Iredell Co Pound Director Under Investigation

Chris Royal, director of the Iredell Co pet gassing facility in NC, is being investigated by the county after an anonymous letter alleging wrongdoing was received by county officials.  The reportedly detailed letter “accuses someone in animal control of seizing livestock and selling the animals”.  Ms. Royal is the only AC employee currently on paid leave pending an investigation.

An investigator said Royal euthanized animals she should not have and sold animals for personal benefit.

[…]

The county manager is not sure how long the investigation will take. He said when it is over he will present the finds [sic] to commissioners, but he will decide if Royal stays on the job.

Is that the best way to restore confidence to taxpayers – keeping it all in-house and leaving the outcome up to a single person?

At least one area pet owner is not surprised at the allegations.  She told the local news that her dog got into a neighbor’s crawlspace and got a piece of wood stuck on his head.  The dog apparently panicked when anyone tried to help him, as one might expect.  Iredell Co AC arrived on the scene and when they came out, the neighbor saw them carrying a limp dog body.  He took photos and showed them to the reporter:

“They said they had darted him, and that he was taken in and that the owner knew,” Alan Greenlief said. “And I said, ‘He looks like he’s dead.'”

In fact, the dog was dead.  The owner “said Director Chris Royal called her and told her that her dog was dead, but it may have died because of poor health.”

Oh dear.  What a silly dog to have been in poor health and then got his head stuck in a bit of wood and then to wait until AC arrived to keel over.  But they “darted him”.  It all sounds above board to me DOT DOT DOT

The owner added, “They haven’t been back.”  Yeah.  They are probably wary of more dogs in poor health exercising bad timing.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

Caldwell Co: Fail, Six Ways from Sunday

In the face of feline disease outbreak in a shelter, when is it appropriate to kill every exposed cat in the place?  How about never?  Does never work for you?  It works for me.

The Caldwell Co pound in NC had several cats die.  Preliminary testing on two of them indicated Calicivirus.  Then the story gets weird:

More samples were sent off for extensive tests and those results are not back yet. The virus is usually passed though the air from cat to cat, said Veterinarian Dr. John Thuss. “It normally is just a moderate illness, sort of like the flu in humans,” he said.
Thuss thinks there could be other factors involved in this case but cannot be sure until all the test results are back.

The Koret Shelter Medicine Program has an information sheet on Calicivirus:

Feline calicivirus is shed primarily in saliva and oculonasal discharge, but can be found in all body secretions during acute disease. Although FCV can be spread by droplets sneezed out to a distance of ~ 4 feet, true aerosol transmission of FCV is unlikely.

If Dr. Thuss believed the disease that was killing cats at the pound was transmitted by air, it wasn’t Calicivirus.  This underscores the need for the additional test results.  One area where Koret and Dr. Thuss are in sync is the potential involvement of other factors.  Again from the Koret information sheet:

The obvious first step in deciding whether outbreak control measures are necessary is to definitely diagnose FCV and rule out other common causes of the observed signs, such as feline panleukopenia. Even if FCV is a contributing factor, the outbreak can often be resolved by controlling the co-factor, which may be more amenable to intervention. […]

I can’t stress this enough: the vast majority of suspected [Virulent Systemic Feline Calicivirus] cases or outbreaks we are contacted about turn out to have another primary cause such as panleukopenia, disinfectant toxicity, or the cumulative effects of severe crowding, poor sanitation, problems with air quality and rampant disease from many causes adding up to a picture that looks a lot like VS-FCV.

So additional testing is critical to determine the true cause of the illness so that informed treatment decisions can be made.  Koret adds:

In the meantime, of course, affected and exposed cats should be isolated as with any possibly infectious outbreak.

Sounds like a reasonable plan.  Instead, the Caldwell Co pound killed all the “exposed” cats (exposed to air?), stopped accepting cats from the community and cleaned the cages (and I guess, the air?).  All this before the needed test results were back.  No informed decisions, no isolation, no treatment – just needless killing.  And then they started taking in cats again – before the test results were back.

So Caldwell Co never knew what they were dealing with, killed 15 cats anyway, closed their doors to community cats in need, then re-opened, still ignorant of which virus(es) may have been killing cats in their facility.

