Animal Control – Fact Checking the Numbers

dog-91237_1280Note:  Updated to include funding comparison table and prettify some formatting and language.  

Update:  County commissioner, George Neugent, is now facing sanctions for ethics violations, which grew out of his role in the Stand Up For Animals (SUFA) debacle.  These maneuverings drew the attention of citizen activist, Rick Boettger, and prompted a close look into Neugent’s financial disclosures, which eventually resulted in the sanctions.  I hope this will have a chilling effect on commissioners who actually think it’s okay to play politics with animal control.  But I’m also a realist and I know that old habits die hard.

Let’s get one thing straight – the euthanasia rate at the Upper Keys shelter is still sky high compared to the other two shelters.  And there are still no solutions being offered.

However, there has been a slight improvement in the coverage of the issue.  I really have to commend the Free Press for their most recent article.  They actually mentioned the funding amounts for each of the shelters.  It’s obvious that the different funding levels might play a role in the issue and I’m glad somebody in the press finally mentioned it. 

Here’s the quote about the funding, in case you don’t believe me.

According to numbers provided by Assistant County Administrator Kevin Wilson, the Lower Keys shelter receives $515,000 annually from Monroe County, the Middle Keys $247,563 and the Upper Keys $283,802.

Despite that momentous step forward, I do have a bone to pick.  The claim that the euthanasia rates have improved is a little misleading.  The Free Press is comparing apples to oranges.  If you take a look at the monthly reports provided by the animal shelters, you’ll see that they keep track of the “Animals Brought In” and the “Animals Picked Up”.  (Links to the reports are provided below.)

Last year, the Free Press only included the “Animals Brought In”.  This year they added both together.  So it appears as though the euthanasia rates are lower across the board.  That is actually not the case.

I’m not accusing the Free Press of monkey math.  My experience with the Free Press has been that they do their very best to get it right.  This appears to be an honest and very forgivable mistake.  Believe me, going through all these numbers can make your head spin.  Plus they’re on a tight deadline.  I dawdle along at my own pace.  I’ve got plenty of time to check and re-check.  And if I do find an error, I simply update the blog to let people know.

That said, in order to make sense of this issue we need to be comparing apples to apples.  So if we use the number of “Animals Brought In” plus the number of “Animals Picked Up”, here’s what we get.

Free Press - Mar 2 2016

It’s number dense, I know.  To summarize, if we compare the total number of animals received by the shelters (“Brought In” and “Picked Up), there’s a slight decrease only at the Key West shelter – 24% to 22%.  The other two shelters actually see a slight increase in the euthanasia rate.  From 62% to 64% at the Upper Keys shelter; and  16% to 19% at the Middle Keys shelter.  Also, as the Free Press pointed out, October data is missing for the Middle Keys shelter.  There’s no way to know how that might affect the numbers – probably not a whole lot.

So unfortunately, things aren’t as rosy as the headline makes it sound.

In any case, I didn’t come here to pick on the Free Press.  I’m more concerned about the numbers Monroe County reported in the 2015 State of the County report.  They made some very interesting claims about the numbers at the various shelters.  Let’s see how the county’s numbers compare.

2015 State of County

Uh oh.  Not too well.  The numbers for the Upper Keys shelter tie out, but they are way off for the Middle and Lower Keys shelters.  Gee, why is that?

Could the county be concerned about the fact that the shelter with the lowest funding also has the highest kill rate?  That certainly does look bad!  Unlike the Free Press, this is not an innocent mistake.  It’s another lie in a long string of lies.  Here’s a table comparing the funding levels of each shelter.

Animal Control Funding Comparison

Hopefully, this is the year that voters finally run out of patience and decide to make some big changes.  I, personally, have been fed up for years.  It infuriates me that almost every time I fact check an issue, the county has provided false and misleading numbers.  Is it any wonder, they can’t keep things on track?  It’s been my experience that those who seek to deceive others, also routinely deceive themselves.  Sounds like fortune-cookie wisdom, but it’s true!

Here’s what District 5 Comm. Sylvia Murphy had to say about the high kill rate last year.

Monroe County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy said she was not concerned by the difference in euthanasia percentages.

“I’m perfectly happy with the services at the clinic,” she told the Free Press.

I’m not sure what the solution is for this very sad problem, but I know one thing.  Phony numbers and lazy, heartless politicians certainly won’t help the situation.

******

As always, I will give you all the information I’ve got.

Here are the monthly reports from each of the shelters.

Key Largo stats JAN 2014 thru JAN 2016

Marathon Stats JAN 2014 thru JAN 2016

Key West stats JAN 2014 thru JAN 2016

And for your convenience, here’s all of that information in tabular form for each shelter:

Summary Table_Upper Keys

Summary Table_Middle Keys

Summary Table_Key West

Here are links to the various contract documents.  But first, a couple of observations.

  1. The Key West shelter included a clause that says the amount can be re-negotiated to deal with a change in conditions.  Smart and sensible.  The Upper Keys shelter agreed to an amount that can only be adjusted by the CPI.  Not smart.  They make do with whatever the county chooses to give them, regardless of need.  This is probably a contributing factor to the lack of solutions being offered.
  2. A few years ago, the Middle Keys shelter was taken over by a group with the backing of Comm. George Neugent and then County Clerk Danny Kolhage, who performed a very questionable audit.  That group failed late last year and the Florida Keys SCPA, who runs the Key West shelter, took over operations.  See here and here for details on the whole unsavory affair.
  3. Controversy aside, it’s amazing to see what can happen when a county commissioner actually gives a damn – even if its for shady reasons.  You’ll notice the per animal funding for the Middle Keys shelter is almost double that of the Upper Keys shelter.  Let’s face it, as far as kill rates are concerned the Middle Keys shelter has the Upper Keys shelter beat by a mile.  According to my math, the Middle Keys shelter had a kill rate of 19% in 2015, as opposed to 64% for the Upper Keys shelter.  Wow!

Upper Keys shelter, Amendment 6.  The amount reported in the Free Press is slightly higher.  This is presumably because it was adjusted by the CPI in accordance with the terms of the contract.

Middle Keys shelter, Addendum 4.

Key West shelter, April 2014.

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One Response to Animal Control – Fact Checking the Numbers

  1. Pingback: Monroe County Budget Hearing Agenda | The Real Poop

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