Denver Police Threaten a Good Samaritan While Dog Suffers and Dies

A 14 year old mixed breed dog named Harley ran out a door accidentally left open by his kids last week.  His family began searching for him by putting up fliers around the neighborhood and online.  Unbeknownst to owner Dani Juras, Harley had been hit by a car just 2 blocks from home that night.  Ross Knapp, a compassionate resident who lived near the scene of the accident, brought water out to Harley, who was severely injured, and stayed by his side to comfort him while waiting for help to arrive.

Instead, the Denver police arrived and told Mr. Knapp he could not comfort Harley or take him to a vet for treatment.  Mr. Knapp tried repeatedly to get back to Harley’s side as he lay gasping for breath in the street but the police threatened to arrest him if he did not leave.  Denver police contacted the on-call ACO and stood guard over the suffering pet for more than an hour, preventing anyone from assisting.  Harley finally died shortly before the ACO arrived.

Screengrab from the ABC 7 website depicting Harley's owners meeting the Good Sam who tired to help him.

Screengrab from the ABC 7 website depicting Harley’s owners meeting the Good Sam who tired to help him.

The heartbroken owner would like to see the officers held accountable for their cruelty in some way.  One local pet advocate wrote to city council, asking that the city stagger its ACO shifts so there would be better coverage for community pets in need during evening hours.  Dozens of people attended a memorial for Harley last night.  But the police department has stood by the actions of its officers:

Denver Police said injured dogs are unpredictable and helping them puts both the animal and the person at risk.  Police posted a YouTube video in which a veterinarian and animal control officer explain why it’s best to wait for professionals to handle an injured animal.

While we can all agree that allowing a trained professional to handle an emergency situation sounds ideal, it’s not always practical in real life.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense to allow the Good Sam to transport the dog to a vet and free up the resources of the police department so they didn’t have to stand guard over a dying pet?  I mean, assuming Denver still has actual crime happening?

Harley’s right to live should have been protected.  Instead, he was left to suffer an agonizing death while the police threatened someone willing to try to save Harley’s life.  Trying to help an injured dog is not a crime.  If these officers are not needed in Denver to fight real crime, perhaps they should be laid off or at least transferred to the Threateners of Good Samaritans department, since Denver apparently sees such a need.

(Thanks Tonya for sending me this story.)

Main Line Animal Rescue Refuses to Return Lost Pet to Owners

Many people looking to add a pet to the family are open to the idea of getting one from a rescue group.  It’s got a built-in feel good that people enjoy.  And a satisfied customer is likely to refer friends and family in future.  In these ways, rescue groups have got a good thing going.  In fact, they would have to work hard in order to negate the positivity inherent in their work and turn it into disdain.

Unfortunately, there are too many rescue groups doing exactly that.  They discourage people from adopting by employing restrictive screening protocols, shut poor people out of the opportunity to rescue by selling pets for large amounts of money and/or sell lost pets whose owners want them back because the rescue deems the owners unworthy.  That’s a lot of effort to shoot oneself in the foot.  And it’s widely accepted that unsatisfied customers tell many more people about their bad experiences than satisfied customers.  Homeless pets continue to be homeless and so-called shelters continue to kill, citing the long debunked “not enough homes” reason for the killing.

When a PA family’s beagle accidentally escaped his home last week, the owners immediately began searching for him.  The Kreksteins left their contact information with both the police and the local SPCA.  Their dog Flash was microchipped and they were reassured that if any animal group scanned that chip, they would receive a phone call.  And they did – from Main Line Animal Rescue, the place where they’d adopted Flash two years ago. But it wasn’t about getting their dog back:

The Kreksteins say the organization’s executive director, Bill Smith, then sent them an email letting them know that Flash would not be returned to their care because the family violated the adoption agreement. The message said the family failed to call the animal rescue and notify them the dog was missing and said they were not properly caring for him.

The Kreksteins are understandably outraged. They love Flash and consider him a member of the family. And they want their family member back home with them. Main Line Animal Rescue is refusing to reunite Flash with his family because the owners have been deemed unworthy due to the failure to contact Main Line to advise Flash was lost.

Rob Krekstein says the family technically broke the adoption contract, but that he doesn’t consider his dog “a contract.”

