Action Item: Demand Shelter Pets in Charles Co, MD Be Immediately Protected from Further Abuse

There is a video on Facebook of a dog being physically and emotionally abused by a pound employee in Charles Co, MD.  I’m not posting it here because I want to make sure that no reader views it without reading a warning first.  It’s disturbing.  As in, I have had trouble sleeping since I first saw it on the weekend.  I don’t think I’ll ever get the horrifying audio and visuals out of my mind.  For anyone who chooses not to watch but would still like to know the basics of what happens in the video, I will summarize from memory but bear in mind that I only watched it once.  I won’t be watching it again.

The dog, an apparently young black lab mix, is ostensibly being temperament tested by a pound worker using the method popularized by Sue Sternberg.  There is at least one other person in the room.  The worker holds a bowl of food over the dog, which the dog attempts to reach by jumping repeatedly.  The worker screams at the dog and slaps her in the face.  When she finally sets the bowl on the floor, the confused dog avoids it, obviously trying to offer a different behavior than the one that earned the abuse.  The worker then encourages the dog to eat the food which she does.  Then the worker pokes the dog in the face with a plastic hand on a stick and again abuses the dog.

It’s heartbreaking how the dog is trying so hard to please, placing her trust in the person, getting betrayed, trying again…

Someone with a stronger stomach than me might be able to correct my summary or offer a better one by re-watching the vid.  But that’s what I remember from my one viewing.

Let me be clear:  I think the Sue Sternberg behavioral assessment for shelter dogs is rubbish when applied correctly.  This worker clearly is not applying it correctly.  And questions must be asked:

  • Is the worker in the video still being paid to work with animals at the pound?
  • How many shelter dogs has this worker abused – during “testing” and at other times?
  • Who trained this worker in temperament testing?
  • Are all the workers at the pound conducting their temperament tests in this same manner?
  • Is the pound killing dogs based on the workers’ assessments?

I reached out to the pound for comment on the video and Kim Stephens, a supervisor at the pound sent me a statement from the chief of AC:

As the Charles County Chief of Animal Control, I am responsible for day-to-day operations at the Tri-County Animal Shelter (TCAS) located in Hughesville, Md. Recently, I became aware of a video posted on Facebook depicting an interaction between a TCAS employee and an animal in the shelter’s care. The behavior depicted in the video is inconsistent with adopted TCAS practices and procedures, and will be thoroughly investigated.

C. Edward Tucker, Chief
Charles County Animal Control

The statement does not answer any of my questions.  I believe the public has an immediate right to know if this worker is still hurting animals and being paid by taxpayers to do it.  Further, I believe it is incumbent upon Mr. Tucker to immediately publicly disclose what steps he has taken to protect the animals at the pound from abuse in light of this video.

If you wish to contact Mr. Tucker, please keep your comments respectful. We can condemn the actions depicted in the video in the strongest possible terms while still being an effective voice for the animals by maintaining civility:

C. Edward Tucker, Chief (301) 609-3400, ext. 3, (301) 609-3425

Other parties to contact:

Charles County Sheriff’s Office
Charles County Commissioners

And since the Charles Co pound advertises on its website that it participates in the HSUS Emergency Placement Partner program, you may wish to contact HSUS to let them know what’s going on at the facility where they are sending animals in need of care.

(Thank you Arlene for sending me this video.)

17 thoughts on “Action Item: Demand Shelter Pets in Charles Co, MD Be Immediately Protected from Further Abuse

  1. I just wanted to say that it’s only 10am Monday morning and already there are 2 action items on the blog regarding violent, creepy pound workers. And I didn’t even swear. But that’s over now.

    Fuck these animal abusers.
    Fuck their enablers.
    Fuck the people in positions of authority treating shelter pet abuse as a tedious kerfuffle.
    Fuck everyone who sees violence like this and looks the other way.
    You all make me sick.

    1. what you said. These things have been covered up, buried and CONCONED for FAAAAR too long.

      It is WELL past time for regulatory processes to be required – along with inspections, fines, logs and whatever ELSE can be used- to prevent this sort of abuse of power.

      Horrible for a dog, already lost/scared/ confused to be ABUSED by the very individuals (sorry, can’t call them people) who are supposed to be “sheltering” them…

      tears for this poor pup first thing in the morning…

      thanks for shining a light on the dark corners of these places…

  2. I viewed this sickening video on Friday on the Facebook page ACE and spent the entire weekend attempting to compose a snail mail letter to the sheriff and county commissioners regarding the abuse this poor dog suffered at the hands of that skank-like creature. It was unbearable to watch and to think that horrible sadist gets paid to treat animals like that. Glad isn’t the correct word, but I’m grateful, Shirley, that you posted this situation. I think it will generate more results. Meanwhile, I don’t suppose anyone knows what happened to that poor pup that was only trying to please that SKANK, but didn’t have a clue as how to do it? I used to live in Maryland prior to moving to Texas so I feel I still have a small stake as to how animals are treated in so-called “shelters” up there.

  3. “I didn’t know it was wrong! I wasn’t trained properly! I had no idea I was abusing animals! I thought I was doing it right!” in 3..2..1..

