May 18, 2013
Billy Briggs, head of Nashville’s pet killing facility, on the pound’s horrifying 78% kill rate:
“We try our best to find homes for the ones that are adoptable.”
Mr. Briggs failed to mention that just 16% of the dogs and cats at the Nashville pound are deemed adoptable. Of those few who make it to the adoption floor, 25% end up in the kill room anyway. But they’re trying their best.
Bonna Johnson, spokeswoman for Nashville Mayor Karl Dean:
[W]e know that adoptions are a priority for Metro Animal Control.
Is there any other job in the world where you could fail so completely at your most basic tasks and still face the public unashamedly with the full support of the stooges in charge? If so, can we get these pet killers into those jobs so they can at least be prevented from hurting more dogs and cats?
“It tolls on us,” Biggs said about putting animals down. “It’s the hardest job here by far.”
Right. I guess that’s why you’re trying your best to get pets adopted. So you don’t have to do that hard job more than 8000 times a year. Although personally, I would think going to the media to pat yourself on the back with a straight face would be a really hard job too. Obviously more cupcakes are needed.
(Thanks Clarice for the link.)
Maricopa Co ACC in AZ impounded this obviously pregnant dog as a stray on April 22, 2013. Records obtained via FOIA request indicate that four days later the pound’s vet cut out her uterus which contained 10 full term puppies, old enough to survive outside the womb. These pups had a right to live. Medical records contain no mention of how the uterus containing the puppies was disposed of nor is there any notation of Fatal Plus being administered to the pups. They were presumably thrown into the trash can to suffocate and die.
Although this poor dog was cruelly subjected to a behavioral evaluation just 3 days after the killing of her pups, she passed. The day after, Maricopa Co noted she was “not kenneling well” and put her on the kill list. This dog had a right to live. Mercifully the so-called irresponsible public came through to save this dog from additional harm at the pound and she was taken in by a rescue group.
Remind me again how the mistreatment and killing of pets in animal shelters is the public’s fault?
From an article in the Las Cruces Sun-News titled “Report: Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley kill rate drops in 2012“:
The center took in more than 13,000 animals last year and just over half were euthanized.
The number is a 17 percent decrease from 2011.
Although the title of the piece specifically references a drop in the shelter’s kill rate, the “17 percent decrease” cited is reflective of actual numbers, irrespective of intake, which is misleading. In fact, the actual kill rate at this facility decreased a mere 5% from 2011 to 2012. (See page 13 of the shelter’s annual report for 2012.) The stunningly minor decrease in killing makes the director’s enthusiasm all the more confusing:
“Finally the programs that were implemented in 2008 are starting to bear fruit,” said center director Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock, who took the helm in 2008. “You can see the euthanasia numbers are really, really dropping. It’s finally coming together.”
I was unable to locate any 2008 stats for this facility but on page 10 of the 2010 annual report, it says the 2009 kill rate was 60% and the 2010 kill rate was 56%. In 2011, the kill rate was 57% and in 2012 it was 52%. So taking into account the publicly available information for the kill rates in the years 2009 through 2012, there is an 8% decrease. The suggested 17% decrease in kill rates does not exist anywhere. The main thing happening at this facility is dog and cat killing – same as it ever was. It’s been 5 years. How many more years are needed before the staff start doing their jobs and stop killing pets?
In 2012, Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley killed more than 3100 animals for being feral or timid. Over 1200 animals were killed for space with the vast majority of them being Pitbulls. A greater number were killed for treatable medical conditions such as coughs, colds, ringworm, and tragically – pregnancy. (See page 11 of the 2012 annual report.)
“It’s finally coming together” would probably be the last words that spring to mind in describing this pet killing facility. More like, it’s continuing to come apart. I guess I see why the director attempted to spin the numbers to fool taxpayers and donors. It’s not like telling the truth would be a good option if all you had to show for your years of work was a landfill bursting with tens of thousands of dead dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. Assuming you wanted to keep your job killing animals, that is.
