Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Failure of Leadership - MADACC Operations Committee Meeting January 2013

This is the seventh installment in a series of ten blogs outlining current issues and problems at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC).

Yesterday was the monthly Operations Committee meeting at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC). The MADACC board of directors is made up of one member from each of the nineteen municipalities of Milwaukee County that MADACC serves. The Operations Committee is comprised of six of these board members. They meet on the third Tuesday of every month at 1 p.m . at MADACC. These meetings are open to the public and I encourage you to attend if you are concerned about the welfare of Milwaukee County's animals.

I have posted the December statistics  and transfer numbers above. As suspected, transfers were down substantially in December 2012 as compared to December 2011. The number of animals killed in December was up from the same period last year. In total MADACC killed 5357 animals in 2012, including 6 birds, 3514 cats, 1783 dogs and 54 other animals.

Over thirty people attended yesterday's meeting and several spoke about their concerns. Thank you to the following people for your heartfelt and compelling testimonies:

Marissa Kraft, MADACC supporter, Milwaukee Animal Alliance
Cindi Ashbeck, Milwaukee Animal Welfare Examiner
Susan Taney, Lost Dogs of Wisconsin
Tammy Rizer, Milwaukee Animal Alliance
Clodagh Mc Guiness, MADACC volunteer
Nancy Annaromao, Milwaukee Animal Alliance, Remember Me Ranch
Shannon Cummings, Milwaukee Animal Alliance

The committee did not respond to this month's or last month's concerns, or the month before's concerns. The concerns are stacking up with no end in sight. When asked at the end of the meeting when some answers might be expected; Ron Hayward, president of the board, guaranteed that by next month's meeting the issues would be addressed. But Paul Ziehler of West Allis immediately interjected and said that it might be 30 to 60 days. When I asked how the issues would be addressed: would it be email, or newsletter or on the website? Paul said he didn't have an answer. Hmm... They can't even answer when or how they will have an answer. It's so sad, it's almost funny.

Ron Hayward, Village President of West Allis,  promised me at the board meeting on November 16th that he would get his email fixed (apparently it was broken?) and start responding to emails. He has not responded to a single email that I have sent since. I'm not sure how a Village President can function with a broken email account. But it is a very convenient way to put your head in the sand and ignore concerns.

So another month goes by with almost another 300 animals per month being killed. Not euthanized. Killed.

Euthanasia is by definition: the merciful taking of life of a hopelessly ill pet, the kind of act a loving pet owner shows when a pet's suffering can't be helped anymore.  Population control killing is NOT EUTHANASIA, as there is nothing merciful about it.  It's a public policy failure and an illustration that the community's sheltering organizations have not yet adopted the programs and policies that make it unnecessary.

 "Since we know that communities can save all their healthy and treatable pets, and we know how, there really is not excuse not to - although poorly managed public and private shelters seem to have no shortage of such excuses."  - Christie Keith

So let's lose the sugar coating, folks.  It is killing, it is not euthanasia.  Call it what it is. And have the courage to say it and own up to it.

The volunteer coordinator, Jessica Huber, announced that she was going to embark on a humane education program at a local school. A noble cause for a well-organized and funded shelter with a strong infrastructure. But a waste of time and money for a municipal shelter like MADACC that needs a volunteer coordinator that is focused on saving the lives of shelter animals RIGHT NOW, not with elementary school children where the effects won't be seen for years.

Earlier this month, Kelly Herbold of the Milwaukee Animal Alliance tried to set up a meeting with a few people from her group and John MacDowell to talk about how MAA can help be part of the solution.

Here is the email string:

 Kelly Herbold: 
We would like to start some ongoing conversations about maximizing MADACC's potential, and how Milwaukee Animal Alliance can contribute to that. I understand you may be concerned with who 'we' is.. 

J.L. McDowell: 
Ms. Herbold, 
You misunderstood. I have to have some idea of the specifics of what you would like to discuss as I must set aside a given amount of time. The second part of my statement about the “we” referred to number of individuals not who they are. Show up with you entire posse and it will likely be a very, very short meeting.

