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Tiny, trusting hearts lying at our feet

March 27, 2013

Our cat, Chibi, loves to play fetch and will retrieve many different toys: springs, Kleenex packets, fuzzy mice, crinkle balls, “Binkies” (Safety First electrical outlet plug protectors)…the list is endless.

But yesterday he brought me something special:

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I threw the toy for Chibi to fetch, but he did not run after it like he normally does.

Puzzled at first by his gesture, I soon realized that maybe, just maybe–in some cosmic moment of synchronicity, or perhaps in my own fantasy land mind–Chibi was giving me his heart and telling me that he loved and trusted me.

Then I thought about our other companion cats, our foster cat, our foster kittens and cats who are now adopted, our feral cat colony, our precious angel cats who now live only in our hearts, and all of the shelter and rescue cats whom I’ve ever met.

So many hearts lay at our feet, loving us with their entire being–body and soul. They trust us completely to do what is right and best for them. Yet, more often than not, we let them down.

To every person who reads this, I ask you to please think about the little hearts who lie at your feet.

What can YOU do to help make the world a safer, better place for these trusting little souls?

What will YOU, as the guardian of these tiny hearts, do to protect them?

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I choose the animals

December 27, 2012

After a frustrating night of wondering why some people and rescues are so militantly opposed to the life saving No Kill Equation, as well as questioning myself about whether I’m going about my advocacy in the wrong way, I woke up to see my poem and picture republished in one of my favorite cat-related blogs, The Conscious Cat.

Seeing the post brought me back to myself. I KNOW that I’m doing the right thing. This isn’t about ME. This is about “This Cat,” “This Dog,” “This Bird,” etc. This is about SAVING LIVES.

No Kill is NOT something that’s on the horizon, nor is it an idealistic dream that might happen on some unknown date in the future. It’s happening RIGHT NOW across our country, in 86 communities, and the list continues to grow.

Seeing the Conscious Cat blog post truly is THE best Christmas present. This gift reminds me that I AM doing the right thing, that life saving IS possible, and that Indianapolis–and ALL communities–WILL achieve No Kill! The sooner the naysayers and the shelter apologists understand this, and get on board with us, the better off our animals will be!

This is why I support the No Kill Equation. This is why I have chosen to go back to Indianapolis Animal Care and Control to work with the cats by doing feline kennel enrichment as an IACC volunteer and, hopefully, as a Casa del Toro volunteer as well. Because I am in this for all of the “This Cat” kitties who need care and love and a chance at a new life outside of the shelter.

Maybe I’m fanatical. Maybe I’m idealistic. But I choose to SAVE LIVES! For me, this is a no brainer. I see this issue as very black and white. I see a kill side and a no kill side. I am choosing No Kill. I am choosing the ANIMALS. What are YOU choosing?

No good deed goes unpunished for Indy’s animal loving good samaritans

December 20, 2012
Today a story broke here in Indianapolis about a free-roaming cat colony caretaker, Debby Poulsen, who was charged with “animal care and treatment” and other violations after she took an injured stray dog to Indianapolis Animal Care and Control (“IACC”) for treatment. It does not appear, from this story at least, that IACC conducted a thorough enough investigation into Ms. Poulsen’s claim that she did not personally own the dog and that she had been feeding him sporadically over a two-year period.
 
Despite Ms. Poulsen’s claim that she had not seen the dog near her property for about five months, IACC must not have believed her story. Instead of thanking her for helping the dog, and promising to do their best to help him by treating his injuries and ensuring that he received food and water and other care, they slapped her with animal neglect citations. Like Elphaba of the Broadway musical, “Wicked,” Ms. Poulsen has learned that, here in Indy, “No good deed goes unpunished” for some of the people who try to help animals in need.
 
Ms. Poulsen is one of Indy’s many volunteer cat colony caretakers, who manage their colonies with the help of local TNR group, Indy Feral, so much of the “feeding” that happened was most likely the dog eating at the colony’s feeding station, although Ms. Poulsen does admit to occasionally throwing hot dogs to the dog, since she could never touch him, which isn’t surprising since many stray dogs, or even potentially abused or neglected neighborhood dogs (as this dog might very well have been), will run away from well-meaning people who try to help them.
 
