Animal Welfare in the Age of Trump

What we know about the Trump administration’s regard for animals so far is troubling.  In the early weeks of his presidency, Trump had many government websites scrubbed of information – a clear indication that transparency is not in the game plan.  Among them was the USDA website which for many years had posted inspection reports on roughly 8000 facilities (such as puppy mills, research labs, zoos and circuses) required to treat their animals humanely under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.  The searchable database allowed the public to see things like which research labs were letting monkeys die of thirst and lose body parts in fights due to negligence.  It also provided an opportunity to see which puppy mills passed USDA inspection – a low, very low, how can I say this? L O W bar – and which were repeat violators.  Several states have passed laws requiring pet stores to buy puppies only from breeders not cited for violations by the USDA.  With the inspection reports now gone, it is unclear how these pet stores, or anyone else, would find out the federal inspection history of any breeding facility.

Due to public outcry (thing I never tire of typing), the feds relented and put a “small fraction of the cache back online.”  But the most credible effort to date at holding the USDA accountable is coming from a private citizen by the name of Russ Kick.  He has set up a blog to repost the deleted documents, provide links to other sites doing the same, and ask for help from anyone who has saved any of the disappeared reports.  (Anyone wanting to support his one man effort can do so here.)

Then there is the Trump budget proposal.  While it is up to Congress to work out and decide upon the details, the proposal does give us insight into Trump’s vision for American families (and by family, I mean anyone who loves and shares their home with another being).  In a nutshell: bombs IN, poor people OUT.  Of the numerous proposed cuts within the budget, many will directly impact families if passed by Congress.  These include cuts to housing for low income people as well as:

And incidentally, the farmers who grow the food used in these anti-hunger programs will be negatively impacted as well.

It is estimated that approximately 65% of U.S. households have pets.  These include low income families.  If Americans who were previously relying on government assistance to help with things like baby formula, school lunches, and meals for homebound relatives are cut off from that assistance, pets will be impacted.  When families suffer, pets suffer.

Pets who provide enormous benefits to senior citizens and veterans, may end up being fed from the reduced food available to the owner (resulting in even less food for these already at-risk people), be surrendered to shelters or perhaps not even adopted in the first place.  When families suffer, pets suffer.

As the public learns about the proposed cuts to these essential family programs, they will rush to open their wallets and offer support.  Because that’s what we do.  At the same time, with so many valuable services being cut from the federal budget, competition for donation dollars will increase.  And compassion fatigue will set in.  Indeed, an insurance company recently debuted a television ad depicting a man feeling overwhelmed by so many worthy causes and issues in his community – the first of which is represented by a shelter dog.  Rescue groups can expect to work harder for every donated dollar and volunteer hour as compassionate people spread their resources far and wide.

What you can do:

  1.  Check to see if your Congressman signed this letter to Trump asking that the USDA documents be restored to the website.  If he/she did, call his/her office to say thank you and ask that the issue not be dropped.  If he/she did not sign, call and request that he/she support this effort.  Senator Cory Booker (D – NJ) has set up a petition.  (Note:  petitions are ok but phone calls are the thing.  Start making calls.  Plan to keep making them.  Every voice is needed – even quiet ones.)
  2. Call your elected representatives and tell them to reject the cruel Trump vision for American families outlined in his budget proposal. Demand that they stand up and fight for our shared values and rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Two County Employees Charged After 14 Shelter Cats Found Dead in SC

Marion County Code Enforcement Officer Marion Richardson was fired earlier this month after 14 cats he had taken from the county pound were found dead. Richardson has since been charged with misconduct in office and a violation of the state’s animal euthanasia law. Hank Rogers, the county building code and inspections supervisor, has been charged as well.

The arrest warrants filed by the SC Law Enforcement Division (SLED) indicate that Richardson and Rogers went to the Marion Co pound and picked up 14 cats, telling the director the cats would be living on a farm and helping to control rodents. The men then drove the cats to the county landfill where Richardson shot them to death. Although SC law does allow for animal “euthanasia” by gunshot under certain conditions, SLED determined that Richardson had failed to meet these conditions when killing the cats. Ya think? So apparently the law doesn’t specifically say, “OK to use cats for target practice at the dump even if you tell a wee fib to get them from the pound.” Which is lucky, I guess.

One local rescuer who volunteers at the pound says the cats were all friendly and that Richardson has taken groups of Marion Co pound cats – you know, to the farm – many times.

