Gail R. O’Connell-Babcock, Ph. D.
Citizens for Humane Animal Legislation/Watchdog
16004 SW Tualatin-Sherwood Rd., Box 508
Sherwood, Oregon 97140
Telephone: (503) 625-4563 FAX: (503) 925-8299
September 20, 2010
To: Guillermo Maciel, Policy analyst for Multnomah County
CC: Jeff Cogen, Multnomah County Chair
Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, District 1
Commissioner Barbara Willer, District 2
Commissioner Judy Shiprack, District 3
Commissioner Diane McKeel, District 4
CC: Portland City Council: Mayor Sam Adams, Commissioners Randy Leonard, Amanda Fritz,
Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish
Regarding: the county’s stand on MCAS’s deteriorating performance
On the afternoon of July 26, Attorney Reb Babcock and I met briefly with Chair Cogen and you, outlining the facts about MCAS’s steadily deteriorating performance (based upon MCAS’s own records). County Chair Cogen and you agreed that there were problems worthy of investigation and County Chair stated that you would take charge of a review investigating identified problems.
The statistical trends of increased killing and increased budget costs: Each year since 2003 (when Mr. Oswald assumed leadership of MCAS), costs have gone up and so have animal deaths, documented in the agency’s own records, a matter of particular concern to this community as demonstrated by the 2000 Citizens’ Advisory Committee. MCAS has gone from a live release rate of 62% in 2000 to a live release rate of 46% in 2009 (again based upon MCAS’s own records) while remaining in the same location and without change in significant contributing demographics. During Mr. Michael Oswald’s tenure, the “save” rate for unredeemed animals has declined to 34% or 35% for the past four years with the most significant causes attributable to newly instituted enforcement and temperament testing programs and policies. Mr. Oswald has said that he adopts out every “healthy, adoptable” animal, a percentage indicating that he has found only 35% of unredeemed animals “adoptable”, a figure far from the national average.
The destruction of pit bulls and suspect pit bull mixes en masse, a breed discrimination program: Mr. Oswald denies, and you have accepted his denial, that MCAS’s program policies do not discriminate against pit bulls for breed alone despite the fact that 85% to 90% of homeless pit bulls/ suspect pit bull mixes are destroyed, most following temperament testing results that allow all other breeds to go to adoptions or rescue. It is a convenient disposal system. The agency’s own rules require that pit bulls and suspect mixes (animals are examined for any potential pit bull features) must be killed at Tier 2 although other breeds may go to adoptions or rescue. This is discrimination. Your non-discrimination claim is made despite documented evidence from MCAS’s own records and notes and reviews by outside experts. Also, MCAS kills animals even when rescues offer to take animals into their care. MCAS kills animals even when rescues offer to take them into their care, an abhorrent practice. The reasons for killing are simply unjustifiable.
I understand from your report today that your investigation is now complete and that the county and you have come to the following conclusions:
1) The increase in deaths and costs is entirely due to location despite the fact that the performance decline has occurred at the same location MCAS has occupied for years since 1971. Nevertheless, you believe that location is the singular cause of this catastrophic death rate. If MCAS’s temperament testing results now lead to (at best) a 35% companion animal “save” rate, that will surely continue in your “new” location.
2) The public fails to understand and properly appreciate MCAS’s hard work and an $80,000 fund raising public relations position is needed to change their minds. In short the solution to performance failure is an aggressive public relations campaign to improve” image”.
Your conclusions are nothing more than a justification and a re-statement of what the county has affirmed before: the public is at fault and the location for MCAS is undesirable. There are no other concerns. I am recapitulating your comments to make sure this is an accurate recital as I report to others. Please advise me if I have understood incorrectly and I will make the proper amendments. Your summary comments follow:
Mr. Oswald has never misrepresented information to the county. The county and you believe in what Michael Oswald is doing; you believe in what John Rowton is doing; you are confident in the direction Mr. Oswald is taking; the county stands completely behind him. You see no point to an outside expert review. My motives in reporting concerns must be personal; the facts are just my opinions.
In particular you stated that I must make up advocacy cases to support our perspective that something has gone terribly wrong at animal control.
The first of your comments is false. The second is particularly egregious. No. The perspective that something has gone terribly wrong at animal control is documented from MCAS’s own records and citizens’ reports. You have ignored this data inspired by your own motives and in support of self serving fiction. Mr. Maciel, the data comes from MCAS’s own data base and cannot be facilely “explained” away. It is not my “opinion” that MCAS has a 35% companion animal save rate. There is no reason to believe geography is the problem when the more logical factors, agency generated programs and policies, remain inviolate and guarded from review. Your opposition to an “outside review” because it was “unaffordable” as well as unneeded makes no sense. As we told you and Mr. Cogen on 07/26/2010 and have offered on many prior occasions, the costs could easily be funded through contributions from those who do care. MCAS and the county have written a revisionist history in order to avoid accountability. The facts remain. They speak for themselves. You simply do not want problems arising on your watch.
I would appreciate a copy of your final report. I would also appreciate the list of agency approved professionals that you referenced that were consulted by you in this process. Most importantly, as promised at our meeting, I do want to receive the information provided to you by Mr. Oswald. Enclosed find an interesting historical letter written over a decade ago by Robert Babcock outlining the adoption of troubling policies and practices that forecast the decline and problems we see at MCAS today: increased costs, loss of public support, and loss of government credibility. Also included is the letter dated June 11, 2010 from Robert Babcock to Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen outlining concerns about the county’s analysis of this agency’s performance.