Odessa’s Multi-Tiered Failure Results in Dog’s Death

The police department in Odessa, Texas runs the pound.  Thousands of animals are impounded and killed each year, with the police department claiming most of them are “unadoptable”.   One dog impounded on February 15 for quarantine was definitely not “unadoptable” – he had a family who loved him and wanted him back.  Instead, he is now dead:

OPD says on Saturday, the dog pushed up a water bowl, escaped from the opening and out of exterior doors, which were open for ventilation.

The dog was found dead in the street later that day.

When municipalities insist that dogs be quarantined at the pound instead of at home, it’s purportedly being done in order to provide the highest level of safety to the public.  That is, Odessa apparently doesn’t trust owners to quarantine their own dogs at home following a bite report and requires dogs be sent to the pet killing facility for the duration of the quarantine.

Pro tip:  If your quarantine cages are such that all a dog has to do is push aside a bowl in order to escape not only the cage but the entire building, you aren’t protecting the public very well.  I think a reasonable argument could be made that in fact you aren’t doing your jobs at all.  But with a cited kill rate of 85% at Odessa’s so-called shelter, I guess everybody already knows that.

The Odessa police department will investigate itself in the case.

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

Discussion: When It’s Freezing Out, Bring Your Pets In

My news feed runneth over this week with stories of freezing temperatures and the effect on pets. There are lots of articles talking about state laws and giving recommendations on what to do with pets during extremely cold weather. While obvious exceptions must be made for some animals including feral cats (who can be provided with homemade outdoor shelters) and sled dogs (who are purpose bred for outdoor living as part of their work), the general message should be: Bring your pets indoors. All of us involved in animal advocacy should be repeating this message as a means of education and increasing awareness.

When an ACO in Longview, TX was interviewed about a frozen dog found chained to a fence, he provided this disappointing quote:

“Bring your dogs in when the temperature drops down to these conditions so that you don’t end up with a dead animal. Because if we come out and your animal has died because of the environment that it’s in, if it’s died because it’s frozen, it’s cold, we will file charges,” said Longview animal control officer Chris Kemper.

The message should be “Bring your dogs in,” with no hint from authorities that as long as your pet hasn’t frozen to death, you won’t be charged.

There appears to be some confusion about what state law requires in Texas so I looked it up. A violation of the following is a misdemeanor:

Texas Penal Code: Sec. 42.092. CRUELTY TO NONLIVESTOCK ANIMALS. includes the following:

(7) “Necessary food, water, care, or shelter” includes food, water, care, or shelter provided to the extent required to maintain the animal in a state of good health.

(8) “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

[...]

(3) fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody;

In the Longview case, authorities indicated the dog’s owner had failed to provide food, water and shelter while the pet suffered and died. Authorities could have – and should have – intervened before the dog froze to death. Being left on a chain with no food, water or shelter in freezing temperatures appears to qualify under the law as torture and cruelty since most pets could not possibly be maintained in good health under these conditions.  But the ACO’s statement implies that action will only be taken if the pet dies as a result of the torture.

Do better with your messaging, Longview. And definitely do better with your intervention on behalf of suffering pets.

What, if anything, does the law say about providing shelter to animals during the cold in your state?  Are you working to get your state’s cruelty laws amended to better protect animals?  Do you do any advocacy work, such as social media outreach, about bringing pets inside during extreme weather?  What information do you include in your message?

Case Update: Allegations of Neglect at AZ Pound

After veterinarian Carol Burke filed a complaint with the city accusing the Bisbee Animal Shelter of “a pattern of criminal neglect” in August, city manager Steve Pauken asked the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office to investigate.  In September, Pauken was quoted as saying, “There is no imminent danger involved here.”

This week, KGUN9-TV has an update on the story:

[W]e found that there are a string of complaints dating back to 2005, when the Bisbee Police Department took over the shelter.

Among the worst of those complaints, improper euthanasia, which the City denies.

In addition, KGUN reports that the city recently lost a spay-neuter grant due to its failure to maintain communication and records. City manager Steve Pauken told the station he doesn’t believe there is any neglect occurring at the shelter.

But at the Bisbee City Council meeting on Tuesday, the council voted to move the shelter out from under the police department:

The control of the shelter is now in the city’s Community Development Department, which is overseen by the City Manager.

City manager Pauken told the council he didn’t think that was a good idea. After the council voted against his wishes, he quit. The sheriff’s office investigation is ongoing.