(Thank you Clarice for the link.)
The Mobile Co pound in AL has been in the news a lot this year. First it was reported that the facility conducted a mass killing in response to one sick dog. Then we learned the pound killed a freshly bathed, neutered cat named Porkchop upon arrival before his owner could find him. The pound investigated itself to determine why the cat wasn’t held for the mandated holding period and decided the killing was A-OK because the pet was “feral”.
Now the local NBC affiliate reports that killing pets upon arrival appears to be commonplace at the Mobile Co pound:
We combed through nearly 600 pages of shelter records and policies and found that in the first two months of this year, 400 animals were euthanized. Nearly a third of them were put down on the same day they were brought in, and many within just a few minutes. The reasons given were varied: medical conditions, sickness and injury, aggressive animal, bite animal, feral animal, too young, too old.
I hate to nitpick but every one of the Mobile Co pound’s “reasons” for killing pets upon arrival is bullshit. Nearly all medical conditions are treatable. Aggression is impossible to determine upon arrival at a pet killing facility. The purpose of impounding bite animals is to hold them in quarantine to see if symptoms of rabies develop. Feral cats already have a place to live – the community. There is no such thing as being too young or too old – a pet is either alive, with an inherent right to continue living, or dead. And it’s mostly the latter after they get picked up by Mobile Co.
The shelter’s own policy states all stray animals are to be held for a mandatory seven-day period before any action is taken. Their policy also states the staff will explore “every option available before euthanization.”
Shelter records show many cases where the animal was never scanned for a microchip before being put down. Shelter policy states animals up for euthanization should be scanned not once, but twice for a microchip prior to the injection.
Everyone make sure you spell M-O-B-I-L-E C-O-U-N-T-Y correctly when submitting your nomination ballots for the Fail Awards.
The reporter went to county spokesperson Nancy Johnson with the above concerns and donchaknow – she had a pat answer for everything.
“If they are very sick, if they are suffering, for medical reasons,” Johnson says, “We get a vet to verify that they are in duress.”
[...] Johnson says the 7-day hold policy does not apply to cats deemed ‘feral’ because it’s inhumane to hold them.
“Feral cats, by definition, don’t have owners and can’t be owned,” Johnson says.
The county says some animals are too aggressive and unmanageable to be scanned.
Johnson says the county deals with an overwhelming number of stray and abandoned animals. They are required by law to pick up strays, unlike no-kill shelters.
I’m not sure which is more terrifying – the swiftness with which she offered these utterly lame/outright false explanations or the notion that she may actually believe them.
When asked by the reporter why the shelter is failing to follow its own policy limiting pet killings to 2 hours per day, 3 days a week, Ms. Johnson finally admitted there’s cause to change a policy – to open it up for more killing, natch. Mobile Co – all killing, all the time. (If the county commissioners are reading this and realize they are in need of a new tourism slogan, call me!)
“We do a big job,” Johnson says.
Yes. And you need a big shovel to manage it.
A rescue group called SouthBARK, which was banned from the pound last year, is currently suing the county for $500k. The group asked the court to put a halt on killings at the pound until the case is decided. The judge didn’t even wait for the county’s response before rejecting the request. A hearing has been scheduled for June 18.
(Thanks Clarice for the links.)
As I have written repeatedly on this blog, parvo is preventable and treatable and every animal shelter has an obligation to both prevent and treat this disease. Parvo in shelters is prevented through the practice of vaccination prior to or immediately upon intake, good housing practices and standard disease prevention cleaning protocols.
Parvo is not the dreaded disease it once was. There are excellent prevention and treatment protocols available for shelters and pet owners to follow. Any shelter or state whose policy is to kill every dog in the place in the face of an outbreak (suspected or confirmed) is operating in The Before Time.
