April 12, 2019
Dear Mayor Gist,
Thank you for responding to my letter. I apologize for the scene and I do not wish to be antagonistic. However, nothing in your response gives me reason to stop being critical of this building. You have only reiterated what I knew or suspected, which is that there is no good vision of how to spend taxpayer and animal welfare money smartly for the benefit of animals. The narrative I will continue to tell is that the people were not given a voice or forum to have input into these plans, and we were ignored and marginalized through the entire decision-making process, including, stunningly, where we should have credibility: the spay/neuter ordinance. This lack of leadership will fall at your feet. You say you want to work with rescues and spay/neuter groups, but demonstrably have not. You have consulted only your friends who have given you bad advice.
I have been asked to submit a guest column to the Jackson Sun about my position on the ordinance. If it does not run, I will still take my thoughts to social media and will speak of it with anyone who will listen.
I got a call yesterday from a woman who rescued a kitten from the street that she could not keep. She, like many others before, have been turned away at the door of the JACC. The City has been in charge of the Center for two years - how will the new facility do more to prevent over-population than what you are doing now? The fact is: the center will fill up whether you have 20 cages, or 200.
There are big gaps in a plan, not just for spay/neuter but for how to work with rescue groups as well. Here are some of the points you are not addressing:
- First, and most maddeningly, decisions were made with NO public input. Spay Neuter was not at the table. Most rescue groups were not at the table. You cannot now give lip service to wanting to "coordinate and work" with those groups when you are asking us to be a part of a system we believe is ill-conceived, after giving us no voice or access and disregarding our efforts to be heard.
- What will be the projected per animal cost of rescue through this facility (how many animals do you plan to rescue and what are the operating costs)? I have not seen any numbers or projections. As taxpayers, we deserve to have confidence that our money is being spent wisely.
- How will the new facility work with rescues to ensure that animals are adopted more rapidly than they are now? What will you do with animals that are not adopted to prevent kennel syndrome and other ill health (lack of stimulation and exercise) that are effects of being kenneled indefinitely?
- How many animals will be turned away at the door and what does the City plan to to do support them. Will you support West TN Spay Neuter with funding so that we can adequately service the pet owners who will seek assistance when an ordinance is passed? Will you be willing to pay me or others fairly for the service we are providing the community for the care of animals? (Am I to continue unfunded and volunteering to provide a service to the community while folks with salaries are doing inefficient work that I believe is ultimately not productive down the street?)
- Some pets are very marketable through rescues and others are very difficult. How are decisions going to be made about which animals you will share with them. Who will get the pick of the litters? Will you be willing to fund rescues for their work with less desirable/more expensive animals as well? How are these efforts being made now, while the City has governance of a rescue facility. How will a new building make this dynamic any different.
- How will you enforce a spay/neuter ordinance? What officer training, procedures and proof will you require. I have read the ordinance and it does not address the bureaucracy that must be created to enforce such a law. The logistics of identifying the certifying animals reeks of government intrusion and over-reach.
This ordinance, which you did not ask me or any expert about, will cause pet owners to seek assistance. I will not be available to clean up that mess. Providing assistance is more than filling out forms and paying for a surgery, and the farce that is Community Spay Neuter will not be able to serve the people.
I look forward to helping the City find solutions to the issues of animal welfare in Jackson.
April 1, 2019
Dear Mayor Gist, and Jackson City Council members:
Nearly three years ago, I wrote a letter to the Jackson Sun (5/18/16) expressing my and others' concerns about the Jackson Animal Care Center proposal. The plan then, as it appears to be now, is to scale up and elaborate on the Humane Society business model that has existed for decades, and was not ultimately self-sustaining. https://www.westtnspayneuter.org/news/archives/05-2016
Soon after, I met with two important members of the committee of this project. I introduced them (by conference call) to Julie Jacobson of Spay Tennessee, and Natalie Corwin, Director of the Pet Community Center spay/neuter clinic in Nashville, both of whom were very willing share their experiences and knowledge with the Jackson committee. Unfortunately, this meeting lasted only thirty minutes and the committee didn't agree to any further discussion with me or the others.
In July 2016, I spoke with the Jackson Sun about the issue of pet over-population, trying to make the case for prevention, and also expressing my concerns that getting city government into the rescue business would NOT be an efficient way to spend precious taxpayer funds and limited animal welfare resources. https://www.westtnspayneuter.org/news/archives/07-2016
Finally, in September of 2016, Sally Alexander Graves and I formed West TN Spay Neuter, which has since helped fix over 1,500 area cats and dogs that were at risk of having unwanted litters. We have spoken with and helped hundreds of families - animal lovers burdened by strays, who want to do what is right for their pets, but simply cannot afford a retail vet experience or have other obstacles to service (transportation, access to affordable vets, just too many animals, etc.)
