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Breaking News: City of Afton Terminates Impound Agreement Following Illegal Killing of Stray Cats

In September, a group of residents in Afton appeared before the City Council to request a review of the relationship between the City and the Animal Humane Society. The Proceedings from the meeting put it this way:
Council received a request from some residents to review the current arrangement Afton has for animal control. The discussion arises because in May, seven cats were caught in live traps and brought to the Animal Humane Society in Woodbury and were euthanized on the day they were brought in rather than after the five day waiting period that is required by state law.
At that meeting, the City of Afton voted to look into the issue.

Following that, they held a series of workshops to help explore the arrangement they had with AHS to provide impound services. This work culminated at the last Afton City Council meeting with a unanimous vote by the Council to terminate their impound contract with the Animal Humane Society. To quote the meeting minutes:
MOTION/SECOND: Snyder/Palmquist. To end the animal impound contract with the Woodbury Animal Humane Society. Ayes - 4 Nays - 0 Motion carried.

As shocking as the rapid killing of those 7 cats may be, it is far from an isolated event. In fact, a response from Animal Humane Society to a complaint filed by Animal Ark, the Animal Rights Coalition and the No Kill Advocacy Center confirmed that Animal Humane Society regularly kills any stray they believe may be "feral" on arrival, without holding them for the required period, and without giving owners of those felines any opportunity to find them. In fact, AHS admitted to having killed about 500 cats last year in this way.

To be perfectly honest, in Animal Humane Society's response, they referred to these 500 deaths as "only" 500 cats, as if the lives of those 500 felines were absolutely irrelevant, or as if the compassion and care people had for them were meaningless. Almost as shocking are the following facts:

  • There is no established methodology for determining which cats may be feral, or which ones may simply be terrified house pets.
  • There is absolutely no statutory language written in the law providing any rational basis for killing feral cats without holding them for the required five days, even if AHS staff could accurately determine which cats are feral, which is an unlikely supposition.
  • There is nothing in State law that prohibits people from keeping outdoor and unsocialized cats. In fact, doing so is common practice.
  • Owners of shy, fearful, unsocialized felines have as much right to have opportunities to reclaim them if their pets are impounded as the owners of friendly cats.

For these and other reasons, it is my belief that management at Animal Humane Society has been operating in an arbitrary, capricious and illegal manner by failing to provide prospective owners of all stray animals opportunity to reclaim them.

Animal Humane Society's five shelters provide impound services for nearly 2 dozen municipalities in and around the Twin Cities Metro area. Additionally, their shelters also accept stray animals from any municipality if they are brought in by members of the general public. As a result, the owners of any animals that could become shy or fearful if lost and trapped could be at risk of having their companions killed if those animals are taken to Animal Humane Society.

Cities which contract with Animal Humane Society for impound services include the following:
  • Afton (contract terminated)
  • Bayport
  • Baytown Township
  • Delano
  • Lake St. Croix Beach
  • Lakeland Shores
  • Marine on St. Croix
  • May Township
  • Minnetonka Beach
  • Minnetrista
  • Montrose
  • Oak Park Heights
  • Oakdale
  • Orono
  • Osseo
  • Rockford
  • Spring Park
  • St. Mary's Point
  • St. Paul Park
  • Stillwater
  • Three Rivers Park
  • Waverly
  • Woodbury

Ironically, while contractual arrangements with municipalities appear to present a significant area of operations for Animal Humane Society, their web site and fundraising materials suggest otherwise. For example, on the Animal Humane Society web site, under "Financial Information" is printed the following text:
As a private non-profit organization, we receive no federal, state or government funding and rely totally on private donations, merchandise sales and adoption fees.

On a page titled "Myth Busting Facts About Animal Humane Society" they write:
We do not receive funding from the state of Minnesota or the counties or cities where our facilities are located.

And, on their "What We Do" page they say:
As a private non-profit organization, we receive no federal, state or government funding and rely totally on private donations, merchandise sales and adoption fees.
Somehow they fail to mention that the costs associated with taking in, housing, feeding what could amount to hundreds or thousands of animals annually are all paid for by nearly two dozen government agencies.

They also fail to mention that they are also paid by these cities to kill and dispose of animals.

More information related to the case of the Afton cats can be found here.

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Comment by RON STEIGER on December 18, 2009 at 3:17am
Their annual report was just sent me in a $ fundraiser pitch. It reports a high kill ratio, YET ... $20,000,000 + in assets.

Who wants those assets to go to the animals ?

***Lets get media-fully informed & lawyered up now***, before they hire somebody to cover up the evidence. ~RON
Comment by pitbull friend on December 18, 2009 at 12:27am
Perhaps one effective strategy for getting the AHS to stop some of the killing would be for people who live in these towns & cities to print out the above information and send it to their City Council members or other representatives. The might particularly pay attention if they were getting letters and emails from multiple constituents.
Comment by Cheryl Jewhurst on December 17, 2009 at 9:51pm
This is a perfect example of how the voting public can and must change the way stray and homeless animals are treated by their local humane societies and shelters. HSUS, PETA and ASPCA are not going to change what has been working for them until the public that funds them demands it. Kudos to the folks of Afton.

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