Sworn Testimony Details Abuse at Campbell Co Pound in TN

The Campbell Co pound in TN is currently closed while the state conducts an investigation into alleged wrongdoing, centered around director Betty Crumley.  The disturbing allegations of animal abuse have gone largely unsubstantiated – until now.  In April, employee Brenda Watkins provided sworn testimony regarding her experiences at the pound and that testimony was made public this week by the LaFollette Press (paywall, with option for limited time free subscription).

Ms. Watkins began working at the pound in 2006 and was there the day that Ms. Crumley took over in 2008 – a day that the shelter had some empty cages:

“The first day she came in she done a count on all the animals and said ‘this is way too many animals in the shelter’ and that would change,” Watkins testified.

One of Ms. Crumley’s first orders to her staff was that rescues would cease, according to Ms. Watkins’ testimony.  No reason was given.  Staff began calling rescue groups on their own to try to save animals.  Ms. Crumley picked which animals would be killed and some of them were highly adoptable according to the testimony.  Some animals were killed in retaliation over personal disagreements Ms. Crumley had with individual pet advocates:

“If she was upset with a rescue, she wouldn’t let them pull. If it was a person that she didn’t like or was upset with or just didn’t want them to have that dog…they couldn’t adopt it,” Watkins said. “The majority of the time, they would be euthanized.”

There were often more dead cats in the freezer than there were on the intake sheet.  Ms. Watkins could not say for certain why the pound had surplus cat carcasses but her understanding was that the extra cats had been trapped. The LaFollette Press offers this insight:

The shelter has a contract with Kennedy-Boyd Enterprises in North Carolina, a medical specimen facility that collects cat carcasses and distributes them to schools for dissection in biology classes. The county receives $3 for each specimen of at least 12 inches in length.

Ms. Watkins testified she regularly saw another employee kick the dog cages in order to scare the dogs.  Ms. Watkins once complained to Ms. Crumley about the killing of a group of dogs who had rescue secured.  Ms. Crumley described one of the dogs as being hunkered down in the back of the cage and so determined the animal to be aggressive.  From Ms. Watkins’ testimony:

 “I said ‘when people go down here kicking on the front of the cages, scaring them, yeah it’s gonna hunker down.’

Ms. Crumley offered no reply.

Warning:  The details of shelter pet abuse which follow may be too disturbing for some readers.

Ms. Watkins testified that dogs were killed in view of one another in their cages.  They were chokepoled and then jabbed with syringes of Fatal Plus.  While Ms. Watkins never witnessed Ms. Crumley inject an animal, she did testify that the syringes were drawn up by Ms. Crumley, who has admitted to guessing the appropriate dosage. Animals were injected in “random areas” of the body, not in accordance with standard veterinary practices:

“Some of them will die quickly. Some of them it takes quite a while. Some of them thrash around in their cages. Some there’s feces we have to clean up afterwards. Sometimes there’s blood we have to clean up afterwards,” she said.

Blood sometimes came from injection sites. Other times it came from an animal’s nose.

After euthanasia, sometimes the still-breathing animals were placed into the freezers alive.

“I have seen them taken out to the freezer still alive,” Watkins said.

At the end of March, a video surfaced online in which a male voice is heard telling Crumley there’s a problem, that an animal is in the freezer alive. In April, another video surfaced showing deep, bloody scratch marks on the inside of the chest freezers used to store animals before disposal.

Betty had no problem with live animals being sent to the freezer, Watkins said.

The county has no plans to replace Ms. Crumley and the pound remains closed, pending the completion of the state’s investigation.  A local volunteer group called Friends of Campbell County Animals (FCCA) is trying to provide care of the community’s homeless pets in the meantime.  They also have animals for adoption.

A volunteer with Friends of campbell Co Animals feeds a pregnant stray dog by hand in this photo from the group's Facebook page.

A volunteer with Friends of Campbell Co Animals feeds a pregnant stray dog by hand in this photo from the group’s Facebook page.

