A Promising Start in Fremont Co Delivers Hope: An Interview with Douglas Rae

When we last checked in with the Humane Society of Fremont Co in Colorado, the place was a hot mess.  State inspections revealed that the facility was killing animals before their legal holding period expired using inhumane methods, including heartstick, performed by untrained staff, leaving sick and injured animals to suffer without immediate vet care, housing cats in cages that were too small and had mesh flooring, and using the surgery room as a cat intake/holding area as well as an isolation area for sick cats.  Local advocates were calling for a new director to bring reform.

Douglas Rae, director of the Humane Society of Fremont Co, with friend. (Photo courtesy Douglas Rae)

Douglas Rae, director of the Humane Society of Fremont Co, with friend. (Photo courtesy Douglas Rae)

On September 24, 2014, advocates’ efforts paid off when newly hired director Douglas Rae started on the job.  I recently interviewed Doug and learned that under his leadership, the HSFC is now saving nearly every animal in its care.  And it’s not being done at the expense of cats either since HSFC isn’t a participant in the War on Cats, choosing instead to reunite lost, friendly, outdoor cats with their owners or find them new ones if needed.  Feral cats are neutered and returned to their place in the community.  And the only time HSFC performs owner requested euthanasia now is when an animal is medically hopeless and suffering.

I asked Doug to describe his first day at the Humane Society of Fremont Co:

I was greeted with a large sign on the front door that said, “Welcome Douglas Rae To Our Shelter.” A volunteer was at the front counter when I walked in, he recognized me, and he greeted me straight away before I could introduce myself. I talked with this volunteer at the front counter for almost 30 minutes. This volunteer (and his wife) took me and Lynn (my wife) out to lunch on my first day.

After speaking with the volunteer that greeted me, I immediately went into the cat adoption room and introduced myself to every cat. “Hi my name is Doug, I’m getting you out of here.” After the cats, I had the same talk with every dog in the building. And then the rabbits. And then the cats in intake. It’s a ritual I do in every shelter on day one.

When the Board flew me out for in Interview in August, I spotted several changes that needed to be made. So I had noted many things I would address on day one if I were selected as the new director.

We had signage seemingly on every wall inside of the shelter. I took every sign on the walls down but one, the pricing structure, which I relocated to a better area.

In the front lobby, we sold urns, lots of them. To me, it looked like death with all of the urns on display. I understand why the urns were out for display, I simply didn’t want others to think what I did when they walked in the shelter for the first time. The last thing I want people to think is about is “death.”

So we moved the urns out of immediate eyesight, put nice pictures on the wall in the front lobby and the hallways, moved a couch with pillows into the lobby, added a giant and soothing waterfall in the front window. and made the front area look nice and homey We also started playing soft music and piped aromatherapy through the ventilation system in week one.

In fact, as I write this, over one hour after everyone has gone home for the night, not one dog is making a sound. Not one dog is howling or crying. Not one dog is barking. If dogs were barking tonight, the aromatherapy was not changed out from the previous day. Silence is golden in an animal shelter.

I have a volunteer willing to help us with easy yet potent protocols utilizing homeopathy, essential oils, flower essences, herbs, etc. There are several, easy-to-use remedies that can help calm, ease anxiety, and relieve stress for animals in a shelter. Diffusing oils in both the front area and the kennel area would be very easy and helpful as well.

Individual dogs will also receive homeopathy and other remedies that are good for them specifically – post surgery, digestive support, skin support, URI, UTI, lameness, wound healing, eye issues, arthritis, etc… and guess what, volunteers are all over this making it happen for the animals.

We made a lot of changes straight away because I have high expectations for how a shelter should look. But especially in Canon City, where the shelter had been under such scrutiny. Getting the building to where the community needed it was a priority on day one/week one.

I want the lobby to be warm and inviting. Heck, I want the entire building to be warm and inviting. For the month of October the shelter was decorated for Halloween. It was scary spooky in here. The day after Thanksgiving, Christmas decorations went up throughout the entire building. Including dog and cat cages. It was quite something to see.

Animal shelters need not look and smell like an animal shelter.

I filled a notebook on day one with things we needed to address. But I always do this in new jobs. A lot of notes were written that day.