    Bullshit. This is shades of Memphis, where somehow people need to be “trained” to be compassionate, where everyone stands around and watches abuse happen and does NOTHING (and not only won’t get fired, but they’ll end up getting promoted!).

    Not only should this person be fired (with extreme prejudice), but so should EVERY SINGLE PERSON who witnessed this behavior time and again and said nothing about it. You have to clean house. You HAVE TO. There is no other way to purge the violent cruelty from your walls. And accountability is the only way to keep it at bay. But that won’t happen. You’ll see – reprimands, retraining, and regression is the name of this game until real leadership steps in.

  4. And you know, how many shelter dogs’ “behavior issues” are CAUSED by shelter staff?

    I’ve gotten damaged dogs. I’ve worked with them. The very thought that even one of them might have gone through something like this makes my stomach churn.

  5. I must admit that I had a great deal of apprehension when I viewed this video.

    After watching, I definitely agree this is NOT a “temperament” test. This is not how animals should be evaluated for any sort of behaviour. It is obvious that the employee has no idea what she is doing.

    However; “abuse” might be a bit of a stretch. . . The employee attempts to use negative reinforcement to modulate the dogs behaviour, she jerks at the dogs collar once, and she “slaps” at the dogs muzzle about a dozen times. The “slaps” are not forceful, and at no time does she ‘hurt’ the dog. She pokes at the dog with the stick, but again, not hard enough to provoke any pain response. The whole thing is largely invalidated by her shrieking throughout the “procedure”, which the young dog finds exciting and arousing. However irritating I may find her voice, I’m still not sure it constitutes “cruelty” or “abuse”.

    I did find the whole exercise extremely pointless, and if the animal shelter is using the results from these “temperament tests” as grounds to euthanize any animal, then yes, that is both cruel and abusive.

    1. Obviously one person’s “abuse” is another person’s “irritating”. Your definition of “negative reinforcement” is frightening. I guess we don’t have to worry about you losing any sleep over this video. Good to know.

      1. It is definitely worrying that dogs who are less exuberant and eager to please may be killed due to a test that is mostly useless and ineffective even when administered correctly. I have two dogs, only one of which would pass this exam as demonstrated by this employee. The other, well, my worst nightmare involves animal control, it is too easy to imagine the outcome if he ever was lost or escaped from the yard.

        But as ridiculous as this “test” is, the dog was confused and scared, but not injured. She did not bruise her, beat her, or put her in a freezer.

        I do suspect that the employee was either very new or very selective about which dogs she “tested”; any dog who was less eager to please would be very likely to snap at when she slapped his muzzle. An aggressive dog could remove fingers.

      2. Please provide a source for your claim that the dog was not bruised. Is bruising the only criteria you are willing to accept before saying it’s abuse (beside the beating and freezing you mention)? You are coming across like one of those people who discount battered women because they don’t have black eyes and bloody noses. Hopefully that’s not how you are intending to sound.

        This video made me feel like throwing up. Your justification for the abuser is giving me the same reaction.

  6. Slapping and screaming at a dog is not R-; it’s P+. Furthermore, just because you can stick something in one of the quadrants doesn’t make it appropriate and not abusive. Regardless of how much physical pain the “tester” caused the dog and regardless of whether she left bruises, it was clear that what she was doing was frightening the dog, and intentionally so. That’s abusive. Watch the dog’s body language – she’s not just “excited.” Despite the poor video quality, it’s clear that the dog is cowering and appeasing from around 0:35-0:45. Then when the “tester” tells her she can eat, the dog turns away from the bowl and starts sniffing the floor, which she’s most likely doing as a calming signal because she’s scared and confused, not because she’s looking for food on the floor when there’s a full bowl right there.

    1. Maybe your technical explanation will have greater effect than my gut response.

      We can bond with a dog in an instant, fall in love with a pet we’ve never met before at first sight. Given that, how can anyone not believe that betraying a dog repeatedly, like in this video, does not cause emotional pain to that animal? She is a sentient being. She keeps getting screamed at and slapped in the face by the person she’s trying to please. This is what psychological abuse looks like, even if the physical pain doesn’t leave scars to “prove” it.

      1. I don’t understand how a person can watch that video and not see that there’s a problem with the way the dog is being treated, and it scares me that anyone would try to defend it by saying it’s not painful and probably didn’t leave bruises. It makes me wonder how such a person treats their own pets, their children if they have any, and for that matter, everyone else in their lives.

  7. What I saw on this video IS abuse! When my stomach flips and I feel like I’m going to pass out because my heart is beating too fast it is abuse that I’m looking at. This poor dog just didn’t deserve this. When an animal is already so afraid and confused by where he finds himself, then to have this sub human shrieking at him, slapping him, taking food away and offering it back…….anyone would be confused! When that dog dropped to the floor it shook me to my core. THIS IS ABUSE! However you want to describe this video, there is no one that could convince me that it wasn’t abuse. You only need to put yourself in that dogs place and you would know it too.

  8. By the way……..psychological abuse takes a lot longer to heal than physical abuse. That is if it ever does!

Leave a Reply