Discussion: Rescue Scam

Wherever there is charitable giving, there are charitable scams.  Some people fake cancer, others are more subtle and might simply mislead donors into believing their donations will be used for one thing when the organization actually uses it for something else.

Here’s one that troubles me:  a rescue group who issues online pleas for death row shelter pets without identifying the shelters where the individuals are housed.  Even if someone inquires about an animal in response to a plea, the shelter name and location won’t be revealed.  Instead, there is some sort of money funneling operation where the inquiry has to go through the group issuing the plea who, after receiving payment, then flips it to another rescue group who will also require payment.  I don’t understand all the details exactly but I wanted to open up the general topic for discussion.

Have you encountered any groups like this?  Do you know if any pets have ever been saved via this method?  Frankly, I’m starting to wonder if the photos in the e-mails are of real animals in real shelters.  Could there be some legitimate reason for keeping the location of the shelter pets secret?

Name That Animal

The only rule is:  no researching.  Just post your guess in the comments for fun.  Reading other people’s answers before posting your own is optional.  Answer will be posted in the comments later today.

Submitted by reader Susan – thank you!

Open Thread

Share animal related links, stories, updates, questions, etc.

Mama Dog with Dead Leg Denied Needed Vet Care by MAS

Dog ID #248891 with her 8 puppies at the Memphis pound.

This plea was forwarded to me this afternoon:

From: “tracy.dunlap@memphistn.gov” <tracy.dunlap@memphistn.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 10:06 AM
Subject: Aussie/pit mix in great need – 248891

Dr. Coleman has asked for an emergency rescue for this dog. She is a Aussie/Pit mix with 8 pups and is about 2 yrs. old. She is extremely sweet and loving. She came into the shelter on 11/27/12 as a stray with an injury. She is HW-, but her left rear leg is in need of an amputation. She apparently had a rubber band or something like that around her leg. It is necrotic and beginning to smell. I know it is very short notice but we need to have an answer today about this dog. If you can’t help mom, could you help the pups? Please let me know ASAP. Thank you in advance for all your help.

Tracy Dunlap

Sr. Animal Care Technician/Volunteer Coordinator

Memphis Animal Services

The apparently dog came in to MAS with an injured leg yesterday.  She appears to have a litter of newborn pups whom she is caring for.  Her leg is in such bad shape that the tissue is dead, it stinks and can not be saved.  MAS with its “cutting edge” vet clinic the city likes to brag about in its new $7.2 million facility isn’t helping her.  But if no member of the irresponsible public steps up by 5:00 to get the vet care MAS refuses to provide for mama, it sounds like they’ll kill her and her pups.  Alternatively, it sounds like they’ll kill mama and let someone bottle feed her pups if requested.

Last I heard, MAS was seeking AAHA accreditation for the vet clinic in an effort to reassure the public that pets were being cared for at the pound.  I hope people will make sure AAHA is aware of the pound’s refusal to treat this poor mama dog.  It’s not because the MAS vets don’t know how to amputate legs – they’ve done it before.  But that was then, I guess.  Now=mama dog with her leg rotting off, left in a cage with her 8 newborn pups, but only until 5 o’clock.  It’s starting to smell.

Monsters.  Fire them all.  This is not a shelter.  It is a pet slaughterhouse.

“I think we’re fighting a losing game.”

Harrison Co, WV recently hired a new AC director named Cheryl Shaw and a local paper ran a story about it:

In 2011, the center euthanized 2,399 out of 3,184 animals, or nearly 75 percent.

“To put that amount of animals down is crazy,” Shaw said.

The paper also printed comments on pet killing from county commissioner Ron Watson:

[W]hen the day comes for their number to be called, we have to do what we have to do,” he said. “It’s saddening to me … but what can we do?”

What can we do?  We can start by agreeing with Ms. Shaw that killing 3 out of 4 pets in the county shelter is crazy.  But it’s not enough to simply nod our heads and agree that we are all sad.  We need to ask and answer the question, Why is it crazy?

It seems that so many people who kill shelter pets, as well as those who enable the killing, are stuck in a narrow, outdated mindset.  They envision a conveyor belt of pets being fed into the pound as a result of the so-called irresponsible public failing to neuter their cats and dogs.  They see themselves as assembly line workers who are unable to keep up with the constant flow of animals.

There are too many. 

We don’t have enough workers or funds to take care of them all. 

We don’t have enough space to house them all. 

