MI Shelter Records Appear Falsified to Hide the Killing of Healthy Pets

Nancy Hornberger, a pet owner in Michigan, had a multiple cat household with one cat who kept fighting with the others and spraying urine.  Aside from this, Spitz was a loving pet and Ms. Hornberger felt he might enjoy life more in a single cat home.  She called the Oakland Co Animal Shelter and asked about having the shelter rehome Spitz.  Ms. Hornberger says she was told that as long as the cat was healthy and adoptable, they would put him on the adoption floor.  She packed up Spitz’s favorite food and toys and wrote a two page letter about him to be given to whoever adopted the cat.  Ms. Hornberger then surrendered Spitz, his belongings and the letter to the Oakland Co shelter so he could find his perfect home.

But Oakland Co killed Spitz minutes after the former owner hit the door.  Ms. Hornberger found out later, after animal advocates filed FOIA requests and received records for animals who were killed and categorized as “owner requested euthanasia” by the shelter.  When informed of Spitz’s killing, Ms. Hornberger collapsed.  She could not understand why her lovable pet would be killed instead of being offered for adoption by the shelter.  And she says she absolutely did not ask the shelter staff to kill him:

We never, in any way, requested that.

The Oakland Co shelter’s website indicates they are limited admission for cats:

Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center will operate as an open admission shelter for cats based on available capacity starting January 2, 2015. That means we will not accept cats when we do not have room to house them. After consulting with veterinary staff and other experts in animal shelter operations, we will implement the industry’s best practices.  By limiting the number of cats we house, we will be able to offer the very best care to our existing cat population.

It would seem to follow that the facility had adequate space to house Spitz at the time he was accepted.  Also, for those trying to re-read that last paragraph:  open admission=limited admission in Oakland Co, apparently.

(Photo by Casey Post)

(Photo by Casey Post)

WXYZ asked Oakland County Director of Public Services Mark Newman why Spitz was killed. He says that the cat was deemed unadoptable due to the urine spraying and too bad so sad the owner failed to understand that at the time she surrendered Spitz. Ms. Hornberger says if she would have known Spitz would be killed, she would never have left him at the shelter.

So what exactly makes an animal “unadoptable” at Oakland Co?

As for the shelters written policy on what makes an animal adoptable, it won’t be posted at the shelter or its website.

“It is not something we disseminate to the public, but it is our information,” said Newman.

It’s classified. But WXYZ got a copy of the document detailing the excuses used by Oakland Co to kill animals, which the shelter titled “CARES” because aw. Among the excuses:

  • Animals designated “treatable/manageable” may be given one week before being recategorized as “untreatable/unhealthy” – not because these animals actually are either untreatable or unhealthy, just because it’s been a week and hey, we’re not running a doggie hotel here people.
  • Examples of treatable/manageable conditions include: cough, cold, arthritis, fleas, worms, cherry eye, missing eye/limb or other physical disability, and having the audacity to be born while being cared for by a mother. One week to get over that lost eye or that being born thing.
  • Examples of untreatable/unhealthy conditions include: healthy feral cats, dental disease, ringworm, and skin mites. I love that healthy feral cats are included in the definition of unhealthy because that just makes sense. Healthy=unhealthy, what’s the problem – you stupid or something?
(Photo by Casey Post)

(Photo by Casey Post)

One thing I didn’t see on the list was spraying, which is supposedly a capital offense in Oakland Co. The closest thing I could find:

Have a behavioral, temperamental or medical characteristic that would pose a danger to other animals, themselves or the public.

Does Oakland Co think cat urine is a public health threat?

Lest anyone think that Spitz’s killing represents an isolated incident at Oakland Co, the shelter’s own records seem to reveal it is a regular occurrence. Records appear to be falsified as “owner requested euthanasia” on numerous animals, including strays killed upon impound instead of being held for the legally mandated holding period and pets who are given nail trims and vaccines prior to being killed, supposedly by owner request.

