Humane Animal Support Services. A discussion and one criticism.

Nathan Winograd got me thinking about a program called Humane Animal Support Services (HASS). He doesn’t like the programme or at least one aspect of it. He says that under this program “regressive pounds” turn away animals that need a shelter. The program was created by Austin Pets Alive and “embraced” by Best Friends Animal Society.

The counterargument to the HASS programme is that stray cats and dogs will be left on the street in harsh weather causing suffering.
The counterargument to the HASS programme is that stray cats and dogs will be left on the street in harsh weather causing suffering. Image: MikeB
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Humane Animal Support Services now has its own website and I visited it to find some details about the program. Although it is pretty and loads fast, I have to be honest and say that I don’t like their homepage because it didn’t explain to me what the programme actually is. I want to know exactly what it means but the website doesn’t explain (Jan 2024); not on that page anyway. 🀨

Nathan Winograd believes that under the HASS programme people who find “outwardly healthy-looking animals” who are presumably strays and who have either lost their home or are homeless, “are told to leave them or re-abandon them on the street”.

And this aspect of the programme appears to be very central to it. The idea as I see it means that you don’t automatically take a stray cat or dog to a shelter. There are other ways of dealing with the animal. The program keeps stray animals out of shelters. That’s my interpretation. The objective is to reduce the pressure on shelters because so often we read about them being oversubscribed.

But Winograd says that “stray dogs were once a rare sight except in the most neglected and impoverished neighbourhoods but are now much more common, left to suffer whatever fate befalls them.” At the moment with very cold temperatures in parts of America, this is leading to suffering.

Is he correct? Well, Nathan Winograd is always correct! πŸ˜‰ However, the American Pets Alive! website provides us with some myths and facts about HASS.

They say that it is a myth that sick and injured dogs and cats will be turned out on the streets. The fact is that incoming calls about stray pets will be assessed on a needs basis to determine the best pathway: “shelter, foster or remain in the home and receive care”. I’m not sure that I understand. There is no reference in that quoted section about stray cats being on the street.

They say that it is a myth that stray, healthy pets will be turned away from shelters. They argue that “pets are many times more likely to find their owners if they stay in the neighbourhood”. It seems that the programme means that if a person finds a stray cat or dog, they leave the animal where they find them on the presumption that the owner will find the animal or the animal will find their way home. If that’s true then Nathan Winograd is correct.

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But American Pets Alive! explain that people who find a lost companion animal “will be given support to find the owner if they are willing”. And if they can’t find the owner or are unable to “hold the pet”, the shelter will take in the companion animal and triage them to find the best pathway based on their needs.

Well, that paints a different picture. It sounds reasonable. It seems that there is a fresh emphasis in this program which is not to automatically take found stray animals to a shelter. The idea is to find other ways to deal with the animal to relieve the pressure on shelters.

The people who find stray animals are not required to hold an animal and they aren’t required to find the owner of the animal according to American Pets Alive! They say that “the new model will build infrastructure to help individuals and facilities such as fire stations help people and pets in their own neighbourhoods”. I don’t know what that infrastructure is. Has this been clarified with some detail?

Another myth is that because the lost animal won’t be placed in a shelter the owner won’t be able to find him or her. The counterargument is that the new program will use “21st-century technology” in a reimagining of the current system. We don’t have a full explanation as to what that means.

Does Cornell help us understand what HASS actually means? They say it’s a philosophy of sheltering “centred around community needs and the human-animal bond”. Big words but no explanation.

The idea I believe came out of the Covid-19 pandemic from weekly zoom conversations of hundreds of shelter experts at one time which was “facilitated by a sheltering organisation called American Pets Alive”.

According to Cornell, there are 12 elements to HASS. I won’t go over them but the most outstanding factor is the one I’ve mentioned above which is also the one that is the most controversial.

I won’t go over those 12 points because they are simply words describing what is meant to happen but we need to know what actually is happening on the ground on a day-to-day basis because I sense that it may be difficult to make this new program work in practice. is the HASS program working successfully?

I’ll leave it there. I am a little unsure what it actually all means. It is a new program still and it appears to be work in progress. It would be nice to know whether it’s working and how it’s progressing as a new model for animal sheltering.

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