We have to kill them. 

We can only hope that someday the irresponsible public will become responsible and the conveyor belt will bring in fewer animals.

Until then, what can we do?  It’s crazy to be killing all these pets but what can we do?

Ms. Shaw appears to be on board with this philosophy and told the paper how she aims to slow down the conveyor belt:

To help decrease the number of euthanizations, Shaw said she is working with the local Humane Society to educate the public on the importance of spaying or neutering pets. She also is trying to reduce the amount of backyard breeding in the county.

Setting aside the fact that wagging a finger at the so-called irresponsible public while preaching spay-neuter has never ended the killing of shelter pets anywhere, ever, this still does not answer the question, Why is it crazy to kill so many shelter pets?

It’s crazy because shelter pets have the right to live.

It’s crazy because there are proven alternatives being used in open admission no kill shelters all over the country which are available to everyone.

It’s crazy because slowing down the conveyor belt is based upon the premise that the shelter director is failing to do his job.  A shelter director’s job is to keep up with the conveyor belt and shelter the pets in his care.  There will always be community pets in need, even if everyone in the country suddenly qualified for a Most Responsible Pet Owner award.  There will always be emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, unintended breedings, strays and yes, irresponsible pet owners representing a tiny minority of the pet owning public.  There will always be a need for shelters.

Remember this skit from I Love Lucy?

As Lucy realizes they are failing at their jobs, she tells Ethel, “I think we’re fighting a losing game.”

Shelter directors who manage to save only 1 out of every 4 pets in their care and base their plan for improvement on blaming the public for the killing of the other 3 are fighting a losing game.  Instead of viewing shelter staff as victims of an irresponsible pet owning public gone wild causing the conveyor belt to bring in 75% more pets than they are capable of saving, directors need to break out of this old-think.

Shelter pets have the right to live. 

Killing is not an option. 

What can we do?

Try embracing the pet owners in your community who represent the majority instead of demonizing them for the actions of the minority.  Put them to work on the assembly line.  Partner with them both inside and outside the shelter to save lives.  Return their loose pets to them before even bringing them to the shelter.  Bring your pets to high traffic areas so the public can fall in love with them.  Let people see, touch and spend time with every healthy/treatable pet in your shelter.  Ask them for money, ask them to foster, ask them to help you save lives.

The conveyor belt is never going to slow down to the point where saving a few animals is going to mean an end to the killing.  The conveyor belt is not the problem.  The problem is the needless killing of shelter pets while directors remain committed to fighting a losing battle and blaming the public.  There are many directors who have abandoned this old-think and in so doing, began saving more than 90% of their pets.  Their conveyor belts haven’t slowed down.  They simply stopped fighting a losing battle and started doing their jobs.

This same success is available to every shelter director in the country.  Today.  As a no kill advocate, you can help your local shelter director answer the question, Why is it crazy to kill so many pets?  You can help your director to understand there is something we can do.  Or if he refuses to accept your help, you can force him to start doing his job or get out of the way of lifesaving efforts through political advocacy.

The days of fighting a losing game and blaming the public for the failure of shelter directors to shelter pets are coming to an end.  The time for action is now.  Join us.

(Thank you Vicki for the link.)

Op-Ed in OH Paper Misses the Mark

In an op-ed piece entitled “Last Resort”, the Columbus Dispatch offers:

Hands down, the worst job in any dog shelter doesn’t involve a scoop and a bag; it requires a needle, or a gas chamber.

Killing shelter pets is a worse job than scooping poo.  This is not a valid comparison and worse – it attempts to group diametrically opposed actions into the same category.  While keeping cages clean is necessary for hygiene and humane care, killing healthy/treatable shelter pets is not only unnecessary, it’s unethical.  Clean cages are an integral part of any animal shelter, killing is the opposite of why shelters exist.

“We hate putting dogs to sleep down here. We hate it, we hate it, we hate it,” Bill Click, the dog warden of Lawrence County, told The Dispatch.

Lawrence Co killed 81% of the dogs in its care last year according to The Dispatch.  This is a travesty and to my mind should be a crime.  But the dog warden says they “hate it” so I guess that’s supposed to demonstrate that some shred of humanity resides within those doing the killing.  If they hate it so much why don’t they stop doing it?  Especially since there are proven methods for saving every healthy/treatable pet being used by dozens of open admission shelters all over the U.S.

