ACLU Stands Up for First Amendment Rights of Animal Advocates in Baltimore County

Dog ID #04167 at the Baltimore Co pound, as pictured on Petfinder.

Dog ID #04167 at the Baltimore Co pound, as pictured on Petfinder.

The troubled Baltimore Co pound in MD has banned the public from photographing pets in the facility and the ACLU has written to county officials condemning the ban:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland says Baltimore County officials violated free-speech rights by banning photography at the county-run animal shelter, a move the ACLU describes as an effort to stifle critics.

The letter describes the photo ban as showing “a government agency endeavoring to limit its exposure to criticism and public accountability, and to stifle any perceived criticism that does arise, even where the agency’s purpose of serving the animals of Baltimore County is undermined as a result.”

County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler says the complaint is baseless and stems from a small group of pesky do-gooders:

“This is a story manufactured by a handful of advocates who were disrupting shelter employees from doing their jobs,” Kobler said.

Don Mohler, chief of staff for the County Executive, also has excuses:

“[The animal advocates] wanted to manufacture a crisis, and they would wait around until a dog soiled the cage and immediately take a picture and post it — inferring that the dog had been living in those conditions for a period of time, and that’s not true,” Mohler said.

Such dedication.  Waiting around for a dog to pee in his cage so they could snap a photo.  But in case you don’t buy that, he’s got another good one:

“This is not about photography,” Mohler said. “This is about the fact that there is a group of advocates who really want Baltimore County to release wild cats into the community.”

The county apparently has a kill policy for cats it determines to be feral.  And pesky do-gooders, along with the overwhelming majority of the general public, think that’s wrong.

Not to be outdone, Kobler also offered a back-up excuse for the photo ban to the newspaper:

“For some animals, the shutter click and the flash can frighten animals that are already nervous in a shelter environment. So sometimes, the staff members might ask people not to take an animal’s picture,” she said.

Both Kohler and Mobler said that the public is generally allowed to take pictures of the animals.  Except when they’re not.  But that’s because reasons.

So to recap, it’s not that Baltimore Co is trying to silence critics and violate their Constitutional rights, it’s assorted other things:

  • Volunteers photographing shelter pets are disruptors who prevent the staff from doing their job of killing more than 60% of the animals in their care.
  • They wait around all day for a dog to lift his leg in the cage just to capture the puddle on the floor.
  • They actually don’t care about photographing animals, they just want the county to stop killing feral cats and start doing TNR like other progressive shelters.
  • The flash from the camera scares animals and the county officials just aren’t going to stand by and let shelter pets be frightened.  After all, there’s killing to be done – lots of it.  Calm, friendly killing – not like the flash of a camera.

If for some insane reason you are still not feeling reassured, I got you:

County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, said the shelter has made strides in overcoming past issues. He trusts it’s being run well.

“Every time there’s a policy, there’s a reason,” he said.

So there you go.  There’s some reason for the photo ban.  This guy apparently doesn’t know what that reason may be but strides have been made and everything is fine, probably.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Norfolk Whistleblower Alleges Pound in Violation of State Law, Retains Attorney to Fight Termination

The city of Norfolk, VA kills animals at its pound.  So far in 2014, more than 1600 animals have been killed.  Nearly 600 of those animals were killed because the staff at the Norfolk pound didn’t like their behavior in addition to the 230 animals who were killed for being feral.  Fifty-four animals were killed for being too old while another 125 were killed for being too young.  Five animals were killed for being pregnant, which means their unborn offspring were suffocated inside their mothers but Norfolk doesn’t bother counting them.

The Norfolk pound currently has 8 dogs listed for adoption on its website.  They’re doing the best they can, totally.

A former Norfolk pound employee who says she was fired for being a whistleblower has retained an attorney to fight the city’s termination of her employment:

Adrienne Alper, 26, worked for the city-run shelter for about seven months before she was fired in December. She says the shelter didn’t follow procedure when workers euthanized animals, and that management targeted her after she spoke up about it.

She alleges that staff “often carried out euthanasia procedures in a cruel and inhumane manner.”

Specifically Ms. Alper is alleging that Norfolk was killing animals in their cages instead of taking them to the kill room – a violation of state law.   She also expressed concern at the needless killing of animals, including a surrendered mama Pitbull and her litter of puppies who were killed upon impound.  She says she attempted to go through proper channels before taking her concerns outside the pound:

“I talked to my immediate supervisors but they kind of brushed me off,” Alper said. “They just said that it was the way they did things and the way it was done for years.”

Tragically, Ms. Alper took her concerns to PETA, the Norfolk based pet killing organization. I can only imagine PETA’s concern might have been that the pound wasn’t killing even more animals, faster and more efficiently.  And maybe they had some hurt feels that no one called them to come watch the killing of the Pitbull family.  PETA would have brought popcorn, no doubt.

