SC Pound Policy: Take Newborn Kittens Away from Nursing Mothers and Kill Them

Mama cat and newborn kittens, saved by a member of the public.  Because kittens.  (photo by Casey post)

Mama cat and newborn kittens, saved by a member of the public in Ohio. Because kittens. (photo by Casey Post)

The Greenville Co pound in SC has implemented two new policies concerning cats:

1. Kittens born at the pound who weigh less than 100 grams will be taken from their mothers and killed immediately.  The reason, as stated in an e-mail written by Susan Bufano, the community relations coordinator for the Greenville Co pound, in response to a concerned citizen:

It is not a normal, healthy birth weight and our vet has determined that they will probably not survive.

“Probably not” indicates to me an inherent admission that there is some hope for survival. And I think that hope is very reasonable, considering the following:

  • The ASPCA says 100 grams is “an average birth weight for kittens… depending on breed and litter size.”  Average means some kittens will weigh a little more than 100 grams, some a little less.  Size of the mother cat and number of kittens in the litter must be taken into account when evaluating birth weight of each individual.
  • This government study which looked at newborn kitten weights in five different cat breeds found that only two breeds, Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest Cat (both large cats), had kittens which averaged more than 100 grams at birth.  The other three breeds studied – Birman, Persian, and Siamese/Oriental Shorthair – all had kittens whose average weight at birth was between 82 and 97 grams.
  • A random veterinarian I found via Google wrote: “Kittens have a normal birth weight of 100 ± 10 g (3.5 ± 0.35 oz). Kittens with a birth weight of less than 90 g (3.2 oz) have poor survival rates.”

Given this information, it’s not at all clear to me that the Greenville Co pound policy is based in science.  That is, the notion that kittens weighing less than 100 grams at birth “will probably not survive” appears dubious, at best.  And to be clear, taking newborn kittens of any weight away from their nursing mothers in order to kill them is something only monsters would do.  Kittens have a right to live and their mothers have the right to care for them.  No animal “shelter” policy trumps those rights.  Any “shelter” staff members who do not recognize that fact should resign immediately, before any additional animals are harmed due to their failures.

The other new policy at the pound:

2. Orphaned kittens under one pound are deemed “rescue only” and must leave the shelter within three hours. The reason, per Ms. Bufano’s e-mail:

We want our fosters to focus on the animals who have the highest likelihood for survival[.]

It was so hard on wonderful, loving fosters to take these neonate kittens home only for them not to thrive (and, the small weight also ended up indicating illness in the mothers) and pass away, regardless of how hard they cared for them. I witnessed the agony of many fosters who blamed themselves, when we all know that some kittens just don’t make it. They will be fine one day and die the next.

So, the decision was made to save the animals that had the most chance at survival. In doing so, we are anticipating more life saving, not less.

Wow, apparently it takes a whole mountain of bullshit to allow monsters to sleep at night.

By branding pets “rescue only”, shelters shut out an enormous pool of potential help:  the general public.  It’s not a good strategy to increase lifesaving.  Also bad:  using phony we-care-about-rescuers’-feelings as an excuse for killing kittens.  How did someone even think this twisted thing up?  Also also bad:  requiring rescue groups, typically operated out of people’s homes on shoestring budgets, to somehow get orphaned kittens out of the Greenville Co pound within three hours of arrival.

Rescuers often have day jobs, families, and other pets in need of care and will rarely be in a position to drop everything in order to quickly snatch kittens from the kill room at the pound.  That is, assuming the pound has promptly notified rescue contacts by mental telepathy since e-mail or voicemail obviously won’t suffice in these situations.  How would you like to be the rescuer who checks her e-mail at lunch or after work and finds out a litter of orphaned kittens you would have been willing to save was killed by Greenville Co because you didn’t check your messages sooner?  How is threatening to kill newborn orphaned kittens consistent with the county’s purported concern for rescuers’ emotional well-being?

While those who kill shelter pets instead of doing their jobs often blame the so-called irresponsible public for the killing, it is the shelter staff, following antiquated and inhumane policies designed to kill pets instead of helping them, who are to blame for the killing.  In fact, no rescuers, fosters, adopters and no one outside of the Greenville Co pound should blame themselves for the needless killing being done there.

Greenville Co pretends to be interested in lifesaving and pretends to care about the emotional toll taken on the compassionate public willing to help shelter pets, all the while implementing policies so cruel and archaic, no one with a conscience need perform more than a cursory examination to determine how heartless and inconsistent with animal sheltering those policies are.  Shame on Greenville Co for pretending to care.  There are few worse things in this world.  And they do those there, too.

