Robeson Co Animal Shelter: “Mostly Positive”

Robeson Co Animal Shelter in NC recently failed two state inspections due to multiple issues including failing to maintain the shelter in accordance with standard disease control practices and failure to provide veterinary care for sick pets.  The shelter manager explained the inspection failures as being due to overcrowding.  She further described the arbitrary killing of all dogs under 1 year of age as “merely disease control”.  Last week, there was a meeting to update the county on how things are going at the shelter:

Members of the Robeson County Board of Health heard a mostly positive report Thursday about ongoing improvements at the county animal shelter.

Mostly positive?  Whaaaaa?

The shelter update, however, did not include details about a recent parvo outbreak that forced staff to euthanize more than 50 puppies last week.

And [shelter manager April] Lowry made no mention of two state inspections the shelter has failed in the past month.

Oh.  I see.  Well I guess if you leave those minor killing and neglect issues out, the picture does get a whole lot rosier.

When asked specifically about the failed state inspections, a shelter supervisor appeared to be spinning the same yarn as the shelter manager:

[Environmental Health Director Albert] Locklear said most of the violations were the result of overcrowding at the shelter. A new policy requiring adopted pets to be spayed should help when it goes into effect Oct. 1.

How is spaying adopted pets in October going to address current issues of neglect and the spread of disease due to employee laziness?  Will spaying pets in October cause the people in charge to quit lying about why they failed state inspections and start doing their jobs?  I’m not seeing it.

Dallas City Official: “The conditions at the shelter are good.”

There are additional allegations of abuse and substandard practices at the troubled Dallas Animal Shelter.  Among the new complaints:

Kennels are coated in grime. Air conditioning vents are filthy and there dirty litter boxes with pooper scoopers in the sink feeding area.

Photos of the conditions were provided to FOX 4 by a shelter employee who did not want to be identified out of fear of retaliation.

The employee said conditions for the 900 animals at the 2-year-old shelter are deplorable. The animals have also been without air conditioning for several months.

There are also claims of retaliation against whistleblowers at the shelter.  Then there’s this:

The employee told FOX 4 earlier this week a cat that had gotten out of its cage was beaten by an animal keeper with a pole meant to catch dogs. The animal’s jaw and claws were broken.

The issue was brought before the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission.

“I think folks like this need to be better trained, maybe given jobs where they don’t have direct contact with animals. But, I would like that looked into,” said Chairman Robert Trimble.

Yeah maybe form a committee that meets every other month to determine if someone who beats a cat with a catch pole until its jaw is broken should possibly not have direct contact with animals at his job.  I look forward to your report in 2011.  2012 at the latest.

KY: Follow Ups on Bugsy and Copper

I recently mentioned this story:  Williamsburg, KY residents wanted to help a friendly dog who was roaming.  They called animal control thinking the dog, called Bugsy, would be rescued, given a bath, cared for and adopted out.  Instead AC responded to the call and shot the dog to death.

Follow up:  On Monday of last week, the county announced the animal control officer who killed Bugsy instead of helping him will be disciplined.  (No specifics were reported.)

On Friday, some local residents protested the heartless killing:

People showed up at the Whitley County Courthouse in Williamsburg Friday morning, walking around with signs and demanding change, following the incident.


People at Friday’s rally say they hope Whitley Judge-Executive Pat White will hear their message, and appoint a new animal control officer.


Copper is the Shiba Inu who was lost and turned in to the Franklin Co HS only to be rejected by the shelter manager on the grounds that they don’t take coyotes.  The shelter manager has now resigned.

Scout: Not a Retriever

Whatever Scout’s lineage may be, she acts like a herding dog.  That is to say, not only does she like to herd things, she also plays with our other dogs in a lot of the same ways that a Collie puppy we had for several months did.

Outside of the Collie, I’m not very experienced with herding dogs.  So I’m hoping for some suggestions on how to keep her out of trouble.  She loves her stuffies and her bones, but she also loves chewing rugs, shoes, and doggie steps.  I give her a cup of kibble in the Kong Wobbler every afternoon and she’s very excited about that.  Unfortunately the kibble runs out pretty quick.  She doesn’t like to be left, inside or outside, by her humans, even though she has doggie company.  She’s escaped the yard many times but we keep blocking her escape routes as we find them.