Meet Stokes Co, NC. As of Wednesday, the pound had killed 12 dogs and planned to kill 18 more after one dog adopted from the facility reportedly contracted parvo. County Manager Rick Morris, veterinarian Deborah Cowan, who is also chairwoman of the Stokes Co Animal Control Advisory Council, and pound director Phillip Handy “decided on Tuesday to ban adoptions of dogs at the shelter, euthanize the dogs there and put down any dogs brought to the shelter without vaccination records.” And there’s more:
That policy will remain in place until an outdoor kernel is built so that the shelter staff can clean the shelter’s indoor kennels of feces and urine and place down chemicals to kill the virus, Cowan said.
And not to put too fine a point on the new policy but, ok:
“If you bring it here and it has no vaccination it will be euthanized,” said Veterinarian Deborah Cowan[.]
Gee, is she accepting new patients?
Candis Loy, the president of Animal Rescue of Stokes County, said that euthanizing the dogs is regrettable. “I don’t think they have a lot of choices,” said Loy, a member of the animal control advisory council.
Yeah, the pound has no quarantine area so not “a lot of choices” besides killing. Because how could any animal shelter be expected to be cleaned without an outdoor kennel? That’s bananas. Just kill them all.
But even when they get the outdoor kennels built, that still won’t be good enough:
Shelter advocates say it’s only a temporary fix until a new shelter can be constructed.
Fundraisers are already under way for a new shelter that will cost around $400,000.
“We are begging, we are pleading, we’ve been getting down on our knees asking people to help,” stated Cowan who says they need $40,000 right now to secure a discount on a new facility that could be up and running by 2015.
In the past 3 years, they’ve raised $13,000 toward the new shelter. At this rate, the killing will end never. And I suspect that’s exactly how the killing apologists in Stokes Co like it.
April 13, 2013
Bodey was a 2 year old Lab belonging to Christopher and Desislava Mertens of Horry Co, SC. He had been raised from puppyhood and was a beloved family member. When the Mertens were overseas on vacation recently, they found out Bodey had gotten lost. They made every effort to find him:
“We did Facebook, Craigslist, every page we could think of as far as spreading the word,” said Christopher Mertens.
They enlisted the help of friends and local shops, putting up posters and online posts every day.
The Mertens also called the Horry Co Animal Care Center but were told there were no records indicating Bodey was there. Having heard that a neighbor may have called AC regarding Bodey, the owners pressed on, eventually tracking down the ACO who had impounded him. That ACO finally told the couple that Bodey had been adopted. They asked if they could leave their information for the new owners so they might be able to see Bodey and know he was safe. The pound refused. The family continued to worry and ultimately contacted the local news for help. A WCET reporter obtained records from the county showing Bodey had been impounded, held for 7 days, and killed.
The Horry Co pound initially told the family that Bodey wasn’t there and never had been. That was a lie. Then they said Bodey had been adopted. That was another lie. Only when the reporter got involved and demanded the public records was the truth known. I wonder if the county would have ever told the truth about killing Bodey.
The couple was devastated:
“If you pick up a dog and you give that dog five days to live, but you don’t post a picture of him, or put up anything notifying anyone of that, you’re not giving that animal a chance, period,” said Mertens.
The county, despite having been exposed as liars, admits no wrongdoing in the attempted cover up:
The sad reality, the county says, is thousands of animals are brought to the Animal Care Center every year. The decision to put an animal down is based on the animal’s health, the potential to be adopted, and the amount of space in the shelter.
Whatever lets you sleep at night, Horry Co. It’s monsters like you that keep me awake.
(Thanks Clarice for the link.)
April 11, 2013
Parvo is a highly preventable and treatable disease, even in a shelter environment. The diagnosis of parvo, whether confirmed or merely suspected, is not a license to kill dogs. Euthanasia is appropriate based upon veterinary prognosis for an individual when a vet determines the dog is suffering and his chances of recovery through treatment are poor to grave.
