Tag Archives: irresponsibility

Durham pound loses quarantined dog, bills family $157

A black lab named Onyx, who was quarantined at the Durham County Animal Shelter after a bite incident, escaped from the facility and was later found along Interstate 85 in Durham, dehydrated and suffering from an upper respiratory infection.

The Durham pound then billed Onyx’s family $157 for his stay. The fees were later waived. (Perhaps as a result of the family contacting a local TV station?)

The Durham pound is run under contract by the Animal Protection Society of Durham. Staff there killed almost 56 percent of the dogs and more than 72 percent of the cats they took in during 2012, for a combined dog and cat kill rate of more than 62 percent.

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Filed under APS of Durham, Durham County

Ashe County fires animal control officer, still isn’t a great place for animals

An Ashe County animal control officer has been fired after not responding to a call that would have “justified emergency response from animal control,” and then later lying about the incident to county officials. While it may appear that Ashe officials have taken care of the problem by firing one ACO, it could be argued that the incident sheds light on  a generally regressive attitude toward animals and their humane treatment by Ashe County employees.

The incident occurred on Sept. 27, when Animal Control Director Joe Testerman and his two AC officers were trying to capture a dog in response to calls from neighborhood residents. Testerman said the dog behaved aggressively toward the officers, so even though he had a catchpole, he decided to “capture the dog by shooting it,” according to a report he made later to County Manager Pat Mitchell.  The dog was shot but escaped alive, and according to Testerman it “was later found dead on Beaver Drive not far from where it was shot.” Testerman’s only concern about the incident appears to have been that the dog “was shot by a rifle at close range were a side arm would have been a better choice.”

Email from Joe Testerman to Pat Mitchell 10/09/2012

It turns out that the dog was “found” in the basement of a Beaver Drive residence, and “later” was the next morning. The dog had shown up there sometime before 7 pm the night before, alive and bleeding from his gunshot wound. The resident had called the sheriff’s communications center, and a dispatcher called ACO Jim Walters. Following is a transcript from the recorded call:

Dispatcher: Did you go out and shoot a dog this morning?
Walters: Uh, Dana shot it and we lost it.
Dispatcher: Well the lady says it’s back in her yard again. She didn’t know what to do with it.
Walters: Well …
Dispatcher: It’s, it’s not dead.
Walters: Okay, it’s not bothering anything, is it?
Dispatcher: Ah, uh, she didn’t say it was.
Walters: All right. Well, it probably wouldn’t be considered as an emergency. We’ll just try to get up there in the morning and pop it again.
Dispatcher: Okay.
Walters: I don’t want to shoot it with all these people home, you know.
Dispatcher: Yeah, yeah.
Walters: And, but I’ll call … I’m gonna be off tomorrow, but I’ll call Dana and tell him to go up there in the morning first thing and see if it’s there and pop him again and get it.

Setting aside Walters’ lack of concern about the animal’s suffering (he’s been fired, after all), what about the response by the dispatcher? A wounded dog is bleeding and, we can assume, suffering in someone’s basement and the dispatcher’s only response when an AC officer proposed leaving the dog there overnight was “Okay.”

Even if you don’t consider the animal’s suffering, what about the resident who has called the sheriff’s dispatcher about this wounded dog in her basement? Regardless of how deeply she may or may not have been affected by the suffering, she most likely called dispatch because she did not want a wounded and bleeding dog in her basement.

And in fact, shortly after the resident called, a neighbor called dispatch about the dog, stressing the fact to the dispatcher that the dog was bleeding and appeared to have been shot:

Dispatch: I talked to the animal control officer and he said that if it, hang on, he said that if the animal wasn’t causing any problems that they would just come out tomorrow and they would take care of it.
Caller: [unintelligible] is they’ve got it shut up in their basement and they said it looked like it might have been shot cause it’s bleeding.
Dispatcher: It’s what, I’m sorry, what did you say?
Caller: My neighbor called, it was another neighbor come down, because they knew that I knew one of the animal control officers and been in contact with him, and they said they’ve got it shut up in their basement as I said, but they said it’s kind of bleeding, looked like it might have been shot.
Dispatch: Yeah, it has been shot. They shot it, but they couldn’t find it.
Caller: Oh, OK.
Dispatcher: But they said they’d come put tomorrow and take care of it.
Caller: Oh, OK, thank you.