If you watch the video at the link, the pound apparently houses cats in dog runs, which has got to increase the stress level for the cats and weaken their ability to fight disease.  Oh and the coup de grace:  the shelter says the public is at fault for not vaccinating their cats.  No mention from the shelter on whether they vaccinate all cats upon intake, as per standard disease prevention protocol.

(Thank you Lisa for the link.)

Mental Health Break: Question

The idea of bringing extinct animals back to life is intriguing.  We could start with a passenger pigeon.  But what extinct animal(s) would you like to see brought back to roam the earth, if it was possible?  Would your animal of choice be able to literally roam the earth or would diminishing habitat make that implausible?  How would your animal fare with present day humans?

People want to save pets’ lives. Let them.

I am revisiting a topic today in order to reiterate my position and address the most common responses I receive whenever I post about it.  The issue is this:

So long as there are pets being needlessly killed in shelters, I favor giving shelter pets to anyone who wants them, provided the person hasn’t been convicted of animal cruelty. We may not like all aspects of the home environment but if they are willing to save a life (and freeing up a space at a rescue in order to allow another life to be saved qualifies), let them.

Some shelters and rescue groups judge potential adopters negatively based on things such as physical appearance, income level or desire for privacy in their own home.  As long as the adopter hasn’t been convicted of animal cruelty, fills out a basic adoption application and provides photo ID, I see no reason not to approve them for adoption.  There are a wide variety of people in this world who love pets. If they want to rescue a pet, they are the “right” kind of people.  By adopting to them, you are not obligated to go on vacation with them or spend holidays at their house.  You are saving a pet’s life.

But there’s more.  You are establishing a relationship with the adopter, thus giving you the opportunity to provide education and assistance if needed.  You are leaving them with the impression that saving a pet’s life is a positive experience.  They’ll tell their friends and family members.  You can’t buy that kind of publicity.

On the flip side, when animal organizations make adopters feel judged and turn them down, they drive those adopters to other sources for pets.  Pet stores don’t judge.  Flea markets don’t turn people away.  Irresponsible breeders make all comers feel welcome.  In addition, the would-be adopter is left with a bad taste in his mouth about saving a pet’s life.  He’ll tell his friends and family members.  That kind of publicity hurts shelter pets.

Many of the responses I receive whenever I raise this issue are from well-intentioned people who truly care about the well being of shelter pets.  I’d like to address some of those here.  (Note:  These are my summaries of typical responses I’ve received in the past.  They are not directly attributable to any person or persons.)

  • If we don’t visit the home and/or require a background check and/or [insert your arbitrary adoption requirement here], the pet is likely to end up being abused.  There are fates worse than death.

There are no fates worse than death.  Where there’s life, there’s hope.  The overwhelming majority of pet owners – I would go so far as to say nearly all pet owners – try to do right by their pets.  They do not beat, starve or otherwise intentionally harm them.  While there are people who may be able to provide a better quality of life for a pet if they received some non-judgmental education on the subject, that does not make them bad people.  And if you establish a positive relationship with them from the outset, you position yourself to be a source for that education.  If you drive them away to an alternate source by making them feel judged, how will they ever benefit from your experience?  Do we want to rely on the pet store to provide them with support for the lifetime of the pet?  Do we want them to have an intact, unvaccinated pet from an alternate source or a neutered, vaccinated pet from a shelter/rescue?

  • If they can’t afford a high adoption fee, they will never be able to pay for vet care if the pet breaks a leg or has some other emergency.

Just because the adopter can’t come up with hundreds of dollars to buy a pet from your animal organization, it does not mean he would not work a miracle to pay for a vet emergency for a pet he developed a bond with at some future time.  And that’s if an expensive emergency ever arose.  I have owned many pets who lived their entire lives never suffering a broken leg or bloat or anything similar.  There is no reasonable basis for the assumption that the pet will require expensive emergency vet care and that the owner will be unable to pay for it when it occurs.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume the pet will break a leg at some point and the owner will be unable to pay for vet care.  I go back to the premise that if you establish a positive relationship with them from the outset, you position yourself to be the group the adopter turns to in a crisis.  You – who has a network of advocates, who knows how to fundraise, who has a reasonable vet your group has a good relationship with – you would be in a position to assist.  Or did you expect the flea market vendor to help out this pet in need?

  • Not everyone should be allowed to have a pet.  Why should my organization spend resources helping someone become a better pet owner when we can just decline their application and wait for someone else to apply?

