When the Houston SPCA helped “rescue” 187 Pitbulls from a suspected dogfighting ring in Texas and then killed them all, I had questions. I contacted the Houston SPCA directly but all they were interested in was getting info about me. After a couple e-mails where I answered their requests for info about myself and reiterated my questions about the seized dogs, they sent me what appeared to be a form letter. It referred me to other sources for info on the dogs. So the total info Houston SPCA provided about the dogs was a big, fat ZERO.
One of the referrals was to the Harris County DA’s office. My e-mail inquiry to them was not answered. I had better luck with the referral to the TX Department of Public Safety (DPS) Public Information Office (PIO). Ms. Lisa Block tried her best to answer my questions although she stated up front that she was unsure why the Houston SPCA had referred me to her office, since the Houston SPCA had the dogs and therefore would know the requested info. When I explained that the Houston SPCA declined to provide any info, she made her best effort to help. Ms. Block has given me permission to quote her directly from our e-mail correspondence (I abbreviated for clarity):
Q: What were the estimated ages of the dogs killed – specifically were some of them puppies?
PIO – Texas DPS: I do not know the ages of the dogs because the SPCA handled their medical evaluation.
Q: If the suspects have not had their day in court yet, how do we know for certain every one of them is guilty?
PIO – Texas DPS: The suspects will have their day in court. The matter of what to do with the dogs was handled by a court judge.
Q: If one or more of the suspects is ultimately found ‘not guilty’, who will advise them that their dogs were killed immediately after seizure?
PIO – Texas DPS: I do not know because SPCA knows which dogs were put down.
Q: Will any suspects determined to be innocent have any recourse over the killings of their dogs?
PIO – Texas DPS: Like any person, who is determined to be innocent, they might have legal recourse to challenge actions taken by a court.
Q: Why was each dog not given an evaluation by an independent canine behaviorist?
PIO – Texas DPS: I know they were medically evaluated, but again, this was done by the SPCA, so I do not know if they were evaluated by a behaviorist. You might check with the judge that oversaw their case/cases.
In closing, I commented (and provided links) on the success of having individual temperament evaluations on the Vick dogs before placing some as family pets. I hoped that Harris County would look to that case as an example in future regarding seized dogs. Ms. Block responded:
I have heard of the success of placing some of the Vick dogs. Placement would be handled by the SPCA. I’m sorry that I do not know more, but I’m sure you understand that DPS is the law enforcement agency that worked to shut down the fighting operations. The SPCA is in charge of the evaluation of the dogs, and a judge decides the fate of the dogs. I do understand your concerns.
Let’s be clear: Putting an evidence-based end to suspected dogfighting rings and prosecuting the suspected abusers=100% good. Killing all the seized dogs before they are individually evaluated for temperament by a qualified professional and without consent of the owners, who are innocent until proven guilty=100% bad. It’s one of those rare things in life that is so simple, even a kid could understand it.
There are rescue groups and dog lovers all over this country ready, willing and able to help with the dogs seized in abuse cases. If your organization gets custody of a group of bust dogs, reach out to the community for assistance. And when they reach out a hand to you, take it. No seized dog needs to be killed for lack of help. Use the available resources to get the dogs individually evaluated and keep detailed records. Give all the relevant information to the judge in charge of the disposition of the dogs so that an informed decision can be arrived at with consent of the owners.
The Houston SPCA doesn’t get it. And now they want to hide and get back to their “Animal Cops Houston” TV show on Animal Planet where they get to look like people who care about pets instead of people who kill them. Sorry, not your lucky day Houston SPCA. I’m not going to let this go. I’m kinda loyal like that. And if you don’t know what that is, try looking into the eyes of the victims before you kill them next time – you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Every dog deserves a fair evaluation.