Richardson is currently out on $24,000 bond. His attorney has all the excuses:

“Marion thought he was doing his job. He was called by the animal shelter to pick up the cats and dispose of them. That is exactly what he did. Shooting a feral cat in the back of the head is actually a more humane way of killing it than using carbon monoxide. Marion loves animals and has an indoor cat of his own. It is a wonder anyone would want to be a law enforcement officer when we not only fire them, but charge them with a crime for doing their job.”

Just doing his job. Shooting beats gassing. He’s an animal lover and a cat owner!

Welp, I’m convinced.

Also convincing:  Local media, which jumped through the appropriate hoops in order to have their cameras allowed at the bond hearing, was locked out.  Nothing suspicious there.

Richardson is due in court on November 29.  Rogers is out on $7000 bond and no longer works for the county although I don’t know whether he quit or was fired.  Neither man has been charged with animal cruelty.  I wonder if both these guys are laying low until their government cronies can get them back on the payroll doing some other “job”, perhaps on the farm, as it were.

(Thanks Nathan and Clarice.)

Virginia Dog Warden Kills Dog Who Had Adopter Coming

sam-appomattox-co

Sam as pictured on WTVR.

Sam was a 3 year old dog who had been living at the Appomattox Co shelter in Virginia since February. Volunteers who cared for Sam during his stay report that he was a healthy and “extremely gentle” dog. They found an adopter for Sam who had adopted a similar dog from the facility a few years earlier. But when the adopter came to pick Sam up last week, she learned he’d been killed.

Oops. Or not. No one seems to know. But have faith, the county investigated itself:

In a news release Wednesday afternoon, County Attorney J.G. Overstreet said: “it appears that the matter was handled properly and in accordance with state law.”

Because the dog’s holding period had expired. Therefore, kill at will. All legal.  Yay.

Then there’s this, apparently pulled out of someone’s ass:

“From staff’s perspective, you had a dog that was becoming more anti-social over time,” Piney Mountain Supervisor Sara Carter said of Sam […]. “They didn’t know of any adopter … the decision was made to euthanize.”

Becoming more anti-social over time.  Could you please be a little more vague?  The dog lived in a shelter for 7 months.  Was there some expectation that he would grow cheerier over time?  Didn’t know of any adopter.  Did anyone uh, ask?  Because knowledge does not always fall upon you from the sky like you’d hope.

In response to public outcry over Sam’s killing, the county closed the shelter to the public, citing unspecified threats that were not reported to police.  They also tried a different assplanation for the killing:

We apologize for it and we now have got a policy in place to correct it,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman, Sam Carter.

[…]

Carter told ABC 13 that the county is conducting an internal investigation into the matter and that “there will be corrections made.”

As to what those will be, Carter would not comment specifically.

When I put this into my bureaucracy translator, all that comes up is, “Blah, blah, blah.”

More:

Carter also said, that a text sent to one of the shelter staff on September 6th, regarding Sam’s potential adopter coming to get him, was not confirmation of a firm adoption.

So staff got a text saying an adopter was coming to get Sam but staff “didn’t know of any adopter” because a text is not “confirmation”.  Is there a blood ceremony required to confirm an adoption?  What did the text do, just put it in staff’s mind that an adopter was coming for the dog but it wasn’t confirmed therefore, go right ahead and kill?  Dang, I think *I* am becoming more anti-social over time.

The county animal warden, Micki Caifano, on the job since July 1st, reportedly authorized Sam’s killing and took him to a private vet to have it done. The warden has not provided any reason for the killing. Animal advocates want an explanation. And:

[Advocates] are disturbed because they say shelter cameras were turned off at the time and they want proof from the county as to how Sam spent his last hours.

Turning off the security cameras at the time you are taking a dog you know has an adopter out for killing sounds legit. Especially with the NO REASON explanation.

I hope animal advocates in Appomattox keep after these chuckleheads.  They clearly need it.

(Thanks Lisa and Clarice.)

Long Beach Shelter Kills Dog Who Was Wanted by an Adopter and a Rescue

thor-cage-card
A Belgian Malinois named Thor lived at Long Beach Animal Care Services for 6 weeks this summer. A family who had another Mal applied to adopt him on July 13 but was turned away when the staff decided on July 14 that Thor had suddenly become too big a threat to society to be released to anyone but rescue. So a rescue placed a hold on Thor but Long Beach ACS killed him anyway, an apparent violation of California’s Hayden Act. Then Long Beach ACS began shoveling the excuses.

