Manatee Co Shelter Employee Alleges Dog Ripped Pants

Kayla Lippert, a potential adopter, her 2 year old son and a volunteer were having a meet and greet with a dog called Happy Feet in the fenced play yard at Manatee Co Animal Services in FL on Monday when things went sour.  A shelter employee, who had left the play yard to obtain information for Ms. Lippert, returned and apparently spooked the dog:

“As soon as the dog saw (the employee), his whole demeanor changed. He went into defense mode,” Lippert said. “The dog went to his feet, and the gentleman kicked him. He picked up a chair and waved it at the dog while me and my son were watching.”

The employee says Happy Feet bit his pants, tearing the fabric at the knee, and the kicking and chair waving was done in self-defense. Ms. Lippert says she saw no biting or ripped pants:

“I never saw the dog bite him,” Lippert said. “I saw the dog near his feet, but I never saw a bite. The volunteer was standing on bench asking: ‘Why are you kicking him? Stop kicking him!’ He kept saying, ‘He’s attacking me, he’s attacking me.’”

Manatee Co Animal Services will investigate itself in the matter. Regardless of the results of that investigation, circumstances are decidedly sadder for Happy Feet today.  He’s sitting in the thug quarantine section of the shelter with a sign on his cage indicating he bit a person and is not allowed to have walks.  He’ll be held there for 10 days and evaluated.  The shelter director says Happy Feet may not be put back on the adoption floor but does not elaborate on what would happen to the dog in that case.

This photo was taken by Ms. Lippert in the play yard before the alleged pants incident:

Happy Feet, as depicted on the Herald-Tribune website.

Happy Feet, as depicted on the Herald-Tribune website.

Hopefully this isn’t the last time Happy Feet ever sees the sun.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Lubbock Pound Oops-Kills Microchipped Pet After Turning Owner Away Twice

Rahzz, as shown on the WFSA website.

Rahzz, as shown on the WFSA website.

When Damon Hughes’ 6 year old microchipped cat named Rahzz went missing, he visited the Lubbock, TX pound to look for her.  He found her sitting in a cage last Friday.  No one from the pound had scanned her for a chip and notified him she was there.  Missed opportunity number one.

It turns out, a neighbor had trapped Rahzz and turned her in to the pound.  Mr. Hughes reassured his pet:

I looked down and told her, ‘Alright, sweetheart, I’ll be right back. I’ll come get you, I’ll be right back.'”

But when he told the pound staff he’d found his pet and wanted to take her home, workers refused, telling him he needed to bring in her vet records from home.  Oh and the pound would be closed for the weekend so he had to wait until Monday.  Missed opportunity number two.

Mr. Hughes returned for Rahzz on Monday but pound workers again turned him away, citing the need for a booster on the cat’s rabies vaccine.  He was told to come back Tuesday and by then, the pound would have given Rahzz the vaccine.  Missed opportunity number three.

That night, he and his family prepared for her homecoming, getting new cat food, a litter box and new bed.

When Mr. Hughes went back to the pound on Tuesday, he was forced to wait for an agonizing hour while staff searched for his pet.  He feared the worst.  And he was right.

After another hour, a supervisor told Mr. Hughes that despite Rahzz being microchipped and her records being marked as having an owner wanting to redeem her, staff had killed her after she was placed in a cage marked for killing during routine cleaning.  Oops.

“There were three steps that they were supposed to follow,” Hughes said, “as far as making sure this pet doesn’t belong to anybody before we actually euthanize it, and none of that was done and he couldn’t give me an exact reason why it didn’t happen. He just pretty much told me that they dropped the ball.”

And straight out of the oops-kill playbook, the supervisor offered Mr. Hughes a free replacement cat, if he wanted one.  Hey, a cat’s a cat, amirite?

The mandatory final chip scan that should have been done in the kill room prior to injection represents missed opportunity number four, for anyone keeping track.

Shelter supervisor Shawn Bird told a local reporter:

Something like this hasn’t happened in a very long time.

