New Dog, Old Tricks at HSSET

An article focusing on Max Mixson, the new shelter manager at Humane Society of Southeast Texas, raises some red flags:

When the board of the Humane Society of Southeast Texas (HSSET) advertised the job of shelter manager last year, the response was good with a number of apparently qualified applicants submitting their resumes. Nestled among the group, however, was a name that immediately popped out.

Max Mixson was the manager of the Petco store on Dowlen Road in Beaumont and had previously been a senior cruelty investigator at the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In that capacity, he had been prominently featured in the hit cable series “Animal Cops: Houston,” where he made a definite impression on viewers in any number of high-profile cases.


Many remember Houston SPCA for their November 2008 secretive killing of 187 seized Pitbulls without a single evaluation before any of the owners had their day in court. I don’t watch their TV show but their apparent zeal for Pitbull killing “made a definite impression” on me. A former shelter employee relates some specific incidents with Mr. Mixson at HSSET that have a ring of familiarity:

Brandi Furr, 26, was a shelter employee for most of 2008. She resigned in February because of unspecified family issues, but she said mainly due to her inability to deal with events taking place in the shelter. Described by people on both sides of the issue as “caring and compassionate” and “a good employee,” her story is worth exploring not only because it is deeply felt but also because it conveys how Mixson is perceived by the dissident faction at the Humane Society of Southeast Texas.

“I love that place,” said Furr. “I loved my job, but Max Mixson — you see him on ‘Animal Planet,’ but he’s a totally different person. He lies to the public.”

Furr said her problems with Mixson can be traced to a sharp difference in how individual dogs should be treated.

“Max does not work with the dogs, he doesn’t know anything about the dogs,” she said. “He’ll make rounds and decide which dogs will go down. I would be really mad about the euthanizing and I would let them know. I would talk to the board members and our employees and Max would get mad.”

Her allegations are not shy on details. In fact, Furr cites numerous instances involving specific animals.

“Max came in and his first day there, he went into the kennels — I was working in the kennel area — and he went up to a dog,” recounted Furr. “It wasn’t an aggressive dog; it was a hyper dog. (Max) went up to his cage and it started barking at him. I walked over to him and said ‘That dog’s not aggressive. It doesn’t know you.’ He said ‘Well, that’s the first dog on my list.’ That dog got put down; that was the first dog to get put down when he was there.”

According to Furr, scared or shy animals found no favor with the new shelter manager.

“Dogs would come in and they would be shy, this is my main thing,” she said. “Shy dogs are being put down; this never used to happen. They would come in from the street. They had a family once; we don’t know their whole story. They come in off the street not knowing where they’re at, not knowing to trust people, they hide under their bed and just shake. They wouldn’t bite, they’d let you pet them and stuff, but weren’t the dogs at the front of the cage barking.”
[...]
Furr sounded near tears as she recalled the fate of a dog named Omega.

“He was a Lab and something else; he was a big, big dog,” she said. “He looked really mean, but he was not mean at all. He went on Channel 6 News as one of our pets of the week and so many people called wanting him. … but Max wanted to put it down because he thought it was mean. When you’d go to the cage, it would charge and jump and bark, but it was because he didn’t know Max. The environment those dogs are in, they’re going to act that way. But instead of Max giving him time, he made the decision to put the dog down. We had call after call after call to adopt that dog out, but he was already dead.”

The image of Mixson as a cold, unfeeling bureaucrat seems far-fetched — except in Furr’s telling of events inside the shelter.

“Another situation, somebody brought in a pit bull,” she said. “For some reason, I guess he doesn’t like pit bulls. I know they have a reputation, but still. A pit bull came in and instead of taking it to the sick room — I think somebody was in the sick room cleaning it — he took it into our break room and put it to sleep right there on the floor. It’s just crazy; I love my job, but I can’t work with a monster like him.”
[...]
Mixson acknowledged the pit bull was put down in the break room, but observed it was a closed room within the facility that was not in use at the time and that the dog’s owner had described it as “dangerous” when he brought it in. He noted that euthanasia is always a difficult decision for him, and that he believes every animal is worth saving if a good home could be found for them.


Right. But I guess you wouldn’t know if a good home could be found if you kill the dog upon entry into the shelter based upon the owner’s description. Newsflash: Sometimes dishonest people surrender dogs at shelters and lie about the reasons why. Every dog deserves a fair evaluation.