Ms. Alper was fired soon after and says her termination letter specifically cited the PETA meeting and “alleged that Alper did not get along with co-workers and accused one of them of killing puppies”. I guess she should have said puppies and adults, to be fair.

The city stands by the puppy killers at its pound, noting that surrendering parties sign a form stating their animals might be killed.  So it’s all good, I guess.  Presumably the city’s lawyers will have a tad more than that to offer if the case goes to court.

(Thanks Clarice and Arlene for the links.)

Memphis Expands its Retaliation Against Rescuers and Owners of Lost Pets

Screengrab from PetHarbor of a lost dog, posted by the Memphis pound.

Screengrab from PetHarbor of a lost dog, posted by the Memphis pound.

Ever since Mayor Wharton put straight man James Rogers in charge of Memphis Animal Services, MAS has become lolMAS.  While MAS slaughters pets by the thousands, Rogers blathers on about being “on a positive trend” and continuing the “march forward in terms of excellence”.  When rescuers started doing his job for him by volunteering to photograph shelter pets and network them on social media, he retaliated with a ban on photography.  When his ban was recently overturned by the city, he had to dig deep into his bag of shenanigans:

Memphis Animal Services director James Rogers is shortening shelter hours.

Specifically, Rogers is eliminating the evening hours, which totally by coincidence happens to be when most people, including the rescuers who photograph pets, can get to the pound.  He’s also eliminated all morning hours – because hey, who wants to deal with the unwashed masses before noon?

He’s got explanations people, so please buckle in:

He says his goal is to increase adoptions.
[...]

Rogers calls it a budget cut, but he is not cutting the number of staff members or the hours MAS employees will work. The only thing changing is the hours the shelter is open to the public.

By being open 9 less hours a week for adoptions, including the hours most people can get there, he’s going to increase adoptions. And it’s going to save money in the budget, even though every single staffer will be paid exactly the same as they are now so no actual dollars will be saved. Also: increased adoptions!

As soon as Rogers announced the changes at a public meeting of the pound’s advisory board on Wednesday, people knew what was up:

“There were two evenings a week they were open late. You’re eliminating both. On one Memphis Pets Alive took photos to network,” people in the crowd said.

Those against the changes pointed out there are now no hours for those who work 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to come.

The hour shift is also cutting into the shelter’s popular Thursday adoption event called Yappy Hours. It’s held from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Thursdays. Rogers admits the events are a huge help.

“What we’re trying to do is increase number of adoptions,” Rogers said to people in the crowd laughing.

All the credit for keeping a straight face, Rogers.  But there is something sinister going on here, beyond the obvious retaliation against rescuers and the ridiculous excuses.  Included in the announcement about shortened hours was another change:  MAS would open at noon for 2 hours each on Sundays and Mondays strictly for owners of lost pets to be shown some of the animals in the facility by staff members.

Since MAS has previously been closed entirely on Sundays and Mondays, those days were not counted against strays when determining their mandatory 72 hour hold.  With the announcement that the pound would open for 2 midday hours on Sundays and Mondays, comes a change in how Rogers calculates the mandatory hold for strays.  Sundays and Mondays will now count as 2 of the 3 mandatory hold days, even though the shelter is closed for all but 2 midday hours each of those days.

I am not an attorney but I think there is a legitimate case to be brought against the city of Memphis here.  The city appears to be subverting the intent of the 72 hour holding period for strays by playing games with the pound’s business hours.  It is entirely possible that a pet owner in Memphis who works a day job could not get to the facility to search for his lost pet during the newly announced, limited hours.  Since MAS does an extremely shabby job of posting impounds online and since the pound kills lost pets immediately after the 72 hour holding period expires, the new hours are in effect an automatic death sentence for many lost pets.  And Rogers won’t allow these animals to live, even for one day past their holding periods:

MAS holds stray dogs for 72 hours as required by law. The shelter has been euthanizing the dogs immediately once their time is up, often before opening and allowing them a chance to be adopted. Board members are questioning that logic, especially when the shelter has empty kennels.

The director’s explanation for why strays need to be put down immediately isn’t adding up.

“It behooves us to follow the law which is 72 hours,” said director James Rogers. “Anything beyond that opens us up to the susceptibility of allowing parvo to increase.”

“It’s a disease of puppies,” said Stephen Tower, who is a veterinarian and on the MAS advisory board. He argued an extra few hours won’t cause any greater risk. “I don’t buy that exposure argument.”

“According to the director of veterinary medicine at Memphis Animal Services, the parvo virus has mutated and it does affect adult dogs now,” Rogers said.

But just a few weeks ago, the head veterinarian Rogers is talking about said the exact opposite at an open press conference about parvo.