“I didn’t rent the dog. The dog lives in my home. It’s a member of my family,” Rob Krekstein said.

Smith said The Kreksteins know what they agreed to when they signed the contract.

Apparently what they agreed to was to make a homeless pet a part of their family, to love and cherish him, and to allow Main Line Animal Rescue to abruptly tear their family apart if the group ever determined the contract hadn’t been followed to the letter, regardless of circumstances. Now everyone knows. If you adopt from Main Line Animal Rescue, don’t get too attached, don’t fall in love with the pet and definitely don’t consider him a member of your family because one mistake and Main Line will smash that bond to bits. Tell all your friends.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Town of Hempstead Kills Owned Pets, Owners File Lawsuit

Screengrab from the WABC website depicting Cici and Yankee

Screengrab from the WABC website depicting Cici and Yankee

Last month, 2 mixed breed dogs called Cici and Yankee escaped their yard and went for a run around the neighborhood in Long Island, NY.  Both were known by neighbors to be friendly and playful.  But apparently any loose animal that looks like a Pitbull type dog in Nassau Co warrants the summoning of the National Guard:

An incident in Lakeview involving Pit bulls three days prior caused  police to send multiple police officers including detectives and a police helicopter.

Nassau Co police responded to a report that Cici and Yankee were chasing kids and started shooting at the dogs, hitting Yankee.  The dogs ran home and the Town of Hempstead sent an ACO to the residence where police had gathered.  The owner, who is unable to read English, signed a form he was given by the ACO and the dogs were taken to the pound.

There are no reports indicating the dogs bit anyone, growled at anyone or even cast a stern glance in anyone’s general direction.

The family went to the pound the next day it was open to reclaim Cici and Yankee and were told both had already been killed.  The form the owner signed without understanding what it said due to the language barrier reportedly transferred ownership of the dogs to the Town of Hempstead to do with as the pound saw fit.  The family was apparently so shocked at this news that they went home and returned the next day, believing they must have been given the wrong information.  But they were again told their pets had been killed.

The Town of Hempstead, well known for its alleged abuse of shelter animals, offered this response to a reporter:

“We are confident that the police don’t throw their weapons and shoot at animals unless they present a danger to the public.”

Oh the Town of Hempstead is jokes.  If police shot at the dogs, they must be the spawn of Satan because police.

Cici and Yankee’s owners have filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead for killing their pets without due process.  The town is apparently rolling in dough.  I hope the owners get every penny and just maybe, some stuffed shirt mooching off taxpayers there will take notice and effect change.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

Karma Rescue in CA Sells Lost Pet While Ignoring Owner’s Pleas

When a CA family’s 8 month old puppy got lost last month, owner Rosa Torres began looking for her right away.  She visited her local shelter repeatedly but never saw her puppy, called Raffiki.

In fact, Raffiki had been found running loose and was taken to a neighboring shelter – not the one the owner kept searching.  An area group called Karma Rescue pulled Raffiki from that shelter and listed her online as an adoptable pet.  That’s how Ms. Torres found out where her puppy was.  The owner immediately tried to reach Karma Rescue by phone but had to leave a frantic message explaining she wanted to get her lost pet back.  She then went to the group’s website and filled out an adoption application for Raffiki.

“The application form says why do you want this particular dog. I said because she belongs to me,” Torres said. “I said we love her and we miss her and we want her back home with us.”

But no one from Karma Rescue got back to Ms. Torres.  Instead, they sold Raffiki for $300 to another owner.  In a statement to the L.A. Times, Karma Rescue said Ms. Torres’s application “did not meet the qualifications that Karma looks for when adopting a dog to a home.” The L.A. Times writer explains:

As someone who’s worked with animal rescue, let me translate that: Torres is young; she and her son live with her parents in a small rental home in a not-so-great part of town. Her dog wasn’t microchipped, spayed or wearing ID tags. If she couldn’t manage to find the dog in a week, she doesn’t deserve to get her back.

Worse:

“Had [Ms. Torres] been a little more diligent, we would have spoken with her,” acknowledged Karma Rescue’s lawyer Susan Willis.