Thank you once again to the so-called irresponsible public for your dedication and hard work.

(Thanks Joni for the link.)

Open Thread

Post your animal related links, questions, stories, updates, etc.

NC Animal Control Administrator is Proud of Pound’s Performance

The Gaston County pound in North Carolina kills dogs and cats.  A private citizen had hoped to open a no kill shelter in Gaston Co but recently announced the plan will not move forward.  The local paper falls all over itself in its capacity as killing enabler:

Euthanasia by legal injection is common at the public shelter in Dallas, due to the volume of incoming animals and the need to free-up space.

It’s not “euthanasia” if the pet is healthy or treatable – it’s killing.  If you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be enabling it.  Killing shelter pets is not an ethical means of freeing up space.

Officials say the problem stems from people not spaying or neutering their pets. That leads to residents who “surrender” animals, despite being informed by staff the dogs or cats will likely have to be euthanized.

Blame the public.  The tried and true method for enabling shelter pet killing while maintaining the status quo.  It’s a lame tactic that’s never ended the killing anywhere but hey, don’t let that stop you.  No shelter pets in this country “have to be” killed – it’s a choice made by directors.

Gaston County Animal Control Administrator Reggie Horton said he’s proud of the strides that have been made there in recent years to get more dogs and cats into good homes.

“With everybody working together, we’ve been able to realize placement numbers that are just unprecedented,” he said.

Everybody is not working together in Gaston Co.  I know this because the pound is killing pets instead of sheltering them.  That means everybody at the pound is failing to do their jobs.  Therefore, although some members of the public are working together to save pets from being killed in Gaston Co, it’s unfair to imply that shelter workers are doing their jobs and deserve credit for any animals the public has saved from their kill room.

Here are the “unprecedented” numbers which make Reggie Horton proud.

Gaston Co AC’s kill rate for dogs and cats:

I don’t see any significant improvement from 2010 to 2011.  And while the 11% decrease in killing from 2011 to 2012 is good in the sense that less killing is better than more killing – it’s not acceptable.  Shelter pets have the right to live.  Gaston Co is infringing upon that right in the most violent manner possible – by killing the animals they are supposed to be sheltering.

Compare these numbers with the dozens of open admission shelters around the country who are saving 90% or more of their pets.  That’s something to be proud of – and something Gaston Co could do too, if anyone in a leadership position demanded that people start doing their jobs.  Instead the killing and enabling continues in Gaston Co and leadership is proud of it.

TN Pound Kills 12 Dogs in Response to Parvo

Shelters who fail to vaccinate all animals prior to or immediately upon intake, utilize standard disease prevention cleaning protocols and/or maintain good housing practices are failing to prevent the spread of diseases such as parvo.

The webpage for Robertson Co Animal Control in TN does not indicate whether they vaccinate all dogs against parvo upon intake but mentions only that adopted pets receive a rabies shot.  The page also refers to a “goal that every effort be made to have animals walk out of the facility alive” which sounds pretty good.  But this doesn’t:

“I have a vet that’s on my committee and I consulted him about it and he said, if I come back in on Tuesday with two more cases [of parvo], I need to put everything down and start cleaning the building,” said [Robertson Co shelter director David] Blackwood.

Twelve dogs were killed this week and the pound was closed so the facility could be bleached thoroughly.  Parvo is a treatable illness and not an automatic death sentence for shelter dogs, most especially for asymptomatic and immune animals.  There is no science behind the recommendation to kill every dog in the facility and close for cleaning.  In fact, had the facility been thoroughly cleaned as a matter of course, and dogs vaccinated prior to or immediately upon intake as a matter of course, two dogs may not have died in their cages at the Robertson Co pound.  Why wait until dogs are dead and the place is closed to perform a thorough cleaning?

But wait, there’s more:

The facility will be closed until next week as they continue sterilizing the area. Anyone who has adopted a dog from Robertson County Animal Control within the past two weeks has been contacted.