At some point, wouldn’t someone with a humane, compassionate outlook think: it’s not fair to anyone involved–the dog or the people–to leave this situation until tomorrow?

This incident may have never been heard about again, but the residents involved were so unhappy about the way the situation was handled that they complained about it to other people, and at some point the complaint reached Pat Mitchell, who investigated.

Despite the investigation,  there’s still one question left unasked and unanswered: how did the dog die? Joe Testerman said in his report that the only injury they saw was the single gunshot wound, so presumably the dog bled to death in that basement.

UPDATE: There is actually another wrinkle to this story that I had forgotten. There was a reference to this incident in emails I received following a different public records request. A sheriff’s department employee told Pat Mitchell that she heard of the incident from her grandson, who told her about an AC officer “shooting a dog in front of a group of kids and then the dog getting in his friend’s basement and the father having to kill it.” (Which partially answers the question of how the dog  died.) The sheriff’s employee said “Frankly, I disregarded this as I was sure no animal control officer would do that with 5 kids there.”

Email from Ashe County Sheriff's employee to County Manager

The emails, reports and audio files linked to in this post were obtained via a public records request.

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Filed under Ashe County

Dalmation sits in Pender County pound for two weeks with a broken hip

Dalmation with broken hip in Pender County pound

This boy came into the Pender County pound on Sept. 27, 2012. He was pulled on Oct. 10 by a rescuer, who immediately noticed something wrong: He had a broken hip.

On Sept 27, 2012, a Dalmation came into the Pender County pound. He was there almost two weeks, until Oct. 10, when he was pulled by a Dalmation breed rescue group, who immediately discovered that he had a broken hip. He had surgery to correct it on Oct. 16.

Dalmationwith broken hip from Pender County pound

The Dalmation after his rescue from the Pender County pound, lying on something cushy.

A pound employee told rescuers that she walked the dog and didn’t see any problem. Sources close to the pound say employees never walk the dogs, however. “The only time those dogs get walked is when they are taking them to the incinerator,” one source said.

The incinerator is where they kill animals.  The kill process at Pender County pound has been described to me like this: the animals are taken out to the incinerator, which is in a fenced area behind the pound. The pets are injected on a table right in front of the incinerator and then rolled into it. One person close to the pound told me: “I’m sure not every animal going into that incinerator is already dead.”

The purchase of the incinerator last year was opposed by one county commissioner, Jimmy Tate, who said he was afraid it may speed up killing at the pound. He was right.

The fencing that is now around the incinerator had originally been donated by a volunteer to make a place where adopters could go spend time with animals one-on-one. But when Lt. Keith Ramsey, the pound director, got his new incinerator, he dismantled the adoption area so he could put the fencing around his new toy. In other words, he took materials that had been donated to get more animals out of that pound alive and repurposed them to make killing animals and burning their corpses easier and quicker. Oh, but Ramsey just hates the idea of killing any animal and calls it “an unfortunate part of the job.” (And completely unnecessary.)

As for injured and sick animals, the Dalmation is not the first one not to receive necessary veterinary attention at that pound. (NC Animal Welfare Administrative Code.) On Oct 3, 2012, I had posted about a hound with an injured nose who received no care while at the pound, and instead of being released to a rescue that had planned to take him to a vet was given to a man who said he was going to tie the dog to his porch.

I had sent an open records request via email on Sept. 26 for “all records (intake details, records of vet care given while in shelter custody, including vaccinations, and adoption or other outcome details) pertaining to a hound or hound-looking mix with a severely injured nose that was adopted out of the PenderCounty shelter on Friday, Sept. 21.”