The Conroe Animal Shelter in TX is run by the police department. The shelter does not appear to be fulfilling its obligations to provide true shelter to dogs in terms of prevention or treatment of parvo:
While the shelter immunizes animals brought into the facility, there is a 72-hour waiting period mandated by the state.
Please show me this TX law that says the mandatory stray hold requires shelters to shun best practices. And what about owner surrenders without documented vaccination history – does this same law require them to be left unvaccinated for 72 hours in the shelter too? Ridiculous.
And yet when a recent parvo outbreak at the Conroe Animal Shelter made the news, deputy chief of police Russell Reynolds astonishingly told a reporter:
“It is very important for pet owners to get their dogs vaccinated.”
When two dogs were impounded on April 4 who “displayed positive symptoms of the viral disorder”, the Conroe facility killed 60 dogs in response. They also ceased adoptions. Not that they had any live dogs left to adopt, I imagine.
“We’re doing everything we can to address the situation,” [Reynolds] said.
No you’re not. Following standard disease prevention protocols, including vaccination upon intake; providing treatment to dogs based upon veterinary diagnosis, not “looks like parvo”; and reserving euthanasia only for those individuals whom a veterinarian issues a poor to grave prognosis with treatment – that would be doing everything you can. What you’re doing is nothing. Nothing but killing.
(Thank you Clarice for the links.)
April 9, 2013
April 1, 2013
Many pet lovers are shocked to learn that most municipal facilities that call themselves animal shelters do not actually shelter animals. In fact, these so-called shelters kill pets rescuers are willing to save, because they can. More still are astonished when they learn that some of the private non-profits calling themselves humane societies or societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals are guilty of the same crimes against pets as the municipal facilities that kill pets who are wanted.
In the case of public facilities, pet advocates can and should petition their government for a redress of grievances. But historically this has been a mixed bag of results with far too many elected officials blatantly thumbing their noses at taxpayers who call upon them to force animal shelter staff to do their jobs. Our public servants delete animal advocacy comments from their Facebook pages, ignore e-mails and petitions, and refuse to meet with advocates in person. When they do address the issue publicly, it’s usually to give the pet killing facility a pat on the back while wagging their fingers at the “irresponsible public”.
When it comes to the private HS/SPCA organizations, well-meaning advocates sometimes believe they should report the needless killing of pets there to the “national” HS/SPCA, meaning the Humane Society of the U.S. and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The sad truth is that neither of these organizations is affiliated with your local shelter, even if the names are similar. Furthermore, HSUS and ASPCA are primarily fundraising organizations and will likely not intervene to prevent wanted pets from being killed by your local non-profit organization.
But there is a solution that addresses the needless killing of wanted pets, and offers numerous other protections for shelter animals, at both public and private shelters. It’s called the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA). CAPA has already been passed in DE and has been introduced by legislators in MN, RI and WV. Modified versions have been introduced in NY, TX, IL and FL. More states will be announcing modified versions of CAPA on their legislative agendas soon.
CAPA lays out a number of important requirements for public and private shelters that include lifesaving, transparency and community participation. Specifically, neither public nor private shelter directors would have the discretion to kill pets under CAPA without giving public notice nor would they be allowed to kill pets that a rescue is willing to take.
Too often on this blog, we hear from pet advocates who have been shafted by shelter directors committed to killing for arbitrary reasons and, in some cases, in retaliation for shining a light on their dark secrets. Here is a way to do something about that. Augment your existing animal advocacy (fostering, rescue, networking, etc.) with some political advocacy that will not only save pets’ lives, but help the people who love them too.
Do you want accountability, transparency and legal access to the animals in your shelter’s care? If so, you want CAPA. Talk to your state or local legislators about getting CAPA introduced to protect your community’s pets from those who are needlessly killing them, because they can. CAPA would make needless and secretive shelter pet killing illegal, regardless of whether the shelter is public or private. Under CAPA, we would not only protect the lives of shelter pets but the hearts and minds of pet advocates who currently suffer at the whims of directors, standing by their cabinets of Fatal Plus and scoffing at the so-called irresponsible public’s attempts to actually shelter animals.