First off, once is one time too many.  No credit for your 16 Days Without an Oops-Kill sign on the wall.  Secondly, how do you know?  It’s clear that in the case of Rahzz, no one was doing their jobs – not the intake staffer who didn’t scan for the chip and contact the owner, not the multiple staffers who turned the owner away, not the worker who put Rahzz into a cage marked for killing, and not the kill techs who also failed to scan her.  So if no one at the Lubbock pound is doing their jobs, how do you know you aren’t killing owned pets every goddamn day of the week?  You don’t know what you don’t know.

The Lubbock pound had 4 opportunities to return Rahzz to her family who wanted her.  They couldn’t be bothered to put forth the minuscule amount of effort it would have taken for them to take any of these opportunities.  Instead, they killed her.

Mr. Hughes says he made up a story for his child as to why Rahzz wasn’t coming him so he didn’t have to explain the horrors of a pet killing facility and its lazy staff to a 4 year old.  He also says a city official called him after he went public with his story and told him there would be changes implemented at the pound.  Unless those changes include an immediate directive to stop killing healthy/treatable animals – and I doubt they do – it won’t be enough.  There is a culture of killing at the pound and it’s obviously infected the staff to the point where killing friendly pets is blasé.

The Lubbock pound staff had a man who had come to them to get his cat when they should have been the ones contacting him.  He stood right in front of them and asked to take his family member home, twice,  but they refused because of paperwork when they could have simply given him his pet and dealt with the rabies shot issue later.  Obviously no one in the kill room at the Lubbock pound batted an eye when a healthy cat was placed in front of them for killing.  They didn’t even bother performing the final scan for a chip because hey – living cat, dead cat – what’s the diff?

Fire all their lazy asses and get people in there willing to do their jobs, Lubbock.  Anything less is unacceptable.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me this story.)

Grand Jury Findings in Mendocino Co, CA Shelter Investigation

A recent investigation by the Mendocino Co grand jury into the county shelter in Ukiah, CA revealed some troubling findings:

  • Owners attempting to surrender pets at the shelter are regularly turned away, in violation of CA law.
  • The shelter is overcrowded and overflow animals are kept in crates.  Some animals have lived at the shelter for more than a year.
  • The shelter is infested with rats.
  • There is a contentious relationship between shelter staff and ACOs, each falling under separate departments.  The ACOs feel the staff doesn’t want them bringing animals to the facility.  As a result, ACOs tend to work with animal abusers over extended periods of time rather than seize their animals.

Additional grand jury findings:

  • Some veterinarians refuse to work with ACOs because they don’t believe the ACOs seize abused animals in a timely manner and the abusers are not barred from immediately obtaining more animals.
  • ACOs in the field do not have access to the computer system containing licensing information and therefore must use their personal cell phones to call shelter staff when they pick up stray animals.  Because cell service is spotty and the staff only answer the phones some of the time, the ACOs don’t bother trying to get the information they need to return lost pets in the field.  These animals are all brought to the overcrowded, rat infested shelter.

Although it’s stated in the Mendocino Co ACO manual that they are required to maintain confidentiality in their duties, the grand jury found ACOs were telling animal abusers the names of people who complained about them.  As a result, many tipsters and their children were harassed in retaliation.

The grand jury made a number of recommendations including placing ACOs and shelter staff under the same department, training for shelter management, third party inspections at the shelter on a quarterly basis, annual ethics training for ACOs, computer access in the ACO vehicles, and the development of protocols for handling abuse cases.  The Mendocino Co shelter manager, the county sheriff, and the county board of supervisors are just some of the people required to respond to the grand jury findings.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Roswell Mayor Bans NM Rescue Groups in Response to Dog Attack

A 9 year old boy suffered bruising and scratches after 3 loose dogs attacked him on his family’s property in Roswell, NM last week.  He scrambled on top of a gate to stay clear of the dogs until his father, a city police detective, arrived with a gun and began shooting the dogs, killing one and wounding a second who was later euthanized.  The third dog was taken to the Roswell pound and will be killed for rabies testing.

