Inside This Issue:

  • Report on City-Run Shelter Alleges Unsafe Policies and Workplace Retaliation
  • Robot Sentry to Send Birds Flapping from Alaskan Airfield
  • New Study Suggests Steers Prefer Women
  • Yet Another Misidentified Litter of Fox Kits Dropped off at Shelter

Report on City-Run Shelter Alleges Unsafe Policies and Workplace Retaliation

A recent investigative report on the Seattle Animal Shelter alleges unsafe practices, poor communication, and a nasty habit of retaliating against those who raise concerns… or who ask too many questions.

Dog bites are at the bloody, beating heart of this report. Numerous staff, volunteers, and adopters are unhappy and feel unsafe over the way the shelter has been handling dogs with bite histories. They feel they are being exposed to more aggressive dogs than in past years, while simultaneously, protocols have changed, recklessly placing unprepared volunteers in contact with these dogs. The chicken-to-egg ratio of this phenomenon is unclear, but regardless, it’s a brutal combo. The investigation also found that bites are being under-reported (or less generously, obfuscated), threatening the safety of adopters and the public.

The “featured” dog of the report had a known bite history, had already been returned to the shelter once for, wait for it… biting, and despite this, was featured with an NHL player in a promotional adoption video. He was then adopted out to a local woman whom he proceeded to bite four times over the course of two days. His adopter says the shelter never gave her any warning about the dog’s previous behavior. (Note: this particular dog ended up being returned from fosters and adoption homes 11 – yes, 11 – times!)

Meanwhile, people working with the shelter report an atmosphere of fear and frustration. Essentially, “How do we (and ultimately, fosters and adoptive homes) stay safe when we can lose our position and privileges by asking questions or making suggestions that run afoul of management?”

The shelter sticks with HR-friendly language when describing its workplace: terms like “inclusive,” “welcoming,” and “respect,” abound. OK, that sounds nice enough – at least they aren’t (publicly) throwing their employees and volunteers under the bus. The shelter also points out that changing the policies of city-run entities can be painfully slow. This, while frustrating and unfortunate, is often true. They also frame instances of firing or ending volunteer relationships as extremely rare. Now this, while technically true, is clear wordplay. The shelter may not be regularly firing staff or ending volunteer relationships, but when you have volunteers signing public letters of concern, and enough folks have cut ties with the shelter to garner an investigative report, something is clearly up.

The vast majority of people who read the report are going to side against management, which is expected and probably fair (it's an exposé, after all). But in the end, no matter how the labor aspect of this conflict is resolved, there is a larger issue at play, one that goes beyond the Seattle Animal Shelter: how the heck did we get to a place where shelters – city-run shelters, at that! – feel entitled to adopt out dogs with known bite histories? Aside from being an abdication of the “public health and safety” aspect of their work, this practice also undermines rescue as a whole. Measuring success only by live release numbers and/or falling down the “there are no bad dogs, only bad owners – we can save them all” rabbit hole only leads to fewer volunteers and fosters, diminished public trust in adopting rescue dogs, and eventually – inevitably – tragedy and lawsuits.

Unfortunately, this is not a new problem, but one that is increasing as no-kill policies leverage the declining availability of healthy, well-tempered dogs. See the 2017 article by NAIA’s president below.

Seattle Animal Shelter accused of safety issues, retaliation

★     2023 Foster Team Letter to Seattle Animal Shelter
★     (2017) Patti Strand: More regulations needed for animal shelters and rescues



Robot Sentry to Send Birds Flapping from Alaskan Airfield 

I'd run away. Will birds?

Wildlife aircraft collisions, often referred to as bird strikes or wildlife strikes, are a significant safety concern and have been the bane of pilots since the dawn of modern aviation. But don’t take our word for it – just read Orville Wright’s diary. This problem is and has been ubiquitous with human flight. Wildlife strikes primarily involve birds but can also include mammals and other wildlife. These strikes damage engines, windshields, and other critical components. Crashes and passenger fatalities, while rare, have occurred as well. Repairs and maintenance following wildlife strikes are costly, as are the delays and cancellations. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the annual cost of Wildlife Strikes could be as high as $500 million. And if you think that’s rough, just imagine how these collisions make the birds feel!