Since no kill deniers often falsely claim that shelters can not be open admission without killing animals for population control, I asked Doug if HSFC was still contracted to provide animal control services:

Yes. We are contracted through Fremont County, CO and the cities of Canon City, Florence, Coal Creek, Williamsburg, Rockvale and Westcliffe, CO.

There were months of discussion of pulling the contract. Once my appointment was announced online, and after several people who wanted the contract canceled but were now advocating that the contract remain in place (after my announcement and one month before I started), the council decided to not pull the contract.

I also asked about the facility’s budget:

The combined per capita number for all cities and the county we are serving when I started was $1.07. We are still at $1.07. Though I desperately need more money to manage this shelter, I have not received more contract dollars.

Our donations decreased a good deal due to the shelter’s recent history and the medical expenses increased after my start, as we treat all animals requiring treatment, no matter how big or how small the bill (we do not have a vet on staff).

Although much ado is made by some animal groups about length of stay for shelter pets, Doug is not overly concerned with that number at HSFC and doesn’t track it:

Some people think an animal living in a shelter for longer than 7 days (or whatever that magic number is) should be moved out; I guess through the back door, but I don’t. Nor will I ever.

If we have to keep an animal for 30, 60 or 90 days to find that animal a home and ensure life, then we will. We kept two dogs for over 30 days because they needed to be kept together. They were adopted and are now alive in a loving family. Other shelters might have split up a bonded pair of dogs and adopted each individually, or worse, killed the animals if they couldn’t be placed within a designated time frame. Not here, ever. We treat all animals as individuals.

HSFC has been returning lost pets to owners at an impressive rate since Doug started:

We have a 37% Return to Owner rate in my 3 months.

We have a detailed list of lost animals at the front counter, we have a lost and found bulletin board in the shelter, we have a “lost animal found” Facebook page where strays are “immediately” posted online at intake, we scan for micro-chips on intake, we check the Colorado lost pets Facebook page to see if animals match any in our shelter.

We literally have had ACOs bring in a dog and the owner and dog were reunited in less than 30 minutes.

Adoption promotions run continuously:

October, National Shelter Dog Month: half price adoptions. Half price adoptions for rabbits. Half price adoptions for cats. November Adopt a Senior Shelter Dog month $25. Black Friday $25.00 adoptions.

Our shelter was incorporated December 26, 1950. Adoption prices this 12/26, and adoptions always on 12/26, will be $19.50.

Currently we are doing “Gas prices have dropped, and this week…so have our adoption fees for dogs!”

We are always doing something.

Doug attributes credit for saving almost every animal at HSFC to the so-called irresponsible public:

In October (my first month) we saved 93% of the animals, November 99% and December 100%, with a $1.07 per capita and close to being 300 operational hours short.

What we have accomplished over the last three months may not be noteable when compared to other shelters doing the same thing in other cities, but it is historic in this County. And not because of me. I am simply fortunate to be sitting in the drivers seat as this bus makes its way down the road to bigger and better things. My team has made everything happen and because of that teams efforts, Canon City is now on the national life-saving map.

I have never had such a committed and focused group of people saving lives before and I have had a few solid teams in the past. Volunteers from around the state of Colorado (and beyond) have reached out and asked me how they can help.

Volunteers drive two hours one-way to bring animals to a rescue. Volunteers have written a check for $900 to cover a cat’s dislocated shoulder, as quickly as they buy a cup of coffee in the morning (and without my even asking for a penny).

Volunteers raised $400 for a dog’s eye surgery in less than 24 hours (again, without my asking them to do anything). Volunteers completely manage my rescue program. Volunteers take and upload pictures of adoptable animals onto the website. Volunteers foster pregnant dogs, and bring back healthy puppies for people to adopt 8 weeks late. Volunteers save neonatal kittens when they need to be bottle fed by taking them into their foster home. And so much more.

Volunteers are the absolute foundation for what we do in Fremont County. I simply could not be prouder of this team. And really they seemingly were behind me on day one. Sure, I reached out to several people at the start, meeting everyone one-on-one, but folks that were not currently volunteering at the shelter embraced life-saving with little to no direction from me at all.

