ACO Whistleblower Alleges Cruelty at Baytown Animal Shelter

Warning:  Some images at the second link and some material in this post is disturbing.

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When Fox 26 reported on July 9 that police were investigating the Baytown Animal Shelter in Texas, Mike Lester, the Baytown health director in charge of the facility, said police hadn’t yet interviewed him for the investigation.  He also said no employees had come to him with allegations of wrongdoing at the pound.

Yesterday Lauren Hartis, a former ACO at the pound, went public with her whistleblowing evidence which prompted the police investigation.  Former ACO Hartis “says she saw fellow employees commit animal cruelty on a daily basis.”  And she states she had met with Mike Lester to discuss her concerns:

“I did go to Mike Lester,” Hartis said. “I sat in Mike Lester’s office for more than an hour and he wrote down everything I said on a pad of paper.”

[…] Hartis says Lester reviewed shelter videos and told her euthanasia laws were indeed being broken.

Former ACO Hartis says she resigned after 15 months on the job because she could not stand it any longer.  Among the allegations being made against the Baytown Animal Shelter:

  • Dogs and cats were routinely killed in full view of other pets, sometimes in stacked cages, other times in a large group cage.
  • Cats were ensnared in chokepoles, slammed to the ground and strangled to death by employees.
  • Trapped cats were drowned in a pond on the pound’s property, their bodies left floating.
  • Botched injections of euthanasia solution resulted in animals crying out in pain and terror.

Earlier this month, animal advocates attended a city council meeting to ask for new management at the pound:

One angry volunteer told city council, “You don’t have an animal shelter gentlemen you have a death camp.”

No argument there.

If substantiated by the police investigation, these allegations appear to violate state law so hopefully all involved will be prosecuted.  At the very least, I would think the Baytown city council would suspend the staff for the duration of the investigation due to the heinous nature of the allegations.  Let the volunteers run the place for now.  I think it’s reasonable to make the case that the animals at the pound are in extreme danger if even one of these allegations is true.  Local residents must demand city leaders take immediate action to protect the animals.

(Thanks Nathan for sending me this story.)

Name That Animal

This is just for fun and the only rule is:  no researching.  Post your smartypants answers in the comments.  Reading other people’s answers before posting your own is 403 Forbidden optional.  Answer will be posted in the comments tomorrow.

nta

(Thanks Kathryn for sending me this animal.)

Weekend Jade

Beagle ears, velvety soft...

Beagle ears, velvety soft…

Open Thread

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

Sketch by Albrecht Durer

Sketch by Albrecht Durer

Treats on the Internets

Case Update: The now former Gwinnett Co ACO whom witnesses say brutally beat a friendly dog with a chokepole last summer will be charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty.  (Thank you Clarice and Susan for the link.)

Case Update:  The former director of the Lawrence Co Animal Shelter in AL, where hundreds of animals were found suffering in horrible conditions, will be charged with 16 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to an animal and 1 misdemeanor count of animal abuse.  (Thanks Brie.)

Case Update:  Chance, the dog who was impounded in Wilson Co, NC and whose owners were given the runaround when they attempted to redeem him, is dead.  The Wilson Co sheriff returned Chance’s body to his family for burial and issued a statement praising his facility, claiming it is used by the state to show other counties “the way an animal shelter should be operated”.  (Thanks Clarice.)

A dog owner is suing the city of Detroit alleging that after her pet was seized in connection with a bite incident and kept for more than a week at the pound, he came home with a collapsed trachea and pneumonia.  The pet subsequently died.  Note:  This is a different case than the one I reported on earlier this week. (Thanks Clarice.)

Two media whores are once again in the news over allegations that Sea World sent an undercover staff member to PETA meetings to try to incite illegal activity.  It’s impossible to tell who’s lying when all you’ve got to choose from is lying liars, but here’s hoping the tangled web keeps the two twits occupied for a little while, for the animals’ sake.