Last, show up prepared to speak plain English. Patience, especially with “in” phrases like “maximizing potential” is not one of my strong suits.

I am normally here till around 730 to 830 PM.  My day normally starts to slow a bit by around 6 or 630 PM so  I would suggest that you make plans to show up around that time. Send me several dates on or after the 11th. and I will get back to you with one of those. 
Kelly Herbold:  It will be me, Amanda Wenzel and Tony DeStafanis. Does the 25th at  6pm work? 
J.L. McDowell: The 25th. at 6 is fine. However,  come alone I will not meet with the other two. 

Not only unprofessional, but downright creepy. And this folks, is what your tax dollars is funding. A failure of leadership by the management and board of directors of MADACC to address and correct the issues brought forth by concerned citizens. Citizens who care enough about their community's animals to take time off in the middle of a work day to attend a meeting for a cause they are passionate about. Citizens who want to be part of the solution.

I want to end with one of my favorite sayings:
Killing is not a "necessary evil".  It is just plain evil. 

We know how to end the killing. It is time for the board and management of MADACC to step up and be leaders  or step down and get out of the way.

If you are concerned about the failure of leadership at MADACC that has resulted in the deaths of over 5000 animals in 2012 I urge you to attend the monthly meetings and to write or call the following Operations Committee members and your elected officials. Thank you.

Ron Hayward, West Milwaukee, President:
Susan Robertson, Fox Point, Vice President (leaving soon for another position)
Don Schaewe, Milwaukee:
Paul Ziehler, West Allis:
Michael Weber, Hales Corner:
Eric Pearson, Milwaukee:
Derik Summerfield, Wauwatosa (absent):

Also attending the operating committee meeting were the following MADACC staff members:

John McDowell - Interim Executive Director:
Dr. Gutting - Veterinarian
Laura Proeber - Office Manager
Jessica Huber - Volunteer Coordinator


  1. Kathy and Milwaukee Animal Alliance, thank you for your continued efforts to stop the needless loss of Milwaukee's most hurt and endangered species. I commend you all and will support your efforts in anyway possible. As a lifetime resident of the city of Milwaukee I deplore this kind of effortless communication on both the "elected" board members and Mr. McDOwell's rejection to make connections with those waiting on the sideline to help make Milwaukee County Animal Control become a "Safe Haven" for our animals. Make a change Milwaukee, contact your representatives, any and all elected officals to support you as a citizen and this endeavor to make a difference.

  2. This rant became longer than the limit, so I am dividing up into sections. Please look for the following comments to find the complete comment. Also, no comments on the grammar or formatting, that is not my strong point.
    I was invited to attend this 'meeting' by Kelly Herbold, a friend and animal co-hort. Since I had free time I thought why not, let me see what this is about. Was I in for a surprise. I arrived to the waiting area at 12:45, noted about 12 folks (mostly women) gathered, apparently waiting for the meeting to start. Every once in a while a (my opinion) gruff older white male would come through the lobby dodging the crowd. Only a few even bothered to say excuse me and even less had a smile (or at least not a scorn) on their face.
    I could see some shuffling in the meeting room, board member arriving still after 1 pm start time. One gentleman prepared and moved a few chairs to accommodate the growing crowd. More people arrived between when I arrived and when someone finally decided we should start entering the room, I can't even remember if a board member or MADACC staffer opened the door and asked everyone to join them. The chairs filled quickly and as usual with a crowd of mostly onlookers, everyone jumbled by the door, afraid to move into the room further. Not one of the 'board' asked people to move in, or there is room here, or there is still an empty chair over there. The same chair shuffling board member did finally get up and reposition 2 unused chairs around the table, expecting the women he handed them off to to grab the chair in mid move. The first chair fell, and then the second chair was placed.
    So I guess this is where we were going to be. The meeting started, unceremoniously (not that a big hoot and hollar needed to happen,) but seriously. A non-sincere welcome at the noise level of one of their dead intakes. Come on guys, grown men in a leadership position need to have some idea how to speak loud enough in a public meeting, it's not like an auditorium needed to hear you..... I have been in charge of similar meetings and the first thing we ALWAYS did was welcome everyone and then reintroduce the important players on the meeting board so that any first timers had at least a slight clue who was who and what might happen. They went right into asking for comments from the gathered crowd (non-board members). Several ladies spoke in relation to their respective position/Rescue Group. Good points, a lot of repeated major topics. After the first Lady finished, the same chair guy (I found out later when asked for the Treasury report it was the guy in charge of the Treasury) then interjected that comments would not be answered or responded to here. Even though at least 2 of the commenters had simple questions and an answer could have been given ( at least a rough answser) immediately.
    I noted no one in particular taking minutes, I think after a while I assumed the one female employee was the one taking notes of the meeting. Some of the presenters even left copies of their speech/comments to make it easier to remember the points she was talking about. Then later in the meeting I didn't see any notes being taken anymore so I gave up searching for who was filling this position. Approving the minutes from the previous meeting made me chuckle following this search of who was actually taking the minutes.