Added, April 19, 2014:

Bringing up from the comments, from spaycritter, for those wanting to know who to contact about the needless killing of kittens at the Greenville Co pound:

Just an FYI– emails/calls to GCACS will be spun into gold.. Seriously , they will be said to “create drama , and take away from the staff’s ability to care for the animals in our facility”… at least , that’s what has been said on past attempts to shine a light. A better tactic is to contact the bosses of the boss..Here is contact info for those interested
Go to the county admin and county council..And since Greenville County contracts with Spartanburg County, contacting the same offices of S’burg county would be good..
https://www.greenvillecounty.org/Departments.asp#sectC
http://www.co.spartanburg.sc.us/govt/depts/cc/index.htm
http://www.co.spartanburg.sc.us/govt/depts/admin/index.htm

 

 

Main Line Animal Rescue Refuses to Return Lost Pet to Owners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worse:

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

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

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

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

Affirmative.

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

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

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

Apparently Karma Rescue neglected to include a giant asterisk there.

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

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

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

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

No Charges Against Last Hope Cat Kingdom, Sanctuary Re-Opened

Remember when it was reported that Merced Co AC was sending nearly 400 orphaned bottle babies a year to Last Hope Cat Kingdom, a facility allowed by county permit to have just 125 animals?  And how Last Hope knew they were literally the last hope for these kittens because if they didn’t accept them, AC would kill the kittens?  And that AC continued to send kittens to the sanctuary up to and including the day they raided the place and decided gee, there’s too many cats here?  Good times.

It’s the county shelter’s job to shelter animals.  The county should be partnering with the community to accomplish this task.  Instead Merced Co was relying on a violent threat to an overburdened sanctuary:  Take these kittens or we’ll kill them.  They repeated this threat over and over to the tune of roughly 2000 kittens in 4 years.  This is not only a fundamental failure of the Merced Co shelter to fulfill its mission to shelter animals but also blatant exploitation of compassionate sanctuary volunteers who felt compelled to keep saying yes to kittens in order to save them from the kill room, even when they lacked the resources to provide for them.

When the county raided Last Hope in June 2013, it destroyed evidence of the county’s negligence by killing 200 cats on site.  County leaders should have demanded an independent investigation of the shelter staff’s failure to do their jobs and the subsequent destruction of evidence to hide the wrongdoing.  Instead, they gloated on Facebook about the raid and threatened the victim in the case, the cat sanctuary, with charges.

Last week, the county DA announced there would be no charges against Last Hope owner Renate Schmitz or any of the volunteers and that the sanctuary’s permit would be renewed under strict guidelines:

  • The facility can house a maximum of 40 cats.  No dogs are allowed.
  • Volunteers must undergo a training program.
  • Weekly reports must be provided to the county.
  • For each 6 month period that Last Hope complies with the regulations, the facility will be allowed to house 10 additional cats, until they reach 80.

A press release quotes Steven Slocum, a supervising deputy in the District Attorney’s office:

“Any prosecutor would be hard pressed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 jurors that Ms. Schmitz is a criminal deserving of conviction and incarceration,” Slocum said.

Yeah but I bet you could convince 12 jurors that Merced Co AC is guilty of defrauding taxpayers by failing to do its job, foisting its failures on to a sanctuary it knew was incapable of bearing this burden and then destroying the evidence in a mass killing.  Anyone looking into that?

Many pound directors know that the threat to kill animals forces some rescuers to say yes to more animals than they have the resources with which to provide a reasonable quality of life.  Instead of expanding their network of potential partners in the community and promoting their special needs animals using all available platforms, they simply find a small number of groups they know will reliably take what they perceive as their “problem” off their hands.  Then when the “problem” resurfaces in the form of an overwhelmed sanctuary, they jump on the condemnation bandwagon and point fingers at the publicly shamed bad guys.

People who kill animals often like to say they didn’t create the problem, they are simply dealing with it.  I reject the notion that killing healthy/treatable animals is in any way an acceptable manner of dealing with homeless dogs and cats.  I further reject the idea that shelter directors who kill animals don’t create animal problems in the community.  They do.  They create them every time they send animals to an already overburdened rescuer whom they know won’t be able to turn away because they’ve threatened to kill the pets.  The fact that they create this impossible situation for rescuers, receive accolades for their increased live release rate until the pot boils over, then raid the facility, kill the animals and publicly condemn the compassionate people they used and betrayed is reflective of a system that is broken.