Oh and by the way, if you are so eager to kill an incoming dog that you can’t wait for the euthanasia room to be cleaned and have to use the room designated for shelter employees to take breaks – that’s some kinda problem you got there.

***

If you are a Houston area resident, you may wish to attend Nathan Winograd’s seminar on March 28, 2009. See No Kill Houston for details.

Update on Seized Dogs in Gates Co, NC

Gates County, NC – Update on 13 dogs (11 Pitbulls, 2 Rottweilers) seized from Jackie Robinson Parker:

On Thursday, Jackie Robinson Parker appeared in a Gates County Court on one felony count of Dogfighting and 13 counts of Animal Cruelty.

Parker insists he does not own all 13 dogs, but Ginny Canady, of Chowan County Animal Control reminded Parker, “They all came from your property.”

Parker responded, “I’m saying I don’t know where they came from.”

Canady allowed Parker to look at the dogs, and we asked him about the brown one that a veterinarian says has the scars and scabs that indicate dogfighting within the past two weeks.

Parker claims he doesn’t know anything about it.

There is video at the link of the reporter pressing the issue and Mr. Parker reacting.  “The brown one” looks pretty beat up.  The Virginia Beach SPCA has brought in kibble and supplies for the seized dogs since the shelter where the dogs are being kept lacks resources:

The SPCA also brought heartworm tests, and four of the 13 dogs tested positive. The SPCA also took one of the dogs with a paralyzed leg back to Virginia Beach where his leg could be amputated on Saturday.

But then – Blue Needle Alert:

Veterinarian Thomas Mitchell doing relief work for PETA told us seven of the 13 dogs had poor body condition, and that the scars and scabs are consistent with dogfighting.

PETA’s involvement in any way, shape or form with a dogfighting case is bad news.  PETA’s stance on saving bust dogs is exactly in line with the record of the HSUS – that is, all must die.

Since the shelter appears to be in need of resources, now might be a good time for a Pitbull and/or Rottweiler rescue group to get involved and offer assistance.  It would be a good way to help the dogs and establish a relationship with local authorities in case the dogs become property of the county.

Letters, faxes and phone calls requesting the dogs receive individual evaluations by someone experienced with rescuing and rehoming bust dogs (NOT the HSUS or PETA obviously) – be polite, be respectful:

County Attorney

Phillip P. Godwin, Jr.

Godwin & Godwin Attorneys at Law

110 Court Street

Gatesville, NC 27938

(252) 357-0438

Sheriff Edward E. Webb
202 Court Street
P.O. Box 154
Gatesville, NC 27938
Phone: (252) 357-0210
Fax: (252) 357-4131

Gates County Board of Commissioners

Henry Jordan, Chairman

Sunbury District

21 Cooper Road

Sunbury, NC 27979

Phone: 465-8161

Wade H. Askew, Commissioner

Eure District

216 White Oak Road

Eure, NC 27935

(252) 357-0992

Graham L. Twine, Jr., Commissioner

Hobbsville District

1428 Carters Rd.
Hobbsville, NC 27946

(252) 221-8378

Kenneth Jernigan, Vice Chairman

Gates District

387 Gatlington Road

Gates, NC 27937

(252) 357-1007

E. Carlton Nickens, Commissioner

Gatesville District

95 NC 37 South

Gatesville, NC 27938

(252) 357-0313

Nathan Winograd Stays on Point as HSUS Flails

This is one of those Winograd posts where I’m tempted to quote the whole thing but I will limit myself to some snippets:

In response to public outcry over their support and participation in the Wilkes County Massacre, in which the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) first championed and then defended the mass slaughter of over 150 dogs and puppies, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS issued an interim new policy of favoring temperament testing of individual dogs seized in dog-fighting cases, and called for “a meeting of leading animal welfare organizations concerning dogs victimized by dog fighting.” That meeting has been called for April in Las Vegas. If history is any guide, there is little reason to celebrate as of yet.

To begin with, HSUS did not adopt a policy that all dogs will be temperament tested to determine if they are aggressive, only that they will recommend that they be, a policy which can be ignored. Second, there has been no discussion over what type of test will be used and how outcomes will be determined, a major flaw in the temperament testing process used by many shelters. Third, there is reason to believe that the outcome in Wilkes County would not have been any different even if this policy were already in place.

