Friday, February 6, 2009

McKamey Center Operation Model Is Not Working, But Best Is Yet To Come - And Response (7)

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The McKamey Center has entered the third quarter of operation. The budget, the programs in place, and the state of management gives us a good idea whether the path we have taken is working successfully. It is not. The resignation of Dr. Amanda is timely and needed. I respect her for putting the Animal Care Trust's mission first and stepping down. She has done an incredible job of getting this wonderful facility constructed and open.

The Center needs a director of the clinic and another director for Shelter/Adoption and Animal Services. It is my opinion that the current Animal Service is providing more service to the community than prior arrangements under the Police Department and Neighborhood Services; but we can do better. Until spay/neuter laws are enacted and overpopulation is under control, the Animal Service budget and number of officers will need to remain in tact.

I was one of the original Animal Caretakers. I think it was necessary for me to do that job to know first hand what our shelter workers are being ask to do in regard to best care for our animals. The job of Animal Caretaker is the first line connection with animals being cared for at any shelter. The education and emotional support needed ensures how the animals are cared for. The Animal Caretaker job is physically and emotionally intense; not everyone is cut out to do it; not everyone can even go inside an animal shelter. McKamey Center's Caretakers are committed and dedicated. We need to support that and respect it from a management and community level, and provide the Volunteers necessary for the Caretakers to do their job.

I was surprised to learn, when the Center opened, that Dr. Amanda did not ask the city for an increase in budget; an increase in what the city was contracting with the Humane Educational Society (HES). The McKamey Center opened in July 2008 with a budget of a little over $1M annually to cover shelter operations, staff pay and benefits, and Animal Services. As with HES, the city did not provide any money for education of the shelter workers or the community. The McKamey Center requires an increase in budget for operations and education. The Center has operated over budget since the day it opened. The ACT board has moved to balance the budget. This decision, however difficult, was the responsible thing to do.

In order to balance the budget, some animals will likely have to die due to the overpopulation issue. Until we get this issue under control (with Spay/Neuter laws) animals are going to have to die. The McKamey Center inherited this problem; it did not create it. It is important for the community to accept responsibility for the overpopulation issue.

I have been involved with this issue since 2001. From the beginning, I have advocated for more education
and more emotional support for shelter workers. If the community and city take responsibility for providing this support, more animals will get adopted and less animals will have to die.

I wish Dr. Amanda and Scott (her husband) well. Both have given much to this issue. It is my hope that they will continue to support and work towards the success of the McKamey Center. We need their continued support of the "crown jewel of Chattanooga, a place for education, advocacy and compassion". Thank you Dr. Amanda and Scott. Thanks also to all the Volunteers that have hung in there during our growing pains. And much appreciation goes to those serving our animals on the Animal Care Trust board. The best is yet to come. Watch for and join us in our new Membership Program.

Lou McKenzie
Volunteer

* * *

How can any spay/neuter program be mandated when we don't demand the same of welfare recipients?

"Animal rights advocates" will often attribute human rights to animals and, to be sure, there ought to be laws against animal cruelty. If we're to give them some rights other than what is humane, why not all of the same rights as a human being?

If we're going to continue to hand out money, food stamps, subsidize shelter, subsidize utilities, medical care that's better than what those of us who pay for own receive, and all the other benefit programs as well as handing out tax "refund" checks to people who pay no taxes it's an easy step to start handing out money for puppies. The more puppies the more cash and benefits to be charged to the taxpayer.

But we'll continue to have vans seize critters from the puppy mills, and leave the baby mills alone ... and we'll call this sanity.

Royce E. Burrage Jr.
Royce@OfficiallyChapped.org

* * *

I have just read Ms. McKenzie's article and am appalled that she sees more animals dying as a solution to McKamey's problems. McKamey is the "crown jewel of Chattanooga, a place for education, advocacy and compassion" because it is a low-kill facility. Changing that is going to drive support away.

I also find it disappointing that the Chattanoogan has not done its homework regarding this article. As I recall, Ms. McKenzie was previously a staff member of McKamey and is no longer a staff member of McKamey. I am curious to know why she presents herself as a volunteer.

I am quite sure that the general public has no idea how difficult, time-consuming, physically and emotionally draining it is to work at McKamey. I 'am' a volunteer and I see what the staff goes through everyday. Supporters of McKamey need to know that our staff members often work eight-hour shifts in the trenches cleaning cages, scooping poop and doing laundry. They have been called upon to work ten straight days without a break. They have gone out and asked the people they know and the public for monetary help. In fact, people should know that almost every extra dollar raised for the center has been as a result of staff and volunteer effort.

