By SUE MANNING, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Seven in 10 pet owners say they believe animal shelters should be allowed to euthanize animals only when they are too sick to be treated or too aggressive to be adopted.

 

Only a quarter of the people who took part in a recent AP-Petside.com poll said animal shelters should sometimes be allowed to put animals down as a population control measure.

 

Gisela Aguila, 51, of Miramar, Fla., believes shelter animals should only be euthanized when there is no chance they’ll be adopted — for example, if they are extremely ill or aggressive. “I don’t think shelters should be euthanizing animals to control the population,” she said.

 

She’d like to see an end to shelters destroying animals when they run out of room, saying, “We are way too civilized of a society to allow this.”

 

But Leslie Surprenant, 53, of Saugerties, N.Y., believes shelters should be allowed to control populations. She says no-kill shelters that only accept animals with good prospects for adoption or that turn away animals once the shelter reaches capacity do not solve the problem.

 

“That doesn’t truly mean no-kill shelters. It means there are more animals out on the streets being hit by cars and starving and living in Dumpsters,” said Surprenant, who has two dogs and a cat. “It does not mean the general population is lower; it just means that they’ve opted not to kill.”

 

Surprenant believes spaying and neutering is the way to go. In fact, higher rates of spaying and neutering in recent decades have cut the number of abandoned puppies and kittens, which in turn has cut euthanasia rates. Before 1970, about 20 million animals were euthanized each year in this country. In 2011, fewer than 4 million abandoned animals were euthanized.

 

Younger pet owners are most likely to favor no-kill policies, with 79 percent of those under 30 saying shelters should only euthanize animals that are untreatable or too aggressive, compared with 67 percent of those age 50 or over saying that.

 

The poll results are encouraging to leaders of the nation’s no-kill movement, who’d like to see the U.S. become a “no-kill nation” with homes for every adoptable pet, and euthanasia reserved only for extremely ill or aggressive animals.

 

Any plan will take teamwork between shelters with government contracts that must accept every animal and the no-kill shelters that often only take animals they can help, said Ed Sayres, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

 

Rich Avanzino, president of Alameda-based Maddie’s Fund, pioneered no-kill in San Francisco in the early ’90s through a pact between the open-admission city shelter and the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

 

“We are just a breath away from doing what is right for the animals,” Avanzino said.

 

He believes the country can achieve no-kill status by 2015, partly due to corporate giving to animal causes, which totaled about $30 million in 2010 and is expected to reach $70 million by 2015. That money can help with spaying, neutering and outreach, he said.

 

Public attitudes are also changing, with more people saying it’s unacceptable for pets to languish or die in an animal shelter, Avanzino said.

 

Avanzino pioneered the no-kill concept in San Francisco. Sayres succeeded him and nurtured it, then went to New York and implemented it there in a much bigger way. The model is the same, but instead of two partner agencies like in San Francisco, New York has 155, Sayres said.

 

About 44,000 animals enter New York City shelters each year. Since Sayres has been there, the euthanasia rate has dropped from 74 percent to 27 percent.

 

The ASPCA has also teamed up with 11 communities from Tampa, Fla., to Spokane, Wash., in no-kill efforts, Sayres said.

 

He believes he will see a no-kill nation, at least for dogs, in his lifetime. Cats may take a little longer because of the large feral population, he said.

 

The euthanasia issue attracted some attention this week when it was reported that a stray cat being held at a West Valley City, Utah, animal shelter survived two trips to the shelter’s gas chamber. The shelter has stopped trying to kill the cat, named Andrea, and she has been adopted. Shelter officials are investigating why the gassing failed.

 

Best Friends Animal Society operates the country’s largest no-kill sanctuary for abandoned and abused animals. The Kanab, Utah, preserve is home to 1,700 dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses and wildlife undergoing rehabilitation, said Best Friends director Gregory Castle.

 

More than 800 grass-roots rescue organizations belong to Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets Network and are working to make their communities no-kill, Castle said. Attendance at an annual conference for network members has grown from 250 in 2001 to 1,300 last year.

 

The sanctuary’s newest venture is a groundbreaking effort involving what Castle believes is the largest public-private partnership ever forged in the no-kill movement.

 

Best Friends is going to operate a shelter for the Department of Animal Services in Los Angeles as an adoption and spay and neuter center, he said. All animals will come from six open-admission Los Angeles city shelters.

 

The coalition’s initial goal is 3,000 adoptions and 6,000 sterilization procedures, Castle said.

 

Differences in the varying no-kill campaigns are mostly a matter of nuance, Castle said, and how you define sick and aggressive.

 

Nathan Winograd, director of the Oakland-based No Kill Advocacy Center, believes 95 percent of all animals entering shelters can be adopted or treated. And even though the other 5 percent might be hopelessly injured, ill or vicious, he said they should not all be doomed.