Yes, yes, yes.  What he said.  And:

And finally, is such a meeting really necessary? If Pacelle was willing to stand up for what’s right, rather than to defend his clearly wrong colleagues, he would not need the symposium. He would know what HSUS policy needs to be and he would ensure that it is followed.

I’m just a dog loving, pajama blogging, rabble rousing schmuck.  But even I don’t need no stinkin’ meeting to figger out that every shelter dog deserves a fair evaluation.  So why does a national fundraising group of “experts” like the HSUS need one?  If’n you don’t know what the right thing to do is, you ain’t gonna be learned it in a Las Vegas hotel is what Ima thinkin’.  

Bright Light in a Dark Place

Best Friends has a post up about Shelia Carlisle, one of the volunteers who cared for the Wilkes Co dogs.  She and her fellow vols did the best they could for those dogs, knowing there was little chance they’d be allowed to live, even if they survived the terrible conditions at the “undisclosed location” (warehouse) where they were hidden away.  Shelia gives us a glimpse into those conditions, the individual personalities of the dogs and the heartbreak of having them all killed:

The dogs were taken to an undisclosed location at the beginning of December and held for months as evidence in a warehouse. 

During this time dozens of puppies were born and Shelia and her colleagues helped care for all the dogs including the precious pups.
[...]

From the diseases spread from being in cramped, damp and dark accommodations to the fact that they were pit bulls from a known dog fighting breeder; the chances were slim that any of the animals would ever be able to live a happy life with a family that loved them. This reality did not deter Shelia and the others from their mission of giving them the love and support that they deserved.

[...]

It was a daunting task, as puppies were being born, they were quickly getting sick and some were dying even though they had the care of three different veterinarians. Shelia and three other people worked diligently to get the puppies as much individual attention and nurturing as possible . They were taking puppies to foster homes, while the other dogs at the warehouse were not allowed to leave the building. The dogs were not going outside – so much of the day consisted of cleaning and changing bedding and arranging the dog kennels to help alleviate as much stress as possible. 

“The protocol for handling the puppies was extremely inadequate: there was almost no natural light, no whelping boxes, and it was cold and damp. We had kerosene space heaters, but they would run out of fuel in the middle of the night. We were doing everything we could to make them comfortable, but it was so hard. We were cleaning constantly.”
[...]

There was Angel, a favorite of one of the hired handlers/security staff. Angel would sit with her paws up and rest her chin on them. She was so well behaved, she was just a sweet dog. 

As Shelia recounted the individual personalities of the dogs she started to choke up. The individual dogs have touched her heart in a way that the authorities never took the time to understand. 

“Once they learned to trust us they quickly came around, it was obvious these were good dogs. You could pick up a young dog or puppy and he would put his paws around your neck and would love to be held and hugged.”

[...]

“Knowing now that pit bull dogs are seized from dog fighters only with the intention of killing those dogs without even giving a single one of them a chance, sickens me.” Shelia sadly related. “The dogs are the victims and should be saved…not doomed.”

Doomed by the HSUS, to be precise.  Thank you to Shelia and the other volunteers who offered the dogs comfort amidst the misery.  The HSUS succeeded in their effort to have all the dogs, including 19 puppies still nursing from their dams, killed but they could not kill the integrity of compassionate volunteers who care about dogs.  There’s more of us than there are of them.  HSUS and its barbaric Pitbull policy of seize and destroy is not representative of the attitudes and beliefs of real dog lovers in this country.  We are the true humane society and we want every bust dog to receive a fair evaluation by a qualified individual – obviously that would exclude any involvement from the HSUS, who have gone on record repeatedly, and as recently as last week, stating that all bust dogs must die.  The HSUS has way too much Pitbull blood on their hands at this point to be considered part of the solution to the problem they created.  Time to get out of the way HSUS and allow our humane society to help Pitbulls in need. 

H/T to EmilyS for the link about Ms. Carlisle.

Update on Vick

One of Michael Vick’s homes is to be auctioned on March 10, as part of his bankruptcy proceedings. I guess he wants his finances all tidied up before he starts getting the paychecks with all the zeroes again:

Vick is scheduled to be released from federal custody July 20.

The suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback has said in court papers that he expects to resume his NFL career after his release.

There is already lots of buzz over who might be the lucky team to snatch Vick up:

San Francisco coach Mike Singletary said Vick deserves the chance to play in the league, and believes he will be successful if he returns.

The Minnesota Vikings are reportedly interested in Vick as well. Vick may be transferred to a halfway house in Newport News, VA any day now.

As for the multi-million dollar home on the auction block:

Funari Realty, the company marketing the property, described it in an Internet listing as a “stunning custom home with priceless lake views.” It features a majestic, two-story foyer with a double curved staircase. Other amenities include an in-home theater, a workout room with sauna, an elevator, a full bar, two outdoor fireplaces and a four-car garage.

No word on whether Vick had built a stunning, custom dog killing area on the property.

Recognition in Wilkes Co Case

In recognition of some who were involved in the Wilkes Co case…

PAWS DOWN:

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

John Goodwin, the manager of animal-fighting issues for The Humane Society of the United States, said yesterday that a judge will decide the fate of the dogs later. The Humane Society worked for three years on the investigation, in cooperation with Wilkes County Animal Control and the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office.

[...]

Goodwin said that the dogs have been bred for fighting and it would very difficult and expensive to re-train the dogs, even the puppies, so that they could be adopted.

You can learn more about Goodwin at Blue Dog State but he is not one of the HSUS peeps who testified at the hearing to decide the Wilkes Co dogs’ fate. He did respond to inquiries from folks who were upset at the killings.

Winston-Salem Journal:

Wilson ordered the dogs destroyed yesterday after hearing from a prosecutor, the attorney for Wilkes County government, Wilkes County’s animal-control director and two representatives from The Humane Society of the U.S., who all called for the dogs be euthanized.

Amanda Arrington, N.C. director for The Humane Society of the U.S., and Chris Schindler, the agency’s deputy manager of animal-fighting law enforcement, both told the judge that these particular dogs have been bred for aggression. [emphasis added]

I wanted to check out the expertise these folks had on evaluating seized Pitbulls. I picked up a few bits of info from the HSUS, first on background:

Amanda Arrington is the North Carolina state director of The Humane Society United States. Prior to joining The HSUS in May 2008 she was an office manager.

Then a quote from Amanda Arrington:

“I am committed to making a difference for the animals.”

So in summary, in case you blinked, the first HSUS “expert” to explain to the judge why 146 dogs, including pups still nursing from their dams, needed to die joined the HSUS 10 months ago after leaving her office manager job. Congratulations, you have made “a difference for the animals”.

The HSUS on Chris Schindler:

Besides arresting illegal animal fighters and rescuing animals from cruel deaths in the fighting ring, Chris gained valuable insight into the motivations and mentality of dogfighters.

Apparently the phrase “rescuing animals from cruel deaths” means something different to HSUS than it does to me. Because killing unevaluated dogs, including puppies still nursing from their dams, which is what Schindler recommended to the judge, doesn’t seem like “rescuing” to me. Further, the HSUS contends that Schindler has insight into dogfighters – I’ll take them at their word on that one. But what about the dogs? Any valuable insight on the dogs about which he was providing the recommendation in court? Does kill-them-all fall under the “valuable insight” category?

Schindler teaches a course for law enforcement, animal control, etc on cruelty investigations. For a $50 – $75 fee, attendees can learn, among other things, about dogfighting cases and the “disposition of seized animals”. I assume that chapter is pretty short: K-I-L-L.


PAWS UP:

Sheila Carlisle of Morganton said she has been helping to care for the grown pit bulls and many puppies, and that the dogs are adorable.

“I’ve fallen in love with them,” she said. “I don’t want to cause anybody any problems with the court system, but I want these dogs saved.”

I have no idea if this person is a shelter volunteer or what – all I know is, I’m thankful these dogs had her to care for them in their final days in this world. Thank you.

And thank you to the rescue groups who tried to intervene on behalf of the dogs, including Best Friends.

And last but absolutely not least, thank you to all my fellow pajama bloggers who continue to shine a light on this dark secret of the “Humane” Society of the U.S. It’s because of you folks that I do believe we are a humane society and we can affect change for the better.