Stephanie Faulkner says she started working at the SPCA of Southwest Michigan in August 2011. On the shelter’s “About Us” page, it says the SPCA is “dedicated to rescuing homeless dogs, cats, puppies and kittens from Southwest Michigan pounds and adopting them into responsible homes.” The page emphasizes the shelter’s commitment to rehabilitation and ends as follows:
SPCA of Southwest Michigan is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit animal welfare organization. We do not receive funding from any government agency or national organization. We operate solely on privately donated funds and adoptions fees. Therefore, unlike county pounds, SPCA is not subject to any government regulations requiring euthanasia as a means of managing our population of rescued pets.
To my knowledge, there are no government regulations requiring shelters to kill pets for population control. In any case, there is a law in MI that requires all licensed shelters – public and private – to report anual statistics to the state. The SPCA of SWMI last reported in 2008. It does not appear they reported in 2011, 2010 or 2009.
Ms. Faulkner states that very soon after she started working for the SPCA of SWMI, she met a dog named Jay “when a coworker brought him outside during a break and he climbed into my lap like a big baby.” Jay was reportedly killed for aggression shortly after that. Ms. Faulkner was told that this was a very rare occurrence at the shelter so she did not become immediately suspicious of wrongdoing. Her concerns began to grow just a few months later. She writes (passages from Ms. Faulkner appear in red.):
In November, two dogs were euth listed. Jacobi and Lolly Doo (now Elsa). Jacobi growled at her kennel door, but once you opened it she was a peach. She was timid in the shelter but a happy, normal dog otherwise.
Elsa was there for 5 months, during which she ran from everyone and was completely terrified. She was pulled [from the pound] because she was pregnant, and puppies are $375 apiece at the SPCA. After her puppies were adopted she languished in the kennel for five months, heart worm positive, and no one did any thing for her until it was announced she needed to be euthanized, along with Jacobi. So a coworker and I offered to foster them. Katie [Meskil, director] said that was not an option. We could either legally adopt them, or they would have to be euthanized. Did not make any logical sense to me, so I said OK, I’ll take Elsa. [The co-worker took Jacobi and] I took Elsa, and Katie had me sign this “waiver” she hand wrote.
Elsa is a shy dog, but she is absolutely not a bite risk, warms up to new people with ease, and loves my youngest dog. She’ll need a forever home that is aware that she will have to warm up to them and they will have to be kind to her, but absolutely not a euth candidate. She, like the others, has no assessment paper work. All I was given was that hand written “waiver” and a scant medical sheet that says she got a bordetella vaccination and tested HW+. I treated her heartworm and had her spayed and vaccinated, by vets who were strangers to her, without issue.
I note that in the waiver for Lolly Doo/Elsa, director Katie Meskil writes that the dog is “feral” and that her positive heartworm status is “contagious”. While the former is an opinion, and not borne out by the fact that Elsa is obviously able to be handled, the latter is scientifically unfounded and outright false. Furthermore, the disturbing bit at the end of the waiver, that Ms. Faulkner can never return the dog to the SPCA, strikes me as a condition no compassionate director would ever place upon any pet adoption, regardless of circumstances.
The following month, two more dogs were killed for aggression. Ms. Faulkner writes:
Rex was a shy guy who went into an inexperienced foster home. The first day he was there, the foster’s roommate leaned over to kiss his head and he nipped her in the face. I heard various stories of “plastic surgery!” and “dozens of stitches!” but when I spoke to the actual foster she stated she had a gash on her lip and they were really sorry and did want to foster him after his quarantine was up. He sat in “quarantine” for over a month.
Banjo was in the healthy kennel, available for adoption, until one day she had a “staff only” sign up. When I inquired with the operations manager Katie Meskil as to why Banjo was on “staff only” she stated she was a “bad dog” and “people are scared of her” which was not my experience with Banjo in the slightest. She had no bite record, never so much as growled at any one.
