WA Shelter Director Threatens People Who Use Shelter Services with Prosecution

KEPR in Washington reports that 3 seriously injured dogs were surrendered to the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter within the past week when their owners could not afford to pay for the necessary veterinary care.  When I hear about these types of stories, I am sad for the families who are forced to give up their pets due to financial concerns.  I also feel sad for the animals who, in a time of crisis, are likely confused and possibly depressed as they find themselves suddenly away from home in a strange, stressful environment.  I always hope the shelter has some strategies in place to prevent these types of surrenders whenever possible.

But in cases where that’s not possible, I am thankful the owners cared for the pet to the best of their abilities for as long as they could and when the animal’s needs exceeded their ability to pay, they sought help for the animal. Our shelter system is a safety net for pets who become homeless for whatever reason, regardless of whether their former owner died, became homeless himself or any other circumstance – known or unknown.  This is what shelters are for – to help homeless pets in need, no matter how they became homeless.

This is why I was astonished to read a quote from Tri-Cities Animal Shelter director Angela Zillar implying that the owners who surrendered their injured pets should have killed them:

 “I don’t want to be the person that has to hold a dog while it takes it’s last breath. That’s not my job, that’s not what we’re here for. This is not what we should have to do.”

Right.  But that’s not what the owners should have to do either.  Because these animals have a right to live.  Their owners loved them enough to give them up in order to protect that right.  Serving as a refuge of last resort for animals in need is exactly what you’re there for and what your job is.

Tri-Cities is reportedly getting vet care for the animals but unbelievably, also threatening the owners with prosecution:

Those owners could be facing criminal charges.

[…]

Animal control works with the prosecutor to hold owners accountable for potential charges of animal cruelty, abandonment and theft.

Unless the director has evidence the owners intentionally caused the injuries to these animals, I don’t see how any cruelty charges would be applicable.  Abandonment implies they left the animal tied to a tree in the woods when in fact, the article makes clear the pets were surrendered to the shelter due to an inability to pay for vet care.  Theft, I don’t even know.

Surrendering injured animals to the shelter when the owner can’t afford to pay for vet care and has exhausted all options is what we want people to do.  It’s why shelters exist.  Without that safety net in place, we are driving people to acts of desperation such as abandoning the injured animal in a highly visible location in hopes that a Good Sam will take him in and provide the necessary care.  It does not matter one iota how the pet became homeless, it matters only that he is.  And once he is, it’s your job to help him Angela Zillar.  Full stop.

I wonder how many people in the areas served by the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter have seen this article and now believe if their pet ever becomes injured beyond their ability to pay for care, they need to either kill the animal or do something illegal in order to avoid prosecution by animal control.  I hope local taxpayers contact their elected officials and demand that the shelter director stops threatening the public with prosecution and starts doing her job.

(Thanks Mary for the link.)

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15 Comments

  1. This guy needs a desk job in some corner alone in the world AFTER his frontal lobotomy. The Shelter IS the place for people to bring animals in these cases. The shelter should have partnerships set up to help the families KEEP their animals and get vetting. If not – they shelter should allow the families to be with the animal when it passes – respectfully in a separate room IF they so wish. These people gotta go…they gotta not NOW.

    Reply
  2. mikken

     /  January 24, 2014

    “The shelter is working on setting up an injured animal fund.”

    What a novel and clever idea. Bravo for coming to that…finally. Hey, how about you start applying for some grants, too? Whatchathink? To…you know…serve your community better.

    Because you know what? It IS your job. This is exactly your job. If you can’t help people retain their pets, if you can’t help pets that people can’t keep for whatever reason, then what the hell are you doing there?

    Reply
  3. I felt like I was in Bizarro World when reading the director’s comments. It wouldn’t matter if someone spray painted a blue circle on a white dog then brought him to the shelter and explained he no longer wanted him b/c the paint job looked lousy – she still has to help that animal. She has to help EVERY ANIMAL that she can’t manage to prevent from being surrendered or impounded.

    The owners could have lied and said they found the injured dog wandering the streets but then the shelter would get no history, which would be good information to have. I just can’t understand threatening people who are trying to do the right thing.

    Reply
  4. Some bureaucrats land a job and start re-writing their job descriptions and making their own laws. This is ridiculous. I hope she is replaced by someone who understands what a shelter is for.

    Reply
  5. I think for every charge animal control can fraudly put on a victim, that the same charges would apply to animal control. Heros are the animals they steal needlessly kill. ya don’t take in animals , blame owners for what you can’t do yourself! id go federal on every animal control case till they shut the damn kill shelters down! al they do steal to profit of the side destroy families/animals lives. they serve no purpose for WE THE PEOPLE. VOTE THEM IN, VOTE THEM THE FK OUT!

    Reply
  6. Alice

     /  January 24, 2014

    I don’t understand why the Humane Society in WA doesn’t offer discounted rates. When we lived in Boise, ID, we took our pets there because they were much more afforable. I would think that solve a lot of problems. It would be nice if HS met us half way. Aren’t they supposed to be there to protect and help save animals? Why don’t they check with HS in Boise & get a plan?

    Reply
    • If you are referring to the one in Seattle Washington, there are a couple of lower cost vet places. One was called, My Pet’s Vet out in Kirkland, WA and there is a fast growing franchise there called Value Pet Clinic with multiple locations. They did my pom’s teeth for $325 when the VCA originally quoted me a grand to 1200. He had really bad teeth with several extractions.