The virus dehydrates the animal and while veterinarians can treat sick dogs, there is not a 100% guarantee of recovery.

The cost for treatment is around $15,000.

Oh geez.  I hope the recent adopters weren’t told that.  It’s true there isn’t a 100% guarantee of recovery from parvo – or any other illness.  But for adopted pets in a home environment who are taken to a private vet for treatment, the chances of recovery are very good.  And the cost may be nothing – for asymptomatic dogs – or more obviously for those who need treatment.  But $15 grand?  Not bloody likely.

Austin Pets Alive has a ward set up for parvo dogs at their shelter and it’s run by volunteers.  The 2011 save rate was approximately 88% and the average cost of treatment per dog was $250.  That’s in a shelter environment where the disease would be more challenging to manage than in a home with an adopted pet.

I hope no more dogs were needlessly killed beyond the 12 due to such misinformation.  And I hope the Robertson Co pound gets up to speed on best practices for disease prevention and management and starts including thorough cleaning and vaccination as a routine part of its protocols.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me the link to this story.)

One Thing Shelters Can Do with All Those Cats

One of the most popular excuses among shelter killing apologists for why it’s impossible to go no kill is that there are way too many cats and no one wants them – especially the adults.  Even if that were true, and I don’t agree that it is, it does not follow that shelters “have to” kill cats.  In fact, here is a suggestion for what shelters can do with all those adult cats from UPAWS volunteer Ann Brownell in Michigan (brought up from the comments):

UPAWS 9 Lives for $9 cat promotion is June 21 – 30TH! Being June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month we are super excited!! I won a Marketing Grant to promote the event! We’ll be on our local TV stations, newspapers, radio and of course social media. Here is our commercial that was produced for us:

How she did it:

I submitted my marketing ideas to Best Friends Animals Society and I won the grant to advertise the 9 Lives for $9 event – a local TV station produced it for free and on top of it, then donated double in air time for the ad! So I got a 2 for 1 air time and also 20,000 impressions on their website pointing to our website : )

UPAWS saves every healthy/treatable pet in its care.  So can your local shelter.

Next time someone tries to convince you that no kill is impossible because your local shelter doesn’t have an enormous budget or because, “What are we supposed to do with all these adult cats?” – tell them.

Miami-Dade Commission Passes No Kill Measure

The Miami-Dade Co Commission voted unanimously yesterday to pass a no kill measure which was very popular with voters last year.  But it doesn’t mean an immediate end to the killing of healthy/treatable shelter pets.  Rather, it’s another yard gained in moving the ball down the field:

Commissioner Jose “Pepe’’ Diaz, the measure’s sponsor, said he would follow up with legislation authorizing Mayor Carlos Gimenez to budget the money that a $10-per-$100,000 property tax increase will generate for animal welfare, perhaps as much as $20 million annually.

And it’s not actually a full yard gained:

But missing from the final plan was a provision that animal activists considered crucial: dedicated, high-volume spay/neuter clinics in low-income parts of town with few veterinary hospitals.

The clinics fell on the chopping block when the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association voiced opposition, claiming its existing members could perform the additional 1500 spay-neuters needed on a weekly basis.  I’m sure they can.  But will anyone in the target markets be able to afford it?

The Miami Herald also reports that the Miami-Dade shelter has killed 30% of the pets in its care so far this year, as opposed to 40% in 2012.  Less killing is better than more killing – but it’s not good enough, and I am not sure when Miami-Dade intends to finally stop the killing.

I will be interested to see how the no kill measure progresses.  It’s unclear to me when county residents can reasonably expect to see any meaningful results – or even if such an expectation is realistic, thanks to the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association killing a key part of the plan.  It’s a shame the county commissioners lacked the commitment to follow through on their promise to let the voters guide the commission’s decision or the courage to stand up to the vets association.  The measure ultimately passed by the commission yesterday is not the one residents voted for and not what animal advocates said they needed in order to make no kill a reality.