Ms. Poulsen’s case worries me, as I myself have been “guilty” of the crime of trying to help stray animals. I am also a caretaker for a managed free-roaming cat colony, and I fear that many of my fellow caretakers, a group of dedicated individuals whom I like to call “Indy Cat Guardians,” as well as other animal loving citizens, will read Ms. Poulsen’s story and fear getting into trouble for helping animals in their own neighborhoods. Therefore, I wrote the following email to Yvonne Man, the Fox 59 reporter who broke this story:
 
December 20, 2012
 
Dear Ms. Man,
 
This is in response to your story re: the animal cruelty charges and other infractions against Debby Poulsen in connection with her taking a stray dog in need of medical treatment to Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, as the law dictates: 
 

Sec. 531-208. – Lost or stray domestic animals.

 

(a) Persons finding a stray animal are to notify the animal care and control division within forty-eight (48) hours. At the discretion of the division, the animal may be kept by the finder and a found report left with the division, to enable the finder an opportunity to return the animal to its rightful owner.

 

(b) Upon demand, by the animal care and control division, any found animal will be taken to an appropriate facility and scanned for an identifying microchip.

 

(c) Persons finding an animal are obligated to comply with all the rules and regulations of this chapter pertaining to humane care and treatment of animals, while said animal is in their custody awaiting return to its actual owner.

 

(d) With the exception of the Humane Society of Indianapolis or other humane and/or breed rescue organizations recognized by the animal care and control division, the finder will be considered the found animal’s owner for purposes of this chapter only after the animal is in the finder’s custody for thirty (30) continuous days.

(G.O. 169, 1999, § 3)

 

Ms. Man, I implore you to further investigate this case, as I worry that it will generate fear among the many hard-working, yet less informed, volunteer caretakers of free-roaming cat colonies here in Indianapolis, as well as other animal lovers who might want to help animals in need.

 

I myself am a caretaker for a free-roaming cat colony, which is registered through Indy Feral. And I, like Ms. Poulsen, have had stray dogs come to my colony’s feeding station looking for food. Last year, many folks in my neighborhood were feeding a frightened stray German Shepherd Dog. Many attempts were made to catch the dog. IACC was apparently called, as one neighbor said that an IACC van was seen parked in the area, yet nobody ever saw any attempt from an animal control officer to capture the dog. The story ended well, as one neighbor gained the dog’s trust, got him into his garage, and called a local animal rescuer to pick up the dog. The rescuer, who worked with a local no kill rescue group, successfully rehomed the dog.

 

Here, for your further information, are the city ordinances relating to those who manage TNR’d (trap-neuter-return) cat colonies:

 

Sec. 531-209. – Managed free-roaming cats.

 

(a) The animal care and control division or its designee, in order to encourage the stabilization of the free-roaming cat population in the city, may:

 

(1) Trap any free-roaming cat in a humane manner;

 

(2) Have the cat surgically sterilized, ear-tipped, and vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian; and

 

(3) Release the cat to animal care and control for adoption or other disposition in accordance with law, or to a colony caretaker who will maintain the cat as part of a managed colony of free-roaming cats.

 

(b) The enforcement authority may impound free-roaming cats in violation of this chapter and dispose of the cats in accordance with section 531-731. Any free-roaming cat impounded by the enforcement authority that bears an appropriate ear-tipping indicating it belongs to a managed colony may, at the discretion of the animal care and control division, be returned to its managed colony unless illness or injury present an imminent danger to public health or safety.

 

(G.O. 100, 2005, § 3)

 

Sec. 531-210. – Colony caretaker responsibilities.

 

(a) Colony caretakers shall abide by standard guidelines devised by the animal care and control division or its designee regarding the provision of food, water, shelter and veterinary care for cats within the managed colony.

 

(b) Colony caretakers shall have a licensed veterinarian evaluate the health of all trapped free-roaming cats. Seriously ill or injured cats with no reasonable prognosis for humane rehabilitation for survival outdoors will be humanely euthanized.

