We recently wrote about Charlie, a dog that was killed at Pueblo Animal Services (PAS), in spite of offers by others to save him. Since then, a lot has happened, some of it leading people to begin questioning the neutrality of their local newspaper, The Pueblo Chieftain.
One of the first things that happened was The Pueblo Chieftain came out very publicly supporting the shelter and the killing of Charlie. The paper wrote a heavy-handed and ill-informed editorialin which it scolded No Kill advocates for trying to “micro-manage the animal shelter.” They went so far as to write, “Frankly, citizens and City Council members have no business butting in and trying to micro-manage those decisions. The people at the shelter are the experts.” In saying this, they ignore the reality that some of the people complaining are experts, too, and even run or have run No Kill animal shelters.
That editorial was not the only one. It was the first in a string of writing/commentary in the Chieftain supporting the shelter while trying to quiet No Kill advocates. Like this, this and this. OK. We get it. Despite the Chieftain actually saying that they “cover both sides of every issue,” the evidence in this case seems to suggest they picked an opinion early and loudly and have, therefore, avoided addressing some of the bigger and broader questions being asked by No Kill advocates, who have been saying quite clearly that issues at the shelter are bigger and even more serious than the specific case of Charlie, including the following:
Relatively Low Live Release Rates
The Live Release Rate (LRR) for PAS, under the management of Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR) has been significantly lower than their other peer shelters in the state. In fact, our assessment is that the Pueblo shelters performs on the low end when compared to other shelters in Colorado, and a full ten percentage points lower than the average shelter in the state. This means that thousands of animals are likely losing their lives at this shelter while shelter management appears disinterested in doing anything to change that.
Strange Statements from PAS Leadership
The director of the PAS recently presented a report to the Pueblo City Council. Her presentation raised serious questions and concerns and, at the same time, failed to address the concerns of No Kill advocates in the City, or beyond.
In their presentation to the Pueblo City Council HSPPR staff suggested it was impossible to be No Kill and open admission, implying they don’t know that there are hundreds of open-admission animal control centers in the USA achieving no kill results. Either that or are they are suggesting all of these municipal operations are lying about their No Kill status? If they are suggesting that other municipalities are lying, do they have any proof of that? Or, are they just saying whatever they need to say to try to survive the meeting with City Council?
Furthermore HSPPR stated in various contexts and in various ways that they are fulfilling, exclusively, a “public safety contract.” They have also said that they do not have a behavior program and that if they want to save dogs like Charlie, fundraising would need to be done. Apparently HSPPR does not understand that, as the recipient of a municipal contract to run the animal shelter, such fundraising is their responsibility not the City’s. After all, if the City is only contracting HSPPR for “public safety” concerns, the City might reasonably consider taking on the shelter operations themselves. They have many competent public safety professionals on staff now. They could take operations of the shelter over, with relative ease, especially if the current shelter leadership is abdicating their responsibilities to remain current on animal sheltering issues and to do the fundraising necessary to effectively run the “animal welfare” components of the shelter. In other words, there is no point in contracting with an animal welfare agency to run the shelter, if they are not going to live up to their own animal welfare mission and are simply fulfilling an exclusively public safety function.
Timing of Charlie’s Killing
It has been reported to No Kill Nation that members of the Pueblo City Council requested Charlie NOT be destroyed until after PAS met with City Council to talk about the case. Yet, PAS reportedly killed Charlie, before meeting with City Council, in spite of these reported requests. Why? And why is The Pueblo Chieftain, not asking questions about that, or any of the other serious issues No Kill advocates are bringing up?
One the most likely explanations for all of the above is media bias. As we said earlier, the Chieftain let their opinion be known loudly and early on their own editorial page. Beyond making excuses for the over-all poor performance at the shelter, or ignoring overt falsehoods being told by the shelter itself, the Chieftain has also actively worked to silence No Kill voices.
We were recently told, for example, that Aubrie Kavanaugh offered to write an op-ed related to No Kill based on her No Kill advocacy work in Huntsville, Alabama, where the open-admission animal control shelter now has a live release rate of about 95%. The Chieftain declined her offer, in an email that read:
We would welcome an oped [sic] column from a local or state group. But we’re not going to open the debate across the nation.
This position by The Pueblo Chieftain was surprising, considering that it had recently published an anti-No Kill piece from PETA, in Norfolk, VA. This suggests that if you agree with them, one set of rules apply. But if you disagree with them, a different set of rules apply, at least in terms of getting published in their paper.
The Pueblo Chieftain has said about themselves that they “cover all sides of every issue.” In this case, however, the Chieftain has not only failing to do that, they also seem to be taking active steps to prevent people from hearing the other perspective. At the same time, they are giving a voice to PETA, an organization whose history in animal sheltering is controversial, at best, and includes the fact that they are currently in court in Virginia trying to defend the act of stealing and killing family pets by their staff.
In one way, it is clear that we may never know whether or not the decision to kill Charlie was the right one, and by that we mean we will never know if Charlie could have been rehabilitated. PAS removed any opportunity to discover that when they killed him, and refused offers from others who were willing to try.
Animal Shelters like PAS and HSPPR claim that ending the lives of pets is always the last option. In this case, and in countless others like it – including those involving healthy and friendly pets – they keep proving that their deeds do not match their words. People in Pueblo deserve more accountability and transparency from their shelter. And, their local paper should champion such accountability and transparency, and they should embrace the voices calling for it.