Disturbing Surgical Complications at Maricopa Co Shelter

An investigative report that appeared on azcentral.com over the weekend examines several cases of surgeries with “grisly outcomes” at Maricopa Co Animal Care and Control in Arizona.  The most disturbing of these is the occurrence of pets who undergo spay surgery and then have their guts fall out shortly thereafter.  Vets at the shelter reportedly use a “simple continuous closure” where one piece of thread is used to suture the incision with a knot at each end.  If the knot at one end comes undone DOT DOT DOT.  I didn’t go to vet school and I’m very bad at sewing but this is how I sew socks and I can’t imagine it’s a good way to sew up a spayed dog.

Assistant County Manager Rodrigo Silva, who oversees the Maricopa Co shelter, cites the facility’s 0.05 percent surgical complication rate:

“I found no lower case of complications than we have here,” Silva said. “Can we do much better? It is unreasonable to expect zero (complications).”

Fair enough.  Some complications are going to occur after surgery.  It doesn’t necessarily indicate incompetence.  But as a layman, I can’t help thinking that stitching the surgical incision sufficiently closed so the guts don’t fall out is something that should be a given.

In the estimated 111,000 surgeries performed by vets at the Maricopa Co shelter between 2008 and 2013, records indicate that 72 animals had their incisions rupture, also referred to as dehiscence.  That is an alarming number to my mind.

[Melanie Peters, manager and veterinarian at the Tempe Spay-Neuter Clinic] said spay incisions should not just come undone.

“If it is done correctly, it shouldn’t happen,” Peters said. “There’s no reason you can’t do high-volume spay and neuters … without complications.”

[…]

She said any clinic racking up dozens of dehiscence cases in less than six years needs to change its operation.

“There should be no expectation of dehiscence,” she said. “I wouldn’t expect all of the clinics in the Valley (combined) to have those kinds of numbers.”

And dehiscence is not the only surgical complication suffered by pets at Maricopa Co:

The records show instances of “blade left in abdomen,” “gauze left in abdomen,” “lacerated spleen,” “incised bladder” and “surgical infection.”

There are cases where animals returned to heat after being spayed. There are cases of abdominal bleeding. The county cites “anesthetic deaths.” At least one animal “died before recovered” and another “died after recovering.”

Gee, that 0.05% complication rate doesn’t sound so swell anymore.

In what seems to be a glaring oversight, the vets performing surgeries at the Maricopa Co shelter are not accountable to the state vet board:

Veterinarians are typically subject to Arizona’s Veterinary Practices Act. But the law makes an exception for pet owners and allows them to treat their own animals.

Maricopa County Animal Care and Control officials maintain the shelter owns the animals that are abandoned to its care. Therefore shelter veterinarians are, in essence, treating their own animals and not subject to state oversight.

That means veterinarians working for county and private shelters cannot be disciplined for mistakes that, if made by vets in private practice, could be punished with fines, probation and license revocation.

The Maricopa Co shelter reportedly has a contract which specifies that the shelter is the legal owner of the animals in the facility.  And since the statute exempts “a person treating an animal belonging to himself”, shelter vets are not answerable to the state board, even when animals they spay end up with their guts on the floor.

This is concerning on several fronts.  First off, why is it ok for owners to perform surgery on their own animals in Arizona?  Secondly, shelter vets should not be exempt from state oversight – practicing veterinary medicine is practicing veterinary medicine.  And why does Maricopa Co have a contract declaring the county to be legal owners of the animals at the shelter?  Shelters are intended to be short term holding facilities for lost pets whose owners are looking for them and for pets in need of new homes.  It is widely understood that the county is merely housing the animals temporarily, not taking ownership of them.

There appear to be some serious flaws in the statutes and county contract which need to be remedied.  Instead, the county created a task force to identify ways to improve conditions at the shelter.  *yawn*  I hope “Keep the innards on the inside” makes the list.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Know Your Rights if Animal Control is at Your Door

If someone knocks on your door and says he is an animal control officer, you won’t immediately know if he is at the wrong address, is someone impersonating an ACO or if he has legitimate cause to knock on your door.  Regardless, your response should be the same:  Do not let the person into your home unless he produces a warrant granting him entry.  If you decide you feel safe speaking to the ACO face-to-face, get your house key, a pen and paper, and secure any loose pets.  Inform the ACO you will be coming outside and politely ask him to step back from your door.  Lock the door behind you.

keep-calm-and-remain-silentOnce outside, listen to whatever the ACO has to say.  Do not answer any questions outside of your name.  Do not lie.  If necessary, reiterate the fact that you are not giving permission for the ACO to enter your home.  Exercise your right to remain silent.  Do not admit owning any banned breed or pets over the local limit.  Do not defend yourself against any accusations.  Remain silent.  Write down the ACO’s name, badge number, and the agency he represents (county animal control, city police department, etc.).  If there is more than one person present (another ACO, a police officer, a humane society staffer, a neighbor who saw what was going on and came over, etc.), write down all their names and organizations.