We need shelter reform in this country.  We need animal advocates to stop enabling the killing by publicly condemning it and demanding shelter directors do their jobs.  More guts, less fake glory.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Unwilling: The Bias Against Poor People Who Want to Save Shelter Pets

The Grayson Co Humane Society in KY expresses the following popular belief on its website:

If a new owner is unwilling to pay very much for an animal, it’s likely they’d also be unwilling to pay for proper care in the future – such as heartworm and flea/tick prevention, proper food, and vaccinations.

I have raged against versions of this false and discriminatory belief for years.  Not only is the claim itself baseless, it costs shelter animals their lives.  This occurs either as a direct result of steep adoption fees – because shelters kill animals instead of allowing them to be adopted for reduced or waived fees, or as an indirect result – because rescue groups tie up foster home space with animals they require exorbitant fees in order to adopt while saying they are unable to pull more animals off death row at their local pound as they have no space.  In both cases, healthy/treatable pets are being killed and I am opposed to that.  Therefore, I want to grind this myth into the dirt.

As animal advocate Christie Keith notes on her Dogged blog:

[L]et’s look at the idea that people don’t value pets they haven’t paid for.

We know this is not true because of the data that exists on this topic, looking at pets acquired for free at special adoption events.

We also know it’s not true because the single category of pet least likely to end up in a shelter is a pet given as a gift.

And every one of us involved in rescue should know it’s not true because we have houses full of pets we got for free, who we’d do anything for. I certainly never loved my free pets less than my adoption-fee or breeder-obtained pets. I never spent less money on them, treated them less well, or fought less fiercely to save them from illness and injury.

And really, by that logic, pets from puppy mill outlets should be considered the most precious of all, as they cost the most to obtain. Do you believe that to be true? I didn’t think so.

What I’m saying is this: Organizations should seriously question whether or not adoption fees are interfering with the fulfillment of their mission.

And while animal welfare groups are at it, I hope they will consider Christie’s recommendations for generating revenue outside of adoption fees and why this makes a world of sense.

For the record, I love my free pets unconditionally.  I specifically sought out a pet with a reduced/waived adoption fee when I was last looking for a pet.  The backlash for doing so consisted of a number of people who don’t know me condemning me as an animal abuser, hoarder, etc.  Some vowed to add my name to their Do Not Adopt lists and to circulate warnings against me to rescue groups in hopes of preventing me from obtaining a pet.  My reason for wanting a pet that cost very little money (which no one asked me) was that I don’t have much and the less I spend on adoption fees, the more I have to put into vet care and related expenses.  Responsible and sensible – not in any way “unwilling to pay for proper care”.

Ultimately I got a shelter dog for free and gave the person who volunteered to transport her to me the cash I had set aside for an adoption fee.  She expressed her surprise and gratitude, noting that not only would it help her with the cost of gas but also the cost of a new tire she had to put on her vehicle that morning.  And because it wasn’t a large amount of money, I was able to pay for the vet care the dog so desperately needed right away.

For those who condemn poor people as being “unwilling to pay for proper care”, you have a lot to learn.  I hope you step outside of your tiny box and see compassionate pet lovers as they really are very soon – before too many more animals die as a result of your bigotry.  People of all income levels love animals and want to save them from being needlessly killed at so-called shelters.  Let them.

Chicago Pound Transferred More Than 1200 Cats to a Small Rescue Group

Chicago Animal Care & Control killed more than 8000 animals in 2012. Since 2006, the pound’s rescue transfer program, Homeward Bound, has seen a 230% increase in the number of animals transferred.

Chicago ACC gave an average of more than 200 cats every month for 6 months in a row this year to a rescue group called Purrs from the Heart which participates in the Homeward Bound program. They stopped giving cats to the group after a written complaint was received by the city in September, alleging mistreatment of cats left at an apartment. The state has opened an investigation:

Now, a week into its inquiry, the state says it cannot account for 1,216 cats that Purrs From The Heart took between April and September. The number of animals involved, spokesman Jeff Squibb said, ranks the case among the largest animal welfare investigations ever conducted by the department.

