Animal Rights

Los Angeles “No Kill”- Mercy for Animals or Manipulation & E-Metrics?

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Tracking euthanasia statistics as a measure of success or failure of an animal-sheltering agency is a fairly new phenomenon. Until the past few decades, stray cats were left in the streets and dog pounds were hidden away in industrial areas, with little thought given to conditions or how these unwanted animals’ lives ended.

Recently the “rescue” of animals has become such a hot political issue that it can determine or threaten an election. Media and worldwide financial interests now focus on recovering lost pets, animal sheltering, re-homing, pet overpopulation, breeding and related markets that support the multi-billion dollar pet industry, and the animal world is awash in statistics and opinions—especially in regard to the number of homeless animals “saved,” by whom, and what it means.

The emotionally charged, enigmatic buzzword “No Kill” is right at the top of on-going controversies over semantics and statistics and can be strategically interjected into any discussion regarding animal shelters to elicit passionate response by the public; i.e., donors--where tugging on heartstrings usually opens pocketbooks. 

But are we really getting the truth about the plight of unwanted animals and a clear concept of what is meant by reaching “No Kill?” Or are statistics and reports regarding euthanasia manipulated to show progress or failure depending on who stands to benefit philosophically and/or financially?

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A police officer saw a young black couple drive by and pulled them over. What he did next left them stunned:

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A police officer saw a young black couple drive by and pulled them over. What he did next left them stunned:

Los Angeles, Brenda Barnette, 2010-2011

Using Los Angeles as an example, in a July 30, 201l, article in the L.A. Daily News, reviewing Brenda Barnette’s  first year as General Manager at L. A. Animal Services, she tells staff writer Dana Bartholomew she will make Los Angeles “No Kill “in seven years.  The article states, “In Barnette's last position as head of the Seattle Humane Society, she said the so-called ‘live-save rate;’--the number of shelter animals that are adopted rather than euthanized--increased from 77 to 94 percent.” http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_18587883

Is that actually what Barnette meant? It appears there’s a major difference between “saved” and “adopted” when we look at real numbers and read more of Ms. Barnette’s explanations.

In an earlier interview with Best Friends, Barnette states that most of her Seattle “save rate” increase is “…credited to the shelter’s robust foster care program. In 2009, some 4,300 animals benefitted from home care while waiting for homes of their own, freeing up space in the shelter for new animals.”  So does a “save rate” really mean adopted, or “No Kill,”or just shifted to another location temporarily? What happens when the fostered pets come back to a shelter after it is refilled with new animals?

Since the Seattle Humane Society only takes in between 6,000 to 7,000 pets per year, wouldn’t that put the actual “adoption” rate somewhere closer to 40%?  Then, after deducting the 6% to 8% that were “not saved;” i.e., euthanized, wouldn’t the real adoption figure drop to around 32%? http://news.bestfriends.org/index.cfm?page=news&mode=entry&entry=70A317CC-1231-3F02-49E57182CE0341BA

In fact, Los Angeles Animal Services, with six high-volume municipal shelters, was at a 37.57% adoption (to the public) rate when Ms. Barnette arrived in Los Angeles. According to Barnette’s own statements, that was better than Seattle Humane, a small selective-entry, private shelter.  http://laanimalservices.com/PDF/reports/CatNDogIntakeNOutcomes.pdf

Barnette also told the Daily News that, since she has been in L.A., she has “…transported 1,500 animals to shelters in Washington and New York state to help her ‘save’ rate...” [There is no record of the final disposition of these animals, nor the ones she sent to Canada. So we don’t really know what happened to them.)  http://www.opposingviews.com/i/l-a-shelter-dogs-transported-to-canada-rescue-or-ruse

Barnette declared, “… it will take three years to encourage pet owners to abide by new [2008] spay/neuter laws.” Yet, according to a recent LAAS report, city-subsidized and/or free spays and neuters dropped in Barnette’s first year-- from 34,788 in FY 09-10 to 22,460 in FY 10-11.   Spay/neuter voucher redemption plummeted almost 40% to 5, 537 (FY 10-11) from 9,213 (FY 09-10).

