Friday, February 22, 2013

MADACC Operations Committee Meeting - February 21, 2013

Yesterday was the monthly Operations Committee meeting of the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC). Here's my notes and observations.

Despite the fact that the meeting is usually held on the third Tuesday of the month and this meeting was abruptly changed to Thursday, there was still a very large turnout. The crowd spilled out into the hallway. There were at least sixty people present, not including the management and board members.  Since the building's fire code only permits fifty people in the room, I hope that future meetings will be scheduled for a larger venue.  It was very disturbing to see concerned citizens who had taken time out of their busy schedule in the middle of a workday unable to hear or see the proceedings. Many people had also driven a considerable distance - partially thanks to the WISN 12 news story last week that highlighted the plight of the court case dogs that have been held at MADACC for almost two years.  I have written twice about these dogs in the past.  Here are the links:

Milwaukee's Forgotten Dogs

One Year "Anniversary" and No End in Sight for Milwaukee's Forgotten Dogs

The first speaker, Ray Prondzinski, from West Allis, summed up a lot of good points and the main concern of the past six months. "Who is listening to our problems and when might we expect answers?" He pointed out the disrespectful manner in which the board has handled the public and asked if some attentiveness and eye contact when the public were speaking was too much to ask.  Instead of the heads-down, paper shuffling that has been all too apparent.

The other speakers were also excellent and included: Amanda Wenzel, Laurie Hoffman, David Mangold, Lynn Mitchell, Kelly Herbold, Pam Hodermann and Susan Taney.

Susan Taney, one of the founding members of Lost Dogs of Wisconsin (an organization near and dear to my heart) made her fourth attempt to offer the free services of Lost Dogs of Wisconsin to improve the return to owner (RTO) rate which currently is 26%.  Other cities across North America are achieving RTO rates of over 50% and some as high as 75%. These figures are being achieved because progressive management is utilizing volunteers to help in matching, posting pictures and descriptions on the internet and giving resources out to the public on how to find their lost dogs.

Many of the dogs at MADACC have a home and do not need to be rehomed or killed. They just need help to find their owners.  Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Lost Dogs Illinois have a combined audience of over 40,000 Facebook fans and have helped reunite over 5600 dogs since their inception. Susan has never received a response from the MADACC management or board about her offer.

Kelly Herbold of Milwaukee Animal Alliance spoke and I am including her words here so that they are  "on the record" because I think they are very important and summed up what most of the audience were thinking:
"First off to Karen, our group welcomes you and is very excited to have a qualified and compassionate Executive Director at the helm of MADACC. We hope that you will do right by the animals, and begin to correct the wrongs of the past that you are inheriting…..particularly the ones of the past 4 months.

To the Operations Committee, we want to thank Don Schaewe, Michael Weber, and Derik Summerfield for taking the time to meet with us. Paul Ziehler declined meeting with us. Eric Pearson accepted but was then a no show on the day of the meeting. Ron, I am still waiting to nail down a date with you, I hope we can do that very soon.

I would like to ask each of you to think about the cause you care a lot about. Maybe its kids, or environmental issues, or the homeless. Whatever that thing is that just ‘gets you’, that hits your heart and soul, that is how we feel about the animals. So please as human to human, try to have some empathy and put yourselves in our shoes. Animals may not be important to you, but they are to us. We support MADACC because without you, our animals would have no place to go. We are definitely not here because we have nothing better to do. Nor are we engaged in a ‘smear campaign’ to take MADACC down.  We take time out of our busy lives to come here because we are truly concerned, and our concerns are valid. I can understand your seeming sense of denial but frankly…..where there’s smoke there’s fire. Doing right by each and every animal that comes through here, has not been happening for a long time now. Hopefully Karen can fix that.

There is an apparent sense of apathy in the room…almost as if you tune out when each one of us speaks. Intentional or not, that is the clear impression you are giving off. It’s a shame, because like it or not, our opinions do matter. Mainly, because as taxpayers we FUND this place. But also, because as citizens we either elected you to your job or we elected your bosses, who appointed you to this Board. So we do have a voice, and the right to use it. That is the great thing about this country. We hope that is a new day and a new era for MADACC. And that the entire Board and MADACC staff come together to do right by our animals.

My sweet foster dog is from here and now has a second chance at a good life.  We want each animal inside these walls to get that same shot. They deserve no less, and we will settle for no less.  We hope that in the VERY near future we are all attending these meetings to praise and thank you for doing right by our animals at last.  Thank you."  - Kelly Herbold, Milwaukee Animal Alliance

The highlight of the meeting was the commitment from the board and Karen, the new ED, to support a fair and positive outcome for  the court case dogs.  Here is the link to the WISN Channel 12 news story: 

This is a major step forward to getting these dogs fairly evaluated and a chance for a new home. A huge thank you to Colleen Henry, Susan Roberts and the rest of the WISN News Team that took an interest in this story and gave it the coverage that inspired some action.  It is very sad and disturbing that it took news media coverage of the story for the board and management at MADACC to finally take action for these dogs. As I have stressed before, the American Bar Association and the National Animal Control Association have written guidelines for the care and treatment of Court Case Dogs but apparently nobody at MADACC felt it necessary to follow them or advocate for these dogs. David Mangold of Save Milwaukee's Court Case Dogs has tirelessly advocated for them and reached out on numerous occasions to the board and management of MADACC. He never received the courtesy of a response.

One of my personal frustrations is the resistance of the board to educate themselves on progressive animal welfare practices that are currently saving the lives of over 90% of the animals that enter municipal animal shelters in cities such as Austin, Reno, Jacksonville, and Kansas City.  Even Los Angeles achieved a notable 84% live release rate for the month of December 2012.

Milwaukee is not different from any of these cities. But Milwaukee lags far behind.  It's time to stop making the lame excuses that are currently causing the deaths of over 5000 animals per year in Milwaukee at the hands of MADACC. 

We have the passion, the commitment, the knowledge, and thanks to the hiring of Karen Sparapani, we now have the leadership to make a difference. Let's do it.

" Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it." - James Arthur Baldwin


  1. I am optimistic that things will change at MADACC under Karen's supervision. She is walking into a a disaster zone, but she can work magic. (Really, I've seen her do it. :-)

  2. Hoping for change, but one thing that I found to be frustrating is the last thing that was said, "We will never be a no kill shelter". Wouldn't this be something that you always strive to be?

  3. Amber, that was the thing that made me the most angry. So let's set the bar so low that we trip?

    Unfortunately, the board has relied on inaccurate animal welfare information for far too long. They have been influenced by the past Interim Executive Director, who has publicly insulted No Kill Advocates and ridiculed the new, improved methods of saving lives.

    He needs to either update his thinking and training or be replaced. The world is passing him by and unfortunately 5000 animals a year die because of regressive practices. In what other industry do you get away with still doing things the way you did in the 1980's?

    Our tax dollars pay his salary and hopefully more citizens will demand change.

    Hopefully, with Karen on board, the board members will now be exposed to newer, better practices that will save money and lives.

    1. I do not know Karen personally, but I have heard only positive things about what she has done and what she wants to do. Everyone says she is the woman to get the job done. She seems to be very determined to make change happen!