“There is some acquired immunity with older pets, so I don’t think the public should be concerned about adopting an older pet,” said Dr. Rebecca Coleman.

So to recap:

MAS is eliminating the evening hours that many adopters and rescuers can get there to save lives. To increase adoptions.

The shortened hours are going to save money. Not actual money but possibly Rogers has cut out some rectangles from construction paper and drawn pictures of himself and dollar signs on them and likes to pretend he can buy unicorns and fairy dust with them – those dollars might be saved.

Sundays and Mondays will now be counted against strays under mandatory 72 hour hold. Because parvo is magic and now infects all adult, vaccinated dogs at MAS and immediately zaps them with death rays on the 73rd hour.  And Rogers’ kill techs aren’t going to get beaten to the punch by no magic parvo death ray.

Memphis, this is your animal “shelter”.  File an emergency injunction to stop the killing.  Address your city council.  Demand meaningful reform.  Do something.

(Thank you to everyone who sent me these links.)

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.

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.

Calling All Cars! Angry Pet Lover in Parking Lot, Talking and Stuff!

We last checked in with the Chester Co SPCA in August 2013.  At that time, the facility was refusing to release its kill stats, abandoning its offsite cat adoption program due to it being a “hassle” despite reports that impounded cats were taken directly from counter to kill room, and importing puppies from other states without obtaining the required health certificates.  Former staffers and volunteers described the Chester Co SPCA as a “kill factory”.

Today, there doesn’t appear to be any progress to report.

A volunteer who had bonded with a dog at the Chester Co SPCA grew concerned after he was placed on a six month quarantine for kennel cough (What the what?) and she found him in a cage covered in filth.  When she expressed her concern to staff, she was told she was not allowed to go into the quarantine area.  Problem solved, eh?

The volunteer scheduled an appointment to meet with the volunteer manager concerning the dog on March 24.  After the meeting took place, the volunteer was told to never return to the Chester Co SPCA.  When she asked why, the only information she was provided was that there had been a sekrit vote.

The vol reportedly went to the parking lot where she met another vol with whom she began a conversation.  During that time, the Chester Co SPCA called the police to have her removed from the premises, claiming she was trespassing.  The officer handed her a letter from the pound making her banishment official and told her to leave the parking lot, which she did.

Apparently calling the police on people trying to help animals is SOP at the Chester Co SPCA:

Monday’s incident is the second time in less than a month that police were called to the shelter because of a dispute between staff and volunteers. On Feb. 22, West Goshen Police were called after an altercation between its executive director, two board members and two volunteers. The two volunteers were also fired prior to that incident, according to police.

No doubt the local police unit is thrilled with the Chester Co SPCA’s trespassing calls against volunteers.  I hope no one in Chester Co is being robbed or assaulted while the Sekrit Vote Club is taking law enforcement resources away from the community.

How do you know when your local pound needs a complete overhaul?  Well, this.  For example.

Town of Hempstead Kills Owned Pets, Owners File Lawsuit

Screengrab from the WABC website depicting Cici and Yankee

Screengrab from the WABC website depicting Cici and Yankee

Last month, 2 mixed breed dogs called Cici and Yankee escaped their yard and went for a run around the neighborhood in Long Island, NY.  Both were known by neighbors to be friendly and playful.  But apparently any loose animal that looks like a Pitbull type dog in Nassau Co warrants the summoning of the National Guard:

An incident in Lakeview involving Pit bulls three days prior caused  police to send multiple police officers including detectives and a police helicopter.

Nassau Co police responded to a report that Cici and Yankee were chasing kids and started shooting at the dogs, hitting Yankee.  The dogs ran home and the Town of Hempstead sent an ACO to the residence where police had gathered.  The owner, who is unable to read English, signed a form he was given by the ACO and the dogs were taken to the pound.

There are no reports indicating the dogs bit anyone, growled at anyone or even cast a stern glance in anyone’s general direction.

The family went to the pound the next day it was open to reclaim Cici and Yankee and were told both had already been killed.  The form the owner signed without understanding what it said due to the language barrier reportedly transferred ownership of the dogs to the Town of Hempstead to do with as the pound saw fit.  The family was apparently so shocked at this news that they went home and returned the next day, believing they must have been given the wrong information.  But they were again told their pets had been killed.

The Town of Hempstead, well known for its alleged abuse of shelter animals, offered this response to a reporter:

“We are confident that the police don’t throw their weapons and shoot at animals unless they present a danger to the public.”

Oh the Town of Hempstead is jokes.  If police shot at the dogs, they must be the spawn of Satan because police.

