Where Does the Buck Stop at GA Shelter?

You know how when someone in the Obama administration screws up, our President says, “The buck stops with me” by way of taking responsibility for the actions of those who work for him?  I can relate to this.  In my office, I don’t do the billing but when there are billing problems that come to the attention of my boss, he comes to me.  He knows I don’t do the billing but he looks to me as overseeing the administration of the office paperwork.  He expects me to work out who is responsible for the error, go to that person and address it so that it doesn’t happen again.  As such, I take a proactive approach in trying to address problems before they come to the attention of my boss.

In an animal shelter, I would think the buck stops with the shelter director.  But maybe Floyd Co AC’s shelter director sees it differently, I don’t know.

Apparently the shelter’s highest adoption rate was in 2009 – a miserable 25%.  And their lowest kill rate was in 2007 – a sad 61%.  This year, shelter director Jason Broome agreed to provide space at the shelter and a phone line for rescue volunteers to try to save the lives of the pets in his care.  The volunteers dramatically increased the adoption rate to 62% and lowered the kill rate to 24% – basically a flip-flop of the shelter’s previous stats.

Last week, the volunteer program was suddenly shut down amidst a GA Department of Agriculture investigation into the paperwork being completed by the volunteers.  One of the volunteers acknowledged there were errors:

“We thought we were doing the paperwork the Department of Agriculture wanted, but we weren’t.”

Agriculture Department spokesman Yao Seidu said he couldn’t discuss the ongoing investigation, but confirmed it was focused on paperwork violations.

The violations appear to involve a failure to properly vet rescue groups who were pulling pets from the shelter.  Several local veterinary clinics were left with pets brought in by rescue groups for treatment but never picked up.  And:

Improperly checked references also have sent animals to hoarders, unlicensed shelters where the animals get in serious fights or are allowed to roam loose, and to “rescuers” that try to scam animal lovers out of PayPal donations online.

Assuming all that is accurate, it’s bad.  I would agree that things need to change.  But my question is – Where does the buck stop?  Shouldn’t the director have been overseeing the paperwork completion, including the mandated vetting of rescue groups?  What happened after the first pet was left at a vet and the rescuer didn’t pay the bill or claim the animal?  Or the second time that happened?  Did the shelter director take any action after pets were found to have been released to supposed hoarders?  Did the shelter director have any problem with pets that were released to unlicensed shelters?  How about Paypal scammers – did the shelter director step in at that point?

I don’t know the details of how events unfolded at Floyd Co AC.  But to my mind, when a director allows volunteers into his shelter, he accepts responsibility for their actions.  He is obligated to oversee their compliance with rules and regulations.  And most importantly, once he becomes aware of a problem, he needs to step in and address it to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  Maybe in this case the director is claiming ignorance, I don’t know.  But ignorance is no excuse.  If anything, a claim of ignorance would be a damning indictment of the director’s failure.

If the allegations are true that pets were being released to rescues who weren’t vetted according to the state laws, why should the buck stop with the volunteers?  Are Floyd Co taxpayers paying the volunteers’ salary and looking to them to take responsibility when things go awry?  No, that is the shelter director’s job.  So why isn’t anyone asking that question?  And must the pets at the Floyd Co shelter face an immediate return to the abysmal kill rates of the past just because someone failed to do his job?

Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer

Thanks Patti for sharing a link to an update on the story of the poodle who was killed for revenge by authorities in Hydro, OK after the owner broke into the pound to free him.

There has been a huge backlash over the incident.  Police officer Chris Chancellor has been taking calls from people angry about the unnecessary and cruel killing.  He paints the owner, Mr. Fry, as a potentially dangerous man with a history of making threats against police.

Regarding the specific circumstances of the dog’s killing, Mr. Chancellor confirms a city ordinance allows police to kill an impounded pet if not redeemed within 3 days.  The chief of police adds the gruesome details:

Hydro’s police chief told a local newspaper publisher the dog was held for three days, placed in a box and killed with carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe of a police car.

And then the cover-up ensues:

Chancellor said Buddy Tough was euthanized in a “gas chamber” with “carbon monoxide.”

He said the town’s police chief handled the matter and possibly took the dog to a veterinarian in Weatherford.

The town clerk claims she has no record or financial receipt showing the dog was taken to an animal hospital.

The Oklahoman’s calls to the Police Chief Mike “Colonel” Sanders were not returned.