Why the shell game? Oakland Co boasts on its website that it “currently has the best save rate in Michigan among public open-admission shelters whose intakes are greater than 5,000 animals”. But that save rate specifically excludes animals categorized as being killed by owner request, such as Spitz. (There is also an exclusion for animals killed and categorized as “contracted” which I don’t recall coming across before and don’t know what it refers to.)

Oakland Co taxpayers are getting the shaft with regard to their public shelter.  The shelter is limiting admission of cats while claiming to be open admission, arbitrarily designating healthy animals as unhealthy, and falsifying records to blame the needless killing of pets on “owner request” where no such request ever existed.  It is up to local residents to demand better.  As for Oakland Co workers, if you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

AL Shelter Under Investigation by Police

In February, the Lawrence Co Commission in Alabama awarded an $80,000 annual AC contract to Bobbie Taylor, whom the county had previously been paying $15 per animal for sheltering services. The controversial decision included an agreement that Ms. Taylor purchase and operate a new shelter within 6 months. She is currently using private property to house animals, many of them outdoors, for the county. Her shelter’s website states:

She has the backing of the community, local officials and AVRAL (Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation), a grassroots political action committee dedicated to helping pass animal-friendly legislation. It is run by Dr. Rhonda Parker.

I’ve blogged about AVRAL before.

In April, pictures from the Lawrence Co shelter were reportedly circulated on social media and claims were made that the conditions were sub-standard. The local paper ran an article and Ms. Taylor denied the allegations, stating basically that she was doing the best she could and that her intention was to buy an actual building:

Taylor said she is purchasing the former Liberty Woodworks building on Ala. 24 as the location for the new shelter, which she said will be the first county no-kill shelter in Alabama.

Yesterday WHNT aired a story centered around video and photos taken by Caleb Scott, a recent volunteer at the Lawrence Co shelter who said he quit after two days because he could not stand it any longer. The video shows a person identified by Mr. Scott as Bobbie Taylor whacking a dog on the head repeatedly. The pictures are also disturbing:

Scott provided us with additional images from the shelter showing dogs lying in their own waste, and at least one emaciated dog lying in a pen too small for it to turn around in. Scott claims several of the animals are obviously sick and in need of care.

“Sick animals, they can’t even get up to walk, just laying there, laying there in their own waste,” Scott says.

Screengrab from the WHNT website showing an emaciated dog in a metal crate at the Lawrence Co shelter.

Screengrab from the WHNT website showing an emaciated dog in a metal crate at the Lawrence Co shelter.

Mr. Scott says he brought his concerns to law enforcement and the police chief confirmed there is an investigation being conducted.  I get the impression that politics run deep here.

WHNT describes Ms. Taylor as “an outspoken advocate for no-kill animal shelters”. As many readers know, pet killing groups such as PETA enjoy exploiting any opportunity to condemn no kill sheltering and further an agenda of killing by falsely claiming no kill is about warehousing and neglecting animals. I don’t know if PETA or any other anti-pet groups have yet commented on the Lawrence Co situation but I want to make my position clear.

The Lawrence Co shelter’s “no kill” claim is irrelevant. If the allegations of abuse and neglect are true then in fact the shelter has more in common with high kill pounds and the leadership and staff who run them: the idea that animal life is cheap. Animal abuse, filth, neglect and suffering do not represent the no kill movement.

As Nathan Winograd writes:

No Kill does not mean poor care, hostile and abusive treatment, and warehousing animals without the intentional killing. It means modernizing shelter operations so that animals are well cared for and kept moving efficiently and effectively through the shelter and into homes. The No Kill movement puts action behind the words of every shelter’s mission statement: “All life is precious.” No Kill is about valuing animals, which means not only saving their lives but also giving them good quality care. It means vaccination on intake, nutritious food, daily socialization and exercise, fresh clean water, medical care, and a system that finds loving, new homes.