      Reply
  7. Arlene

     /  January 24, 2014

    I can’t help immediately being reminded of Downtown Dog Rescue in Pasadena, CA. Their mission is to rescue dogs and help low income people. Often they catch people before they hit the dreaded dog pound also known as a shelter. If the dog is injured, they get the dog to a vet. If they need help getting their dog out of the pound they will help with that too. They are all about service to dogs and people and keeping their pets with their people. They could and should be the gold standard for all areas. What they do can be done by caring people everywhere. They are on fb; check them out.

    Reply
  8. Eucritta

     /  January 24, 2014

    Compare: a woman described by the Sonoma Co. HS as ‘debilitated,’ ‘totally unaware’ of the suffering involved, and ‘brave’ surrendered what she reported as 35 Finish lapphunds. Turns out there’s 66, and the HS is asking for help –

    http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20140124/articles/140129767#page=1

    I read this article and thought, that’s how you encourage people to surrender pets they can’t care for. Not with threats, not with shame, just helping hands – even when it turns out to be a bigger job than anyone thought. I’m proud of the HS this morning.

    Reply
  9. I’m so confused by this story…it feels like there’s so much missing from the article. Did all three dogs have separate owners? Were the dogs allowed to suffer for a long period before being surrendered, or were the injuries fresh? Was there some indication the injuries were inflicted by the owner?

    Even if the injuries WERE pre-existing for a long period, then the owners should be charged with cruelty for the period of time the dogs went without medical care, not for surrendering them.

    But I’m absolutely baffled by this:

    You’re not allowed to dump a pet on the taxpayers’ budget if you can’t afford to make it well.

    I…what does that even MEAN? If you CAN’T afford to make the pet well, and you aren’t supposed to surrender them, but you don’t want to euthanize or CAN’T afford to, and you aren’t supposed to let them suffer…what the bloody hell ARE you supposed to do? Cure the dog with the power of prayer?

    Reply
  10. I live 40 minutes south of the Tri-Cities. the East sides of Washington and Oregon are both about 15-20 years behind on shelter practices (for the most part). Our local “shelter” is so small and stupidly-run that sometimes when desperate people ask us where to take a dog or cat, we suggest asking Tri-Cities’ shelters, because at least they are semi-functional. No one’s going to oust a director simply for saying something cruel and stupid because there’s no way we’d get someone better to replace them…

    Reply
  11. Kittypurr

     /  January 26, 2014

    I live in a rural area where idiots let their dogs run loose on country roads where cars travel 50mph+
    There is a containment law but they chose to ignore it creating a problem for the animals and drivers.
    When the dog gets hit they chose to surrender the dog because their buds bitch will have another litter.
    In this scenario I would want them prosecuted.

    Reply
  12. While I do believe that shelters (kill facilities) should be available for all animals there are exceptions. It does not cost THAT much to take your beloved, loyal friend (your dog) to a vet and have that beloved pet euthanized if it is truly beyond vet care. I do NOT think these owners were kind hearted to dump their pet at a facility, where the pet would be frightened. Remember, it is already sick. Is that what people should do with old people, too? Dump them in care facilities, where OTHERS can watch them take their last breath? I have to agree with Angela. It is the OWNERS responsibility to take care of their pet. Don’t people know that there is no such thing as a free pet? I have had to use my mastercard in the past several months because my 17 year old Border Collie needs more holistic medicine and treatments to help with her discomfort. I would never let her suffer, or take her to a pound or kill facility. I would sell everything I own before I could do that! You do what you have to do, I’m not rich, but because my dogs are like my kids, you TAKE CARE OF THEM. because you love that pet. Shame on these owners, and I hope they were charged. What did they end up doing with the poor suffering animal? People’s sense of entitlement is beyond reality. Take care of those pets who have loved you all their lives.

    Reply
    • db

       /  January 29, 2014

      In a perfect world, everyone would be able to handle the expenses of all pet care, but it’s hardly a perfect world. As a compassionate people, we need to provide help to those folks who are giving up their pets, probably with great sadness, because they can’t afford to treat them properly. Would you rather all these people allow their pets to suffer at home?

      I, fortunately, have been able to provide the care my pets need. Not everyone is that fortunate. I’m tired of poor people being thought of as people without love and kindness for their pets. Of course, some are, but so are some not-so-poor people.

      Reply
    • mikken

       /  January 29, 2014

      Not knowing their stories, I’m not too keen to judge. And you have to remember, MANY people who take animals to shelters think that the shelter is a safe place, that shelters take care of animals, and that they would never kill “nice” animals.

      I don’t care how the animals get to the shelter. Once they’re there, they’re the shelter’s responsibility. So whatever happens to animals once they go through that door, is all on the shelter staff.

      You know what? I once acted as emergency foster for a dog whose owner ended up in heroin rehab. This dog was a biter (of people) and not safe around other animals (which I had). Was it hard to keep this dog for over three months (was only supposed to be one month)? Yes it was. But the moment that dog came through my door, she was my responsibility and I did right by her every step of the way. Yes, her owner was irresponsible. Yes, her owner should have cared for her properly. Yes, her owner should have had an emergency plan in case, you know, the police arrested her and a judge forced her into rehab. But WHY the dog was in my living room didn’t matter a damn bit because she was now my responsibility. I expect a shelter to take the same approach. (Dog was reunited with owner, btw, who cleaned up her life and took good care of her for the rest of her days.)

      Reply

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