There is a great thing about numbers and math: They don't lie. Sure, people can use math and numbers to lie. Alan Rosenberg recently explained some of the ways animal shelters use them to lie about their outcome statistics on No Kill in Motion. Most commonly, they omit whole categories of deaths from their Live Release Rate calculations.
If you don't do that, however, and you look at the actual, raw numbers of live animals that leave a shelter as a percentage of the total outcomes (what "Live Release Rate" is supposed to represent) the numbers are clear and unambiguous, which brings us to Alachua County Animal Services in Florida and their outdated temperament testing of dogs, which results in a lot of needless killing.
Alachua County is an easy hour drive north on Interstate 75 from Lake County, Florida's first truly No Kill community. It is also home to Maddie's Fund's Shelter Medicine Program and the recipient of a significant Maddie's Fund Community Collaboration grant in 2002.
When Maddie's Fund began its Community Collaboration grant program in the mid 1990's its stated goal was to transform communities to No Kill status. Nearly twenty years later, with few, if any, success stories from that program, and after dolling out millions of dollars to communities that failed to reach No Kill, Maddie's quietly canceled their Community Collaborations grant program and then set about retroactively moving the goal post, saying "success" was "reducing euthanasia" rather than ending killing.
Over the years things have improved in Alachua County. Like most of the rest of the country that did not receive large Maddie's Fund grants, public expectations have changed and people have been demanding more of their animal shelters. As a result, killing has declined. However, outdated practices remain and needless killing continues. As a result, animal lovers continue speaking out.
In Alachua County, those speaking out include a Facebook Page called Friends of Alachua County Animals, which has rightly called the County shelter out for its outdated temperament testing. They have done so in calm, objective and rational terms, avoiding personal attacks and unnecessarily inflammatory language. Instead, the page makes accurate statements like,
"Uh oh. After a brief hiatus, it looks like the out-of-date fake dog test is back! This test has not been accepted for awhile by (shelter) behaviorists because it holds no weight in giving accurate information when it comes to a dog-dog friendliness."
For Maddie's Fund, this kind of advocacy is, apparently, unacceptable. In response, the head of Maddie's Fund's Shelter Medicine program, Dr. Julie Levy, sent a fairly broadly distributed email to local animal shelters, rescues, veterinarians and others attacking one of the admins of the page, by name, referring to her as a "bully" and describing the advocacy as "toxic," and "harassment" and "vitriol." A copy of Levy's email is below.
The irony in Levy's condemnation of No Kill advocacy is made more troubling, given that Maddie's Fund has actually given leadership awards to people who engage in behavior like the spreading of the "monkey butt video" described here. Apparently, for Maddie's Fund, it is also OK that Dr. Levy use her rather prominent position to personally attack - by name - an advocate simply for seeking an end to the needless killing of animals in her local animal shelter. If you ask us, Dr. Levy and Maddie's, that is the very definition of toxic bullying. As Dr. Levy claims ACAS has "one of the lowest euthanasia rates in the state," we think the actual numbers speak for themselves and that the animals being destroyed needlessly are worthy of the advocacy about which she complains.