Saginaw Co Faces State Hearing Regarding Mistreatment of Shelter Animals

When I last wrote about the Saginaw Co pound in MI, it was to praise the local advocates who stood up for the animals being neglected at the pound, even after then-director Val McCullough instituted retaliatory policy changes in an attempt to stifle their efforts.  That was in August 2012.  Ms. McCullough quit in the middle of the ensuing investigation and the county hired Kevin Wilken to replace her in November 2012.  His leadership was fraught with controversy as well.  In December 2013, Kevin Wilken was escorted from the pound by members of the county sheriff’s office.  The county declined to comment on the reason for his removal except to clarify he had been placed on leave with pay.

This week, new information came to light.  After at least one local advocate complained to the county and the state about the mistreatment of shelter animals under Kevin Wilken,  Saginaw Co hired a consultant to conduct an evaluation of pound operations. The resulting report contained evidence of possible crimes and was sent to the county prosecutor and MI state police, who opened an investigation.  A county press release references both the consultant’s report and the state investigation of the pound:

“During the operational assessment and state’s investigation, the county became concerned that several animals under the care of SCACC may not have received proper palliative care for their injuries or illnesses,” the release states.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has since notified the county that they face a hearing regarding the allegations of wrongdoing on March 7.

“Specifically, the Saginaw County Animal Care failed to follow statutory requirements, and recommended and accepted good practices in the care of shelter animals including but not limited to proper holding, proper sanitation, adequate housing, proper handling of perishable food and proper disposal of dead animals,” the notice states.

Additional details on the allegations:

  • One dog was allegedly housed in a kennel in a state of disrepair which allowed a neighboring dog to injure him.  The injured dog was allegedly left to needlessly suffer and later ordered killed by Kevin Wilken.
  • More than 100 animals were allegedly killed before their state mandated holding periods had expired.
  • Pet food was allegedly improperly store and infested with insects.
  • More than 200 animals were allegedly adopted to unlicensed groups

No charges have been brought against Kevin Wilken.  He remains on paid leave.  An ACO has been running the pound in his absence.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me links on this story.)

One Less Vet in the World Willing to Take in a Homeless Cat and Treat Him for Free

An all too familiar story in the animal welfare world has ended in needless tragedy.

In August 2013, a Good Samaritan found a sickly cat in a park in the Bronx and took him to Gentle Hands vet clinic. The clinic’s owner, Dr. Shirley Koshi, took him in and nursed him back to health. Several weeks later, Gwen Jurmark showed up at the clinic demanding the cat, called Karl, be given to her. Ms. Jurmark claimed Karl was part of a maintained colony of cats who live at the park. She believed she had legal standing to claim Karl due to the fact that she had paid for his neuter surgery some years back. Ms. Jurmark filed a lawsuit against Dr. Koshi in October after she refused to give Karl to her.

Dr. Koshi became the target of a cyberbullying campaign. (I’m only including one link as an example because I don’t want to provide these people with any more traffic than is necessary but you can Google to find more if you are so inclined.)  Ms. Jurmark also led a protest outside the Gentle Hands clinic.

[Veterinary technician Will] Page said business at Gentle Hands, which Koshi opened last July, nosedived in the aftermath of the protest. Koshi told Page she’d exhausted her savings to keep the clinic running, and a flood last month damaged the office.
[…]
“Besides financial problems, the lawsuit drove her over the edge,” Page said.

Dr. Koshi was found dead in her apartment on February 16, an apparent victim of suicide.  Authorities reportedly took the pets from her apartment, including Karl, to the NYC pound.  Ms. Jurmark went to the pound following Dr. Koshi’s suicide and got Karl back.

(Thank you Valerie and Clarice for links on this story.)

***

If you need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 anytime, day or night.

As far as this tiny corner of the blogosphere goes, I am doing my best to err on the side of caution and quickly toss anyone who comes across as a potential That Guy.

Treats on the Internets

The city of Houston, which kills most of its homeless pets, estimates there are between 600,000 and 1.2 million homeless dogs and cats on the streets there.  The same article, appearing in the Houston Chronicle, says that there is a “shortage of adoptable animals” in CO. This will no doubt come as a shock to the “unwanted” dogs and cats being taken to kill rooms in CO pounds today.  (Thank you Clarice for the link.)

