Mailbag

Reader Tami writes:

Good news in cat rescue can be hard to find. The story of Julianne Westberry in SC has been particularly hard to swallow. She was trusted by so many. I worked side by side with her in the Anderson County Humane Society Spay/Neuter Clinic. She seemed to have a stream of foster homes and adopters. She was given the “Volunteer of the Year” award by ACHS in May 2014!  One month later, she was arrested for ill treatment of animals.

A passerby stopped to ask if the furniture on her porch was for sale. When the odor from inside, and the fly lined, paper covered windows were noted, authorities were notified. Authorities whose facility could be seen out the window of her house, less than 100 feet away!

Inside, they found 32 live cats, 37 deceased. More bodies were found by the owners of the rental house when they went in to clean up. It is believed, at least 25 more bodies. The true number of deceased may never be known. Many were so decomposed, they only way to know they ever existed was by fur and pieces of their tiny bodies. She pulled moms and kittens. Left them in their carriers. There, they died. One, Venus, was only ID’d by her microchip. I’ve seen pictures, not released to the public. Of the 32 survivors, 4 have since died. I have one, who was in some of the worst condition, in the care of my wonderful vets.

Thanks to the dedication of Ash Truesdale, volunteer with Foster Paws Rescue, it has been found that she pulled from 16 CONFIRMED shelters. In a little over a year, over 800 cats and kittens. She was using 3 different aliases. Her name, JW, J’s Kitten Cottage, and unbeknownst to them, the 501c3 of Anderson County Humane Society. She was accepting pledges for these cats. THAT may be the only way for these cats to get justice. Internet fraud.

It was also learned, many of the cats had been taken to her boyfriend’s farm. She lived there, most of the time. Those who have seen the farm give estimates of 70-300 cats that are alive. Others who died have been disposed of (so we are told). After JW was released, the boyfriend contacted Anderson County PAWS, the local impound, to owner surrender the farm cats. Anderson Co was given the go ahead to begin trapping. Cats would be trapped, taken to Anderson Co PAWS, and summarily killed. After all, they were “just cats”, not needed for criminal investigation and PAWS is “already full” from a previous hoarding /rescue that’s awaiting court. They don’t have the space, staff, funds, etc to save the cats.

Those following the case found out about Anderson Co’s plans on Wednesday, July 2. On Monday, July 7 at 6 PM, the cats would begin dying. “No exceptions”. 30 cats, already trapped and in custody had been given a death sentence. The facility would be closed on Friday July 4. Open for a limited time on Sat July 5.

Enter the “irresponsible public”…

Wednesday PM, July 2– much hand wringing and public outcry on the PAWS FaceBook threads as word spread.

Thursday, July 3– a meeting of about a dozen people. The only way to save these cats, these cats who had been promised a safe loving home, these cats who had already once escaped the needle or gas chamber, was to acquire a building. But we were going into a holiday weekend. People were out of town, businesses were closed. Ash knew folks would help, IF these cats could find safe haven (shelter) for a brief time.

Friday, July 4– Geneva Lawrence, a member of Kitten Action Team, spread the word. She had found someone to donate a facility for 6 weeks. Volunteers would be given keys at 5PM on Sunday, July 6. The cats HAD a building! An empty building.

Pregnant cat being sheltered by volunteers after being saved from the Anderson Co pound kill room.  [Photo via Facebook]

Pregnant cat being sheltered by volunteers after being saved from the Anderson Co pound kill room. [Photo via Facebook]

Again, the news was shared. A building was found. No cages, no food, no litter… The media was contacted. When the keys were handed over, a local news crew was there to document volunteers, with brooms and rags. Cleaning the building. Cages were loaned by multiple rescues. A wish list was set up. Amazon and UPS became aware of the multiple packages they would begin shipping. Transport from Anderson County to the building in Mauldin, SC was arranged for the cats. 

Volunteers were there on Monday, July 7 setting up for the arrival. Again, multiple news media were there. Currently there are over 50 cats and kittens. Kittens born at PAWS. Most of the females are pregnant. All are receiving care. All are alive. All of this, thanks to the public. As you like to say, the REAL humane society – small “h”, small “s” – wants to save lives. And they will.

Thank you Tami for sharing this good news and thanks to everyone who saved those non-evidence just cats from being killed at the pound.  Yay irresponsible public.

F-Star-Star-Star Yeah Augusta Chronicle

Although many newspapers feel comfortable endorsing political candidates in the lead up to an election, most do not weigh in on the needless killing of dogs and cats at their local shelter.  Of those that do, the editorials tend at best to nudge the shelter director with a kindly worded request for improvement and at worst blame the so-called irresponsible public for the killing and demand MSN enforcement.  But in a piece published yesterday, the editorial staff at the Augusta Chronicle in GA has changed all that.  They go to eleven:

Augusta-Richmond County is needlessly killing animals – dozens a day, hundreds a week, thousands a year.

