The Blue Paper is continuing their phenomenal work. They’ve got a story up about the reality behind the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (FKSPCA) kill rate among other things.
By the way, you should financially support the Blue Paper if you don’t already. The other two major newspapers in the Keys (the Key West Citizen and the Keynoter/Reporter) simply don’t do their jobs. They’re all about relaying spin from dishonest local officials. They have nothing to offer in terms of investigative reporting. No reader should ever automatically trust what they have to say because all too often it’s flat wrong.
Anyhow, back to the Blue Paper’s story. There’s a lot to it. There’s a cat colony in Key West that’s about to be dislocated by a new business. The well-meaning caretakers are being dragged into court and basically being harassed through the legal system. And there’s the FKSPCA in the middle of it all – apparently misrepresenting their kill numbers and misleading their donors.
The FKSPCA refused to cooperate on the Blue Paper’s piece. I think they’re used to being given a free pass. Accountability is new to them. FKSPCA President, Jane Dawkins, found out the hard way that trying to silence questions will only get you called out. The best way to avoid that pain, of course, is just to be forthcoming and honest. Unfortunately, the FKSPCA does not seem to grasp that concept.
Fortunately for Jane and her cronies, there’s nothing to worry about from law enforcement. The State Attorney’s Office (SAO) is more than happy to look the other way on their suspicious contract with Monroe County. Unless some other law enforcement agency picks up the SAO’s slack, FKSPCA’s main concern right now is public perception. Unless they can spin their way out of the bad press created by their own dishonesty and shady dealings, their revenues could be affected. I’m sure the Citizen and the Keynoter/Reporter will come the rescue. I expect we’ll be seeing slanted stories in the next few days.
In fact, the Blue Paper’s Naja Girard interviewed the largest donor to the new Key West animal shelter building. The donor was surprised and unhappy to learn about the FKSPCA’s high kill rate. She was under the impression that the FKSPCA was running a “no-kill” shelter. Once again, a dishonest Keys agency has been outed by a public records request. The Blue Paper obtained reports detailing the actual number of animals euthanized over the past two years: 844. By my count, it’s 701 at the Key West shelter, 133 at the Marathon shelter and ten where the location is unspecified.
I’ve been following the kill rates at the animal shelters since 2015 because I was so shocked by the number of animals killed at the Upper Keys shelter. But the Blue Paper’s work raises the possibility that the Upper Keys shelter isn’t alone in their failures, and may have suffered bad publicity only because they honestly reported their numbers.
Here are a couple of tables I put together over the past couple of years. The first table contains the numbers for 2015. The second for 2016.
According to the monthly reports submitted by the county, about 70 animals are euthanized each year at the Middle Keys shelter and a slightly over 200 at the Lower Keys shelter. The documents obtained by the Blue Paper suggest that the numbers for the Middle Keys shelter roughly tie out to the monthly reports. But they are way off for the Lower Keys shelter – more like 350 animals per year rather than 200 or so.
I don’t know how all these numbers fit together yet. Looks like more public records requests will be required in order to sort it all out.
I found this presentation which discusses some of the legal considerations regarding feral cats. It seems to me that this is the logic that forms the basis for dragging cat colony caretakers into court. Looks like the presentation was done in 2002-2003. What’s missing, as always, is real data that demonstrates that this approach actually works to reduce the population of “feral” cats.
Solving any problem starts with accurate data collection. The “feral” cat problem is no different. Unfortunately, Monroe County and the FKSPCA have a track record of dishonesty. They simply cannot be counted on to provide accurate numbers. On top of that, dragging the kindhearted people who feed stray cats into court guarantees that they cannot provide accurate numbers of “feral” cats without putting themselves in legal jeopardy. These factors together mean that there is no way to know what works and what doesn’t.
What a mess.