I recently came across this article about a CT shelter director, Fred Acker of the SPCA of CT, who has a long standing relationship with the shelter in Anderson Co, SC. He pulls dogs from Anderson Co and drives them to New England for large scale adoption events where he sells them for $325 each. The shelter advisory committee in Anderson Co has raised some concerns about Mr. Acker:
Acker was charged in 2005 with 84 counts of animal abuse relating to a now-defunct rescue he operated under a different name, according to Connecticut court records. All the charges were dismissed, however, except one for not vaccinating one dog, according to the records.
That does seem odd although we see things like this happen somewhat regularly with regard to cruelty charges. It would be difficult to draw any conclusions from that case.
A court judgment of several hundred thousand dollars also was issued against Acker in a 1999 case not related to animal welfare[...]
I checked into that case. According to the NY Times, Mr. Acker was president of a now-defunct asset search company:
The company is accused of impersonating consumers, requesting financial data from their banks, then selling that information to credit agencies. As a result, many people’s credit records were tainted, according to the lawsuit.
The Times article relates the story of a whistleblower who felt he was being harassed by Mr. Acker in retaliation for his cooperation with the state in the case. The details are rather seedy. Still, it’s not pet related.
Back to the Anderson article:
[A] disturbing the peace charge is pending against him in relation to an incident in June of this year, said officer Edward Risko of the Monroe Police Department animal care and control unit in Connecticut.
I checked that case too. Reportedly a NJ couple “told police he shoved the wife and yelled insults at them when they decided not to take one of his dogs.” From that same article:
In 2005, he pleaded guilty to cruelty to animals and received a suspended sentence. Two years ago, he was arrested after a police officer said he spotted Acker straddling a woman in the parking lot of a local restaurant, repeatedly punching her in the face.
Charged with second-degree assault, the case was later dropped after the victim said Acker was just trying to keep her from driving drunk.
Straddling drunks in the parking lot and punching them in the face is the new taking their keys? I guess? Not sure what to make of that one.
There are a number of personal accounts people have posted online (racist language warning) about negative experiences they’ve had in attempting to adopt from Mr. Acker. Of course, there are two sides to every story and in response to this account from a denied applicant, Mr. Acker posted a comment stating, among other things, that the “character of the neighborhood” in which the applicants lived did not meet with his approval. That does sound kind of snooty, I have to say. I mean, we have a modest home but it’s across the street from what most people would assume is a condemned property. I still think we’re good dog owners though, whatever someone else’s view of the character of our neighborhood might be.
I’ve written many times about my support for moving shelter pets to locations where they will be more readily adopted so I wanted to see specifically what Mr. Acker had to say about that:
“There’s a huge surplus in the South,” Acker said. “The answer is humane relocation.”
Acker said that for the last two years the group has put on the Shelter Pet Expo, people from surrounding states like Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire have driven into Connecticut and waited in line to see the dogs.
“These are quality adopters,” Acker said.
Acker said the primary reason there are fewer animals in New England Shelters is cultural differences. More people spay and neuter their pets and far fewer animals are allowed to roam on their own and reproduce.
“The irresponsibility factor is substantially lower,” Acker said.
Um, ouch. We have “quality adopters” here in the South too. And while I would agree that far more low/no cost spay-neuter clinics and humane education services are needed than what we have at present, it doesn’t mean we’re irresponsible. We have lower incomes. We need greater access to services. But we love our pets.
From the same article:
“If you’re looking for puppies in a municipal shelter [in the Northeast], you can’t do it,” Acker said. “By the same token, there are families looking for puppies for their kids.”
Acker said many shelters in Connecticut are occupied by older dogs or breeds like pit bulls that are not popular with families.
“Primarily they’re full of dogs that are considered less adoptable,” Acker said.
But isn’t that a challenge faced by every shelter director – to make less adoptable dogs more adoptable? Isn’t our goal to save every life, not just the highly adoptable ones?
A rescue source provided me with the following shelter pet numbers from the CT Department of Agriculture:
The latest numbers (for fiscal year 2009-2010) haven’t been tallied yet. So I asked for the previous two years of information:
For fiscal year ended June 30, 2008:
- 20,160 animals were impounded in municipal pounds in Conn.
- 2,332 were euthanized, the remainder were redeemed by their owners, adopted, or pulled by shelters for adoption.
For FY ended June 30, 2009:
- 19,791 were impounded in municipal pounds
- 2,549 were euthanized. The remainder were redeemed by their owners, adopted, or pulled by shelters.
I have no way of knowing if the roughly 2500 pets killed every year in CT shelters are all medically hopeless and suffering, nor do I know how many, if any, of them are “older dogs” or “Pitbulls” or “less adoptable” types. But I’d like to find out. Anyone with anything to add on those stats?
On balance, Mr. Acker and his group have their supporters. For example, Best Friends appealed for volunteers to assist at one of his $325-per-dog adoption events earlier this year:
At present, Anderson Co is putting the brakes on allowing additional shelter pet transfers by Mr. Acker while they “look into Acker’s record”. I’ll be interested to see what they ultimately decide.