The 3 dogs reportedly escaped from a local rescue called Doggy Saviors which pulls dogs from the Roswell pound.  The rescue surrendered another 15 dogs back to the pound after the attack.  Those dogs have reportedly been sent to a rescue group in CO.  In a statement on Roswell mayor Dennis Kintigh’s Facebook page, he indicates that all NM rescue groups are currently barred from saving animals at the pound:

On my direction the Roswell Animal Shelter has suspended releasing any animals to a local “animal rescue” organization until investigations have been completed regarding the attack on the 9 year old. The dogs involved in that attacked were reportedly “rescued” from the Roswell Animal Shelter by a local group. That group may have failed to provide appropriate care and supervision to these dogs.

Once the criminal investigation by the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and the Administrative investigation by the City of Roswell have been completed, the policy and procedures for releasing animals to local organizations will be reviewed and amended where needed. Until that time the only groups which will be allowed to receive dogs will be those who will remove the animals from our state.

While the incident which occurred with the loose dogs is tragic, there is no reasonable basis for barring every rescuer in the state from saving animals at the pound.  The mayor alleges that Doggy Saviors “may have failed to provide appropriate care and supervision” and that there is an investigation being conducted.  There are no allegations of possible wrongdoing by any other NM rescue groups.  In the absence of any evidence suggesting otherwise, it appears the mayor is reacting in an extreme manner to an incident involving the son of one of his police officers.  Furthermore, barring all in-state rescues will result in increased killing at the Roswell pound.

Presumably the mayor is basing his decision on the notion that the public will be safer if no dogs at the Roswell pound are allowed to live unless transported out of state.  But in order for this assertion to be true, there would have to be evidence that dogs at the Roswell pound represent a public safety threat and that evidence simply does not exist.  If it did, the mayor would be acting irresponsibly by ordering these dogs to be shipped out of state.

By reacting in this extreme manner, the mayor is conveying the message that all NM rescuers are too irresponsible to have dogs and that all dogs, including puppies, at the Roswell pound are dangerous and must either be killed or sent to live in other states where they can not threaten his constituents.  The mayor’s reckless response to the incident not only insults rescue groups but also smears shelter dogs as damaged goods, thereby discouraging potential adopters.  The cycle of harm created by the mayor’s thoughtless action in this case will reverberate over time.

Shelters Must Be Prepared to Help Surrendered Animals Even When Forms Aren’t Completed in Triplicate

Animal advocates have been hearing for years from people who kill animals at shelters that the public is irresponsible, that pet owners are animal dumpers and that death is better for many pets than being adopted out to a home.  We know all those things to be false, obviously.  But among too many shelter workers, there persists a judgmental attitude toward anyone surrendering a pet.  The notion that the surrendering party is trying to do right by the animal by taking him to a place with the words ANIMAL SHELTER on the sign is lost on those who insist on branding these people as trash.

The truth is, no one at an animal shelter knows for sure why a pet is being surrendered.  The surrendering party may relate circumstances regarding the pet that are fabricated, for example.  This might be attributable to the person’s unwillingness to explain his personal circumstances (terminal illness, eviction, domestic abuse, etc.) to a stranger.  The surrendering party may be unable to relate the true circumstances regarding the pet due to mental illness  (e.g. someone who suffers from delusions).  Sometimes people surrendering pets make up stories that they believe will prevent the staff from immediately killing the animal (e.g. claiming an owned pet to be a stray and therefore subject to a mandatory holding period).  The bottom line is that pets can not speak and the person speaking for them may or may not be relating the full and complete history associated with the animal.  Shelter staff absolutely must take this into account when accepting animals.