 

The Worst Animal Cruelty Prosecutors in the Country

After failing to get convictions on any of the three managers indicted in connection with the 2009 MAS raid, state prosecutor Chris West was replaced by prosecutors Marques Young and Katie Ratton for the trial of former Memphis ACO Demetria Hogan.  Accused of selling an impounded Pitbull named Kapone out the back door and allowing another owned pet named Max to suffer until he died as she evaded police, Hogan had been indicted on “four counts of official misconduct, one count of forgery, one count of theft and one count of cruelty to animals.” Yesterday, District Attorney General Amy Weirich dropped all charges and the judge dismissed the case.

The Commercial Appeal breaks it down:

In the case of Kapone, [Young] said, proving that Hogan did not deliver the dog to the shelter – resulting in the theft and paperwork forgery charges – became more difficult upon learning that Hogan may have witnesses who said she did deliver the animal.

Oh let me guess – some fellow MAS workers, those paragons of virtue?

And in the case of Max, the dog whom, at the time of the indictment, no one disputed was alive when impounded by Hogan:

Prosecutors said a subsequent necropsy showed the dog could have died from the heat at the scene and not necessarily in Hogan’s animal truck while being taken to the shelter.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.  I was going to leave it there, and just let the pathetic excuse for a case offered by the prosecutors speak for itself but then one of them had to jam the knife in further and twist it around:

“It’s very sad when a dog has died or a dog is missing,” said Ratton, “but that doesn’t always mean a crime has been committed.”

Really?

As sorry as I am for what happened to Kapone, at least the so-called irresponsible public stepped up and helped him get back home eventually.  And even though no one connected to the case seemed to be interested in doing their jobs, the happy ending helped ease the pain of his theft.  But with Max, the dog whom no one disputed was alive at the time of impound, there was no happy ending.  As it was reported last summer, police were attempting to locate Hogan in order to arrest her for cruelty in connection with the “disappearance” of Kapone, and she was allegedly tipped off that police were waiting for her at the pound.  So instead of taking the dog she had on her truck at the time – a 9 year old Lab mix called Max – to MAS, she apparently drove around for a couple of hours until police left.  Max died during this time.  Per a necropsy report, his death was non-accidental heat stroke.

At the time I naively hoped that whoever tipped Hogan off would be charged and fired.  Obviously that didn’t happen.  And while I have no information as to the identity of the supposed witnesses who “may” have testified that Kapone was delivered to MAS by Hogan, I can’t help but wonder if they are the same individuals who tipped her off about police causing, to my mind, Max to needlessly suffer and die.

Bloody hell, Memphis.  I suppose the city will now reinstate Hogan with back pay and a new chokepole and send her back out on patrol to protect the city from animal abusers.

It’s very sad when a dog has died or a dog is missing such as happened in this case and in my view, it strongly suggests a crime has been committed.  But neither the DA nor the prosecutors could apparently be bothered to do their jobs.  Which is par for the course in Memphis.  And it wouldn’t surprise me one iota if Mayor Wharton and his cronies were pleased as punch with the outcome.  Yay Memphis.

Tools in the Toolbox Discussion: Australia’s “Getting to Zero” Campaign

g2zSince Carol posted a link to this no kill brochure from an animal welfare group in Australia, I’ve been looking over the information and wanted to share a summary of what I’ve learned.  The group states on its website that the Getting to Zero (G2Z) model was developed independently from and simultaneously with the No Kill Equation here in the U.S.  There is a section of the website which details the similarities and differences between the two.  For example, the Australian group defines the term “pet overpopulation” a little differently than many of us do here and there are differences in the approach to legislation.  G2Z appears to have been implemented less successfully than the No Kill Equation to date.  But overall, the two models seem to have a lot in common:

While there are some differences, Getting to Zero is not in competition with No Kill. G2Z fully supports the No Kill Equation strategies and the wonderful array of resources that this movement offers. There is much to be done, and we are all working to save lives.

