 hours and it seemed like
every minute her cries got louder. I urged the staff to seek medical help
but they said she had already been seen by a vet several days ago and ‘was fine.’
They said they could not do anything more because their supervisor was gone.
I called the vet who had seen Taz and the assistant explained the pound
officer had been told she needed x-rays and follow-up treatment. I drove to
the vet's office to get pain medication but they refused to give it to me.
When Avera answered his phone at about 5:00 p.m. and heard my voice, he was furious. He complained he had been up
until 11:00 p.m. the night before at a Council meeting and he wasn’t going
to let me waste more of his time. He refused to do anything until he talked
to his supervisor the next day. He hung up on me. After my complaints to
Lam and Dawson, Taz was eventually brought back to the vet and received
"Today is a red-letter day for our community and our animals! Our City Council is nothing less than remarkable! They acted immediately upon learning the general public is interested in major shelter reform:
"We are truly fortunate to have a group of courageous, progressive leaders that listen and respond to the our pleas for help!"
No-Kill NOW! P.O. Box 217, Etiwanda, CA 91739-0217
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