Hillsborough Co Kills Dog Who Had New Home Waiting

Chai, as shown on the WTSP website.

Chai, as shown on the WTSP website.

At the Hillsborough Co pound in Florida, killing is the default – so much so that the pound put a protocol in place for anyone wanting to save a pet:  e-mail the pound with DO NOT KILL in the subject line and the animal’s ID number.  This is the only way to toss a cog into the killing machine at Hillsborough Co apparently.

But it didn’t save Chai, a stray dog who had been housed in an area not visible to the public at the pound.  Despite this, Chai managed to find a home.  When the rescuer called Saturday morning to follow up on the e-mail and advise she was on her way to pick the pet up, she was told Chai had already been killed.

Hillsborough Co offered no explanation – not even an official oops.  When the local news requested an interview, the staff hid.  When the reporter asked to see the records from Saturday, the staff claimed the records were unavailable to due to a power outage.  Presumably the power outage did not affect the killing assembly line.

This is par for the course at the Hillsborough Co pound.  And residents can expect more of the same until they demand meaningful reform and an end to the killing.  The default for any animal shelter should be lifesaving.  When mistakes happen, they should be in favor of lifesaving.  Hillsborough Co is on the wrong track.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

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

Rahzz, as shown on the WFSA website.

Rahzz, as shown on the WFSA website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shelter supervisor Shawn Bird told a local reporter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks Clarice for sending me this story.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Corpus Christi Pound Oops-Kills Owned Dog During Quarantine

The pound in Corpus Christi, TX is run by the police department.  On February 9, Corpus Christi Animal Care Services  impounded a dog named Bandit for quarantine after he reportedly bit a person.  The owner, Mary Trevino, was given a 10 day quarantine form by the impounding ACO, which she signed and kept her copy.  Ms. Trevino says she maintained constant contact with an ACO named Rhodes throughout the quarantine period as she intended to pick Bandit up as soon as the city would release him.   The day before the quarantine expired, the city killed Bandit, because they say they thought his owner had surrendered him.  Oops.

But when a devastated Ms. Trevino went to the local news and a reporter began asking questions, the city decided to hold a presser to explain its side of the story.  Which basically amounts to:  Owner?  What owner?

Commander Todd Green:

Animal Care Services admits that this entire incident could have been handled better and offer our apologies to whoever actually owns the dog.

Right.  We apologize to Miss Mystery Owner, whom we don’t know and have never heard of in our lives.  The one we had sign the impound form and talked to about reclaiming her dog.  The one whom we later said we thought, incorrectly, had surrendered the dog allowing us to kill him.  That unknown person, wherever she may be, long may she run.

The city will investigate itself to determine whether any policies were violated.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

“Human Error” Blamed for Oops-Killing in Prince George’s Co

Screengrab from the WUSA website.

Screengrab from the WUSA website.

Prince George’s County in MD has had a body shape based ban on dogs since 1997.  Like every other similar ban, it tears families apart and offers no benefit of any kind.  But Prince George’s Co continues to uphold the ban.  Because AHHH Pitbulls!

When a bully breed type dog was surrendered at the Prince George’s Co pound by her owner last week, a local rescue group moved swiftly to save her.  Within hours, they found a foster home where the healthy dog, who was about to give birth to a litter of puppies, could raise her family in safety and comfort.  The rescue advised the pound they were sending a volunteer to pick her up.  But someone at the pound failed to mark the dog’s record with a DO NOT KILL so Prince George’s Co killed her before the rescuer arrived.  Oops.

Lisa Marie Czop, the rescue volunteer who tried to save this dog, told me she received a text message from a pound worker that read, “Don’t worry about the pregnant dog I emailed you about” which she soon learned meant the dog had been oops-killed.

The Public Information Specialist for Prince George’s Co told the local news:

[T]he animal was selected for euthanasia due to the lack of space at the Facility and her condition.