Beyond this, and regardless of any shelter worker’s personal feelings, staff members must do their jobs.  That is, when you hang out a shingle that says ANIMAL SHELTER and someone brings you an animal in need of shelter, do it.  It would be ideal if every surrendering party complied with all your requests such as scheduling an appointment, completing a surrender form and providing the pet’s vet records.  But in real life, that’s not always going to happen.  Be prepared for it.  Expect it.  Handle it.  Above all, take the animal that is in front of your face.  That animal may be lost, stolen, abused, sick or simply homeless – you don’t know for certain.  The only thing that is 100% verifiable is that someone has brought you the pet and told you there is no one to provide care for him.  Do your job.  Take that animal and shelter him while things get sorted.

Tragically, too many shelters stand on ceremony when it comes to accepting pets being surrendered.  If the surrendering party does not comply with one or more of the required protocols, the shelter attempts to refuse service – a service the staff is being paid by the public to provide.  This leaves the animal completely unprotected, which is the opposite of what the shelter is there to do.

Dog chasing vehicle after failed surrender at Denver Animal Shelter, as shown on TheDenverChannel.com.

Dog chasing vehicle after failed surrender at Denver Animal Shelter, as shown on TheDenverChannel.com.

Last week, a man tried to surrender a dog at the Denver Animal Shelter in CO.  He declined to complete the surrender form and presumably some sort of confrontation occurred, resulting in the man running from the lobby to his vehicle.  He tried to leave the dog in the lobby but the dog got outside and chased after the man’s car.  Witnesses say the man ran over the dog before picking him up.  When the man returned later that day and again attempted to surrender the dog, the shelter staff apparently insisted on the completion of the surrender form which caused a problem and resulted in the man running to his vehicle and the dog chasing after him.  Again.

The Denver Animal Shelter staff appears to have been unprepared to help the dog the first time the man attempted to surrender him.  That’s failure number one.  But for the staff to intentionally initiate a repeat of the failure when the man brought the dog back is positively outrageous.  At that point, the staff knew the dog was in need and knew the man did not want to fill out the form.  Failing to protect the dog a second time after witnessing the disastrous results of their first failure is unacceptable.

It is currently unknown whether the dog is alive.  The man told a local news reporter that he drove to Los Angeles and abandoned the dog on the street.  That’s one of his stories anyway.  Who knows what really happened to the dog?  The only thing we know for sure is that the staff at the Denver Animal Shelter did not help the pet when he was in need – which was their job – twice.  But staff did do one thing – they issued a citation to the man for cruelty and neglect.  He is due in court on July 2.  Yay animal “shelter”.

(Thanks Davyd for the link.)

 

Chicago Pound Oops-Kills One Dog, Chokepoles Another to Death

Chance, as pictured on the Chicago Sun-Times website.

Chance, as pictured on the Chicago Sun-Times website.

The long troubled Chicago pound is again in the news – and not in the Good News column.  An article in the Chicago Sun-Times states that Chance, a stray dog at the pound who was slated for rescue, was killed because “a city employee neglected to put the dog on a do-not-kill list.”   Oops.

Pro tip:  If you are an animal shelter, ALL THE ANIMALS are on the do-not-kill list.

In addition, another pound employee recently strangled a dog to death on a chokepole as he was being impounded.  The pound’s director adds in the usual element of mystery in explaining away the dog’s killing:

Sandra Alfred, executive director of Animal Care, said “we don’t know exactly how” that dog died but added that “the staff could have acted more appropriately than they did.”

The dog could have had terminal cancer and his time on this earth happened to expire at the moment he was being strangled at the pound. That totally could have happened.

The employee who strangled the dog could receive a “severe” suspension of 20 days or more. Possibly. Unless, you know, cancer.