Barnette’s “foster” program--inviting Angelenos to stash adult shelter animals in garages, basements and bathrooms--has also [mercifully] been a dismal failure. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/l-a-shelter-animals-fostered-in-basements-bathrooms

The Daily News reports, “From September 2010 through June, L.A. shelters destroyed 16,425 dogs and cats, a 10.7 percent increase over the same period before her watch. [Now 11%.] The number of euthanized unweaned kittens rose nearly 22 percent…At the same time, public adoptions dropped by 6.2 percent.”  http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_18587883

When Barnette’s hiring was announced in June 2010 by Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Paul Koretz, they stated she has, “… one of the nation’s strongest portfolios in animal shelter management, effective pet adoption and public education.”  http://www.opposingviews.com/i/villaraigosa-akc-rep-brenda-barnette-new-l-a-animal-services-top-dog

But, on July 11, 2011, Barnette told a Best Friends’ interviewer, “I called Francis Battista as soon as I got to L.A. and asked for help. Luckily for the animals, Best Friends is able to significantly increase their work in L.A. to help us get to No More Homeless Pets in L.A.” http://news.bestfriends.org/index.cfm?page=news&mode=entry&entry=70A317CC-1231-3F02-49E57182CE0341BA

So, who’s really running the L A. programs—Brenda Barnette or Best Friends of Utah?

Recently Best Friends Animal Society of Utah has become  a major player in Los Angeles animal politics—so much so that the Mayor and City Council are handing over--free-of charge and utilities paid--use of an entire brand-new $19-milllion city animal shelter, supposedly as an adoption and education center. 

Although this facility is reportedly designed to hold up to 900 impounds of various species, Best Friends is only required to house 50 to 100 adoptable pets at a time, hand-selected from the other city shelters.  http://www.opposingviews.com/i/is-mayor-villaraigosa-sacrificing-an-l-a-animal-shelter

The clincher was when LAAS General Manager Brenda Barnette, who serves on the Best Friends’ “No More Homeless Pets” Steering Committee, threatened the City Council that 10,000 animals would be euthanized unless the deal was sealed.  Barnette said she had no association with Best Friends prior to coming to Los Angeles, and she didn’t explain how she calculated the 10,000 deaths—and nobody asked.  http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/brenda-barnette-la-animal-shelter-giveaway-best-friends-gift-public-funds

Best Friends – Rescuing Brenda Barnette?

Best Friends has proclaimed that by applying its “No More Homeless Pets” plan, within five years the city of Los Angeles will be “No Kill.” Francis Battista, one of the Best Friends and “No More Homeless Pets” founders recently explained at a public meeting that measuring is a matter of “E-Metrics.” That is, determining the percentage based on the human population count, rather than on the actual number (percentage) of animals euthanized.  Huh?

E-Metrics is discussed on the Best Friends website, where it states that since 1999, No More Homeless Pets in Utah has decreased euthanasia by 41%* (the asterisk indicates a note on the bottom, “*…No More Homeless Pets in Utah tracks a statistic widely used as a measure of progress made in affecting pet overpopulation -- the number of animals euthanized each year per 1000 human population. We call this the E-Metric.”)    http://www.utahpets.org/nmhcms/NoMoreHomelessPetsUtahHome/AboutUs/OurProgress/tabid/114/Default.aspx

So, if the 41% decrease is not a real percentage but an E-Metric, what does the final E-Metric 11* really mean?

The “E-Metric” page, explains, “The E-Metric represents the number of homeless dogs and cats euthanized in Utah's shelters annually per 1000 human population.”  http://www.utahpets.org/nmhcms/NoMoreHomelessPetsUtahHome/AboutUs/TheEMetric/tabid/115/Default.aspx

E-Metric?

Best Friends calls its “E-Metric” a way to measure progress in lowering euthanasia. Not everyone agrees. In a 2000 presentation, “E-Metrics - Business Metrics for the New Economy,” NetGenesis.com and Target Marketing of Santa Barbara, state:

“The business community knows how to measure income and profits and the proverbial "bottom line," but is still struggling with what we call 'e-metrics'--metrics for measuring Web site success"  http://www.targeting.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/emetrics-business-metrics-ne

And, the E-Metrics Marketing Optimization Summit in 2009 posted, “We are not accountants, we are statisticians.  Statistics means never having to say you’re certain.” 

So how does this fit in with measuring spay/neuter and lowering pet overpopulation?  Does E-Metrics measure progress with spay/neuter or does it just create “uncertain” statistics?

How many Spays and Neuters get L.A. to “No Kill?”

Mr. Batista indicated that the foundation for his “No Kill” or “No More Homeless Pets” projection is the 2003 paper by Peter Marsh of New Hampshire, on “Solutions to Overpopulation of Pets.” It is based on the premise that spaying or neutering 5 out of every 1,000 dogs and cats in the lowest-income area of a targeted region will result in reducing pet population to the point of zero increase. http://www.petfinder.com/for-shelters/spay-neuter-program.html

Will this formula be effective in Los Angeles, a city with over 62% renters and constant transition?  The entire state of New Hampshire has a 2010 population of 1,316,470 whereas Los Angeles city, alone, estimates a population of 3,792,621 (2010).  Keeping the 5% of altered pets within one geographic area in L.A .may prove challenging. Plus, how do we stop new residents with unaltered dogs/cats from moving in?