 

Some, if not most of them, can be cared for in hospice centers or sanctuaries, he said. As for pit bulls and other dogs with aggressive reputations, he said shelters need to do a better job of trying to find them homes.

 

The AP-Petside.com Poll was conducted Oct. 13-17, 2011, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,118 pet owners. Results among pet owners have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

 

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AP Global Director of Polling Trevor Tompson, Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

 

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Online: http://www.petside.com/no-kill-shelters

 

 

How the poll was conducted

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Associated Press-Petside.com Poll of pet owners on no-kill shelters was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Oct. 13-17, 2011. It is based on landline and cellphone telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,118 pet owners.

Digits in the phone numbers dialed were generated randomly to reach households with unlisted and listed landline and cellphone numbers.

Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.

As is done routinely in surveys, results were weighted, or adjusted, to ensure that responses accurately reflect the population’s makeup by factors such as age, sex, education and race. In addition, the weighting took into account patterns of phone use — landline only, cell only and both types — by region.

No more than 1 time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than plus or minus 3.6 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all pet owners in the U.S. were polled.

There are other sources of potential error in polls, including the wording and order of questions.

The questions and results are available at http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com .

Topline results are available at http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com and http://surveys.ap.org.

AP-GfK Poll: Crunch time again for health insurance sign-ups

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama’s push to cover America’s uninsured faces another big test Monday.

 

This time, it’s not only how the website functions, but how well the program itself works for millions who are starting to count on it.

 

Midnight Monday, Pacific time is the deadline for new customers to pick a health plan that will take effect Jan. 1, and for current enrollees to make changes that could reduce premium increases ahead of the new year.

 

HealthCare.gov and state insurance websites are preparing for heavy online traffic before the deadline, which gives consumers in the East three hours into Tuesday to enroll.

 

Wait times at the federal call center started creeping up around the middle of last week, mainly due to a surge of current customers with questions about their coverage for next year. Many will face higher premiums, although they could ease the hit by shopping online for a better deal. Counselors reported hold times of 20 minutes or longer for the telephone help line.

 

About 6.7 million people now have coverage through Obama’s signature law, which offers subsidized private insurance. The administration wants to increase that to 9.1 million in 2015. To do that, the program will have to keep most of its current enrollees while signing up more than 2 million new paying customers.

 

People no longer can be turned down because of health problems, but picking insurance still is daunting for many consumers. They also have to navigate the process of applying for or updating federal subsidies, which can be complex for certain people, including immigrants. Many returning customers are contending with premium increases generally in the mid-to-high single digits, but much more in some cases.

 

Consumers “understand it’s complicated but they appreciate the ability to get health insurance,” said Elizabeth Colvin of Foundation Communities, an Austin, Texas, nonprofit that is helping sign up low-income residents. “People who haven’t gone through the process don’t understand how complicated it is.”

 

Last year’s open enrollment season turned into a race to salvage the reputation of the White House by fixing numerous technical bugs that crippled HealthCare.gov from its first day. With the website now working fairly well, sign-up season this year is a test of whether the program itself is practical for the people it is intended to serve.

 

New wrinkles have kept popping up, even with seemingly simple features of the Affordable Care Act.

 

For example, most current customers who do nothing will be automatically renewed Jan. 1 in the plan they now are in. At this point, it looks like that is what a majority intends to do.

 

While that may sound straightforward, it’s not.

 

By staying in their current plans, people can get locked into a premium increase and miss out on lower-priced plans for 2015. Not only that, they also will keep their 2014 subsidies, which may be less than what they legally would be entitled to for next year.

 

Doing nothing appears to be a particularly bad idea for people who turned 21 this year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington group that advocates for low-income people.

 

Researchers at the center estimate that 21-year-olds will see a 58 percent increase in the sticker price for their premiums just because they’re a year older. An age-adjustment factor used to compute premiums jumps substantially when a person turns 21. A 20-year-old whose premium was $130 per month in 2014 will see the premium climb to $205 a month in 2015, solely because of that year’s difference.

 

Tax-credit subsidies can cancel out much or even all of the impact. But if consumers default to automatic renewal, their tax credits will not be updated and they will get the same subsidy as this year.

 

“Even in the best possible scenario of how many people we can expect to come in, we will still see a substantial number of people defaulting,” said Judy Solomon, a health care policy expert at the center. She worries that some young adults may get discouraged and drop out.

 

Reviews of HealthCare.gov and state health insurance exchanges are mixed.

 

An Associated Press-GfK poll this month found that 11 percent of Americans said they or someone else in their household tried to sign up since open enrollment began Nov. 15. Overall, 9 percent said the insurance markets are working extremely well or very well. Twenty-six percent said the exchanges are working somewhat well, and 39 percent said they were not working well. The remaining 24 percent said they didn’t know enough to rate performance.