The G2Z model engages the community as a means of achieving its goal:  an end to the killing of healthy/treatable pets in shelters.  The four components described in the brochure are:

1.  Community Vet Clinic – This is basically a high volume, low cost spay-neuter clinic which also offers microchipping, transportation assistance and incentives for the public to get pets neutered.  Pediatric spay-neuter is emphasized.

2.  Shelter Vet Clinic – This is an on site clinic (preferably) which ensures all shelter pets are examined, vaccinated, neutered, heartworm tested, dewormed, microchipped and given flea medication before being put on the adoption floor.  The shelter clinic is also responsible for daily health checks for all animals, treatment of shelter pets who are sick/injured, free vet care for pets in the shelter’s foster program and support for TNR programs.

3.  Rehoming Centre – This is the shelter’s adoption center and includes a number of key goals such as prompt adoptions, substantial foster and volunteer programs, socialization for the animals to reduce stress, pet training to increase adoptability, increased RTO, accessible location and hours (late afternoons, weekends and holidays), marketing of animals, offsite adoptions, and post adoption support.

4.  Community Education, Legislation and Support – This is the most complex of the four components and as the name suggests, includes involvement from a wide array of stakeholders in the community.  The legislation aspect includes a breeder permit law which involves inspections and fees, mandatory neuter of all kittens prior to sale (unless being sold to someone with a breeder permit), and mandatory microchipping of all puppies and kittens.  There is also mention of legislation to protect fosters and rescuers from pet limit laws, based upon inspection, and “research and development” regarding managed cat colonies.

This component addresses a number of other issues as well.  There is a focus on matching lost pets with their owners and returning lost pets home rather than impounding them.  “Pre-surrender interviews” are conducted in order to offer alternatives to surrendering pets to the shelter.  School presentations are intended to educate young people about responsible pet ownership.  Hands-on programs are also offered to students who wish to work directly with shelter pets.  Pediatric spay-neuter is again emphasized.

***

What are your thoughts on the G2Z campaign?  How do you feel about the legislation aspect which includes mandatory microchipping, some MSN, and inspections for breeders, fosters and rescuers?  Do you think the emphasis on pediatric spay-neuter is a plus, a minus or somewhere in between?

Case Update: Ohio SPCA Taking Action on Behalf of Slain Kittens

The Ohio SPCA has issued a press release calling for North Ridgeville Humane Officer Barry Accorti to be immediately fired and charged with 5 counts of animal cruelty after he shot 5 kittens trapped in a homeowner’s woodpile last week.  A few excerpts from the press release, including a most interesting bit at the end:

A law enforcement officer who resorts to shooting kittens or any non-threatening animal is not only lacking in compassion and moral judgment, but violating Ohio law!
[…]
According to John Bell, attorney for the Ohio SPCA, “Shooting a cat is never legal. It is not painless and therefore violates the “immediate and painless” rule contained in the Ohio Revised Code. It is also expressly illegal to “needlessly kill” any ‘companion animal,’ which includes all cats and dogs.”
[…]
Due to additional complaints and statements received from North Ridgeville residents, the Ohio SPCA has launched a full-scale investigation of previous actions taken by Officer Barry Accorti and the other part-time officer, Brian Gorski. These actions not only indicate inhumane treatment of animals, but also involve life-threatening circumstances to local residents and animals. Landon states, “Two attempts to speak with Mayor Gillock have failed. If the North Ridgeville Police Chief and Mayor Gillock do not take the obvious necessary action in response to these incidents, a lawsuit by the Ohio SPCA will be the only remedy.”

The Ohio SPCA’s statement seems to imply that this was not Mr. Accorti’s first time at the rodeo.  I’ll be watching for developments in this case.

Yet Another Pet Suffers in a Cage at the $7 Million Memphis “Shelter”

On May 30, 2013, Memphis Animal Services impounded a female Miniature Schnauzer as a stray, listing her as 7 years old.  Her photo was never published anywhere online by MAS.  She was kept in the stray area, out of view of the public.  The day after impound, the dog’s medical records received their one and only entry – listed as “observation” by the MAS veterinarian – along with deworming and distemper vaccination.

