Seagoville, TX is Your Town, U.S.A.

The Seagoville Animal Shelter is a small shelter in rural Texas.  It takes in about 1300 pets a year.  In December 2010, Sgt. Karl Bailey of the Seagoville Police Department was tapped by the police chief to take over the shelter because he loves dogs.  At that time, the shelter was killing about 70 pets a month.

Sgt. Bailey had no experience running an animal shelter and little time to make preparations.  But he knew he wasn’t going to have pets killed at any shelter where he was in charge.  As such, he began reaching out to anyone who could help him save lives at the shelter including rescuers, local humane societies, veterinarians and members of the public.  He set up a Facebook page, updated the city’s webpage for the shelter and placed an ad in the local paper asking for help saving pets’ lives.  And he met with city leaders to explain his plans and ask for their support, which they gave.

His first day on the job, Sgt. Bailey ordered needless killing be stopped at the shelter and shut down the gas chamber.  He went on to start and expand a volunteer program, start a foster program, conduct offsite adoptions in high traffic areas, open the shelter on weekends when more people were free to visit, and list pets on the city’s website as well as Facebook, television and in the newspaper.

He credits the public for stepping up to volunteer and in fact, the public is who the shelter appeals to when they need help reducing the population or with donations.  Under Sgt. Bailey’s leadership, the community saved 98% of the pets at the Seagoville shelter in 2011.

Sure Seagoville is small.  And it’s in rural Texas.  And there are probably a dozen more reasons other cities can come up with to explain why they can’t do what Seagoville does and why they “have to” keep killing pets.  But the fundamental elements of Seagoville’s success are applicable to any shelter, anywhere in the U.S.  A compassionate director committed to saving pet’s lives and instituting meaningful reform, supported by city leaders and the local community, can succeed everywhere.


Open Thread

Lots of people e-mail me various bits of information.  I can’t post about them all but it doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of sharing.  Please use the open threads to share links, pets in need, updates, stories, questions and any animal related chit chat.

NYT Goes In-Depth on Horse Racing

Warning: Photo of dead racehorse at link

The title of the article helps prepare the reader for the misery that follows: Death and disarray at America’s racetracks – Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys

On average, 24 horses die each week at racetracks across America. Many are inexpensive horses racing with little regulatory protection in pursuit of bigger and bigger prizes. These deaths often go unexamined, the bodies shipped to rendering plants and landfills rather than to pathologists who might have discovered why the horses broke down.


Why racehorses break down at such a high rate has been debated for years, but the discussion inevitably comes back to drugs.

Laboratories cannot yet detect the newest performance-enhancing drugs, while trainers experiment with anything that might give them an edge, including chemicals that bulk up pigs and cattle before slaughter, cobra venom, Viagra, blood doping agents, stimulants and cancer drugs.

Illegal doping, racing officials say, often occurs on private farms before horses are shipped to the track. Few states can legally test horses there.

The piece states that in England, horses are not allowed to race while receiving any type of drug and that the country’s breakdown rate is half that of the United States.  While it’s likely too simplistic a solution to address a comprehensive problem, I can’t help thinking it would be a good, common sense place to start in this country.  If a horse in in pain from an injury or otherwise in need of medication, he should be treated appropriately and not raced until such time as he is completely recovered.  I can’t see any drawbacks to the rule itself, although enforcement might be daunting to implement across the board.

The Times does a good job putting pain and suffering – of both horses and humans – front and center.  After a family outing to a racetrack where her two grandchildren saw a horse’s leg bone snap, puncturing the skin, before he was euthanized on the track, Laura Alvarado wrote a letter to the editor of her local paper:

She said she sent copies of the letter to the mayor, the track, its chief veterinarian, the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Ms. Alvarado expected a response.

She never got one, she said.

I would posit that the mayor, the track, its vet, HSUS and the ASPCA were of one mind when it came to ignoring Ms. Alvarado’s letter:  There is no money to be made in forcing the horse racing industry to clean up and become accountable.

Foster Pet of the Day: Ruby in TN

Ruby has a 50% tail to wag and 100% love to give.

Ruby is being fostered in the Memphis area. Her foster mom Lori reports that sweet Ruby has been vet checked and is estimated to be 3 – 4 years old. Ruby was found wandering and at some point in her adventures, donated half her tail to Doggie Escapades Which Shall Remain Unknown. The thing that touched me about Ruby was that Lori said when she lets her dogs inside, Ruby goes right to her crate, as if she knows she’s not home. Please share Ruby so hopefully she can find a place where she knows she’s home.

Contact foster owner Lori at


Evidence of Neglect at MAS

Reader Casey is helping with the viewing of the MAS security camera footage from February 7.  She watched 12 hours worth of footage from the camera in the video below and reports that the cats in this room were never fed or watered, their cages were never cleaned and no one checked to see if they were alive from 7am to 7pm.  Oh and they were kept in the dark.  She edited together this clip to show a sampling of the neglect over the 12 hour period. 

Who was responsible for caring for these cats on February 7?  Who signed off that they had been fed, watered and cleaned?  What vet signed off that these cats had been visited during routine daily rounds?  Fire. Them. All.

New Sign Publicly Declares Shelter Failing to Do Its Job

This photo of a new sign at Arlington Animal Services in Texas appeared on Facebook:

Facebook commenters appeared to be grateful for the sign, even thanking the pound for putting it up.  The idea being that the sign might discourage some people from surrendering their pets.