It remains to be seen if these developments will translate to any improvements for the animals at the Bisbee pound.  I would suggest that hinges on whether the next city manager considers the vet’s report of a pattern of criminal neglect to indicate any “imminent danger”.  If so, I imagine prompt action will be taken to reform the pound.  If not, it will be business as usual in Bisbee I guess.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Veterinarian Accuses AZ Shelter of Criminal Neglect

The police department for the city of Bisbee, AZ runs the animal shelter.  In August, local veterinarian Carol Burke submitted an official complaint to city officials detailing what she describes as “a pattern of criminal neglect” at the shelter.  She begins by sharing the story of an arthritic 85 pound dog named Phoebe whom Dr. Burke indicates was impounded by the Bisbee Animal Shelter as a stray on July 11, 2013.  The timeline of events as outlined in Dr. Burke’s complaint:

July 18:  Bisbee Animal Shelter sends Phoebe to a groomer.  Phoebe returns dripping blood from her back and feet.  The groomer advises the shelter that Phoebe has urine scalding down the length of her back (?!?) and recommends an herbal spray for the dog.  The shelter takes no action.

July 22:  Phoebe is seen by a local vet who prescribes an antibiotic for her skin infection.  Volunteers raid another dog’s pain medication and begin administering it to Phoebe without veterinary supervision.  Records are not kept of medications administered.

July 28:  Dr. Burke sees Phoebe for the first time.  She is told the dog has been lethargic since returning from the groomer’s, seemed to be in pain and “was laying on the concrete at the shelter covered with flies.” The fur had not been clipped away from Phoebe’s burns so Dr. Burke got a groomer to do that.

Shaving revealed third degree burns on Phoebe’s back from the nape of her neck to the base of her tail with multiple areas of charred black leather curling up from raw open tissue. This type of burn is caused by heat or caustic chemical and the distribution of lesions on Phoebe was a typical pattern we see when boiling water, candle wax, etc. accidentally spills on the patient or if someone uses a solvent based chemical to clean an animal or “treat” parasites, odor, etc.

Dr. Burke placed Phoebe on an IV and began daily treatment to help her recover.  She noted Phoebe refused to eat but since records of feeding are not kept at the Bisbee Animal Shelter, was unsure if this was new behavior.  Phoebe was in a lot of pain from her burns so possibly her lack of appetite was related to that.

August 1:  Dr. Burke’s concern over Phoebe’s refusal to eat prompts her to take abdominal x-rays which revealed a tumor.  She sends the x-rays to 2 specialists for their opinions and they agree.

August 2:  Dr. Burke euthanizes Phoebe to end her suffering.

Dr. Burke also mentions two other dogs she treated from the Bisbee Animal Shelter. The first was a female Boxer seen in 2012 who had been diagnosed with a leg abscess and put on an antibiotic by a local vet. Dr. Burke describes seeing the dog emerge from the car:

Her entire left foreleg was twice its normal size and she was in such pain the memory still brings tears to my eyes a year later.

Dr. Burke took x-rays which confirmed her suspicion that the dog was suffering from osteosarcoma which had spread to other organs. She euthanized the dog immediately to end her suffering.

The second dog’s story is equally tragic:

The second case was a young male chocolate Pit Bull who had been vomiting for a week. I saw this dog 9/21 /2012. He was in shock from sepsis and dehydration, also in unspeakable pain, and had not one but two blockages from intussusception (a telescoping of the bowel upon itself which occurs with relentless vomiting).

This dog was also put to sleep immediately.

Dr. Burke states that all 3 dogs were brought to her by the same worker who is “apparently the only person affiliated with the shelter with a conscience.”

When reached for comment by a local media outlet who had obtained a copy of her complaint via FOIA, Dr. Burke replied:

I had previously voiced my concerns about the shelter to Sgt. Maddux and sent him a copy of the NHI Shelter Guidelines where I yellow highlighted the paragraph indicating that budgetary constraints did not excuse neglect. I subsequently learned that prior complaints had resulted in punitive action against hard working, dedicated volunteer “whistleblowers.”

Last week, action was finally taken regarding the shelter:

At the request of Bisbee City Manager Steve Pauken, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation into any potential wrongdoing at the Bisbee Animal Shelter after a dog was euthanized.

But before anyone gets too excited:

“There is no imminent danger involved here,” Pauken said Friday, urging patience to allow the sheriff’s office to complete its investigation.

