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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Shortcomings at MADACC - The Veterinary Care

This is the first entry in a series of ten blogs that will focus in on current shortcomings (an understatement) at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC).

In no particular order, I will try to highlight some of the apparent problems that have been brought forth by multiple sources that are in direct contradiction of MADACC's contract for services with the nineteen municipalities of Milwaukee County.

As a sidenote, I would like to point out that the volunteers and rescues that are coming forward to me with this information are caught between a rock and a hard place. They fear that exposing the truth will either get them banned from the facility or prevent their rescue from being able to pull and help more animals. I truly appreciate their courage to come forth and share their stories.

1. Veterinary Care

MADACC's Domestic Animal Control Services Agreement states:

The Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) will be established with the following service framework to be provided to the municipalities participating in MADACC and their residents:

1. Provide shelter for stray and running-at-large dogs and cats, also safekeeping and quarantine.
a. Include housing, feeding, veterinary care.


This sounds nice and is in line with the American Shelter Veterinary Medical Association (ASVMA) Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters (published in 2010) which states:

"An emergency medical plan must be in place to provide appropriate and timely veterinary medical care for any animal who is injured, in distress  or showing signs of significant illness.  Staff should be trained to recognize conditions that require emergency care. The emergency care plan must ensure that animals can receive proper veterinary medical care and pain management promptly (either on site or through transfer to another facility) or be humanely euthanized by qualified personnel as permitted by law."

These guidelines are endorsed by the National Animal Control Association, The ASPCA, the HSUS and several other national organizations.



Yet, apparently MADACC isn't providing veterinary care and is even having problems diagnosing when it is required.  Here are two examples from two different rescues this fall.

1. A cat pulled by a local rescue was held at MADACC for at least seven days with this fracture without treatment. Apparently they knew of the injury but did not treat it and when she was finally released to a rescue, she was sent with antibiotics but no pain medication. The rescue immediately took the cat to their veterinarian who took this xray and recommended that the cat have emergency surgery to repair the broken femur.







2. A small dog pulled by a rescue after having been at MADACC for ten days.  When she was transferred to the rescue there was no mention of her injuries, other than a note in her paperwork that they suspected she had luxating patellas. But she couldn't walk without dragging her legs. The rescue immediately took her to their veterinarian where xrays showed that she had a broken back and she had to be humanely euthanized. She had sat untreated for ten days at MADACC with a broken spine.




In the summer of 2010, an independent agency - the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program was brought in to evaluate the procedures at MADAAC. The result is a 140 page document full of their observations of problems and recommendations to help MADACC improve their procedures.

Here is an excerpt of the numerous problems that were noted in the veterinary department:

"Although physical exams are performed, they were sometimes cursory and may overlook significant conditions."

"Medical protocols and training manuals are either non-existent or inadequate." 

"In effect, there is no veterinary oversight present which is leading the technical department to address animal health in a manner that is inefficient, substandard, and potentially dangerous to animals."


When I questioned the president of the MADACC board in early November 2012 if the UC Davis Report recommendations had been addressed and implemented he said "No, they had been put on the backburner".  I also brought up the report at the November Operating Committee meeting but I received no response from any of the members of the committee.

I would think that the responsibility of the Board of Directors is to see that MADACC is fulfilling it's contractual obligations and it's mission to the municipalities.

In summary, although the contract that MADACC holds with the municipalities clearly states that animals will receive veterinary care, I believe that both anecdotal and documented evidence from a qualified third party (UC Davis) clearly shows that the veterinary care is inadequate.

If you are a resident of Milwaukee County and are concerned about how your tax dollars are being spent and how your community's animals are being treated I suggest that you contact your alderman or elected official. Thank you for caring.


27 comments:

  1. It should be noted that some rescues and even individual rescuers have already been banned from MADACC, seemingly without cause. These are people who volunteered more than 40 hours weekly and rescues who pulled multiple animals.

