NC Shelter Workers Indicted for Torturing Dog Were Previously Praised by HSUS

In January of last year, HSUS issued a press release announcing its “top ten emergency placement partners”.  Number one on the list was the Guilford Co Animal Shelter in NC, run by the United Animal Coalition.  The press release reads, in part:

Although every placement partner is deeply valued, these ten groups went above and beyond to help animals rescued from large-scale crisis situations. Throughout the year, they showed tireless enthusiasm and dedication to helping animals.

This wasn’t the first time HSUS offered special recognition for the Guilford Co pound.  In February 2012, HSUS also named the facility on its top ten emergency placement partners list and issued a press release which reads, in part:

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, visited the Guilford County Animal Shelter Thursday to tour the facility and meet with staff members.

“Guilford County Animal Shelter has consistently gone above and beyond the call of duty to come to the aid of animals in need,” said Michelle Cascio, manager of the Emergency Placement Program for The HSUS.

There was a backlash among animal advocates as the United Animal Coalition was widely known for its secrecy and its reputation as an abusive killing hole.  Apparently Wayne Pacelle didn’t notice anything amiss during his tour or if he did, didn’t contact authorities about it.

This week, a grand jury indicted Marsha Williams, the director of the United Animal Coalition along with two employees, one of whom is the director’s daughter.  The charges stem from alleged illegal activities at both the Guilford Co pound and the Davidson Co pound, which was also run by United Animal Coalition.  A grand jury found that all three women “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did cause to be maliciously tortured an animal, an injured dog named Nana[.]”

In addition to the animal cruelty charge, Williams was indicted on several other offenses:

The indictment also alleges Williams possessed more than 100 tablets of Tramadol and kept tablets at the Davidson County Animal Shelter. The indictment further alleges Williams hindered a federal drug investigation by ordering workers to remove controlled substances from the shelter and creating false invoices showing the transfer of controlled substances from one shelter to the other.

The horrifying and long-standing allegations of widespread animal suffering, needless killing and rampant fraud perpetrated by United Animal Coalition have finally been moved into the judicial sphere.  It’s a shame Wayne Pacelle and HSUS spent so much time praising the work of these alleged animal torturers instead of blowing the whistle on them years ago.  It’s staggering to think of how many animals could have been saved, including Nana.

(Thanks Lisa for posting this link in the Open Thread.)

State of NC Shuts Down Operator of Two County Pounds

The state of North Carolina has revoked the shelter registrations issued to the United Animal Coalition – one used to operate the Guilford Co pound and the other for the Davidson Co pound.  In letters dated August 17, the state ordered UAC to cease and desist operating both facilities within 5 days “based on UAC’s willful disregard” of the laws pertaining to the care of shelter animals.

In Davidson Co, the state investigated a complaint regarding a severely injured dog.  The state found that UAC had left an apparently paralyzed dog with a possible broken back to suffer without a vet exam for 3 days before killing the dog.  A review of records dating back to January 2015 revealed an astonishing number of animals who were left to die in their cages.  A few examples cited by the state:

  • From April 15 – 30:  40 animals found dead in their cages
  • In May:  91 cats and 5 dogs found dead in their cages
  • In June:  86 cats and 5 dogs found dead in their cages
  • In July:  78 cats and 14 dogs found dead in their cages

While the obvious suffering of animals at Davidson Co is disturbing, the state cited scores of specific examples of dogs and cats suffering at Guilford Co which are absolutely heartbreaking to read.  Among them:

