Regarding the Memorial Day abuse of dogs at the Forrest City Animal Shelter in Arkansas, the Mayor has already weighed in, characterizing the incident as an “oversight”. Now the Mayor appears to have a new BFF in Desiree Bender from HSUS who met with him and subsequently called the abuse a “mistake”, laying blame at the feet of the shelter volunteers.
From Ms. Bender’s comments on a Facebook page called Coalition to Change Forrest City Animal Shelter:
I went over the facts of this incident today. There was zero intent of cruelty in this case. Yes, there was a mistake and it resulted in the tragic death. However, to have a crime you must have intent. The Forrest City Shelter in my opinion is in the top 20% of shelters in Arkansas. Huge runs, play yards, city allows the HS kennel space to hold dogs, city allows HS 24/7 access which is unheard of and euthanasia is carried out by a veterinarian. It is time to stop the attacks on the city. Animal advocates volunteering at shelters should be starting programs to increase awareness and lower euthanasia rates such as foster, spay/neuter, outreach and education programs.
It’s time to stop the attacks on the city? Perhaps this is just me being petty but I’d like to point out that the volunteers were the only ones trying to help save the dogs that weekend. Not only did Ms. Bender fail to meet with them during her visit, she proceeded to smear them on Facebook afterwards. Via KC Dog Blog:
Traveled to Forrest City today to meet with the mayor and Chief of Police. Discussed all the issues and visited the shelter. What continues to harm the animals in this city is the lack of cooperative collaboration. Animal welfare organizations should strive to partner with municipal agencies to create proactive programs to curb the overall issues facing animals.
How about – It’s time to stop the attacks on the shelter volunteers?
Ms. Bender, state director for HSUS in AR, says the cruelty at the shelter was not criminal, just a mistake. Ms. Bender, meet the HSUS definition of cruelty, via the HSUS website:
Animal cruelty can be either deliberate abuse or simply the failure to take care of an animal. Either way, and whether the animal is a pet, a farm animal, or wildlife, the victim can suffer terribly. Don’t despair, though—anyone can take steps against cruelty.
Neglect is not giving an animal the right food, water, shelter or vet care. Because their misery goes on for so long, animals who die of neglect can suffer just as much as animals who are harmed on purpose.
While there is life, there is hope.
Except where there is Desiree Bender, apparently.
A response to Ms. Bender’s comments, from Gayden Schwartz, on behalf of the Forrest City Humane Society:
With our presidents approval I will release my response to Ms. Bender’s professional opinion of our situation in Forrest City. In the meantime I would like to thank you all for your support and interest in our effort to make some positive changes in our Animal Shelter. Ms. Bender’s assessment of our situation was based on her conversation with Mayor McCoy, the Animal Control employees and the Chief of Police. I am sorry Ms. Bender didn’t make the time to talk with us. I would have told her we indeed have tried over and over again to work with the Mayor and certainly all of the ACO’s. I desperately tried to tell her this about 8 months ago, but she was so busy verbalizing her displeasure with the City at that time, she did not listen to me then. Now the Police Chief has taken over and we of course will try to work with him as well. Getting along with one another is not a novel concept.
As far as the graciousness of the city for letting the humane society come and go 24/7 with keys to the shelter, that was part of our lease agreement with the City. We own the land and had a lease agreement with the City, which we later discovered was not signed by the previous Mayor. When there were incidents or problems at the shelter we presented our observations and concerns to the Mayor and they were ignored or greeted with retaliation. He blasted us in public meetings and in the local newspaper, he attempted to change the building security code, threatened to change the locks, and more, including suing us. Ms. Bender’s remarks imply that we have been everything other than what we are. We are polite and respectful to the Mayor, the City Council members and all City employees and yes we have tried to work with them and will continue to do so. I resent Ms. Bender, as a representative of The Humane Society of the United States, stating anything to the contrary.
Why did HSUS even get involved in this case? They didn’t think the local volunteers were already facing enough obstacles in trying to reform the shelter? Dang, Ms. Bender just made this difficult situation a whole lot worse. I hope the locals working toward improved care for the community’s pets can achieve their goals, despite the HSUS representative pissing on their cereal.