While it may be your belief that not everyone should have a pet just because they want one, the fact is they are going to get a pet somewhere.  We try so hard to turn people on to the idea of adopting shelter/rescue pets, trying to get them in the door as it were, we need to think very hard before turning away someone who comes to us wanting to save a pet.  The reason your organization should offer people a hand up when needed is because you are dedicated to animal welfare.  You are performing a community service.  By saying yes to more adopters, you are freeing up space to help more pets.  And because you don’t honestly believe that an irresponsible breeder is going to support your community in the way you will.

  • So you’re saying we should give pets to Michael Vick?  After all, he wasn’t convicted of animal cruelty.

No.  Again, most everyone who applies to save a pet’s life is going to try to do right by that pet.  The Michael Vicks of the world are the rare exception, not the rule, and policies should be geared toward reasonable expectations.  But to answer the question, if someone who has publicly confessed to torturing dogs and whose confession has been corroborated by testimony from multiple witnesses in federal court applies to adopt a pet from you, turn him down.  We do not want to supply additional victims to people we know for certain are sadistic animal freaks, regardless of whether they have an animal cruelty conviction on their record.  But this would be a very unlikely application to come across and there is no need to make a policy specifically to weed out Michael Vick.

  • Are you talking about my shelter/rescue group?

If your shelter kills pets or your rescue group pulls pets off death row as space becomes available in your facility or foster network, yes.  If your group is narrow in scope, such as a breed rescue which typically handles a small number of pets with none at risk of being killed, no.

  • So we shouldn’t bother trying to match the pet to the adopter?  Just give any pet to anyone, even if a 90 pound elderly woman with a walker wants a 120 pound dog-aggressive Mastiff with no leash training?

Continue trying to make the best possible match between adopter and pet while bearing in mind that the pet someone falls in love with may be the right match, even if it doesn’t strike you that way at first.  I can not stress enough the value of establishing a positive relationship from the outset so that the adopter is open to hearing your suggestions.  When adopters understand you have both their best interests and the pet’s best interests in mind, they will be far more receptive to your input.  If they feel they are being deemed unworthy, they will seek a pet from a source which does not make them feel that way.

  • I adopted from a group that charged $450 for the pet, visited my home, conducted a background check, had me fill out a 20 page application and sign a contract stating that they can take the pet back at any time if they feel it’s warranted.  I’m fine with all of that.  It shows me they care.

Good for you.  Not everyone feels the same way you do.  Many people, including me, would be turned off by these policies and would be unable and/or unwilling to pursue the adoption.  And since shelter pets are being killed, purportedly for lack of space to house them, I want everyone to feel included in the adoption pool.

Last I checked, there are not mile long lines of potential adopters leading to the front door of every shelter and rescue in this country.  Let’s value the ones we have, even if they are different from us in some ways.  Let’s embrace the community we have and work towards making it the community we want it to be.

The Irresponsible Public Shelters a Group of English Shepherds in NC

Photo of rescue dog "Buddy", posted on the National English Shepherd Rescue page on Facebook.

Photo of rescue dog “Buddy”, posted on the National English Shepherd Rescue page on Facebook.

The Guilford Co pound in NC kills roughly half its dogs and cats – unless someone there thinks the pet happens to look like a Rottweiler, Chow Chow or “Pitbull”.  Guilford Co refuses to adopt out any pets who, in the staff’s opinion, resemble those types of dogs.  The non-profit that runs the pound also kills dogs that rescues are willing to take and then attempts to cover it up by claiming to be exempt from public records requests.

The Guilford Co pound is the opposite of what an animal shelter is supposed to be.  And that’s why I was concerned when I read that 3 English Shepherds had been taken there after their owner died in January.  A caring relative of the owner was determined to see the dogs, 15 in total, properly cared for by people who understood the special needs of the individual dogs and their rare breed.  She contacted National English Shepherd Rescue and the group was able to send someone to evaluate the dogs while they lined up foster homes:

Two of the dogs had to be put to sleep […] and three were taken to the Guilford County Animal Shelter, where two were adopted by the director’s daughter. The other dog left at the shelter was returned to the group after the National English Shepherd Rescue organization stepped in.