“Forsaken No More” is a paper on Pitbull facts by animal advocate Aubrie Kavanaugh.  It may be useful to other shelter reform advocates who are battling Pitbull stereotypes and myths in their own communities.

The SPCA of Northern Nevada is using a blood test to determine which incoming dogs need vaccinations and which already have sufficient antibodies to protect them from contagious diseases.  (Thanks Clarice for the link.)

A boy in a rural area of the Philippines wants to open an animal shelter when he grows up.  He’s putting a downpayment on the effort now.

Eighteen cats were treated to a $35,000 home renovation by their owner in CA.

A woman in Germany allowed her horse to come inside the house during a recent bout of severe weather.  He liked it.

Finnish reindeer are getting their antlers spray painted with reflective paint in an effort to make them more visible to motorists.  (Thanks Valerie.)

Corpus Christi Pound Oops-Kills Owned Dog During Quarantine

The pound in Corpus Christi, TX is run by the police department.  On February 9, Corpus Christi Animal Care Services  impounded a dog named Bandit for quarantine after he reportedly bit a person.  The owner, Mary Trevino, was given a 10 day quarantine form by the impounding ACO, which she signed and kept her copy.  Ms. Trevino says she maintained constant contact with an ACO named Rhodes throughout the quarantine period as she intended to pick Bandit up as soon as the city would release him.   The day before the quarantine expired, the city killed Bandit, because they say they thought his owner had surrendered him.  Oops.

But when a devastated Ms. Trevino went to the local news and a reporter began asking questions, the city decided to hold a presser to explain its side of the story.  Which basically amounts to:  Owner?  What owner?

Commander Todd Green:

Animal Care Services admits that this entire incident could have been handled better and offer our apologies to whoever actually owns the dog.

Right.  We apologize to Miss Mystery Owner, whom we don’t know and have never heard of in our lives.  The one we had sign the impound form and talked to about reclaiming her dog.  The one whom we later said we thought, incorrectly, had surrendered the dog allowing us to kill him.  That unknown person, wherever she may be, long may she run.

The city will investigate itself to determine whether any policies were violated.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Someone is Talking about Ending the Culture of Killing! In the South!

Praise Ponies, this is a nice thing to read:

“When we talk about no-kill, we’re not talking about a definition,” says Aubrie Kavanaugh, a member of No Kill Huntsville. “We’re talking about a culture.”

[…]

“If they’re healthy and treatable, let’s not destroy those animals,” Kavanaugh says. “We don’t need to be spending our money that way. And it’s not consistent with our values.

[…]

“I think it’s possible that we could have a no-kill community in Huntsville in months,” Kavanaugh says. And after that, she says, the culture of no kill could spread to other communities in Alabama.

Sounds sensible, believable and achievable to me.

Thank you Aubrie Kavanaugh for speaking out about replacing a culture of killing with a culture of lifesaving here in the south.  More, please.

Memphis: Insanity Would Be an Improvement

Year after year, the primary “service” performed at Memphis Animal Services is killing.  City leaders in Memphis have never held anyone accountable for the ongoing failure of the staff to do their jobs – that is, to shelter animals.  The system is designed to kill animals and that’s what they do, even in the face of proven, lifesaving alternatives.

Bolstered by killing apologists, MAS director James Rogers goes so far as to call the systemic slaughter of healthy/treatable dogs and cats at his facility “euthanasia” when in fact euthanasia (“easy death”) is a word reserved for mercifully ending the suffering of animals deemed medically hopeless by a veterinarian.  All shelter pets have a right to live.  There is nothing merciful about killing:

Shelter Director James Rogers said they make every effort to get the strays healthy and adoptable.

“I am not against euthanasia,” Rogers said, “I am against unfair and cruel euthanasia.”

I take this to mean James Rogers believes it’s neither unfair nor cruel to round up homeless pets and kill them. That’s the extent of his business plan. “Make every effort” translates to “make no effort” – just do the same thing year in and year out.  Insanity is sometimes loosely defined as repeating the same actions while expecting different results.  In Memphis though, they simply repeat the same actions – killing animals – while having no expectations of anything other than rounding up more animals to kill.  Not only is Memphis failing to achieve different results with its repetitious actions, the city isn’t even trying for those different results.  It’s a scratched record.  It’s a set of wash, rinse, repeat instructions where the wash and rinse have been replaced by kill.  It’s a loop.