The day Rescue Waggin brought up 20 some puppies both Rex and Banjo were abruptly euthanized and their kennels filled. Supposedly they were assessed and failed, but Katie Meskil never offered up that assessment information to the staff. I expressed my displeasure with the situation, as I was close with both of them, but she refused any further information, told me this is what has to happen and I need to understand that, and then later told me that while the vet was euthanizing them she pointed at them and said, “This is what you get for being bad dogs!” I don’t care if this is excused as “care givers fatigue” because it was insensitive to me, and disgusting. I left off with telling her that I had many rescue connections and would have easily placed them elsewhere. I never saw a single assessment on them and NO ONE was told they were even candidates for euthanasia. We were told multiple times and in our handbook that in the event of a euthanasia decision, staff would be told and given the opportunity to say goodbye. There is also a form they have to fill out and I was not afforded the opportunity to look at that for either of them.
Rex and Banjo were callously euthanized in the office where we pick up our checks, their bodies left laying on the floor.
The next pair of dogs to be killed for aggression were Artie and Cobalt. Ms. Faulkner writes:
Artie was at the shelter for a year and a half, in and out of foster homes. Then surprisingly Artie was adopted by a couple with a 5 year old son on April 4th 2012. He was returned Sunday, April 15th 2012. The SPCA is closed on Sundays, so I was the only available person there. I talked with the man who returned him. He was very upset and explained that he did not want to return him, but his wife was afraid of him. The reason they were returning him was because while Artie was asleep in their bedroom on the bed with them their son opened the door in the middle of the night and Artie woke up barking at him.
The next day after I did the leg work I informed Katie I had gotten Artie into three different places and I would pay for his flight to any one of them. Katie stated she didn’t care and to take him. Tuesday she tells me a tale that the board said no, there is nothing she can do, so sorry. When I contacted [a board member], he informed me that the board is not involved in euthanasia decisions nor do they even know about them. When volunteers and I kept questioning why I could not send Artie to places he was wanted, Katie informed everyone that Artie had attacked a sleeping child and he needed to be euthanized and that was that. She began to verbally reprimand me daily for asking about him. I pleaded AGAIN that it would cost the shelter absolutely nothing for me to send him to these places and that they wished to talk to her about their credentials and ability to take him. She told me she could not afford to give me any time off to move him, and when I countered that I needed no more than one of the two days I ALWAYS have off a week, she said “end of conversation”.
Cobalt was set up to fail by staff. A staff member transported him to be neutered at a vet clinic, where they had a free range office cat. Cobalt began lunging and straining for the cat and rather than removing him from the situation he pulled away from her and bit the cat. He bit a dog at the shelter as well when another staff member put him outside with a small Jack Russell. He was euthanized because of incompetent staff. Katie asked me if I could find a certified person to evaluate Artie and Cobalt (I had many) only to euthanize them both on my day off. I do not believe any evaluations ever happened, again. I was never able to locate even a file on either of them after they were killed.
This is the form Ms. Faulkner states is supposed to be a part of every killed pet’s records at the SPCA.
The last dog for whom Ms. Faulkner advocated before leaving the SPCA of SWMI was a puppy named Buddy. Buddy came from the Carthage HS in Missouri via Rescue Waggin at the end of October 2012. He was 8 months old. Rescue Waggin had evaluated and passed him, which was a requirement for transport. The Rescue Waggin website states they only deliver “behaviorally and medically sound dogs and puppies” to shelters. After a few weeks at the SPCA of SWMI, Buddy was assessed and passed again. A handwritten note on Buddy’s file describes him as “mouthy but very sweet” and “high energy”.
