|MF: Mike Fry |
BN: Beth Nelson
DS: Davyd Smith
MF: There is already a revolution underway, and nowhere is it heating up more than it is in Colorado right now. Our friends at No Kill Colorado, specifically Davyd Smith, who we have on the line, is going to talk to us about all the stuff going on there. It’s a lot.
BN: So Mike and I can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride! Davyd, one of the reasons that I always like poking around and looking to see what No Kill Colorado is about is that I think one of the things that you’ve brought to this party is a very creative way of looking at different problems or creating a message around different issues that you’re trying to work on. I was just wondering if maybe you could just touch on the Hundred Dogs Home for Christmas campaign as a way to give an interesting start to our conversation. We could get into the tough stuff in the next segment.
DS: Thanks for having me back. It’s great to be here. The Hundred Dogs campaign, we have this little town in Southern Colorado called Antonito, Colorado. It’s a small community of about 800 people, and everyone there knows that there’s stray dogs all over the place. They are just wandering around. They’re homeless. They’re not spayed or neutered, and they don’t really have owners.
A woman there named Anna just stood up one day and said, “Something has to change.” She gave me a call. She got my name from another shelter that I had worked with in the past. She said, “It’s an impossible problem. I don’t know what to do.”
I said, “It’s not an impossible problem. It’s a problem, and we need to find a way to help these animals. It’s not a dog problem, it’s a community problem.”
We looked at it and we thought there are 800 people, how many dogs are there? I was surprised when she said, “About 100.” That was her estimate; there was no way to really know, but that was her feeling.
I said, “What if we try to do this? What if we try to get rescues and shelters around Colorado to say they’ll take 100 dogs from Antonito, but we also have to do a spay/neuter clinic down there, because a lot of these dogs are actually from people’s homes. Those dogs have puppies, and next thing you know, they can't take care of them. They just let them loose and this is where the problem is.”
We basically are putting the No Kill Equation into this very small microcosm of a community. Actually, the Hundred Dogs campaign was to pull the hundred dogs, but this weekend turned into the Hundred Spay/Neuter weekend. They did 87 cats and dogs yesterday, and they’re probably going to do at least another 50 today. We hit that goal on this weekend. I think at the end of this what we’re going to have is a no kill community without a shelter, with a rescue of one person just partnering and rallying the city officials in the community to make the town safe for homeless pets.
MF: What’s so fascinating to me about that is I’ve done some work that’s similar to that on Native American reservations where people said, “The problem is so insurmountable.” What we did is we started with TNR, but then what we did is we used that as an entrée to get more education going and start implementing the rest of the No Kill Equation so that the animals didn’t necessarily have to even leave. A small number did at some point, but really the solution wasn’t necessarily to bail the dogs out or get them out of there, but to implement the program there. I think it works everywhere you go.
DS: Yes. The reason we didn’t start with that, Mike, was because these dogs were in danger to be rounded up and killed.
MF: Yes; but I still think it’s real clear that what you’re doing is you’re doing the full equation there, boots on the ground, and the spay/neuter is important, but it’s not the whole equation.
DS: Absolutely not.
BN: I think one of the things that’s inspiring to me about that story, Davyd, also was that someone within the community stood up and said, “There must be something I can do.” The something she could do started with the conversation, and then it turned into a phone call to you, and then again, it’s the networking that’s a part of it as well. I always love to hear when local people are working within their own state borders or in their own area to try and network to make change.
Cool story, and we’ll be interested to see how that progresses. It sounds like you’ve had a busy weekend already, and we’re glad that you’re spending some of that time with us.
MF: I’m curious – one person in that community stood up and said, “Let’s do this.” Other people supported it, and I’m guessing that resulted in more people within the community getting involved, too. Is that right?
DS: Mike, it wasn’t just a couple of people that stepped up. The city officials stepped up. The spay/neuter clinic this weekend, it was in the firehouse. The police chief gave us the firehouse to set up a spay/neuter clinic. What you’re hearing down there all the time – and I love this, because it’s just a classic example of how so many people are wrong about the general public – everyone said, “Down there, people won't spay or neuter their dogs; they won't do it.” We set up this low cost $20 spay/neuter clinic. We were hoping to get 50 dogs, 50 cats. We got 87 on the first day, and today God knows how many are going to be there.
MF: That’s a great place for us to take a quick pause in the conversation. We’ll be back with more with Davyd Smith from No Kill Colorado.
MF: We know somebody who’s been working like a dog in Colorado. It’s Davyd Smith with No Kill Colorado. I should say, he’s working harder than a dog. My dogs don’t actually work very hard, unless you count laying around on the sofa as hard work.
BN: Davyd, one of the stories that we talked to you about last fall was a growing story up in Fremont County about a humane society. This was actually a nonprofit organization, correct?