The real villains behind high euthanasia rates are irresponsible owners who fail to spay or neuter their pets.

So I’ve heard.  And judging from the comments of those who kill shelter pets for a living as well as those who enable the killing (such as the editorial board of the Columbus Dispatch), all these irresponsible owners are concentrated in communities where the public shelters kill animals.

It’s weird because common sense tells me there must be irresponsible owners everywhere, even in the many no kill communities throughout the country.  But I never hear no kill leaders in these communities decrying the horrible locals who make their lives hell.  On the contrary, I so often hear no kill shelter directors praising the public, reaching out to them for donations and other assistance – and receiving it.

Do communities where the shelters save every healthy/treatable pet have irresponsible owners who fail to neuter their pets?  Of course they must.  But just as there are a comparatively small number of irresponsible drivers and  irresponsible parents among those populations in society, irresponsible pet owners represent a tiny minority.  Most pet owners try to do right by their pets and don’t want to see shelter pets hurt.  No kill community leaders recognize that and put it to use in their lifesaving efforts.

Any shelter where more than 8 out of every 10 dogs who come in the front door wind up in the dumpster is not relying on killing as a “last resort”, as the op-ed’s title suggests, but rather Plan A.  Standard Operating Procedure.  The Number One Priority.  In Lawrence Co, and in too many other municipal shelters, the method of population control is killing and live release is in fact the last resort.  And that is not the public’s fault.

(Thank you Jan for the link.)

The Difference Between Being a Friend of the Pound and a Friend of the Pets

Screengrab from the Fulton Co pound’s pet listings on PetHarbor.com (click to enlarge).

I always like to share examples of anyone who has been involved with a shelter, suspected wrongdoing, and documented her concerns.  Tonya Barker and Barbara Koblinsky spring to mind as good examples.  And here is the work of Robby Caban, a former intern at Fulton Co Animal Services in GA.  She collected evidence of possible crimes and ethical violations such as theft of public services, neglect, oops-killings, theft of supplies and missing shelter pets and spotlighted her concerns in two videos posted to YouTube.  Everyone at a shelter who wonders what sort of evidence needs to be collected when wrongdoing is suspected but management fails to act should watch these videos.

Ms. Caban then took her documents to the media and the CBS affiliate in Atlanta ran a story on the Fulton Co pound:

[Robby Caban] took photographs of animals living in cages with feces and urine for several hours, as well as dirty food and water and in some cases no water at all.

“We would see animals throw up and because people weren’t walking through the kennel monitoring them, other animals would eat the throw up,” Caban said.


Caban met with the District Attorney’s Office to report her findings on Friday.

This is what every so-called “Friend” of every shelter where abuse is occurring should do.  Instead, we too often see “Friends” of these shelters enabling the abuse and needless killing by whitewashing the crimes or worse, covering them up.  I hope Ms. Caban’s actions help to bring meaningful reform to the Fulton Co pound.

Bernalillo Co Stray Pets Left in the Cold in Matthew Pepper’s Building

Bernalillo County Animal Control, headed by Matthew Pepper, has an agreement with the city of Albuquerque to house stray pets:

The contract allows the County to drop off animals it collects at one of the two city shelters on any day of the week.

Upon intake, the city photographs the pet, creates a record for him, scans for a microchip, vaccinates and treats any veterinary needs.  The director says they would never deny a space to a pet from the county for any reason.

But the county is housing some stray pets at its administrative building – an old fire station.  Some dogs are being kept in outdoor pens with no protection from the elements and others are being housed in what appear to be unheated fire truck bays in small wire crates with wood shavings.  A local TV news crew visited the administrative building after receiving photos of the dogs living there:

[…] 4 On Your Side obtained photographs of dogs inside the county office building that showed obvious signs of medical distress. One photo showed a newborn puppy with several scratches on its face. Another showed a lactating female dog that had either just given birth to a litter or was soon about to.

The reporter states the newborn puppy died.

In an interview, Pepper stated he couldn’t remember those two animals being there, but stated there had been turnover among his staff and any issues in the past are now corrected.

Feeling reassured?  Me neither.  He can’t remember a tiny puppy who died in his building or a mama dog who needed vet care but it’s all good.

“The only reasons animals would come here would be for a couple of reasons,” Pepper said. “It would be if we had a likely owner for an animal or if we have a rescue partner willing to place an animal in a permanent home.”