A [July 14] report from ACS’s Behavior and Rehoming Coordinator Jill Prout said the dog was exhibiting signs of “kennel deterioration,” was “spinning in kennel & jumping off kennel wall,” attempted to bite his leash and his handler’s arm, was “lunging at members of the public” and appeared to “have become highly stressed and anxious,” a behavior “not seen upon intake.”

OK for starters, any dog living in a shelter for 6 weeks who wasn’t spinning, jumping, and pulling the dog walker’s arm off trying to visit people had probably emotionally shut down and given up on life.  Be thankful that didn’t happen to Thor. Secondly, any Mal in a shelter for 6 weeks who hadn’t eaten his way through the chain link, opened all the cages and put together a competition canine wrestling team sounds like a highly extremely super adoptable pet, especially for a family that knows the breed.  Thirdly, a dog who “attempts” to interact with people and things orally may have an oral fixation – common in retriever breeds as well as many high drive dogs (which is why in training they are often rewarded with oral-oriented play such as tug toys).  None of the behavior described in this isolated incident, coming on the heels of 6 weeks of normal behavior, should have disqualified Thor from being adopted, let alone gotten him killed.  So I’m going with NO on that line of reasoning.

Then there’s this response to the shelter operations supervisor who asked the manager why Thor, whom she describes as one of her favorite dogs, was killed even though a rescue placed a hold on him:

ted-stevens-email

Rescue hold placed after Thor was killed. That’s checkable. Let’s check.

Here is a copy of the rescue hold, timestamped 12:41 pm:

thor-rescue-email

And here are two entries in Thor’s records regarding his killing: one from the tech who administered the pre-kill sedative and the other from the tech who did the killing. The entries are timestamped 1:02pm and 1:05pm respectively:

thor-ace
thor-kill-rec

So the time excuse is also a NO.  But there’s an excuse for that excuse:

ACS director Ted Stevens, though, says Thor was put to sleep hours earlier than the 1:05 p.m. official time.

“Staff began euthanizing the animals around 10 a.m. and they were finished by noon. They do that, then they come back later and enter them in the log.”

OK so Long Beach routinely kills animals without checking the computer records for those animals. Gee, that sounds reckless, at best.

But to put the whole time issue in perspective, Thor’s behavior that landed him on the kill list happened Thursday morning, July 14th and was entered into his records at 10:29am:

thor-behavior

So Long Beach apparently changed him to rescue-only the morning of July 14th, after killing had already started for the day, and then rushed him to the kill room as fast as they could.  What kind of chance does that give an animal to be rescued?  It’s just another gigantic NO.

The pre-kill sedative that was used on Thor, and is presumably used on other animals at the Long Beach shelter, is not recommended for use as a pre-kill sedative in the HSUS killing manual. Specifically on pages 35 – 36, HSUS says “ace should never be used alone” as a sedative “because it’s a tranquilizer, not an anesthetic” and carries a number of risks with it as well. HSUS further states that when given orally, it takes 30 – 40 minutes to take full effect. Thor was given ace just 3 minutes prior to being killed according to the records. Except the times are all wrong, I guess. So does anyone know if Thor and all the other animals being killed at Long Beach are given ace 40 minutes prior to being killed? Because apparently we can’t rely on the shelter’s records to provide that information. And why are they using ace anyway?

But enough with the questions because the manager wants everyone to know that Thor’s would-be family adopted a different dog. And Long Beach removed one dog from the kill list on July 14 and put Thor in his place. So it’s all good. Because dogs are widgets and entirely interchangeable. Put one in this column, one in that column, mark them as rescue-only while holding them down on the kill table, give them some sort of drug, whatever time you like, who cares?

Stayin’ Alive Long Beach has filed a complaint over Thor’s killing with the city attorney.

(Thanks Nathan.)

Nobody WANTS to Kill Animals – Sumter Co Edition

buddy sumter co

Buddy, as pictured on Facebook.

A dog named Buddy was on the kill list at the Sumter Co pound in Florida this month.  Animal advocates say the Humane Society/SPCA of Sumter Co, which partners with animal control, posted him with the wrong picture and an incorrect ID number, making his chances for rescue rather slim.  But thanks to the efforts of rescuers who did not give up on Buddy, a foster was found at the last minute.