At the open admission No Kill shelter I oversaw, the average length of stay for animals was eight days, we had a return rate of less than two percent, we reduced the disease rate by 90 percent from the prior administration, we reduced the killing rate by 75 percent, no animal ever celebrated an anniversary in the facility, and we saved 93 percent of all impounded animals. In short, we brought sheltering into the 21st century.

The difference between true no kill advocates and those who embrace pet killing facilities is that we will not hesitate to condemn neglect and abuse of animals regardless of what label the group attaches to itself: AC shelter, no kill shelter, rescue group, etc. We speak only for the animals. By contrast, no kill’s detractors will generally ignore or even defend abuse, so long as the facility also intentionally kills the animals and does so by falsely claiming there are too many animals, not enough homes and the public is irresponsible.

I hope there is a fair and thorough investigation of the Lawrence Co shelter that rises above political interests and truly protects the animals.  Regardless of the results of that investigation, it’s important to be clear that animal abuse and neglect – wherever it occurs and whoever is responsible – is unacceptable.

(Thanks to Clarice and another reader for the links.)

Complaints Prompt State to Inspect VA Shelter and Enablers to Circle the Wagons

In Accomack Co, Virginia, another sad case where pets who were reportedly living in unacceptable conditions in a resident’s yard are now allegedly suffering at the pound after being “rescued”:

An Exmore man who tipped off Accomack County Animal Control officers about poor living conditions of 15 dogs at a rural Onancock residence now is asking the state to shut down the facility where they were taken.

Jim Mason submitted a petition to the state veterinarian and the commissioner of agriculture and consumer services on June 8, asking them to close the Eastern Shore Regional Animal Control Facility in Melfa because it lacks air conditioning and an outdoor exercise area, among other issues.

The dogs, several of whom have whelped litters since being seized, have been held at the pound in connection with an ongoing court case for many months. They are allegedly being denied exercise and socialization.

After receiving the petition, a state inspector visited the Eastern Shore Regional AC Facility and found a number of deficiencies, including:

[S]everal dogs and cats showed signs of discomfort due to heat and humidity and the dog run area was “extremely hot and humid” with no climate control and flies[.]
[…]
Additionally, the inspector said not all animals euthanized at the facility were sedated beforehand.

Members of the Accomack Co Board of Supervisors have also received complaints from animal advocates regarding conditions at the pound.  But(t):

“The shelter is in very, very good hands,” Supervisor Robert Crockett said.

Also:  all county pounds “have to” kill animals (which will undoubtedly come as a shock to the many no kill shelters operating in municipalities all over the country) and the state inspector only dinged Eastern Shore on the recent report because of pressure from pesky activists.  And the offer of free air conditioning from a local SPCA is now being put on hold by the county because reasons.  Seems legit.

I couldn’t find any government website listing animals for Eastern Shore and the facility’s Facebook page is out of date.  The Eastern Shore page on Petfinder says:

We invite you to take a look at all our listed animals.To us, they all deserve the recognition as “featured”.

Petfinder has zero animals listed for Eastern Shore.

Very, very good hands.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Rowan Co Deigns to Let Citizens Work for Free at the Shelter, Within Limits, Because Obviously

One of the six pets advertised for adoption by the Rowan Co shelter in NC.  (Image via Petfinder)

One of the six pets currently advertised for adoption by the Rowan Co shelter in NC. (Image via Petfinder)

Some Rowan Co animal advocates are apparently pleased with promised policy changes at the shelter but after reading about the changes, I was able to contain my enthusiasm. In an effort to be fair, I’ll outline the changes in yay/nay format.

Paws Up: Beginning July 1, the shelter is going to start vaccinating and microchipping animals.
Paws Down: These costs will be passed on to adopters and rescuers who will have to pay an additional $10 for pets (beyond the current $70 fee).