We have encouraged the employees at the Animal Care Center and JMC Rabies Control to share our WTSN hotline with pet owners, and we are happy to help those they refer. Roughly twenty percent of our assistance in 2018 was for referrals from these entities; meanwhile, we have received NO subsidy or assistance from the City of Jackson, Madison County, nor the West TN Healthcare Foundation. While our opposition to this project is not about our funding (WTSN), I bring this up to say that this need for low-cost spay neuter will not go away nor will it be addressed by the new Animal Care Center as currently conceived.
I have written letters, attended City Council meetings, and have approached many of you. All along, I was told that the Animal Care Center is a "done deal". Now there is a press push that seems to be appealing for support or celebration of Tuesday's vote. Having attended the recent local election debates, hearing calls for accessibility, transparency and fiscal accountability in our government, I cannot help but share my story. Everyone voting needs to know that there is sophisticated and fair opposition to this plan from folks who do indeed love animals and are working hard in the trenches to improve pets' lives. There has been NO public discussion of this, and other options have not been openly considered. And while ours has been perhaps a lone and largely unheard voice, I submit that the narrative I describe is shared by many - veterinary and city workers, rescuers, and pet lovers.
We believe that a full and expensive shelter is not attractive to businesses looking at our community. Warehousing animals is very costly to taxpayers. My quick math on this facility figures that each animal will cost at least $250 for the next 20 years. In contrast, our spay/neuter subsidies average around $25 per cat and $50 for dogs - and they already have families! Replacing Myth with Math - Well-Designed Intervention Plans are Preventative
Our community's goal should be LESS rescue. Building MORE kennels in a community already saturated with pets will mean that less desirable animals will remain in cages for even longer (weeks, months and years) which is called by some animal advocates "a fate worse than death" for a companion animal. In fact, the term "no-kill" is considered by some in animal welfare to be outdated, misleading and inhumane. We cannot adopt, warehouse or rescue our way out of dog & cat overpopulation!
For example, it is disingenuous to call a facility "no-kill" when it is turning away animals at the door and there is kill facility nearby. When the shelter is full, many animals that are turned away will remain in over-populated homes, un-sterilized and reproducing, or left to run loose to be a burden or hazard, or end up in shelters and eventually euthanized. There are simply not enough homes for the number of animals that are being rescued in this area now, and there won't be more homes in the future. Sending animals "up North" is not a cost-effective solution for any but the most desirable pets, and is not an option for cats at all.
Issues of animal cruelty, disease, and public safety are also addressed by reducing the number of homeless animals on our streets through accessible and affordable spay/neuter. Perhaps surprisingly, many or most in the s/n community do NOT support mandatory spay/neuter laws in areas such as ours (areas with few s/n options). Such laws are largely unenforceable, or if enforced are likely to punish the most vulnerable pet owners, and can have the unintended consequences of driving shelter intake and euthanasia up. This paper from the ASPCA - Position Statement on Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws says "the only humane method of population control that... significantly reduces the number of animals entering animal shelters is the voluntary sterilization of owned pets."
The spay/neuter solution works in other areas of the state and across the country. Shelters in East and Middle Tennessee see significant reductions in intake where spay/neuter is a priority. So while we appreciate the spirit in which the City has been moving forward with the Animal Care Center, we believe a high-volume, low-cost, spay/neuter clinic would be more effective than a rescue building. Our area falls well within the demographic requirements to support a clinic. A s/n facility can be set up and run for a fraction of this plan and can run in the black. It would be an economic generator as pet owners (and s/n volunteers) from all around the area would bring their pets to Jackson for the day. A clinic could be a resource for rescues and animal controls so that they DO NOT adopt out intact animals. Municipalities can support a non-profit clinic with grants (as Nashville does with Pet Community Center).
Thank you for your time and consideration of these points.
Make 2017 a year of solutions for animals
CAROL REESE, Special to The Jackson Sun Published 6:35 p.m. CT Dec. 27, 2016 | Updated 10:44 a.m. CT Dec. 30, 2016
I know that many of you reading this column were the child that came home with the a tiny kitten or skinny pup you found abandoned. It is certainly my story and it was only in the last decade or so that I found “my people.”
I was so grateful to find that several animal rescue groups are devoted to linking animals in need with people that can help, but it does feel a lot like the story of the little Dutch boy. There are simply more animals being born in West Tennessee than there are places for them to go.