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  2. The UC Davis report refers to the vet before the vet before the current shelter vet at MADACC. Shelter medicine protocols have changed dramatically since that time, although other parts of the report have not been addressed.

    If the two stories occurred as written, that is completely unacceptable.

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  3. The current vet is unable to diagnose broken femurs and broken spines. That equals complete incompetance.

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  4. OK...so I think everyone can agree that MADACC is not a dreamland. BUT there are things that are not taken into account here.

    First, MADACC is severely underfunded. They have a vet, yes, but they do not have adequate equipment to treat many of these obvious injuries on site. And because they do not have an emergency partner who donates their services, and they cannot afford to send every injured animal to the ER, what are they supposed to do? MADACC does not even have an x-ray machine. They see and know that there is a break. They take in MANY animals a week with obvious breaks. But they cannot treat that on site.

    Second...there is a State Law which requires a 7 day stray hold. There are ways around it, but adoption partners, rescue groups who take in these injured animals, have to return an animal to the facility within that 7 day period if an owner comes to reclaim their lost pet. With no requirement to reimburse for the usually expensive treatment paid for by these private rescue groups. So there is a risk for the groups who are also working under a tight budget.

    I certainly understand why this would seem to horrible to everyone. But instead of just pointing out the problems, wouldn't it be more effective to come up with a solution? How about starting a fund raising plan to buy MADACC an x-ray unit? Or encouragement to other Rescue groups to come in and remove more animals into adoption programs? Or some low cost and no cost spay and neuter programs to help cut down on the number of unwanted animals? It's easy to point the finger, but not so easy to solve the problem. I would love for there to be a time when there was no need for MADACC to exist. A time when all the animals have loving homes. I just don't see how this is doing anything to get us there. Talk is good, but can't we all work together to make it better?

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    1. There are plenty of other municipalities whose animal control facilities are severely underfunded as well who are No Kill and save over 90% of ALL (not just "adoptable") animals that walk through their doors. Funding is NOT the issue - management's indifference to the lives of their charges is. How many other dogs could have been transferred to rescue groups and thus they would not have incurred euthanasia and disposal fees so those monies could have gone to help animals in need of more expensive vet care. How many "whistleblower" groups and volunteers have been banned because MADACC doesn't like what they have to say about them even if it is the truth? Those are two enormous ways to reduce costs that MADACC is ignoring in their petty power plays that do nothing but result in needless deaths of innocent animals.

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  5. Your suggestions are commendable, Anonymous, but I think all of your suggestions have been tried and have failed. I believe that MADACC did have an xray machine at one point and either gave it away or sold it. Rescue groups and shelters are very leery to pull more animals because they are usually sick.

    At some point, enough is enough, and the taxpayers need to be made aware of the problem so that solutions can be found. That is the purpose of this blog.

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    1. I am not defending MADACC in any way but do you really think they gave away or sold a piece of equipment like that?

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  6. I am imposing a double standard here (my blog, my rules). If you are a shelter or rescue or a concerned citizen that wants to comment but are afraid of retaliation by MADACC by being exposed, you can remain anonymous. Or you can always email me privately at kathypobloskie@yahoo.com. If you are a defender of shelter killing you will need to provide your full name to have your comment published. Thank you!

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  7. Half of Madacc's budget goes into paying the staff, I do not want my taxes paying for incompetant, uncaring employees. In particular, a vet staff who lets a dog suffer with a broken back for 10 days. Let's get some caring people hired, ones that will go the extra mile to help animals in these situations.

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  8. I want to make it really clear that our fight is not with the staff, the volunteers, or the fosters and rescues that help MADACC. Our fight is with the management and the Board of Directors who will not listen to citizen's concerns or allow input for how tax dollars are spent or the animals are treated. Until they take their heads out of the sand and recognize that there is a problem - we will persist.