An 18 year old Austin man was found dead in his vehicle with snake bites on his wrist.  The man’s family owns an exotic pet store and a pet cobra is suspected in the man’s death.  A dead cobra was found in the same parking lot as the man’s vehicle.

The Brookfield Zoo near Chicago had a tank housing 4 southern stingrays and 50 cow-nose rays, all born in captivity, whom the public could pet and feed.  An oxygen pump failed in the tank last week, killing all the animals.

And this one, because: Naked drunk guy found in barn cavorting with hogs. Again. “I just like pigs,” he tells cops.

 

Study Finds Low Numbers of Purebred Dogs in U.S. Shelters

Nala, a dog listed for adoption by the Northeast Animal Shelter in MA, is one of the dogs whose listings were screencapped for the NAIA study.

Nala, listed for adoption last year by the Northeast Animal Shelter in MA, is one of the dogs whose listings were screencapped for the NAIA study.

The National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) has just published a study regarding the number of purebred dogs in U.S. shelters.  The study aimed to determine the total number of purebred shelter dogs available to the public for adoption by counting the animals listed online each week at eighteen shelters over a one year period.  (The project originally included more than eighteen shelters but those that didn’t update their listings regularly were eliminated.) I am assuming that some purebred dogs never made the online listings, and therefore were not counted, because they were reclaimed by owners, pulled by rescues, or shipped to other areas for adoption.

While the study acknowledges that some dogs listed as purebreds by shelters are actually mixed breeds, the group did not have the resources to send breed identification experts to eighteen shelters every week for a year and therefore agreed to accept the shelter’s listings as accurate.   However, in reviewing several of the screenshots taken of the available weekly listings of dogs and the number of purebreds who were counted that week, it appears the study excluded dogs who were listed as purebred but had no photo (see example).  On the flip side, there were presumably some purebred dogs who were incorrectly listed as mixed breeds.

Among the conclusions:

According to this study, the number of purebreds in US animal shelters is closer to 5% (5.04%) than to the 25% so commonly cited by national animal organizations and quoted by the media. It is interesting to observe that the number of purebreds in shelters would be 3.3% were it not for two breeds that are overrepresented, Chihuahuas and dogs described as Pit Bulls. Together, these two breeds account for 35% of all purebreds listed by shelters in this study. The public seems to be aware that dogs described as Pit Bulls are overrepresented in American shelters. What is not well known is that Chihuahuas are the single most numerous purebred found in shelters today.

Shelters who regularly import large numbers of dogs from other areas had the highest number of purebreds, as might be expected.

Portion of the NAIA study showing data on purebred dogs in shelters.

Portion of the NAIA study showing data on purebred dogs in shelters.

In a press release regarding the study, NAIA is calling for changes to federal and state laws:

  1. Prohibit the importation of rescue dogs from foreign countries immediately
  2. Impose the same oversight requirements on animal rescues and shelters as those imposed on other animal dealers
  3. Require animal shelters to report the source and number of the dogs they take in and the disposition of those dogs

There is a lot to digest here. I hope readers will weigh in with their thoughts.

Shelter Sold Owned, Microchipped Lost Dog to Strangers While Owner Searched

Jingle and Toby, a pair of Schnauzers owned by Anita Sloan in Bedford, Texas, wandered away when someone accidentally left a gate open at the family’s home.  Ms. Sloan raised the pair from pups and considers them family.  She began searching for them immediately, hoping the microchip she had implanted in Jingle would help the family get reunited.

Ms. Sloan visited Bedford Animal Services but did not find her pets.  She was given a lengthy list of shelters to search.  She dutifully visited each one although there was some confusion about the two shelters in Keller:

Sloan explains she visited all but one shelter in Keller. The number printed for the shelter on the list she has, got her nowhere.

“The person you are trying to reach is not available,” a recording says when she dials the number.

