Updated: Justice for Kapone and Max Eroding

Demetria Hogan, the former Memphis ACO who uh, “lost” Kapone and then attempted to evade police while a dog named Max suffered and died in her truck, went before a judge today and got her charges reduced:

A judge has decided former Memphis Animal Services employee Demetria Hogan will now only face one count of animal cruelty.

Way to set an example Memphis.

UpdateAnother news source describes 2 of the 3 charges as “dismissed for now”:

One count of animal cruelty against a former Memphis Animal Services officer was bound over to a grand jury today, while two other counts were dismissed.

Demetria Hogan faces the misdemeanor charge in a high-profile case involving a pit bull named Kapone that disappeared while in her care last summer and became the object of a citywide search.

[…]

State prosecutor Bryan Davis said “an essential witness” was missing today in that case, but that both dismissed cases still will be presented to the grand jury along with the Kapone case.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Beagle Tragedy in NC

A person passing by a home in Pitt County, NC spotted a dozen dead Beagles and alerted authorities.  The owner, Joseph Nicholson, reportedly had 12 Beagles in a metal dog box without water in the back of his truck.  He took them out hunting and when he returned, all 12 were dead.  He has been charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty.

There is a video at the link which shows the box Mr. Nicholson says he has used to carry the dogs for many years without incident.  The video also shows images of some of his other Beagles, who look to me to be the big kind of Beagles.  For the life of me, I can not figure out how he managed to stuff 12 big Beagles into this box which appears to me to offer adequate space for 2 dogs.

The box does have ventilation but if that box had 12 big Beagles in it, the vents would be akin to holes poked in the top of a sardine can.  If you view the video and see something I’m missing, please share.  I truly can not get my mind around how 12 big Beagles could have been put into that box even once, never mind a routine practice that had been going on for years.

I’m just one person. What can I do?

Jeremiah Robertson did one thing.  He saw cruelty at the McCracken Co Humane Society where he worked and he reported it.  When his supervisors ignored him, he documented the cruelty and took his evidence to the sheriff’s office.

As a result of his efforts, the certified euthanasia technician who allegedly violated KY state law by heartsticking some 8000 fully conscious pets is now facing criminal charges.  And the director – who ignored Mr. Robertson’s pleas for the shelter’s pets and who banned cell phones within the pound after learning Mr. Robertson had obtained his evidence via his cell phone – is quitting.  Director Shirley Grimes released a statement which reads, in part:

I wish to announce publicly my intention to resign as the Director of the McCracken County Humane Society effective at the next Humane Society board meeting which will be held in early December . I have been the director for 34 years and have poured my heart and soul into caring for these animals.  I realize it is my time to step aside and allow new leadership and ideas into the way the humane society is operated.

In addition, the county ACOs will no longer take pets to the McCracken Co HS:

After hearing the results of the Sheriff’s Department investigation Wednesday, the county sprang into action.

[…]

Animal control officers will no longer drop off animals at the McCracken County Humane Society.

The county is temporarily housing pets at the Road Department and planning to open its own shelter in the next couple of weeks.

Mr. Robertson is utilizing his federal protections as a whistleblower in order to speak to the media:

He said shelter director Shirley Grimes knew what was going on because she is the treasurer and in charge of the money.

“She knew that these medicines weren’t being bought,” he said of sedation medicine to put animals down humanely.

Investigators said that medication would have cost $1,000 a year.

Robertson said there is nothing humane about what happens at the McCracken County Humane Society. But he is staying, hoping he can make things better.

[…]

He said he does not regret his actions.

Regret?  Aw hell no!  Mr. Robertson, you are a hero.  If not for your actions, the pets at the McCracken Co HS would still be suffering unspeakably cruel deaths.  Thank you for speaking up and for not taking “no” for an answer.  I wish you all the best in your efforts to turn things around at your shelter.  May I suggest a proven model for success?  Please let us know if we can help you.

 

Photo Call

I’d like to put together a post for Christmas celebrating the human-animal bond in pictures.  If you would like to submit a photo for inclusion, please keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Photo should feature at least one pet and one human in keeping with the human-animal bond theme.
  • Please include a brief caption identifying the pets, people, and what area you are from.  Your caption can be specific (e.g. “Shirley and shelter pet Fluffy in South Carolina”) or vague (“Neighborhood kids with our Pitbull in New England”).  If you prefer to remain anonymous, please indicate that.
  • Photo should have no copyright issues – that is, the photo should be taken by you, a family member or someone who isn’t expecting payment for the use of the photo.
  • Please e-mail photos to me no later than December 20, 2011.