Several days after publishing the post about the dog, I received a response, postmarked Oct. 3–the day the post was published. All the materials inside were dated Sept. 27, however. The packet also contained documents I did not request: statements by pound workers Darlene Clewis and Danielle Miller that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the hound.  If the statements hadn’t been dated Sept. 27 I would swear they were written specifically in response to the blog post.

Statement by Darlene ClewisStatement by Danielle Miller

Duke the boxer mix came in to the pound on March 24, 2012. On Saturday April 14, a volunteer noticed that he had become sick and had bloody diarrhea consistent with parvo. Pound staffer Danielle Miller told the volunteer that Duke had been sick all week  and that they were de-worming him.

Duke at Pender County Animal Shelter

The volunteer rushed Duke to a veterinarian. He had a very advanced case of parvovirus. Duke received treatment at the volunteer’s expense, survived and is now in a new home.

On August 24, 2012, a little cattle dog pup was pulled by a rescuer, who discovered the dog had been sitting on the concrete at the pound with a broken leg, receiving no care.

Cattle dog pulled from Pender County pound with a broken leg

On Sept 15, 2012, a rescuer visited the pound only to discover a litter of puppies so full of worms that the rescuer didn’t think they would survive. They had been in the Pender County pound for a week.

Wormy puppies pulled from Pender County Animal ShelterWormy puppies pulled from Pender County Animal ShelterWormy puppies pulled from Pender County Animal Shelter

It’s almost a given that, without fundraising to supplement their budgets,  public pounds in rural places like Pender don’t have the money to pay for much veterinary care. That’s why it’s so important for them to partner with rescue groups who will get the animals out of the pound to the care they need. But in NONE of the cases above were rescuers called by pound employees and asked to pull animals who needed vet attention. Instead, rescuers went to the pound on their own initiative and discovered the sick or injured animals sitting there without care (or with improper care, as in Duke’s case).

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Filed under NC county/municipal pounds, Pender County

Euphemisms and memory holes in Robeson County

Ron Houston just wants people to know about the No Kill Revolution. Given that the Robeson County pound killed more than 61% of the pets who came in during 2011, he thought maybe they could use the good news that there is an alternative to the killing.

So a couple of days ago Ron posted a link to the No Kill Revolution Facebook page and the No Kill 101 pdf to the Robeson County pound Facebook page. “I also shared a volunteer rescue group [Blount County Humane Society] and the success they have had and encouraged those on their page to become more involved to ultimately save more lives and that killing was totally unacceptable any longer,” he said.

I’m pretty sure Issue #3 in the decree below is about YOU, Ron:

I would like to address 3 issues that have come to light on our page in recently. First, the issue that all animals in the shelter are not listed. You are right, they are not. There are some animals that cannot be listed including those that are sick, injured, feral, quarantined, etc. Even when Lori and Sara were here, they NEVER listed every animal in this shelter. Secondly, the issue of urgents. ALL animals in this shelter are and should be considered urgent. I find it disheartening and sad that many do not want to work to save an animal until they think it is in its last days or hours. NO animal should have to be "marked" or on a "list" to be saved; ALL should be worked immediately; their lives depend upon it. Please consider all urgent from this point on. And, finally, the issue of negativity. I have reminded you several times that this page will not tolerate negativity. This page was created soley for the purpose of promoting our animals and saving lives. Negative comments about this shelter, its staff, or its supporters will NOT be tolerated. Any and such comments will be deleted and could result in you being blocked from commenting. If all the energy that is being used to tear us down was used to build us up, think of all the lives that could be saved. Wanda

You see, the Robeson County pound Facebook page has a purpose. It’s a place where pound workers use crisis marketing, a rather  disturbing and increasingly popular practice in which the people who have the direct power to choose NOT to kill the pets, or volunteers who allow no criticism of the pound or the staff, post them on Facebook with captions like “This precious baby will DIE tomorrow unless we get a commitment” (as if the pets are just dropping dead of their own accord) or, “We need to make space! We don’t want to have to pts!” (which puts the onus for killing on the rescuers if they fail to liberate the pets).  Meanwhile, very caring people work double-time to get the pets out, valiantly trying to save as many as they can. It’s unsustainable because it burns out the rescuers who, no matter how many pets they save, can’t seem to stop the endless “URGENT!” posts.