    • A dog who had been shot in the face and had an eyeball hanging out was given pain medication upon intake and then left to suffer without a vet exam or meds of any kind for 12 days before being killed.
    • A cat who had been hit by car and had his tail degloved was given pain meds but never received a vet exam, wound treatment or antibiotics by the time UAC killed him 4 days later.
    • A cat who had been hit by a car came in with a missing leg and his chin degloved.  He never received a vet exam and UAC waited 10 days before killing him.  He may have received pain meds but the records contain conflicting information so that information is unclear.
    • A dog who had been hit by a car was bleeding from his penis and had abdominal swelling, possibly due to internal bleeding.  His breathing was labored and one of his legs may have been broken.  He suffered in this condition for 2 weeks without so much as a veterinary examination.
    • An elderly dog who appeared to be suffering was brought in by an owner requesting euthanasia.  UAC failed to obtain proof of ownership but took the dog and left him in a cage for 4 days before killing him.  He was never examined by a vet.
    • Another dog, circumstances similar to the above, was left for 6 days before being killed.
    • A dog with apparent neurological problems and leg wounds was left to suffer without a vet exam for 4 days before being killed by UAC.
    • A cat who had “severe diarrhea, anus and vagina swollen and raw, and hair under the tail missing” was given medication for one day then left without exam or treatment for 11 days before UAC killed her.
    • A dog whose feet were raw and who had a large mammary tumor was left in a cage and discovered with the tumor ruptured the following day.  The dog never received a vet exam and was killed after 5 days.
    • A cat who had a maggot in an infected hole in his neck was given pain meds without a vet exam, had the maggot removed and the wound flushed.  No antibiotics were administered.  The cat was found dead in his cage 6 days later.
    • An emaciated cat who appeared hypoglycemic and exhibited symptoms of conjunctivitis and a URI never received a vet exam or meds by the time UAC killed him, 11 days later.
    • An emaciated dog with multiple bite wounds, both old and new, came in with a swollen face and abdomen, a hematoma on the ear and the smell of infection in the mouth.  The dog was placed on pain meds without a vet exam and never received any wound treatment or antibiotics by the time UAC killed him 5 days later.

HSUS has listed Guilford Co as one of its “top ten emergency placement partners” and encouraged the public to bring the staff cupcakes to say “thank you”.  If anyone does plan on bringing cupcakes, please contact me for a top ten list of suggested places you can cram them.

While shutting down UAC is obviously good news for animals, it’s not good enough.  For one thing, the criminal douchebags responsible for what is likely years of animal suffering and death need to go to jail.  For another, Guilford Co taking over the pound is not exactly the knight on the white horse anyone was hoping for – unless the county has changed from doing basically all the same things UAC is accused of by the state.  Trouble behind, trouble ahead.  Annoying animal advocates needed in Guilford and Davidson counties.  Huge.

(Thanks Lisa, Laura and Arlene for the links.)

Discussion: NH Bill Backed by HSUS

In New Hampshire, HSUS is promoting House Bill 624 which would require owners charged with cruelty to pay for their seized animals’ care while waiting for their day in court.  If the accused can’t afford to pay, they lose all rights to their animals, regardless of the outcome at trial. HB 624 would change the current law from requiring those convicted of cruelty to pay court costs to those accused. So much for presumed innocent, I guess.

The bill reportedly has support from the state’s animal shelters, which often house the seized animals and determine the fees associated with their care.  The officers citing the owners for cruelty are typically closely affiliated with the shelters.  The cruelty citations, seizure, cost determination and forfeiture would potentially all be handled by a very small, tightly knit group of individuals.  All without the accused ever receiving the benefit of a trial.

HB 624 is scheduled to come before the House Environment and Agriculture Committee on Friday.

Anyone see any possible up side to this bill?  Nothing jumps out at me.

PA Pet Store Chain Importing Shelter Animals from the South recently ran an article on a PA pet store chain that, like some others around the country, is switching from selling puppies and kittens obtained from commercial breeders to selling pets obtained from shelters.  Since shelter pets are being needlessly killed by directors who won’t do their jobs, any chance at avoiding the kill room sounds great.  Nonetheless, I have questions – and just because I do does not mean I’d rather see shelter pets killed than shipped for resale.  That is a false choice and one I won’t be entertaining in the comments.

The stores have been getting their rescue animals from Kentucky and Georgia shelters that have been vetted by the Humane Society of the United States.

Pets are being killed in PA shelters as well as in surrounding states.  Why would a PA pet store chain import animals from the south to stock its stores?  Shouldn’t they help the homeless pets in their own backyard (and then from their neighbors’) before importing them from the south?  Why should dogs and cats be subjected to the extreme stress of a road trip that takes all day (or days) when there are shelter pets available nearby?  The article does indicate the chain will start getting some pets from the PA SPCA as well but it makes little sense not to get all their pets locally, since PA shelter pets are going to the landfill otherwise.

