MACC misses another opportunity to do the right thing

How many of you saw this story about an Antioch woman’s journey to finding and retrieving her stolen pet from Metro Animal Care & Control? 

Liz Bradley had been publicly lamenting her Poodle Dabi’s disappearance ever since he was stolen from her home.  She had tirelessly shared Dabi’s story and photos far and wide on social media and via email.  She had even enlisted the help of area rescues and other animal welfare groups.  Many of Nashville’s pet lovers and everyone close to Ms. Bradley had heard about Dabi – they KNEW the pup was missing and that his owner was not the one to blame.  Though we do not know her personally, it seems obvious to us that she is certainly NOT one of Nashville’s irresponsible pet owners.

When Ms. Bradley learned the thief had surrendered Dabi to MACC, of course, she went to MACC to retrieve him.  However, she was not permitted to do so until she paid a fee in the amount of $92 – $92 to retrieve a dog that belongs to her and is a beloved member of her family. 

What was the alternative?  Was there another course of action available to MACC? 

Well, what WSMV Channel 4 failed to report is that (effective June 6th) MACC indeed has the authority to waive fees such as those charged to responsible dog owner Liz Bradley.  The Metro Council recently passed ORDINANCE NO. BL2013-452, an excerpt from which reads: The director of health is given the discretion to waive a portion or all of the fees imposed when the dog has been impounded through no fault of the owner.”  

In recent months, MACC has been publicly criticized for its staggering kill rate, lack of transparency, and irresponsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.  This government agency has lost the trust of the general public, particularly responsible pet owners such as Liz Bradley. This story, although it depicted a happy family reunion, is evidence of MACC’s complete lack of regard for the responsible pet owners of Nashville and its unwillingness to earn our trust.  Charging Ms. Bradley a $92 fee to retrieve her own dog may seem like small potatoes, but it is so much more – it is a missed opportunity for Metro Animal Care & Control to gain just the smallest bit of redemption in the public’s eyes.

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Tenet #3: Stop Breed-Specific Policies and Euthanasia

Best practice: Each animal is allowed sufficient time to decompress upon entering shelter. The animal then undergoes a temperament test performed by staff or volunteers who are trained and certified in nationally recognized temperament testing protocols, as well as a routine medical exam.  If the animal does not have significant medical or behavioral issues, it is made immediately available for adoption or rescue.

A WORD ABOUT BREED-SPECIFIC POLICIES AND PRACTICES…
There is no existing data which indicates a dog’s breed or physical characteristics make it inherently dangerous.  In fact, the only rigorous study regarding dog attacks was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and found the following:

  • More than 70 percent of all dog bite cases involve unneutered male dogs.
  • An unneutered male dog is 2.6 times more likely to bite than is a neutered dog.
  • A chained or tethered dog is 2.8 times more likely to bite than a dog who is not chained or tethered.
  • 97% of dogs involved in fatal dog attacks in 2006 were not spayed/neutered: 78% were maintained not as pets, but rather for guarding, image enhancement, fighting or breeding; 84% were maintained by reckless owners—these dogs were abused or neglected, not humanely controlled or contained, or allowed to interact with children unsupervised.

The common thread among these dogs who bite?  Irresponsible and/or abusive owners.  Punish the deed, not the breed!  Breeds categorized as “pit bulls” (e.g. American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier) have temperaments ranked higher than the national average, according to the American Temperament Test Society.  That’s right – pitties rank better than Beagles, Chihuahuas, and many other popular breeds.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), CDC, Humane Society, and other reputable agencies have adopted positions against breed-specific policies and practices, citing such policies are expensive and ineffective at reducing the incidence of dog bites.

MACC’s Policy: For over a decade and until just 30 days ago, Metro Animal Care & Control’s written policy prohibited any pit bulls or “pit bull type dogs” from being adopted.  Though not a written policy, we also found that some other “bully” breeds were either being killed due to their breed or were labeled as available to “rescue only.”

When we asked why the breed-specific policy was in place, we were provided several explanations.  We were first told it was likely a response to an accusation made several years ago – that MACC was “selling pit bulls out the back door.”  Though the claims were never substantiated, we were told this policy was born out of that accusation.  We were also told the policy could have a resulted from the recommendations of some insurance providers.  Finally, health officials told us they weren’t really certain why the archaic policy was still in place, but with so many animals coming into MACC on a daily basis, it was a way to make “tough decisions.”

Initially, we were less than cautiously optimistic this policy would ever change.  However, in an Advisory Council meeting on May 8, it was announced the breed-specific policy would be lifted.  Beginning June 1, the first litter of pit bull puppies was offered for adoption, and now MACC’s policy is that all healthy bully pups under 6 months of age may be candidates for adoption.  And just 60 days from today, following MACC employees’ certification in ASPCA’s SAFER program, all adult dogs passing a temperament and medical test, regardless of breed, will also have the opportunity to considered for adoption.

This is a huge milestone, and we thank all the petition signers and citizens of Nashville for joining with us to save lives at MACC.  Space is still limited, and there is no guarantee for any animal.  And as you know, many adoptable animals are not listed on MACC’s PetFinder website,  so we need YOU to be a part of these adoption efforts.  We have an important role to play in helping spread the word – bully breed puppies are available for adoption at MACC!