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?
On April 11, 2013, I spoke with Carrie Crunk, a rescuer in Memphis. She told me that at the public meeting of the pound’s advisory board the previous evening, several local advocates were concerned about a pregnant dog at MAS. She says interim director James Rogers reassured concerned citizens that time would be provided to allow them network this dog and that no mention was ever made of killing her unborn puppies. The next day, Ms. Crunk says she called MAS and was placed on speaker phone with James Rogers, Tracy Dunlap and DeKeisha Tunstall. She says her group offered to rescue the pregnant dog but one of the people on the call (she’s not sure which one as the person did not identify himself/herself when speaking) said that the dog can not leave the building until she is spayed because it’s state law. When Ms. Crunk expressed concern that spaying a pregnant dog would mean killing the unborn pups inside her, someone on the call replied that the dog was “not far along” and that they had a rescue group from CO which was fine with killing the unborn pups and had offered to take the pregnant dog after the spay surgery. Ms. Crunk also told me she had heard from another local advocate who had visited MAS on April 11 with the intention of visiting the pregnant dog but was turned away because the dog had been “adopted”.
Under the TN open records law, records were requested for the pregnant dog on April 11. This is the wording of the request:
I am requesting all records for the dog ID #252910 – records to include all notes by ACO , behavioral notes, front and back of kennel card and all pertinent information on this dog including her final disposition. I also want all veterinary notes including other records which reference the disposition of the unborn pups in this dogs uterus at the time she was at MAS. I also am requesting the drug log for the day she was spayed.
The records indicate the dog was impounded as a stray on April 3. On April 9, her weight was recorded as 35 pounds and a notation was made that she appeared to be pregnant. She was vaccinated and dewormed. A noted dated April 10 says that Ona Cooper was given 48 hours to network the dog. Medical records from April 10, the day of the public meeting at which James Rogers reassured advocates they had time to network her, indicate she was spayed and her unborn puppies taken from her belly to die. Her weight was recorded as 47.2 pounds. The notes include the following:
Approx 11 puppies, approx 3 weeks old
Puppies given Fatal Plus en utero
On April 11, the day after the meeting, the day after the spay, and the day the records were requested, the following note appears in the records:
Puppies euthanized after spay surgery. 10 puppies estimated to be about 3 weeks in development. 0.1cc per puppy of Fatal Plus, bottle #40.
I have some serious concerns:
- Why did MAS refuse to allow Carrie Crunk’s local group to rescue the dog and her unborn pups in favor of an out of state group which agreed with the killing of the unborn pups?
- Where is this state law that does not allow exceptions for the release of intact dogs from shelters and if it exists, why has MAS ignored it so many times in the past when releasing intact dogs and cats to rescuers?
- Why was James Rogers reassuring concerned citizens at the public meeting on April 10 that they would be given time to network the pregnant dog when in fact she was already spayed, her puppies already removed from her body?
- How can the 12 pound discrepancy in the dog’s weight between April 9 and April 10 be accounted for?
- Why is there only one page containing a single line entry for the pound’s entire drug log on April 11, 2013? Assuming this was a normal day at MAS and numerous pets were killed, how were the other dogs and cats in their care killed that day? Because apparently they didn’t use controlled substances to do it. Is this an indication that strangling dogs and crushing cats to death is still practiced in the MAS kill room?
- Why would anyone at MAS contend that the dog was “not far along” when in fact it was ordinary citizens noticing the size of her belly who alerted MAS to the fact that this dog was pregnant? A pregnant dog’s belly does not begin to enlarge until the second half of pregnancy because the puppies do not develop to any significant size until then. In other words, by the time it’s obvious to casual onlookers that the dog is pregnant, she is near term.
- Why would the vet note that the 11 (or 10?) puppies were only about 3 weeks in development and killed with injections of Fatal Plus when in fact canine embryos at that stage are merely 1 centimeter in size? See a photo of a puppy at that stage of development here. (This is an actual medical photo from a teaching facility and may not be appropriate for sensitive readers.)
- Why are the note about the Fatal Plus injections for the unborn pups and the drug log for those injections both dated April 11 when the spay was done April 10? When the vet indicated the puppies were killed “after” the spay surgery, did that mean one day “after”?
This pregnant dog had a local rescue willing to take her and her unborn puppies but MAS refused in favor of an out of state rescue which raised no objection to the killing of the pups. The unborn puppies had a right to live. The records appear to show deception and incompetence, at best, on the part of MAS. How many more, Memphis?