Rather than clinging to the old/failed ways, which we see so often in animal sheltering, Doug embraces change and sees it as an indication of progress:

If we are not changing, we are not getting better.

Thank you Doug for bringing hope to the lost and homeless animals of Fremont Co. Thank you to the animal advocates who campaigned for reform. And thank you to the irresponsible public for making lifesaving the priority at the Humane Society of Fremont Co. It would be hard to imagine a more impressive turnaround or a more promising start. I hope the future holds continued success.

Knock, Knock: Santa’s at the Door and He’s Got a Puppy

Pets make great gifts and I’m glad to see many shelters are finally coming around to that view, even if some only embrace the concept once a year.  Christmas deliveries of adopted shelter pets to their new families has grown in popularity and along with it, some long overdue myth-busting.

Staff from the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals dressed up as elves and delivered six kittens to adopters on Christmas Day:

“Studies show that animals given as gifts are much less likely to be surrendered or given up because of the emotional attachment they give to the owner,” [director Jen] Corbin said.

Dressed as Santa and his helpers, staff from St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey delivered adopted pets in wrapped boxes to adopters on Christmas:

The holidays can be a great time to adopt, [CEO Heather] Camissa says, because families are often at home and have time to spend with the pets and to acclimate them to their new home.

Also delivering pets to their new homes on Christmas morning were the Fairfax Co shelter in VA, volunteers from the Nevada Humane Society in Reno, the Charleston Animal Society in SC, and the Franklin Co shelter and the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Maine.  And an adorable 9 year old girl in New Jersey got a pair of pitbull puppies delivered to her home on Christmas morning, courtesy of the Cumberland Co SPCA.  The pictures will cure what ails ya.

Did your local shelter deliver pets on Christmas?

City of Irvine Takes Action to Improve Conditions at Shelter after Community Complaints

After shelter pet advocates went public by bringing their concerns about the Irvine Animal Care Center to the City Council last month, changes are afoot.

The chief veterinarian at IACC, Dr. Lawrence Kosmin, whom shelter pet advocates allege has been botching surgeries and refers to himself as “Dr. Death”, will be leaving at the end of the month.  A vet who worked under Dr. Kosmin will take his place.

City officials plan to establish a clear euthanasia policy that ensures no treatable animal is euthanized. A policy will also be set to create an atmosphere in which shelter staff and volunteers can come forward about issues without fearing retribution from their management.

A number of other changes are in the works as well:

  • A behaviorist will be hired to evaluate pets and get them ready for adoption.
  • Staff will be given one day’s notice on the kill list.
  • The Third Chance program, which advocates allege has been misused resulting in the needless killing of “rescued” pets, will be re-evaluated.
  • A veterinarian who trained in shelter medicine at UC Davis was slated to begin an independent evaluation of the Irvine facility this week.

The mayor says it will take 4 – 6 months to fully implement the changes.

Former shelter staff and volunteers are encouraged by the city’s plans but worry the independent evaluation will rely on information provided by current shelter management, who deny wrongdoing.

That’s always a challenge.  But any reasonable shelter evaluation is going to include input from community stakeholders.  In this case, since the city only took action after the community dropped the problems on its doorstep, I would think the evaluation would have to include input from those who got the ball rolling.

We’ll be watching.

One last noteworthy bit from the article, regarding “Dr. Death”:

Kosmin is serving as president-elect for the California Veterinary Medical Association during 2014-15.

The CVMA must be so proud.

(Thanks Arlene and Clarice for the link.)

NC Ends Routine Gassing of Shelter Animals

The gas chamber at Henry Co AC Shelter, 2005

A gas chamber for killing shelter pets, no longer in use.

On December 4, 2014, the Animal Welfare Section of the NC Department of Agriculture issued a policy statement regarding the use of gas chambers to all licensed euthanasia technicians and registered shelters.  The letter can be read in full here.

In summary, the letter states that because the last major animal welfare organization still endorsing the gassing of pets, the AVMA, revised its position in its Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals:  2013 Edition, the state too is revising its position.  The letter states that all shelters should immediately stop the routine gassing of animals and gives a compliance deadline of February 15, 2015.  Exceptions for killing animals in the gas chamber will be allowed, in keeping with AVMA recommendations:

  • “Unusual or rare circumstances”
  • “Natural disaster”
  • “Large-scale disease outbreak”

Licensed euthanasia technicians are requested to contact the Department of Agriculture prior to gassing in order to explain the circumstances and see if the director of Animal Welfare agrees that the case qualifies as an exception.

