Dog Who Never Should Have Been in Burlington Pound Gets Oops-Killed

When a friendly dog who’d apparently been shot with a paintball gun showed up at the home of the Lassiter family in Alamance Co, NC on January 6, they took him in from the winter rain.  He quickly settled in with the couple, their children and their other dog.  They tried to find his owner, if he had one, but didn’t have any luck by the time a neighbor called AC on the dog three days later.  Michelle Lassiter arrived home to find the dog she had named Si on the AC truck in her neighbor’s yard.  She explained the circumstances to the ACO and asked if she could have Si back but he refused, stating the dog had to go to the pound.

“If he would have given her the dog off the truck, then there’s no opportunity for the real owner to get the dog,” [Lt. Mike] Hoover [of the Alamance Co sheriff’s department] said Friday.

The Lassiters say they tracked Si down at the pound but when they expressed a desire to adopt him if he went unclaimed, the staff treated them rudely. And then the bill started ballooning:

They originally were told they’d need to pay the standard $25 impound fee plus $5 for each additional day Si was held there. Then, when they’d prepared to spring him, employees told them Si couldn’t be released without documentation of his rabies shot or payment of a $50 fine.

The Lassiters were given an additional 3 days after the mandated holding period to meet the requirements placed upon them. Michelle Lassiter left her contact information with the pound, told them she wanted to adopt Si and specifically requested to be notified if they were going to kill him. She was prepared to come get Si, whom no owner had claimed, within the designated time period and called the pound again to make sure there would be no additional requirements. That’s when she was informed Si had been killed. Oops.

The Burlington pound investigated itself in the matter:

An internal investigation found that a shelter employee didn’t follow policies related to receiving and recording information about parties interested in animals held there, Burlington Animal Services Director Jessica Arias said Friday.

Each animal taken into the shelter has a file. An employee who spoke to Lassiter about the dog didn’t properly file her contact information. Arias said the issue is a personnel matter and was being dealt with “appropriately and swiftly.”

A personnel matter? Hardly. This is a systemic failure. The 2012 state report indicates the Burlington pound primarily functions as a pet killing facility where more than 70% of the animals impounded are killed:

Carnage in Alamance Co

Carnage in Alamance Co

It’s obvious that so many friendly pets are killed at the Burlington pound every day, no one there even bats an eye at the practice. This is not a personnel matter. Unless you want to argue that workers at the pound are not doing their jobs to shelter animals, in which case I’d be inclined to agree. But blaming the needless killing of a friendly dog who had a family waiting for him on a paperwork oops is a no sale.

If anyone at the Burlington pound is truly interested in doing their jobs, they could start by taking advantage of a foster offer to keep a dog out of their pet killing facility for the mandatory holding period.  The Lassiters could have kept Si at home for the holding period and the pound could have photographed him and posted his information at the pound and online in order to find an owner, if he had one.  Instead, they insisted on taking yet another dog into their pet slaughterhouse.  Next, the staff could start being polite to adopters.  Because nobody WANTS to kill animals, or so I’ve heard.  And how about looking for ways to get animals into homes instead of jerking people around on fines and vaccination records and assorted obstacles?  And finally, if they really want to start doing their jobs, they should stop killing animals.

The next time a Burlington pound employee sees a healthy/treatable pet in the kill room, he should recognize immediately that a mistake of epic proportions is occurring and take immediate action to protect the animal.  That’s what should happen, if employees at the Burlington pound were doing their jobs.  Tragically, killing friendly animals is something that happens thousands of times a year in Alamance Co and no one at the place appears to give a damn.

Open Thread

Animal related questions, comments, stories, links and such go in the comments.

cat tock

West Fargo is Not a No Kill City

After reading a claim that West Fargo, ND was a “no kill city”, I checked online for information on the shelter.  It appears the West Fargo police department impounds animals and brings them to the West Fargo Animal Hospital.  I filed a FOIA request for shelter statistics for 2013 and received this response:

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: FW: pound animals
From: “Chris Y. Seidel” <Chris.Seidel@westfargond.gov>
Date: Wed, January 15, 2014 8:07 am
To: “eiderdown@yesbiscuit.com” <eiderdown@yesbiscuit.com>, “Marcy J.
Overby” <Marcy.Overby@westfargond.gov>

Good morning Shirley,

1/15/2014 9:07 AM

Sorry to inform you but our agency does not keep track of what you are requesting and we are unable to create a report for you.

