Compassionate People are Potential Allies in the Fight for Shelter Reform

In spring of this year, Hillsborough Co, FL resolved to lower the 65% kill rate at the pound, but not to stop the killing of healthy/treatable animals entirely.  The county hired Ian Hallett, former deputy chief animal services officer in Austin, to run the pound.  He started work in June.  I don’t know how things have been going since then as the only stats I could find on the county’s website are for 2011.

On October 29, someone reported gunshots fired in a Tampa neighborhood.  Police found a dog who had been buried with just her head sticking out the ground.  She had been shot twice in the face.  Animal Services was called:

The woefully underweight 2-year-old pit bull mix whimpered as Hillsborough County Animal Services Officer Rene Northrop dug with her hands, trying to unearth the pooch that had been buried alive up to her snout.


It took 15 minutes to free the dog, but much longer to assess her injuries. Her head was bloody, her body was too thin, but still she was loving and friendly, immediately bonding with Northrop on the way to the vet, [Sgt. Pam] Perry said.

The dog, now named Phoebe, is being treated by a vet and will be available for adoption after she has healed.  There is video of Phoebe here which shows her in recovery as well as some still photos of her in the ground.

As no kill advocates, we need to always be on the lookout for people to whom we can reach out.  Just because a facility kills pets doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone that works there is committed to continued killing.  By offering information on proven alternatives and support for no kill efforts, we can hope to bring more people to the no kill movement, even if they don’t seem to be a likely candidate at first glance.  Remember that at some point, many of us in the movement today believed killing shelter pets was “necessary” because of so-called overpopulation.  You only know what you know, right?  And it’s important to be able to recognize compassion in people whenever we come across it.  Compassionate people are our target market.

Now I do not know ACO Rene Northrop or have any clue what her views are on no kill.  But I know she saw a badly injured dog and dug her out of the earth with her bare hands to save her.  The dog liked her right away.  I tend to think dogs are pretty good at picking out compassionate humans.  Since Hillsborough Co already seems to have an interest in reducing the killing at the shelter, maybe it would be good to reach out to Ms. Northrop and see if she is open to working towards ending the killing.

Do you have a Rene Northrop working in your local kill shelter?  Do I?  I don’t know but this is a good reminder to keep our minds open to the possibility that a potential ally in the fight to reform our shelters may already be inside.

ACO Loses Job of 14 Years to Save Dog From Kill Room

Illinois – Bryan Jones, an ACO in Joliet Township for 14 years, was recently fired after taking action to save a Chihuahua from the pound’s kill room.  A tech had deemed the little dog aggressive and, fearing the dog (whom he knew to be friendly) would be killed, Mr. Jones took the Chihuahua home with him.  He later requested to adopt the dog, whom he named Chewie.  The pound director and the township supervisor ordered Mr. Jones to return the dog saying Chewie would be kept for a week and, if the people who had already deemed him aggressive turned around and deemed him adoptable, the ACO would be allowed to save Chewie’s life.  He was ultimately told to either resign or be terminated and that regardless of which he chose, he still had to return the dog.  Mr. Jones took a pass on the uh, offer and was fired.

This is hardly the only injustice alleged at the facility.  Mr. Jones said:

“If you’ve seen the stuff that’s gone on with dogs in the past there, it would make you sick.”

The Herald-News lays it out:

Others have said they believe animals are being misread as aggressive by inexperienced technicians, resulting in euthanization of adoptable animals.

“This (Chihuahua) is a perfectly adoptable dog,” said former volunteer Yvonne Polenc. “They wanted to kill this dog just to prove a point. They say (Jones) stole it. He did not steal that dog.”

Polenc volunteered at the center for more than two years, from 2009 to 2011. She stopped volunteering when she could no longer take the “injustice” there, she said.

“These dogs are laying in their filth. It’s slippery from all the urine on the floor. There aren’t enough people to clean,” she said.

Cindy Alberico, a kennel worker whose job will be eliminated from the township as of April 1, said several dogs — pit bulls and a Rottweiler — were euthanized Monday for aggression.

“I’m back there with these dogs day in and day out. I feed them, I water them, I walk them. Not one of those dogs was aggressive,” she said.

Cleaning the kennel, feeding and watering the animals often does not happen after she leaves for the day at 3 p.m., Alberico said.

Animal Control Officer Steve Fix said animals often are left in dirty cages without food or fresh water.

“Animals are being left to suffer,” he said.

Township officials insist the abuses are not happening.

It’s a conspiracy!  And to prove it, the township continued to explore all options in finding a way to kill Chewie.  Which would reassure the public that AC is a safe haven where pets are lovingly cared for until adopted, natch.

The township supervisor went so far as to meet with the township’s attorney, Franklin Burkey, in an effort to determine how they could get Chewie out of his loving home and back to the pound’s kill table adoptability evaluation area.  While this article doesn’t give details of the meeting, I presume the attorney told the supervisor to stop being such a stupid git and shut up about getting the dog back already:

Township officials decided Monday to let [Mr. Jones] keep the dog.

Yay for Chewie but I fear it probably sucks for whatever dogs these scumbags deemed aggressive and killed out of spite, revenge, or just trying to satisfy the craving for that special rush they get killing pets.

The attorney earns his pay:

“Once a dog is in the facility, everybody who has something to do with the dog is veterinary trained,” Burkey said. “Everybody who looks at the facility will find it clean. The results are there — adoptions are up, put-downs are down. We’ve got to be doing something right.”

“Veterinary trained” does not make one qualified to determine whether a dog is too aggressive for adoption.  If a stool sample needs to be analyzed for parasites, veterinary trained is good.  If behavioral assessment is being misused as a determining factor for who gets killed at the pound, veterinary trained is useless.  I should say worse than useless, since not only are the assessments apparently being performed by unqualified individuals, they are being used to justify killing without benefit of behavior modification or other training efforts.

Since the pound doesn’t post its stats online, I requested a copy in order to verify the we-must-be-doing-something-right claim.  The very fact that the stats aren’t available for the public to see on the pound’s webpage tells me they aren’t particularly proud of what they are doing there.  We’ll see.

The good news out of all this:  Chewie is in a loving home today instead of at the landfill.  And Bryan Jones is available for employment.  I imagine he would be an asset to any shelter working to save pets’ lives.