Buddy was adopted in December and returned a few weeks later. Ms. Faulkner provided the portion of the owner surrender form that was completed by the adopter at his return. The adopter stated Buddy was being returned due to allergies and her long work hours. Buddy was adopted again immediately but returned after a few days for being mouthy and unruly. (Ms. Faulkner has copies of all the documents in Buddy’s file here. There was no surrender form from the second adopter in his file, per Ms. Faulkner.) Buddy was placed in quarantine, despite the fact that no one had reported a bite.
Ms. Faulkner, who had already given her employer two weeks’ notice, was concerned that Buddy would end up being needlessly killed like the other dogs she had tried to save. She decided to take her concerns to the public this time in hopes of getting a better result. She posted about Buddy and her fears that he would be killed on Reddit (here and here) and on Facebook. (Please take a few minutes to read the posts as their content is important to the story.) In response to the posts, people began contacting the SPCA of SWMI to advocate for Buddy’s right to live. Ms. Faulkner says she did not call or e-mail the shelter herself as she had no need to – she worked there.
Two days after posting publicly about Buddy, Ms. Faulkner received a phone message from a police officer at 9:30pm. The call was apparently made from a cell phone. You can listen to the message he left here. This is a transcription of the call provided by Ms. Faulkner:
Hi, if this is Stephanie’s number, this is Tim Briggs with the sheriff’s department. Uh, I just wanted to call and let you know a complaint has been made against you by Katie and uh, basically I’m just calling to tell you to not send any more e-mails, not have any more of your friends send any more e-mails to her in reference to the dog shelter. Uh.. if it does persist and they keep doing it then uh.. we’ll find out who the other ones are- of course I already have their names and charges will be brought against you so.. hopefully if you just stop doing it that’ll be that. Also, Katie told me to tell you that uh.. you’re not to report to work any more. Apparently you.. already have given your notice and already have another job so… but you don’t have to report to work any more. If you have any questions, please give me a call [his apparent cell phone number]. Thank you.
Still with me, faithful readers? Good, Now please fasten your seatbelts and make sure your tray tables are in the upright and locked position as we prepare for takeoff to Nuckin Futz.
Although Ms. Faulkner stopped reporting for work, as directed by the officer, she still wanted her final paycheck that she was owed. And since the officer never said anything about not going to the shelter ever again, nor had anyone from the SPCA contacted her to formally terminate her employment, she felt it was appropriate to go there to pick up her last paycheck on Wednesday, the regular payday. She went to the shelter during regular open hours and entered through an unlocked door. She says there were cars in the parking lot. While there, she visited Buddy and made two short videos of him to showcase his personality in order to aid the advocacy efforts on his behalf. She posted both videos on Facebook that night.
The next day, Ms. Faulkner received another message from a police officer which you can listen to here and which she transcribed as follows:
Stephanie, This is deputy Robert Smith with the Kalamazoo County sheriff’s department and it’s Thursday, February 14th 7:20 PM. Might want to write this case number down. One three dash one four five six. I’m currently at 6955 West KL [address of the SPCA of SWMI] reviewing a video that you were in here sometime after deputy Briggs told you not to return. Now, breaking and entering even if you had the key is still a five year felony minimum. Might want to contemplate that because a five year felony will not do one’s career very well. It’s a real easy deal- Deputy Briggs told you to cease and desist on the calls and the Facebook and Reddit type stuff, but now that we got the copy of the video of you being in here- especially because you were next to a dog that didn’t come into the facility until 4:30 PM on Tuesday, you’re sort of going down a river without the paddle, you know what I mean? So here’s the way the games gonna be played: You cease and desist, or at any time they have the right to get a hold of their SPCA attorney and lay a five year felony on you. Now I’d suggest you put one hand on each side out and sort of weigh it out- is it worth it doing all this garbage? Or do I really want a five year felony? You can decide, I’m just letting you know how they want to play the game. I’m here right now if you’d like to document I’m actually here please feel free to call the sheriff’s department [number] and ask them if a deputy Smith came out to the SPCA and the case number’s one three dash one four five six. Hopefully deputy Briggs or myself won’t need to talk to you any further. Thank you.