Cici and Yankee’s owners have filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead for killing their pets without due process.  The town is apparently rolling in dough.  I hope the owners get every penny and just maybe, some stuffed shirt mooching off taxpayers there will take notice and effect change.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

Stockton Pound Sued for Killing Animals Illegally

Last month, a couple whose dog had been impounded by the Stockton pound in CA spoke to the city council about their experience.  Their microchipped, neutered, vaccinated dog had escaped through a gate accidentally left open in their yard.  When the owners, both newly unemployed, tried to reclaim their pet, the Stockton pound demanded $180.  The owners couldn’t come up with the entire fee so offered a partial payment and a promise to pay the balance in installments.  The pound refused, leaving the crying owners no other option but to beg for their beloved family member’s life.  Stockton killed their pet.

As might be expected, this is not an isolated incident at the Stockton pound:

A review of 2013 documents found instances in which seven dogs belonging to five people were euthanized because the owners could not immediately afford to pay impound fees.

The Stockton pound is no stranger to controversy.  Mayor Anthony Silva put together a citizen commission to examine allegations of wrongdoing at the facility one year ago.  The group has been trying to present its findings since January but have yet to be allowed to speak at a city meeting.

Now local advocates have teamed up with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and filed suit against the Stockton pound.  Using a year’s worth of pound documents obtained via public records requests, the plaintiffs in the suit allege:

  • Stockton killed more than 1500 cats and dogs during their legally mandated holding periods.
  • The pound kills owned pets without making meaningful efforts to return the animals to their owners.  One case involved a dog who was killed because the owners couldn’t speak English.
  • Pets who are medically hopeless and suffering are forced to linger in their cages for days before being euthanized.

ALDF attorney Jenni James says no money is being sought in the suit:

“Our request is very simple,” James said. “We’re asking the court to demand that the city of Stockton follow its own laws, and for the city of Stockton to acknowledge that the laws it passed apply to the shelter.”

The pound’s director went the predictable route in response to the lawsuit:

The city of Stockton said it cannot comment on the lawsuit and neither can the Animal Services director — but she did say the shelter does the best it can for the animals.

“People who come here see the impact and how many dogs come into the shelter,” Animal Services Supervisor Pat Claerbout said. “It’s extremely limited, and we can’t keep every animal.”

We’re doing the best we can. We can’t keep them all.  Ergo, the law doesn’t apply to us and if your broke ass can’t come up with the ransom to bail your pet out of our kill factory, sux being you.

(Thanks Clarice and Eileen for the links.)

Vermilion Parish Director Kills Dogs Tagged for Rescue Because She Can

Vermilion Parish Rabies Control in LA does not adopt animals to the public.  It functions primarily as a pet killing facility while allowing rescue groups to save some animals – unless the director decides she feels like killing those animals too.

Last week a group called Animal Aid of Vermilion Area had exchanged e-mails with Vermilion Parish pound director Pam Monceaux, confirming they would pull three dogs – Sasha, Pepper and Ringo – on Thursday morning.  But when the rescuers arrived, they learned Ms. Monceaux had killed Sasha, Pepper and Ringo.

There was no claim of a misunderstanding about these three dogs being pulled by rescue.  Ms. Monceaux apparently killed them intentionally while rescuers were en route.  A local news reporter asked Ms. Monceaux for an explanation:

 News 10 reached out to Monceaux for answers, but we were told to leave the premises or she was calling the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office.

If you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

Under our current, broken shelter system, killing is a choice.  Any shelter animal may be killed at the discretion of the director.  Some shelter directors consider this their job while, in stark contrast, there are hundreds others working hard to save every healthy/treatable animal in their care.

There are two ways to stop retaliatory and needless shelter killing in Vermilion Parish:

  1. Replace the director with someone committed to lifesaving.
  2. Enact legislation removing killing as an option.

Contact information for the Vermilion Parish Police Jury that oversees the pound is at the bottom of this page.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me info on this story.)

Fulton Co In Their Own Words

Welcome to Fulton Co where they kill more than 1/3 of the animals in their care and post “urgent” animals on Facebook. But do not call them!  Because whoa – it’s not THAT urgent.

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

In late October, the Fulton Co rescue coordinator took to Facebook to shame the public for asking the pound to do the job taxpayers are paying it to do and help stray pets:

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

In early November, an opportunity for Facebook users to vote a dog off the kill list at Fulton Co. Who wouldn’t want to play The Sophie’s Choice Popularity Contest, amirite?

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

In mid-November, an announcement from Fulton Co that Spaghetti Mondays have been moved to Tuesdays – yay! And by spaghetti, of course they mean killing:

Screengrab from Facebook

Screengrab from Facebook

Current Fulton Co listings on the PetHarbor website:

Be further dazzled by the professionalism on display in these previous Fulton Co pet listings on Hell Yes Biscuit.

There is a Facebook page dedicated to reforming the Fulton Co pound here.

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