Obtained via FOIA request, these are the complete medical records for dog ID #254963 at the Memphis pound.

Obtained via FOIA request, these are the complete medical records for dog ID #254963 at the Memphis pound.

Note that the records indicate the dog is quiet, alert and responsive, very geriatric, underweight, with severe dental disease and missing teeth.  There is also a notation about the eyes having mild discharge.  There are no notes indicating MAS contacted a single rescue group about this dog.  Local pet advocate Jody Fisher secured a rescue placement for the dog and on June 6, a rescuer pulled her from MAS.  The rescuer immediately noticed the little dog was deaf and blind. This is what she looked like:

schnauzer mas

The rescuer took the little pet to a veterinarian the next morning for evaluation. The veterinarian estimated the dog to be about 15 years old, not 7 as MAS had indicated. He determined she was in pain and had been suffering for awhile.   The vet reported she was not only underweight, blind and deaf but also that she suffered from chronic dry eye which had likely lead to blindness, and severe dental disease which had likely lead to heart disease. The dog had a grade 6 heart murmur, irregular heart rhythm, bilateral pleural effusions and was in end stage congestive heart failure. She suffered from severe arthritis which compromised her ability to move normally.  Euthanasia was recommended and performed, as the poor girl was medically hopeless and suffering.

I have questions:

  • The MAS vet got close enough to characterize this dog’s level of gum disease but failed to note she was in unremitting pain or prescribe any medication to try to alleviate that pain for an entire week?
  • The MAS vet noted a “mild” discharge from the eyes when the dog looked like she does in the above photo? And she didn’t note that the dog was in fact blind and deaf?
  • Since no meaningful vet care was offered, where are the notes indicating this dog must only be offered soft food and that both food and water bowls must be kept within easy reach of the dog due to her lack of mobility?
  • Since no meaningful vet care was offered, where are the notes indicating the dog requires soft bedding at all times and that the bedding must be checked regularly for dryness in case of urination or water bowl spills?

Failing to note that the dog was blind and deaf is not only a disservice to the dog, who would be severely stressed in a shelter environment, it endangers people who might approach the dog believing her to be sighted and with normal hearing ability. Blind and deaf shelter dogs need to be approached in a particular manner, so as not to provoke a defensive bite by startling the dog.

Failing to note that the dog was in unremitting pain and end stage heart failure is simply inexcusable. A Memphis dog owner who kept a dog in this condition without meaningful vet care for an entire week would presumably be charged with animal cruelty and the MAS vet would do the examination to document the forensic evidence. Who will investigate and determine possible charges regarding the MAS vet in this case?  Let’s be clear:  MAS left this dog to suffer in a cage for a week, making no efforts to get her seen by anyone who might help her and offering her no medical care to address her suffering.  Isn’t this a crime?  Is it in any way acceptable that Memphis taxpayers pay for a shelter veterinarian and kennel workers but must rely on ordinary citizens to find rescuers willing to pay a private vet to tend to suffering pets at the pound?

The suffering of this little pet is hardly an isolated incident.  The head vet at the Memphis pound – on whose watch numerous dogs have starved to death, including a puppy who was forced to eat his own littermate to survive, who scrubbed a degloved cat’s wounds without providing pain medication and left him to suffer in a cage for 5 days, and who neglected then killed a puppy who was impounded with a collar embedded in her neck – is no stranger to animal cruelty.  Yet Memphis city leaders defend the cruelty again and again, as they always do with animal abusers on the payroll, and the suffering at the pound continues.  How many more, Memphis?

Goodbye dog #254963.  I'm sorry your last week on this earth was spent suffering at the Memphis pound.

Goodbye tiny dog #254963. I’m sorry your last week on this earth was spent suffering at the Memphis pound.

Fire. Them. All.