Like many rescue groups, Purrs from the Heart uses a network of foster homes to care for the cats it saves from death row at the pound. The group’s state license allows for it to use up to 7 foster homes in order to provide care for a maximum of 28 animals. The rescue has spoken with state investigators to explain their side of the story:

As many as 150 cats were left at the South Side apartment at a given time, said Brian Przybylski, one of the shelter’s founders, in an interview. Its tenants agreed to care for the animals in exchange for weekly payments of $150, he said.
[...]
The founders said they learned some cats in that apartment were killed or starved, but that others were adopted or too sick to survive.
[...]
Brian Przybylski also blamed the city for allowing the organization to take too many cats from the shelter.
[...]
“We were trying to save as many as we could,” he said. “Basically we had too many people who had the authorization to (rescue cats).”

State investigators visited the apartment in question and found no cats there. The rescue group also referred investigators to a rural barn where they said a large number of cats were being housed but it too was empty.

Neither the apartment nor rural barn were authorized foster providers, the Department of Agriculture said.

The Chicago ACC spokesman declined to comment on the pound’s transfer and subsequent failure to track more than 1200 cats via Purrs from the Heart.

Purrs from the Heart reportedly intends to dissolve and transfer the cats who remain in the group’s care by the end of the month.

Clearly the overriding issue at this point is determining what happened to the 1200 cats and getting help to any still living.  Local shelter pet advocates will need to hold the Chicago pound accountable.  At the very least, Chicago ACC should be made to answer for why it transferred so many cats to a group it knew was licensed to care for only 28 pets at a time and why it failed to follow up on the fate of these animals.

(Thanks Clarice and Arlene for sending me this story.)

UPDATED: The Word Police are on Duty in Odessa

The police department runs the pound in Odessa, TX.  In October, local rescuers complained that the pound was killing pets who had rescue commitments.  The city issued a press release in response that basically said the rescuers were lying and come on, we’re doing the best we can to get animals the vet care they need and the homes they deserve.

A check on Petfinder reveals the Odessa pound has zero animals listed there today.

This week, a St. Bernard was adopted from the pound and taken to a vet for treatment of a broken leg.  A photograph circulated online showed the dog had suffered in pain for approximately 2 weeks at the pound without treatment prior to adoption.  A local rescuer noted that if a citizen had left a dog to suffer in this condition, he would have been charged with animal cruelty:

CBS 7 sent the city and police a number of questions for the shelter – including asking whether the dog was treated at all and if not, why not?

Neither the city nor the shelter responded to those questions. OPD Cpl. Steve LeSueur says an internal investigation has been launched into the dog’s case.

Screengrab from the KOSA website showing portions of a city document which rescuers are required to sign before saving animals from the Odessa pound

Screengrab from the KOSA website showing portions of a city document which rescuers are required to sign before saving animals from the Odessa pound

The city of Odessa requires rescuers to sign a document that appears to violate their First Amendment rights to free speech.  Any rescuer who wants to save animals from the Odessa pound must promise to never “identify an animal as being “rescued” from City of Odessa Animal Control, nor will any member of the group make disparaging remarks, verbally or in writing, about City of Odessa Animal Control.” Violations will result in the refusal to allow the offending rescue group to save any more lives at the pound.

CBS 7 called and left messages for every city council member, the city attorney and manager. One person called back.

When asked about the language in the document, City Council Member Dean Combs said he had received e-mail complaints about the shelter, but referred further questions to City Manager Richard Morton.

It’s true that it would be misleading to use the word “rescue” when referring to an animal who was living in a safe haven and then was transferred to another safe haven.  But when referring to a facility that leaves severely injured pets to suffer, puts little to no effort into marketing animals for adoption, and kills animals they are supposed to be sheltering, “rescue” is an entirely appropriate word choice.  Plus there’s that whole First Amendment thingy.  But if the Odessa police department really wants to serve as the Word Police, I would suggest they start with “euthanasia” in their own document.

Or they could quit worrying about the word “rescue” entirely and start doing their jobs.  Is there a suggestion box?

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Update, added December 6:  The Odessa police department investigated itself in the matter of the dog left to suffer in pain for 2 weeks at the pound and determined there was no wrongdoing.  Because the pound “is not a hospital”.  So put that in your pipe and smoke it, I guess.

Further, the city manager said that while the contract limiting free speech rights of rescuers is legal, the wording will be changed.

(Thanks Clarice for the update.)