 

(c) A person who violates any provision of this section shall be punishable as provided in section 103-3 of this Code; provided, however, a fine imposed for the first such violation shall not be less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00); subsequent or continued violations caretaker’s removal from management of the managed colony, or the designee’s removal from the program.

 

(G.O. 100, 2005, § 3)

 

Also, I encourage you to share with the public Move to Act‘s guide for animal care in Indianapolis: http://movetoact.org/media/RescueRallyDirectory2013.pdf

 

In the guide, people will learn what they should actually do when they find a stray animal:

 

Found a friendly dog or cat?

 

Per Section 531-201 (a)…Persons finding a stray animal are to notify the animal care and control division within forty-eight (48) hours. At the discretion of the division, the animal may be kept by the finder and a found report left with the division, to enable the finder an opportunity to return the animal to its rightful owner.

 

Do NOT take the animal to Animal Care and Control. There is a high likelihood that it will be killed to make room for incoming animals or become infected with a shelter-borne disease and die before it is re-homed.

 

If the animal has ID tag – contact the owner.

 

If no ID tag – take to a local veterinarian office to have scanned for a microchip. This is free.

 

(Excerpt; see more at http://movetoact.org/media/RescueRallyDirectory2013.pdf.)

 

Thanks for your time, Ms. Man. I am hoping to soon start a 501(c)(3), most likely to be called No Kill Indy, which hopes to expand its advocacy to make Indianapolis a no kill community by helping our City Council and high kill shelter embrace the No Kill Equation. I currently write a blog re: the Indy animal welfare scene (http://nekoscribe.wordpress.com) and also am the creator and administrator for the following Facebook pages: No Kill Indy (https://www.facebook.com/NoKillIndy) and Indy Cat Guardians (https://www.facebook.com/IndyCatGuardians), as well as the creator/admin for two closed online groups for Indy no kill advocates and cat colony caretakers. I have managed my own colony for over six years. Please contact me if you have any questions.

 

Karen D. Mitchell

Ms. Poulsen said that she will pay the fines, but I encourage her to fight the charges filed against her. As a rescue colleague has pointed out, if Ms. Poulsen is found guilty of “care and treatment” violations, she will automatically fall under special sanctions that could prohibit her from having more than two dogs as long as she lives in Marion County–possibly for the rest of her life. (See Sec. 531-728). My colleague noted that sometimes IACC will impose even stiffer penalties, if they can get away with it, thus placing Ms. Poulson in a precarious position–more than she realizes.

I hope that more details of this story begin to come out. If you feel that IACC was wrong to issue sanctions against Ms. Poulsen, please contact your local City-County Council representative and the Mayor’s office.

Image

“This Cat”

November 18, 2012

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“This Cat”

is

steel woven in wool,
black wands flickering
in two full moons.

“This Cat”

has

claws that tap bars
and paws that stretch
far, like a child’s hand
waiting for treats.

“This Cat”

was

loved once,
or is, perhaps,
loved still,

yet found
Her or Him Self
trapped
in this limbic state.

“This Cat”

is

a pawn in a game
of euphemisms–
words twisted and gnarled
like a dying tree’s roots.

“This Cat”

is only

a number on a screen,
a portion of a statistic,
a fraction of the status quo,
a faceless blip

never to be
cherished for Who
She or He

Is,

but rather
a some thing else
entirely, since a

Something

is Not

Unique or Sentient,
and perhaps

Not Worthy.

“This Cat”

waits

to be chosen,
to be known,
to be freed,
to be

Named,

for She or He is

Somebody–

a Being who has never been before
and shall never be again,
except for this day,

this day of waiting

for

“This Cat”

*****

I took this photograph of a kitten during my first visit to Indianapolis Animal Care and Control (“IACC”) in 2011. My poem, inspired by the “This Cat” and “This Dog” notations on IACC kennel cards, came to me in October 2012. When I volunteered at IACC, I would sometimes scratch out “This Cat” and write a name of my choice, because every individual deserves a name.