I realize many of her behaviors are probably due to her age and her history.  She’s very young I think and obviously she’s never been in anyone’s home or fenced yard before.  All things considered, she’s doing really well.  Very few housebreaking accidents, good sleeper, and only one Really Super Major Incident – eating my gelato which I left unattended briefly on the table.  (Since it was technically my fault, I decided to spare her the death penalty.)

I know some of you will have good insights and suggestions on things I can do to help Scout continue her transition to life as a pet.  We are taking her for her first vet appointment this afternoon.  I’ll report back afterward.

Update: Scout did great at the vet’s office.  She has been vaccimilated, her blood work was good and her heartworm test was negative!  She’s scheduled for spay next month.  On top of all that good news, I found out my vet gives a 25% discount for pets taken in off the streets.  Bonus!

Could Dogs and Cats Be Ingredients in Your Pet’s Food?

I am not aware of any pet food companies who have admitted using dead dogs and cats as an ingredient in pet food.  However, to my knowledge, dead dogs and cats are not prohibited as an ingredient in pet food by any state or federal agency, nor by AAFCO (the group which defines pet food ingredients).  Nor is any pet food manufacturer required to disclose whether they use dogs and cats in their product.

As a consumer, what I am looking for in terms of reassurance that dogs and cats are not used as an ingredient in pet food is definitive denial.  For example, if AAFCO’s list of ingredient definitions specifically excluded dogs and cats, then I would know that any pet food product which carried the AAFCO statement of approval would not contain dogs and cats.  As things stand, that’s not the case.

From AAFCO (pdf):

If consumers have a preference for certain ingredients, they should review the ingredient list to determine if their preferences are being met.

OK, let’s do that.  The ingredient list on a random package of pet food pulled off the shelf at a pet supply megastore includes “meat and bone meal” and I’m wondering exactly what type of meat it is.  The images on the front of bag look like prime cuts of beef, such as what a person might eat.  Here are the related AAFCO definitions:

  • Meat and Bone Meal – the rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.
  • Meat By-Products – the non rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low-temperature fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hooves.
  • Meat Meal – the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.

The takeaway here is that “meat” from an unspecified source on a pet food ingredient list indicates “mammals”.  Dogs and cats are mammals.  It does not say “mammals except for dogs and cats” or anything similar.  Meat=mammals.

Also from the AAFCO pdf:

7. Does most of the protein come from scrap and byproducts left over from human meat processing?
The animal proteins used in feeds are frequently, but not exclusively derived from the production of human food.

Frequently.  So some protein in pet foods is derived from sources outside the production of human food.  Rendered dogs and cats could be accurately described as such.  Again, there is no statement containing a definitive denial of the practice of obtaining the rendered remains of dead pets and using them in pet food.  Not here, not anywhere that I’ve found in AAFCO’s publications.

In an undated vid clip from KING5 news in Seattle, former AAFCO president Hersh Pendell states that “meat and bone meal” on the label may mean “Fluffy” is an ingredient in your pet’s food.

Here is a graphic 2007 video of D & D Disposal/West Coast Rendering grinding and boiling pets into protein meal.  Obviously they are creating this product for sale to some company (or companies).  Is it being sold to pet food manufacturers?  Some other type of company?  I don’t know.  The only thing for certain is that if the protein meal was used in a pet food product, it would be acceptable according to AAFCO as well as state and federal regulating agencies.  Again, because dogs and cats as a pet food ingredient are not prohibited by any of these groups.

More on rendering practices from a 1997 article in the NY Times:

Renderers in the United States pick up 100 million pounds of waste material every day — a witch’s brew of feet, heads, stomachs, intestines, hooves, spinal cords, tails, grease, feathers and bones. Half of every butchered cow and a third of every pig is not consumed by humans. An estimated six million to seven million dogs and cats are killed in animal shelters each year, said Jeff Frace, a spokesman for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City.