I hope lots of readers will consider participating.

Audio and Video Links

If you missed today’s Animal Wise Radio broadcast, you can listen here.

Take a tour of the Nevada Humane Society in Washoe Co where they work hard to save more than 90% of their pets.

Mental Health Break: Photo

Reader Joel has a new addition to the family:  baby Juliet.  She is pictured below with her nanny dog, Dumpy.

Memphis News Roundup

It is mind boggling to me that MAS is closed every Sunday, leaving only one weekend day – the busiest time for adoptions – for the public to access the pound.  Yesterday (Saturday), the gates at MAS were locked.  No signs were visible explaining the closure.  No advance announcements had been made to the public.  Callers were placed on hold and never helped.  Dozens of adopters, foster owners and other visitors to MAS were forced to yell through the locked gates to workers in the parking lot for answers.  They received none.  This was the first Saturday at the new location and the first since the scathing report of the rotary club was published.  The city’s reaction?  Hide.

Meanwhile yesterday, local advocates marched in a protest led by SOS Memphis.

ABC24 ran a segment explaining that the previous shelter advisory board had been bringing the same concerns as those found in the recent rotary club audit to the city for years.  They were ignored.

An editorial in the local paper offered:

And although the establishment of a no-kill policy at the Memphis Animal Shelter presents a huge challenge, a commitment to work toward that goal would help the administration of Mayor A C Wharton enhance its credibility on the issue.

That means better transparency, better enforcement of existing ordinances, a more aggressive spay-neuter program, more volunteer recruitment, more foster care, more adoptions, more encouragement for people who want to give up their animals to keep them instead, more socialization of abandoned animals — a series of steps that would show Memphis is committed to a humane approach.

Sounds reasonable to me.  Will city leaders in Memphis finally say “enough is enough” and demand an end to the ongoing travesty that is MAS?

 

Evidence of Abuse at McCracken Co Pound

WarningThe video linked below may be too disturbing for sensitive viewers.  It shows both dead dogs and cats, as well as living cats, in a filthy kill room at the McCracken Co Humane Society.  There are no images of pets actually being killed.

This week, we learned of allegations of abuse at the McCracken Co HS in KY – specifically that a certified euthanasia technician had killed 4000 fully conscious pets via heartstick.  A new report puts that number at 8000.

The investigation and pending charges against the euthanasia tech are due to the advocacy of one compassionate person – employee Jeremiah Robertson.  Mr. Robertson saw the wrongdoing at the pound and talked to his supervisors.  They did nothing.  So he spent weeks recording video and audio in the kill room at the pound on his cell phone.  He then took those recordings to the county sheriff’s office.  A local news station viewed and listened to some of the recordings:

The video shows dying dogs, lying in pools of their own blood. A cat roams loose as the dogs draw their last breath.

Video of the same room on a different day shows that cats died together in a pile. The employee who shot this video said it’s not uncommon for dead animals to be left for days and often in the same room with uncaged, live animals.

And as if the video isn’t disturbing enough, there’s the audio, captured during euthanasia. From the recording, it’s obvious the animals are in pain.

“They bled. They yelped. I’ve seen them bleed from the mouths where he missed the heart and got the lung,” Robertson said. “Its pretty rough.”

I am including the video link in this post because I feel it’s important to get this evidence out there.  The brave employee who exposed this abuse did so at a risk and his efforts must not be in vain.  The abuse and needless killing of pets in our country’s so-called animal shelters is a crime kept mostly under a cloak of darkness by a culture of conspiracy among those in power.  When advocates take non-violent action such as Mr. Robertson did, we chip away at that power.  With enough chips, those opposed to reform will eventually crumble.  Power to the people – the real humane society in our country who doesn’t want to see shelter pets abused and needlessly killed.

This is a local “humane society” in KY.  You might think this is nothing at all like what goes on in the kill room of your local municipal facility.  You may be right.  Or you may be wrong.  Unless compassionate advocates take non-violent action to expose wrongdoings wherever they exist, we don’t know for certain.  One thing we do know – this is not an isolated occurrence.  Notice how those in power seek to maintain the status quo and avoid responsibility, even in the face of undeniable cruelty:

Robertson said after he released the video to authorities, the McCracken County Humane Society Director Shirley Grimes created a new rule: no cell phones while at work.

We reached out to Grimes to get her response to all this. She had no comment.