Thank you
Chris

Chris Seidel
West Fargo Police – Office Supervisor
800 4 Avenue East, Suite 2
West Fargo, ND 58078
701-433-5590 (office phone)
701-433-5508 (fax)

I then requested detailed impound and outcome records for every individual animal impounded by the city in 2013.  After exchanging escalating pleasantries via e-mail, it was determined that the West Fargo PD could in fact produce some records. The records I received are here. Please look them over and see if you can shed any light on this jumble o’ heap.

Based on the records provided by the West Fargo PD, here are the 2013 intake and outcome totals for the pound:

  • Intake:  203  (You will notice the numbers start at 1 and end at 216 but there are only 203 animals listed.  Explanation to follow.)
  • Transferred to rescue:  90  (Three groups identified as Cat’s Cradle, 4 Luv of Dog and FMHS)
  • Adopted:  1
  • RTO:  1
  • Killed:  17 (mostly cats listed as feral)
  • Died in cage:  1
  • On hand at year’s end:  1
  • O rate:  91

I inquired as to the meaning of the outcome type listed as “O rate” since it is entirely unfamiliar to me.  I was told only that it indicates the city was not charged for that animal.  I specifically requested outcome records for each of the animals on this report but did not receive any.  I tried to press the issue in order to at least determine whether the “O rate” animals were live-released but the police department declined to answer my questions or provide the requested records.  I also do not know what type of outcome is indicate by the letters NPC (one animal in June is listed as outcome type “NPC”).  The city consistently worked with the same 3 rescue groups all year long according to the records.  If NPC is a rescue group, the city transferred only one animal to the group in 2013 which seems unlikely.  It could mean anything.

Astute readers will also notice a major discrepancy in the records between pages 9 and 10.  The sequential animal numbers skip from 84 to 98 and clearly 2 of the dogs listed as “held over from June” are among the missing.  Assuming there were actual animals attached to the missing numbers, their outcomes are unknown.

Not actually.

Not actually.

In summary, the West Fargo pound, such as it is, does not appear to do adoptions (the one for the year is indicative of an anomaly) and kills all feral cats.  Furthermore, there appear to be some serious transparency issues with the pound, including record keeping and the refusal to reveal what happened to nearly half the animals impounded last year.

West Fargo is definitively not a no kill city based on the fact that it kills all feral cats. Even if the city stopped killing feral cats as a matter of policy today, there is still insufficient information to substantiate any claim of it being a no kill city. There are not only missing animals but also numerous animals whose outcomes the city refuses to reveal. This goes against the transparency tenet of operating a no kill shelter.

No kill continues to grow in popularity among members of the public. With increased demand from compassionate people, there will be some who attempt to co-opt the term no kill without actually doing the work of saving lives. This type of deception is harmful to the movement as naysayers point out the killing and secrecy of these fraudulent “no kill” groups and claim they are representative of no kill as a whole. They are not. There are hundreds of open admission shelters across this country putting in the hard work to save the lives of their animals and doing it in a transparent manner. In order to keep the movement honest and in defense of those actually walking the walk, it is important to verify claims of no kill before celebrating them. In this case, the claim fell far short of the mark.

If there is anyone in West Fargo interested in working to reform the city pound, visit the No Kill Advocacy Center for a toolkit to get started. And let us know if you need help.

Treats on the Internets

The set up:  The Guilford Co pound killed 51% of its dogs and cats in 2012.  The pound has a policy dictating death for all Rottweilers, Pitbulls and Chows, regardless of health or temperament.
The punchline, courtesy of the local paper: “Guilford County offering pet responsibility classes”

A cat rescue group in CA asks why the Lancaster pound is killing cats when there are so many empty cages.  (Thanks Leslie for the link.)

Indianapolis ACOs confiscated pets left out during a recent snowstorm and issued more than 70 citations to owners.  Several dogs froze to death.  (Thanks Arlene for the link.)

Journalist Glenn Greenwald is also a rescuer of street dogs in Brazil.  (Thanks Karen F. for the link.)

ScienceyNew information on the origins of cat domestication.