In Robeson’s case, when the rescuers don’t “work” animals well enough, they apparently get a rebuke from Wanda (presumably Wanda Strickland, adoptions coordinator) , who finds  it “disheartening and sad” that rescuers don’t want to do her job for her for free “until they think [a pet] is in its last days or hours.” Because c’mon, people, when you kill as many healthy and treatable pets as the Robeson County pound does, they are ALL “super urgent” the moment they come through the doors.

But mention that there is a positive, life-affirming way to SAVE most of the pets who enter animal shelters, and you’re on shaky ground, buster.

“Think of all the lives that could be saved,” Wanda says, if you would stop talking all that nonsense about how healthy and treatable pets should not be killed. Oops, can’t say killed … the proper term is “euthed” or even better, “pts,” short for “put to sleep.” Because what Robeson staff really do is read the pets a bedtime story and sing them lullabies until flying unicorns carry them over The Rainbow Bridge, where they are greeted by Scruffy, the dog your parents told you “went to live on a farm” when you were a kid.

This is the pound that keeps half its kennels EMPTY at all times because it’s easier to clean that way and they claim it reduces disease outbreaks. And yet …

Distemper Won't Leave Us...

Robeson pound staff killed 700 dogs between the end of March and the end of May 2012 following repeated distemper outbreaks. “Think of all the lives that could be saved,” if the Robeson County pound would only vaccinate, which is the cornerstone of distemper prevention in a shelter.

But anyway, back to Ron.  His post about a proven way to end the needless killing of healthy and treatable shelter pets was deleted.

So he posted asking why:

Ron said the third comment, by RCAS, came after a separate exchange concerning a mother cat and her kittens who had been killed by pound staff:

Someone asked about a mother cat and her kittens that they were to rescue and she was told by [a volunteer] that they had been “euthed” on Friday but that they had another mother and kittens (including a stray the mother had adopted) that “only had until Monday before PTS”. I posted “Put to sleep??!! Don’t you mean killed or murdered!” All of these posts were deleted and this is where RCAS posted “Ron any comments that reference killing, murder, slaughter, or type of euth will be deleted”. I then posted my last post “You have to be kidding me”.

That post was deleted as well, and Ron was banned from posting.

Meanwhile, the pound staff and their volunteers, like those at most pounds committed to the old, broken system of “save a few, kill the rest,” will continue (for now) pretending  that No Kill doesn’t exist or is impossible and responding to criticism by claiming the killing is inevitable until other people do Magical Thing A that will bring about change.

Fortunately, the old beliefs are falling apart under criticism and the growing success of the No Kill movement, and a trickle of communities implementing the No Kill Equation is turning into a river. Six months ago, there were 30 known communities with open-admission shelters saving at least 90 percent of the pets who came in. Two weeks ago, that number became 50! (As of this writing, the total is  currently at 52. Check the No Kill Communities blog often and see the number in the upper left keep rising.)

According to Nathan Winograd, almost half of the 800 attendees at this year’s No Kill Conference came from shelters, many of them municipal facilities facing public criticism over high kill rates. The No Kill Revolution is steaming ahead, showing that change is possible even in places like Robeson County.

For those of you who are advocates living in communities where the local shelter is still killing; who are rescuers and animal lovers that find the door to the shelter closed to you despite their claim of an open door philosophy; who work at shelters that still have a long way to go, it can be very easy to get cynical and discouraged—to hear from some of the speakers and hear about their 90%, 95% even 98% save rates; to see your situation as not hopeful by comparison; to see the road as too difficult or even impossible to climb. Take heart.