The city apparently has two shelters:  Keller Animal Services and Keller Regional Adoption Center.  As it turns out, Jingle and Toby had been picked up by police and left at Keller Animal Services.  The city says it checked both dogs for chips but found none.  After the mandatory holding period, the dogs were transferred to the Keller Regional Adoption Center which is run by the HS of North Texas.  Staff there did detect Jingle’s chip but sold the dogs to a new owner anyway.  Because it’s not their job to return dogs to owners:

“At that particular facility we don’t handle lost and found animals. We just handle adoptions,” says Whitney Hanson, Director of Development & Communications.

Hanson explains that the facility would have only been looking at finding homes for the pets since Keller Animal Services had already processed the animals.

[…]

The Humane Society of North Texas says there is no existing system that allows all municipalities to communicate.

There is no existing system which allows all municipalities to communicate.  Fair enough.  But the HS knew Jingle was chipped.  Finding that chip should have prompted the HS to check the transfer paperwork and see if Keller Animal Services had followed up on the chip and what the outcome was.  The HS had an obligation to verify that the chip was a dead end before proceeding.  A statewide communication system is not required for that – just a phone call or email to Keller Animal Services to ask about the chip’s status.

And while it may not be the Humane Society’s job to return animals to their owners, common sense would dictate that a pair of schnauzers, typically a professionally groomed breed purchased from a breeder, aren’t walking the streets because they are homeless and just happened to meet each other in an alley and decided to pal around.  There would be every reason to suspect Jingle and Toby were owned, likely by the person who registered the chip, whom the HS never bothered to call.

Jingle and Toby are now living with people in Houston.  The HS of North Texas says that “according to Texas law, the schnauzers are the legal property of their new owners”.  The situation has been explained to the new owners and Ms. Sloan has offered to reimburse them for any expenses if they would return her family members.  They are reportedly considering what to do with the dogs.

Keller Animal Services failed to detect a lost dog’s microchip.  The HS of Texas detected the chip but made no effort to find out if Keller Animal Services had attempted to reach the registered owner.  The city says no one is at fault.  The situation looks bad.  It looks like the first shelter is either incompetent or lying and the second shelter is a money-grubbing doggie retail outfit where no one could be bothered to slow down in the rush to sell a bonded pair of little purebred dogs.

It’s 2015, Keller.  Time to step outside the Only This Thing is My Job and I Do Only This Thing box.  You may not have a statewide shelter communication system but I’m guessing there is such a thing as phone service in Keller.  Shame on everyone involved in the needless break up of this family because apparently no one at either shelter knows what the right thing to do is when it comes to pets.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Dog Owner Alleges Severe Neglect at Detroit Pound

Major and his person, as shown on the Motor City Muckraker website.

Major and his person, as shown on the Motor City Muckraker website.

Veronica Seward’s dog Major was seized by the city of Detroit last month following a bite incident.  Motor City Muckraker chronicles “a series of blunders” by the city regarding the case:

Instead of seizing the dog on the day of the bites – June 25 – Animal Control officers waited until June 29. Although they planned to euthanize Major, “the dog was released in error by Animal Control” on July 7, according to the press release issued by the police department but attributed to Animal Control.

“Once the error was recognized, the dog was picked up again by AnimalControl officers the next day,” the press release read.

No warrant was issued.

When AC seized Major from the owner the second time, she was reportedly told that he must be held at the pound until a judge rendered a decision on the case.  Ms. Seward visited her dog on July 9  and was concerned about his unusual behavior.  She returned the next afternoon with her cell phone on to record video (later uploaded to YouTube) and found Major lying in his own waste and a pool of blood which was running down the front of the cage into a drain.  She says the cage was too small for him to stand up, he had no water in his bowl and the pound vet, who saw Major while Ms. Seward was there, “refused to provide care”.

The owner took Major to a veterinarian who diagnosed him with parvo.  The dog was also reportedly suffering from urine scald and pressure sores.  Despite treatment, he died the next day.