Her condition was reportedly healthy.  I believe that the county spokesman is using the word “condition” to indicate that the dog was pregnant and had a body shape deemed illegal by the county.

Lisa Marie Czop wrote to me in an e-mail:

The issue is the leadership at the shelter, and specifically in this case, the kennel manager who makes the decisions to euthanize, does not have life-saving as the top priority of the shelter.

In my opinion, the best outcome would be to remove leadership from this shelter, specifically Chief Taylor. However, a more realistic goal in light of all of this media attention may be to establish some oversight by the County of this shelter so that they can answer to the fact that they are euthanizing significantly more animals than the shelters around them.

County Executive Rushern Baker is the highest level of County leadership that the shelter reports to, and his office phone number is 301-952-4131.

When a pregnant dog who is near term is injected with Fatal Plus, she dies.  But her puppies remain alive inside her uterus, forced to slowly suffocate to death.  This dog had a right to live, as did her unborn puppies.  This dog and her unborn puppies were wanted and a rescue group had advised Prince George’s Co they were coming to pick her up.  But the county killed her anyway, blaming “human error”.

I would offer that the human error at the Prince George’s Co pound is the systematic killing of healthy pets and harboring bias against certain dogs based on body shape.  Within this culture of killing, pound workers view discrimination and death as standard operating procedure which is why no one jumped up and down screaming, “No, this is not right!” when this dog was taken to the kill room.  If Prince George’s Co was doing its job and saving every healthy/treatable animal in its care, that’s exactly what would have happened because no compassionate worker committed to protecting pets’ lives would stand by and allow this dog to be killed and her puppies, who likely could have survived outside the uterus, to smother.

I’ve been hearing for years that shelter works do not want to kill animals.  I’m tired of hearing it.  Show me.  Start doing your jobs and providing shelter to the animals in your care.  Follow the example set by the hundreds of open admission shelters in this country that are saving more than 90% of their animals.  Stop the excuses.  Stop the killing.

(Thank you Anne T. for the link.)

AZ Shelter Oops-Kills Family Pet

Hollie in a screengrab from the KGUN online report

Hollie in a screengrab from the KGUN online report

On Christmas Day 2013, an ACO impounded a dog named Hollie for a rabies quarantine at the Pima Animal Care Center in AZ after she reportedly chased a child on a bike and bit his leg.  Owner Tammy Porter was given a form to sign indicating she would redeem Hollie as soon as the quarantine expired.  The Porters were prepared to meet with shelter staff for education on how to keep Hollie reliably contained and prevent another incident.

When Ms. Porter arrived at the shelter to take Hollie home, she learned the impounding officer had failed to properly communicate to the staff that the owner intended to redeem Hollie.  So they killed her.  Oops.

“It devastated us.” Hollie was part of our family for six years.”

The news really hurt Tammy’s 12-year-old daughter Rachel Porter.

“I was really close to her,” said Rachel.

Manager Kim Janes comes across as lackadaisical in his response to the killing of an owned pet:

“We always review our procedures when these kinds of things happen,” he said. “And we just doubled up on some of the double checks we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Ho hum. Just another day at the office.

In its 2012-2013 annual report, the Pima Animal Care Center claims its live release rate was 64% (without providing the detailed numbers behind this figure).  Shelters that do their jobs have live release rates in the 95% range.  Pima is falling short.  “These kinds of things” don’t happen in a vacuum.  They happen as a result of a culture of killing – where controlling the shelter population by violence is an accepted standard and owned pets sometimes inadvertently wind up in the vast swath of death deemed acceptable and normal.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

MAS Oops-Kills Rescued Dog

Josie, oops-killed by Memphis pound

Josie, oops-killed by Memphis pound

The pet killing facility operated by the city of Memphis is one of the most notorious in the country, primarily known for stuffed shirts mouthing platitudes about success and excellence while city employees torture and starve animals to death.  Lest anyone think Memphis Animal Services has been falling down on the job lately, Exhibit A:

A pit bull was wrongfully euthanized by Memphis Animal Services after being adopted.