*****

Photograph and poem are Copyright of Karen D. Mitchell, 2012.

One Miracle in the Midst of Too Many Tragedies

August 25, 2012

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Does the following statement from Indianapolis Animal Care and Control’s Deputy Chief, in response to yesterday’s brutal stabbing of an innocent puppy, nicknamed “Miracle,” offer a glimmer of hope for a no kill Indy?

Marcus Brown from Indianapolis Animal Care and Control said this incident is an example of why stiffer penalties are needed.

“We’re attempting to… make the courts understand it’s just as important to enforce the laws of animals, and they need to be looked at just as we treat each other,” Brown said.

If we must treat animals as we treat each other, as Brown suggests, then doesn’t it logically follow that we should also stop killing more than half of the animals who find themselves inside of our so-called shelter, most of whom are healthy or treatable, rehabilitatable, and adoptable?

IACC’s live release rate for July 2012 was 47.91%, which means that over half of the animals who find themselves in our shelter never make it out alive. This rate of killing is abysmal when you consider that at least fifty communities across the nation are saving more than 95% of their animals.

Do we kill our orphaned children? No. We place them in foster or adoptive homes. Do we kill our homeless senior citizens? No. We care for them in assisted living or nursing homes. Do we kill sick people? No. We attempt to treat their illnesses and also keep them comfortable. Do we kill our most aggressive citizens? In some cases, yes, but only after complete due process and a fair trial and sentencing.

Is Indy truly living up to Brown’s standard of treating our animals as we treat ourselves?

Today’s Sour Puss Moment

August 17, 2012

Today’s SOUR PUSS Moment:

If I hear the phrase PET OVERPOPULATION or the word EUTHANASIA one more time, my freaking head is gonna EXPLODE!!!!

“Euthanasia” is a sugar coated term for KILLING, and “Pet Overpopulation” is a MYTH.

If you care about animals and want to end shelter killing in Indianapolis, please, for love of dog and cat (and other critters too!), READ and LEARN:

Sadly, There are Too Many Cliches

Debunking Pet Overpopulation

The Shelter Pet Project By the Numbers

What is True Euthanasia?

Sour Puss Moment complete. Thank you for your time.

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Hollow words and hollower deeds: Does Indy’s municipal animal shelter director truly care about animals?

June 29, 2012

Yesterday, while on my personal Facebook page defending the no kill philosophy, as well as my boycott of Indianapolis Animal Care and Control (“IACC”) by ceasing my volunteer work there, I shared the following:

“Last week I sent a letter to Amber Myers, who is the director of IACC, to let her know about an opportunity to attend, free of charge, the annual no kill conference in DC. All directors whose shelters took the Just One Day pledge, and followed through, have been extended this invitation by the Just One Day organizers. To date, Ms. Meyers [sic] has not replied to the invitation. Clearly, she, IACC, and the city of Indianapolis do not want to learn how to stop the unnecessary killing. Apparently they are too busy building stadiums, hosting Super Bowls and races, and confiscating and killing animals.”

When Ms. Myers, a former attorney, took the helm as IACC’s new shelter director last November, she said, “The cliche is, I care. I really am passionate about the animals. . . . Some days, I just cry.

Tears or not, Ms. Myers’ actions in recent months seem strangely out of character for a leader who claims to be passionate about our city’s animals. While I applaud her pledge to make IACC a no kill shelter for “Just One Day” on June 11, 2012, I’m disappointed that the shelter did not put forth much effort into this event.

Although I AM happy that IACC allowed rescues to pull animals on June 11, they blew out the candles on their opportunity to make Indy’s Just One Day the stellar, history-making event that it could have been. After announcing on their Facebook page that they had finally taken the pledge, I asked if they planned to involve the community by holding a big adoption event. They did not reply. And, unlike other city shelters across the country that owned the day and saved record numbers of lives, IACC unfortunately did not “take the cake”–although they did eat cake.