As a no kill advocate, I am opposed to the spaying of pregnant shelter animals. While I do not believe in the myth of pet overpopulation, that has nothing to do with my opposition. Even if I believed pet overpopulation was real (I do not), I would still be opposed to spaying pregnant dogs and cats because doing so means killing unborn puppies and kittens who have the right to live. As Nathan Winograd wrote in his blog:
When we spay pregnant animals and the unborn kittens and puppies die, the fact that they are not yet born does not relieve our responsibility toward assuring their right to live. When we abort kittens and puppies, we are literally killing puppies and kittens.
If the kittens or puppies are viable, they must be individually killed, usually through an injection of sodium pentobarbital. Even when they are not, however, when a mother is spayed, the kittens or puppies die from anoxia (oxygen deprivation) due to lack of blood supply from the uterus once the vessels are clamped. They suffocate.
I tragically witnessed the spaying of a pregnant dog when I worked in a vet clinic a couple of decades ago. There were two vets on duty and one was performing the surgery. She threw the uterus containing the puppies into the trash. The other vet retrieved the uterus and placed it on a sink table. The puppies crawled around helplessly while she drew up injections of Fatal Plus for each. Had she not killed them individually, they would have crawled around in the trash can until they eventually died. Back then, I did believe that pet overpopulation was real. But I still knew these killings were wrong.
In a shelter environment, pregnant dogs and cats are either killed or spayed regularly. There are presumably times when pregnant dogs and cats are killed or spayed and no one knew the animal was pregnant. While there may be variations among individuals, it is generally impossible to tell if a dog is pregnant just by looking at her during the first 5 weeks of the normal 9 week gestation period. With some dogs, you can not tell even in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy. Luckily there are other detection methods which can be performed by an experienced vet but they are limited. It is possible for vets who specialize in canine reproduction to palpate the uterus at approximately 4 weeks. The puppies at this time are contained in walnut sized sacs and the window for palpation is brief – about 1 week. Even if the timing is right and the vet is experienced, there are still some dogs who carry their pups in such a way to make palpation impossible. Ultrasound is a more reliable method of detecting pregnancy and may be used from about 3 weeks onward. Radiographs can only be used to detect pregnancy during the final 2 weeks of gestation. By that point, the dog may be able to diagnosed by simple observational methods such as an enlarged abdomen, development of mammary tissue, and fetal movement. While I have very little experience with female cats, my understanding is that pregnancy detection methods are similar to those used with dogs and ultrasound is the preferred method for reliability.
What does all this mean for female shelter animals? I believe we have a moral obligation to protect the lives of all shelter animals, including the unborn. I would therefore offer guidelines for a certain portion of the shelter population. That portion includes all female dogs and cats who meet the following criteria:
- Have reached the age of puberty (approximately 6 months).
- Have an unknown medical history and no sign of having been spayed (such as spay scar or tattoo).
- Have not come into heat while in the shelter’s care. (Pregnant dogs and cats do not come in season.)
For female shelter animals who meet the above criteria, I suggest the following guidelines to protect the lives of any puppies or kittens they may be carrying:
- If the female dog or cat meeting the specified criteria has been at the shelter for less than 9 weeks, the operating assumption must be that the animal is pregnant. For those animals meeting the criteria who have been at the shelter for less than 3 weeks, an inconclusive veterinary determination must be interpreted as positive for pregnancy until a conclusive determination can be made at a later date.
- Under no circumstances should a female dog or cat meeting the specified criteria be killed unless a veterinarian determines she is irremediably suffering, in which case euthanasia should be performed.
- Once a female is scheduled for sterilization, she should be evaluated for signs of pregnancy by the shelter vet.
- If the shelter vet determines the animal is pregnant, the shelter may release her with reasonable restrictions to ensure that mother and litter are all sterilized prior to permanent adoption.
- If the vet’s determination is inconclusive, the female may be released with a signed agreement to avoid all contact with intact males of her species until 9 weeks have elapsed from date of impound at which time she can be returned to the shelter for spay (or spayed by a private vet of the adopter’s choosing with verifiable documentation to be provided to the shelter).
- Females meeting the specified criteria who have been at the shelter less than 9 weeks (but more than 3 weeks) may be spayed if a veterinarian determines, based upon ultrasound and confirmed by observation, that she is not pregnant.
- Females who have come into heat while in the shelter’s care and who have been prevented from any unsupervised contact with intact males of their species may be assumed not to be pregnant and may be spayed without veterinary consultation regarding possible pregnancy.