How were the KY and GA shelters “vetted” by HSUS – a lobbying/fundraising group which actually has relatively little to do with animals shelters at all, let alone vetting them?  What is the HSUS vetting process?  Is money involved?  In past, HSUS has charged shelters for evaluations.  For example the Dallas pound was charged $25,000 for a 3 day HSUS evaluation in 2010.

The store is selling neutered, vaccinated, microchipped shelter pets for roughly $400 – $500.  Who is paying for these services and for the health certificates required for shipment?  Are the shelters receiving payment for the animals?  If the financial details in this arrangement are unknown, how can prospective buyers determine whether it constitutes fair trade?  The basis for the objection to pet store puppies and kittens is that they don’t constitute fair trade – with the animals being the ones who get shorted via health and quality of life concerns.  Is it reasonable to replace something objectionable with something unknown?

Some activists have been skeptical of the wave of store conversions, questioning whether all the animals are, indeed, from shelters and checked by vets.

Are the animals sold with documentation verifying their transfer from the shelter of origin and the veterinary health certificates and services they received?  Or it is just a Believe us type deal?

Representatives from the Pennsylvania SPCA and the Humane Society said they were confident that with Pets Plus Natural, any fears were misplaced.

Mmm’kay… but is there documentation?  Just in case someone isn’t prepared to go all in on the wildly comforting Believe us thing?

TZI Recommends Shelter Should Not Let You Have Your Lost Cat Back

Cleo, a feral cat who has been vaccinated and neutered, and whose caregiver loves her.  (Photo by Casey Post)

Cleo, a feral cat who has been vaccinated and neutered, and whose caregiver loves her. (Photo by Casey Post)

In August 2013, the Maddie’s Fund Shelter Medicine Program issued a summary of recommendations to the Hillsborough Co pound in FL following a consultation.  The recommendation regarding stray cats was particularly troubling to me since it threatened the bond between people and their lost pets.  From the report:

Eliminate the required hold period for stray cats. Stray cats lacking identification are extremely unlikely to be reclaimed by owners and are at high risk for shelter – acquired disease and euthanasia. Eliminating even a few days in the shelter may be the difference between life and death for them. The shelter can simultaneously have an option for immediate live release paired with a required hold period of 3 days prior to euthanasia.

Not only is Maddie’s Fund failing to attribute a low return to owner rate to its proper source – the pound, it fails to acknowledge one of the primary purposes of municipal shelters:  to reunite lost pets with their owners.

The No Kill Advocacy Center weighed in on the elimination of stray holding periods when HSUS suggested it in its 2013 white paper on California shelters:

[I]f a dog or cat comes in as a stray, and he does not have identification, he can be adopted to someone else immediately without giving his family any time to reclaim him. This is unfair to families who deeply love their animal companions. […] Accidents happen; animals get lost and end up at shelters. Since the choice presented — immediate adoption or sickness/death — is a false one, breaking up families by having them lose all rights in their animal with no reclaim period of any kind appears draconian.

I am deeply opposed to the elimination of holding periods for any pet whose owner might be looking for him. It’s the shelter’s job to treat the bond between pets and their people as sacrosanct. Which is why I was shocked to read that the Target Zero Institute, in its recommendations to the troubled Amarillo pound in TX, has taken the travesty even further. TZI not only recommends eliminating the holding period for stray cats lacking identification but for all cats found outside – including friendly, possibly microchipped pets who may be wearing collars and/or tags and whose owners are searching for them:

The TZI recommends returning outside cats back to their original neighborhoods following sterilization, rabies vaccination and ear tipping. […]TZI recommends returning cats to their ‘outside home’ where they have a food source as evidenced by a healthy body weight. These may be feral cats that cannot be handled or friendly cats found outside.