A donor committed to giving $2 million to the Chicago pound for renovations complained to city officials after Chance’s oops-killing.  Maybe that will get the attention of someone who makes policy at the pound.  Because obviously needless pet torture and killing won’t.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

IL Pound Uses Holding Period as an Excuse to Extend Dog’s Suffering

Dear Animal Shelters,

1.  Don’t kill our pets.

2.  Don’t leave our sick or injured pets to suffer without veterinary care.

Sincerely, 

Everyone

Pets impounded at shelters are either lost, in which case their owners want them back, or they are in need of a home, in which case the shelter should release them to an adopter or a rescue group so that can happen.  Since it is unknown which category strays fall under at the time of impound, the shelter staff should get to work right away to determine that.  Check the pet for an ID tag and scan him for a microchip.  If either is found, start making calls to find the owner.  Photograph the pet and post him online.  Check the shelter’s lost pet list along with the local lost pet listings online and in the newspaper.  Shelter the animal for at least the mandatory holding period so that his owner can reclaim him.

Concurrently, get the pet checked out by a veterinarian.  Determine if he is in need of treatment.  If the need for veterinary care is urgent – that is, if it would cause the pet to suffer pain or other harm by not receiving treatment during the holding period – treat the pet.  Continue looking for the owner while the pet is receiving the needed vet care.  If the shelter refuses to provide care for stray pets, issue an immediate plea to the public for a foster or rescuer to provide the urgent vet care during the holding period while the owner is being sought by the shelter.  Obtain the urgent vet care – do not allow the pet to suffer simply because the shelter has not yet determined if the pet will be reunited with an existing owner or adopted to a new one.

This is so not hard.  Not killing impounded strays while simultaneously looking for a possible owner and obtaining vet care is an actual thing that is being done by hundreds of open admission no kill shelters all around the country.  Yet many pet killing facilities view these actions as contradictory in nature.  Owned cats are killed during the holding period for being elderly,  for exhibiting normal behavior after being trapped, and because some people get a thrill out of killing friendly kittens.  Owned dogs are killed during the holding period because staff allowed them to get into a fight with another dog, for being elderly, and because someone in the police department decides to play vet.

To make matters worse, so-called animal advocacy groups such as HSUS and Maddie’s Fund are actively encouraging shelters to not hold unidentified cats so their owners can find them but to instead give them to strangers as fast as they can get them out the door.  When did stray pets become the disfigured stepchild we need to keep chained in the attic?

In Granite City, IL last weekend, AC impounded a seriously injured dog as a stray.  Instead of looking for the owner while getting him the vet care he needed, AC apparently did nothing but toss him in a cage.  The dog’s hip was dislocated and his leg was missing bone and tendons.  Volunteers and rescuers advocated for the dog, offering to take him to a vet for desperately needed treatment of his injuries.  But AC refused all offers, citing the mandatory holding period as an excuse to extend the dog’s suffering for days.  Rescuers ultimately did the pound staff’s job for them and located the owner, who opted to surrender the dog due to an inability to pay for care.

Local pet lovers raised hell over the pound’s mistreatment of the dog, who is now receiving care at a local vet clinic.  In response, the mayor advised AC that in future, pound staff should not sling suffering pets into cages and leave them there for days simply because there is a holding period but instead should contact rescue groups so that urgent vet care can be obtained.

Just so we’re clear:  The mayor had to tell AC not to leave stray pets in pain for days on end and explain that the words “holding period” and “urgent vet care” are not impossible to reconcile.  If I am this mayor, I’m wondering what the hell else needs to be explained to the staff at the pound.

Holding periods are supposed to be a protective measure to prevent families from being torn apart.  They aren’t supposed to be eliminated because shelter directors won’t do their jobs.  They aren’t supposed to be used against us with egregious violations in the form of killings or an excuse to force an injured pet to suffer.  Shelter directors don’t get to punish the public by hurting our lost pets.  It’s obvious what holding periods are for and it has to do with protecting the human-animal bond, not using them as a weapon.