On July 12, Ms. Seward and local animal advocates held a press conference outside Detroit AC.  Pound staff hid:

During the Sunday morning news conference, workers could be seen inside the Detroit Animal Control center. Once media crews arrived, they put up a “closed” sign, shut off the lights and did not answer the door. Calls to the center during business hours, which was open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., were not answered and messages could not be left.

On Monday, the Detroit Police Department, which oversees Detroit Animal Control, issued a statement, saying animal control staff and a veterinarian found no symptoms with Major during daily morning rounds on July 10.

“By the afternoon, the staff checked on the dog with the owner and determined he was ill,” said Sgt. Cassandra Lewis.

So no charges for anyone at the pound because apparently in the morning Major was all butterfly stickers and glitter but by the time the owner got there in the afternoon his cage was filled with blood, feces and urine and he was on death’s door.  Sounds legit.

Lewis said of the other 179 dogs at Animal Control as of Friday, “none had exhibited symptoms of parvo.”

“As a precaution, animal control staff are closely monitoring each dog and will be testing all 179 dogs for the parvovirus,” she said.

Closely monitoring – uh, lol?

Aaaaaaanyway, DAC probably isn’t overly worried about disease or dogs suffering in their cages or anything like that since the place doesn’t adopt out dogs and kills roughly 3 out of 4 pets in its care every year.  I mean how closely do Dead Dogs Walking need to be monitored, amirite?

Detroit taxpayers need to demand humane care, transparency and accountability at their municipal shelter.  And they need to keep demanding it, louder and more frequently, until someone in a position of leadership takes meaningful action to remedy the situation.  The status quo is unacceptable.

(Thank you to everyone who sent me links on this story.)

CA ACO Stands By While Dog Suffers and Dies

A tethered dog in need of help, as pictured on the ABC30 website.

A tethered dog in need of help, as pictured on the ABC30 website.

The Central California SPCA (CCSPCA) is contracted by the city of Fresno for animal control services.  On July 7, a concerned citizen took a photo of a tethered dog standing atop a fence – clearly a dangerous situation – and sent it to the CCSPCA and the police department along with a complaint.  The next day, an ACO from the CCSPCA went to the home where another dog had been seized on July 6 after the owners failed to respond to a citation left by AC.

Upon arrival, the ACO found the dog hanging from his tether with his feet touching the ground but unable to move.  He was being strangled to death.  The ACO reportedly called the police for back up and waited for several minutes for officers to arrive.  During that time, the dog died.

Neighbors say the animal control officer did nothing but wait until FPD arrived.

The CCSPCA was ready with excuses when the local news came knocking:

The CCSPCA says it has authority to enter a property to seize a dog only 48 hours after it’s cited the owner.

[…]

Animal control can step in if there is immediate danger. “There is protocol that we have to follow and authorization and approvals,” [CCSPCA spokesman Walter] Salvari said. “We’re still waiting to see if that’s what the officer was waiting for instead of stepping in and saving the animal’s life.”

Protocol.  Turns out, it’s actually not proper protocol for an ACO to stand around while a dog hangs itself to death.  Who knew, right?  And straight from The Handbook, here’s your spoonful of reassurance:

The SPCA said that “appropriate disciplinary actions” have been taken with the animal control officer responsible, and that “proper procedural training will be reinforced with all animal control staff to help prevent such a tragedy from happening again.”

The owner who left the dog in that dangerous situation may be charged with animal abuse.  But the ACO who could have saved the dog but chose not to –  appropriate disciplinary actions, yeah. And no doubt residents will find it comforting to know that the ACOs in Fresno have to be reminded that when dispatched on a cruelty call, you don’t actually contribute to the cruelty.  If the animal is alive when you get there, your job is to keep him alive, not wait while he dies.

Prevention of cruelty to animals:  you’re doing it wrong.

(Thanks Bonnie for sending me this story.)

Weekend Jade

When it's 100 degrees with high humidity outside, we break out the toy bones inside.

When it’s 100 degrees with high humidity outside, we break out the toy bones inside.

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