If Amarillo, or any other municipal shelter, adopts TZI’s barbaric recommendation regarding cats found outdoors, your pet could be turned into the shelter by a cat hating neighbor or anyone at all, or he could simply be trapped by an ACO and, so long as he appears to be “visually healthy”, he would be immediately vaccinated, neutered, ear-tipped and put back on the street. This would happen as a matter of policy – even if you were actively searching for your pet, even if you had microchipped him and even if you had placed a collar and an ID tag on him. If he’s found outside, TZI wants him immediately anesthetized, put through surgery and turned loose in the area where he had gotten lost (or presumably where the cat hating neighbor says he was found).

TZI says in its report that this practice will save money by reducing the number of cats who “have to be cared for, fed and ultimately [killed] in large numbers” at the pound.

No cats “have to be” killed.  Full stop.  If you don’t get that, get out of the shelter consulting business.

All cats impounded by shelters should be immediately – in the field whenever possible – scanned for microchips and checked for ID tags.  No exceptions.  A chip or ID tag should equate with a free ride home from the ACO.  Those cats lacking identification should be photographed and posted online by the facility immediately.  Anyone visiting the shelter looking for a lost pet should be shown every pet in the place as a matter of course.  Reuniting families is part of the job.  It seems to me to be one of the best parts, by the way, and I can’t imagine why anyone who supposedly cares about shelter pets would want to eliminate it.

Now that Maddie’s Fund and HSUS have opened this awful door and TZI has barreled through it with a bulldozer, I can’t help but wonder what’s next.  Will some consultant recommend that shelters stop housing all dogs found outdoors too?  Gee but we can’t turn dogs back out onto the streets, can we?  So what will “have to be” done with them?

I’m not a shelter consultant, just someone who loves pets and believes dogs and cats have a right to live, regardless of their status in the community.  I don’t get paid for my ideas nor do I have any big money backing me behind the scenes.  Here’s my unsolicited recommendation to shelters and their staff, for what it’s worth:  Do your jobs.  Stop looking for ways to avoid the hard work of sheltering by bringing in big money consultants.  You are accountable to the local taxpayers who pay your salaries and who love their pets.  Start acting like it.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Action Item: Demand Shelter Pets in Charles Co, MD Be Immediately Protected from Further Abuse

There is a video on Facebook of a dog being physically and emotionally abused by a pound employee in Charles Co, MD.  I’m not posting it here because I want to make sure that no reader views it without reading a warning first.  It’s disturbing.  As in, I have had trouble sleeping since I first saw it on the weekend.  I don’t think I’ll ever get the horrifying audio and visuals out of my mind.  For anyone who chooses not to watch but would still like to know the basics of what happens in the video, I will summarize from memory but bear in mind that I only watched it once.  I won’t be watching it again.

The dog, an apparently young black lab mix, is ostensibly being temperament tested by a pound worker using the method popularized by Sue Sternberg.  There is at least one other person in the room.  The worker holds a bowl of food over the dog, which the dog attempts to reach by jumping repeatedly.  The worker screams at the dog and slaps her in the face.  When she finally sets the bowl on the floor, the confused dog avoids it, obviously trying to offer a different behavior than the one that earned the abuse.  The worker then encourages the dog to eat the food which she does.  Then the worker pokes the dog in the face with a plastic hand on a stick and again abuses the dog.

It’s heartbreaking how the dog is trying so hard to please, placing her trust in the person, getting betrayed, trying again…

Someone with a stronger stomach than me might be able to correct my summary or offer a better one by re-watching the vid.  But that’s what I remember from my one viewing.

Let me be clear:  I think the Sue Sternberg behavioral assessment for shelter dogs is rubbish when applied correctly.  This worker clearly is not applying it correctly.  And questions must be asked:

  • Is the worker in the video still being paid to work with animals at the pound?
  • How many shelter dogs has this worker abused – during “testing” and at other times?
  • Who trained this worker in temperament testing?
  • Are all the workers at the pound conducting their temperament tests in this same manner?
  • Is the pound killing dogs based on the workers’ assessments?

I reached out to the pound for comment on the video and Kim Stephens, a supervisor at the pound sent me a statement from the chief of AC:

As the Charles County Chief of Animal Control, I am responsible for day-to-day operations at the Tri-County Animal Shelter (TCAS) located in Hughesville, Md. Recently, I became aware of a video posted on Facebook depicting an interaction between a TCAS employee and an animal in the shelter’s care. The behavior depicted in the video is inconsistent with adopted TCAS practices and procedures, and will be thoroughly investigated.