The etymology of the expression “Screw the pooch”

In Which Randolph Co Clings to its Gas Chamber

When HSUS gave Randolph Co, NC $3000 in December 2011 to send its gas chamber to the landfill, Randolph Co was all, “Yay, put that fat check straight into our bank account!”  Then they kept right on merrily stuffing dogs and cats into the gas chamber.  Of the 6705 dogs and cats who came through the Randolph Co pound’s front door in 2012, 5395 of them were killed by the staff.

Portion of the state's public animal shelter report for 2012 showing Randolph Co, NC

Portion of the state’s public animal shelter report for 2012 showing Randolph Co, NC

In 2013, Randolph Co pound staff continued gassing animals instead of doing their jobs (although the state hasn’t yet released the 2013 numbers). After 2 years of continued gassing with no end in sight, HSUS finally got up the nerve to ask the county to either stop putting animals into the gas chamber or give back the $3000. The county decided it would be less painful to part with the cash so that they could hang on to their beloved torture machine.

Kim Alboum, the NC director for HSUS, issued a statement in response which reads, in part:

It is shocking that a North Carolina county would return desperately needed funding for their animal shelter because they would rather continue a practice that has been denounced by every national humane organization. This does nothing but hurt the animals of Randolph County, for absolutely no reason.

It certainly is a head-scratcher.  Unless… maybe we didn’t bring the Randolph Co pet killers enough cupcakes?

For those not inclined to reward animal gassers with dessert, Fix NC has the info you need to take meaningful action.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Owner of Seized Dogs Files Civil Rights Lawsuit in Federal Court

A lawsuit filed by Mississippi pet owner Deborah K. Alverson alleges that on March 26, 2013, her two dogs were sunbathing in her yard.  The dogs were China, an 8 year old pug with some vision and hearing problems, and Black Betty, a 4 year old puggle with severe hip dysplasia.  Both dogs were receiving regular vet care.  A Harrison Co ACO, operating under the sheriff’s office, questioned Ms. Alverson’s neighbor about the dogs and was told they were not being neglected.  The ACO seized the dogs without a court order and brought them to the Humane Society of South Mississippi.  He charged Ms. Alverson with animal cruelty.  She immediately tried to get her dogs back, without success:

Alverson was not allowed to retrieve them and tried to request an emergency hearing in Justice Court, but allegedly was unable to have a hearing because the officer failed to turn in the paperwork on the seizure.

Alverson complained to sheriff’s officials but was told the officer’s actions were proper. Alverson believes the charges were filed against her in retaliation.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that China died in the care of the Humane Society of South Mississippi, that Ms. Alverson was not informed of the death in a timely manner and that she was refused permission to take China’s body home with her.  The charges against Ms. Alverson were dismissed for lack of evidence several months later.

Ms. Alverson filed a civil rights suit in December against the Harrison County Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Melvin Brisolara and the ACO, who reportedly has since left the sheriff’s office.

Alverson alleges she was not afforded due process and was the victim of malicious prosecution under color of law.

Some details of the case are unclear and I do not know if the owner ever got the surviving dog back.  The article in the Sun Herald rightly points out:

A lawsuit represents only one side of a complaint.

In this case, it represents Ms. Alverson’s version of events.  I searched the internet in an effort to find the other side of the story but failed to find any mention of the original case online.  I also contacted the Harrison Co board clerk to ask if the board had yet responded to the lawsuit.  As of this posting, I haven’t received a reply.  If the lawsuit proceeds in the courts, I imagine the Sun Herald will report on it.  Let’s keep our eyes open.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Funky Cold Medina Co

At the time public pressure brought by an animal advocate forced the Medina Co pound in Ohio to stop gassing cats, it was believed that the shelter staff did an admirable job caring for dogs.  After all, the facility boasts a 92% live release rate for dogs.  But records obtained via FOIA request appear to show that many of the dogs who were euthanized last year at Medina Co received less than the amount of Fatal Plus indicated on the label.  For example, a 50 pound dog being euthanized by IV injection with Fatal Plus should receive no less than 5 cc according to label instructions.  But many dogs whose weights were recorded as 50 pounds by Medina Co received only 4 cc of Fatal Plus with one 50 pound dog receiving just 3 cc.  Several dogs weighing 60 pounds also received the 4 cc dose.  This is a serious problem according to an animal euthanasia expert in Ohio:

The Medina County animal control officers “need to be relieved of duty pending a thorough investigation of their qualifications and ability to do their jobs,” David Balz, Ohio-certified euthanasia instructor and director of the Wyandot County Humane Society, wrote Thursday in an email to The Plain Dealer. “I would not trust them to work in my shelter, in any capacity, under any circumstances, let alone that of euthanasia technicians.”