Karma Rescue decided that Raffiki’s owner wasn’t even worth talking to, never mind considering the return of her family member to her.  Not everyone agreed with the decision:

“You’ve got groups that help people and their pets, through education and support, versus people who just focus on the animals and tend to demonize owners,” said Jessica Gary, who spent the last year volunteering with Karma Rescue and considered the group one of the city’s best.

She resigned last week because this case revealed an elitism that’s shocked and disappointed her.
[...]
“If they’d returned this dog to the original owner, this new family could have adopted another dog, one that might die in the shelter now because it doesn’t have a home.”

Affirmative.

As we’ve discussed numerous times on this blog, rescue groups have no right to act like they are the 1%, trickling down animals upon the unwashed masses as they see fit. Poor people love their pets too. If rescues are truly wanting to save as many lives as possible, returning a lost pet to an owner should be a no-brainer under normal circumstances. It’s a way to put another one in the WIN column while reallocating resources to save the next animal on the local pound’s kill list. Instead Karma Rescue appears to have been determined to break up Raffiki’s family, because they deemed Ms. Torres unworthy.

On its website, Karma Rescue claims that the human-animal bond is sacred and must be respected:

“Unfortunately, your pet does not have a voice,” the Karma Rescue website reminds pet owners considering giving up their pets. “He can’t tell you he would rather stay with the family he has known and loved all his life.”
“Dogs and cats … go through psychological torment when they lose their family. Your pet deserves to stay with the family he/she loves.”

Apparently Karma Rescue neglected to include a giant asterisk there.

The owner who bought Raffiki is refusing to return her and it’s unclear to me whether Karma Rescue would send her home to Ms. Torres even if the puppy was returned. Ms. Torres and her 4 year old son are heartbroken that their family member will not be coming home. And you can probably guess what Ms. Torres’s opinion of rescue groups is at this point:

“My image for a rescue was always kind people who wanted homes for animals that need rescuing,” she told me. “I was really in shock that they weren’t trying to help me get my dog back.”

Instead of putting one in the WIN column and saving another pet in Raffiki’s place, Karma Rescue has broken up a family and needlessly given other rescue groups a bad name. It’s not lost on me that the group chose the name Karma. In Buddhism, there is no one to deem you unworthy like this group did Ms. Torres, but bad karma must be worked off, no matter how many lifetimes it takes. They might want to get started on that now. Ending their discriminatory practices and focusing on lifesaving would be a step in the right direction.

(Thanks Anne and Davyd for sending me this story.)

Dog Who Never Should Have Been in Burlington Pound Gets Oops-Killed

When a friendly dog who’d apparently been shot with a paintball gun showed up at the home of the Lassiter family in Alamance Co, NC on January 6, they took him in from the winter rain.  He quickly settled in with the couple, their children and their other dog.  They tried to find his owner, if he had one, but didn’t have any luck by the time a neighbor called AC on the dog three days later.  Michelle Lassiter arrived home to find the dog she had named Si on the AC truck in her neighbor’s yard.  She explained the circumstances to the ACO and asked if she could have Si back but he refused, stating the dog had to go to the pound.

“If he would have given her the dog off the truck, then there’s no opportunity for the real owner to get the dog,” [Lt. Mike] Hoover [of the Alamance Co sheriff's department] said Friday.

The Lassiters say they tracked Si down at the pound but when they expressed a desire to adopt him if he went unclaimed, the staff treated them rudely. And then the bill started ballooning:

They originally were told they’d need to pay the standard $25 impound fee plus $5 for each additional day Si was held there. Then, when they’d prepared to spring him, employees told them Si couldn’t be released without documentation of his rabies shot or payment of a $50 fine.

The Lassiters were given an additional 3 days after the mandated holding period to meet the requirements placed upon them. Michelle Lassiter left her contact information with the pound, told them she wanted to adopt Si and specifically requested to be notified if they were going to kill him. She was prepared to come get Si, whom no owner had claimed, within the designated time period and called the pound again to make sure there would be no additional requirements. That’s when she was informed Si had been killed. Oops.

The Burlington pound investigated itself in the matter:

An internal investigation found that a shelter employee didn’t follow policies related to receiving and recording information about parties interested in animals held there, Burlington Animal Services Director Jessica Arias said Friday.

