How Did We Get Here?

How would it be if Joe Smith took 100 dogs a day to his local vet for killing?  I bet there would be questions, not the least of which would include the issue of why so many healthy/treatable pets should be killed.  Maybe he would explain that people kept bringing him dogs and cats – strays, pets no longer able to be cared for, litters of puppies and kittens, etc – and that he put a giant sign out by his mailbox saying “Pets Available Here” but that very few adopters came by relative to the number of pets dropped off.  He is just one person and can’t possibly care for all these pets and apparently no one else wants them either so what else is there to do but round them up each day and take them to the vet’s office for killing.

The vet might realize this is a community issue and it’s not right that this man should be expected to bear the burden alone.  The vet goes to the next meeting of county officials and explains what’s happening.  The county agrees this is a community matter and decides it would be appropriate to use county taxpayer money to help this guy out.  They figure with adequate funding, they could pay an on-site veterinarian and staff to support the man in caring for all these pets, build indoor/outdoor housing for the animals, and buy food, cleaning supplies, medicine and other necessities.

Since the county will be using taxpayer money to fund this effort, they know they’ll need to explain how it will benefit the community.  Otherwise, nobody is going to support it and without strong community support, the project is unlikely to succeed.  It is the public who will be relied upon to adopt, foster and network online to get all these pets into homes.

So the county explains to the public that their tax dollars are needed to prevent friendly pets from being needlessly killed.  They explain that Joe Smith can’t do it alone – nor should he be expected to.  No one wants healthy/treatable pets to die when there are enough homes for all of them – maybe not immediately, maybe not all in the county – but the homes are there and with the community’s support, all the pets can be cared for until a permanent home is found for each of them.  This will be their shelter.

The pet loving members of the community step up and begin to make donations, volunteer to help care for the pets, foster and network online.  Mr. Smith and his staff have been given enforcement duties as well in order to investigate claims of abuse.  Things seem to be going along smoothly.  The public has really embraced their shelter.  The future looks promising.  But everything is not as it seems.

At the next county meeting, a shelter volunteer speaks up.  He says the first thing Joe Smith did when he got the new facility and funding was to institutionalize the killing.  He hired a vet to kill the pets in-house which he said would save taxpayers money over him having to truck them out to a clinic every day for killing.  And he turns a blind eye to his staff abusing the pets in the shelter so long as they don’t leave any evidence behind.  The staff member whose job it was to vet and coordinate with rescues had her job eliminated after she addressed her concerns about the shelter to Mr. Smith.  He notified everyone of the “good news” in an e-mail titled “Additional savings in our budget”.  A volunteer offered to do the same work so that pets could get out to rescues but Mr. Smith refused and told that volunteer his services were no longer needed.

After hearing all this, the community is seriously concerned.  They begin demanding answers from county officials.  If these allegations are true, the people have been betrayed.  This is supposed to be their shelter.  The idea that the community’s pets are not only still being needlessly killed but also abused is outrageous.  And taxpayers are funding it all.

But the county sees things differently.  They reassure the public that Joe Smith and his staff will investigate the abuse claims being made against them.  They explain to people that the killing of pets is necessary because the public is irresponsible and uncaring and contributes to pet overpopulation.  People need to understand that pet killing is not an easy job and they should be grateful to Joe Smith and his staff for performing this unpleasant task.  Finally, they remind taxpayers of all the savings Joe Smith has managed to produce within his budget.

Some people are confused.  How could the shelter staff possibly investigate themselves for cruelty?  Does that even make sense?  Others feel bad for questioning the shelter staff’s motives when they hear how difficult it is for them to kill so many pets every day.  Still others are quite pleased to hear about the budget savings and figure Joe Smith must be a pretty good guy after all.

For the few who are still asking questions, the county explains that the results of the cruelty investigation must be kept private, and that surely everyone can appreciate that.  Additional concerns may be addressed to the county public information officer.

So here we are.  This is your shelter.

Just a Thought

South Carolina:  York County’s AC supervisor vacated his post in March.  The AC unit has been without leadership ever since, although the county did indicate a desire to fill the position with a “people person” by the end of September.  At the end of November, they finally hired a former textile plant manager for the job:

Across from his office is a glass window framing another kennel. Inside are cats. On the glass is a sign that reads, “Our time is running out.”