Even if the spays and neuters include a binding contract of immobility, at 5 sterilizations per 1,000  pets in any region of Los Angeles—with an average human density of 8,092 per square mile--it may take considerable time until the “70% principle” explained by Mr. Batista, is reached.  That is the projected point of pet sterilization at which reproduction is estimated to match attrition and not exceed the status quo. ( Note: Whether or not this premise has been proven in any measurable test area is unsure—it’s adapted from a calculation based on a vaccination/disease-control projection.)  http://www.quickspay.com/articles.html

A Rescuer/Volunteer Questions, Is E-Metrics just a “marketing tool?”

Since Los Angeles’ human population fluctuates and is not under the control of the local animal shelter, a rescuer with a mathematical bent wrote that she is wondering how 4 million Los Angeles city residents—many not even pet owners--factor into shelter euthanasia  counts .  The “euthanasia statistic” has traditionally been and still is computed nationwide by a simple accounting principle of dividing the number of animals euthanized by the total number impounded. 

Here’s what the skeptic wrote:

“I went to Best Friends Animal Society's "No More Homeless Pets Utah" page when I heard that Best Friends said they can help LAAS achieve a 90% save rate because they did this in Utah. To me, 90% save rate also translates into 10% euthanized in Utah. All I wanted to do was to check the numbers for Utah and see if they take in as many animals as LAAS.

“Instead, it didn't take long to realize that something was “different.” And sure enough, the continual reference to "E-Metric" finally shed light on what is happening with Utah and its euthanasia rate.

“In the email invite for the "No More Homeless Pets LA" meeting in September, it said that "No More Homeless Pets LA represents a commitment by Best Friends to lead and sponsor a comprehensive drive to take the City of Los Angeles to the no-kill benchmark of a 90% save rate of all animals entering LA Animal Services’ shelters." Wow, that's truly wonderful news!

“LA Animal Services currently has a 39% euthanasia rate, and we're ecstatic to think that maybe “No-Kill" is finally within reach. But after a quick glance at the number of intake and euthanasia on "No More Homeless Pets Utah" page, it immediately became apparent that something didn't quite add up.

“How does an intake of 76,482 animals in Utah in 2010 and euthanasia of 30,833 equate to an 11% euthanasia rate? Well, it doesn't—if you do the math. But Best Friends doesn't calculate euthanasia rate by using the method of "total number euthanized divided by total number intake". Instead, it uses "E-Metric", which "represents the number of homeless dogs and cats euthanized in Utah's shelters annually per 1000 human population."

“So, if the "E-Metric" for the state of Utah in 2010 is 11 what is its euthanasia rate then? Simple. Take 30,833 euthanized and divide by 76,482 intake. The 2010 euthanasia rate for Utah is: 40.31%.

“In 2010 (based on September 09 thru August10, data), LA Animal Services took in 54,572 dogs and cats and euthanized 20,182, this equates to 36.98% euthanasia rate. That's better than what Best Friends “No More Homeless Pets Utah” did in Utah. (By the way, LA Animal Services calculates its euthanasia rate: "total euthanized divided by total intake." Simple and straightforward.)

“Now, how does LA Animal Services' stats look if we were to measure it by "E-Metric"? Let's see it. Using the estimated population in 2006 (last year of actual U.S. Census figures) and assuming a growth rate between 2000 and 2006, the population in Los Angeles in 2010 is approximately 3,957,855.

“Once again, the 2010 euthanasia total  is 20,182. Using the same calculation method Best Friends applied to "No More Homeless Pets Utah", the 2010 "E-Metric" for LA Animal Services is... 5.10   But that’s not the same as a “save” or “No Kill” rate.   Isn’t it more of a “guesstimate”?

Someone else asked, “If Utah is ‘No Kill’ or ‘No More Homeless Pets’ statewide, why would a Utah rescuer post this?

A 17 June 2011 post by RynVR on the Best Friends site is entitled, No-Kill shelter in Ivins, UTah, is  packed: “The Ivins Animal Shelter, the only no-kill city shelter in Utah, is completely full. It is in desperate need of foster families and/or people to adopt them into forever homes.” http://network.bestfriends.org/groups/bffp/forum/t/52357.aspx