  3. I thought the presenters brought up good points, relating to such an operation and normal expectations. Yes some of the people in the crowd are probably on the 'hard-core' end of the spectrum in wanting things changed, but after witnessing this particular board and staff, I think it is needed.
    My general sense of the board (white middle aged men, grumpy, not passionate, sort of professionally behaved, insincere, and most didn't look like they even wanted to be there. I can understand this might be a hard and sometime thankless job for the paid staff, but if you are going to be on the board and not want to do your best, then step down and let someone with a fire in their belly do the job.
    While I am not totally for PC (I think it has gone beyond what it was meant for), why was everyone in the room Caucasian? There are no Asian, Latino or Black folks who love animals? Does this mean outreach needs to be updated a bit?
    This meeting left me laughing and very sad for the business that is MADACC and what may actually be happening there. Remember this was my first foray into this animal center from an inside view. I have tried to use MADACC before to help a neighbor reclaim his lost dog, who I knew was there from looking at the website, but since my neighbors don't have a car, I wanted to verify the little guy was actually the dog in question and the short on manners girl at the counter harshly stated that I would not be let back to verify the animal and help my neighbors. I felt dismissed and utterly amazed at this non-sensical procedure/rule.
    I have had other experiences in the past years using the front counter, and seriously I cannot tell you one of those 4 or 5 times when I felt satisfied or at least left feeling it was a good, happy and/or helpful experience. When osmeone says MADACC front counter I picture a grumpy female worker who doesn't really care or want to help (me or the animals).
    The funny thing was the board members sneaking through the crowd and the general grumpy/defense mode behavior I witnessed was the same. Not one of these people made me feel good about what is happening at this facility.
    Now on to the 'Interim Director' and my thoughts on him. I had been under the impression this WAS the director, now all of a sudden he is only interim, hmmm. I finally figured out who he is by squinting and seeing his nametag on his lovely police type uniform and badge. Again I laughed at the badge when he gave his report and finally one of the ladies in the back asked him to speak up. He gave the report with his head down and at a very low level. I really had to strain to make out what he was saying, even though he only read off number of a bunch of categories and tried to spin most of them into sounding good. I could tell most of the people gathered in the crowd were not agreeing with his spin on the numbers. I kind of felt sorry for the guy. Maybe he does like animals, but I am pretty sure he is a pawn of the board just following the status quo. It has been at least a year since he has been 'in charge' (I am using that phrase very loosely) and if he was comparing year end numbers, they should have had some change for the better to satisfy some of these people gathered.

  4. My opinion (after all this rambling) is that this agency is broke, not irretrievably, but it is not functioning as fully and helpfully as it could and should be. The front desk needs a happy person to make them a great first impression for the agency. The board needs to be shaken up and have some people join who have passion and a more visible sense of duty. The Director needs to be someone who also has passion, someone with NEW ideas, or at least someone who can recognize a good procedure from another agency around the nation and make it work here. The people who really care about animals have given ideas (and from what I heard, several times now) and none are put to use or even responded to or given a hair of thought.
    Remember every business has to change and move with the times to succeed. Come on MADACC, you CAN do this, make some right decisions and let's ALL move towards and improved Agency. Who knows maybe the rest of the country will model themselves after Us!!