Ms. McKenzie states that, "The resignation of Dr. Amanda is timely and needed. I respect her for putting the Animal Care Trust's mission first and stepping down. She has done an incredible job of getting this wonderful facility constructed and open." Ms. McKenzie is wrong about Dr. Amanda's resignation. It is neither timely nor needed.

I truly hope that the center will find a way to continue the work it started, but this type of sweeping change is 'not' the way to do it. Three quarters is not an adequate amount of time to make an accurate evaluation. When McKamey opened its doors, within days it was at full capacity due to the lack of responsibility among the public. Spay/Neuter laws are an absolute necessity, but that is going to take time. It has taken thousands and thousands of hours by a lot of dedicated workers since that time to organize and respond to this demand. The center is just now beginning to get ahead of the wave.

People now are bringing in unwanted animals because they trust that McKamey is a low-kill facility. How many people will start dropping fertile animals in "rich" neighborhoods rather than bring them into a facility where they will be spayed/neutered before they are, hopefully, adopted?

I am saddened by the loss of Dr. Amanda for the animals, for the center, for the staff and for myself. I cannot imagine that anyone could do anything more or better than she has with her unflagging energy and devotion to the care of all the innocent lives that the Center has sheltered. This unfortunate turn of events may be McKamey's biggest challenge to date.

Hedi Courter
Hixson

* * *

The whole Mckamey Center ordeal is more complicated than any of us know. It's not as simple as Dr. Amanda stepping down or why she should or shouldn't. None of us know what is really going on. Just because someone is a volunteer there does not mean that they are in the know of what is going on behind closed doors, so-to-speak.

All living creatures should be given the same rights as human beings. Every life has a right to exist and carry out their own purpose on the planet, whatever that may be.

What a lot of human beings fail to realize or understand is that the cat & dog overpopulation problem was and is created by human beings. Since we humans domesticated dogs and cats and have forced them to live alongside us, it is our responsibility to respect and protect them. Spaying and neutering does just that. Why let more dogs and cats come into this world why hundreds of thousands die in shelters daily? It makes no sense. Until we can catch up with all the homeless pets in shelters, breeding should be stopped or have a choke hold put on it. I am certain that no law enforcement agency will ever be able to force people to spay and neuter their pets. The only way to accomplish such a feat is to offer that service free. I know it sounds crazy but there are so many people that will not spay or neuter their pets for five dollars. I have even had people tell me they think it is wrong to spay and neuter their dogs or cats. Education is key here and eventually, the funding for free spay and neutering will have to be brought about in all cities all over this country. This will have to come from the higher ups in Washington. Hopefully, it will be sooner than later.

Brandy Fullerton
East Ridge

* * *

I, too, am appalled that she thinks more animals dying as being a solution to McKamey’s problems. I don’t doubt that Ms. McKenzie has put in a lot of time with the McKameyCenter, but she seems just a little hard-hearted. She responded to an article I had written in the Times Free Press concerning my call to the Center about an animal that had been hit beside the road but was not dead. It took 1 ½ days for them to show up. Her response to me was to take the animal to a clinic. Well I have done that many times and if you don’t have the money up front (sometimes as much as $300-$400 ) they will not do a thing. So what I gathered from Ms. McKenzie was they were busy so if you don’t have the money yourself to take it to a clinic – just “too bad” for the animal. It can just lay beside the road until it dies.

I also was shocked that you have to call for an appointment to bring in an animal. If you find a starving, sick, or injured animal – what are you supposed to do? It looks like just ignore it if you don’t have the money to spend on it yourself. At HEC you do not have to call for an appointment. But they are Hamilton County only.

Over the years I can’t tell you how much money I have spent on strays. I have three in my home now that I have had for some time. I have also spent countless hours trying to find home for strays that I just couldn’t take in anymore.

For the people that do try to help these poor strays I highly recommend Wally’s Friend’s. This place is wonderful and a “life saver” to help people with the low cost of spaying and neutering their pets.

Charlotte Page
Chattanooga

* * *

First of all, Mr. Burrage is dead on. Keep up the fight against hypocrisy and ignorance. Next, let's go to Ms. Fullerton. My remarks are not intended as a personal attack, merely illustrating the hypocrisy of most "animal rights" believers. I can only assume by your remarks that you are vegan. Are you really saying that all living creatures should be given the same rights as human beings?