Paws Up: The county will allow a volunteer program at the shelter.
Paws Down: The program won’t be implemented until a new cat wing, currently under construction, is opened. The volunteers will be issued reader cards in order to be prevented from accessing all areas of the shelter. The county has yet to purchase the card readers. Inmates who work at the shelter reportedly have full access but volunteers will be restricted.

Paws Up: There has been universal support for a 60 day TNR program for feral cats which would cost the county zero dollars.
Paws Down: The county decided to table the measure.

Paws Up: The shelter will purchase new software which will allow photographs of impounded animals to be posted online upon intake.
Paws Down: There is no set date for implementing this change. In the meantime, animal rescuers are restricted to following the current policy: they are allowed in the shelter for one hour at the county’s discretion and can take no more than 8 animal photos during that hour. The county commissioners and the shelter director were asked to relax this rule but refused.

So there you go. Keep your cheering to a dull roar, if you can manage it.

I appreciate that advocates have been working hard for a long time to effect change at the Rowan Co shelter. And I understand that progress doesn’t always take the form we hope for or arrive in a timely fashion. It’s an ongoing effort and you have to start somewhere. I get all that.

But speaking for myself, I’d rather eat glass than volunteer my services to people who treated me with such contempt and are more interested in wielding their sovereign power over me than saving animals. There are, tragically, many places where shelter animals are desperately in need of help and many ways to help them. I wouldn’t waste my time in Rowan Co. On the other hand, I am eternally thankful that not everyone in the world is like me. I’m glad there are some animal advocates in Rowan Co able to put up with these dickheads. Long may they run, especially since there may not be anyone on this planet willing to replace them.

(Thanks Lisa for the link.)

San Diego Co Shelter Vet Files Whistleblower Retaliation Lawsuit

Dr. Bruce Cauble, a California veterinarian who worked at San Diego County’s three shelters since 2002, has filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against the county.  Named in the lawsuit is deputy director and medical operations manager David Johnson, a registered veterinary technician who oversees the medical portion of the three county shelters.  The lawsuit alleges that Johnson’s mismanagement resulted in a number of serious issues and when the three county vets, including Dr. Cauble, spoke out about the problems, they were each transferred to the shelter farthest from their homes.  The allegations include:

  • Dogs housed in unheated concrete kennels where the temperature sometimes dropped below 50 degrees.  A boiler that was supposed to provide heat for the floors was often broken and management failed to have it repaired in a timely manner.  Staff referred to these chronically cold dogs as “ice puppies”.
  • Staff hosed down the ice puppies’ kennels with the dogs still inside, wetting down the pets and any towels that had been given to them for warmth.
  • Management failed to provide an adequate supply of pain medications and food for the animals in the medical ward and Dr. Cauble witnessed suffering as a result.
  • None of the three shelters’ x-ray machines were properly inspected or licensed, as required by law.  The staff did not have radiation monitoring badges.  When Dr. Cauble brought these issues to the attention of Mr. Johnson, he responded by threatening to shut down all x-ray activity but in fact, directed staff to continue using the unlicensed machines.
  • Two of the county’s three shelters lacked premise permits and were operating illegally.  As a result the state veterinary board advised that some animals had to be transferred to the only shelter with the required permit for treatment.  This caused animals to suffer because their veterinary care, including pain medication, was delayed.
  • Mr. Johnson stopped pain medications on animals who had been prescribed them by county vets.
  • After complaints were filed regarding the above issues by the veterinarians, all three were transferred to inconvenient work locations by Mr. Johnson.  As a result, none of the three veterinarians remained on the job and shelter animals suffered from lack of qualified and consistent veterinary care.

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Dr. Cauble expressed his frustrations with the county bureaucracy:

Cauble said non-veterinarian bureaucrats often prescribe medications or perform other tasks that are required to be performed by veterinarians. He said more than once, he was told to stay away while television news crews interviewed administrators who portrayed themselves as licensed veterinarians.