Any facility which anticipates it won’t be able to stop gassing pets by February 15, 2015 has until January 7 to file a one-time extension request.

Paws Up to the NC Department of Agriculture for taking action to drastically reduce the conditions under which it will be legal for shelters to gas animals to death.  It’s not as good as a ban, but it’s a solid step.

Paws Down for only doing it after the AVMA, the gas chamber’s last champion, finally arrived in the 21st century on the issue and stopped endorsing it for routine pet killing.  No other major animal organization approves of gassing shelter pets.  How many more years until the AVMA crosses the gas chamber off its list permanently?

(Thanks Lisa for sending me this letter.)

Capital Area Humane Society Increases Lifesaving for Cats by Engaging Public

It’s been depressing watching these so-called animal shelters and consultants announce they are going to “save more cats” by turning lost, owned cats back out into the street and/or selling lost, owned cats immediately upon impound.  Reuniting lost pets with their owners is not only part of the job at any shelter, it’s one of the best parts of the job to my mind.  I guess that’s why these groups feel compelled to lie about their reasons for failing at it so egregiously, blaming the “irresponsible” public even as they themselves violate the law and their own ethical responsibilities as temporary caretakers of the community’s pets.

An extremely handsome cat named Bill, listed as adoptable on the Capital Area HS website.

An extremely handsome cat named Bill, listed as adoptable on the Capital Area HS website.

It would be easy enough for any shelter to look at this trend of treating stray cats as second class pets and say “Works for us – let’s join in!”  After all, cats are harder to shelter than dogs and if you’re lazy and don’t care about keeping families together to being with, why should you bother coming up with actual solutions to the myriad issues surrounding cat sheltering?  But the staff at the donor funded Capital Area Humane Society in Ohio didn’t take the easy way out when it came to revamping their cat protocols.  They didn’t blame the public, they embraced the fact that most people who bring cats to a shelter are trying to do the right thing.  They didn’t break up families for personal profit, they gave surrendering parties supplies to keep families together, even if just temporarily.

Staff at the Capital Area Humane Society used to spend 3 hours a day killing cats and had a live release rate of just 32% for cats.  They knew their cat protocols needed an overhaul.  On September 1, staff began implementing new admission protocols for all surrendered animals but cats, including strays, have particularly benefited:

With the new protocol, an animal that is brought in to the Humane Society near Hilliard receives an exam, vaccinations and necessary medications for a nominal fee, which might be waived if the client dropping off the animal can’t pay. The client is then offered supplies, such as food and litter, and the option of fostering or keeping the animal.

The shelter also slashed adoption fees on cats and is now selling kittens for $25 and cats over 6 months of age for $10.  And a new partnership with five area rescue groups is allowing the community to step up even more.

By October 23, the kill rate for cats at the shelter had dropped by 58% and the killing of healthy, friendly cats for space dropped by 93%.

An example of how the new system works for stray cats:

Caity Waites of Huber Heights, near Dayton, said she and her roommate received assistance with three stray kittens under the new system, turning to the society when a number of other shelters said they couldn’t help.

After the veterinary exam, the women agreed to foster the animals until the society could take them. They ended up finding homes for two themselves and keeping the third.

[…]

“It was just the easiest thing in the world,” Waites said. “They just genuinely wanted the kittens to get homes. The whole experience was completely seamless and friendly and caring from start to finish.”

I’m so glad these people were able to foster and find homes for two of the kittens and decided to give the one kitten a permanent home.  These are good people, as are most people who turn to a shelter for assistance with pets.  I only hope their kitten never gets lost and if she does, she isn’t picked up by one of the lazy shelters with a policy of either putting the kitten back out on the street or immediately selling her for profit.