Oops.  The dog, Josie, was rescued by a local group who completed her paperwork after the next day’s kill list had already been made up and Josie had apparently already been moved to the holding area for the kill room.  Her status was changed from KILL to RESCUED in the computer and a cage card of a different color, which apparently indicates DO NOT KILL, was placed on her cage.  But when the kill techs came in the next morning, they went straight to work killing every animal on the previous day’s list, including Josie.

Chief Excuses Officer James Rogers issued the following statement in response.  This would be a good time to grab a barf bag and have it handy:

I regret to inform you that “Josie” Female Pit Bull, ID # 263120 was accidentally euthanized due to human error. This unfortunate accident provided an opportunity for us to review our processes and take immediate steps to lessen the likelihood of this happening again.

While MSA has made tremendous progress, our processes and procedures continue to evolve as we strive for excellence in our efforts to care for and preserve for adoptions as many pets as we can.

Our research into this incident shows that the ER list was created and duly signed by MAS management personnel on Tuesday, 2/11 at approximately 3:00 p.m. for Wednesday morning ER. The dog was in ER Holding. The pet was adopted at 4:38 PM on Tuesday evening by Bailey’s Arm rescue. Notes were put in the system that the pet was adopted and a green card generated to indicate adoption with all appropriate information and documentation placed in cage card holder.

The dog remained in ER Holding overnight with updated card. On Wednesday morning ER began using the approved ER list created at 3:00 PM on Tuesday, 2/11. Unfortunately, CAETS failed to inquire about the pet, which had obviously been adopted according to chameleon data and the highly visible green card on the cage.

I have addressed the issue with management and staff and instituted the following changes:

1) The ER list will be created the “morning of” the ER process with appropriate signatures from management.

2) All pets will be moved from ER to another holding when adopted.

3) Because CAETs are the last chance to ensure animals are not euthanized in error. All notes should be read, cards matched and the two (CAETs serving as the injector and holder) agree on the facts.

MAS has made tremendous strides in every aspect of the operation and we remain steadfast in our effort to make adjustments in our processes, and we will continue to work with rescue organizations such as Bailey’s Arms to find new homes for pets in our care.

- James Rogers, Administrator, Memphis Animal Services

I note there is no mention of disciplinary action against the kill techs who ignored the DO NOT KILL colored card on Josie’s cage and killed her anyway.

The most astonishing revelation to my mind though is that MAS kill techs have been killing animals without reading the notes made on the animals.  So if those notes say something like, “Seven people are trying to adopt this dog” or the slightly more direct, “Step away from this adopted pet you sadist”, the kill techs have never known it because MAS kill techs haven’t been reading the notes.  Nobody WANTS to kill animals, and MAS is totally awesome and they kill most every animal in their facility year after year but they have never bothered to read the notes on the animals they kill.  Because strive for excellence.

Josie was not killed due to human error.  Josie was killed because there is a long standing culture of abuse at MAS where killing is the standard.  The pound has always functioned primarily as a pet killing facility and any pets who make it out alive do so despite the efforts of staff to kill them.  The kill techs at MAS get paid extra to kill animals.  Their incentive is to kill Josie, not to look at her card indicating she’s been rescued and certainly not to read her notes that in effect say “Do not get your bonus pay on this one”.  Until a group of advocates is willing to publicly stand up and demand reform, for as long as it takes to get it, the culture of killing will remain at MAS.  And there will continue to be mountains of Josies sent to the landfill daily by MAS.

(Thanks No Kill Brevard and Clarice for sending me this story.)

Fort Bend Co Oops-Kills 2 Owned Pets While Rescue Group Signs Paperwork to Save Them

Fort Bend Co AC in Texas posts its mission statement on its website:

The mission of animal control is to eradicate the spread of rabies among the county’s animals, prevent rabies in the human population, and control wild, potentially dangerous animals in areas of high population density.

Animal shelter fail.