Dare Co, NC Moves Forward on Proposing BSL

Dare County initially had one set of problems, now they are compounding those by advancing the idea of breed specific legislation:

[Dare County Attorney Bobby] Outten said he is also looking into two types of breed-specific ordinances that have passed legal muster elsewhere. One would allow people to own dog breeds such as pit bulls only under certain restrictions; the other would outright ban them.

The proposals will be presented to the Board of Commissioners, probably at an April meeting, Outten said, and if the board decides to move forward on either one, a public hearing will be scheduled.

Adding insult to injury, the director of the Dare County Animal Shelter Denise Lambiotte is alerting the media to the myth(s) that wouldn’t die!

Any dog left unmanaged can be dangerous, Lambiotte said.

“It’s just that pits can do so much more damage,” she said.

Pit bulls have powerful jaws that can lock when biting, and they are bred to attack, she said. Although they can be gentle to toddlers, the high-pitched voices of children and their sudden movements can set off pit bulls’ predatory instincts, she said.

I look forward to Ms Lambiotte’s presentation of the previously unknown, groundbreaking science to substantiate these claims. (She will be asked to substantiate these claims, right? I mean, the Board isn’t just going to take a “Because I said so” on those claims, will they?)

Contact info – be polite, be respectful in your opposition to BSL:

County of Dare
PO Box 1000
Manteo NC 27954
(252) 475-5000

Dare Co Board of Commissioners e-mail contacts

Dare Co Attorney Bobby Outten: outten@co.dare.nc.us

Fat Cats at MSPCA Live On – Other Cats, Not So Much

The Boston Globe reports that the MSPCA may be cutting costs in the wrong areas:

As the nonprofit Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals prepares to close three animal shelters in reaction to a 25 percent loss in its endowment, advocates for animals are questioning the pay packages of the society’s top administrators.
Four of the top five officials at the MSPCA make more than $200,000 annually, according to the organization’s latest tax-exempt filing.
[...]
On Feb. 5, the MSPCA announced the closure of shelters in Brockton, Martha’s Vineyard, and Springfield by the end of September and will downsize several programs and departments at its Boston office. MSPCA spokesman Brian Adams said a total of 46 positions would be eliminated. The three shelters slated to close cared for 11,000 animals last year. Four other MSPCA shelters, located in Boston, Methuen, on Cape Cod, and Nantucket, will remain open. Adams declined to reveal the annual operating budgets of any of the shelters.

Oh by all means, don’t reveal any information not required by law. Follow the golden (parachute) rule: When confronted, hide.

Mr. Adams added this tidbit of justification:

“We have to attract the right talent, and we have to remain competitive. We can’t remain competitive by asking people to work for free.”

By gosh by golly, if only there could be some sort of compromise to be found somewhere between a $200k annual paycheck and working “for free”. I hope science and technology someday advances us to the point where we could figure out that conundrum.

In the meantime, I’d like to point out that in fact, many animal lovers do “work for free” at animal shelters all over this country. They’re called volunteers. I’m not saying shelters shouldn’t pay staff, but I do think it’s past time for many shelters to think outside the box. The days of ignoring the economic climate and maintaining the status quo are over. It’s 2009, join us.

Treats on the Internets

Causes and Action Alerts:

Best Friends is asking NC residents to contact lawmakers and urge them to redraft the state’s ‘Dangerous Dog’ law.

B-More Bulldogs posts about a letter writing campaign to the HSUS regarding their Pitbull ‘seize and destroy’ policy

Online auction to benefit the massive English Shepherd rescue in Montana (bidding closes tonight!)

Rare Wildlife Showing Up Unannounced:

“Extinct” bird has picture taken then gets eaten in the Philippines

Jaguar captured, collared and released in AZ

Sneezes:

Monkey and Panda (each sold separately)

Pitbull Hero Helps Save 11 People

In MA this week:

A dog is being credited with helping to save eleven people in Southbridge from a fire in a multi-family home. Firefighters say the dog woke up the people living there. Sadly the heroic dog didn’t make it out alive.

The fire broke out early Wednesday morning. An eleven month old Pitbull named Chaos helped save 11 people from the the building.

Fire crews from five different towns battled the blaze for 90 minutes before they put it out. Family and friends are hailing Chaos the dog as a hero.

If you are a MA resident, please contact your state House representative in support of S2624 which will prohibit breed specific legislation in the state.

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