The dog who suffered at the hands of Granite City AC may lose his leg as a result.  But yeah, we all want the same thing and don’t be negative and blah.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

 

FL Pound Kills 16 Dogs in Response to Parvo Outbreak, Cites ASPCA Guidelines

Last Monday, Lake County commissioners “began investigating the deaths of several puppies which appear not to have received the proper vaccinations before they were cleared for adoption” at the pound.  On Tuesday, one dog, followed by several more at the Lake Co pound, reportedly began exhibiting parvo-like symptoms.  On Wednesday, the county veterinarian recommended shutting down the facility – dog adoptions and intakes were both halted.  That night, asymptomatic dogs were given booster vaccinations.  By Thursday, cat adoptions had also been suspended.  Somewhere in there, 16 symptomatic dogs were killed.  I have found no publicly available information indicating any dog was ever tested for parvo or diagnosed by a veterinarian.

The county claims that all animals are vaccinated upon intake but given the current investigation, that appears to be questionable.  When asked why the 16 dogs did not receive supportive care, Brian Sheahan, Lake Co community safety and compliance director, offered 2 justifications for the killings:  treatment is “extraordinarily expensive” (not necessarily) and the county is “following the ASPCA guidelines” regarding parvo.  That second thing appears to be accurate, tragically.

The ASPCA recommendations for shelters which have one dog diagnosed with parvo are the same for those with more than one dog diagnosed:

Dogs that are owned by the shelter but not strong adoption candidates are immediately euthanized.

As for the definition of “not strong adoption candidates” – it’s anything goes.  And if that’s not broad enough for you, the ASPCA gives additional leeway:

Dogs and puppies diagnosed with CPV may be euthanized for the following reasons:

1) No space at veterinary clinic to treat
2) Not adoption candidate
3) Failure to improve with treatment (defined by shelter veterinary discretion)
4) Parvo in addition to other illness

It’s disappointing to see that the ASPCA is not only providing cover for the needless killing of shelter pets but hasn’t updated its guidelines to reflect lifesaving as a priority for shelters dealing with parvo.  Diagnosis of disease is never a license to kill pets.  Decisions must be made on an individual basis utilizing the prognosis for each animal provided by a veterinarian.  It’s unclear if testing even occurred at Lake Co, let alone obtaining a prognosis for each individual dog from a vet.

Lake Co is no stranger to failure.  The public has long been critical of the needless pet killing at the facility.  The current director, on the job for just months, is quitting.  The county manager stated last week that he would request an audit of the pound’s intake and vaccination protocols.  Wow, you really want to go that far?  Color me underwhelmed.

Apparently the county politicians are only interested in scraping the tip of the iceberg then applying a band-aid to the pound’s image.  I hope the public will continue to demand meaningful reform at the Lake Co pound, including the implementation of the proven programs of the No Kill Equation.  Continued killing while hiding behind the skirts of the ASPCA is not going to cut it.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me this story.)

Fitchburg Animal Control Kills Owned Pet During Holding Period

Capone, as pictured on the WHDH website.

Capone, as pictured on the WHDH website.

On April 20, 2014, MA pet owner Maghan Moynihan says her family’s 2 year old dog Capone escaped through an open door while not wearing his collar.  She immediately got in her car, searching for him on every street in the area.  She also called Fitchburg ACO Sue Kowaleski, with whom she had established a relationship due to Capone’s previous escapes, to advise that he was lost.

Ms. Moynihan says she didn’t receive a return phone call from the ACO until Tuesday morning.  Oddly, the ACO was calling to ask her if Capone had ever been aggressive.  Ms. Moynihan said that Capone had absolutely never displayed any aggression and that she trusted the gentle pet with her children, ages 4 and 8.  Odder still, the ACO showed up at the Moynihan family’s home a few hours later.  This time, the ACO requested Ms. Moynihan and her partner drive down to the pound to identify a stray dog whom the pound had killed for aggression recently. That dog was Capone:

“It was horrible. He was freezing cold. He was on a table. They had a blanket over him. They pulled it down to show us the face. We all lost it in there.”

Ms. Moynihan was heartbroken and wants to know what happened but the pound has provided very little information to date. It is known that Capone got into a building on the day he escaped where a Good Samaritan held onto him until AC arrived. The Good Sam, who was with Capone most of the day, described the dog as being friendly to him and his girlfriend, growling only at their dog and at the ACO who impounded him with a chokepole.