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  9. I work at a veterinary office in Glendale, and I am absolutely appalled. I knew things were bad at MADACC. I had no idea to this extreme. I have been made aware of the countless number of pits that have been put down by MADACC, even puppies that had interested parties wanting to adopt them. All of this is horrible, and it is our responsibility to do something. We must be the voice for the voiceless. Suffering can not continue under our watch.

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    1. I have a friend who has tried to rescue a few pits from there and then called the next day and they were gone. There are many problems with their operations but most of starts with irresponsible owners

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  10. Thanks for the comment Josh, but I have to disagree with you about the irresponsible owners. Many cities around America are saving 80 - 95% of the animals in their care including pits. Are the owners in those cities more responsible? I highly doubt it. The difference is in the leadership and management of the shelter. You can check out the communities that are doing better at this link: www.no-killnews.com

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    1. Not to defend MADACC I know there are things there that need to change BUT in these other communities are they required to take ALL animals regardless of situation like MADACC?

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    2. Andy, the definition of a No Kill shelter is that they save 90% of the animals in their care and they are open admission (meaning that yes, they are required to take all of the animals in the municipalities that they serve).

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    3. Clearly then neither Wisconsin Humane nor Elmbrook fit that definition, especially since MADACC would not be the issue it is Wisconsin actually took their own strays or even just acted as a full open admissions shelter for their surrenders!

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    4. Washoe County Animal Services in Reno, NV is an open access (animal control) facility that takes in more animals than MADACC on a shoe string budget. They save more than 90% of ALL (not just "adoptable") animals that walk through their doors. They went No Kill in about 2 weeks time and were immediately saving more than 70% of all animals coming in. The only difference between them and MADACC is that they WANT to save lives. They have experienced a lot of management and staff turnover with their new philosophy, but they don't regret it for a minute because they now have management and staff that are happy to be life affirming and more volunteer help than they know what to do with! Could you imagine the cost savings if kennels were cleaned by happy volunteers?

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  11. Yes, madacc did have an xray machine. They did not use it and the room it was in and the table of the machine turned into a storage closet. They got rid of it in 2008 I believe. I think it may have been donated to MECA? I am not 100% certain that is where it went.

    Anonymous pointed out that they are underfunded, etc al, yada yada. The problem with this is that MADACC continues to use this as an excuse to provide substandard care instead of making an effort to improve the current conditions. It is always "we are underfunded so that is why it is like this", it should be "We are underfunded but we are doing XY and Z to secure more funding too address this". However, there is zero effort made to do that and many instances of efforts brought forth by volunteers, rescues, etc that are undermined.

    Anonymous mentioned solutions. Great ideas and it makes perfect sense! But what do you do when you offer a solution and your rescue gets banned or you get banned as a volunteer for going above and beyond or what about a proactive staff member that gets fired because they are sick of someone "stepping on their toes" when they are doing extra work to save lives. MADACC has been around since 1999, after 13 years it is slap you in the face obvious that solutions have been brought to the table time and time again only to resort to madacc sitting back claiming the same old excuses, "since our inception we were not designed for this" or "we don't have enough money", etc.

    Things they are doing, like not providing adequate training, not having standard operating procedures or having inefficient systems in place actually costs more money. These are things that could be addressed right away if funding was a legitimate concern they wanted to address. If it is a concern they are trying to address but have failed for the last 13 years then every one of the board members and John MacDowell need to immediately be removed form their positions do to ineptitude, incompetence, apathy and laziness.

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  12. "to" address oops! Please excuse my grammar mistake!

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  13. Cities with smaller budgets than Madacc's $2M one are providing better care and saving more lives. This is not an issue of Madacc being broke. It is an issue with the Board of Directors, the Operations Committee, and leadership they hire. Like Kathy stated, they need to get their heads out of the sand.

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  14. I agree that it is time for the top to blow off of this situation. I volunteer at MADACC, I have no problems with the staff. Lots of hard working folks. It is the consistent road blocks put up by the board and the former shelter manager that have lead to so many unnecessary deaths. I say it is time to start actively protesting to the mayor and the county exec.