OK, most of you probably just fell out so I’m going to pause here for a bit to let you regain consciousness.
Let’s be clear. The video shown to the deputy was not some sort of surveillance camera footage depicting Ms. Faulkner chucking a cinder block through a window of the shelter and climbing in to ransack the place. The video shown to him was the one she posted on FB of Buddy being a big puppy lovebug who hadn’t yet been taught proper manners. And last I heard, our justice system has not been reduced to the SPCA lawyer deciding who to “lay” five year felonies on. I am neither a police officer nor a lawyer but I understand that many places have actual laws against bullying and harassment. As long as we are putting one hand on each side out and sort of weighing it out, I guess I just wanted to toss that in there, for your third hand or whatevs. I don’t know, maybe the Kalamazoo sheriff’s department and the SCPA of SWMI have a Secret Book O’ Lawz which says that shelters are required to kill pets for population control, the SPCA of SWMI does not have to report its statistics to the state, and individual lawyers walk around laying felonies on people their clients don’t like.
At the time Ms. Faulkner left the SPCA of SWMI, Buddy was alive but she was deeply concerned about him. She contacted every rescue group she could think of in the area to see if they had taken him but never found him.
I contacted the SPCA of SWMI and requested an interview. I spoke on the phone with Joni Smith who said she is the acting president and treasurer for the SPCA of SWMI. Ms. Smith told me she was very proud that the shelter is an approved Rescue Waggin facility. I asked her about dogs with behavioral issues and she said, “If we consider euthanasia, it’s a very last resort”, performed only after consultation with board members, 2 veterinarians (to rule out possible medical explanations for aggression) and their volunteer behaviorist/trainer. I wanted to ask her about each individual dog Ms. Faulkner had written me about, but Ms. Smith declined. She did speak to me about 3 of them.
Ms. Smith basically described Artie as kennel crazy and said he “attacked” a 12 year old sleeping boy, unprovoked. She admitted the boy was not hurt. Cobalt had a bite history and was “very aggressive” according to Ms. Smith. Buddy was returned by the second adopter because he bit the man, per Ms. Smith. A rescue group in Benton Harbor that specifically works with aggressive dogs was contacted about Buddy but said there was no hope and they could not help him. She also disputed Stephanie’s claim that Buddy was a puppy. She said she didn’t know his exact age but he was definitely over one year when they got him. And she confirmed that the SCPA of SWMI killed him.
Ms. Smith’s description of the process for determining when euthanasia for aggression is warranted seems to be in line with this internal “Quality of Life” document provided by Ms. Faulkner. I asked about getting copies of the records for the dogs who had been killed. Ms. Smith said that the vet consults were often verbal and notes may not have been made. I specifically requested to see the behavior evaluation sheets that most all behaviorists, regardless of methodology, use when evaluating dogs. She declined. I suggested that providing records which documented the extensive efforts that she says were made to save each of these dogs would be helpful in showing that the dogs were treated with compassion by the SPCA of SWMI. She again declined and said that she felt she had provided me with enough information.
Before she ended our conversation, Ms. Smith described Stephanie Faulkner as a “disgruntled ex-employee” whose internet postings about Buddy “included profanity, name calling and untrue information”. Ms. Smith said the police were called because, based upon the posts, the director felt “afraid for her personal safety and that of her daughter”. She said Ms. Faulkner “broke into” the facility to take pictures of Buddy. When I tried one more time to express how valuable sharing the information in the dogs’ records would be, Ms. Smith told me she felt comfortable having my readers decide whether to believe Ms. Faulkner’s claims in light of the information Ms. Smith had given me.
As of this posting, Ms. Faulkner has not heard from the sheriff’s department again. No charges were ever brought against her. She has not heard from the SPCA lawyer. Ms. Faulkner now works for an animal sanctuary in MI.