This was the story of Jackson County, Tennessee, until Julie Jacobson took initiative. She realized that the only way to stop the tide was to prevent it. With her passionate movement called Spay Tennessee, she focuses on finding funding to get animals fixed, It became so successful that not only did she help people that were looking for inexpensive ways to get their animals fixed, but she was able to begin an aggressive program of reaching other people who were not actively seeking that service. While word of mouth proved to be effective, it also helped to pass out informative fliers at places where people buy pet food, or even knock on doors.
It wasn’t overnight, but within a few years, the tide of homeless animals began to ebb, until it was apparent that Jackson County had made this work. Jacobson decided to take her mission to other counties and any time she can get a group to hear her message, she hits the road.
I heard her at the recent meeting organized by Karen Byers of West TN Spay Neuter, and I’m all in. We learned of a few opportunities for funding from large corporations, and grants here and there, and those will certainly be sought ... but there is lots of competition for those sources.
I say we should make this work by using West Tennessee funding to fix a West Tennessee problem ... and this is how: I signed up to make a $20 donation each month and promised to find two more friends who could do the same. They are each to ask two more friends to do the same, who will ask two more friends to do the same. Can’t do $20? Even if you do $5, or $10, it will multiply exponentially until there is a steady income stream, and the beauty of it is that all of it goes to getting local animals fixed..
On Facebook, you can find and smile at the great stories already being told about the successes of West TN Spay Neuter and spread the word to those that need a hand. I hope you will be inspired and sign up to support this mission. You can also check out the web page at westtnspayneuter.org, or call 731 300 6610 for more information.
Carol Reese is ornamental horticulture specialist for the Western District of the University of Tennessee Extension Service.
Carol Reese: Tunnel puppies point to need for spaying
The Jackson Sun Published 8:28 a.m. CT Dec. 22, 2016
Some people can drive past a homeless dog with nary a pang. Certain members of my family wish that described me, concerned that I take on too many animals in need. They are right. I do. Fiercely, I explain it this way. Though I know a human life is far more highly valued than an animal’s life, the need of that animal inspires the immediate reaction that I would have for a wailing child. Could you drive past an abandoned baby on the side of the road?
Luckily, I am not alone, evidenced by the many folks involved with responsibly run rescue groups of West Tennessee. It is also true that all of them are overwhelmed with the numbers of animals that need a place to go. What do they all want for Christmas? Certainly not a call about a litter of dumped puppies just as the family is getting in the car to go to Grandma’s house! Their fondest dream is that there are no more unwanted and abandoned companion animals.
It is hard not to be angry when it is discovered that the litter came from a nearby home with an unspayed female, and this is not the first litter. It is hard not to be angry when the person who answers that door tells you they can’t afford the cost of a spay as they take another drag on a cigarette or another sip of beer or fast food soft drink.
Other times you feel a surge of love for the kindly white-haired lady who, despite a limited income, fed the hungry pregnant dog dumped on her road. Or in a recent case, for the tenderhearted mail route carrier who called with heartfelt concern about more small pups at the tunnels where she helped engineer a rescue last year.
This was more complicated. Other dumped dogs had found this a good place to bear young and, once the dust settled, it appeared there were three litters in all. A few small pups were easily grabbed, and a few older pups, befriended by a lady across the road, were rounded up. The ease in grabbing one confused pup was later explained by the discovery that he was mostly blind and completely deaf. The amazing Sarah Kidd with Carroll County Humane Society found fosters for him, the little pups, the bigger pups and one mama dog! Karen Byers of West TN Spay Neuter Coalition boldly knocked on doors and arranged with those willing to keep fixed dogs how they could get that done economically.
These people rock, and you can help. Fix your animals, and if you can, support the groups that assist with fixing those pets with owners who can’t or won’t afford it. Please go to the Facebook page of West TN Spay Neuter Coalition or westtnspayneuter.org for details, and a master plan to put this problem to rest.
Carol Reese is an ornamental horticulture specialist for the Western District of the University of Tennessee Extension Service.
https://www.jacksonsun.com/story/opinion/columnists/2016/12/15/rescuing-feral-puppies-from-wildlife-den-no-easy-task/95451606/ Rescuing feral puppies no easy task
Carol Reese, The Jackson Sun Publ. 6:51 a.m. CT Dec. 15, 2016 | Update 10:37 a.m. CT Dec. 15, 2016
I listened to the voice message with a sinking heart. Several small puppies had been seen at the same place we had staged a rescue a year before. The feral mother dog we had been unable to capture had found this an ideal site to have yet another litter. The big attraction was an extensive network of roomy tunnels in the side of a wooded ravine, where a small stream provided a ready source of water.