Improvements can and should be made in poorly performing shelters.  Taking a fresh look at how cats are sheltered is a good idea.  Breaking up families, putting owned cats back on the street and blaming the public have no place in any shelter.  It’s the opposite of why we have shelters in our society.  Good on the Capital Area HS for putting in the hard work to save more cats.  Keep going.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Sonoma Co Shelter Decides to Stop Blaming Owners, Start Reuniting Families

Cat ID #309183 at Sonoma Co Animal Services, as shown on PetHarbor.  (Click link to read the fabulous bio.)

Cat ID #309183 at Sonoma Co Animal Services in CA, as shown on PetHarbor. (Click link to read the fabulous bio.)

Instead of shelter directors and staff continually spewing the tired old mantra that the public is irresponsible and if their lost pet got loose, they don’t deserve to have him anyway so let’s not bother doing our jobs, how about this?

“It’s moving away from that old-school thinking that owners are irresponsible,” [Sonoma Co Animal Services director Brigid] Wasson said. “Every grieving pet owner who is looking for a lost pet deserves the same level of high customer service.”

*sits up straight, pays attention*

“Why would we want to find a new home for an animal that already has a good home?” Wasson said.

Hey, yeah… that.

Sonoma Co reportedly returned 55% of its stray dogs and 20% of its stray cats to their owners in the 2013-14 fiscal year which is not too shabby.  And Wasson wants to do even better.  She has instructed her ACOs to spend more time scanning for microchips, making phone calls and knocking on doors around the neighborhood when they find a stray pet.

In addition to doing their jobs to return lost pets to their owners, Sonoma Co ACOs are re-examining their own biases against the public which typically lead to unnecessary impounds:

[ACO Shirley] Zindler said officers tended to assume the worst about people who didn’t make an effort to find their missing pets, which in turn often resulted in the animal being whisked away to the shelter. But she said that attitude is changing.

“Some people don’t realize their animal’s gone yet,” Zindler said. “They’ve been at work, the animal dug out. Certainly every effort would be made to return the animal in the field.”

More, please.

(Thank you Daniela for the link.)

 

The Irresponsible Public Strikes Back – Times Two

The Wisconsin Humane Society took over shelter operations in Racine Co one year ago.  In comparing 2012 to 2013, the Wisconsin Humane Society reports a number of changes:

  • Animals are no longer killed as a means of population control.
  • The number of live released animals nearly doubled.
  • Financial donations were 14 times greater.
  • All animals are neutered prior to their placement on the adoption floor so that new owners can take their pet home as soon as they fall in love with him.
  • Fee waived adoptions for adult cats.
  • A flexible adoption policy allowing more people to adopt shelter pets.
  • Increased promotion of animals and evening adoption hours.
  • Establishment of a spay-neuter assistance program.

When asked about the turnaround at the shelter, WHS communications director Angela Speed told the local paper:

“I think there’s something to be said for community trust[.]”

[…]

“We’re really excited to see such improvement in just our first year of operation, which is totally due to the community’s support,” Speed said.

“We’re very pleased with the first full year of operations. … We have more volunteers, more donors, more adopters. We hope to continue on this trajectory.”

***

This notice was sent out Sunday by the Breckinridge Co shelter in KY:

noname

When the public trusts the local shelter to do its job, they will come out in droves to support it.  When all the public hears from its shelter staff and volunteers is that they are irresponsible animal “dumpers” who “force” the staff to kill healthy/treatable pets, we see the opposite effect.  Which description best fits your community?

The South Will Rise

While places like Union Co, NC continue to go moldy, communities all around the south are defying stereotypes and adopting progressive no kill protocols.

In Spartanburg, SC, city ACOs used to pick up cats and take them to the pound where roughly 8 out of 10 would be killed.  Area caretakers of feral cat colonies had a contentious relationship with the officers who would round up their maintained colony cats, along with other cats, and take them away for killing.

But late last year, Spartanburg Animal Services investigated trap-neuter-return for community cats and decided it was worth a try.  Funded by a grant, the city’s ACOs launched the program in January 2013.  They are on track to meet their goal of providing neuter and vaccination services to 750 feral cats this year.  The feline kill rate has dropped to virtually zero in 2013 thanks to TNR and the relationship with the community has bloomed into a supportive and useful one.  And Spartanburg Animal Services has been educating the masses via its Facebook page on which they document their outstanding TNR success.