For example, the city of Los Angeles sends 200 tons of euthanized cats and dogs to West Coast Rendering, in Los Angeles, every month, according to Chuck Ellis, a spokesman for the city’s Sanitation Department.

Pet food companies try not to buy meat and bone meal from renderers who grind up cats and dogs, said Doug Anderson, president of Darling International Inc., a large rendering company in Dallas. ”We do not accept companion animals,” he said. ”But there are still a number of small plants that will render anything.”

A 1995 document (pdf) from the Environmental Protection Agency on rendering processes states:

Independent plants obtain animal by-product materials, including grease, blood, feathers, offal, and entire animal carcasses, from the following sources: butcher shops, supermarkets, restaurants, fast-food chains, poultry processors, slaughterhouses, farms, ranches, feedlots, and animal shelters.

Animal shelters would presumably be supplying dead dogs and cats to these rendering plants, not Angus beef.

In January 2002, the L.A. Times wrote about the public outcry in the aftermath of a St. Louis news story documenting the use of dead pets in pet food.  The reporter has since left the station in St. Louis but the report is preserved in text form here.  The story begins at the local pound:

A dozen or more former pets are put to death because no one wants them — alive that is.

Unwanted by their owners, their bodies are in high demand. Loaded into a city refuse truck, they are taken five miles across the river to Illinois to a rendering plant in Millstadt. Along with dead cows and road kill, they will be piled into a vat and boiled, turned into raw tankage or protein.

We were asked to leave the property before we could ask where it all eventually goes. But it soon became evident as a tanker truck made its way into the plant to be filled. The truck was from a southern Missouri company, its mission spelled out on the tank itself: “serving the pet food industry.”

“It may be objectionable. People may not want to know what goes in there,” says Don Aird of the Food and Drug Administration.

But the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees pet food ingredients, allows dead dogs and cats in pet food, saying disease or the drugs used to sedate the animals dissipates through cooking.

“Well, we don’t believe it’s going to cause problems for the animals. If we did, we would not allow it to happen,” Aird says.

Salon addressed the issue of rendered pets in pet food in a broader article from 2007:

For years the pet food industry has been, well, dogged by persistent rumors that meat from horses and from euthanized cats and dogs finds its way into pet food. “They do not use horse meat,” [Duane Ekedahl, president of the Pet Food Institute] says, and “as a condition of membership, [Pet Food Institute members] affirm that none of their rendered material will contain cats and dogs. The public just wouldn’t stand for it.”

So we’re probably not feeding cats and dogs to our cats and dogs.

Is “probably not” a strong enough reassurance for you?  It doesn’t work for me.  By the way, the Pet Food Institute (PFI) is not a regulatory body with enforcement powers but a lobbying group.  Any members who might pledge to the PFI with their hands over their hearts that they don’t use rendered pets could have their fingers crossed behind their backs.  They’d still be legal.

The bottom line for me is that pets are legally allowed as an ingredient in pet food.  I can’t state definitively that pets are used in pet foods but there is sufficient historical evidence to make me consider the possibility.  I’d like to see AAFCO change their definitions related to non-specific types of meat to include wording that excludes dogs and cats.  But unless a government regulatory agency steps up and specifically makes it a crime to include dogs and cats in pet food, it will always be legal, no matter what pinky promises are made to consumers by corporations or lobbying groups.

H/T:  Truth About Pet Food

For Your Entertainment

Saturday Scout

Friday Debate

A family moved out of their foreclosed home in Los Angeles leaving a dog in the house and another in the garage.  Neighbors heard them crying and called AC for help.  AC refused to enter the home:

“Possibility the people could come back and then they could turn this around and sue the city,” explained Animal Services Officer Hoang Dinh.

The city is required to give a written warning to the owners before entering the home or removing the dogs.

A man named Hans Peterson went into the home and rescued the dog inside.  As he was walking out, he was arrested for “interfering” with AC.

So are you on Team Hans or Team No Government Entry to Private Property?