Failed attempts at puppy capture over the next couple of days provided plenty of opportunity to study the den’s assets, and to wonder what creature had originated it, and how many different species of wildlife may have populated it over the years ... but more on this later.
These pups had been taught by mama dog to fear humans, so the trick was to outrun them to their earthen refuge. This task was made difficult by the many openings to the tunnels, and that the paths to them wound through thick growth. The quick pups could dash through and under, while we were hindered by bramble and brush.
Why not use a humane trap, you might ask? There were several other dogs and cats in the neighborhood, and from their interest in our activities, we suspected they would be the ones greeting us from the traps upon our return. It also occurred to us that we might catch mama and she could not then feed her pups, or we might catch a pup that was left shivering alone on a cold night when it should be huddled with siblings deep in the den. The site was not close to anyone whose schedule could accommodate frequent monitoring.
The previous year we organized a mass snatching, There were six women, one for each puppy, and we met around the corner from the site and charged in like the calvary. It’s a shame we didn’t have a seventh member for videotaping, as it was a wild scene. Most of us are kindly and generously described as middle aged . Probably all of us were once described as athletic, perhaps even graceful, but those adjectives would not describe the blundering dives made that day. Successful is a word that will serve.
We decided another mass snatching with a crew of fleeter humans was the ticket. Adriane Gremmels, the mail carrier that first spotted the pups showed up with her gallant teenage son Dawson. Karen Byers of West Tennessee Spay Neuter Coalition pulled up with husband Jason, and his plucky daughter Kara. My beau Mike Johnson brought the total up to 7 humans. If our count was correct, we would have a person per puppy once again, only this time the puppies pulled a no-show. There was no sign or sound, and we began to fear the mother had moved them to a place less plagued with puppy snatchers. To be continued ...
Carol Reese is ornamental horticulture specialist for the Western District of the University of Tennessee Extension Service.
Thank you to Carol Reese for supporting us way back when, and now!
Link to articles is here: drive.google.com/open?id=1yZE_-4AfflpfZE91pH-YBJ-VmaeOkD4r
Experts: West TN needs low-cost spay, neuter for pets
Emily Littleton, The Jackson Sun, July 10, 2016
When Denise Jewell first bought her Yorkie in 2008, she had no idea how much she’d need a faithful companion in the years to come. She just knew the furry black and caramel puppy was precious, and she had enough money saved up to afford her.
Shortly after Jewell brought the puppy home, it earned the name Mischief for its antics around the house. Jewell, her children and her husband loved having Mischief around, and decided to wait to spay her until she’d had a litter. In 2009, Mischief gave birth to four puppies and Jewell found them all happy homes. But by then, her own happy home was crumbling around her, she said.
Jewell and her husband divorced soon after. Jewell kept Mischief, though, and moved to Jackson with her two children to try and start a new life.
“She’s just been a godsend. I talk to her like a real person,” Jewell said. “She acts like a person. I swear she knows what you’re saying and sometimes she smiles.”
Jewell said it was tough to make ends meet. She said combined money from her part-time job at Wal-Mart and child support from her ex-husband was barely enough to pay the bills. She couldn’t afford to pay over $100 at a veterinarian’s office to have Mischief spayed, and the dog had two more unplanned litters of puppies.
Jewell found all five puppies homes, but many animals from unplanned litters aren’t so lucky. They become homeless strays.
Last year, Jackson-Madison Rabies Control picked up 1,234 animals that were either running at large or had been surrendered by their owners, according to Candy Overstreet, environmental health program director at the Jackson-Madison County Health Department.
Companion Pet Rescue, one of the largest animal rescue groups in Jackson, finds homes for over 2,500 dogs a year, according to its website. The Jackson-Madison County Humane Society took in approximately 520 animals last year, according to Lynn Caldwell, president of the Humane Society Board.
Lack of access to affordable spay and neuter procedures is a major contributing factor to animal overpopulation, said Julie Jacobson, program manager for Spay Tennessee, a referral program for spay and neuter services.
Across the state, there are 29 spay and neuter clinics that are able to offer the procedures at discounted rates because they operate at a high volume and can buy supplies in bulk, and because they are often subsidized by state grants and donations.
Only two exist west of Nashville, however — nowhere near enough to significantly help reduce animal overpopulation in West Tennessee, according to local animal rescue groups. Both of those clinics are in Shelby County, and they are backlogged due to high demand.
West TN animal shelters 'drowning in animals'
The success of investing in low-cost spay and neuter programs has been well proven, according to Jacobson. In Putnam County, shelter intake dropped 36 percent within six years of a clinic opening. Jacobson helped start an affordable spay and neuter program in Jackson County in 2003, and there has not been a puppy litter in foster care in Jackson County since May of 2014, she said.