Each animal taken into the shelter has a file. An employee who spoke to Lassiter about the dog didn’t properly file her contact information. Arias said the issue is a personnel matter and was being dealt with “appropriately and swiftly.”

A personnel matter? Hardly. This is a systemic failure. The 2012 state report indicates the Burlington pound primarily functions as a pet killing facility where more than 70% of the animals impounded are killed:

Carnage in Alamance Co

Carnage in Alamance Co

It’s obvious that so many friendly pets are killed at the Burlington pound every day, no one there even bats an eye at the practice. This is not a personnel matter. Unless you want to argue that workers at the pound are not doing their jobs to shelter animals, in which case I’d be inclined to agree. But blaming the needless killing of a friendly dog who had a family waiting for him on a paperwork oops is a no sale.

If anyone at the Burlington pound is truly interested in doing their jobs, they could start by taking advantage of a foster offer to keep a dog out of their pet killing facility for the mandatory holding period.  The Lassiters could have kept Si at home for the holding period and the pound could have photographed him and posted his information at the pound and online in order to find an owner, if he had one.  Instead, they insisted on taking yet another dog into their pet slaughterhouse.  Next, the staff could start being polite to adopters.  Because nobody WANTS to kill animals, or so I’ve heard.  And how about looking for ways to get animals into homes instead of jerking people around on fines and vaccination records and assorted obstacles?  And finally, if they really want to start doing their jobs, they should stop killing animals.

The next time a Burlington pound employee sees a healthy/treatable pet in the kill room, he should recognize immediately that a mistake of epic proportions is occurring and take immediate action to protect the animal.  That’s what should happen, if employees at the Burlington pound were doing their jobs.  Tragically, killing friendly animals is something that happens thousands of times a year in Alamance Co and no one at the place appears to give a damn.

Merry Christmas!

Celebrating the human-animal bond with photos and captions submitted by readers:

Me with Shorty at home in Ashland City, TN.  Our special needs Pit Bull Bassett Hound boy from a litter dumped on  our road.   - Karen Josephson

Me with Shorty at home in Ashland City, TN. Our special needs Pit Bull/Bassett Hound boy from a litter dumped on
our road. – Karen Josephson

1/4/12 - Merlin napping with (and on!) me. Merlin is a cuddlebug who never misses an opportunity to cuddle, even if you're out cold and don't realize it. Picture thanks to hubby. - Carol in Alabama

1/4/12 – Merlin napping with (and on!) me. Merlin is a cuddlebug who never misses an
opportunity to cuddle, even if you’re out cold and don’t realize it. Picture thanks to hubby.
- Carol in Alabama

This is Mallymkin getting her first bath at her new home about two weeks ago.  She was seized, along with a pit bull puppy, from a bad situation by animal control.  The puppy was adopted, but Mally languished in the shelter.  Twelve years old, toothless, plagued with skin problems, her prospects were not good.  But when my husband, Frank, and I saw her photo on Facebook, we fell for her and fell hard.  We went to the shelter and adopted her the next day.  The thing is, as rough as her condition was and as rough the circumstances she came from apparently were, we could tell she was loved.  She knows how to cuddle and burrow under the covers for a snuggle.  She's sweet and tolerant and took no time at all to fit into our pack.  I feel sad for her former owners.  Maybe with a little help they could have kept her and made her life better.  I hope that somehow they know she made it out of the shelter and is safe and loved and adored by her new family.  - Denise Mulliken

This is Mallymkin getting her first bath at her new home about two weeks ago. She was seized, along with a pit bull puppy, from a bad situation by animal control. The puppy was adopted, but Mally languished in the shelter. Twelve years old, toothless, plagued with skin problems, her prospects were not good. But when my husband, Frank, and I saw her photo on Facebook, we fell for her and fell hard. We went to the shelter and adopted her the next day. – Denise Mulliken

My father and Chichi in TN. Chichi was a senior chihuahua at a high kill shelter. She is the light of my dad's life. She is celebrating her rescue with her party hat on.  - Andrea

My father and Chichi in TN. Chichi was a senior chihuahua at a high kill shelter. She is the light of my dad’s life. She is celebrating her rescue with her party hat on. – Andrea

Ten year old Billy Boy and rescuer, Lorie Beville, in emergency clinic.  Memphis, TN.  - Ona

Ten year old Billy Boy and rescuer, Lorie Beville, in emergency clinic. Memphis, TN. – Ona

Submitted by Karen F: Banana starts to express boredom at having her very own biped to ride.