Out of the Mouths of Babes

We were hanging around the lobby of our local pound last weekend trying to get a neuter voucher for Scout (we weren’t successful).  A family was there adopting a puppy.  I was sitting in front of a corkboard in the lobby where people had put up lost pet notices.  The little girl from the puppy adopting family – I would guess she was about 6 – came over and was looking at the notices.  She pointed to one with a big white dog on it and asked me, “What does he like to eat?”  I told her I didn’t know, the notice didn’t say.  She replied, “If we knew what he liked to eat, we could go to the last place he was and leave a trail of his favorite food from there to the animal shelter and he’d probably follow it and walk right in the front door!”

I told her that was an excellent idea.  I held back my fears for any dog who did walk in the front door of our local pound.

She was too young to realize that not all shelters are safe havens for lost pets.  It wasn’t my place to tell her.  And besides, I am hopeful that by the time she grows up, all shelters will be exactly what she, and many others, believe they should be:  a refuge for the lost, the homeless, the victims of neglect and cruelty; a place for the sick to receive treatment and for the weary to rest in comfort; a peaceful stop at the end of life’s journey to relieve suffering for medically hopeless pets; and a house of joy where owners are reunited with lost pets and adopters find new family members.

Nightmares at Catawba Co Animal Shelter

Catawba Co Animal Shelter in NC has had a terrible virus infecting their shelter pets for the past month.  They’ve tried to find out what it is by having tests done at animal virus labs but haven’t had any luck.  The illness is “very difficult to treat”:

“It’s a mystery,” Jay Blatche, the shelter’s animal services manager, said. “It is a very bad disease. Everyone here is saddened by what we are doing today. There’s been some tears and I’m sure there will be some nightmares for our staff.”

Tears and nightmares?  Well certainly treating sick pets can be exhausting and it is probably very taxing on the staff to maintain isolation wards on any sort of large scale – wait, what’s that you say?  You’re not treating the sick pets and keeping the pets without symptoms separate from them?  You’re just going to temporarily shut down and kill all 200 animals – even the healthy ones?  Oh.

The shelter typically takes 30 animals a day, but is not accepting animals from the public during the temporary closure.

The kennels will undergo a thorough sanitation process that includes cleaning with bleach, detergent and antimicrobial agents, as well as pressure cleaning with hot water. The entire shelter will be cleaned, along with the heating and air conditioning system.

To my mind, those thorough sanitation procedures sound like a good idea for an animal shelter to perform regularly.  Not just on special, kill-em-all occasions.  In addition, there are a number of other standard disease prevention protocols for shelters that might come in useful for Catawba Co such as veterinary exam upon admittance and subsequent vaccination/isolation as deemed appropriate.  Just thought I’d mention that, in case you want to avoid tears and nightmares in the future.

First, Do No Harm

If you’ve ever worked at a facility that boards pets, you are probably familiar with owners who never pick up their pets.  In my experience, this is a rare occurrence but it is sad when it happens.  The pet spends week after week in the facility while the bill runs up, attempts are made to reach the owner and the business owner gets increasingly frustrated.

This happened at a vet clinic I worked at many years ago.  We ultimately sent a certified letter to the owner, warning that if he did not respond, the dog would be considered abandoned and our clinic would dispose of him as we deemed fit.  The owner did not respond and the dog was adopted by one of our staff members who’d been caring for him during his extended stay.

At Lehigh Acres Animal Hospital in FL, 2 dogs were in a similar plight.  The bill had run up to $2000 and the owner was sent letters, probably along the lines of the one I described above.  The owner did not respond.  The difference in this case was that the vet killed the dogs and then accepted donations from the public who had seen a news story on the abandoned dogs and wanted to help.

On Friday, [Lehigh Acres Animal Hospital] released this statement: “The dogs were put down because they didn’t have a safe stable home to go to nor did they have any financial income to be cared for correctly.”

Do you see the words “medically hopeless and suffering” in there anywhere?  I don’t.  And in their absence, I find it shocking to think a veterinarian would issue a statement to justify the killing of these 2 dogs.

My vet, on occasion, will have a photo of a dog available for adoption at the front desk.  These are typically dogs who have been abandoned for whatever reason.  Couldn’t Lehigh Acres Animal Hospital have done something similar?  At the very least, couldn’t they have taken the dogs to the local shelter so they could have a chance at adoption?