Shelter Transparency in Orleans Parish

(Pictured on this page are just a few of the dogs we have taken in from Orleans Parish and/or the LASPCA.

May 1st, 2016

 

Friends,

 

New Orleans Bulldog Rescue’s public records lawsuit against the LASPCA will be heard on Tuesday, May 3rd at 10am by Louisiana’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (410 Royal Street). We encourage the public to attend this hearing, learn more about the issues at stake, and join our pursuit of increased transparency, accountability, and collaboration in New Orleans’ animal welfare efforts.

 

The lawsuit was filed in response to the LASPCA’s pattern of prioritizing its organizational image over animals’ lives. Specifically, the LASPCA continues to: oppose shelter transparency (which is vital for public education); deliberately mislead the public about its services; make self-serving claims about the condition of animals in the shelter; and impede collaborative efforts among local advocates who question LASPCA policies. For example, despite having to euthanize thousands of dogs and cats every year, the organization reports to the public that “[every animal picked up, dropped off or rescued] is automatically spayed or neutered, given shots and behavior training.” Further, of those who are euthanized, the organization claims that 99.96% are “unadoptable,” but refuses to disclose why, or how these animals are evaluated. It is unclear why this information must remain a secret, but upon receiving our request for clarification of these claims, the LASPCA indicated it would only respond if legally compelled.

 

Public records laws generally apply to all government offices/agencies and certain “quasi-public nonprofit organizations” contracted to perform “government functions.” The LASPCA is paid by New Orleans taxpayers to function as the city shelter and also provide animal control, which grants the organization certain police powers such as issuing citations, assessing fines, and seizing/destroying private property. This is not to say that the LASPCA should be able to save every animal single-handedly, only that taxpayers are legally entitled to information within the purview of these government functions. Should the court agree with the LASPCA’s attorneys, it would set a dangerous precedent that enables government officials to circumvent public records laws simply by delegating certain government responsibilities to private entities.

 

As you all can attest to, we have wonderful community support for animal welfare in our city. This includes rescue groups, significant financial supporters, city leaders, and also the LASPCA which has many great programs, employees and volunteers. However, the data speaks for itself, and our community can do much better. Accepting the status quo requires us to believe the LASPCA’s leadership that thousands of animals must be euthanized each year due to some sort of undisclosed defect. Yet, many other cities facing similar challenges with fewer resources have achieved nearly double New Orleans’ “live release rates,” primarily by being honest with the public about overpopulation and implementing proven best practices. This requires open discussion and critical analysis, which the LASPCA has obtained attorneys to prevent.

 

A transparent shelter would bring about new opportunities for collaboration and public engagement. For example, an “Orleans Parish Animal Welfare Commission” could provide: increased citizen oversight of animal welfare efforts in the city; guidance to city leaders on animal-related budget priorities; coordination of resources and negotiated veterinary services for local rescue groups; and also gather city-wide data from those who currently refuse to work with the LASPCA. This Commission would be open to all residents of the parish, and fully transparent. (i.e. Austin, TX Animal Advisory Commission) Similarly, we hope to bring Target Zero to New Orleans, a non-profit consultant that has helped many cities dramatically reduce euthanasia rates, and recently partnered with the City of Lafayette. However, “transparency and openness” are integral to Target Zero’s efforts, and it is unclear if partnership is possible with our community due to the lack of comprehensive data from our city shelter.

 

If you are interested in joining the community efforts listed in the paragraph above, or should you have any questions about the lawsuit, please feel free to contact us, city leaders, or even the LASPCA directly. It is our hope that we can all work together in the future, including the LASPCA, to pursue better outcomes for both animals and people in our community. However, we can’t fix what we can’t see, which is why transparency must be a foundation for these community efforts.

 

Thank you for your support of increased transparency, accountability, and collaboration.

 

Sincerely,

 

Michael Schachtman

President

New Orleans Bulldog Rescue

 

On behalf of the New Orleans Bulldog Rescue Board of Directors.

 


For more informaiton on why transparency is so important, please read this editorial from Maddie's Fund, a national leader in animal welfare.

 

How can I help?

1) Attend the hearing on Royal Street tomorrow at 10am.

 

2) Write to Mayor Mitch Landrieu at mayor@nola.gov and the New Orleans City Council to stress the importance of transparency in animal welfare (and all contracts involving taxpayer dollars)

 

3) Write to LASPCA Board President Kerri Kane to let her know that the animals of New Orleans deserve better!

 

4) Ask questions before donating! We encourage the public to ask questions, and donate to non-profit organizations that spend the most money on direct services (not six figure salaries for executives!).

 

Finally....

To answer a frequently asked question, NOBR continues to take dogs from the LASPCA shelter. Below is Manny (left) a young Bordeaux/Bulldog mix, and Pickles (right) an English Mastiff mix. Both were pulled in April from the LASPCA, and available for adoption from NOBR. Apply today at the link above.

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