- Females meeting the specified criteria who have been at the shelter for more than 9 weeks and who have been prevented from any unsupervised contact with intact males of their species may be assumed not to be pregnant and may be spayed without veterinary consultation regarding possible pregnancy.
As promised, another installment featuring records for some of the pets needlessly killed by the Memphis pound during the week of December 5 – December 12, 2012. The first set of records belongs to a litter of pups, 2 male and 2 female mixed breeds, who were impounded as strays on 11-29-2012. Although the impounding ACO’s notes were requested, none were provided so presumably either the officer failed to make any notes or the city failed to provide the requested records. The MAS records show the pups were apparently young and healthy and they all received vaccinations and deworming on 12-2-12. Their cage cards indicate they were housed in an area of the shelter where the public is not allowed. Their review date (after the mandatory hold period) was 12-5-12 and instead of being marketed for foster or adoption on that day, they were all taken to the kill room and put in the trash. They weighed just 5 pounds each.
The next pet was a 1 year old Pitbull type female named Laura. Her cage card indicates she was housed in an area of the shelter where the public is not allowed. Laura’s owner surrendered her to MAS on 12-4-12 “due to chewing and climbing fence”. (Note: This is per a note entered by Christine at MAS. The owner surrender form was not provided and there is a note on Laura’s cage card that says “No form avail.”) Chewing and fence climbing are not unusual behaviors in young dogs and they are well within the realm of behavioral issues which can be readily addressed by owners, sometimes with the help of a professional trainer (other times simply with the help of a bone). But Laura was taken to the kill room on 12-5-12 after a note was entered in her record by shelter supervisor DeKeisha Tunstall which read, “Animal has poor behavioral history per owner. No holds requested at time of memo entry.” Poor behavioral history per owner in this case is the pound’s attempt to spin the facts: The dog’s reported behavior, which is not unusual and carries a reasonable expectation of modification with training, is unverified. And no holds requested is indicative of the fact that no one had a chance to request a hold on this dog because the only people who knew she was there were the ones intent on killing her. Laura never had a chance.
MAS impounded a 1 year old Pitbull type dog named Beer on 10-24-12. Although the impounding ACO’s notes were requested, none were provided so presumably either the officer failed to make any notes or the city failed to provide the requested records. Beer was neutered, wearing a collar and had a microchip. On 10-25, Vincetta D. Jackson called Home Again regarding the microchip and obtained the owner’s name, address and phone number. The records indicate the number was called but found to be disconnected. There is no note to indicate any letter was mailed to the owner’s address or that 411 was called to see if there was a new phone listing for the owner. There are no notes indicating the dog’s information was checked against lost dog reports in-house, on Craigslist, on Facebook or anywhere at all. There are no notes indicating the dog was listed by MAS as FOUND on any website. Beer was vaccinated, dewormed, given a flea treatment and determined to be heartworm negative on 10-30-12. There are no notes indicating he was ever determined to be sick. He was killed on 12-5-12. No reason was marked on his kill card.
Champ was wearing a leather collar and an ID tag when MAS impounded him as a stray on 11-13-12. Although the impounding ACO’s notes were requested, none were provided so presumably either the officer failed to make any notes or the city failed to provide the requested records. He was a neutered 2 year old mixed breed dog. A note entered into his record on 11-15 by Tameka Booker-Shaw indicates that “when moving this dog”, an ID tag was noticed and an unsuccessful attempt was made to reach the owner by phone. There are no notes to indicate any follow up attempts to reach the owner were made in the days following. There are no notes indicating the dog’s information was checked against lost dog reports in-house, on Craigslist, on Facebook or anywhere at all. There are no notes indicating the dog was listed by MAS as FOUND on any website. On 11-26, a note entered by shelter supervisor DeKeisha Tunstall says, “E-mailed Tracy Dunlap in an effort to locate a rescue group. Dog already neutered and very well trained.” As far as I know, no such plea was issued to the rescue groups on the MAS list. On 12-4, Ms. Tunstall noted “animal’s time has expired” in the record. Champ was killed on 12-5-12.
Goodbye litter of 5 pound pups, Laura, Beer and Champ. I’m sorry the people paid to protect you from harm failed to do their jobs. Your lives had value and you were loved, even if it wasn’t evident at the end. I won’t forget you. Memphis please, stop the killing.