 

So far it has been a frustrating experience for Marie Bagot, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She and her husband are in their 60s, but not yet old enough for Medicare. The husband, who works as a chef, will turn 65 around the middle of next year and qualify for Medicare. Bagot said they were happy with their insurance this year under Obama’s law.

 

“As you get older, you worry about your health,” she said. “I was very pleased with the price we got.”

 

But Bagot said she received a notice from her insurer that her current plan will not be available next year in her community. The closest alternative would involve a premium increase of more than $350 a month, even with their tax credit subsidy. After days of trying to find a comparable plan through the federal call center and after visiting a counselor, Bagot said she opted to keep their current coverage, while hoping costs go down after her husband joins Medicare.

 

“I cannot afford it, but I’m going to try to,” she said.

 

Monday is not the last chance for consumers like Bagot. Open enrollment doesn’t end until Feb. 15.

 

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Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

 


AP-GfK Poll: Nearly 9 in 10 doubt Obama, GOP can break gridlock

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans may not agree on much lately, but one opinion is nearly universal: There’s almost no chance that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and the Republican Congress can work together to solve the country’s problems.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds just 13 percent of Americans are confident the leaders, separated by nearly 2 miles of Pennsylvania Avenue, can work together, while 86 percent have no such faith. That’s far more than the 58 percent who felt that way just after the 2010 midterm elections in which the tea party movement rose to prominence.

The doubts cross party lines: Fewer than 1 in 5 Democrats or independents have confidence the two sides can cooperate. Republicans are even more pessimistic, with just 1 in 10 confident Obama and Congress can work together.

Those who lack confidence spread the blame around: 41 percent say neither side would do enough to work together, 35 percent place more blame on the Republicans, 22 percent on the president.

Neither side holds much hope things are going to get better, either. Just 16 percent think the president is likely to restore public trust in government in the next two years, while 20 percent feel congressional Republicans will.

Robert Cole, 65, says both Democrats and Republicans deserve blame for Washington’s stalemate: “If you want to place the blame, it rests on the American voter.”

“They’re not doing their jobs, and we as the electorate are stupid in sending the same people back and expecting things to change,” said Cole, a retiree who lives in Ocala, Florida.

But not everyone sees cooperation as a positive.

“In my view, the Republicans were doing what they needed to do to block a harmful agenda coming from the executive branch,” said Ron Tykoski, 42, a paleontologist from Nevada, Texas.

What does the public think they’ll be able to do?

A majority say Obama is likely to prevent Congress from repealing the health care law passed in 2010, while nearly half say the GOP is likely to block Obama’s executive order on immigration. Another 42 percent think the GOP will block or roll back Obama’s environmental regulations. Fewer think either side will be able to enact the policies on their agenda.

Tamara Watson, 35, a high school teacher in West Columbia, South Carolina, said immigration and health care are the two issues where both sides do need to work together. She sees Republicans as the bigger roadblock.

“They have fought him his entire term and a half now, and there’s so many of them now,” she said. “It’s going to be very difficult for (Obama) to work with them when there are so many of them versus so few of his party.”

Political gridlock itself ranks pretty low on the issue scale, 47 percent call it extremely or very important compared with 83 percent who say the economy is important, 76 percent who consider health care a key issue and 64 percent who say unemployment is important.

But the issue prompts Obama’s most negative ratings overall: 66 percent disapprove of his handling of gridlock and among Democrats, 47 percent disapprove.

Approval ratings for the president and Congress are about the same as before the election, with 41 percent approval for Obama and 15 percent Congress. In general, however, the public expresses greater frustration with politics now than they did four years ago.

Looking back on last month’s elections, 52 percent say they’re disappointed with the results while 50 percent say they’re frustrated. Both figures are up significantly since 2010. About a quarter, 27 percent, say they’re angry, compared with 16 percent in 2010.

Just 37 percent say they’re hopeful when they think about the results of the elections, well below the 65 percent saying so after the 2010 elections, when the GOP took control of the House of Representatives, or the 74 percent who felt so when Obama was elected the nation’s first black president. Only 1 in 5 Americans under age 30 describe themselves as hopeful, fewer than any other age group.

More Americans say they trust neither party to handle managing the federal government than said they trust either side over the other. Nearly a third of both Democrats and Republicans say they trust neither party to handle managing the federal government, along with almost 6 in 10 independents.

But Cole says this hasn’t turned him away from politics.

“As aggravating as it is, I’m still paying attention just to see if I can find somebody out there who is going to do more than talk about cooperating and find a way forward,” he said.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,010 adults was conducted online Dec. 4-8, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.

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On Twitter, follow Jennifer Agiesta at http://www.twitter.com/JennAgiesta and Emily Swanson at http://www.twitter.com/el_swan .

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Online:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com