Submitted by Karen F: Banana starts to express boredom at having her very own biped to ride.

This is a photo of me and Chloe. Chloe and her eight puppies were dumped at a high kill shelter in Merced, a rescue pleaded for a foster home and we offered ours. After the puppies were weaned and went on to their foster/forever homes we kept mom for some rest and rehab. We ended up falling in love with her and 'failed' at fostering : ) - Loran

This is a photo of me and Chloe. Chloe and her eight puppies were dumped at a high kill shelter in Merced, a rescue pleaded for a foster home and we offered ours. After the puppies were weaned and went on to their foster/forever homes we kept mom for some rest and rehab. We ended up falling in love with her and ‘failed’ at fostering : ) – Loran

"Sheldon" after 14 months in foster care with me, Dot Kirby, Yanceyville, NC.  This tiny 11th hour rescue has an adopter!  His new Mom will be flying from Canton,OH to NC to meet him for the very first time on Jan 8, 2014 and flying him back to his forever home.

“Sheldon” after 14 months in foster care with me, Dot Kirby, Yanceyville, NC. This tiny 11th hour rescue has an adopter! His new Mom will be flying from Canton,OH to NC to meet him for the very first time on Jan 8, 2014 and flying him back to his forever home.

"Dandy".. Very shy little JRT mix, another foster baby since Dec 30, 2012   She is still waiting for her forever home. - Dot Kirby, Yanceyville, NC

“Dandy” – Very shy little JRT mix, another foster baby since Dec 30, 2012. She is still waiting for her forever home. – Dot Kirby, Yanceyville, NC

Thank you to everyone who sent in photos for this post. It was a pleasure to put all these pictures together. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope everyone is having a happy day celebrating the bond we share with our four-pawed family members.

Lazy, Lying Kitten Killers at AL Pound Get Served

When a freshly bathed, neutered kitten called Porkchop accidentally got out the door of his owner’s apartment in January, he was found by an upstairs neighbor and taken to the Mobile Co pound in AL.  The pound killed the kitten within minutes of his arrival.  Now the owner has filed a lawsuit.

At issue is the pound’s failure to hold the cat for the mandatory five day stray holding period so that his owner could reclaim him.

The lawsuit names Mobile County and three employees, Andrew Stubbs, Carmelo Miranda and Donna Jones as defendants, claiming the employees violated a shelter policy placing a five-day hold on animals between the time they are received and when they are euthanized. There are a total of four counts including outrage, conversion, conspiracy and negligent supervision. Hughes is asking for a jury trial to consider compensatory and punitive damages.

“[The shelter] has a five-day stray hold policy for this very reason, if somebody lost a pet,” Barnard said. “It’s certainly not a 30-minute stray hold policy.”

Making a tragic situation worse, the pound staff attempted to cover up the unlawful killing when the owner came looking for her pet.  The staff eventually admitted they had killed Porkchop but later claimed he had been brought to the pound in a trap and was determined upon impound to be feral.

The owner’s attorney has obtained “a statement and pictures from the neighbor showing that the cat rode to the shelter in his lap and was acting like a normal, domesticated pet.”  The attorney contends that because Porkchop was admitted near the end of the day, the pound staff was too lazy to set up a cage for him so killed the pet instead.  Mobile Co is in the wrong here, in so many ways:

  • Killing healthy/treatable cats, whether tame or feral, is wrong.
  • Killing cats upon impound is wrong.
  • Evaluating cats’ behavior at time of impound is wrong.
  • Failing to hold a cat so the owner can find him is wrong.
  • Lying to the owner who is looking for her cat is wrong.
  • Fabricating a story about the cat being feral is wrong.

Anyone advocating for the removal of mandatory holding periods for stray cats lacking identification needs to remember Porkchop.  His owner was looking for him and wanted him back.  Had the staff at the Mobile Co pound done their jobs as required by law, Porkchop would be living at home today.  Presumably most AL shelters, though not Mobile Co obviously, abide by the law and hold unidentified stray cats so their owners can reclaim them.  If the stray holding period law were to be removed, there would be no legal protections in place to allow cats like Porkchop to be returned to their rightful owners.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Nobody WANTS to Kill Animals: Fox Valley Humane Edition

This friendly dog was killed by Fox Valley Humane Association even though an adopter was waiting.