Regarding the circumstances that resulted in Capone’s quick killing:

Amy Egeland, the part-time manager of the Fitchburg Animal Shelter, also said she is unable to comment because of the investigation. The shelter is mostly staffed by volunteers, including Carol Stacy who said Capone was a vicious, aggressive dog that indirectly caused Egeland to be injured and was a known problem animal in another city.
[...]

Stacy said Capone was aggressive and tried to escape his cage in front of Egeland and visiting certified animal experts who train and evaluate the visitors. Stacy said Capone got halfway out of his cage and attacked another dog, which became agitated and attacked Egeland.

So it was the other dog, not Capone, who injured the shelter manager.  But Capone, having bitten no person, is the one who had to be killed?

He was a problem in another city? Does the city of Fitchburg play the Telephone Game in order to determine which pets they want to kill?

Fitchburg staff and/or vols failed to keep Capone properly confined at the pound and allowed him to get into a fight with another dog they had irresponsibly placed directly in front of his cage. Then they killed him, effectively destroying the evidence of any wrongdoing.

“It wasn’t that sweet little dog people are making it out to be,” said Stacy.

This is how the Fitchburg vols talk about family pets who were killed during the holding period? Just eww.

The city now claims that ACO Kowaleski was sick on the day Capone escaped and did not receive Ms. Moynihan’s message. Though ACO Kowaleski was apparently available to talk on the phone to Ms. Stacy regarding Capone:

She said Kowaleski was notified of what happened but did not see Capone. Kowaleski authorized [Assistant ACO Michael] East to euthanize the animal, Stacy said.

The city of Fitchburg’s website gives ACO Kowaleski’s phone number as the solitary contact for owners to report lost pets.  There are no other contact names or numbers.  The opening sentence on the pound’s Petfinder page reads:

Fitchburg Animal Shelter holds all stray dogs for 7 days.

I keep going back to that initial phone call to the owner by the ACO on Tuesday morning, asking if Capone was aggressive. Does this whole thing not reek of cover-up?

The city of Fitchburg still has not provided Ms. Moynihan with answers regarding why Capone was killed during the holding period. The city police department is investigating the city AC department in the matter. Ms. Moynihan wants the person who authorized Capone’s killing to be fired. And she wants people to know that her pet was family to her:

“He loved playing with other dogs, he loved playing with the kids. He was just like my son. Just another kid.”

Fitchburg taxpayers, this is your animal “shelter”. Demand that the city staff start doing their jobs to shelter animals and hold lost pets so their owners can reclaim them. Maybe if the city starts doing its job instead of killing owned pets, the pound might attract more compassionate volunteers, which would also be a plus.

(Thanks Clarice and Bonnie for sending me this story.)

A Betrayal of Trust in Fort Worth

Sid , as pictured on the CBS website

Sid, as pictured on the CBS website

A complaint reportedly filed with the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners by pet owners Jamie and Marian Harris alleges the following:

  • In May 2013, the Harris family brought their 175 pound dog Sid to the Camp Bowie Animal Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas for treatment of an anal gland problem.
  • Veterinarian Lou Tierce performed a “cold laser” procedure on the 5 year old dog.
  • Sid’s health did not appear to improve in the months following the procedure.
  • In September 2013, Sid was hospitalized and Jamie Harris went to the clinic to visit him.  Sid dragged himself across the lobby to see him, unable to use his hindquarters.  The vet advised Sid was experiencing a reaction to medication and more significantly, that he was suffering from an “irreparable” congenital defect in his spine and should be euthanized.
  • The family consented to the euthanasia and said goodbye to Sid, with the understanding that Dr. Tierce would perform the euthanasia and dispose of the remains after the family left the clinic.
  • On April 21, 2014, the family received a phone call from a woman who identified herself as Mary Brewer, a technician at the clinic.  The woman told the Harrises that Sid was still alive and had been living “almost 24 hours a day in a cage, littered with his own feces and urine, and that he had been injured by another employee” in the months since the family had consented to the euthanasia.  The technician said she had not spoken up sooner about Sid because she feared for her job and needed the paycheck it provided.  She quit her job the day she called the Harrises.
  • Jamie and Marian Harris drove to the clinic, leaving one friend to guard the front door and another to keep watch at the back exit.  The husband distracted the receptionist while the wife sneaked into the back.  She found Sid in a cage, released him, and he walked outside with her with no apparent lameness.
  • Dr. Tierce followed them outside and explained he did not euthanize Sid because some of his employees threatened to quit if he did.