Once again, I have to speak up in defense of this poor dog.  To my mind, the owner’s strange and potentially dangerous actions in the past should have no impact on the decision to kill the man’s dog.  I don’t care if Mr. Fry was the Unabomber himself, there is zero justification for stuffing this little dog in a box and causing him to suffer a slow, agonizing death by breathing in exhaust fumes from a police car.  Tell me the person(s) who did this were not doing it out of revenge.  To my mind, that’s exactly what happened and that’s why police are lying and attempting to cover it up now.  And that is truly evil.

Will there be any justice?

The three-person town council is scheduled Tuesday to discuss the predicament.

How Not to Keep a Pack of Hounds

Dorchester County Animal Control in SC received a complaint and visited a home to follow up on October 22.  They found 10 dead hounds and 31 live ones standing ankle deep in feces in a pen.  The dogs were seized and 2 of the 3 owners were cited for neglect.  The hounds are being cared for by the Summerville SPCA.  Most of the hounds are heartworm positive and some are being treated for ear and eye infections.  They need good food to restore them to proper weight and the SPCA is asking for foster homes.

Could You Foster a Shelter Pet?

When shelters like this one in AL and this one in NV send out emergency pleas for foster homes, do you immediately think, “I couldn’t do that”?  I always did.  But now I’m reconsidering.

I get attached – as perhaps you could tell from the recent rescue of Jennie (thank you Jamie!).  In that case, all it took for me to feel a vested interest in the dog was a photo – no description even.  So the idea of taking a homeless pet into my home and making her part of my family temporarily never seemed all that feasible to me.

About 20 years ago, I worked in a veterinary clinic owned by a heartless vet.  A man abandoned his kitten at the clinic one Friday and the practice owner was determined to kill the cat immediately.  The associate vet asked me if I could take kitteh home for the weekend to save his life and by Monday we could figure something out.  Of course by Monday something had been figured out – the kitten would be living with me permanently.  Foster fail.

When APL rescued Scout’s puppies this summer, they offered to take her as well.  By that time, I’d spent so much time sitting out on the porch with Scout, I had fallen in love with her.  I knew it would be a challenge to introduce a new dog to our home because of Linus’s anxiety issues but I decided to give it a try and APL offered to take her at a later date if needed.  Ultimately it didn’t work out and we had to bring her to APL.  It was a sad day (and it happened to be my birthday which was definitely not good timing) but when I look back, I really feel good about the time we spent with Scout.

We got her fully vetted and spayed, house trained, fed her good food to get her to a normal weight and spent many nights cuddling with her on the couch and in bed.  We learned lots of useful things about her personality that will be helpful in matching her to the right owner.  Basically, I feel like we gave her a leg up on finding a permanent home.  And I know we allowed APL to spend resources on other pets in need during the time we had Scout with us.  When I think about it in those terms, it makes me want to consider fostering another dog.  I’m not sure I’m up to it right yet, but I’m keeping myself open to the idea.

PUPS Act – Paws Up or Paws Down?

I’ve been reading a bit on the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, commonly referred to as PUPS (pdf).  This piece of proposed federal legislation is designed to “close the loophole that allows large breeders to sell puppies online, escaping inspection and oversight

Here is the official summary.  I’ve excerpted some language from the bill below for your consideration.

The term ‘high volume retail breeder’ means a person who, in commerce, for compensation or profit—
(i) has an ownership interest in or custody of 1 or more breeding female dogs;
(ii) sells or offers for sale, via any means of conveyance (including the Internet, telephone, or newspaper), more than 50 of the offspring of such breeding female dogs for use as pets in any 1-year period.

Note that the bill defines a “breeding female dog” an an intact bitch aged 4 months or older.

Regarding exercise, the bill says:

(A) each dog that is at least 12 weeks old (other than a female dog with unweaned puppies) has daily access to exercise that—
(i) allows the dog—
(I) to move sufficiently to develop or maintain normal muscle tone and mass as appropriate for the age, breed, sex, and reproductive status of the dog; and

(II) the ability to achieve a running stride; and

(ii) is not a forced activity (other than a forced activity used for veterinary
treatment) or other physical activity that is repetitive, restrictive of other activities, solitary, and goal-oriented;
(B) the provided area for exercise—
(i) is separate from the primary enclosure if the primary enclosure does not provide sufficient space to achieve a running stride;
(ii) has flooring that—
(I) is sufficient to allow for the type of activity described in subparagraph (A); and
(II)(aa) is solid flooring; or
(bb) is nonsolid, nonwire flooring, if the nonsolid, nonwire flooring—
(AA) is safe for the breed, size, and age of the dog;
(BB) is free from protruding sharp edges; and

(CC) is designed so that the paw of the dog is unable to extend through or become caught in the flooring;
(iii) is cleaned at least once each day;
(iv) is free of infestation by pests or vermin; and
(v) is designed in a manner to prevent escape of the dogs.