Every community that has achieved success was once steeped in killing, was controlled by a “good ole boys” network, had a media and city council that appeared indifferent. In short, a situation that seemed impossible to overcome. But they did it—individuals just like you because they refused to give in to cynicism and defeatism. Cynicism breeds inaction because it creates the illusion that the problem is insurmountable. It allows the status quo to continue: “They are too powerful.” “Our City Council ignores us.” “No one cares in the South.” ~The Adjacent Possible

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Filed under NC county/municipal pounds, No Kill, Robeson County

Director of Richmond Co. HS complains about the public, tells them to just shut up

Valerie Davis, director of the Humane Society of Richmond County, wrote a letter to the editor of her local paper in response to “several issues that have come about lately in the public eye.” (Anyone have any idea what these issues are and care to share?) Instead of addressing the actual issues, however, Ms. Davis ripped a page out of the High-Kill Shelter Director’s Self-Defense Manual and decided to get defensive, blame the public and call them irresponsible and then tell them they have no right to say anything if they aren’t doing her job for free.

The public is so quick to demand service. They wish to surrender animals at will without making donations. They allow their pets to breed and then surrender the litters to us. They will refuse to spay or neuter even when the service is offered at a low cost.

If the residents of Richmond County and the surrounding townships wish to help with any of these shortcomings we welcome their help and guidance. If you’re not supporting the shelter in some way, then please guard your criticism.

In 2011, the Humane Society of Richmond County threw more than 70 percent of the pets they took in into the dumpster. And the woman in charge there wants to lecture her community about how to take care of animals? So much for leading by example. And is it any wonder that the public is not beating a path to volunteer for her when she has demonized them and blamed them for her inability to do her job and protect the animals in her so-called “shelter?”

Ms. Davis and/or her staff apparently can’t even thank a supporter without getting in a swipe at her community:

Richmond County Humane Society griping

From the Humane Society of Richmond County Facebook page

Perhaps if Valerie Davis would stop taking potshots at her community, she could take a few minutes to see that there is an actual proven program that would end the killing of healthy and savable pets in Richmond County. It is in place and working at more than 50 open-admission shelters in communities across the US. But it only works if  you stop blaming your failure on your community and forge an actual trusting relationship with them.

But instead Ms. Davis, whose shelter is a recipient of public funds, has the gall to tell taxpayers that they have no right to complain about the service their money is paying her to do. This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes (from YesBiscuit’s Facebook page):

If you are a taxpayer, you have the right to complain about the municipal services, including your local animal shelter, funded by your tax dollars. Don’t let anyone bully you into silence by telling you that if you aren’t at the animal shelter volunteering, adopting, transporting or whatever, you have no right to speak about the shelter. You are paying for it. You have every right.

Imagine if the city hospital was killing the patients and all the candy stripers did was wag their finger and tell people that if they weren’t at the hospital passing out magazines, they had no right to complain.

UPDATE: Reader Charlene contributed a comment about her experiences with the Humane Society of Richmond County on the FixNC facebook page.

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Filed under "irresponsible public", Richmond County

Spartanburg, SC, animal control tells woman to chain stray dog to a dumpster

A woman in Spartanburg, SC, saved a Boston terrier she found dodging traffic and tried to take it to the Spartanburg Humane Society, which turned her away because they don’t accept strays. She called county animal control, and was told that the soonest an ACO would be able to come out for the dog would be the following day.

Because she couldn’t keep the dog in her apartment overnight, she went to the county animal control office to ask what she should do. Their reply, in her words, was “Could I chain it to a dumpster, was there an enclosed dumpster I could chain it to?”

The animal control director claims the employee did not tell her to chain the dog to the dumpster, but said that a closed dumpster enclosure might be a good place to keep the dog overnight. He also said it’s an example of why the public should not catch strays themselves. Because of course, a stray dog flattened by traffic is one fewer that animal control officers have to get up off of their asses and go get.