Let's see. You want spay and neutering to be free. So, to be consistent, spay and neuter human beings to achieve population control. How do we control the dog on cat hate crimes? No dog should be denied service at any restaurant because of species. Let's all eat next to the cockroaches, after all, they are living creatures that should not be denied. How do we protect the innocent mosquitoes when they feed, surely you propose we never use insect repellant. How about while driving, when we accidentally hit a squirrel are we to be charged with negligent homicide?

Come on. Either one believes that humans are a higher life form or they believe we should live in caves with no resemblance of modern conveniences. Anywhere in between and someone would be a hypocrite. Which are all of you who profess equal rights for animals?

Personally, I will continue with the knowledge that humans are different and above all other life forms.

Marty Nix
Lookout Mountain

* * *

I have two warehouses in Chattanooga and I have been invaded by stray cats. I am generally an animal lover, but the tom cats spray their territory and the warehouses are starting to smell like stray cats.

I called McKamey to inquire as to what to do with these animals. I was told to catch the wild cats, bring them to McKamey and pay $25 per animal dropped off. They would spay or neuter the cats and turn them loose again. Hmmm, what's wrong with this picture?

Five cats, that's $125, and they may be back next week? McKamey exterminated 150 animals in December, according to their website, and they can't add a few more to the list?

Harry Presley
Chattanooga
Pharry752@aol.com

* * *

The letter submitted by Lou McKenzie contains many disturbing statements, especially coming from one claiming to be an animal advocate. She says that restructuring is needed, but does not explain why. She says that Dr. Amanda needed to step down, but does not say why, or how her stepping down will improve McKamey's operations. If there is any financial consideration involved, surely funding two positions (Clinic Director and Adoption/Shelter Director) will cost more than having one person doing both, especially since that one person does the work for the pay of one half of the salary she was supposed to receive.

In addition, Ms. McKenzie's mention of the necessity of euthanasia startled me. The most important factor in having a no-kill or low-kill shelter is the belief of those responsible that it absolutely can be done. An attitude of "well, we'll do it the old way until the public decides to listen to us about spay/neuter, then we'll change" is a recipe for failure. It is 'planned' failure.

Yes, we need sterilization laws, and the sooner the better, and they need to be enforced. However, killing animals at McKamey won't make that happen any sooner. It can be worked on from the outside while people with a core commitment to ending killing-for-space are doing their job at McKamey and other places with similar beliefs.

If anyone wants to support killing for space, they need to go over there and do it. Carry little Galore or Briscoe or Hobie down to the smelly euthanasia chamber. Since Ms. McKenzie left McKamey and in a long letter to other staff explained that she just didn't have the type of personality that could handle that environment, she should leave the decisions about who is worth fighting for and who isn't to the people who know the animals and their potentials.

I was one of the original caretakers too. I still am. If my understanding is correct, based on reading what the board and others are stating as their reasons, assuming them to be truthful, the largest problem is money. It is only money that stands in the way of fulfilling our mission. It seems to me that the first, best response to that is to raise more money, and ask for a larger budget next year.

Not "depopulating." I know money is tight for everyone but I have not seen any concerted effort at fundraising lately, except what we, the employees have done. I have several ideas which I have offered but have received no response.

Surely no one really believed that the need for fundraising was over when the building was finished? The building is just a building.

This "crown jewel" is insignificant compared with the dedication, passion, hard work, and long-term commitment needed to run it day to day. If it was all only ever about the fancy building, then all the nay-sayers were right - it 'was' a colossal waste of money. A beautiful, state-of-the-art, people- and pet-friendly building, without the commitment to change the way animal care and control is done, is just a dolled-up farce. It is the worst kind of lie, which perpetrates itself on those who refuse -or who do not realize that they should - look beyond the surface of things.

It seems so ironic to me that we at McKamey prepared to weather the storms of the disbelievers, that we stayed on the lookout for those who were against what we believed in from the start, those who do not think animals deserve our respect and care. But, of course, they were powerless in the face of the determination and conviction of those doing the work - led by Dr. Amanda. Powered by Dr. Amanda. Buoyed up, whipped into shape, carried along at weak moments, even 'fed' by Dr. Amanda. But the real attack came from within.

Dr. Amanda is perfect for the job of executive director and veterinarian. All the good that has happened so far, all the lives saved, all the energy and the desire to do just a little bit more - has come from her.
Ms. McKenzie and I have worked together in trying to reduce the population of feral and stray cats. I am committed to continuing to work with her in those efforts. But I believe that she is misguided about McKamey, and I only hope that the real vision of a shelter that puts animals at the top of the 'unexpendable' list, will not perish because of these events.

Mary Keebler
Chickamauga, Ga.

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