Thank you irresponsible public, once again.  It is so comforting to know that these dogs will be properly cared for, neutered and adopted out, as they should be.  The Guilford Co pound doesn’t do its job to shelter animals but thankfully, the compassionate owners and breeders who make up National English Shepherd Rescue were able to step in and do it for them.

I dread to think of this group of dogs being impounded by Guilford Co, mislabeled as Chow mixes and killed for no reason other than someone’s opinion of their body shape and coat.  And it’s tragic to know that happens to other dogs in the area as a matter of pound policy.

Photo of rescued dogs, posted on the National English Shepherd Rescue page on Facebook.

Photo of rescued dogs, posted on the National English Shepherd Rescue page on Facebook.

Decomposing Dog Found in Animal Control Truck After ACO Jailed

A decomposing dog was found in the AC truck normally driven by Tim Garza, the sole ACO for the city of Arvin, CA.  Mr. Garza had been arrested 10 days earlier and remained in jail at the time of the discovery:

Tim Garza is accused of beating his girlfriend of two years at her home off California Avenue in Bakersfield. Court documents say Garza left the woman with several bruises, held a gun to her head, and forced her to record a cell phone video saying a head butt that caused a gash on her head was an accident.

Garza is also accused of raping the woman in October in front of his two children.

He has been charged with multiple felonies:

According to Kern County court website information, Garza is being held on $320,000 bail for seven felony charges. Those include inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, threatening with intent to terrorize, assault with a firearm, assault with great bodily injury, false imprisonment with violence, preventing a witness from reporting and rape by force or fear.

It is unknown how long the dog was in the AC truck, who placed him there or whether he was alive at the time.  Someone who works near the location of the parked AC truck and smelled the decomposing remains reported it to authorities:

“The Public Works employee reported that the blood was dripping from the vehicle onto the ground,” Arvin Police Chief Louis Cobarruviaz said Friday morning. “And that’s how it was first detected.”

Another worker told Eyewitness News she had spotted “goo” dripping from both sides of the truck.

Police are speculating the dog was already dead, hit by a car, when he was placed in the truck.  I have doubts.

Cobarruvias is trying to determine who put the chihuahua in the truck. He said there is no record of the dog being picked up by a police officer.

Therefore I think it’s reasonable to speculate that Mr. Garza is the one who put the dog in the truck.  And if you watch the video here, the police chief mentions, in what appears to be an edited clip, “an injured animal” being transported in the truck to the pound in Bakersfield.  It’s not clear to me if the injured animal is a reference to the decomposing dog.

The link between domestic violence and animal abuse is well established.  While Mr. Garza will have to answer for his alleged crimes against a human being, I hope that there will be a thorough investigation into the death of the decomposing dog in his truck and, if it’s determined that he left the pet there alive, that he will be charged accordingly.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

Michael Vick, Future Nobel Peace Prize Winner

After cancelling some public events to promote his new book due to backlash from animal activists, Michael Vick wants to know:

“Why would you continue to bash somebody who’s trying to help make the world a better place?”

Why, world? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!

Which made me wonder:  Of the many somebodies trying to make the world a better place, who is your favorite to bash?

 

Cat Hating Sickos Rejoice: The Orlando Sentinel and The Audubon Society Have Your Fix

One of the most consistent and disturbing search terms I get on the blog involves cat killing and specifically, how to do it.  One good thing about this otherwise depressing issue is that anyone who comes here is going to find nothing but love for our feline friends.  Another good thing is that it continually reminds me that there are deranged individuals in the world who, for whatever reason, target cats.  As such, I try to be careful not to feed the crazies by giving them a voice here.  Comments about cat killing do not get approved and the commenters get banned.

I was deeply troubled to read that The Orlando Sentinel recently published an op-ed by Ted Williams, editor-at-large for Audubon Magazine, in which he calls TNR a failure and suggests that feral cats should either be poisoned with Tylenol or trapped and killed (presumably by some means other than Tylenol).  Isn’t the Audubon Society a wildlife advocacy group?  And yet they allow Ted Williams to submit for publication a piece calling for the killing of feral cats, who are a form of wildlife themselves? And The Orlando Sentinel printed it?  Shame.

Feral cats have a right to live.  For those deemed medically hopeless by a veterinarian, euthanasia by injection is the preferred method to relieve suffering.  Poisoning would never be recommended.  And the killing of any healthy/treatable cat is immoral and unacceptable.