In North Carolina, Lincoln Co animal advocates successfully lobbied their county commissioners for shelter reform.  Citing the will of the people to save shelter pets instead of killing them, commissioners unanimously voted this month to adopt the programs of the No Kill Equation:

“We are excited about leading the way in the state of North Carolina, through our commitment to become a no kill municipal shelter,” said Alex Patton, chairman of the county commissioners. “It is the right decision and one shared by the majority of our citizens.”

In Calhoun Co, AL, an advisory board was formed after concerns were raised about animal cruelty and botched killings at the pound.  The county is now slated to turn pound operations over to a non-profit group with goals for significant improvements:

 “I kept hearing from the previous board that it’s impossible to be a no-kill shelter,” [board member and attorney Tom] Wright said. “That’s not right to me, because that should be your goal. That’s what we want to work towards.”

Makes sense to me.

So even as many old-think shelter directors and politicians in the south remain mired in the killing ways of decades gone by, more and more southern communities are throwing off the yoke of archaic practices and starting to look at what makes sense:  Animals shelters should shelter animals. The public does not want animals in shelters killed.

No kill is not only possible, it’s happening in hundreds of communities all over the country.  Regressive directors and their enablers will continue to see their stranglehold on shelters eroded as more advocates take political action and the public continues to be educated about lifesaving alternatives.  And when history reflects upon those who fought to keep killing in the south and elsewhere, they will find themselves a mere Meisterburger footnote at the end of the chapter entitled “Compassion and Common Sense”.

More Misery for Animals in Merced County, CA

On June 26, 2013, Merced County authorities served a search warrant at Last Hope Cat Kingdom – a pet sanctuary in California.  Merced County Spokesman Mike North was on site during the raid and later talked to the local ABC affiliate:

He said many of the animals were severely emaciated, some had their eyes swollen shut, and others were infected with diseases. A team of veterinarians from across the state evaluated the pets and euthanized about two hundred of them on site.

Approximately 100 additional pets were removed from the property.  North indicated that Merced Co AC had been monitoring the sanctuary and that prior inspections had all been satisfactory:

County officials said they have received past complaints about the non-profit, but inspections never revealed any problems, until last week.

“Spot checks were done by Merced County animal control and confirmed the poor conditions of the facility and the animals that were housed in them,” said North.

But on September 20, reporting in the Merced Sun-Star painted a very different picture:

A Sun-Star review of Animal Control records revealed the agency transferred close to 2,000 kittens to Last Hope Cat Kingdom over a five-year period, nearly four times the number allowed by the rescue’s county-issued permit.

[…]

Last Hope Cat Kingdom’s permit allowed a maximum of 125 cats, but the county’s Animal Control sent 1,969 kittens to the facility through its foster group from 2009 to 2013, an average of 393 animals per year.

According to the Animal Control foster and rescue reports, the agency continued giving kittens to Last Hope Cat Kingdom’s volunteers up until the day of the search, June 25. Six kittens were transferred to the rescue group on the same day authorities raided the facility.

The average age of the cats given to Last Hope by Merced Co AC was 2 weeks.  Last Hope was reportedly the only group that would accept bottle baby kittens and it was widely known that if Last Hope didn’t take the kittens, AC would kill the them.  The pound would call Last Hope to pick up bottle babies an estimated 4 times a day during kitten season each year.  Last Hope co-founder Renate Schmitz faced the same predicament as many other overburdened rescuers in areas where the local shelter doesn’t do its job:

Schmitz said her rescue sometimes stopped taking animals from the public, but said it was hard to say “no” to Animal Control. “If you don’t take them, you know they will be killed or euthanized,” she said.
[…]
Animal Services Manager Rick Blackwell acknowledged using Last Hope Cat Kingdom as the agency’s main rescue group for bottle babies, but said the nonprofit could have stopped accepting more animals.

Or the shelter could have stopped killing baby cats and started doing its job.  Expanding the foster network jumps to mind, as does issuing pleas to the public on social media as bottle babies arrive at the shelter.

Dave Robinson, county Animal Control director, said in a recent interview that he was unaware the agency was sending that many kittens to Last Hope.
[…]
“One thing you have to remember about bottle babies is you probably have about 8 percent of them surviving,” Robinson said.