C. Edward Tucker, Chief
Charles County Animal Control

The statement does not answer any of my questions.  I believe the public has an immediate right to know if this worker is still hurting animals and being paid by taxpayers to do it.  Further, I believe it is incumbent upon Mr. Tucker to immediately publicly disclose what steps he has taken to protect the animals at the pound from abuse in light of this video.

If you wish to contact Mr. Tucker, please keep your comments respectful. We can condemn the actions depicted in the video in the strongest possible terms while still being an effective voice for the animals by maintaining civility:

C. Edward Tucker, Chief (301) 609-3400, ext. 3, (301) 609-3425

Other parties to contact:

Charles County Sheriff’s Office
Charles County Commissioners

And since the Charles Co pound advertises on its website that it participates in the HSUS Emergency Placement Partner program, you may wish to contact HSUS to let them know what’s going on at the facility where they are sending animals in need of care.

(Thank you Arlene for sending me this video.)

We Interrupt Your Celebratory Michael Vick News for This Reminder

As football fans swoon with the news that the NY Jets have signed Michael Vick and he may be a starting quarterback next season instead of a backup, I thought I’d just take a moment to remind the internet that Michael Vick tortured and killed dogs, was never charged with animal cruelty for those crimes and never served a day in jail for them.  Vick pleaded guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture in 2008.  The animal cruelty charge was dropped in the plea agreement.  Do not peddle your “He’s paid for his crimes” excuse here.

At the time, the Humane Society of the United States had harsh words regarding Vick’s slap on the wrist from the state of VA which added no time to his 23 month federal sentence:

The Humane Society of the United States said it wished that Vick’s sentence was stiffer.

“We had hoped that the Commonwealth of Virginia would send a stronger message that dogfighting crimes are cruel and unacceptable,” Michael Markarian, the executive vice president of the Humane Society, said in a statement. “Nevertheless, Michael Vick is already paying his debt to society with a federal prison sentence, and his example has demonstrated to people across the country that dogfighting is a dead-end activity that can jeopardize your freedom and your future.”

Of course that was before HSUS saw dollar signs and partnered with Vick to whitewash his image.

Some of us were never fooled and still remember.

An excerpt from Jim Gorant’s book The Lost Dogs:

Vick and friends had not simply eliminated these [failed fighting] dogs with a cold efficiency, they’d beaten them first.  The revelation added another layer of brutality to the already nasty case.

And then there was one last body that stood out from the rest.  It had signs of bruising on all four ankles and all along one side.  Its skull was fractured in two places and it had four broken vertebrae.  Brownie had said that all of the dogs that didn’t die from being hanged were drowned, except one.

As that dog lay on the ground fighting for air, Quanis Phillips grabbed its front legs and Michael Vick grabbed its hind legs.  They swung the dog over their head like a jump rope then slammed it to the ground.  The first impact didn’t kill it.  So Phillips and Vick slammed it again.  The two men kept at it, alternating back and forth, pounding the creature against the ground, until at last, the little red dog was dead.

Number of days in prison Michael Vick served for torturing and killing “underperforming” dogs?  Zero.  Number of animal cruelty convictions on his record?  Zero.  The value of Vick’s one year contract with the Eagles last year?  10 million dollars.

In Which Randolph Co Clings to its Gas Chamber

When HSUS gave Randolph Co, NC $3000 in December 2011 to send its gas chamber to the landfill, Randolph Co was all, “Yay, put that fat check straight into our bank account!”  Then they kept right on merrily stuffing dogs and cats into the gas chamber.  Of the 6705 dogs and cats who came through the Randolph Co pound’s front door in 2012, 5395 of them were killed by the staff.

Portion of the state's public animal shelter report for 2012 showing Randolph Co, NC

Portion of the state’s public animal shelter report for 2012 showing Randolph Co, NC

In 2013, Randolph Co pound staff continued gassing animals instead of doing their jobs (although the state hasn’t yet released the 2013 numbers). After 2 years of continued gassing with no end in sight, HSUS finally got up the nerve to ask the county to either stop putting animals into the gas chamber or give back the $3000. The county decided it would be less painful to part with the cash so that they could hang on to their beloved torture machine.

