Roughly a year ago, Citizens For Shelter Reform (CFSR), “a coalition of concerned animal advocates who are dedicated to shelter assessment reform, reduced euthanasia, improved care for homeless animals and responsible screening for adopters,” was contacted due to issues at the Franklin County Dog Shelter (FCDS) in Columbus, Ohio.
Luke Westerman, the spokesperson for CFSR, told BarkPost:
[CFSR] decided to focus on the assessment process as we believed it was directly contributing to dogs being killed – to the tune of 100 to 200+ per month. Food guarding is the most egregious and we believed the easiest one to get thrown out since even the test’s creator has since spoken out against it.
Written in a blog post for the ASPCA, Dr. Emily Weiss, the creator of the SAFER food guarding assessment, states:
…[W]e have concluded that the food guarding assessment simply should not be conducted. As the information (in this case, a dog food guards or does not food guard) has a very high likelihood of being a false positive or negative, so the best approach to food guarding, a natural, normal behavior, is to simply communicate the possibility of food guarding to all adopters.
In addition to Dr. Weiss’ statements regarding this test’s ineffectiveness, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also concurs. Speaking to 10TV, the ASPCA said:
We have determined that food guarding assessments are not useful tools for shelter dogs because they are not reliable predictors of overall behavior in the home.
To shape their policies, the FCDS does use the ASPCA, as well as other nationally accredited organizations such as The Humane Society of the United States of America and the American Veterinary Medical Association along with others.
In an email to BarkPost, Tyler Lowry, Director of Public Affairs for the Franklin County Commissioners, said:
Shelter management takes its responsibility to the community very seriously, and is aware of the community movement to remove the so-called food guarding test from the shelter’s behavioral assessments….The ASPCA is considering eliminating the food guarding test from its recommendations but, according to our most recent communication with Dr. Weiss and other ASPCA officials, has not done so yet. If that recommendation is eventually changed, the Franklin County shelter will reassess whether its own policies should be changed to reflect the new recommendation.
Additionally, Debbie Finelli, FCDS’s Acting Director, said to 10TV:
Maybe when a new director comes in they’ll have the ability to take [the food guarding assessment] out of the behavioral assessment, but at this point, I don’t have the authority to take it out of the assessment.
Prior to media coverage on the FCDS’s use of the food guarding assessment, Luke explained that several members of CFSR met with FCDS leadership, proposing solutions to different issues. Now, as Luke tells BarkPost, it’s become much more difficult to have their voices heard.
Since we have gone public with our concerns (via the media), neither the shelter nor the county has been willing to meet with anyone to discuss anything regarding the shelter. We have even shown up to public county meetings where we are supposed to have the right to address county commissioners but we have been denied the right to speak.
CFSR’s opinion is that the longer that FCDS continues to use this inaccurate assessment, the more that dogs will be euthanized. Says Luke:
The faulty assessment process utilized by FCDS is directly leading to the wrongful deaths of thousands of dogs each and every year — and the public isn’t being made aware of all the facts….Thousands and thousands of Franklin County citizens have spoken out against this assessment process. But nevertheless, the shelter continues to employ this antiquated process which has been proven highly faulty by the ASPCA (and many other expert organizations).
In a statement contrary to what CFSR states, Tyler wrote to BarkPost that:
The food guarding test has been a part of the ASPCA recommendations for quite a while and, as such, has been a part of the Franklin County Dog Shelter’s behavior assessment, but it is only one part. No dogs are euthanized because of the food guarding test. It is one of several useful evaluations that help us make an appropriate placement for the dog.
A petition was created to encourage the shelter to change its assessment tools and to date has garnered more than 6,000 signatures and over 100 pages of comments.
The importance of taking action on a situation such as this isn’t lost on Luke, as he shared with BarkPost.
I…believe (with total conviction) that we all have a responsibility and a duty to protect the defenseless and to speak up for those without a voice — even if that creates some discomfort….Hundreds of innocent lives are being failed each and every month. They have no ability to speak out. They are counting on us, all of us, to be their voice.
Featured image via The Blade