No imminent danger. Just a pattern of criminal neglect, pets needlessly suffering in pain and retaliation against any volunteer who dares speak the truth.  Be patient.  No need for anyone to break a sweat.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Mama Dog in Memphis Out of the Frying Pan

WREG reports that last week, Memphis police arrested dog owner Migel Martinez and charged him with aggravated animal cruelty.  Mr. Martinez allegedly neglected his pregnant female dog to the point where she became emaciated and was unable to produce milk for her 11 puppies after they were born.  The newborn puppies starved to death and a neighbor filmed the mama dog attempting to bury them.

The neighbor also attempted to intervene by feeding and watering the mama dog and offering to take all the dogs himself.  He called animal cruelty investigators and police, providing police with the video he took on his cellphone.  MAS impounded the mama dog.  The article doesn’t provide a definitive timeline regarding the neighbor’s actions other than a reference to “nearly three days” so its unclear to me why neither cruelty investigators nor police took action sooner.

Local advocates report the mama dog is being held as a court case animal and MAS is not allowing visitors.  It would be logical to believe this dog is not only in physical pain from neglect and starvation but deep emotional pain due to the death of her pups and impoundment at a pet killing facility.  MAS has a notorious track record on neglecting and starving dogs in their care, including court case dogs.  I know many of us remember the mama dog whom MAS photographed with her dead puppy then posted the photo on PetHarbor.

It makes me shudder to think that this dog only has MAS staff to meet her physical and emotional needs at this time and for the foreseeable future.  I’m glad she is no longer in the hands of an alleged animal abuser.  I’m sorry she is now at MAS.

Hendricks Co Shelter Pet Advocates Not Giving Up, Despite Setbacks

Local advocates have been publicly opposing the needless killing at the Hendricks Co pound in Indiana for at least a year.  In 2011, the pound had a 61% kill rate and in 2012, advocates went to the local TV news with their concerns:  limited hours, no foster program, not allowing pets outdoors and not naming the animals in order to increase marketability.  Chief ACO Mary Anne Lewis had explanations for all that which basically amount to blah.  But specifically she mentioned that many of the pets are killed by request of the owners and:

As for why the shelter does not give animals names, Lewis told [the reporter] it’s too stressful on the staff when euthanizing the animal[.]

See how that makes sense?  Me either.  I guess the fact that any animals who get adopted would not be killed is irrelevant to this argument.

The county has made gestures to placate pet advocates since then but it doesn’t seem to have amounted to more than that.  The latest gesture is a reshuffling of leadership after advocates pointed out some serious discrepancies in pound records:

“I documented, using time sheets, animals left unattended for up to 67 consecutive hours,” said Tia Fox, an accountant and advocate with the Indiana Pet Welfare Project. “It disgusted me. That’s cruel.”

Fox, along with Allies for All Animals, also raised concerns about missing records for owner-requested euthanasia.

[...]

“(Lewis’s) cash transactions have no internal controls that would provide any assurance money’s not being misdirected,” said Fox. “That has resulted in 1,100 unaccounted for animals since 2001.”

Neither the failure of the county to adequately address the ongoing issues at the pound nor the failure of the chief ACO to do her job is unusual per se.  What makes Hendricks Co different is that the community dogs and cats there actually have a committed voice in the form of advocates working together for reform.  Well done, local hellraisers.  Keep going.

(Thanks Clarice for alerting me to this story.)

Former ACO Charged with Animal Cruelty in MA

Sometimes people find it hard to relate statistics and reports to needless pet suffering and killing but a photo of a single mistreated animal will stir their blood.  In some cases, these photos are too disturbing to post on the blog.  (Warning:  all the links below contain disturbing images of a dog who appears to be deeply suffering and on the brink of death.)

Anna Nelson is the former ACO for Wareham, MA.  An anonymous tip led the current ACO to her home and her senior dog:

The 10-year-old terrier mix could hardly stand and was diseased and jaundiced.

“It was incredibly malnourished, had parasites — internal and external — and in fact, too ill to be saved. It had to be euthanized,” said Rob Halpin of the MSPCA.

Ms. Nelson is facing a felony animal cruelty charge.  She was a no show for her arraignment, forcing authorities to issue a warrant and send police to arrest her.  Although she allegedly neglected her suffering pet for months, when her own ass was in hot water she promptly posted bail to get herself out of jail.  Ms. Nelson is due in court today.