February 25, 2013
If you are unfamiliar with tubal ligations and vasectomies for pets, here is an excellent primer. Basically they are surgical procedures to render pets incapable of reproduction and are far less invasive than traditional spay-neuter. The procedures allow pets to keep their gonads, and their hormones, and therefore do not affect breeding behavior. As such, Dr. Khuly notes that tubal ligations and vasectomies for cats are not likely to offer much benefit for owners:
They’re just not behaviorally amenable to in-home living when their ovaries and testicles hold such aggressive sway over their behavior.
But for dogs, the scenario is different.
From a public policy standpoint, vasectomization and tubal ligation offer the advantage of a less invasive, more rapid brand of sterilization.
In addition, the procedures can reportedly be safely performed in very young puppies. This offers the option to shelters and rescues to send home all puppies already rendered incapable of reproduction. There would be no need to follow up with the adopter at a later date in order to encourage him to follow through with the neuter surgery. And none would slip through the cracks.
There is also a significant health benefit for the dog. A recent study has added to the body of evidence supporting that neutering dogs before one year of age puts them at significantly higher risk for health problems including joint disorders and cancer:
Specifically, early neutering was associated with an increase in the occurrence of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear and lymphosarcoma in males and of cranial cruciate ligament tear in females.
With tubal ligation and vasectomies, the owner can always opt to have spay or neuter surgery performed after the puppy is grown, if desired.
In her post, Dr. Khuly points out that vets are not taught tubal ligations and vasectomies in school. This would seem to be a glaring omission from the curriculum since the need for the procedures, especially at shelters and low cost spay-neuter clinics which many animal rescue groups utilize, is obvious. I can imagine many breeders making use of the service as well, were it available at the private vet clinic they already use.
It seems to me that tubal ligations and vasectomies in dogs could have a meaningful impact on both intake and outflow at shelters and rescues. Puppies could be sent home at 8 weeks of age, instead of holding them as some groups do until they are considered old enough for neuter surgery or sending them home intact, with a promise to neuter later. And they could be sent home already rendered incapable of reproduction, thus reducing future unintended litters. With the very real potential to reduce serious health problems, there seems to be no downside to this elective procedure.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you see any potential drawbacks? Why aren’t more vets and particularly shelter vets performing tubal ligations and vasectomies on puppies? Should no kill advocates be encouraging shelter vets and those at low cost neuter clinics to learn and offer the procedures?
January 18, 2013
In a 14 page Blame the Community manifesto, the director of the Kern Co pound in CA, Jen Woodard, details the needless killing of pets and blames everybody but those doing the killing. Ms. Woodard previously worked for Best Friends in L.A. before taking the Kern Co job in October.
In the document, Ms. Woodard states that Kern Co kills any puppy who has parvo-like symptoms and tests positive on a snap test as well as all other exposed puppies less than 6 months of age. This practice is not based in science and should be discontinued immediately. Treatment of parvo puppies is possible in a shelter environment and that option should be fully explored by all shelters. Killing exposed dogs based solely on age, dogs who may in fact be immune, is cruel for the sake of cruelty – it serves no purpose. A compassionate director would have written 14 pages about that.
Instead, Ms. Woodard runs through a laundry list of members of the community to blame for the killing, including:
- Local vets, who all suck apparently and are only in it for the dough
- Mexicans, who don’t care about their pets because of “cultural beliefs”
- Local animal organizations, who do nothing but bicker
- The weather, which also sucks
- Pet owners in general, who don’t want to know how to protect their pets from diseases
And while blaming everybody else for their ignorance, Ms. Woodard demonstrates her own lack of understanding regarding disease prevention. For example, she states:
And furthermore, most puppy owners don’t know they need a series of 3 of the vaccines to be fully effective in preventing parvovirus and distemper. A pup with 2 vaccines is still susceptible.
This is not based in science. The number of vaccines a puppy receives is not what confers immunity but rather the timing of the vaccines relative to the presence of maternal antibodies. Before a shelter director goes blaming the Mexicans, it would be nice to see her demonstrate a meaningful understanding of vaccine conferred immunity in puppies.
The report offers a number of solutions to the killing and improper disease management protocols at the pound but none of them include “Stop needlessly killing animals and start using science based disease management strategies”. Instead, the report focuses on educating the public about the importance of vaccination, among other things, and includes a volunteer team to walk the streets and another team to call Craigslist ads for puppies to educate the ad placers. This is a puzzling strategy because earlier in the report, Ms. Woodard notes that one of the problems in the community is ignorance of “basic pet responsibility” which she attributes to the fact that “much of the community is uninterested in hearing this message”. Will the unwashed masses suddenly become interested if they get a call from someone telling them about spay-neuter in response to their Craigslist ad for puppies?