IACC had known about Just One Day for months, and yet didn’t take the pledge until a couple of days before the event. Then all that they ended up doing–other than to not kill animals for a couple of days, which IS awesome–was have a celebration and ask rescues to attend the party and also pull animals. The rescue invitation was fantastic, and most certainly meant the world to the eighty animals who got out of the shelter alive that day, but why didn’t IACC do more? Where was the big community adoption event that could have saved even more lives?

Apparently some folks thought that June 11 was a safe day to surrender their pets. My initial knee jerk reaction was, “Huh?! Don’t people understand what ‘Just One Day’ means?!” IACC must have had that same thought, so much so that they asked the elusive Indianapolis Animal Welfare Alliance to shoot out an “URGENT PLEA” email blast to the Alliance list-serv, asking rescues to help pull some of the “million or so cats and kittens” that had suddenly appeared in the shelter.

Animal welfare advocates like myself were undoubtedly surprised by the increase in surrenders to IACC on June 11. But, given the limited, and sometimes vague, media coverage surrounding the event, it doesn’t surprise me that your average, every day citizen might misunderstand what the day was all about and feel better about leaving their animals at the shelter on the “no kill day.” As Move to ACT noted in its blog, “Obviously, people who feel they have no choice but to give up a pet ARE concerned that their pet might be killed.”

Instead of complaining about the lines of people surrendering their animals, IACC could have been proactive and sent most (if not all!) of those surrendered pets right back out the door with new families on the very same day. And they cannot blame their appallingly lackluster budget for not doing so. How much money does it cost to post a notice on their Facebook page and inform the media? Maybe five minutes of somebody’s time?

It would have cost IACC nothing to ask their volunteers to help with a special Just One Day event. IACC has an awesome volunteer team. Yes, they are very dog-centric (although a handful of amazing volunteers work with the cats), but those volunteers are dedicated and will go to bat for ALL of the animals, so my guess is they would have happily taken a day off from work or from school to help with a Just One Day adoption event.

Furthermore, IACC did not seem to have done much legwork for Just One Day. After all, Move to ACT designed the brochure and made the media appearances. Warren Patitz of Move to ACT appeared on IndyStyle to promote the event, but IACC and its leader, Amber Myers, were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps IACC was too busy killing animals to plan and promote an event that could have saved a record breaking number of lives.

But it’s never too late to change. To make things right. As I mentioned in the opening lines of this blog post, I sent Amber Myers an email asking her to consider taking the Just One Day organizers up on their offer to send her to this year’s No Kill Conference, sponsored by the No Kill Advocacy Center:

Dear Ms. Myers,
Thank you for accepting Move to ACT’s invitation to participate in the inaugural and historical Just One Day.
Although I was disappointed that IACC did not host any community adoption events, which would have resulted in more lives saved, I am very happy that you at least allowed rescues to pull more animals on June 10 and 11, 2012. Your actions made a world of difference in the lives of those eighty animals who were pulled for rescue.
I hope that you will consider hosting future “no kill” days on your own and that you will also take a stand and make history by transitioning IACC to a no kill shelter.
And I have fantastic news for you! As IACC’s shelter director, you have an opportunity to learn how to save over 95% of the animals who are counting on you to do the right thing. See below for information about the upcoming No Kill Conference.
The most vital step in the No Kill Equation, the step upon which all other steps depend, is a Compassionate Shelter Director. Please be the Compassionate Shelter Director that Indy’s animals deserve, Ms. Myers.
Please examine the No Kill Equation (http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/shelter-reform/no-kill-equation/) TODAY, add the No Kill Conference to your calendar, and do the right thing. You CAN make Indy a no kill city. You CAN save most of the animals. And you CAN make history, Ms. Myers.
Thank you,
Karen D. Mitchell

(June 24, 2012 email communication.)

The No Kill Conference is still a little over a month away. Will Amber Myers of IACC do the right thing? Will she prove her passion for Indy’s animals by learning how to stop the killing of healthy and treatable animals? Or will her tears, mingled with hollow words and hollower deeds, continue to fall into the cracks of Indy’s broken shelter system, like the bodies of murdered shelter animals falling off conveyor belts and landing, with a thud, into oblivion.

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