Wouldn’t it send a great message to shelter staff and the public if the new supervisor walked in on his first day and yanked down that sign?  Maybe he could replace it with one that said “It’s time to adopt a sweet cat!”.

She’s less yappy in the bed.

The paw under the cheek slays me.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg AC & C Volunteer of the Year Nominee

I was recently contacted by Ms. Beatriz “Betty” Gale, a current volunteer at the CMPD-ACC shelter in NC.  Ms. Gale said she has volunteered there for about 2 and 1/2 years and has been nominated for Volunteer of the Year in addition to receiving other accolades from the shelter.  I tried to reach shelter director Mark Balestra regarding Ms. Gale’s story but have not heard back.  If I do, I will add a new post to reflect his comments.

Ms. Gale said she decided to come forward at this time because she feels it’s no longer possible to save any more animals from the shelter.  She says she has fostered a number of challenging pets who might otherwise be considered unadoptable but the shelter is now refusing to allow her to foster additional pets.  Further, Ms. Gale states she’s had many conversations with shelter management in an effort to effect change but “they have dismissed me”.  To which she quickly added, “But I can not dismiss the things I’ve seen”.

What follows is a summary of Ms. Gale’s allegations, sans any opinion or conjecture on my part.  I leave it up to you to decide if you find her credible.  Fair warning that some details may be too disturbing for sensitive readers.

CMPD-ACC kills healthy pets for reasons of “space” while cages sit empty.  As a volunteer, Ms. Gale is accustomed to seeing cage cards of friendly pets whom she considers adoptable with an “E” written on the reverse side of the card.  The “E” stands for Euthanasia.  When she has asked why healthy, friendly pets are being killed, she has been given various reasons.  Sometimes it’s something as simple as the color of the pet’s fur.  If there are more than one or two adoptable black and white cats, any additional black and white cats will be killed because the shelter considers them “unadoptable”.  When Ms. Gale has asked if she could foster the “extra” black and white cats until such time as the shelter is willing to put them on the adoption floor, the shelter has refused.  “They’re inventory that can’t be moved” is what she’s been told.  “The public comes here expecting to see certain types of animals and this [so-called unadoptable pet] is not what the public wants to see” is another explanation she’s received.

In the past, Ms. Gale has been allowed to foster pets for the shelter and in some cases, has been asked to keep them for additional time.  She has always agreed to do so.  But now that’s changed and the shelter is not interested in having her foster pets.  Part of the reason for that is staff members don’t like the fact that her friend list on Facebook includes individuals who have spoken out against the shelter.  But mainly, the shelter leadership simply does not care about saving pets.  When someone speaks up about trying to save animals off the kill list, management will fire back, “Just do your damn job!” to discourage life saving efforts and encourage a focus on killing.

Ms. Gale has worked quite a bit in the shelter’s hold area where new arrivals are kept until they have been processed for intake.  The area is designed to be a brief holding location until pets can be weighed, vaccinated and receive initial health and temperament checks.  Ms. Gale wants to keep the amount of time intakes are housed in the hold area to a minimum because the longer the animals spend there, the increased likelihood that they will become frightened (and labeled as “unadoptable”) or sick.  The stainless steel cages house dogs, cats, raccoons, and possums – all within view of one another – so the potential for pets to become stressed is high and stressed animals can become ill or aggressive much more readily.  But while Ms. Gale has moved quickly to work through the list of animals in need of processing on any given day, the staff involved has told her to “slow down”.  The list often includes about a dozen animals which would be easy to get through and get moved out of the hold area within the day but because the staff are unduly slow in performing their duties, many animals are held over for much longer than necessary.

The temperament testing is performed without the dogs being walked prior – except for a brief potty break.  Ms. Gale has volunteered to walk the dogs before they are tested so that they can release some anxiety and perform more realistically on the test but the shelter has refused.

The shelter has a small kill room without sunlight and with questionable ventilation.  The door is left open and Ms. Gale has witnessed the killing of healthy, friendly pets through the open door on numerous occasions.  The pets on the kill list are not given a final walk so they may relieve themselves but instead are lined up and able to view what is taking place on the kill table.  Next to the kill table is a wheelbarrow and dead pets are tossed from the table into the wheelbarrow.  The dead pets are piled in the wheelbarrow until it’s full.  So the pet currently on the kill table may have watched other pets die before him and is likely looking at the wheelbarrow containing their lifeless bodies while he’s being killed.