When rappers take the most familiar hook out of a popular song and loop it so it repeats for 5 minutes, they can say anything they want over the top because people are comfortable with that recognizable riff.  This is what the city of Memphis has done.  MAS kills animals in an endless loop that everyone in the building is comfortable with and city leaders recognize as familiar while James Rogers blathers on about striving for excellence.  It’s a hoax.

When asked about the MAS pets who have owners, adopters or rescuers coming for them but are killed anyway, he says:

“We just cry to each other and then just get back in and do it again,” Rogers said.

See, that’s the problem.

(Thanks Clarice for sending in this link.)

Open Thread

Post anything animal related in the comments.

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Medina Co Kills Microchipped Dog

When shelters kill lost pets whose owners are trying to find them and it makes the news, shelter directors often attempt to blame the owner, stating that the pet should have been microchipped. The implication being that if the pet had been chipped, the shelter would have called the contact information associated with the chip before killing the animal and the owner could have had a chance to find out where the pet was while still alive. As if somehow that is in any way a reasonable explanation for why a pet was killed by someone whose job it is to provide shelter to lost pets.  At any rate, it’s false. We know that pet killing facilities do not always call to get the contact information associated with a microchip before killing pets.

The Medina Co pound in Ohio has bragged about its very high lifesaving rate for dogs for some time, while stuffing cats into the gas chamber until the public recently shamed them into ending the barbaric practice.  But numbers don’t tell the whole story, as evidenced in records obtained via FOIA request which show Medina Co was regularly killing dogs using incorrect dosages of Fatal Plus.  Another dog record recently obtained via FOIA request shows a stray pet was impounded last summer when the finder brought him to the Medina Co pound:

Portion of records from the Medina Co pound

Portion of records from the Medina Co pound

The neutered cattle dog mix was picked up by a Good Sam who found him running loose.  The Medina Co pound clearly scanned the dog for a chip, found it and noted the chip’s manufacturer and ID number on the records.  Then they killed the dog, noting they didn’t have “time” to do their jobs and shelter him.  There are no records indicating Medina Co ever contacted Home Again to obtain the contact information for anyone associated with the microchip.

When I shared this record with an animal advocate in OH, she contacted the chip manufacturer listed and was advised the chip had been implanted by a shelter in OH.  She called that shelter and spoke to someone who looked up the chip’s ID number.  The chip belonged to a dog named Gambit who had been adopted to a new owner.  The new owner apparently did not register the chip in his name.  The shelter records for Gambit contained a note that he was an “escape artist”.  It seems plausible that Gambit escaped from his new owner’s home and was found by the Good Sam who brought him to the Medina Co pound.  The shelter worker who spoke with the advocate said Medina Co had never contacted them about Gambit and if they had, the shelter would have picked him up right away.

Many pet owners do not understand how microchips work or the importance of registering them.  This is one reason chip manufacturers keep the contact information of the facility where the pet received the chip – so even if the new owner doesn’t follow through with registration, there is still a contact for the pet in case of emergency.  But Medina Co apparently couldn’t be bothered to make that phone call.  Because they don’t have “time” to do their jobs.  Too busy injecting dogs with insufficient amounts of Fatal Plus and gassing cats last summer, I guess.  And while it’s understandable that a pet owner might not understand the significance of a microchip, workers at a taxpayer funded animal shelter definitely should.

Nobody WANTS to kill animals, except when it takes “time” to save them.

Wentzville Municipal Court Sentences Woman Who Helped Lost Pet

Deisel, as pictured on the St Louis Post-Dispatch website

Diesel, as pictured on the St Louis Post-Dispatch website

When a Lincoln Co, MO woman came across a dog tied to a sewer pipe in a vacant lot on December 27, she was concerned that the dog might freeze to death. She was unable to take the dog home herself so contacted the county sheriff for help. The sheriff’s office told her the county has no shelter. Sucks being you, freezing dog.  Feeling it would be wrong to leave the dog where he was, she drove him to the nearest shelter, located in the city of Wentzville, run by the police department. Fearing they too would refuse to help the dog, she lied about where she found him, stating it was within city limits.