The state of Ohio does not specifically require that those qualified to euthanize animals do so only using the dosage on the drug’s label.  (The state of Virginia for example, requires exactly that.)  But Ohio code does include this:

Any agent or employee of an animal shelter performing euthanasia by means of lethal injection shall do so only in a humane and proficient manner that is in conformity with the methods described in division (A) of this section and not in violation of Chapter 959. of the Revised Code.

A humane and proficient manner.  In order to get a qualified opinion, I contacted David Balz myself. I asked him his view on whether using less than the label dosage, such as is evident in the Medina Co shelter’s drug logs, would qualify as performing euthanasia “in a humane and proficient manner”? He replied, in part:

I would say that it is certainly questionable. There is also the issue of using a drug “off label” in other words not following the directions or usage on the bottle. Only a licensed professional can do that. The rest of us have to use things as they are labeled. I may “know” that a particular drug will do something or that a different dosage would do a particular thing, but, not being a MD, DDS, DVM etc, I would not be allowed to do it any way except what is labeled on the bottle.

I also asked Mr. Balz to explain the concerns associated with using too little of a euthanasia drug. His reply, in part:

There are a number of problems associated with “underdosing” when using the drug for euthanasia. The most obvious is that, while the animal may literally go to sleep, it may also wake up. The problems with that are obvious. My worry about the workers in Medina is that if they previously had confusion regarding Intraperitoneal injections on cats and are now having problems with IV dosage calculations, then perhaps they also are not capable of establishing that the animal is dead before disposing of the body.

The other issue with “underdosing” is that at the doses we recommend you are basically “anesthetizing” the animal to the point where the base of the brain shuts down and the animal’s heart and lungs simply stop working – long after total unconsciousness which is the first effect. Picture the human operating room and the doctor asks the patient to start counting backwards from 100 – the doctor injects the drug and the patient says 99………and is unconscious. From that point on the level keeps deepening. Obviously in anesthesia we support the patient, but in the case of euthanasia they rapidly go into coma and then stop completely (at recommended doses they are unconscious in seconds and dead in 1 to 5 minutes). During this process there is an “excitement” phase where the patient/animal may flail about injuring themselves and others. When the animal is underdosed it becomes more likely that this excitement phase will occur or be extended. Thereby potentially being dangerous for the workers.

Public records obtained via FOIA request show that Medina Co shelter director Del Saffle, whose initials appear on all of the underdosed dogs, received training and certification in euthanasia practices in 1995. Although many shelters require their euthanasia technicians to continually update their training and certification, Medina Co apparently does not. Even without recent training, anyone performing euthanasia in an animal shelter should be reading and following the label instructions for the drug being used. No animal shelter employee should be underdosing animals with euthanasia drug under any circumstances.  If there is to be any deviation from the label instructions, it is always recommended to overdose and never to underdose animals being euthanized.

From the HSUS euthanasia reference manual:

Technicians can help minimize the chances of record-keeping errors by rounding up (never down!) to the nearest milliliter[.]
[…]
[R]ounding up and administering slightly more drug than technically needed is perfectly acceptable (it is never acceptable to use less than the label dose).

Medina Co reportedly places euthanized animals into an onsite incinerator.  The implications of the shelter’s practice of routine underdosing of dogs with euthanasia drug are obvious and disturbing.  Why was this practice ever allowed at Medina Co and when will the county put a stop to it?

Weird Tales: ACO Edition

Two stories from New England sent to me by Clarice – one recent and the other from spring of last year:

A CT newspaper received records via FOIA request pertaining to the November 2013 firing of an ACO in Stonington.  The sordid and somewhat confusing story behind the termination includes an allegation that former ACO Rae Jean Davis was stealing kittens from the shelter for her own personal rescue organization, of which she was the sole member.  When police investigators asked her about the rescue, she reportedly responded with an array of lies.