Ms. Gale says there are two people on staff at the shelter who work hard to try and save pets by getting them out to rescues and such.  She holds them in high regard.

Added, 11-28-10:  Photos from the Lost Pets section of the CMPD-ACC website may corroborate some of Ms. Gale’s allegations about the holding ward and the presence of a wheelbarrow at the shelter.

I’m assuming the Lost Pets photos are taken in the holding ward.  If not, I’m sure someone will correct the assumption.  The bank of cages visible behind this ferret would allow different species of animals to view one another, just as Ms. Gale described.  (Unless this is a ferrets-only holding ward?)

In the background of the photo of this cat is what appears to be a wheelbarrow with a cloth loosely draped atop it.

The photo of this little dog on a choke pole also shows what appears to be part of a cloth draped wheelbarrow in the background.  Another dog on a choke pole with a cloth draped wheelbarrow visible in the shot.

Black Friday

Well I certainly hope we are not going to become THAT HOUSE where people take unwanted pets (we don’t get any funding from the county, yo) but someone on our street drove up with a little black puppy for us today because she was stray and they didn’t want her to get hurt and weren’t sure what to do with her.  She is petrified and piddling but extremely cute with a little foxy face.  She appears to be healthy and I would guess she’s about 6 weeks old.

As we already have Linus who needs to be separated from some of the pack (due to aggression) and Randi who is being isolated (due to recent surgery), I had to improvise for an area for foxypup.  I x-penned off a large area with papers, blankie and food but so far she hasn’t moved from the place we sat her down.  Petrified.  And piddling.

I wish I had some spare vaccines and puppy wormer on hand but I don’t.  These things never happen at times of convenience doncha know.  I’ve got an e-mail in to APL to see if/when they might have an opening.  In the meantime, we’ll try to convey to foxypup that human beings and other dogs are not as horrible as she might think.  And I’ll be praying the neighbors don’t come back tomorrow with 5 more like her.

Happy Thanksgiving

One kid who knows what she is thankful for today.

This 4 year old was out walking with her family in MA when a fox ran up to her and grabbed her by the pants leg.  The family Basset Hound and Pitbull chased away the fox and, typical for their breeds, the hound stayed on the fox’s trail while the Pitbull went back to check on the little girl.  Nobody was injured in the attack.  The fox reportedly tried to attack some other people as well and was acting strangely so police killed him.

NC Shelter Photos: Abuse or Just Poor Judgment?

I have read numerous online statements from Charlotte-Mecklenburg AC & C employees and supporters denying there was any abuse indicated in the shameful photos posted on Facebook.  “No animals were harmed” seems to be a common sentiment as well as “If this is abuse then everyone who dresses up their pets in Halloween costumes is guilty of abuse too”.

I would like to clarify my opinion on the matter:  These photos indicate abuse.  Comparing them to photos of pets in costumes is a false equivalency.  Just because the cat didn’t have the knife stuck through his leg does not mean “no animals were harmed”.  The fact that at least some folks at this shelter and those defending the photos can not see that this is abuse is perhaps indicative of a larger problem, I don’t know.

Let me put it this way:  I think we can all agree that dressing up your kid in a Halloween costume – even one that some might consider “inappropriate” in some way – and taking a photo is not abuse.  But say your kid’s been missing for a week, you are frantically searching for him, hoping he hasn’t met some untoward end when you find out a good Samaritan picked him up off the street and brought him to the city homeless shelter.  Then you find out that while at the homeless shelter, the staff dressed him up in an inappropriate costume, took pictures of him and posted them online with “funny” captions.  How’s that grab ya?

You would probably complain that you, as a taxpayer, pay these people’s salaries to protect and serve members of the community in need – not “play dress-up” with them for laughs.  You would want to know what right do these workers have to use the homeless people in the shelter in such an inappropriate manner and whether they realize all of these people could be – now or at some point past or future – loved by a family member or friend.  You’d be appalled to think that the people you are paying to provide care for those most in need don’t seem to appreciate that the homeless have value and a right to life, respect and care.  You’d demand accountability from your city officials.  You’d go to the media, write letters – do whatever was necessary to effect change at this place.