All because leaders at the county’s Animal Services department refuse to work with volunteer rescue groups who help find homes for the dogs and cats that turn up at the animal shelter.

Apparently, it’s simply easier for Animal Services Director Sharon Broady and her staff to warehouse, kill and dispose of the animals than to process the paperwork needed to get them into caring homes.

The piece goes on to question why the Augusta pound is killing 70% of its animals while turning away rescuers and volunteers and why the director refuses to adopt out intact animals with spay-neuter agreements when the only alternative she allows is death.

Why is Broady’s default setting on “kill”?

She told The Augusta Chronicle via email interview that she is open to exploring options of lowering euthanasia rates. We suggest she consult a dictionary if her idea of “open” is to refuse to cooperate with rescue volunteers and blindly adhere to a policy that sends dozens of animals to the county landfill each day.

About 6,500 dogs and cats were killed last year.

Broady says lowering the kill rate would require “a new facility, additional staff, to include another veterinarian, vet techs and a much larger budget.”

She needs more resources? We don’t buy that facile argument for a split second. Broady has volunteers practically kicking her door in, begging to take these animals off her hands.

There are likely plenty of policy changes she can make to cut the kill rate that don’t require a bigger budget.

I’ll have what they’re having.

Referring to the Augusta pound as a “sick, sad death house”, the Chronicle offers up examples of places such as Kansas City where the killing of healthy/treatable pets has been drastically reduced after compassionate animal lovers committed to lifesaving took charge of operations.

Look long and hard at all these other agencies that are correctly and humanely executing their duties without executing tons of animals. Start doing what they do. Check your pride at the door. The animals whose life or death depends on us deserve that much.

Augusta Animal Services’ problem isn’t financial. It’s about attitude. And this agency has precisely the wrong attitude to fulfill a successful mission of caring for and adopting out Augusta’s most vulnerable animals.

While the editorial staff does not mention the No Kill Equation or the fact that there are hundreds of open admission shelters saving more than 90% of their pets all over the country, they clearly get the idea that a shelter should shelter, not kill, animals and that the need for meaningful reform is urgent:

Augusta Commissioners have ultimate authority for this slaughter. They have the responsibility to put an end to it. Commissioners, a compassionate and caring community is looking to you now. Do your jobs, and either make Ms. Broady do hers, or find someone else who will.

Out with the old, in with the editorial staff at the Augusta Chronicle. Someone should send them a copy of Redemption and a link to the No Kill Advocacy Center so that they can see what’s achievable in Augusta.  Local animal advocates, you’ve got the newspaper editorial staff on your side.  No small thing.  Seize the moment and publicly demand an end to the killing of healthy/treatable animals at the pound.  And then keep demanding it, six ways from Sunday, loudly, until it happens.

(Thanks Jodi for the link.)

Roswell Mayor Bans NM Rescue Groups in Response to Dog Attack

A 9 year old boy suffered bruising and scratches after 3 loose dogs attacked him on his family’s property in Roswell, NM last week.  He scrambled on top of a gate to stay clear of the dogs until his father, a city police detective, arrived with a gun and began shooting the dogs, killing one and wounding a second who was later euthanized.  The third dog was taken to the Roswell pound and will be killed for rabies testing.

The 3 dogs reportedly escaped from a local rescue called Doggy Saviors which pulls dogs from the Roswell pound.  The rescue surrendered another 15 dogs back to the pound after the attack.  Those dogs have reportedly been sent to a rescue group in CO.  In a statement on Roswell mayor Dennis Kintigh’s Facebook page, he indicates that all NM rescue groups are currently barred from saving animals at the pound:

On my direction the Roswell Animal Shelter has suspended releasing any animals to a local “animal rescue” organization until investigations have been completed regarding the attack on the 9 year old. The dogs involved in that attacked were reportedly “rescued” from the Roswell Animal Shelter by a local group. That group may have failed to provide appropriate care and supervision to these dogs.

Once the criminal investigation by the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and the Administrative investigation by the City of Roswell have been completed, the policy and procedures for releasing animals to local organizations will be reviewed and amended where needed. Until that time the only groups which will be allowed to receive dogs will be those who will remove the animals from our state.

While the incident which occurred with the loose dogs is tragic, there is no reasonable basis for barring every rescuer in the state from saving animals at the pound.  The mayor alleges that Doggy Saviors “may have failed to provide appropriate care and supervision” and that there is an investigation being conducted.  There are no allegations of possible wrongdoing by any other NM rescue groups.  In the absence of any evidence suggesting otherwise, it appears the mayor is reacting in an extreme manner to an incident involving the son of one of his police officers.  Furthermore, barring all in-state rescues will result in increased killing at the Roswell pound.