“We do have a number of animals die from secondary pneumonia and respiratory diseases” that are preventable, Cauble said. “The problem is, we have six or seven paper pushers-who make $700,000-plus between them, but they can’t seem to find $30 to replace a simple boiler part.”

Dr. Cauble also spoke with 10News about the ice puppies:

Cauble said five years ago he started complaining about the boiler to his bosses, but they refused to get a new one, instead making repairs. He said the boiler broke down about five times every year, leaving animals in the cold for at least a week.

“The dogs would get hypothermic. We would wrap them in towels, but the towel would get wet. The dryer was sometimes broken, so we’d run out of towels,” said Cauble. “The conditions left them susceptible to more problems, like kennel cough, pneumonia and distemper.”

San Diego Co’s official response to the lawsuit:

The Department of Animal Services’ number one priority is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the animals in its care. The County is reviewing the claim that has been filed and isn’t able to comment on pending litigation but will continue to provide the best care possible for all of the animals in our shelters.

Raise your icy paw if you feel reassured.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

Aurora Animal Shelter Refuses Offer of Hospice Care for Cat

When animal advocate Joan Ogner saw a Petfinder photo of a senior female cat at the Aurora Animal Shelter in CO this week, she felt moved and wanted to help get the pet transferred to a rescue group.  While working on that, she learned the cat has some serious medical issues. Specifically, the cat is partially paralyzed, has an acute URI, no teeth and an abdominal mass. She is being housed in isolation at the shelter.

At that point, Joan felt compelled to help this cat herself by providing hospice care at her home. She contacted the shelter to ask about adopting the cat and was refused. She subsequently contacted the manager via email to reiterate her offer and to advise that she works with another municipal shelter which would gladly do an official shelter-to-shelter transfer if the manager deemed that more appropriate.

The manager replied that the cat was receiving treatment at the shelter and that the vet staff had recommended euthanasia and so the request to transfer was refused. Joan asked the manager to reconsider, explaining that she was offering to care for the cat at home and even if euthanasia was the most humane option, to offer that in the quiet comfort of her loving home and not in a shelter environment which is highly stressful for cats.  She stated she would not allow the cat to suffer.

The manager again refused the offer to get the cat out of her cage at the shelter, citing the “five freedoms”, which she says are being provided to the cat there and stating that she didn’t feel comfortable sending the cat to an “unknown” situation.  Joan explained that she has adopted from the Aurora shelter before so she is not “unknown” and that she could provide immediate references if desired, including the director of the shelter who is willing to do the transfer, her veterinarian of 20 years, and local rescuers.  She again promised to provide loving hospice care and not allow the cat to suffer.

That was yesterday.  The manager has not replied since and the cat’s listing has been removed from Petfinder.  This is the post Joan put on her Facebook page in hopes of being allowed to give this poor cat peace and love in a quiet home environment for whatever time she has left.  Joan has named her Miss Kitty:

Screengrab from Facebook (provided by Joan Ogner)

“PLEASE CALL OR EMAIL ASAP THE AURORA SHELTER TO TRY AND SAVE MISS KITTY (I named her, they only know her by her shelter ID number A172673). Tell the Shelter Manager that this kitty deserves to live her last days in a hospice setting, rather than in the shelter. The Shelter Manager information is: Manager is :Jenee N. Shipman
Manager of Animal Care | City of Aurora
jshipman@auroragov.org Office 303.326.8299 | Mobile 720.409.2474 .
THIS IS URGENT as there is only a short time before they euthanize her. Let’s see that in her last breath she is not experiencing the smell of death in the Euth Room but instead feeling the love and peace of my home. THANKS”
(Screengrab from Facebook provided by Joan Ogner)

While it is humane to offer euthanasia to a pet who has been determined medically hopeless and suffering by a veterinarian, it is not humane to leave the animal in a cage at a shelter while typing out repeated refusals for an offer of home hospice care from a compassionate person.  If this cat is truly medically hopeless and suffering, she should have been euthanized to relieve her suffering as soon as the determination was made.  If not, the cat should be released – either directly to the person offering the hospice care or to the shelter offering to do the official transfer.  I simply don’t understand this refusal nor the reasons behind it.  Just because a shelter is able to meet the so-called “five freedoms” does not make sitting in a cage in isolation any kinder for this cat.  I hope the Aurora Animal Shelter manager reconsiders and accepts the offer of hospice care for Miss Kitty.

