While there are many important issues that Kansas City needs to tackle as a community, it is important to note that Kansas City serves as a hub of the Animal Health Corridor --and being an animal friendly metro will do a lot to help lure more animal health businesses to the area that are looking for pet-friendly cities. So with that, here are my top 10 stories of 2009 for Animal Welfare:
1) Saving lives in Kansas City, KS
After years and years of consistent killing in the Kansas City, KS shelter, the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City worked a deal with the shelter that would allow them to pull animals from the shelter for adoption. For the first 8 months of the year, KCK's euthanasia rate went from 56% to less than 4%. In 2008 the KCK shelter killed nearly 1500 stray pets -- through September of this year they had euthanized only 66 -- all of which they say showed "extreme aggression". I still have concerns that with the city's current laws -- including MSN, BSL and very restrictive pet limits - that this is sustainable long term, but the early success by HSGKC and their "Ray of Light" program earns the top spot for news item of the year.
2) Kansas City, MO shelter privatizes
In February of this year, Kansas City, MO voted to privatize the shelter operations and allow a local organization, Half Way Home Animal Shelter, to run the shelter operations for the city. Nearly instantly, the number of animals adopted from Half Way Home went up from about 75-100 animals getting adopted out per month to over 300. In 2008, the Kansas City animal shelter, under public control, euthanized 64% of the animals that it impounded. Things will be better for 2009 -- and will come at a savings of $175,000 to the city. While the new situation hasn't been without its struggles, the step in the right direction makes this the year's #2 story.
3) Greenwood Missouri Repeals BSL
Greenwood, MO became the third local community to repeal a long-standing ban on "pit bulls" -- and replaced the breed specific legislation with a behavior-based ordinance.. The community had worked hard to re-work their animal control contract to be handled by nearby Lee's Summit, which allowed them more options with the change in their dog ordinance. An article in the Greenwood Dispatch noted that Greedwood was on the "leading small communities in the area with regard to dog legislation." KC Dog Advocates members worked with the city for more than a year to assist them with the repeal.
4) KCMO Adopts New "Performance Standards" for Animal Control
One of the struggles that has affected the success of the new privatized Animal Shelter, is an increase in impound numbers from KCMO Animal Control. With more ACOs on the streets, more animals are coming in, making the shelter workers at Half Way Home's job more difficult. In August, KCMO AC instituted a new quota system, er, "Performance Standards" that is setting minimums for the number of animals being brought in by animal control officers. Instead of incenting mediation and working to keep animals in homes, the animal control is incenting officers to bring more dogs into the shelter.Unfortunately, they based their minimum quota number off of their summer numbers - that if met during winter months, would dramatically increase the intake rate at the shelter.
5) Spay/Neuter Kansas City Opens up new facility
With the help of some city and county dollars, Kansas City's largest low cost/no cost spay/neuter facility opened up a new facility at 59th and Troost in Kansas City (Pictured). In 2008, SNKC altered 5600 dogs and cats, and with the new facility, is expecting that number to go up to around 8,000 in 2009, and more in 2010. SNKC really does a great job serving the needs of the low-income population of Kansas City and the new location -- both in size and better location for them -- will continue their great work. SNKC also runs a great outreach program as well.
6) Animal Haven Opens up Mall Adoption Center for the Holidays
Animal Haven, an animal shelter that handles all animal control intake for 11 communities in the Kansas City metro (all in Johnson County, KS) opened up a satellite adoption center at Oak Park Mall for the holiday season. With still a week left in their 5 week lease, Animal Haven had adopted out 159 animals from the mall location.
7) Kansas City Dog Park Chaos
After two years of study, a Citizen's Task Force made recommendations on park locations that would be suitable for possible dog parks in the city. However, after a month of review, the Kansas City Missouri Parks Board scrapped the recommendation and decided to institute awhole set of arbitrary rules for the dog parks -- virtually insuring that about 90% of the parks in the city -- and all of the ones in urban neighborhoods -- can never have a dog park. The decision left a black eye on the political process in the city, and is poor for urban neighborhoods and dog owners in the city.
8) Kansas Citians step up for good causes
In late August, the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City sent out a plea for help. The Ray of Light Program (See #1) had been saving the lives of hundreds of animals in Kansas City, KS, but the additional cost to HSGKC was running at about $10,000 a month. Because of the high expense, the program was in jeopardy of running out of money, so they sent out a plea for financial help. Within the week, the program had received just under $100,000 in donations. Even local rescue group The Pet Connection helped in the fundraising efforts. The support for the program was an amazing testiment to the willlingness of the public to help out organizations and programs that are doing it right -- but it also speaks to the need to make some improvements in the KCK laws to make the progress sustainable. HSGKC is doing great work, but needs municiple support.
Kansas Citians also stepped up for The Pet Connection earlier this year after thousands of dollars in kennels and fencing were stolen from their facility. They sent out a plea for help and thousands of dollars more than needed were raised in a short amount of time. Kansas Citians will support good animal welfare organizations.
9) Animal Haven Announces Plans for New Shelter
Animal Haven had a public conference that showed plans for a proposed new shelter in Lenexa that would more than triple the current amount of space for their shelter. Animal Haven operates as a no-kill shelter for all animals impounded in 11 metro cities, but a new facility would greatly enhance their operation and ability to grow with the communities they serve. Animal Haven is currently raising money for this new facility.
10) Revised Animal Legislation -- some good, most bad - around the metro
Back in early November, Prairie Village, KS passed a law that would allow police and animal control officers to enter fenced back yards to impound barking dogs. While officials say they will only enforce the law as a last resort -- preferring instead to go through the old proceedure and contacting the pet owner and getting them to comply with noise restrictions. I'm no fan of consistently barking dogs -- especially when they interrupt my sleep, however, it seems allowing dogs to be confiscated just for barking is a recipe for increasing shelter intakes which seldom ends well for the dogs -- and may very well be unconstitutional. The PV law is just another example of municiple code that is making it harder for our local rescues and shelters.
Also this year, Independence, MO passed a law that gave more flexibility in their pet limit -- allowing four dogs or cats vs just two dogs and two cats. However, in March, Independence refused to pass new legislation that would protect feral cats and allow for TNR for feral cats in their community.
Overland Park, KS adjusted its polciy that requires 10-day holds at the shelter for animals that commit minor bites if the animal has proof of rabies vaccination. The new policy instead allows for the pets to be on 10-day quarantine in their own homes. The new policy will take pressure off of the shelter to make space for the animals while they are on hold.
As you can see, we have a lot of really great things going on in the KC metro. However, we are in dire need of the municipalities to work WITH rescue groups and shelters to make Kansas City a better city for pets and pet owners (and eventually, a no-kill metro). There are still way too many laws such as breed bans, mandatory spay/neuter, overly restrictive pet limit laws - and policies such as quotas -- that are dramatically inreasing intake numbers throughout the metro putting undue pressure on the rescue community and costing animals their lives. We MUST get municiple support to advance our cause. And that support will ONLY come from the citizens in their communities DEMANDING it - -and voting in dog-friendly candidates.