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  15. Wisconsin Humane Society needs the contract back for stray control. 14 years ago Milwaukee County decided they could do this without WHS, that WHS was asking for too much money. It's obviously not working, and many animals have died. County officials need to contract with WHS again. They have the funds, experience, and ability to do this.

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  16. I would love to see the CDC do some random cultures throughout madacc. Place is GROSS!!! If madacc gets another x-ray machine can one be done of Jessica Hubers (so called volunteer coordinator/community outreach)fingers? She seems to have a problem with emailing people and basic communication in general. PS if one is needed eliminate the field supervisor position and use those funds. Maybe then madacc will finally move forward.

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  17. Thank you for Shedding light onto madaccs often inept vet care. Something your article does not mention is the handful of pits that have left into foster care or have been adopted that have come down with a severe pneumonia. Some have died as a result and others required $1000's in vet bills and several nights spent in emergency 24hr vet care. I've heard this pneumonia has been traced back to a chemical used to clean the kennels. Do you know if this is true and if so is there a way for madacc to pay restituition? Maybe a whole separate article should be done on this? By the way madacc does not claim responsibility for these sick dogs that left within days of leaving there.

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  18. I had never had any experience with MADACC up until this last spring when my cat ended up getting out of the house. After three and a half weeks of being on the "run," he was turned into MADACC and I found him on their website, which I had been checking religiously. His condition was pretty bad, which was expected since he was an indoor only cat with no front claws - he was very thin and weak. When I found him in the kennels, I noticed piles of food in front of him, which hadn't been touched. I found it a bit odd as I know that when an animal is that malnourished, the best approach is to feed small meals multiple times per day. But, I was just so happy to have him back, I ignored it. I did take notice that the woman who handled our paperwork looked at me strangely when I mentioned to my husband that we needed to call our vet clinic to get him in to see our regular vet ASAP. It kind of felt like she was wondering why we would need to that when they have a vet on staff. That kind of struck me as odd ... once we got him to our vet to be checked out, I realized exactly how weak he was - he couldn't even walk. And as soon as the vet pulled his scruff, I knew he was severly dehydrated. My vet gave him fluids and within minutes, he had perked up considerably, although it would take a few days of small meals multiple times per day (just as my vet instructed and that I had suspected was proper protocol), to get him to the point of not being wobbly anymore. My vet also mentioned that by giving him a FVRCP vaccine when he was that weak was murder on his immune system. He understood why they did it, but still questioned whether there would have been a better way to deal with - possibly quarantining him until he was stronger to handle the vaccine? The best part was in their intake report, MADACC listed that the cat "possibly" had fleas due to missing hair, but there was no sign of fleas or any sort of mite and my vet immediately was able to establish the hair had been ripped out by another animals or fence. Shouldn't being able to diagnose whether a pet has fleas or not being something a vet should be able to do? I mean, I learned how in grooming school ...

    Now, I understand that these are relatively small problems in the grand scheme of things, but here is my point: Common sense doesn't cost money - basic animal (or even human) first aid would be to check to see if they are dehydrated. And if so, administer fluids accordingly. Fluids, that by way, are very inexpensive and could have easily been covered by the two days of boarding they charged me, even though he was only technically there less than 24 hours. It was very obvious this cat was severly underweight (he had lost a third of his body weight, which since he was not very big to start with, was huge) and couldn't even walk, and the solution is throw a huge amount of food at him and stick him in a cage. Luckily, he was only there for a day before we sprung him out, but what if he had been a cat whose owner wasn't able to locate him? I guarantee he would have died - no question in my mind. And I guess for their bottom line, it would mean one less animal to both deal with and pay for.

    P.S. My sister in law has since joined as a volunteer at MADACC, so again, I do not blame the staff or the volunteers that seem like they are trying to help, but aren't given the tools. But I will say, the vet must be an idiot!

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