The site contains a link so owners can view photos of lost pets who have been impounded. At that link this morning, there is one dog and zero cats. Animal shelter fail.

Screengrab from FortBendCountyPets.com

Screengrab from FortBendCountyPets.com

Rene Vasquez, assistant director at the Fort Bend Co pound, told a local reporter that the facility takes in 600 pets every month and adopted out just 750 animals last year. Animal shelter fail.

On Monday, a pair of friendly dogs were brought in by someone who had found them roaming loose.  The french bulldog and his pitbull mix buddy were immediately seen by a local rescue group that offered to take the dogs for their 3 day holding period and return them if an owner was located.  While the representative from the rescue was filling out the paperwork, Fort Bend Co killed both dogs.  Oops.  Animal shelter fail.

The rescue group posted the photos of the dogs on its Facebook page in hopes that the owner could be found and informed as to what happened to his pets.  And since Fort Bend Co clearly doesn’t keep its website updated, it’s good the so-called irresponsible public stepped in to take up the slack.

The owner did learn that his pets had been killed and was understandably devastated.  He explained he had followed his normal morning routine, letting his 3 dogs out into his fenced yard and when he let them in 30 minutes later, only 1 dog remained.  When he found out Fort Bend Co had killed his dogs upon impound, he told the local news:

I couldn’t believe it.  I don’t know what to do.  I really don’t know what to do.

Fort Bend Co says protocol wasn’t followed and disciplinary action will be taken against the employees who killed Jax, the mixed breed, and Jake, the frenchie.  Because there is a protocol in place for the systemic killing of dogs and cats at Fort Bend Co – a protocol which dictates owner surrenders may be killed immediately but strays can’t be killed for 3 days.  Animal shelter fail.

Screengrab depicting Jake and Jax from a video at the Click2Houston website

Screengrab depicting Jake and Jax from a video at the Click2Houston website

The kill techs accidentally got Jax and Jake mixed in with the group of pets who are routinely killed upon intake.  Animal shelter fail.

The owner, who did not wish to be identified, told the reporter it would be a shame if this happened to someone else’s dogs.  But killing is the standard protocol in place at Fort Bend Co.  Killing immediately or killing 3 days after impound.  Kill, kill, kill.  I find it extremely unlikely that oops-killings of owned pets haven’t happened before at Fort Bend Co and surely they will happen again.  Because killing is the default.  The protocols are all about killing.  When your facility takes in 600 animals a month and only live releases roughly 62 of them, you are functioning primarily as a pet killing facility.  Animal shelter fail.

In the face of this epic failure at Fort Bend Co, I would suggest disciplinary action against the kill techs who got mixed up while doing their jobs is not going to cut it, especially if the county truly wants to be a no kill shelter, as the assistant director told the Local 2 reporter.  What’s needed is a complete overhaul.  I would start by round-filing all killing based protocols and replacing them with lifesaving protocols, such as the ones followed by the hundreds of open admission shelters in this country saving more than 90% of their pets.  Make the commitment to doing your jobs and sheltering the animals in your care – both owned and unowned.  Get everyone on board with the goal of saving every healthy/treatable dog and cat that comes through the front doors.  If you do that, no employee at the shelter is even going to consider killing dogs like Jax and Jake because their immediate reaction upon seeing them in the kill room is going to be, “A mistake has been made.  These pets are not medically hopeless and suffering.  I am not going to kill them because my job is to save them.  That’s what we do here.”  Tragically, Fort Bend Co had very little to offer in response to the needless killing of Jax and Jake besides oops.

Animal shelter fail.

(Thanks Maureen and Clarice 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.

When to Seek New Employment

After a shelter oops-kills someone’s pet, there is sometimes media coverage where the director defends the killing and attempts to blame the owner, adopter and/or the general public.  If you ever see a headline accurately naming the shelter where you work followed by the words “Defends Pet’s Killing”, you may want to find another job.  Because you aren’t working at a shelter, you are working at an excuse.



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