I Don’t Know But I’m Guessing It’s Not Based on Merit

Solitary pup tries to snuggle with metal in a cage at the Memphis pound.  (Photo via Facebook)

Solitary pup tries to snuggle with metal in a cage at the Memphis pound. (Photo via Facebook)

Last week a Memphis city council committee voted to accept a proposed 10.6% pay raise for employees at the city pound. The proposal includes an incentive for killing animals by paying workers who kill a higher wage than those who don’t. MAS already had this financial incentive in place but the union representing the employees made sure it was preserved in the new salary increase proposal.  Committee members Harold Collins and Joe Brown voted for the pay raise while Jim Strickland voted against it.

Are there any animal advocates who are politically active and involved with the city council in Memphis?  The pets at MAS really need a voice in government.  Right now, all they have is the employee union speaking to the city council.

The Memphis pound had a 50% kill rate in 2014.

(Thank you Clarice for the link and to the reader who sent me the photo from Facebook.)

State Investigation Determines Two Injured Cats Left to Suffer at Columbus Co Pound

The troubled Columbus Co pound has received a warning letter from the state of North Carolina indicating that the pound “may be in violation of the North Carolina Animal Welfare Act”.  After receiving a letter of complaint from rescuers, the state investigated and determined that Columbus Co may have violated the portion of the law which requires pounds to either seek veterinary care for sick/injured animals or kill them.  The findings pertain to two cats pulled by rescue groups – one who was left without veterinary care for a week at the pound while suffering from two fractured ribs, a draining abscess, bite wounds all over the body and blood in the lungs:

Portion of warning letter from the state of NC to the Columbus pound.

Portion of warning letter from the state of NC to the Columbus pound.

The second cat was a kitten who was left for several days without treatment at the pound despite having open wounds on his legs and part of his face falling off.  Pound workers characterized the extent of the kitten’s injuries to rescuers as “an old scab” on the leg:

Portion of warning letter from the state of NC to the Columbus pound.

Portion of warning letter from the state of NC to the Columbus pound.

The state is requiring the Columbus Co pound to provide written protocols and additional training to workers regarding veterinary care and assessment of animals. This isn’t the pound’s first rodeo and it hardly seems reasonable to hope that meaningful change will result from the current warning letter. Reform, as usual, is left up to local citizens to force.

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

Newkirk, OK: Shotgun Pound

The city of Newkirk, OK used taxpayer money to build a pound on property belonging to a veterinarian.  The facility is under the police department and is not open to the public.  Pets without collars are held for 3 days and, if unclaimed, are blasted with a shotgun, leaving behind a “bloody mess” according to the former city manager.

The only way for Newkirk residents to see if a lost pet has been impounded is to get hold of the ACO and make an appointment to look at the animals.  Brenda O’Neill, a local animal advocate, tried for a year to talk to the ACO and the police chief about being let in to the facility to photograph the animals for networking online.  She’s still trying.

And if that all sounds depressing, the new city manager says changes might be coming.  Not because Newkirk is doing anything wrong mind you, but just because some modern day people are kind of whiny:

“What we’ve done for the past couple of decades isn’t exactly accepted now,” said Jason Orr, the Newkirk City Manager.  Orr said many people living in rural Oklahoma accept the practice of shooting unwanted animals.  “People have their different opinions especially in rural Oklahoma still view shooting animals a humane way to dispose of animals but however moving forward in the modern day and age there are a lot of people that don’t agree with that,” Orr said.

