The Humane Society of Huron Valley is supportive of developing an educational and non-lethal method of managing animal/human conflicts in our community. Because our organization works with many instances of such conflicts with wildlife, we know that there are many effective ways to solve these problems without the use of violence. As such a progressive city, it is our hope that Ann Arbor will consider being at the forefront for setting a new standard of solving human/animal conflicts. Similar to the successful plan implemented in Rochester Hills, Michigan, we advocate for education, strategies to alert drives to high deer traffic areas and the development of a committee to assist and educate residents who are struggling with deer conflicts in their neighborhood.
Deer Cull in Ann Arbor
Our organization was asked to present at the February 5, 2015 Ann Arbor public meeting regarding a deer management project but were only given the option to present on the topic of "Immunocontraception in deer." Although we have extensive experience in working with wildlife, we do not currently have any experience in sterlizing deer nor do we, as a nonprofit organization, have the resources to do the necessary research and field work without support from the City of Ann Arbor. Recognizing that we are not experts in the field of deer sterilization, we recommended someone who is an expert and would come to the city for free or very low cost but our offer was declined. We encouraged the city to contact Laura Simon, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Field Director for the Urban Wildlife Department, as she was readily available to help. The Citizens for Safe Deer Management urged the City to meet with someone from HSUS regarding deer sterilization, offered to pay for any cost incurred, and on July 13, 2015, they met with Stephanie Boyles-Griffin, Senior Director at HSUS who presented on "Use of Fertility Control to Manage Urban White-Tailed Deer Populations" and spent days in Ann Arbor assessing the potential for a deer fertility control project here. She concluded it was feasible and extended an invitation to work with Ann Arbor, as can be seen in this report.
On August 17, 2015, Ann Arbor City Council Members voted 8-1 to start a four-year plan to kill deer in the City of Ann Arbor, starting with 100 deer this winter. Mayor Christopher Taylor opposed this move, saying he was aware there is not a community consensus on this issue.
As an organization dedicated to animal welfare, this concerns us greatly on many levels and for many reasons. We will continue to work on this issue and help educate the community. To oppose the hiring of sharpshooters to kill deer in Ann Arbor, please contact City Council.
The Humane Society of Huron Valley continues to offer to be a resource on this issue and any issue that is a concern to humans and animals in our community. We look forward to opportunities to partner with the City of Ann Arbor to provide education to our residents and work towards a successful and safe conflict management plan.
To learn more about this issue, please see our website StopTheShoot.org.
Stray Hold Law and HB 4915 Position Statement
Approximately 70% of households own one or more pets in Michigan, equaling an estimated 4.7 million dogs and cats. Most are considered a beloved part of the family. According to national figures, one in three of these pets will get lost at some point during their lifetime, causing great distress to their human guardians. As a result, most communities throughout the United States have designated stray hold facilities whose role it is to be a safe haven where families can find their lost pets.
Since 1969, licensed shelters in Michigan that take in strays have been required to follow a 4 or 7 day (depending on if the animal has ID) stray hold law (MCL 287.388) for animals found loose without an owner. This law has been strictly enforced by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), the department that licenses animal shelters. However, after being legally challenged by a large, private Michigan shelter, MDARD has recently notified all shelters that it will no longer be enforcing the current stray hold law (based on its being located in a section of the law pertaining to the use of dogs and cats in research).
The stray hold law ensures that owners have a chance to find their lost companion animal. Without a stray hold law, an animal entering a shelter can be immediately adopted, transferred to another facility/group, or put to death without giving owners even one day to find their lost pet. And even if owners find their lost pet in a shelter, without a stray hold law, the shelter has no obligation to return them to their rightful owners.
Following MDARD’s announcement, Michigan now stands nearly alone in the absence of a state mandated stray hold. The Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) firmly believes in the importance of stray hold times as a basic and essential protection for pets and their owners, and will continue to follow the policies we already have in place. So while pets and pet owners in Washtenaw County are safe (as long as the animals don’t cross county lines), many in Michigan are now in a precarious position.
HB 4915 was introduced by Representative Mike McCready to help rectify this issue. While we desperately need this bill, HSHV opposes it in its current state based on two serious flaws:
1) Cats as second-class pets: The bill reduces stray hold times to “zero days” for cats that are “candidates for adoption or sterilization programs.” Though we strongly support a bill that promotes Trap, Neuter and Return -- where unowned cats are sterilized and returned to their original location -- as the only proven effective means of reducing overpopulation, the vague use of the word “candidate” leaves the option to euthanize stray cats at intake, as sadly many Michigan shelters would still prefer to do. Further, we believe “adoptable” cats, like dogs, should also be held for the minimum hold times of 4 or 7 days to give owners a chance to find them.
- We recommend the same hold time for both dogs and cats, and support clear provisions for sterilization programs that return cats to their original location. Even if a lost cat is mistaken for an outdoor/feral cat, returning them to their original location is more likely to help them to get back home. One study found that cats left mainly to their own devices are 13 times more likely to find their way back home than those that end up at a shelter.
2) Wide discretion to euthanize before hold times have expired: The bill also states that “(A) AN ANIMAL THAT WOULD BE SUBJECTED TO UNDUE SUFFERING” can be immediately euthanized. Though we agree with the essence of this statement, the language gives too much discretion to shelters to define “suffering.” Many common or treatable conditions such as fear, arthritis, blindness, contagious disease, or old age could be used as justification to immediately put a lost animal (dog or cat) to death, without regard to hold times.
- We recommend a definition of suffering as suggested by Nathan Winograd, Director of the No-Kill Advocacy Center.“Irremediable physical suffering" means an animal who has a poor or grave prognosis for being able to live without severe unremitting pain even with comprehensive, prompt, and necessary veterinary care, as determined by a veterinarian licensed to practice in the state.”
Respecting and promoting the loving bond between people and their companion animals should be at the core of animal sheltering work. Basic stray hold times applied consistently to both dogs and cats, and clear definitions around justification for euthanasia provide important protections to both people and animals. HSHV and our supporters want to see increased adoptions and sterilizations, and the elimination of unnecessary shelter euthanasia across the state—not stripping families of the right to reclaim their lost animals.
Please ask your State Representative to make these changes, then pass HB 4915 ASAP to ensure that Michigan pets and pet owners are protected. Tell them how much your pet means to you and that you want to see stray hold laws applied equally to both dogs and cats, allowance for responsible TNR, and well-defined reasons for euthanizing an animal before their stray hold time is up.
Go here to find your State Representative.