Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Same old worn-out excuses

County Executive Rushern Baker campaigned on taking Prince George's County from GOOD to GREAT.

But time and again, Baker's County Government lets Baker, and his constituents, down.  George of Denmark was recently provided access to an exchange between a County resident and Mr. Samuel E. Wynkoop, JR., Director of the Department of Environmental Resources.

The subject of the letter is the "euthanasia rate" as Wynkoop phrases it -- or rather, the rate at which animals are killed -- at the PG pound.  Coming as Wynkoop does from another era, an era long ago, maybe it isn't surprising that he offers platitudes and placating excuses.  He offers no evidence that he comprehends the idea of setting goals and devising steps that will reach or exceed them.

It struck me, that Wynkoop solicitously protects the staff in AMD by describing what was done to a thousand, seven hundred and thirty-nine animals in the month of June 2011, as "euthanasia."  Yet not one of the component numbers that Wynkoop then cites as "causes for" killing the animals in question, would truly qualify as "euthanasia."

But more fundamentally, it struck me that, IF ONLY Wynkoop would act to put work in motion to stop the killing, he would not NEED to shield his employees by prettying up the killing by reframing it as euthanasia!

Here is the awful rundown of what Wynkoop and his people have achieved:

  • Failed in 81 instances to establish a behavior training program 
  • Failed in 143 instances to provide adequate veterinary treatment
  • Failed in 55 cases to provide for independent, qualified assessment of owner relinquished animals
  • Failed in an astonishing 204 instances to provide or refer to community cat control programs
  • Failed in 36 instances to competently distinguish dangerous animals from "pit bull type" physical characteristics
  • Failed in 161 instances to provide simple foster care for young puppies and kittens -- shameful!
  • Failed in 193 instances to seek proactively to reunite pets with owners or place them in new homes
 Uh, well.  At least those numbers DO sum to 873, which is the portion Wynkoop claims of the 1739 intake that were "domestic animals."  What the others are, among "cats, dogs, small mammals, reptiles, wildlife, livestock and carcasses," Wynkoop makes no mention.   Yet THEIR number apparently amounts to a significant 866!  It's puzzling to me why this agency just can't provide a full answer to any question at all!  No mention whatsoever is made of any intelligence that Wynkoop grasps even after accounting to the resident in this way.  That's pretty amazing for a presumably wise old man.

After the litany of "woulda coulda shoulda" that he offers with those statistics, Wynkoop goes on to say that "Our mission and goal has always been to reduce euthanasia by reducing the intake of animals."  Well, that simply isn't factual.  The mission of DER has been stated, in budget documents produced by Wynkoop, as to protect public health, or to safeguard people and animals, that kind of thing.  Not once under Wynkoop's tenures (either then, or now) has "reducing intake" been a publicly-stated goal.  Not only that, but even as he makes the claim about "mission and goals" to us, he then contradicts himself, saying that the "current goals are listed below" and not indicating any connection between the three "goals" he lists, and the "mission and goals" intake reduction he mentioned earlier.

For curious readers, here is the stated mission from the County DER website today:  "The mission of the Department of Environmental Resources is to protect and enhance the natural and built environments of Prince George's County by enforcing Federal, State and County laws to create a healthy, safe and esthetically pleasing environment for all residents and businesses of the County."  The Animal Management Division pages offer no mission or goals whatsoever, by the way.

It is a cardinal rule that keeping your goal in mind helps you to act to reach that goal.  Keeping multiple, conflicting goals is practically a formula for failure.  And Wynkoop and his DER and AMD continue to bear that out.

Seasoned observers of the Department and of AMD have noticed that whenever questions arise about metrics or outcomes, and particularly around budget reporting, the response is to change the goals!  Yes, that's right, they just play a shell game with PG Citizens!

In order to stop the killing (and we don't object to Wynkoop wanting not to inflict harm on his staff BUT we insist that he face the fact that they are killing animals, NOT "providing euthanasia" services in MOST instances), DER and AMD need to act on what AMD managers should have learned, when they were provided with the benefit of attending last year's No Kill Conference.  They need to do the work of launching real programs that stop the killing.

It's very simple to know what needs to be done.  It's not anything that hasn't already been done and proven by dozens .... and dozens .... of places both near and far where communities have taken their pounds back from the killers.

We don't want excuses. 

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