If the ACO had no warrant and you refused him entry and refused to answer his questions, you should expect a return visit.  In the meantime, find a family member, friend or other safe place for any dogs who may fall under a local breed ban as well as any pets in your home that put you over the legal limit if your area has one.  Tidy up your animals, crates, x-pens, litter boxes and your home in general.  Make sure your animals’ records are in order so that you can produce documents if required (e.g. proof of rabies vaccination, proof of neuter if your area has MSN, local license if applicable).  Don’t panic.  Contact an attorney for advice if you are able.

For detailed advice that goes beyond the basic points mentioned here, read “What to Do When Animal Control Comes Knocking” by attorney George J. Eigenhauser Jr.

Treats on the Internets

Case Update – The recently fired/charged with cruelty Martin Co pound director is suing to get his job back because: he wasn’t properly trained, his co-worker is a dummy and a druggie and the dog he shot in his cage was a monster pitbull owned by lowlifes.  (Thank you Clarice for the link.)

Case Update – The GA high school teacher who had students hold down two cats while he removed their testicles will not be charged and county residents are encouraged “to accept the incident as a learning experience”.  (Thanks Clarice.)

The Tri-Cities pound in WA saw its intake halved last year.  The director is completely clueless as to how that happened and apparently uninterested in finding out.  (Thanks Mary.)

A bill banning gas chambers in SC shelters has stalled in the House because legislators worry that implementing the bill would be too costly even though gassing is a more expensive killing method and shelters are already killing via injection anyway.

The Board of Health in Niagara Co, NY voted two months ago to support a TNR program to humanely manage and reduce the feral cat population.  The board recently voted unanimously to reverse its position after a vet on the board cited opposition to TNR from veterinary groups and the CDC.  (Thanks Arlene.)

Best Friends bought a gym in Kanab, UT.  (Thanks John.)

Plot Twist: Cop comes across loose pitbull, normal human behavior ensues.  (Thanks Anne.)

Weekend Jade

Three of these things belong together, Three of these things are kind of the same

Three of these things belong together,
Three of these things are kind of the same
[x]

Open Thread

Post anything animal related in the comments, anytime.  New Open Threads are posted weekly.

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More Tragic Cases of Veterinary “Care” at the Memphis Pound

Puppy ID #275425 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

Puppy ID #275425 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

Puppy ID #275425 was impounded as a stray by MAS on February 27, 2015. Her age was estimated as 8 weeks and she weighed just 7 pounds. Her intake condition was listed as “poor”. Records indicate she was unable to bear full weight on her right rear leg due to a dislocated hip. There was no x-ray taken at the “state of the art clinic” as notes indicate “system currently unavailable”. On March 5, it was noted that she had soft stool and that “overfeeding” must be ruled out as the cause. Records indicate she was being fed just 1/2 cup of food per day. A puppy this age and size would need to be fed this amount 3 – 4 times a day.  Feeding just 1/2 cup per day would presumably be prosecutable under local cruelty statutes.

A rescue group offered to take the puppy but MAS refused to release her intact.  Because policy, MSN, whatever.  On March 7, despite her young age, poor condition, dislocated hip and starvation diet, MAS spayed the puppy. She died shortly after the procedure.

***

Dog ID #275494 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

Dog ID #275494 at the Memphis pound, as photographed by Memphis Pets Alive.

An 8 year old dog, ID #275494, was impounded as a stray by MAS on March 2, 2015. The medical records indicate he was “emaciated” with a body condition score of 1/9 and had “deep degloving type wounds” to both front legs and “pyotraumatic dermatitis over rump”. The vet notes state that the dog needed “daily cleansing of wounds”. There are no notes to indicate the dog ever received this daily wound cleansing. There are no notes indicating the dog ever received any medication for pain. In fact, the note “monitor for pain” was entered in the vet notes on March 2, as if there was some doubt as to whether a dog whose front legs are flayed would experience pain.