Sid was immediately taken to a vet who examined him and reportedly told the Harrises it appears that Sid had been repeatedly used for blood draws, possibly for transfusions or plasma treatments for other dogs.  A second vet reportedly confirmed the finding and an MRI determined that Sid has no congenital spine defect.

The Harrises filed complaints with the police and the state veterinary board.  On Tuesday, police and officers from the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners raided Dr. Tierce’s clinic.  Animal control seized two dogs as evidence.  

Dr. Tierce was arrested on Wednesday on a cruelty to animals warrant and later released on bail.  He told reporters gathered in his clinic lobby that the accusations are “a bunch of hooey” and blamed a disgruntled employee who sought revenge.  And in case neither of those really good explanations seems believable, he offered up a hero card:

“The lady wanted me to euthanize their dog, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

The Harrises have retained an attorney in the matter:

The family’s attorney, James Eggleston, wrote in a letter: “Dr. Tierce has harvested organs of other pets and, according to a former employee, has kept one dog alive almost five years harvesting blood/plasma.”

Other clients who believed their pets had died or been euthanized at the clinic are now seeking verification that their beliefs are true.

The state veterinary board is planning to meet on an emergency basis regarding the case and the county health department is reportedly involved due to the filthy conditions found at the clinic.

The implications of the case are many but the heart of the matter centers around the human-animal bond and the difficult decision to end the suffering of a medically hopeless pet upon advice from a veterinarian.  Pets are family.  When they are sick, we try to help them get better.  We trust our veterinarians to guide us in our efforts.  And when that vet tells us there is no more hope and that it would be kinder to end our family member’s pain than to force them to suffer, we cry.  We don’t want to admit that all hope is lost but we are not veterinary doctors and must have faith that our vets are advising us truthfully.

In this case, that trust was betrayed and in an especially cruel manner.  Sid was not medically hopeless and suffering as the vet had allegedly advised his family.  Euthanasia was not required.  To tell the family otherwise was cruel.  Being a dog, Sid likely grieved for the family who did not return for him as he sat in his cage for months on end.  For a veterinarian to intentionally inflict that kind of emotional pain upon a dog is cruel.  A dog of Sid’s size can not live in a cage without experiencing physical pain.  Keeping him confined was cruel.  And if the only time he experienced human interaction was when he was repeatedly stuck with needles and used as a blood donor, that is cruel.

It’s important to note that this egregious betrayal of trust in Fort Worth did not happen in a vacuum.  The community looks to its publicly funded animal “shelter” to be a leader in protecting animals from abuse and shielding the human-animal bond from those who would betray it.  The Fort Worth shelter director and staff have a civic duty to lead by example.

But the Fort Worth pound designs its policies and procedures around needlessly killing the pets it’s supposed to be sheltering.  And they even have a handy visual aid on the website to illustrate their chronic incompetence which results in the needless killing of healthy/treatable animals.  In short, the Fort Worth pound is an institution based on betraying the trust of the community.  And now they are in charge of the “evidence” in a betrayal of trust case that happened in their community.  Whatever the outcome of the case, I hope the two seized dogs remain safe and that the pound did not use their impoundment as an excuse to kill two other dogs to “make space”.

(Thank you Arlene, Clarice and Davyd for sending me links on this story.)

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