Shelter intake and euthanasia numbers are declining statewide, but not in West Tennessee, according to Jacobson. Animal rescue groups abound in the region, but she said they are only addressing one part of the problem.
“If your basement is flooding with water, what do you do first, turn off the spigot or start bailing out water?” Jacobson said. “Rescue groups are standing in the basement bailing out water. Somebody has to turn off the spigot.”
The Jackson-Madison County Humane Society was so often overwhelmed with need and underfunded that Caldwell sought funding from the city for years. In May of 2016, the Jackson City Council voted to absorb the nonprofit and support it with city dollars.
A tentative budget allocated to the Humane Society for the 2016-2017 fiscal year is $200,000, according to Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist. Some volunteers from local rescue groups are anxious to see taxpayer money from that budget devoted to preventative programs in hopes of beginning to control animal overpopulation.
According to Caldwell, there are several local veterinarians who will offer spay and neuter services at a discount sometimes, and in the past a state grant helped subsidize the surgeries for several years. There has never been a consistent or well-established program, however.
Karen Byers, who volunteered with the Humane Society and helped start an animal advocacy group in Jackson, said she is concerned with the lack of options for affordable spay and neuter procedures. In Jackson, they can cost anywhere from $110-$286 for dogs and $58-$228 for cats, according to local veterinary offices.
In a letter to Gist on June 6, Byers wrote, “I know there is resistance to new voices for a variety of reasons, but more of the same is so obviously not a solution. There must be openness to new ideas, all options heard so that the best choices can be made.”
She said her motive for writing the letter was simply to ensure that as planning begins for the city-run Humane Society, investing in preventative measures is a priority. She also started a petition on change.org, which can be found at this link: http://chn.ge/29u8QU2.
Gist and Kathleen Huneycutt, director of Jackson Health and Sanitation, said planning for the new society is in the very early stages. The only concrete decisions they have made are to renovate the existing facility and add a quarantine building. They are open to all options, and intend to make spay and neuter programs part of the picture.
“We’re definitely looking at a spay and neuter program. We’re looking at everything we could possibly do to limit the animals that are picked up,” Gist said.
Jewell said she hopes that one day there will be more access to spay and neuter procedures for West Tennessee residents with limited funds like herself. She wants to be a responsible pet owner but simply can't afford it right now.
"When I first got Mischief, I was a lot better off," she said. "Now I'm divorced, and I'm struggling."
Tennessee counties with at least one spay and neuter clinic:
OPINION - Letters to the editor, The Jackson Sun, 5/24/16
Spay/neuter program must be part of city’s plan
On May 18, the city of Jackson gave preliminary approval to a budget that includes money to address the homeless pet problem in the city. On Saturday, a group of concerned citizens met in Jackson to discuss the need for affordable spay/neuter in the region.
It appears that the primary plan of the new city no-kill shelter is to build an intake building and add kennels to the current Humane Society facility. However, we believe that our city’s current pet over-population crisis will not end with adoption/rescue alone. Since there are not enough homes for the animals in the shelter already, how long will it take for a newer facility to fill to capacity? Simply put, building a larger facility will do little to reduce pet homelessness in the area without a companion effort aimed at preventing litters through spaying and neutering.
The first step to “no-kill” is no birth.
Investing in prevention is the most effective thing a city can do to reduce pet homelessness. It is far less expensive to sterilize one dog or cat than it is to house, feed, clean, adopt (or destroy) their offspring. Issues of animal cruelty, rabies, and public safety, are all addressed by reducing the number of homeless animals on our streets. The spay/neuter solution works in other areas of the state and across the country. Shelters in East and Middle Tennessee see significant reductions in intake where spay/neuter is a priority. The city of Jackson is a prime candidate to support a successful low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter clinic.
We know that West Tennessee pet owners love their pets. Helping to make spaying and neutering affordable and convenient will improve the quality of life for all people and animals in this area. We hope to see a comprehensive spay/neuter program as part of the city’s new plan.
There are many reasons Breeding associations and vet groups are ALSO against mandatory spay/neuter laws. There are reasons a responsible pet owner might choose not to fix their pet, based on that dog, breed, age, etc. Some health issues are correlated with either choice (fixed or not), especially in bred animals... So to control the pet over-population problem we are right back at having VOLUNTARY low-cost spay/neuter available for folks who don't want to breed! We are talking about helping folks who are taking in strays, who need financial and logistic help, not penalties: bit.ly/2Vj1VjG
A version of the ordinance is at this post, starting on page 13: thejacksonpress.org/?p=95747