Burlington Co SPCA Picks on Compassionate Elderly Rescuer

Kate Decker is a 68 year old retired public relations executive living in Burlington Co, NJ.  She has two homes on her property – her own (she is a widow) and the one formerly occupied by her parents, who are now deceased.  Over the past 30 years, she has dedicated herself to saving dogs, many of them Pitbull types, who would otherwise have been killed in municipal pounds:

Instead, she said, she trained them to be therapy dogs she takes to nursing homes or to work with the mentally impaired, such as autistic children.

[...]

Decker recalled taking a therapy animal to a nursing home and watching an Alzheimer’s patient talk to the dog, then to her. On the way out, she said, health-care workers were amazed, saying they had never seen the woman speak.

Ms. Decker keeps a couple dozen dogs and works with them daily, along with two assistants, to make sure each animal receives exercise, training, fresh air and quality time with people and other dogs.  The outdoor dog yards are fenced.  The dogs are housed throughout the two heated homes as well as a heated garage on the property.  Her neighbor reports that the dogs are no trouble whatsoever to the neighborhood and that Ms. Decker is devoted to their care.  There are no pet limit laws in the county.  A reporter who recently spent three hours visiting the property observed happy, healthy dogs being well cared for and described the home as “stately”.

You are probably thinking this lady is up for some sort of community service award.  Hold that thought.

In October 2012, the Burlington Co SPCA reportedly received an anonymous complaint about Ms. Decker.  An officer visited her home in response.  Ms. Decker says the officer forced her way inside the house.  Cheryl Mosca, recently appointed deputy chief and treasurer of the county SPCA, says Ms. Decker invited the officer inside but was “not completely cooperative” in allowing a thorough search:

Decker said the officer looked around and asked to see veterinary records. She retrieved the records from another room, and the officer left after reviewing them, she said.

Several days later, Decker said, she noticed that a gold watch given to her by her parents when she was 16 was gone. She filed a theft complaint, alleging the animal welfare officer was the only one who had entered the house between the last time she saw the watch and when it disappeared.

Moorestown police investigated. No charges have been filed.

In December 2012, Cheryl Mosca led a raid on the property after a search warrant was obtained:

Wayne Becker, Decker’s neighbor across the street in Moorestown, said he recalled the day of the raid. He saw several vehicles outside the house and checked whether Decker needed help.

Becker, retired from the Coast Guard, said one of the officers, who was armed, blocked him and ordered him to leave, which he did.

“This was like a military operation, but it did not have the discipline of the military,” Becker said[.]

Ms. Decker states that during the raid, she was prevented from calling anyone or caring for her dogs for five hours.  She says officers threatened to seize and kill her dogs.  She was subsequently charged with 66 counts of animal neglect:

Half of the charges are criminal, half are civil. Authorities allege she failed to keep water in all of the crates, and stacked some crates two high without a barrier between the top and bottom crates.

[...]

Charges against Decker do not include allegations of abuse or that animals were malnourished, dehydrated, or denied veterinary care.

[...]

During the raid, there was a strong animal odor, animal waste in the home, and the house was not clean, Mosca said.

If this seems like petty retaliation and abuse of power to you, you may be on to something:

The county SPCA has a checkered past. An investigation of the enforcement agencies statewide in 2000 found that many, including Burlington’s, did not comply with state and federal regulations.

In Burlington County, the former treasurer was convicted of stealing.

Maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in Burlington Co political circles.

Ms. Decker must face a municipal trial next month and if convicted, could be fined up to $66,000.  She is refusing to give up any of her dogs because she considers them to be family members.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Discussion: Shelter Pets Designated “RESCUE ONLY”

Something that pops up on my radar frequently is when a facility that kills animals issues a plea on behalf of a pet and features wording such as “NO ADOPTERS, RESCUE ONLY”.  The plea often includes a deadline which may be a matter of hours or possibly days.  The logical assumption is that if the animal does not get pulled by a rescue group before the deadline, he will be killed.

The reasons that shelter staff designate certain animals “NO ADOPTERS, RESCUE ONLY” are often related to an animal’s special needs which may be behavioral or physical in nature.  For example, a dog who was impounded after attacking another dog, a cat suffering from burns received in a fire, or any pet who appears to be suffering from some unknown medical condition.  The shelter may or may not have had the animal evaluated by a professional who may or may not have provided a plan (behavioral modification training or medical care) and an estimate for costs.  That information may or may not be included in the plea but most likely, anyone taking the animal is going to get a second opinion from someone they trust before proceeding with treatment anyway.