This friendly dog was killed by Fox Valley Humane Association even though an adopter was waiting.

Appleton, WI – Betsy Quaintance and her daughter Allie found a very scared female Beagle wearing a collar but no tags on October 20, 2013. Once they gained the dog’s trust, she was very affectionate and appreciative of the food and love they gave her. The women suspected she was a lost pet and took her to the Fox Valley Humane Association in order to give the possible owner a chance to find her. There, the story took a tragic turn. Betsy writes:

We asked what the process was, and we were very clear that if the no one claimed her, or if they would want to put her to sleep, to please contact us, as we would be willing to adopt her if that happened. They instructed us to call back in a week. We called and stopped in at the end of the next week (as instructed). They said that she had not been claimed and gave us the adoption application. They then told us to go home and watch for her to show up on their website as an adoptable dog. Once that happened, we could bring the application back and pursue the adoption. We watched the site daily and did not see her, so on Monday 11/4, Allie called them to find out what was going on. She was told that the dog was food aggressive and had been put down.

I went to the FVHA the next afternoon and asked to meet with Liz, their new Executive Director. Liz did not have personal first hand knowledge, so she had to rely on what her staff have shared with her. The 7 days stray hold was up on Sunday 10/27. They completed her temperament test on Wed 10/30. They determined that she was “food aggressive to humans and dogs”. I was unsure what criteria is used to make that determination, so Liz shared that this would include bearing her teeth, growling, posturing or a combination of these actions. Once this determination was made, she was put to sleep that same day.

[...]

I reviewed our actions in pursuing her – and Liz did state that the staff that received her when we brought her in reported that we expressed an interest in adopting her if she was not claimed, or if she would be put down. I clarified that we also followed up when we directed to by the staff[.]

I’m guessing that Fox Valley Humane Association poked this dog in the face with a plastic hand on the end of a stick while she was eating and the dog got scared by such an absurd action. She showed her teeth or adopted a posture out of fright. And then they whisked her off to the kill room.

There has been a massive public outcry over the killing of this dog, who was never accused of biting or even nipping anyone and who had an adopter waiting. In response to the backlash from compassionate pet lovers, Fox Valley Humane Association posted a statement on its Facebook page this morning. It reads, in part:

During testing, after numerous attempts to acclimate Peanut to a typical meal-time routine, she continually demonstrated severe food aggression. In cases of manageable food aggression, FVHA seeks to correct any negative behaviors through multiple training techniques. Unfortunately Peanut’s aggression elevated to a dangerous level.

FVHA is extremely sensitive to cases in which humane euthanasia is deemed necessary for the best interest of the animal and the community. For the safety of Peanut and those who would provide care for her in the future, FVHA was faced with making the responsible decision to humanely euthanize her for all those involved.

Humane. They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.

My takeaway from their statement is, when the dog reacted normally to being poked in the face with the stupid plastic hand while eating, they kept poking and watched her fear escalate to the point where they felt satisfied that killing was the super right thing to do. They didn’t feel any obligation to inform the adopters they knew were waiting on the dog. Because posture. In one part of one test given once on one day. They didn’t feel any need to contact local rescue groups. Because humane.

Betsy tells me that several local TV stations will be telling this dog’s story tonight. I hope Fox Valley Humane Association has topped off its Bag o’ Lame Excuses for the media.

Thank you Betsy for trying to do right by this dog. I’m sorry for your loss. It seems like the so-called irresponsible public is getting burned by these so-called shelters all too often.

Instead of trying to find an excuse to kill pets people want to adopt, maybe Fox Valley Humane Association needs to put away its plastic hand on a stick and start doing its job to shelter animals. At the very least, couldn’t they stop killing pets they know have adopters waiting to take them home?

If anyone comes across any local news pieces on this dog, please post links in the comments.