The dog’s owners were reunited with their pet and said he had run off due to an electronic fence failure. The owners were grateful that the Good Sam had saved their pet, named Diesel, from freezing on the tether in the vacant lot. The city of Wentzville issued a $50 citation to the owners for allowing Diesel to run loose. This prompted the Good Sam to come forward and admit she hadn’t found Diesel within city limits as she had initially reported and she hoped the city wouldn’t fine the owners. Instead the city charged the Good Sam with a crime: filing a false police report.

The Good Sam’s first reaction was to fight the misdemeanor charge but upon learning she could be sent to jail if convicted, she decided to plead no contest so that her three children would not be left motherless for the duration of her sentence if she lost her case. She made a plea deal with the prosecutor to perform 20 hours of community service and receive 6 months of probation. Diesel’s owners were in court with the Good Sam and paid her court costs for her.

Just so we’re straight here:

  • The Lincoln Co sheriff’s department was apparently content to allow a lost pet to suffer and die on a tether in an empty lot.
  • The city of Wentzville is the suck.
  • If not for the so-called Irresponsible Public, there would be precious little worth clinging to in the animal welfare world.

(Thanks Davyd for sending me this story.)

“Human Error” Blamed for Oops-Killing in Prince George’s Co

Screengrab from the WUSA website.

Screengrab from the WUSA website.

Prince George’s County in MD has had a body shape based ban on dogs since 1997.  Like every other similar ban, it tears families apart and offers no benefit of any kind.  But Prince George’s Co continues to uphold the ban.  Because AHHH Pitbulls!

When a bully breed type dog was surrendered at the Prince George’s Co pound by her owner last week, a local rescue group moved swiftly to save her.  Within hours, they found a foster home where the healthy dog, who was about to give birth to a litter of puppies, could raise her family in safety and comfort.  The rescue advised the pound they were sending a volunteer to pick her up.  But someone at the pound failed to mark the dog’s record with a DO NOT KILL so Prince George’s Co killed her before the rescuer arrived.  Oops.

Lisa Marie Czop, the rescue volunteer who tried to save this dog, told me she received a text message from a pound worker that read, “Don’t worry about the pregnant dog I emailed you about” which she soon learned meant the dog had been oops-killed.

The Public Information Specialist for Prince George’s Co told the local news:

[T]he animal was selected for euthanasia due to the lack of space at the Facility and her condition.

Her condition was reportedly healthy.  I believe that the county spokesman is using the word “condition” to indicate that the dog was pregnant and had a body shape deemed illegal by the county.

Lisa Marie Czop wrote to me in an e-mail:

The issue is the leadership at the shelter, and specifically in this case, the kennel manager who makes the decisions to euthanize, does not have life-saving as the top priority of the shelter.

In my opinion, the best outcome would be to remove leadership from this shelter, specifically Chief Taylor. However, a more realistic goal in light of all of this media attention may be to establish some oversight by the County of this shelter so that they can answer to the fact that they are euthanizing significantly more animals than the shelters around them.

County Executive Rushern Baker is the highest level of County leadership that the shelter reports to, and his office phone number is 301-952-4131.

When a pregnant dog who is near term is injected with Fatal Plus, she dies.  But her puppies remain alive inside her uterus, forced to slowly suffocate to death.  This dog had a right to live, as did her unborn puppies.  This dog and her unborn puppies were wanted and a rescue group had advised Prince George’s Co they were coming to pick her up.  But the county killed her anyway, blaming “human error”.

I would offer that the human error at the Prince George’s Co pound is the systematic killing of healthy pets and harboring bias against certain dogs based on body shape.  Within this culture of killing, pound workers view discrimination and death as standard operating procedure which is why no one jumped up and down screaming, “No, this is not right!” when this dog was taken to the kill room.  If Prince George’s Co was doing its job and saving every healthy/treatable animal in its care, that’s exactly what would have happened because no compassionate worker committed to protecting pets’ lives would stand by and allow this dog to be killed and her puppies, who likely could have survived outside the uterus, to smother.

I’ve been hearing for years that shelter works do not want to kill animals.  I’m tired of hearing it.  Show me.  Start doing your jobs and providing shelter to the animals in your care.  Follow the example set by the hundreds of open admission shelters in this country that are saving more than 90% of their animals.  Stop the excuses.  Stop the killing.

(Thank you Anne T. for the link.)