First off, I’m not thanking any pound for putting up a sign that announces they kill animals.  I’ll thank them when they stop killing animals.  Secondly, why would we want to discourage people from surrendering their pets when they are unable or unwilling to properly care for them?  Taking care of pets in need is what animal shelters are for.  It’s what we want people who can no longer care for their pets to do.  If this sign deters someone from surrendering a pet, are the circumstances that lead to the shelter visit suddenly going to change?  Will the terminally ill owner become healthy again?  Will the evicted family be allowed back into their home?  And if it’s a case where the surrendering party is truly irresponsible and uncaring – and I don’t believe that most owners are – will they transform into a responsible and compassionate owner after seeing the sign?

Something will happen to the pets who were going to be surrendered to the shelter but whose owners changed their minds after seeing the sign.  We don’t know what that will be.  But it’s hardly something to celebrate.

In addition to deterring potential surrendering parties, I have little doubt this sign will also deter potential volunteers and adopters.  The majority of Americans believe killing shelter pets is wrong.  They don’t want to go into a place and pet, talk to and love on animals they know may be killed after they leave.  Who would?  It’s heartbreaking.

Instead of hoping to drive people away from our public shelters, how about we demand our shelters do their jobs and protect the community’s pets from harm until they can be rehomed?  I’ll chip in for that sign.

MAS: A House of Cards

You can not send out a memo or announce at a staff meeting, “I simply will not tolerate a lack of compassion from anyone any longer.”  It doesn’t work that way.  For people to feel empathy and sympathy for other living beings, they have to actually have those feelings within themselves.  It’s not a hard hat you can begrudgingly don to meet a safety standard.  It’s not a test you can fail and retake over and over until you score the desired grade.  It’s not a oh-shoot-the-boss-is-coming-everybody-feel-empathy type of thing.  No amount of foot-putting-down will instill this virtue into those who lack it.

Sure, you might be able to force someone into giving the appearance of humane treatment to pets when they know they are being watched.  But that is not compassion.  That is merely a sham, a show for the cameras, if you will.  A person who does that will have no commitment to lifesaving nor will they show mercy any time they believe they can get away with it.  Still, it may be good enough for some.  It’s not where I would set the bar if I was running an animal shelter but perhaps meaningless facades are your thing.

But here is where we come to a fork in the road.  There are some animal shelter workers who lack compassion but can possibly be forced into treating pets humanely when directly supervised in order to keep their jobs.  And then there are animal abusers.

Animal abusers prey upon voiceless victims and get a thrill out of hurting them.  They will do more work than is necessary in order to hurt animals.  They will go out of their way for the opportunity to inflict pain and suffering upon them.  They are evil incarnate and to knowingly keep them on staff at a shelter is unethical. Moreover, putting forth the notion that animal abusers can be retrained to show kindness to sentient beings – whom they view as potential victims – is playing with fire.

There will never be meaningful reform at MAS until every animal abuser is removed.  And until that day, pets will continue to suffer.  Those enabling the abusers share equally in the blame.  No one at MAS can ever say again, “I never saw any abuse” or “I don’t work in that area where the abuse occurs” or “Pet advocates take things out of context and exaggerate”.  It’s public information, available for all to see.  It’s been seen by those with the ability to do something about it but no action has been taken.  There will apparently be no justice for the pets abused on the security camera footage.  And it’s supposed to all be ok because now there’s been a class to teach the professional animal handlers about how to use a goddamn leash.

Sorry, no sale.


Sick Dog with Hole in Leg Needs Saving from Memphis Pound

This dog’s cage card indicates he’s been at MAS since March 12. It does not indicate if he has received any veterinary treatment for what appears to be possibly a burst abscess on his rear leg or his cough.  There is no way of knowing if his cough is the result of heartworms, a virus or of being slung like a bag of garbage by a metal noose around his neck. He does not look well in this brief clip. I don’t know who qualified him to be housed in “healthy hold” – a vet? One of the animal abusers MAS employs?  The guy who loads up the 8 bins of dead pets every day?

I have no information on what MAS plans to do with this dog but he is coughing, has a leg in need of vet care, looks somewhat similar to a Pitbull, and his mandatory hold period has expired.  MAS has demonstrated repeatedly that any one of these “reasons” is enough to kill.  Let’s be frank, a pound doesn’t rack up a body count like MAS’ without being extremely liberal with its killing excuses.  I fear this dog will be targeted for killing in short order.

If anyone is able to foster this dog or is interested in adopting, please contact MAS at (901) 636-1416 or leave a comment here. I will help.

Thank you Ona for filming this dog.

Color Me Skeptical

As interim director James Rogers promised, the staff at MAS will be getting some training today from a representative of the HS of Memphis and Shelby Co.  The animal shelter professionals, who earn a pretty good wage courtesy of taxpayers, will be learning advanced animal handling techniques such as instead of hanging a puppy by a metal noose, try putting a towel over him.

So I guess after today, everyone there will have learned to be compassionate.  Yay.

Ho, Hum, Time to Punch My Time Card

Memphis Mayor AC Wharton has announced the creation of a whistleblower hotline in an effort to root out corruption in the city workforce:

The new hotline is primarily meant for city employees to anonymously “blow the whistle” on ethical or criminal concerns. A phone number and web-based application will be available to the public as well.


Wharton talked about recent issues in several divisions, including animal services. He said he believes most city employees work above board.

I got your above board right here, Mayor:

If these sadists actually snapped a dog’s head off with one of these metal nooses and it rolled underneath the feet of another worker passing by, would they notice then?

Somehow I don’t think the new hotline will be getting many calls from workers at MAS.  But it’s all good because they’re being “retrained”.

(Thank you to reader Casey for sending in these clips from the February 7 security camera footage at MAS.)