Animal Services=Family Services

Pets are family.  Animal services=family services.  Or at least, that’s the way it should be.  But all too often, it seems that there is simply a one-size-fits-all approach for authorities dealing with animal situations in people’s homes.  If the residents are breeding pets for sale, they are labeled a puppy mill.  If they have a large number of pets, they are called hoarders.  And it so often plays out the same way:  the animals are seized and sent to pet killing facilities while the people are charged as criminals.

When it comes to human families, social services appears to take a more nuanced approach.  They recognize that even when the home environment is lacking, the parents still have both legal rights to, and deep emotional bonds with, their children.  Breaking up a family by removing kids from the home and placing them into a shabby state foster system is viewed as a last resort.  Social workers generally seem to be able to distinguish the obviously evil parents whose malnourished 5 year old is in a diaper and locked in a closet from those who love their children but need education, assistance and monitoring in order to do a better job as parents.  The former must be charged as criminals and their kids saved from further abuse.  The latter need to be provided with the tools and skills required to bring the home environment up to societal norms.

These same nuances are all at play when it comes to pets in the home.  If the care being provided to the pets is sub-standard, the cause should be investigated.  Is the owner physically and emotionally overwhelmed as caregiver to an elderly family member and acquiring more and more pets in an attempt to satisfy her own emotional needs?  Could the person take better care of a smaller number of animals who could be neutered so that no more unplanned litters were born in the home?  Or is the person beating the animals to death with hammers for laughs?  Obviously the latter requires immediate intervention to lock up the criminal abuser and save the animals.  The former situations, which I believe are indicative of the most common type of scenarios encountered by authorities – that is, someone who loves their animals but just isn’t doing a good enough job caring for them – dictate a more subtle approach.

Tragically, we rarely seem to hear about these cases being handled with any degree of subtlety.  If you aren’t taking proper care of your animals, you’re deemed a bad guy.  You get charged as a criminal and your pets are seized to either be killed at a pound or to displace others who get killed to free up cage space.

After a nightmare experience with authorities, these folks get more animals, because the fact that they love pets was never addressed as it should have been.  But in future, they go underground.  They don’t license their pets or take them to a vet for rabies vaccines.  When they recognize they are in need of help in caring for their pets, they don’t ask for it for fear of being criminally charged and having their animals seized again.  Clearly everyone is a loser in these scenarios and communities are made less safe because of the actions of authorities.

It’s past time animal control and police officers stopped viewing problem pet situations as something less than problem family situations.  They are one and the same and require a nuanced approach.  Most pet owners, like most parents, love their family members and want to do right by them.  Authorities should help them.  Save the criminal charges and seizures for the minority of pet owners and parents who are intentionally hurting their family members.  Just because a pet is involved does not mean it’s necessary to throw the book at the owner.  Animal control and police officers need to exercise the same degree of discretion with pet situations that they do with children and their parents.  Pets are family.

Bringing Up from the Comments

The point I was trying to make with my Jokes R Us post the other day was that shelter pets have value to people who love them, whether those people pay an adoption fee or not. Obviously a few people missed the point but it’s so important and one I’ve tried to make repeatedly on the blog. Thankfully, we have some great commenters here who are pretty good with words – much better than my singing. So I’m bringing up this exchange for everyone to read:

mikken / October 10, 2013

You know, people who value animals see their intrinsic value. People who don’t…no amount of money is going to help them see the intrinsic value. I’m sure Michael Vick paid lots of money for his dogs, wanting only “the best”. And we all know how much he valued them.

Just because an animal was free, doesn’t mean it’s not loved as part of the family. Even if that family chooses to sing at it…

Eucritta / October 11, 2013

This is true.

Here’s another thing: if not for people who perceive the intrinsic value of animal life and happiness, there would be no rescue, no foster homes, no wildlife rehabilitators, no movements for shelter or wildlife management reform. No-one would agonize over a backyard puppy who can’t walk or a feral kitten with neuro issues or a neglected flock of young roosters. No-one would make pet wheelchairs, or floation devices for aquarium fishes with swim bladder disease.

The notion that there’s a division between people who care and the Irresponsible Masses is a false one. Time and time again I’ve met people who, seeing a need, stepped in to help as best they knew how. Time and time again I’ve met people who love their pets, no matter how they got them.

[...]

What they said.

Thank you.

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