Charlotte-Mecklenburg AC & C Volunteer of the Year Nominee
November 26, 2010
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.