Say what now? Maddie’s Fund has rather different figures:

The veterinary literature reports intimidating mortality rates for orphaned kittens up to 12 weeks of age, ranging from 15% to 40%.

15, 40, 92 – whatevah, whatevs.  It sounds like the director is attempting to whitewash his pound’s failure with orphaned kittens by implying they were going to die anyway but that is outright false.  Many good shelters scramble during kitten season to get fosters and rescuers lined up for bottle feeding duty because it’s their job and because most of those animals survive.

And remember those “spot checks” and inspections the county spokesman had said AC was conducting at Last Hope?  In light of the fact that the Sun-Star exposed AC had been giving the sanctuary kittens hand over fist, including the day of the raid, I wondered if the county was going to walk those inspections claims back:

“We would never knowingly create a problem,” Blackwell said. “If we had knowledge there was an issue, we would stop sending animals there.”

[…]

Blackwell confirmed that animal control officers visited Last Hope only when there was a complaint. The most recent complaint was filed in 2010, so it had been almost three years since a thorough inspection.

[…]

Robinson acknowledged that Animal Control hadn’t inspected the rescue annually. “I think going forward we realized we do need to have a role in the process,” he said.

[…]

Robinson said it’s possible that Animal Control officers were unaware Last Hope could have no more than 125 animals since the permit was issued in 2003 and by the Planning Department.

“Back in 2003, Animal Control knew what that number was, but over the midst of time, I think the number got lost,” Robinson said.

Oh please.  More like:  We weren’t doing our jobs but instead foisting our failures onto an overburdened rescue group.  We tried to kill our way out of it with 200 on site kitten kills and lie our way out of it with claims of inspections and ignorance but then we were exposed by the local paper.  So now, uh The Midst of Time and stuff.

No charges have yet been filed against Renate Schmitz or anyone at Last Hope Cat Kingdom.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

The Public Steps In to Help Neglected Shelter Pets in Comal Co

A Jack Russell Terrier stands in a filthy kennel at CLASS in Comal Co, TX. (Image via Facebook)

A Jack Russell Terrier stands in a filthy kennel at CLASS in Comal Co, TX. (Image via Facebook)

In Texas, volunteers documented conditions at the Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society (CLASS) and posted the allegations and photos on Facebook.  They also shared the information with CLASS board members who promptly resigned.  The employees were fired and issued criminal trespass warnings by the county sheriff’s office which is conducting an investigation to determine if the alleged neglect warrants criminal charges.

The allegations include pets being left in filth, without food or water in some cases, missing pet food, and the killing of animals. Gina Archer, the former executive director who worked at CLASS for 14 years, says animals were only killed due to illness.  She and her husband were 2 of the 3 employees fired on Monday this week:

The Archers deny any of the allegations and say none of the animals were covered in their own filth.

“There might have been that on Monday morning,” said Gina Archer. “That was not the case when we walked out of there at five in the afternoon on Saturday.”

This sounds to me like an admission that animals were neglected at CLASS from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning.  Did Ms. Archer routinely leave shelter pets without care for more than an entire day?  Several photos posted on the Facebook page maintained by volunteers depict buckets of undrinkable water.  This one appears to be a trash bin with trash inside when it was filled with water and placed inside a dog kennel:

trash water

In addition to allegations of neglect, the volunteers who have taken over the shelter say there is no air conditioning, no computer and thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.

“Yesterday, we had no food, no cat litter and a half a gallon of bleach,” said new board member, Angie Gilstrap.

More than 100 cats and dogs were left in deplorable conditions.

But once word got out about the desperate need for help at the shelter, the public stepped up – big time.  Donated food and supplies filled the office on Tuesday, dozens of people showed up to volunteer for cleaning duty and adopters arrived to take pets home.  Assistance is still needed:

There is no way to currently donate online or via credit card, but Gilstrap expects that to be available by the end of the week.

Anyone who would like to donate money, time or items can do so at the shelter at 2170 Old Sattler Road in Canyon Lake, or call CLASS at 830-899-2527.

Thank you once again to the so-called irresponsible public for helping shelter pets get the care they need.  I’d hate to think of a world without all you damn irresponsible people in it.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

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