Presumably the mayor is basing his decision on the notion that the public will be safer if no dogs at the Roswell pound are allowed to live unless transported out of state.  But in order for this assertion to be true, there would have to be evidence that dogs at the Roswell pound represent a public safety threat and that evidence simply does not exist.  If it did, the mayor would be acting irresponsibly by ordering these dogs to be shipped out of state.

By reacting in this extreme manner, the mayor is conveying the message that all NM rescuers are too irresponsible to have dogs and that all dogs, including puppies, at the Roswell pound are dangerous and must either be killed or sent to live in other states where they can not threaten his constituents.  The mayor’s reckless response to the incident not only insults rescue groups but also smears shelter dogs as damaged goods, thereby discouraging potential adopters.  The cycle of harm created by the mayor’s thoughtless action in this case will reverberate over time.

Augusta Pound Refusing to Adopt Out Animals Because of Possibility Adopters Might Not Follow Through with Neuters

In Richmond Co, Georgia, Augusta Animal Services has been killing 70% of its animals for the past two years.  And that tragic kill rate appears to be the result of a hot mess perpetuated by local leaders.

An animal advocate recently told the Augusta Chronicle that Augusta pound director Sharon Broady refuses to work with rescues and charges them full adoption fees.  In addition, with the loss last month of the pound’s part-time vet, animals are apparently being single-tracked to the kill room, with the state spay-neuter law being cited as the reason.  No vet=no neuters=no live releases.

Georgia state law and Richmond County ordinance both require shelters to either neuter pets prior to adoption or have the adopter sign an agreement that the pet will be neutered within 30 days (for adult animals).  It is unclear to me why the Augusta pound is not utilizing the latter option in order to save lives.  The director cites a lack of compliance in past on the part of owners who adopted intact pets but fails to mention that the alternative choice she is making, instead of working to increase compliance, is death.

The pound’s adoption program appears to be suspended and the facility is killing more than 100 pets a week. The director won’t reopen the adoption program until a veterinarian is hired.  City commissioners recently approved hiring a full time vet for the pound but there is no sense of urgency to fill the position, which the city estimates may take as long as 6 months.  No rush I guess, as long as the city has the landfill space for the mountain of dead animals it’s creating.

The city commissioners bring the blame:

“This is a community wide problem and not strictly to our animal control director. It goes all the way down to people who have pets and don’t take care of them,” Commissioner Donnie Smith said.

It is the director’s choice to kill animals instead of allowing rescues and adopters to save them. That choice is not in any way reflective of the behavior of area pet owners. Naming the problem is the first step to finding a solution.

Then there’s this guy:

“I wish we had more debate about abortions. I mean nobody has talked about that. animals are animals and I love animals. We don’t have the funds and I approved to have a veterinarian. At some point we need to have responsible pet owners,” Commissioner Joe Jackson said.

What, no nightcaps?

What, no nightcaps?

Mmmmkaaaay.  I wish we had a debate about foxes wearing pajamas.  Maybe I’ll get my wish someday and maybe Commissioner Jackson will get his.  In the meantime, the director of the Augusta pound is choosing to operate the place primarily as a pet killing facility while turning away rescuers and adopters.  While we’re waiting for our debate wish lists to be fulfilled, maybe we could talk about that.

(Thanks Clarice and Kim for sending me links on this story.)

Memphis Pets Alive Uses Literacy in Fight Against Oppression by Pet Killing Facility

Puppy ID #A266460, as depicted on the Memphis Pets Alive page on Facebook.

Puppy ID #A266460, as depicted on the Memphis Pets Alive page on Facebook.

One of the most notorious pounds in the country, Memphis Animal Services, is continually trying to up its game in the pet killing department.  Frustrated by the success of pesky do-gooders like Memphis Pets Alive who have helped to network and save the pets MAS would apparently prefer to kill, the city has banned photography on a significant number of animals.  And now the ban has been extended to cage cards.

Memphis Pets Alive had a successful system set up where a photo of the pet’s cage card was posted on Facebook followed by a few photos of the animal so people could have all the available information to share.  Not wanting to abandon the proven system already in place, Memphis Pets Alive had to improvise when the city dropped the Acme anvil on cage card photos.  Behold:

Cage card information for puppy ID #A266460 at MAS, as written by a volunteer for Memphis Pets Alive and posted on the group's FB page.

Cage card information for puppy ID #A266460 at MAS, as written by a volunteer for Memphis Pets Alive and posted on the group’s FB page.

Literacy wins again.

Burn on you, MAS.

Burn on you, MAS.

 

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

Note: The puppy pictured is obviously not a German Wirehaired Pointer. That’s just MAS failing, as usual, to take its responsibilities seriously. Proper breed ID is so important for reuniting lost pets with their owners and getting pets out to rescues and adopters. The note from Memphis Pets Alive indicates the puppy is no longer listed on PetHarbor as of May 31, 2014.

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.

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