There is an exemption for dogs who a vet has determined should not exercise due to health considerations.  The exemption must state that the dog has a permanent condition or in the case of a temporary medical problem, the owner must get the exemption renewed every 30 days.

Here is a piece opposing the bill (pdf).  It raises some interesting points about the vague term “ownership interest in”, the seeming inability for the average home to meet the exercise area requirements and the fact that breeders must open their homes for inspections.  Another key issue is the set number of puppies which qualifies someone as a high volume retail breeder.  The bill lists that number as 50.  Some breeders are concerned that if passed, the bill could be amended in future to lower that number.

What are your thoughts on PUPS?


Jennie I Got Your Number

Thank you to reader Jamie Horton for rescuing Jennie from the Farmington Animal Shelter in NM.  I happened upon Jennie’s photo on Petfinder when researching the shelter for my previous post.  Her expression reached out to me and said “I believe in you”.  I resigned myself to her likely tragic fate but when Jamie spoke up and said she was in Farmington and working towards no kill in her community, I had to ask about Jennie.  Jamie saved her from what would have been a cruel end to a short life.  I can’t thank you enough Jamie.  And thanks to all of you who perform these lifesaving heroics every day in every corner of the land.  To the Jennies of this world, you are everything.


True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.

Arthur Ashe

Pets Suffer at NM Shelter While City Officials Dither

The city pound in Farmington, NM is slated for replacement.  And it sounds like it’s about 30 years overdue.  From the shelter’s Petfinder page:

The current Farmington Animal Shelter to be replaced is 30 years old, wedged between the Waste Water Treatment Plant and the Power Plant with no place to expand, and only contains 54 kennels. Not one of our dog kennels meets the Humane Society of the United States regulations for space required per dog and we are forced to place several dogs in each kennel. The current shelter receives an average of 25 new animals each day. With only 54 kennels to house these animals in a non-adoptive-friendly facility, the shelter must euthanize an average of 19 animals every day due to space restrictions.

To wit, city bureaucrats in Farmington solicited the public for donations to help build a $7.6 million shelter.  Now they are researching how they can cut corners and build a $5.1 million dollar shelter instead.  It sounds as if this is all just an exercise in forming-committees-to-look-into-possibilities though:

But there’s no funding budgeted for the animal shelter this fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2011.

So the city is ready to put up a big fat zero dollars.  But the public should absolutely step up and donate money.  No guarantees on what kind of shelter the city will end up building with it – if they even build a shelter at all.

Jennie, a dog listed as available for adoption at the Farmington Animal Shelter. The other dog living in this square of concrete looks like a German Shorthair Pointer. Given the extreme overcrowding and high kill rate at this shelter, I assume both dogs will be dead by the time you read this.


Next on the agenda:

Meanwhile, city councilors asked veterinarians at Tuesday’s meeting to discuss with their colleagues how the city could develop a low-cost spaying and neutering program.

The article doesn’t say how many dollars the city is budgeting for this low cost neuter program but I’m hoping it’s more than they’ve allocated for the shelter.  My guess is though, that when they say “how the city could develop”, they mean “how you veterinarians could absorb all the cost”.

So to summarize, the city is cramming pets into a self-described “non-adoptive-friendly facility”, killing most of them, asking the public to contribute towards a new facility that they deem worthy of not one dime of the city’s budget and asking veterinarians what they’re going to do about getting pets neutered at reduced rates.  Responsibility, anyone?

I sense the formation of an exploratory committee.  Maybe they should meet between the sewage plant and the power plant.  They might find themselves a little cramped for space but if so, we can always kill some more pets.

One Small Step: NC Shelter Becomes More Rescue Friendly

Remember Renee Sisk?  She’s the Craven Co District 4 Commissioner who tried to intervene to prevent the local shelter from needlessly killing a healthy puppy who had an adopter waiting.  Ms. Sisk has “vowed to make county animal shelter reform her top priority until she leaves office at the end of the year”.  Schweet, huh?

The Animal Services Center in Craven Co appears to provide killing as its main service:

The county’s animal control shelter euthanizes 87 percent of its dogs and 94 percent of its cats. Thousands of animals pass through the shelter each year.

Unbelievably, with those kill stats, the shelter has been charging a $20 pull fee to non-profit groups trying to rescue pets from death row.  Ms. Sisk has put an end to that and rescues can now pull pets without being charged.  In addition, she has some straight talk for pet owners in Craven Co:

Sisk encourages community residents to not rely on county animal control to find a new home for pets they can no longer keep.