Kim Alboum, the NC director for HSUS, issued a statement in response which reads, in part:

It is shocking that a North Carolina county would return desperately needed funding for their animal shelter because they would rather continue a practice that has been denounced by every national humane organization. This does nothing but hurt the animals of Randolph County, for absolutely no reason.

It certainly is a head-scratcher.  Unless… maybe we didn’t bring the Randolph Co pet killers enough cupcakes?

For those not inclined to reward animal gassers with dessert, Fix NC has the info you need to take meaningful action.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

The Public Rallies Around Vandalized Georgia Shelter

A brick and mortar rescue group called All About Animals in Macon, Georgia suffered a tragedy this month.  On the night of October 16, some person or persons apparently went into the no kill shelter and opened the doors on the pet cages.  When volunteers arrived at the shelter the next morning, they found forty loose dogs who had been fighting overnight – two dogs were dead, a third died shortly afterward and fifteen other dogs were injured, many severely.

Since the tragic incident, misinformation has been circulating including that the dogs were released in order to fight other dogs who were brought into the facility by the perpetrators.  An allegation that the dogs were cut is attributed to PETA.  The Macon police department has offered clarifications:

In a statement released Tuesday night, Macon police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet stated there was no evidence that dog fighting was a motive. Police do not believe any other dogs were brought to the shelter to induce the fighting.

“Investigators have found no evidence of dogs being injured by sharp objects,” Gaudet stated. “It appears that all injuries to the dogs were caused by other dogs.”

The public has rallied around the shelter:

Mary Crawford, director of the no-kill shelter, said Tuesday she’s been overwhelmed by the flood of local support. A community vigil last Sunday drew more than 100 people, including Mayor Robert Reichert, to the shelter to remember the three dogs killed — Jack, Butler and Flapjack.

Besides donations of a security system, cash, blankets, dog toys and medical supplies, All About Animals has a stack of dozens of applications from people who want to volunteer with the group.

“We’re getting support like never ever before,” Crawford said.

And there’s more, courtesy of the so-called irresponsible public:

Meanwhile, several Macon-area security companies stepped up to offer a free security system for the facility, which had no surveillance in place when the break-in happened. In addition, two people volunteered to each pay for a year of the monthly security bills.

Others helped out Friday by washing and walking the dogs, which [volunteer Carolyn] Yager said was “extremely helpful.”

Crawford said the rescue group has received at least $2,000 in cash donations, as well as offers to pay for the dogs’ medical bills and boarding. Some people have donated new locks for the facility, she said.

HSUS has given All About Animals a $2500 crisis grant to help with vet bills and renovations.

PETA, an organization opposed to no kill shelters, HSUS and the Atlanta Humane Society have each offered $5000 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the break-in.  This money is in addition to $3000 contributed by local citizens bringing the current reward total to $18,000.

Anyone with information is asked to call Macon Regional CrimeStoppers at 877-68-CRIME.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me this story.)

Hundreds of Dogs Seized in Multi-State Dogfighting Bust

Several of you have sent in links pertaining to the recent multi-state seizure of 367 dogs in connection with a dogfighting bust.  And almost everyone who did also asked the question:  What will happen to the dogs?

Since the ASPCA and HSUS are involved, I will speculate based on past performance:  Already overburdened rescue groups will be tasked with saving many of these dogs, forcing them to stretch their meager resources even further and to create space where none currently exists.  Local dogs in need of rescue will be displaced.   ASPCA and/or HSUS will probably leave some of the dogs at pet killing facilities under cover of night and will never reveal what happened to the dogs.  But none of this will occur until after ASPCA and HSUS feel they have sufficient video and photos of the dogs featuring people dressed in logo’d attire, for future exploitation purposes aimed at suckering compassionate animal lovers into padding their enormous bank accounts.

In short, the only ones likely to come out of this situation in the WIN column are those who get their paychecks from ASPCA and HSUS.  For everyone else involved, both human and canine, it’s a crapshoot, at best.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 989 other followers