Cue Aurora, a dog-like robot that will be patrolling the Anchorage Airport in Alaska, scaring away – without harming – nearby wildlife and birds. The concept came after other attempts to keep animals clear of the runway failed. Aurora was created by the robotics company, Boston Dynamics. The robot’s programming will enable it to emit lights and mimic the way foxes and coyotes stalk prey. It is hoped that this will deter wildlife without harming them. If it is menacing enough, Aurora may even be able to scare away larger animals like moose and bear. Follow the unique journey of Aurora and its – her, actually – lifesaving work at the Anchorage Airport on the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Instagram page.

Innovative Robot Keep Airfields Clear of Wildlife

★     Massive Pink Bird Strike: Emirates Plane Lands Safely After Hitting 39 Flamingos In Mumbai
★     FAA Wildlife Strike FAQ



New Study Suggests Steers Prefer Women

Woman and calf.

Have you ever had a pet that indicates a preference for women over men or vice-versa? Perhaps not, but you’ve no doubt heard someone say that they prefer dogs or cats of one sex over another. Or maybe you, yourself have a preference. Regardless, it’s something nearly all of us have at least heard of.

Of course, this phenomenon is nearly entirely anecdotal. There are a few studies on how dogs respond differently to men and women, but this isn't exactly a hot topic in canine behavior. A new study in animal-assisted therapy, however, says that steers can have preferences, and in this case, they markedly preferred women. On top of that, the women in the study liked the steers more than the men. It’s an incredibly small sample size, just two steers and 11 humans (six women, five men), so drawing any conclusions from this data is folly. That said, the animal and human reactions are fascinating, and raise interesting questions about whether gender could be a factor in the effectiveness in animal-assisted therapy.

We were merely curious as to why Pooky only barks when men come to the door. But if this area of inquiry leads to improvements in therapies and animal care, all the better!

Study reveals cuddled cows who work as therapy animals show a strong preference for women compared to men

★     The surprising reason why dogs listen to women better than men: study
★     (1999) Male and female dogs respond differently to men and women



Yet Another Misidentified Litter of Fox Kits Dropped off at Shelter

Definitely cute. Also, definitely not kittens. In defense of the guy who dropped off the litter of foxes, they were much younger and hadn't even opened their eyes yet.

Every year, shelters and rescues across the country receive wild animals from well-meaning but under-informed folks who either misidentify litters of small mammals as pups or kittens, or else assume the shelter also functions as a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Unfortunately, while there are kind intentions behind these drop-offs, they create a lot more trouble than they solve. When someone gathers up a litter of “abandoned” fox kits to “rescue” them, for example, the odds are very good that the kits would have been perfectly fine if left alone – the mom was probably just out hunting. But now, because the kits have been moved, mom and her babies have to be reunited (which can be difficult or impossible), which creates more work for everyone. And if that fails, the kits will be raised by humans, then released into the wild when they are older and capable enough to survive. This is a pretty involved process – and while it is wonderful that there are people who are passionate about this type of work, there are plenty of legitimately injured and sick animals they could be focusing on instead.

The urge to help seemingly helpless and abandoned animals comes from a good place, but it is important to let shelters and humane societies focus on their primary jobs. Unless the animals are obviously injured or the mother has been gone for eight or more hours (and remember to observe from far enough away so she does come back!), don’t assume the worst, and remember it is nearly always better to just leave them be.

Kittens or puppies? Animals left at shelter turned out to be foxes — again.

★     Man’s new kitten turns out to be baby bobcat
★     Animal-lover rushes sick baby hedgehog to vet — only to find out she’s been caring for a hat pom-pom


Also in the News...

★     Rare fish that lives in complete darkness washes ashore on Oregon beach (Surprise!; Lurkers of the Deep; Angler Fish)
★     Asian longhorned tick threatens Illinois livestock
 (Invasive Species; Animal Agriculture Health & Safety)
★     Harris County's pet shelter is over capacity by about 300 animals (Rescue & Shelter Issues; Major Overcrowding)
★     Customs Authorities Bust Woman Who Taped 87 Trafficked Animals to Body (Wildlife Trafficking; Protected & Endangered Species)
★     Mysterious Babies: The Animals Humans Have Never Seen Give Birth (Leopards and Rhinos and Whales, So Shy!)
★     About 100 animals rescued from home on Prospect Street in High Point (Dog & Cat Rescue; At Least One Dead; Repiratory & Parasite Issues)
★     Chicago Zoo animals chow down on rarely seen cicadas (Videos; Zoos; The Spice of LIfe)
★     32 animals that act weirdly human sometimes (Of All the Lists We Have Encountered in Our travels, This Was the Most... Human)

Click here to see what is happening legislatively

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