“Don’t think they’re going to rescue it,” Sisk said at the open commissioners meeting. “It’s going to go in the front door, be euthanized and out the back door.”

Is that ok with Craven Co taxpayers?

Revenge Killing at OK Pound

I’m not disputing that this dog owner in OK was in the wrong.  Edwin Fry had apparently been letting his little Poodle roam and bother neighbors.  When authorities seized his dog, called Buddy Tough, Mr. Fry verbally threatened them with violence.  Not wanting to pay the $100 fine (second offense) to redeem his dog, Mr. Fry “drove his lawn mower to the town’s kennel, cut through the cage with a large pair of bolt cutters and started home with Buddy Tough on his lap”.

So all that was wrong.  But to add a little context, Mr. Fry is 73 years old.  I don’t know how many of you are familiar with elderly folks but some of them can be cranky – even to the point of making a threat.  While I have no way of knowing if Mr. Fry might have actually followed through on his threat or if it was perhaps the kind of thing he says every other day, it’s possible the local police may know him.  That is, they may have an opinion on whether or not Mr. Fry is likely to act out in a violent manner.  Given that he rode to the pound on his lawn mower and did not bring his gun with him (which is what he threatened he would do if authorities seized his dog), I tend to think he is not a serious threat to anyone.  I could be wrong – I’m not there, I’ve never met the man.

At any rate, clearly Mr. Fry was very disturbed about having his dog seized.  And he handled things badly from the outset.  You might be inclined to give Mr. Fry a pass or maybe not.  I would be interested to see if he might be amenable to using a tie-out or a pen for his dog’s outdoor time.  Perhaps you would agree that’s a worthwhile effort or maybe you just think Mr. Fry should be tossed in the slammer.  If the latter, you might work for the Hydro police department:

[Hydro police officer Chris] Chancellor said he saw Fry leaving the kennel with the dog, but didn’t stop him right away.

“He’d threatened to shoot us before, so I approached him with caution,” Chancellor said. “I was afraid he might have had a rifle with him.”

Once Fry stopped, Chancellor held him at gunpoint.

“He stood up and had the dog in one arm and dropped the 3-foot bolt cutters he had in the other hand,” Chancellor said.

Fry was arrested on complaints of second-degree burglary, trespassing and destruction of city property. Formal charges were not as stringent.


Fry spent several days in jail. His bail was set at $1,000 requiring a $100 deposit to a bondsman for release, but no one seemed willing to put up the money, Chancellor said.

So here’s the thing:  Maybe the police were justified in their actions and thought this 73 year old man driving a lawn mower with a Poodle under his arm presented a credible threat.  Or maybe they were just being jerks.  Regardless of what side of the fuzzy line you fall on here, there is a tangible tragedy:  While Mr. Fry was behind bars, they killed his dog.

This is not a dog that had been accused of biting anyone or suspected of having rabies or anything of the sort.  This is just a little Poodle who got picked up for roaming and literally busted out of the pokey by his owner.  One minute he’s riding on a lawn mower alongside his master, the next minute he’s being killed by an ACO.  His only crime was being owned by someone who allowed him to run loose and who happened to be a crotchety old man.  If authorities felt they had grounds to seize the dog and cause the owner to forfeit ownership, they should have proceeded with their case.  And then the dog could be adopted out to a new owner and given a chance to be a good canine citizen.

Authorities in this case held Mr. Fry accountable for failing to follow the rules and go through proper channels.  Yet at their soonest opportunity, they decide the rules don’t apply to them and kill a helpless dog out of spite.  Is anyone holding them accountable?

Thanks to reader Rachel for the tip on this story.

Action Alert: Abbeville Animal Shelter

Bringing up from the comments on this post, a call from Teresa Uzzell (the whistleblower who took evidence of abuse to the local news) to organize and take action with regard to the Abbeville Animal Shelter in SC:

Please to all who can help these animals in the (Hell-Hole) at this moment; if you can call me at 864-341-9869 / or e-mail me at teresav_remu@yahoo.com, I would like to meet this Tuesday in Abbeville in the middle of the square 12:00 noon. To openly discuss how to shut down the shelter. It does not need to be in a sewage area and the shelter itself is not properly fit to keep animals in. Also to get it opened up and get the animals out and placed to safety. As a team and a tax payer we can help these animals. If no one can do this; I do understand with working and time. I will still fight this until something is done somehow.

You can read Ms. Uzzell’s entire comment here.