The McCracken County Attorney told Local 6 while the director may have an ethical obligation to make sure things like this don’t happen, legally, the responsibilty falls on the certified animal euthanasia specialist.

Again, I want to warn readers that this video shows images of dead pets and may be too disturbing for some.  The purpose of viewing and sharing this video is not to simply gawk at the brutality but to expose an institution of cruelty too common in our shelter system.  And to remember that, like the millions of other pets needlessly killed in our shelters every year, the pets in this video deserved to live.  They are all loved.  They are not forgotten.  Remembering them motivates me to continue working for change.  They deserve nothing less.

Link to video:  http://www.wpsdlocal6.com/home/related/Undercover-video-of-McCracken-County-Humane-Society-134160873.html

Pet Abuse and Killing Trickles Down in Memphis

The Memphis Rotary Club’s audit of Memphis Animal Services ends its summary findings as follows:

The last point is one that is not a problem within the Shelter, but one that impacts it directly, and will continue to cause major obstacles. This is the overriding, community wide issue of Pit Bulls, Dog Fighting, and the attitude that animals are disposable. Until this is addressed, the Shelter will continue to be overloaded, and not logistically capable of approaching any semblance of a no-kill facility.

I could not disagree more.  While I have no doubt that there are some members of the community who view animals as disposable, this is clearly not the “overriding” attitude of Memphians as a whole and, just as clearly, it is a problem within MAS.  If the overwhelming majority of Memphians viewed pets as disposable, why would the community demand justice for the dogs starved to death at MAS in 2009?  Why would so many people show up to speak for the pets at MAS during shelter advisory board meetings (before they were closed to the public)?  Why would local rescuers work so hard to save the neediest dog in the pound while the city fought them at every step?  Obviously there are many caring citizens in Memphis and the city would do well to quit alienating them.  After all, it is the local residents who will make Memphis a no kill community and the city will never be able to do it without them.

As far as these issues not being a problem within MAS, I refer straight back to the rotary club’s own report which details a culture of abuse, cover-ups and failure at the facility.  The city pound is supposed to lead by example.  The best way to change the community’s attitude about dogfighting is for the city pound to stop selling dogs for fighting out the back door.  The best way to change the community’s attitude about pets as disposable commodities is for the city pound to stop literally disposing of pets.  MAS hides the vast majority of its Pitbulls and other strays behind locked doors.  They even removed the webcams which were the public’s only view of the stray areas at the pound.  Behind the iron curtain, MAS mistreats and needlessly kills thousands of Pitbulls and other pets every year.  This is the “service” taxpayers are paying for with their hard-earned money.

And now, taxpayers just bought a new $7.2 million building for the pound which does not allow for the promised standard, humane cleaning practices nor does it house significantly more pets.  City leaders take no responsibility for this epic failure and instead demand that the new pound start generating revenue.  The same staff responsible for the abuse and needless killing at the old building is in place at the new one.  It would be illogical to assume meaningful reform would take place at this new building while the old practices and staffers remain, especially given that the only public accountability – the webcams – have been removed.

If Memphis is to end the abuse and killing at the pound, MAS must take the initiative and lead by example.  Volunteers who bully anyone working to reform the status quo must be removed.  Staff members who sell drugs and/or dogs out the back door must be fired and prosecuted.  The doors to the stray area must be unlocked so that the public can see and touch the dogs.  The webcams must be turned back on so that the mayor’s promise of transparency is upheld.  City leaders must stand up and take responsibility for letting this ugly thing stay in the ditch all these years and resolve to get it out.  And above all, the pound must stop the killing.  Pets are not disposable and the city can not hope to influence the community’s attitude toward animals in any positive manner until it stops putting pets into the dumpster.

A puppy is dragged to the kill room on November 4, 2011 at MAS.

A beautiful Pitbull, never offered for adoption by MAS, is taken to the kill room.

And another...

I'm sorry. You deserved so much better.

You are loved. You are not forgotten.

Memphis, please – stop the killing.

Radio Alert

On Sunday, November 20, I will be on Animal Wise Radio starting at 2:20pm Eastern for about a half-hour.  Tune in if you can!

Animal Wise Radio can be heard live in the Mpls/St. Paul metro area on KYCR (AM1570), and KDWA (AM 1460)  also streaming at www.KYCR.com.)     Animal Wise Radio is also available nationally and internationally, broadcast to any mobile internet device via LIVE 365, a 24/7 Radio Network.  Find the live stream  and podcasts at www.animalwiseradio.com.