Some modern day people at the local news station wanted to see the animals and conditions at the pound but no:

The animal control officer told Fox 25 the building’s owner did not want anyone new to visit the shelter and we were denied a look at the conditions of the animals being held at the shelter.

I think they must mean the property’s owner because if taxpayers paid for the building, the city owns it and the public should not be locked out of a facility it financed.  Plus what kind of creepy vet is so ok with pets being shot to death on his property that he’s willing to hide the bodies for the city?

Ms. O’Neill would like to see a new shelter built on one of the many vacant lots already owned by the city.  The city manager is all, you go somewhere away from me and get that done:

“I would rather see citizens come together to initiate projects of this nature because I think that’s where it is handled the best is at that grass roots level,” Orr told Fox 25.

In the absence of city employees actually doing their jobs, Ms. O’Neill is trying to get some dogs out of the pound and adopted into homes but is extremely limited in how much she can help due to the city’s 3 dog limit.  Add that to the list of outrageous city policies which need to be smote in Newkirk.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Adopters at Miami-Dade Shelter Say They Witnessed Workers Abusing Dog

Lisa Merkin and her son were at Miami-Dade Animal Services last week looking for a dog to adopt.  She says they saw a worker outside with a dog on a chokepole.  When the dog refused to move, she says a second worker began ramming him repeatedly with a cart, bloodying the dog’s face.  She screamed at the workers to stop and whipped out her cell phone to film what was going on.  That seemed to shut things down.  Ms. Merkin says she pleaded for the dog’s life, offering to adopt him on the spot but workers killed the dog for “aggression”.

Ms. Merkin contacted the local news and a reporter went to the shelter manager who offered a rather different version of events:

“The dog was never struck with the cart,” said Kathleen Labrada, the Miami-Dade Animal Service manager. “The cart was used inappropriately to encourage the dog to move forward.”

As evidence, the reporter was shown surveillance video showing the worker making one pass at the dog with the cart.  No contact is made during that one pass.  But that video snippet does not show what happened before or after that one pass and does not mesh with Ms. Merkin’s account:

“I took my camera out for a reason, and the reason was they were ramming (the) cart into the dog,” Merkin said.

In addition to Ms. Merkin and her son, there was another witness who says he saw the same thing:

“We were looking at the dogs — the big dogs — and we turn around and we see the people hitting and ramming the dog with the cart,” said Tyler Visnich, a witness to the alleged abuse.

[…]

The Merkin family and Visnich are adamant that the dog was hit with the cart six times and suffered a bloody face.

The puzzling part:

“They didn’t strike the dog, but the manner in which they encouraged the dog to move is absolutely unacceptable,” Labrada said.

Labrada said the employees broke protocol simply by the way they were treating the dog. For that reason Jose Rodriguez, the man holding the pole, was terminated.

Yosmiel Rivero, the man with the cart, has been placed on administrative leave.

While I want to be clear that I am not in any way endorsing ramming a dog with a cart and that I would prefer to see a dog who refuses to move handled in a different manner from what’s shown in that surveillance video snippet, I would add that I don’t consider the one pass shown on that video to be a firing offense.  I consider it to be more along the lines of an opportunity for improvement.  If the manager’s version of events is true – that the worker made one pass at the dog with the cart without making contact in an effort to encourage the dog to move – it seems to me that both workers should be offered guidance on how to better handle similar situations in future.  Taking them off the job seems extreme, which is why it’s hard for me to believe that the manager’s version of events is accurate.

If there is surveillance video that shows the complete period of time the dog was on that chokepole, that should obviously have been made public in order to address the abuse allegations.  The brief snippet of video and the manager’s statement do not seem to jive with the disciplinary action taken.  If the rest of the video shows what the eyewitnesses say they saw – the dog being rammed with the cart until he bled – then criminal charges would seem to be in order.

Anyone at the Miami-Dade shelter interested in getting to the truth and seeking justice?  If not, it will once again be up to taxpayers to demand transparency and accountability from their public servants.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

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