An ACO in Chittenden County, Vermont was spending some of his on-duty time offering women $20 to show him their breasts.  When police confronted 69 year old Gary Francis Sr. with the allegations in April 2013, he quit his job.  He was initially charged with two misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts while on duty but in May, he pleaded no contest to one count of a prohibited act.  Mr. Francis received a $100 fine.

Open Thread

Post anything animal related in the comments.

rabbits get shit done

Odessa Pound Kills Beloved Pet, Blames Owner

The Odessa pound in Texas has a poor track record including banning rescuers without reasonable cause and violating their First Amendment rights.  Although the police department in charge of the pound does not make its statistics available to the public on its website, one area rescuer cites a kill rate of nearly 85% and claims “6 or 7” dogs are housed in each kennel.  A petition seeking improvements at the pound has collected more than 4600 signatures to date.  The Odessa American reports the pound killed 5,442 animals in the first 10 months of 2013, deeming all but 353 of them unadoptable.

But wait – there’s more!

Fatboy, as pictured on Facebook.

Fatboy, as pictured on Facebook.

On Tuesday, a dog named Fatboy was picked up by Odessa AC and taken to the pound.  His owner came to reclaim him but was turned away because he didn’t think to bring the dog’s vaccination records with him.  The owner returned the next morning with shot records in hand and asked to take his pet home.  But Odessa AC had already killed Fatboy.

Here is where I usually say “Oops” and tell how the pound staff explained away the accidental killing of a pet whose owner was turned away when trying to redeem him.  But Odessa AC not only failed to take any responsibility whatsoever for the needless killing of Fatboy, they issued a statement blaming the owner and attempting to paint Fatboy in a negative light as well:

“On 1-6-14 at approximately 1401 hours, Odessa Animal Control officers were dispatched to the 1200 block of Golder in reference to a Black Pit Bull that had been chasing children thru the neighborhood. Animal Control officers later located the said dog in the area of 12th and Alleghaney. The pit bull was running loose and did not have a tag or collar on it. The pit bull was brought back to the animal shelter later that evening. It was discovered that this was the second time the pit bull had been brought to the animal shelter for running loose,” OPD said of the incident.

“On 1-7-14 at approximately 1700 hours, a male subject came into the shelter and reported that his dog was possibly there. The male subject did not leave any information, including his name or address and advised he would be coming back. The male subject never returned that evening.”

“On 1-8-14 in the morning hours, the said pit bull was determined to be sick. To prevent any further diseases from spreading, the said pit bull was euthanized per policy.”

Oh where oh where to begin?  Odessa AC reportedly has a quarantine room for sick animals.  If Fatboy really was sick – and yeah, I’m questioning the ability of these control freak pet killers to diagnose a sick dog – why didn’t they put him in the quarantine room?  “Pitbull chasing children” is to my mind a blatant attempt to deploy the scary.  But when I read it, I interpret it as a friendly dog who escaped his yard and was having a romp enjoying his renegade status.  He didn’t bite anyone or even give anyone a stern look.  Just because he’d gotten loose in the past – and apparently issued no stern looks then either – doesn’t make a case that the dog needed to die.  Sorry, no scary.

Regarding the “male subject” (ooh, he’s like a criminal now too!), isn’t it good enough that he identified his dog, spoke to a staff member who told him a vaccination record was required for redemption and left with a verbal agreement to return in the morning?  Does he have to “leave information” in writing and oh say, wouldn’t that be the Odessa pound staff’s job to collect that anyway?

The statement issued by the police department is nothing short of a hit job, attempting to deflect blame for their own failures – which are obviously chronic and massive, to the tune of 5000 “unadoptable” dead animals – and blame the victims.

I hope in addition to the petition, local shelter pet advocates organize some public awareness events, starting with speeches delivered to the city council.  Because this situation is bullshit stacked on top of malarkey and held together with depravity.  And if this is the first time Odessa has killed someone’s lost pet, I will eat my hat.  Has anyone examined the records on those 5000 “unadoptable” animals killed in 10 months last year?  I’m betting it reads like a Lost and Found Pets section from the local newspaper.  Except at the Odessa pound, it’s Lost and Found and Killed and Screw You Guys, We’re the Police.

(Thanks Nathan and Clarice for info on this story.)