Case Update: ‘Purple Hearted Puppies’ Owners Forced Dogs to Resort to Cannibalism to Survive, Received Fine

Regular readers may remember the cruelty case against the owners of Purple Hearted Puppies in AL (see the original post, update #1 and update #2).  This was a private “shelter” operated out of the home of mother and daughter Roberta and Sharon Dueitt.  In January 2012, the Dueitts reportedly left town for 2 weeks while 200 animals were left starving on their property.  Having solicited donations from the public, they had the means to care for the animals, they just left them to suffer and die in cages, surrounded by bags of food they could see but not touch.  At the time of their arrest, authorities indicated there would be hundreds of felony and misdemeanor charges filed against the Dueitts.

Yesterday the Dueitts pleaded guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty.  They received a year’s probation and a $100,000 fine payable to a local HS.  They have never spent a day in jail and never will, at least for these crimes.  They can start up their “shelter” again in 5 years.

I will never forget the video taken during the raid which showed officers frantically pouring food into the cages and cats desperately reaching their front legs out the bars and mewing.  Purple Hearts are medals awarded to soldiers who are wounded or killed in the line of duty.  The Dueitts wounded or killed many.  They were rewarded with a monetary fine.  Shame on the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office for agreeing to this unjust plea deal.

OR Neglect Case Involves 149 Dogs

On Sunday, 149 dogs were seized from Willamette Animal Rescue in Oregon and the organization’s president, Alicia Inglish was charged with 120 counts of animal neglect and one count of evidence tampering:

While 120 of the dogs met the legal standard for neglect, all were in need of medical care.

Don Thompson, spokesman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, said authorities had inspected the facility twice previously but the allegations which led to those inspections turned out to be unfounded.  This time however, dogs were found in terrible conditions at the 7500 square foot building used by Willamette Animal Rescue:

Inside were 149 dogs, some starving, some whose eyes were sealed shut with bodily fluids, authorities said. As many as five dogs were kept in kennels designed for one. The stench was overwhelming. Waste ran down from one crate perched atop many others, to pool on the concrete floor.

Sharon Harmon, executive director of the Oregon Humane Society which took 110 of the seized dogs, describes the neglect as “tragic”:

Some of the dogs were in such an advanced state of starvation that technicians will have to use a “refeeding program” to reintroduce small amounts of easily digestible food.

“Those dogs were shut down. They don’t show interest in food,” Harmon said.

[...]

Harmon said officials found just two bags of dog food in the warehouse, along with the dogs’ primary food: stale bread.

Someone who adopted a dog from Willamette Animal Rescue one year ago recalled paying between $150 – $250 for the pet, who was unhealthy.  The adopter never saw the building.

Ms. Inglish reportedly worked at a pet supply store for about 6 months last year but stopped showing up for work in September.

A former volunteer says the dogs were pulled from pet killing facilities in CA and were fed both canned and dry food.  He believes Ms. Inglish simply became overwhelmed because of her desire to save the dogs from being killed at the pound.

The Marion Co pound took in 25 of the dogs and the remaining 14 went to the Willamette HS.

There are a number of photos at the links and the dogs do appear to be starving and neglected. There are even tiny adult dogs with their bones showing who would require a very small amount of food daily to maintain their body weight, especially considering that the dogs were reportedly not exercised. AP has a story on the case as well.  The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said they expect to make further arrests as the investigation continues.

One of my concerns in this case, as in many similar cases, is that the dogs were removed from an apparently neglectful situation and taken to shelters where their lot in life should be immediately improved.  But the day after the dogs were taken to area shelters, a reporter touring the Oregon Humane Society wrote:

The dogs remained in the condition they were found in, with feces matted in one brown miniature pinscher’s coat and yellow vomit staining the piebald white-and-brown coat of a Chihuahua mix.

The same article mentions the dogs’ social skills will be assessed “to determine whether they can be adopted.”  I think it’s safe to say that starving and/or sick dogs crammed into filthy cages 24/7 probably have poor social skills right now, at best.  Behavioral assessments should not be made at this time or at any time in the near future.  At the very least, the dogs need a chance to regain their physical health and have some of their social needs addressed through regular walks, bathing, play and other care before a fair evaluation can be conducted.

I hope these dogs will immediately receive the care and sheltering they need while the legal case is sorted and ultimately find loving homes.

(Thank you Clarice for sending me the links on this story.)

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