Thankfully after 10 days at the pound, the dog was pulled by a rescue group.  I assume he finally got the care he needed immediately thereafter, thanks to the irresponsible public.

Taxpayers pay the head veterinarian at MAS $87,400 a year.  In case any vets out there are looking for a job where you don’t have to work too hard.

Arkansas Pound Kills Dog Whose Owner Tried to Reclaim

Muneka and her boy, as shown on the FOX 16 website.

Muneka and her boy, as shown on the FOX 16 website.

Two dogs belonging to Yadria Dorantes jumped their fence and were picked up by Beebe Animal Control on March 13.  Ms. Dorantes says she contacted AC to reclaim her shar pei/lab mix Muneka and her other dog.  Ms. Dorantes says AC told her that because the dogs kept jumping her four foot fence, she would need to put up a taller one before picking them up.  AC reportedly gave her two weeks to get the new fence installed.  Ms. Dorantes spent $1200 to get the much taller chain link fence put up then took her children to the pound to pick up their pets within the two week time frame, as agreed.  Upon arrival, Ms. Dorantes was shown a pile of dead dogs who had been killed at the pound.  Muneka’s body was in that pile.

“The guy told me that I could not get the shar pei back because she was really aggressive and that they were going to put her down. I asked ‘are you going to put her down or have you already?’ and he didn’t say anything,” Dorantes said.

Ms. Dorantes is understandably heartbroken and it’s clear in the video interview with the FOX 16 reporter that Muneka was family.  The tall fence is shown in that clip as well as a neighbor who says that the dogs were friendly.

The city of Beebe released this statement regarding the killing:

“On or about March 13, 2015, Beebe Animal Control personnel and Beebe City Police personnel responded to a report of “at large” dogs at or around the 600 block of N. Fir in Beebe. Two (2) dogs were impounded on that date; one (1) of the dogs was aggressive and both dogs did not have tags and there was no proof that the dogs had required vaccinations. Animal Control personnel were able to locate the owner of the two (2) dogs and that owner has had multiple dogs impounded by Animal Control on prior occasions. At the time the two (2) dogs were impounded on March 13, the owner was given verbal notice that the dogs were being impounded and the owner responded, “…take them.” On or about March 23, 2015, the aggressive dog was destroyed as authorized by the attached Beebe City Ordinance (6.04.15). Before the aggressive dog was destroyed, the owner made no attempt to seek release of this dog. After the aggressive dog was destroyed, the owner appeared and requested release of the second dog, which was granted on conditions that the dog be tagged and properly vaccinated. The owner has still not complied with those conditions as of the time and date of this press release.”

I guess the typewriter must have run out of ink before they got to the “Sorry for your loss” part.  But at least we know the owner is a no-license-no-proof-of-vaccines scumbag who doesn’t care about her pets.  It’s exactly these sort of heartless slackers who come up with $1200 on short notice to save their dogs from the pound.  The city should totally kill their dog, who no doubt was evaluated by a qualified behaviorist and given every opportunity for behavioral modification in an appropriate setting over a period of months.  Also, nice touch with the whole you-can-reclaim-your-beloved-family-member-from-this-pile-of-carcasses.  Stay classy.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Name That Animal

This is just for fun and the only rule is:  no researching.  Post your best guesses in the comments.  Reading other people’s answers before posting your own is terrible, horrible, no good, very bad optional.  Answer will be posted in the comments tomorrow.

nta

NYC Shelters Killing Animals People are Trying to Save

Sarge, ID #A1028331, on the kill list for today in Brooklyn, as posted on Facebook.

Sarge, ID #A1028331, on the kill list for today in Brooklyn, as posted on Facebook.

Even as New York City Animal Care & Control claims on its website that it has an 80% live release rate, rescuers and adopters complain that the shelter kills animals who have homes lined up as a result of the cumbersome and faulty process required to save animals from the kill room.  The complaint is not new but the NY Post ran an article on the issue this week, placing a spotlight on the problem:

Every night at 6 p.m., the shelter posts a list of “at risk” animals to be euthanized. Rescue groups and members of the public have until noon the following day to reserve them [via NYCACC’s online system]. But the “at risk” list was offline at least one night last week and several times in February due to technical difficulties. And the crashes have tragic consequences.

Remy was reserved via the online system by a rescuer one night last month who paid $52 for her via credit card.  When the rescuer arrived at at the shelter to pick Remy up, she was told there had been a problem with the paperwork and Remy had been killed.  Another rescuer reserved a dog called Lady last month but there was a problem with that hold too.  Lady was killed by shelter staff.