DS: Yes. Legally they are, yes.
BN: The story gets worse.
MF: According to the local press now, the story about Fremont County is the number four story of 2013.
BN: Refresh for us the basics of the story, and can you update us to today?
DS: Yes. This was a really regressive shelter. A couple of volunteers came forth early in May 2013. They wrote to the Department of Agriculture, which oversees shelters, and they got them to investigate them and to investigate a veterinarian who was botching spay/neuters that the shelter was letting happen. They were found to have 11 violations, and the story basically broke there.
We started getting attention that this really was a problem shelter. We found a lot of other things and a lot of eyewitnesses since then that came forth. We made it the number three or four story of Canyon City this year, the only local newspaper, which was great. The community is totally aware of all the stories. There are some people on both sides, but there was nobody realizing that the shelter was an regressive shelter until this group came forth and did that.
The good news is they have done some things. We do believe that because of what the volunteers have said, we have improved this shelter. Obviously, they addressed the 11 violations, but they had to legally do that to stay open. But they’ve also done some other things. They are supposedly rekindling the volunteer program. They were supposed to have that done on November 1st. As far as I know they have some, but it’s not the robust volunteer program that we’d like to see.
We think that they’ve changed the way that they actually treat animals, and they have less animals at the shelter, partially because of all this press, so they haven’t had the need to kill as many as they did before. Hopefully we’ve lowered that kill rate this year. They still don’t admit to any wrongdoing. This is our biggest problem with them to date is they just act like, “There was no other way. This was the way it was.” But, they are making all these changes and they are improving, and it’s simply because of the volunteers. I try to say this over and over – the volunteers deserve all the credit for the improvements that the shelter has put in place in the last eight months.
BN: One of the things that I’m recalling about this is that – and I hope I’m not mixing up stories in Colorado – but while this shelter is a not for profit, they do hold the impound contract for the city or the county, correct?
DS: Yes. They get $30,000 from Canyon City. I believe they get some money from other communities in the area. One of the best things that we got this year was Canyon City did renew the contract. We don’t want the shelter to close down. We want it to improve. We figure that Canyon City really had nowhere else to go with these animals and they would renew it, but what we did get them to do is a month-to-month deal, and someone has come forward for the city who I believe is objective and said that he would do surprise visits to make sure the animals are being cared for correctly. Now we have some accountability, which they never had before.
MF: I think it’s a great thing for them to go month by month, because if the Humane Society wants to get the paycheck rolling, they’re on notice. That’s an important step, I think, in the right direction.
DS: Nobody was really allowed in there because they are a private organization. They actually would ban police officers – not regular animal control, because police officers do that – but they weren’t allowed in certain parts of the shelter. Why? Why would you ever stop someone from going into part of your shelter, unless there’s something happening there that you don’t want anyone to know about?
MF: I’m going to change topics a little bit. I noticed there was a big story in the paper in Denver recently about a ballot initiative you guys are working on, which seems like some really exciting news. Tell us about that.
DS: CPAA, which is the Colorado Protection Animal Act, essentially sets the laws for the shelter. What we’re trying to do is introduce language. The three things No Kill Colorado has been pressing for more than anything was that you can't kill if there’s an empty cage, that you have to allow animal rescues to pull and all rescues, because today they can pick and choose the rescues they have, and then we want to make sure that we were defining the dangerous dog piece so that it can reverse the pit bull problems that we have in Colorado, but we want to make sure that that’s clear.
MF: You mean the pit bull law problems, not pit bull problems.
DS: Yes. Thank you.
MF: The law is a problem; the dogs don’t seem to be so much.
DS: The dogs are fine.
MF: Tell us what the status is of the ballot initiative. I know they’re really hard to work on, and it seems like there’s been quite a dust up about that in the State.
DS: Right. The protocol is that first you put it in. The State comes back and has questions for you, which I actually attended with the two lawyers, Juliet Koon and George Brown, last week. They had actually some good questions, and it’s just to make sure that it’s a clear ballot, that it’s understandable. We got some good input from them. We’re going to change that language and put it forward.
At the same time, we’re trying to reach out to other organizations, because other organizations have already come forward and said, “This is a bad idea.” I don’t know if any of them actually even read it or knew that we already had time to amend things. We were reaching out and asking, “What about this is bad?” and trying to find out what it is they’re saying, because we think there are some that are just going to think it’s bad, but there are others that just don’t understand what we’re trying to do here. What we’re trying to do is get shelters to do what they should do without law anyway, but they’re not going to do it, and we’d like to see it put in legislation.
MF: My interpretation of what the language is is based on, I think, CPAA (Companion Animal Protection Act) in other states and other places. That really for the most part requires shelters to be what they say that they are.
