The seaside town of Salisbury, MA is home to about 8300 people. The town contracts Harold Congdon to serve as ACO and to operate a dog pound. Mr. Congdon and his daughter, Tina Boucher, pick up stray and lost dogs in Salisbury and bring them to a junkyard owned by Mr. Congdon. The dogs are housed in an unheated metal box with fencing, except in winter. (The article doesn’t say what happens to the community’s dogs in winter.)
Owners wanting to reclaim their dogs must pay by cash or check made out to Mr. Congdon or Ms. Boucher. They charge owners about $95 a day and they personally pocket the money. One owner described to a local news reporter how Ms. Boucher came into her yard and cut the rope to which her dog was tied. She was told the exorbitant redemption fees were to cover the wages of the person paid to care for the dogs. When the owner was unable to pay the fees, the dog was “adopted by someone else”.
It’s not at all clear to me how any dog would get adopted from a private junkyard. I check PetFinder and while there is a contact page for the pound, there are zero pets listed for adoption. I found no other website listing pets at the pound. Although it is winter currently, the TV news crew was allowed to film the metal box and there clearly had been dogs in the cages recently.
Mr. Congdon and Ms. Boucher do not deny they are pocketing the money from the dog pound. Ms. Boucher told the reporter the money she receives goes toward buying food for the pound dogs. The reporter made some inquiries:
Money taken in by animal control officers is supposed to be recorded at town of city hall.
In Salisbury, the town provided records of fines collected by animal control, which had dropped steeply over the past three years. In 2010 there was $1,585 collected. The next year, $385 was collected, and last year just $175 dollars in fines was collected.
[…] Salisbury Town Manager Neil Harrington, who along with officials from the town’s health department didn’t return repeated calls from FOX Undercover looking for [additional dog pound] records.
Mr. Congdon too failed to produce records on the dogs he says he and his daughter have picked up as well as records of vet care.
Many local dog owners reported bad experiences with the ACOs and the pound but didn’t want to go on camera or have their names used in the story, for fear of retaliation by the ACOs against their pets:
“I can’t imagine that it’s costing them anything to care for those dogs because the food is donated, the dogs are getting no medical care, they’re not paying for heat,” she said.
The person also spoke with a volunteer who told her she was the only one caring for the dogs this past fall.
“What she told me was that the dogs were very poorly cared for prior to her coming in. Some days they were fed, some days they weren’t. They didn’t get out at all,” she said.
Mr. Congdon is running for a spot on the board of selectmen. He says if pets could vote, he would easily be elected.
This story has all the hallmarks of a corrupt town government. It appears as if the ACOs are personally profiting from people’s pets – in at least one case possibly even stealing them – and the municipality is happy to look the other way. I don’t know why the local officials would do that unless they are all animal haters who relish the thought of pets suffering or perhaps they are getting kickbacks in exchange for their silence. Whatever the reasons behind this gigantic fraud, it will no doubt continue until local taxpayers stand up and demand reform. I hope that happens.
(Thank you Clarice for the link.)