How can any county animals be placed with anyone without being vaccinated, seen by a vet, posted online and held for a period so the owner, if any, can reclaim?  Are there even records of the animals being kept at this administrative facility?  The guy in charge doesn’t seem to remember at least 2 of the recent animals – does he know what happened to any of them?  How does an owner find a lost Bernalillo Co pet who is not at the shelter, not listed online, and may not be remembered by anyone?  This makes no sense to me.  On top of which, I imagine Bernalillo Co ACOs would issue a citation to anyone found housing unvaccinated dogs they do not own in sub-standard conditions.  But I guess, you know – turnover and stuff.  Everything’s fine.

Police Shoot Dog Restrained on a Chokepole

An ACO and 2 police officers responded to a loose dog complaint in Commerce City, CO on Saturday.  The caller, Kenny Collins, did not report that the dog was aggressive, simply that she was running loose in the street:

“He never came at me in an aggressive manner,” Collins said.

He said he never feared the dog, but just wanted animal control to pick it up since it was loose.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Collins, the dog, called Chloe, was being cared for by a neighbor who left her in the garage while she went out shopping.  Chloe apparently triggered the sensor on the garage door opener and escaped.  When the ACO and police arrived, Chloe ran back inside the garage, apparently trying to get away from the strangers.  Police officers tazed 3 year old Chloe multiple times and shot at her once and eventually Chloe attempted to leave the garage.  As she walked out of the garage, the ACO caught her in a chokepole.  While the ACO held Chloe in the metal noose on the steel pole, a police officer shot the dog 4 times, killing her.

Mr. Collins’ son filmed the killing on his cell phone.  I have not watched the video but a local news reporter asked Alicia Hall, an animal behavior technician with the Dumb Friends League, to view and comment on it:

“The animal could still potentially be a danger, but if the catch pole is being used appropriately, the animal should be restrained safely. As far as I can see from the video, it looks like the dog actually walked right into the catch pole as it was coming out of the garage and was safely restrained,” Hall said.

Commerce City Police Detective Mike Saunders has a different opinion:

“Yes, the dog was on the catch pole. But, it was the officer’s concern that the animal control agent wasn’t able to maintain control of the animal and the fear was that the animal was going to come off the catch pole and attack the officers or get loose and run back into the neighborhood putting citizens in danger,” Saunders said.

The male officer apparently thought the female ACO was incapable of doing her job and restraining a non-aggressive dog whose neck was in a metal noose on the end of a steel pole while walking from the garage to the ACO truck.  He was concerned citizens might be in danger.  It seems to me that citizens were not in danger until police arrived and began firing in a neighborhood with children present.  One stray bullet hit the AC vehicle.

As usual, police will police themselves on the matter:

Saunders says Commerce City police are now reviewing the video.

“We need time to look at the video. We need time to look over the officer’s report. And we need time to speak to the officer before we can comment,” Saunders said.

Saunders said if there is any wrongdoing, the department will say so.

If you choose to watch the video at the link, please share your impressions.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Treats on the Internets


The executive director of Spay Neuter Charlotte has a letter in the Charlotte Observer today advocating for a no kill community.  (Thank you Lisa for the link.)

On Thanksgiving night, firefighters were called to the scene of a brush fire in Cheatham Co, TN where they found 65 chained dogs without food or water and in need of vet care.  The dogs – reportedly pitbulls and beagles – are suspected to have been kept for dogfighting and have been seized by county AC.

A PA rescue group claims the city of Harrisburg is not responding to complaints of neglected dogs.

Arlington, TX is training its police officers on dog behavior and non-lethal ways to handle dangerous dogs.  One city down, thousands more to go.  (Thanks Arlene for the link.)

Brought up from the comments:  Michigan Companion Animal Organization Best Practices Handbook.  I don’t agree with everything in the handbook, nor have I read it in its entirety, but it looks like there is some good info in there.  We need more reference materials like this for rescuers and pet advocates.


In the Turkish city of Istanbul, the government wants to round up stray dogs and take them to some sort of sanctuary where they will be protected and made available for adoption.  Many residents are deeply opposed to the plan, believing the stray dogs have a right to live freely in the community.  (Thank you Valerie for the link.)

An animal sanctuary in Colombia takes in lions, tigers, jaguars and various other wild animals seized from drug kingpins, death squad commanders, smugglers and other criminals.

Coffee that costs more than $200 a pound is made from the feces of civets who are kept caged and fed coffee berries in Indonesia.