I am very disappointed in Ms. Woodard’s report, which was apparently not intended to be read by the public. I can see why.
Maddie’s Fund: Redefining Vaccination on Intake
(Thanks Clarice for sending me links on this story.)
September 24, 2011
A man at a chain store parking lot was selling eight-week-old Pitbull puppies for $50 each. A woman approached him and asked about the moving garbage bag he was holding. He tried to blow her off but she pressed the issue and he eventually gave her the swimmer puppy that was in the bag. The Good Samaritan took the puppy to the local shelter where staff determined the puppy should be killed. Erica Daniel, a foster home provider who was at the shelter at the time the puppy arrived, asked if she could take her home and give her just 24 more hours of life. Ms. Daniel named the puppy Harper.
Ms. Daniel made an appointment for euthanasia at a veterinary office for the next day. She decided to do everything she could think of to help Harper, who was stuck in the splayed position seen in the above photo, up until that time:
“The longer she was like that, the more she stayed in that position,” Daniel said. “It felt like rigor mortis — like her legs might break.”
Despite that, Daniel kept massaging Harper’s tight muscles, hoping to alleviate at least some of her stiffness and pain. Within just a few hours, Harper started lifting her head and looking around. Her front legs became more limber as well, so much so that she tried using them to walk and pull herself around.
Daniel’s reaction: “WHOA.”
Ms. Daniel cancelled the euthanasia appointment and took Harper to a vet for second opinion. Although that vet was not initially hopeful, they decided to conduct the appropriate tests in order to make an informed decision:
And, as it turned out, the rumors of Harper’s demise were greatly exaggerated. Her organs were functioning just fine, and she had no heart murmur or serious brain abnormalities. The medical conditions she did have required treatment — but nothing that warranted putting her to sleep.
Whoa again. A canine hydrotherapy clinic heard about Harper and offered free swimming and massage therapy. The pup responded very well and soon developed the ability to walk. Harper is now 11 weeks old and enjoying being alive.
Thank you to the kind-hearted woman who cared enough to rescue Harper from the trash bag in the store parking lot.
Thank you to Ms. Daniel who didn’t give up hope, even when the shelter staff wanted to kill Harper.
Thank you to the veterinarian who, despite misgivings about a positive prognosis, conducted the necessary tests to determine if those fears were founded in factual evidence in Harper’s case.
Thank you to the canine hydrotherapy business for donating services to help Harper thrive.
The irresponsible public strikes again.
March 3, 2011
You know that saying “They grow up so fast”? Well Mulder aged a couple of months this week. Let me explain.
When she first came to us, I estimated her age was about 6 weeks. We took her for her first vet visit about 2 and 1/2 weeks later and the vet agreed with me that Mulder was probably in the 8 – 9 week old range. I am a breeder. My vet is a breeder. And she sees A LOT of puppies. I had every confidence that Mulder had been born sometime around October 22. I already have that date marked on my 2011 calendar for her 1 year birthday.
This past weekend, I found she was in season. I have never had a bitch come in at such a young age. I was shocked. I wrote to my Aunt who breeds Shelties (I figure Mulder has some Sheltie in her family tree) and she asked me if I was sure about Mulder’s age. I said that maybe I could have been a week off either way but yeah, pretty sure. Then she asked “Still has baby teeth?”. Yeah I’m sure she does but I’ll go ahead and look just for the heck of it. Adult teeth. Whaaaaaa?
From my Aunt:
December 1, 2010
I’m taking a poll. Unscientific as ever.
But first I have a confession: I don’t like puppies. When I say “don’t like”, I don’t mean to give the impression that I actively dislike puppies or wish them harm or anything. I should perhaps reword my sentiment to say “I prefer adult dogs”. So although I have raised a number of puppies over the years, including several litters I bred, I try to have puppies around as infrequently as possibly. Er – I prefer to have adult dogs around as often as possible… whatevah.
So it’s been awhile since I’ve had a puppy in the house and I wanted to poll readers on what they feed their puppies. Please share your feeding regimen, whether it consists of table scraps or expensive kibble or whatever edible combination of stuff you use. I’m interested. And looking for ideas too as so far, my scaredy-cat pup will only eat if I’m sitting next to her, and even then, not as much as I’d like. It’s probably a lot to do with anxiety and hopefully will improve over time. But options would be good.