According to another source, the dog is now at the Greenville Humane Society.

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Filed under South Carolina

Roanoke Valley SPCA may regret banning volunteer over photos

The Roanoke Valley SPCA, an ostensibly No Kill organization, has a contract with four municipalities (City of Roanoke, Roanoke County, Botetourt County and Town of Vinton) to run the Roanoke Valley Regional Center for Animal Control & Protection, an animal pound in Roanoke, VA.  RVSPCA and RCACP, which share an executive director, are both in the same building owned by RVSPCA , which also owns Animal Care Services, the company that runs the daily operations. Last year the RCACP took in 6,438 cats and dogs and killed 3,355, or 52% of them.

“So a No Kill organization owns a company that performs euthanasia on pretty much a daily basis. Kind of misleading isn’t it?” said former volunteer Tina Robertson, who was banned  from the facility two weeks ago after having logged hundreds of volunteer hours there since last November. Ms. Robertson often took photos of cats and kittens in RCACP to  post on Facebook in an attempt to get them adopted.  She believes her banning was because some photos she posted showed the white tags outside the cages listing the reason each animal is to be killed.

RVSPCA cage card

This cage card lists the reason the cat inside is to be killed as “space,” despite the fact that, according to animal advocate ChrisTina Robertson there were approximately 25 empty cages available.

“The reason for euthanasia was space but there were three empty rooms of cages, probably 25 cages empty” Ms. Robertson said.

Two days after the photos were posted to Facebook, RVSPCA volunteer coordinator Ruth Pierce sent Ms. Robertson an email saying “In view of the events this past Saturday, your volunteer privileges have been suspended until further notice.”

Because of the attention brought  by a news story about Ms. Robertson’s banning, RVSPCA’s directors found themselves dodging calls from reporters when they made the news again, this time because Botetourt County decided to pull all of its cats out of RCACP so they wouldn’t be killed for spurious reasons. The future of participation by other municipalities may also come into question.

Then the City of Roanoke announced plans to audit the use of public money between the RVSPCA and the RCACP and the use of town employees to do RVSPCA work. The RCACP is already under a cruelty investigation by the Roanoke Police Department stemming from a June incident, and the localities that fund the pound are now looking closely at the agreement to see if criminal charges or convictions can void the contract.

The June incident that sparked the cruelty investigation involved a pit bull mix named Trinity, who came into the RCACP and was seen by a veterinarian on May 29. That vet said Trinity’s foot would need treatment in the long run, but there was no mention in the May 29 paperwork of any serious injury to the foot. But almost two weeks later, on June 9, another veterinarian saw Trinity and concluded that as a result of an untreated severe bed sore,  the leg could not be saved. “The bone itself had been exposed long enough that it was dying and dissolving.” he said.

This is not the first time RVSPCA cruelty or neglect has come to light. In 2010 a cat named Pumpkin, who had been seized from a home along with 20 other cats, was impounded at the RCACP. She was examined right away by a  community veterinarian who then went over her needs with the staff. Despite the fact that the card on her cage said she needed insulin, she was given none for an entire week at RCACP. Pumpkin went into a  diabetic coma and the RVSPCA vet recommended she be euthanized.

In a transparent attempt to defuse criticism and scrutiny of its operations, the RVSPCA has decided to conduct an internal investigation. The task force carrying out the probe is made up of RVSPCA directors, including board president Barbara Dalhouse and her husband Warner.

Volunteers at pounds across the country are often afraid to speak up about the cruelty, neglect and needless killing they witness because they are afraid it will get them banned and they won’t be able to help the animals. But as Ms. Robertson’s case illustrates, getting banned could open up a brand new hope for the animals stuck in pounds like RCACP by shedding light on an  empire of indifference, neglect and corruption.

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Filed under Banning volunteers, Virginia