146 Pitbulls, including 19 pups still nursing from their dams, were killed on order of the court in Wilkes Co, NC in February 2009. Most of the dogs had been seized in connection with a dogfighting investigation conducted by local authorities in conjunction with the HSUS. The remaining pups were born after the seizure.
The two HSUS representatives whose testimony Judge Wilson relied upon to make the decision on what to do with the dogs were Amanda Arrington and Chris Schindler.
Although Best Friends had made an offer to the county to save the dogs, their representative was not advised of this hearing which took place immediately after the third defendant in the dogfighting case plead guilty:
Best Friends Animal Society, which operates one the nation’s largest animal sanctuaries, had contacted County Attorney Tony Triplett within days of the December raid. The group had offered to work with rescue agencies to place the dogs.
But when Judge Wilson asked yesterday if Best Friends had gotten involved at the last minute, Assistant District Attorney Fred Bauer told the judge that the group had called him last Thursday and Friday, and had called his boss, District Attorney Tom Horner, yesterday.
“That’s just totally misconstruing the contacts we had with the county attorney and the attempts we tried to have with the DA,” [Ledy] VanKavage [attorney for Best Friends] said.
She said she left a message for Bauer a month ago, on either Jan. 13 or 14, and had made at least three attempts to contact the DA’s office. “I left a message for Fred Bauer and he never returned my call,” she said.
After court yesterday, Bauer said he couldn’t recall if he’d gotten a message from Best Friends, but that he didn’t intend to mislead Wilson and would clear it up with the judge today if there was any misunderstanding.
The case had been set for trial next month. People working on rescuing the dogs thought they had more time.
VanKavage said that when she learned about yesterday’s ruling she called Wilkesboro attorney William Burke to seek an injunction against destroying the dogs. She said Burke reported that when he got to the courthouse shortly before it closed, the judge was gone and the order was already signed. She said that Burke told her he thought the dogs would be dead before he could get the request before the judge.
VanKavage said that Bauer misrepresented her side’s interest to the judge and it affected the proceeding.
“I think the judge wanted to hear our side of it and if we’d gotten some notice, we could have gotten into that courtroom, but the DA’s office chose to stonewall us and because of that, these puppies died,” she said.
After reviewing a transcript of the court testimony of the HSUS representatives, it does indeed appear that the case for saving the dogs was “misrepresented”:
MS. AMANDA ARRINGTON: Amanda Arrington. I’m the North Carolina State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. And our concern is that the only offer of help has been from Best Friends, but they are not offering to take these dogs.
THE COURT: They are not offering to take the dogs?
MS. AMANDA ARRINGTON: They are offering to assist. That is their language that they used. That means it would still be the county’s responsibility. And in their own words, it costs about $190,000 per dog to rehabilitate them.
THE COURT: $190,000 to rehabilitate a dog?
MS. AMANDA ARRINGTON: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: That’s what Best Friends says?
MS. AMANDA ARRINGTON: Yes.
THE COURT: Why is this the so-called humane thing to do?
MS. AMANDA ARRINGTON: To euthanize?
THE COURT: Yes, ma’am.
MS. AMANDA ARRINGTON: For the dogs themselves, I think, because of the way that they were bred. I think it is an unrealistic expectation for us to ask these dogs that have been bred generations for fighting to become regular pets. And it’s an even bigger thing to ask people to take on that responsibility and the county to take on both the financial burden and the liability. You know, we could be a couple years down the road and one of these dogs could do something, and I think it ultimately could come back on the county of Wilkes.
To be clear, Best Friends had offered the following:
Best Friends is willing to send a certified applied behaviorist out to evaluate the dogs and puppies. Of those who do well, Best Friends will fund their sterilization and transportation to responsible rescue groups.
I interpret that to mean the county would not be left holding the bag financially or liability-wise. And I’m sure the attorney for Best Friends would have explained that to the judge had the group been made aware of the hearing to determine what to do with the dogs.
THE COURT: Sir, did you want to add something?
MR. CHRIS SCHINDLER: I’m Chris Schindler. I’m the Deputy Manager, Animal Fighting Law Enforcement, Humane society of the United States.
You can’t — you know, even the puppies, you know, as you have heard, have been displaying those you know, those tendencies to start fighting with each other, and that’s something you are going to see as they grow older. Most of these dogs, you won’t know their true capability until they are at least 18 months old. These guys don’t even test them for fighting purposes until they are 18 months old. So the likelihood of being able to hold these dogs until they are almost two years old to find out how dangerous they may be is unrealistic. I mean, housing them just for now has cost, you know, maybe more than $60,000, just to hold them until now, to this point. I mean, these dogs, they are not on the same level. You know, people speak about the Michael Vick dogs. Those dogs have not even been rehabilitated.
Reading the HSUS testimony in the case is helpful in clarifying what was actually said and what the group’s position was regarding the dogs. But for me, questions remain:
- Did the judge get the whole story in this case?
- Did the judge hear truthful testimony from the HSUS representatives?
- Who actually killed the dogs and how was the killing funded?
- Does HSUS honestly believe the Vick dogs have not been rehabilitated despite so much evidence to the contrary? And that it costs $190,000 to rehab a bust dog?
- If HSUS does an about-face and adopts some sort of policy to save bust dogs (my two cents) at their Las Vegas hotel gathering this month, can we trust them to follow through on it?
- Will HSUS use as many resources to save bust dogs in future as it has in past to get them killed?
To paraphrase the judge’s question to HSUS: Why is killing unevaluated bust dogs the so-called humane thing to do? My response: It never has been and never will be. We are a no kill nation of owners who care about pets. We are the real humane society. Join us.
Every dog deserves a fair evaluation.
More must-read commentary:
Blue Dog State: HSUS on Pit Bulls: Better Off Dead