Now imagine how you’d feel if these same homeless shelter workers who posed your kid for inappropriate photos and posted them online turned around and said YOU were the problem.  That YOU were making a big fuss over nothing.  Sure, maybe they showed poor judgment but hell, he’s just a kid and it’s not like they burnt him with cigarettes or anything.  Your kid was not harmed and people dress their children up in dumb costumes all the time so what’s the big deal?  Why don’t YOU stop being such a pain in the ass and just shut up already?

Get it?

These cats were not living in someone’s home, being well cared for and loved, and having a costume put on them for some funny photos.  They were, in fact, homeless cats who may have been someone’s beloved pets at some time and/or perhaps would be in future.  These cats had no voice to protest, no means of escape and were completely reliant upon the city shelter staff to protect them from harm and take care of them until their owners could be found or until they were adopted by new owners.  If they were feral, they should have been neutered, ear tipped, and returned to their managed colonies.  Under no circumstances should they have been posed for inappropriate photos and killed.  But that’s exactly what local taxpayers paid the staff at CMPD-ACC to do:

Cats shown in controversial pictures taken at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control facility in west Charlotte were euthanized, but it’s unclear whether that was before or after the pictures were taken.

[...]

In an e-mail to Channel 9, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department spokesperson said “the cats were deemed unhandleable and unadoptable and were euthanized after a required holding period of 72 hours.”

Who deemed them unadoptable – the clever photographers or the people still defending the photos?  And are those the same people who killed them?

Abuse.

Get it now?

___________________

Added:  Local news station spoke with a shelter employee today who said if you’ve ever put your pet in a Halloween costume you’ve done the same thing as the people who sedated shelter cats, posed them for pictures and killed them.  She also produced a ferret and said the hair loss in the photos was “natural”.

More Media Coverage on Abuse at NC Shelter

Whistleblower Lisa Easton and local animal advocate Samantha Laine are both interviewed in this piece (video).  Ms. Easton had to do a phone interview as she was unavailable for an on-camera interview due to her volunteer work.  Dang volunteer types – always volunteerin’!

Coverage in The Charlotte Observer.

A piece in a Cleveland Co paper.

This story has been updated to include a survey asking readers’ opinions on what action should be taken with regard to the shelter employees.

UPDATED: Sign Petition for Change at NC Shelter

Demand accountability and transparency from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control in NC.  Tell the community leaders that business-as-usual at the shelter is not acceptable.  We want change.

Thank you Stephanie Feldstein for helping spread awareness on the abuse at CMPD-ACC.

Update, November 23:  There has been some action on the abuse at the shelter.  Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon contacted me about the matter and advised he has requested “swift action”.  In response to the e-mails generated by the change.org petition, city officials are asking for answers and the police chief issued a memo regarding the situation yesterday with a formal response still to come.  The local news reported on the latest developments last night.

Let’s keep the petition going and getting e-mails sent to ensure there is follow through and not just a stop-filling-up-our-inboxes memo.  Sign if you haven’t already and share with your animal loving friends.  We’re making a difference!

Not So Puzzling

The Muncie Animal Shelter in IN refuses to accept owner surrendered dogs, is open fewer hours than a bank, and kills more than half of the pets they do accept.  Intake numbers have dropped dramatically this year since implementing the no-owner-surrenders policy:

Numbers for this year (through October) compared to 2009

Incoming animals
2009 — 3,490
2010 — 1,593

[Shelter director Bob] Jessee admits he’s somewhat puzzled by the downturn in the number of animals moving through his shelter. In the first 10 months of this year, 1,593 dogs, cats and other animals were taken in by the shelter.

At this rate, the shelter’s 2010 total will be half the 3,490 taken in during all of 2009.

Jessee guesses that the city’s decision to stop accepting owner-surrendered animals accounted for the absence of a few hundred animals.

Somewhat puzzled.  Well gee, while the taxpayer funded shelter won’t take owner surrenders and their intake numbers are half what they were last year, an area rescue group called ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) reports their intake numbers have almost doubled:

ARF has accepted 1,320 animals so far this year, up from 743 at this time last year.”We are the ones picking up the slack,” [director Phil] Peckinpaugh said as ARF’s phone line rang in the background.

ARF relies on donations and adoption fees for their funding.  Does that seem fair to any of the two or four legged residents of Muncie?

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