Because “feral” cats lack the social skills that would make them suitable adoption candidates, explains Nathan Winograd, director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, “there is no other animal entering a shelter whose prospects are so grim and outcome so certain.”  Sadly, even the best adoption candidates often don’t make it out alive, as Shirley Thistlethwaite reminded us recently on her blog YesBiscuit!.
In a three-part series beginning with last Tuesday’s post, Thistlethwaite describes (using documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests) a number of disturbing cases involving cats at Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge. Among the “highlights” are instances of cats killed despite people stepping forward to adopt them, sick cats not receiving prompt medical care, friendly cats killed for being “feral,”* and any number of discrepancies in shelter records.
When CAA took over sheltering responsibilities (city-parish Animal Control still handles animal enforcement and rescue) last year, it was with the intention of making Baton Rouge a “no-kill” community. From the start, however, there were problems.
“Just a few weeks into the takeover,” reported The Advocate in late September, “the Metro Council publicly scolded [executive director Laura] Hinze and the Companion Animal Alliance over photos taken and complaints detailing inhumane conditions and overcrowding.”  Hinze, who’d been hired by CAA after a national search, resigned after less than two months on the job. The position remained unfilled until April 30th, when Kimberly Sherlaw took over.
According to The Advocate, Sherlaw estimates that it will take three to five years before the shelter will become no-kill—having a live-release rate of 90 percent or better. These days, the rate is said to be 20–35 percent. 
“We’ll be meeting our goals incrementally, not jump in overnight,” Sherlaw told The Advocate. “We have our work cut out for us.” 
Clearly, they do. And I don’t envy Sherlaw her job. Still, even three years seems like an awful long time.
No doubt others familiar with the situation in Baton Rouge will be at next weekend’s No Kill Conference. I’m curious to hear their assessment.
*Not that their deaths would be excusable had they actually been feral, of course.
1. Winograd, N.J., Redemption: The myth of pet overpopulation and the no kill revolution in America. 2007: Almaden Books.
2. Allen, R. (2011, September 28). Animal shelter head departs. The Advocate, p. 01A, from http://theadvocate.com/home/951414-79/animal-shelter-head-departs.html
3. Martin, N. (2012, April 24). CAA Director Sherlaw on board. The Advocate, from http://theadvocate.com/home/2639464-125/caadirectorsherlaw-on-board