Another rescuer, who asked to remain anonymous, said she calls and sends e-mails to ACC staff after placing holds because she doesn’t trust the system.
“Frustrating things happen,” she said. “I’ve pulled two cats and gotten two different ones. I’ve pulled animals [that were advertised as] 3 years old and were actually 13 years old. “They always say this is because of computer problems,” she added.

When contacted by the Post, NYCACC refused to comment about the computer problems resulting in the needless killing of pets who had homes waiting.  But the spokesman did have a complaint to lodge:  the online system is often used to place “fake” holds on pets just to get them off the kill list for 48 hours.  Imagine that – people acting out of desperation to prevent animals from being needlessly killed at the shelter.  It’s as if the public actually cares about saving the lives of homeless animals.  But NYCACC isn’t going to be fooled into not killing animals and has designed the system to ensure that all animals with “fake” holds will definitely go to the kill room:

When the “fake” adopter fails to the show up within the 48-hour hold period, the animal is euthanized. During that time, a real adopter could have stepped in. But the online system doesn’t allow for a backup rescue after the deadline.

Evil.

Here’s a thought:  if the online reservation system is failing to save lives – both by accident and by design – and it’s evident that the public doesn’t want healthy/treatable animals killed at the shelter, maybe it’s time to consider ending the practice of killing animals and start doing the job of sheltering.  Make it NYCACC policy that no healthy/treatable animals are killed under any circumstances.  That way, it doesn’t matter if there are a hundred computer glitches a day because no animal is going to be killed as a result.  And the “fake” hold problem is eliminated by virtue of the fact that there is no kill list.  Problems all solved.

(Thanks Anne for the link.)

State Report: Lawton Pound Sucks but More Importantly, Facebook Sucks Worse

The Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners conducted an investigation into allegations of neglect and other wrongdoing at the Lawton pound at the request of the city manager.  The 464 page report starts out with a page titled “Conspiracy and Connection of Defendants”.  On one side of the chart featured on this page is a local spay-neuter clinic and on the other side is a Facebook page with various uh, conspirators named below each.  Yes, that says Facebook page.

The Facebook page is administered by a group called Lawton Citizens for Humane Treatment of Animals.  On that page, which I have not visited, people apparently post complaints regarding the mistreatment and killing of animals at the Lawton pound.  I know this because the board’s lead investigator has screencapped a ton of inflammatory posts from that page and included them in the report.  To show that some people act like dicks on Facebook, I guess.

If you are interested in reading a bunch of trash talk and the investigator’s wagging-finger-o-shame responses, knock yourself out.  The gist of the report, in my interpretation, is that oh sure, animals were being neglected and starved to death at the Lawton pound but you know, Facebook is terribleawfulsuperblech.  And the employees are doing the best they can.

Here are a few items I fished out of the muck and summarized that don’t have anything to do with Facebook:

Page 27, Item 69: Employees complained to the investigator that neither the kennel staff nor the ACOs had been properly trained; kennel staff refused to do their jobs and refused to follow instructions from supervisors; male staff refused to wash bowls or do laundry because it’s “woman’s work”; sick and injured animals were left to suffer without veterinary care.

Page 28, Item 70 and 72:  If the rescue group trying to pull a pet was not liked by the employees, they would kill the animal in retaliation.

Page 28, Item 73:  A dog was placed in a kennel with a dog who was known to be a resource guarder so that workers wouldn’t have to clean an additional cage.  (This was reportedly not an uncommon practice.)  The resource guarder prevented the other dog from eating and the dog starved to death after 3 weeks.  One of the employees responsible for the dead dog’s feeding and daily care has since transferred to the Lawton police department.

Recommendations, Pages 39 – 40:

  • Rotate animal killing shifts among the entire staff so that each person gets a longer break between killing shifts.
  • Ban all the people who talk smack on Facebook.
  • Sharing information and photos from inside the facility should be “strictly prohibited”.
  • The city needs to re-evaluate the practice of allowing animals discovered to be pregnant during spay surgery to give birth.
  • Staff should be trained in areas such as basic animal care.
  • A fresh coat of paint!

The city manager says that by July 1, all the violations noted in the report will be brought into compliance.  I would note that one of those violations was starving a dog to death.  But yeah, let’s silence the critics, start killing unborn puppies and kittens, slop some paint on the place and call it good.  The Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners must be so proud.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

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