BN: A safe haven for animals in need.
MF: Right. So you don’t kill a healthy animal when you’ve got a place for it to live. That’s what a shelter is.
DS: I always find it amazing that this is a hard concept to get across to people. You just said it in one sentence, and I wish we could just make the law that one sentence and be done with it, but it doesn’t work that way.
BN: Davyd, maybe you could describe a little bit more as you’re trying to understand what people are saying who say it’s a bad idea, I’d like to hear what you’re hearing. In Minnesota, as we were talking with legislators and sponsors of the Companion Animal Protection Act as we were shopping it around looking for sponsors, we got, “Really? This isn’t happening?” from people who were outside the sheltering world. It sounds like you’ve been hearing from people within the sheltering world, and I’m wondering what they’re saying.
DS: The typical first one that’s used over and over again is, “Oh, so you expect us to warehouse animals. Animals are going to stay inside the shelters forever. It’s going to cost taxpayers more money because of that. The animals are going to suffer.”
We’ve said, “No. First of all, we’re trying to say, any registered rescue should be allowed to pull an animal. You shouldn’t be allowed to say no to them. Right there, that doesn’t cost taxpayers any money. And, if you improve your adoption programs and you get adoption fees, you’re going to increase revenue, and you can use that money to better market and better care for the animals.”
The sheltering community, and no kill … I never have a problem talking about no kill to anyone except for some people in the sheltering community. Obviously, there are good people in the sheltering community that actually bought into it. There’s communities growing every day. You’re one of them. But the old guard here is just the same as anywhere else.
What amazes me is most of them are very close to no kill statistics. They’re saving almost 9 out of 10 animals. They only have to try a little harder to get there, but they still fight us as if they’re one of the horror regressive shelter stories that we hear every day.
MF: The thing is, though, I’m a little concerned, because sometimes some of these organizations that do that, one of the things that they have pushed back on here in Minnesota is the transparency component of CPAA.
BN: Not even just a little. That’s the part that makes them quake in their boots.
MF: I think that the statistics they are putting forward are not true. In Minnesota, I think we’ve got the data to prove it. If you look at their reports, the numbers don’t add up even. The numbers they’re putting forward aren’t true, and to say they have to try a little harder because they’re almost at 90% I don’t think is necessarily always the truth.
One other thing I’ll put forward. You said it doesn’t cost shelter money to transfer an animal to rescue. I would say it actually saves them money because then they don’t have to spend the money putting it down or disposing of it. It actually saves them money to put them into rescue.
DS: Absolutely. I use that $106 number that was from that study in California a while ago. It costs $106 to take an animal in and kill it, but if you subtract whatever killing costs in that case and disposal of the body, whatever costs are associated with that, if you hand it to a rescue, you have saved some money. It’s a revenue neutral or possibly a revenue-generating model to become a no kill community, in my opinion.
MF: Yes. It’s more humane and it’s financially responsible. It’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. I’ll just have to say that whenever this topic pops up anywhere in the United States, there’s this handful of about four people – it turns out three of them have multiple Facebook profiles and they show up on the websites and they have conversations with themselves as though they’re different people, but it’s the same person commenting over and over – I notice they’ve shown up in force in Colorado.
BN: Congratulations, Davyd.
MF: Are you having fun with that?
DS: They really don’t like anything I have to write. They’re a problem, to some degree, depending what they say. Sometimes it gives you an opportunity to actually tell the other side of the story in a logical approach and manner as opposed to the insanity that is often posted by these people, but sometimes it’s hard to even let them stay on the site. They’ve attacked Fremont, they’ve attacked No Kill Colorado, and they haven’t attacked Antonito yet, but I’m sure they’ll attack us for saving animals’ lives down there sooner or later.
MF: Yes, it seems like it. It’s kind of what they do. Davyd, thanks so much for all your work. As always, you’re on fire and moving a lot of important work forward in Colorado. I’m guessing you’re going to have some big events coming up for Just One Day this year, June 11th, I’m hoping.
DS: What we’re trying to do with Just One Day is to try to do something different. We had that one location last year and that was really good, but we’re going to try to do multiple locations and try to help rescues find whether it’s a PetSmart or a restaurant or anywhere, and get this going in all different locations across the state instead of trying to bring everybody to one place.
BN: Love it!
MF: That’s an absolutely great idea. If people want more information, they can follow Davyd at www.rescueonedog.com. They can also like No Kill Colorado on Facebook. There’s a lot of really important work going on and just a groundswell of support for no kill across the state. We thank you so much for that, Davyd.
BN: We’ll keep watching, Davyd. You always make us interested in what’s going on. We really appreciate it.
DS: I’m watching you. I couldn’t do it without the example of what you guys do. Thank you so much.
BN: It’s about the connection.