A new Facebook group is making waves online with their earnest and outspoken stance against Greenhill Human Society. No Kill Lane County, founded just a week ago by animal advocate Tamara Barnes, is taking Greenhill to task for not signing the No Kill Declaration. The declaration, written by the Oakland, CA-based No Kill Advocacy Group Center, states that,
“It is incumbent upon all shelters and animal groups to embrace the philosophy of No Kill, to immediately begin implementing programs and services that will end the mass killing of sheltered animals, and to reject the failed kill-oriented practices of the past.”
The declaration presents of a list of rights that the Center advocates, including: sheltered animals have a right to live, feral cats have a right to their lives and habitats, and taxpayers and community members have a right to full and complete disclosure about how animal shelters operate.
According to Tamara Barnes, founder of No Kill Lane County, not only has Greenhill mistakenly identified themselves as a No Kill facility, it refuses to sign this declaration.
Greenhill Humane Society is a private, 501c(3) non-profit animal shelter located on Green Hill Road in Eugene. The group relies on charitable donations and fees for services for 100 percent of their operating budget. No government grants, subsidies, or tax dollars are received to run the shelter. Greenhill’s programs include but are not limited to adoption services, spay/neuter, foster care, and senior assistance. According to Greenhill’s website, they:
“provide safe shelter for animals in transition, serve as advocates for animals and their people, work to end animal overpopulation and educate the public about compassion and responsibility towards all animals.”
While that may sound fine and good, according to No Kill Lane County, the picture is not as cheery as it may appear, says Barnes.
“They rarely accept less than perfect animals into their adoption program,” Barnes says. “This skews their live release percentages. They kill medically treatable animals, such as kittens with ringworm. They kill healthy feral cats. They rarely have offsite adoption events.”
To Barnes, what this means is very clear:
“Greenhill is not a No Kill shelter.”
No Kill Lane County
At the beginning of this month, and on the eve of Greenhill assuming responsibilities at Lane County Animal Services, Barnes started No Kill Lane County. The movement is an indirect extension of another group, the No Kill Coaltion. The No Kill Coalition is part of the Furry Friends Rescue Center, a 501c3 non-profit that has over 15,000 likes on Facebook. The coalition’s mission is working toward the goal of eliminating the mass killing of homeless animals. According to their Facebook page,
“5 million animals [are] killed in shelters every year.”
This statistic is not entirely accurate, though close, according to the U.S. Human Society. The Human Society estimates that,
“Animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized. At this time, there is no central data reporting agency for animal shelters, so these numbers are estimates.”
Although, according to the Humane Society, these numbers actually represent substantial progress:
“In the 1970s, American shelters euthanized 12-20 million dogs and cats, at a time when there were 67 million pets in homes. Today, shelters euthanize around 4 million animals, while there are more than 135 million dogs and cats in homes. This enormous decline in euthanasia numbers—from around 25 percent of American dogs and cats euthanized every year to about 3 percent—represents substantial progress.”
The mission of No Kill Lane County is to bring local numbers down even further. But the group believes that Greenhill stands in their way.
Trish Chomyn, a retired horse trainer of 40-plus years and a small business bookkeeper, is a member of No Kill Lane County.
“I have rescued a large number of dogs over the past two decades,” Trish says. “I rescue the senior dogs, the hospice dogs, the abandoned dogs. I transport animals to various fosters/rescues and new homes for shelters and rescues.”
It was while taking care of older, less marketable dogs that Chomyn ran into issues with Greenhill. According to Chomyn, Greenhill not only is very selective in what animals they take, but they actively try to avoid or euthanize dogs they cannot get rid of.
“They ‘lose’ paperwork and kill animals and then cover up this fact,” she alleges. “They put themselves out for the community but actually don’t take in many owner releases locally. [Instead they] take dogs from shelters in other states and then cherry pick [among] those. [Then they ask] small rescues around Oregon to take the ones that they don’t get adopted in that quick timeframe. This I know because I have multiple times transported dogs out of Greenhill to a small rescue in another county that has taken the time to get a good home for these dogs, all at a cost to the other rescues.”
Barnes agrees with Chomyn. She is particularly worried about what will happen to these older dogs when Greenhill takes over for Lane County Animal Services (LCAS):
“Greenhill refuses to extend care to a few of the senior LCAS fosters. The richest animal facility we have, with one full time vet and two part time vets won’t support these few dogs. This is appalling. The fosters want to keep fostering, but of course need help with medical [bills] that LCAS has provided to them.”
Greenhill adamantly denies these charges. According to Cary Lieberman, Executive Director of Greenhill, Greenhill has a very strict policy on euthanising animals.
“We only euthanise animals,” Lieberman explains, “that have serious medical conditions that cannot be treated or if treatment will not improve an animal’s quality of life—or animals that are dangerous to the point of jeopardizing public safety.”
Lieberman says that Greenhill does follow the No Kill principles as much as possible.
“For the most part Greenhill follows what most people think No Kill is. In general we’re in line with No Kill policies. At the same time the No Kill movement is a little on the radical side, as exemplified by this new Facebook group, which is extreme. Greenhill has a 99% live release rate on dogs, 92% on cats.”
So is Greenhill Humane Society actually humane?
“Absolutely,” Lieberman says.
When asked if there was some secret agenda within Greenhill to murder animals unncessarily, he laughed and said no.
“If you think about it,” Lieberman says, “we have 300 regular volunteers and a full staff of veterinarians and animal professionals. What they are implying is there no knowledge, no transparency, with our group. But with a system like this there is no way to not have transparency. And seriously, all of us are only doing this because we care about animals.”
If anything, to Lieberman, groups like No Kill Lane County are counterproductive. They take time and energy away from Greenhill’s efforts to actually help animals.
“We use social media a lot to promote animals for adoption or for foster parents or to get volunteers,” he says. “So we use it quite a bit to engage the community to help animals. It is unfortunate that this is an arena that we are also being attacked in. In my opinion it ultimately hurts the animals because it creates a confusing environment. In some ways these groups do have an impact because we have to spend energy addressing the allegations instead of doing our mission.”
To No Kill Lane County, addressing these allegations should be important to Greenhill’s mission. Barnes hopes that her Facebook group can bring together like-minded folks in the community to have a platform to coordinate letter-writing campaigns and “even picketing if it comes to that.” She hopes to educate Lane County what No Kill means and does not mean. And she has her sights on the immediate future:
“Right now as Greenhill is in contract negotiations to take over Lane County Animal Services with the City and County, we are asking people to send emails to both. Specifically we are asking for the city to implement an impartial citizen oversight committee to make sure that the high standards and save rate that LCAS has achieved in the last year are not compromised. Although Greenhill says they are transparent, they really are not. Much goes on behind the scenes that they do not want the public to know.”
Greenhill will be taking over the Lane County Animal Services shelter at the end of this month due to county budget cuts (http://kezi.com/news/local/248303).
For more information, check out the involved groups’ websites:
No Kill Lane County on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/NoKillLaneCounty
No Kill Advocacy Center, http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/
Greenhill Humane Society, http://www.green-hill.org/
Lane County Animal Services, http://www.lanecounty.org/Departments/HHS/LCAS/Pages/default.aspx