It’s important to note that there is no standard agreement between shelters and rescues.  That is, it’s up to each individual shelter director to determine which rescues he/she is willing to work with and which ones he chooses to deny.  Depending on the director, most rescues may be welcome or no rescues may be welcome or only those who have never criticized the killing at the shelter or only groups who have a 501(c)3 status with the IRS and/or some other criteria.  When limiting an animal’s survival options to rescue groups, it doesn’t ordinarily mean ALL rescue groups.   And when compared to the population of the animal loving public, there are relatively very few rescue groups anyway and in all likelihood, some of them will be refused at the director’s discretion.

Taking into consideration that animal rescue groups are typically overburdened in communities with pet killing facilities, the number of groups which may have the resources to immediately respond to a plea for a special needs animal is likely going to be very small.  From those few, the shelter director will deny any groups of his choosing.  If the animal is lucky, there may still be a group left to help him.  If not, it’s the kill room.

Meanwhile though, a compassionate  individual might come across the animal’s plea and determine he has the resources to help.  But that person sees the “NO ADOPTERS” designation and, feeling helpless, turns away from the plea.  In fact, maybe he turns away from all future pleas from this shelter in order to spare himself the pain of seeing animals the shelter has forbidden him to help in favor of killing.

My question is this:  Under what circumstances, if ever, is it acceptable for a shelter to drastically reduce the pool of potential caregivers for an animal, whom the shelter intends to kill, by designating an animal “NO ADOPTERS/RESCUE ONLY”?

What Happened to the Dogs at Safe Haven in Delaware?

A troubling situation developed in Delaware yesterday and more information is needed.  I am asking for help from readers if they come across any additional media reports or press releases from relevant parties regarding this story today.

The scattered facts, as I understand them:

Delaware has a law called the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) which requires shelters to give at least 2 business days’ notice to rescuers before killing any healthy/treatable animal.

The Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in Delaware was set to close on November 30. I do not know the reason why.  They previously held an animal control contract but recently lost it. Safe Haven reportedly asked the ASPCA last month to help shut down the shelter in an orderly manner and ASPCA agreed.

Suddenly yesterday, the closing of Safe Haven got moved up – to yesterday. I do not know the reason why.

Safe Haven reportedly posted a comment on its Facebook page last night about what may be the unlawful killing of dogs there:

“Some dogs, due to severe behavior issues, were such a threat to other animals or humans, that they were unsuitable for adoption,” the statement said. “Some dogs were humanely euthanized.”

The Safe Haven Facebook page has since been deleted.

The News Journal also reports:

It’s not clear how many dogs remained at Safe Haven until this week, because the shelter did not post intake statistics on its website for the third quarter of 2013, which the state’s Companion Animal Protection Act mandates shelters do.

The law also requires shelters to maintain “a registry of organizations willing to accept animals for the purpose of adoption,” and are not supposed to euthanize any animal if organizations on the registry are willing to accept it.

[Former Safe Haven volunteer Karli] Swope said rescue groups she is familiar with had not received notices from Safe Haven indicating it was considering euthanizing any of its dogs.

The Sussex Countian spoke with several area rescuers who showed up at Safe Haven yesterday to pull dogs.  They claim Safe Haven officials had given them permission to come to the facility and save dogs.  But when they arrived, they found the ASPCA’s giant truck and a hostile environment:

However these people were turned away by the ASPCA, who eventually called the Delaware State Police and reported the prospective adopters were trespassing on private property.

[...]

Speculations surrounding whether the ASPCA was euthanizing the remaining dogs onsite were discounted by Capt. Sean Moriarty of DSP Troop 4 in Georgetown. Moriarty said he saw the dogs inside a large ASPCA truck, and they were all alive.

“I’m not sure exactly where they’re going; mostly out of state. Some are going to a facility in the state, but we don’t know where,” Moriarty said on Thursday at Safe Haven.

There were an unknown number of dogs, possibly 20, at Safe Haven at the time ASPCA locked the doors and called police to keep rescuers out.  I haven’t seen any reports indicating what ASPCA did with the dogs.

I am not an attorney but it appears to me that possibly both Safe Haven and the ASPCA may have violated Delaware’s CAPA law in the handling of dogs at the facility.  I hope some clarifications and additional facts come to light today and that the remaining dogs are safe.  I further hope the appropriate authorities will investigate to determine if Safe Haven and/or the ASPCA should be charged with violations of Delaware’s CAPA law.

(Thanks Karen for alerting me to this story.)

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