Needless to say, the cat killing sickos of the world have delighted in the Ted Williams piece.  And they are gleefully spreading the news that the Audubon Society says giving Tylenol to feral cats is yay.  I wonder how many pet cats or other animals are going to be poisoned with Tylenol as a result of this irresponsible piece in the Sentinel?

Vox Felina posted about this outrageous op-ed piece yesterday.  (There is a link to the op-ed in the Sentinel at Vox Felina, if interested.  I won’t be posting that link here.)  Alley Cat Allies has an action alert here.

Petersburg Pound Gets a Task Force

Last month there were allegations of abuse at the Petersburg pound in VA and a promise from a local politician to investigate the claims.  Then, I was hopeful.  Now, not so much.

On March 5, shelter pet advocates attended the Petersburg city council meeting, demanding reform.  What they wanted was immediate action to save the lives of pets currently at the pound, allegedly being abused.  What they got was a task force:

[Councilman W. Howard] Meyers made a motion to create a task force under his direction that includes the manager of the Petersburg Animal Shelter, the Chief of the Petersburg Police Department and various animal groups from Richmond and the surrounding areas.

Meyers said his task force will work to enforce stricter breeding laws.

[…]

Meyers said there will be bigger fines for people who don’t spay or neuter their pets.

Well, crud.  How does an investigation into allegations that the shelter staff is abusing the pets result in penalties for pet owners in the community?  Is the councilman unwilling to do the hard work of implementing no kill and so just taking a page from the well-worn Blame The Public Handbook instead?

Punitive legislation does not work.  And it does nothing to save the pets allegedly being abused at the pound today.

“There a lot of big things that need to be done at the shelter,” said Jill Navary, an animal advocate. “What we would like to have addressed are the small things that can be done in a day and save a lot of animals.”

Sounds like a good place to start to me.  But I’m not on the task force.  I hope someone committed to reforming the pound and ending the killing is.  Several someones, in fact.

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

13 Pitbulls Killed in New Mexico Pound

Former MAS director and current Bernalillo Co Animal Services director Matt Pepper recently explained to a local TV news reporter why he killed 13 Pitbulls seized from an area residence:

“If you look at the conditions in which they were kept, and you look at their behavior you can understand why, why they had the significant aggression that they had,” said Matt Pepper with Bernalillo County Animal Services.

The contention here appears to be that the 13 Pitbulls had to be taken from the owner because they were being kept in terrible conditions and then they had to be killed because they had become aggressive as a result of the conditions.  Oh and they were allegedly being used for dogfighting.

Baloney.

The owner’s landlord and neighbor says the owner is from Cuba, where he worked as a veterinarian.  He says the former vet took care of his dog once after he had gotten into a fight.  And he would put his life on the fact that the owner was not fighting dogs.

But hey, we can’t know anything for certain based on one man’s opinion.  So let’s look at the evidence:

Veterinary medical supplies and something else point to a dog fighting ring.

“Maybe a foot long to 18 inch piece of wood that they use if the dogs are fighting to open up the jaws,” said Pepper.

M’kaaaay.  So the former vet had veterinary medical supplies.  And pieces of wood.

All responsible Pitbull owners should keep breaksticks at hand in case of emergency.  But not every “piece of wood” lying around someone’s property is a breakstick.  And the presence of breaksticks do not necessarily indicate criminal dogfighting.

The fact that the dogs were killed without the benefit of an evaluation and opportunity for behavior modification training (if warranted) by qualified individuals means there is no evidence remaining to support or refute the allegations of dogfighting.  So we can not look to the 13 dogs for evidence since they were never given a chance.

But there was another dog seized from the owner – a 14 year old Doberman.  That dog is still alive.  I don’t know any specifics on the health of that dog but anyone who can keep a Doberman alive to the age of 14 is probably doing something right.

I can’t help but wonder if this was a case where the dogs could have been sheltered in place while authorities worked with the owner to improve conditions at the residence.  However poor the living conditions may have been there, the dogs were alive, which is more than can be said now.

A judge has until tomorrow to indict the owner on animal cruelty charges.  The investigation is ongoing.  Tragically, there will be no investigation or cruelty charges against those responsible for killing the 13 dogs.  Because they’re the good guys.  Right?

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)