A rescuer reportedly called the Sumter Co pound at 4:45pm on August 15 to let the staff know that Buddy was definitely going to be pulled.  The HS/SPCA, which has limited hours and is never open past 3pm, was already closed but someone reportedly did answer the call about Buddy:

Their response was he has to be out of the building by 5pm. Well the HSSPCA was closed and we were in Tampa. We told them he could be pulled in the morning and they said policy says he has to be out of the building by closing.

It was impossible for anyone to physically get to the facility to pull Buddy within the 15 minutes allotted by the pound.  Buddy was reportedly killed the next morning, immediately upon opening, before rescuers could get inside to save him.

This is usually where the people in charge issue some response along the lines of oops.  Not in this case.  In fact, the HS/SPCA board chair, Celine Petrie, not only made no attempt to claim the killing was in error, she went so far as to issue a general non-apology, not mentioning Buddy and by the way, she wants credit for the lives they did allow rescuers to save:

“While we regret every animal where a life is lost, we have saved 1,054 animals this year,” she said.

She can’t conjure up any fake sympathy for Buddy, specifically? Does she even know his name? She sure knows the exact number of lives rescuers have saved, which she wants credit for.  Just a vague “where a life is lost” – as if it’s something other than a friendly, healthy dog being held down on a kill table and having the life snuffed out of him by people who knew he was wanted.  Some cold brew there.

Fifty animal advocates attended the Sumter Co commissioners meeting this week seeking reform.  They asked the county to do more than respond to vicious dog calls during off-hours:

After hearing their concerns, commissioners asked County Administrator Bradley Arnold to work on addressing the problems in the next county budget, which will be enacted next month.

While it remains to be seen whether this leads to any improvement at the Sumter Co pound, it doesn’t address the real issue.  The county has people working at the pound who intentionally killed a pet whom they knew had a home waiting for him.  Until the county gets rid of all those capable of this kind of violence, along with everyone making excuses for them, there will be no meaningful reform in Sumter Co.

Buddy’s killing is a betrayal of public trust in Sumter Co.  Worse, it is a betrayal of the rescue community, on whose backs the animals are being saved.  Worst of all, it is a betrayal of Buddy, a sentient being who had a right to live but fell into the hands of public servants paid to protect him who, instead of doing their jobs, killed him with malice aforethought.

(Thanks Clarice.)

“The Incident with Barbie”

barbie co co

Barbie with a toy, in a screengrab from a video apparently made by rescuers.

Contra Costa County Animal Services spokesman Steve Burdo says a 4 year old dog named Barbie was put on the June 18 kill list “after a series of evaluations by the department’s staff and medical team.”  She appeared to have a mammary tumor.  She also had two rescue groups who wanted to save her and had communicated that to the shelter.  But Contra Costa killed Barbie anyway – by mistake.  Oops.

“There were two rescues interested in this dog and the shelter manager overrode those notes and said to have her killed by the end of the day,” said Melissa Farley Law of Petaluma Pet Pals told CBS San Francisco on Thursday.

“I literally cried for three days,” she continued. “I couldn’t even look at her picture without crying. l just felt like I let her down.”

Rescues didn’t let her down. The people solely to blame for killing Barbie are the people who actually killed her – Contra Costa Co Animal Services.  And they did more than just fail Barbie – they appear to have broken the law.  Specifically the Hayden Act, which requires shelters to release pets to rescue groups willing to save them.

tommy co co

Tommy at Contra Costa Co Animal Services, as pictured on CBS SF.

In addition, a dog named Tommy who was killed around the same time, was reportedly also slated for rescue:

Rescue group member Melissa Farley Law said a second dog named Tommy had been pulled for adoption as well, but was instead euthanized.

Burdo said the department does not have any records confirming that a rescue group had shown interest in rescuing Tommy. He doesn’t believe there was a mistake.

No records.  Now.  So just punt, I guess.  But let’s be clear, unless Tommy was medically hopeless and suffering, which his completely adorable photo seems to refute, killing him was a mistake.  He had a right to live and it was Contra Costa County’s job to protect him from harm.  Instead of doing their job, they killed Tommy.  Just because the spokesman wants it known that the killing was intentional does not justify it in any way, shape or form.  Tommy is irreplaceable.

There are records confirming rescue holds on Barbie.  So there has been a two-pronged response by the county:

1. Distract with shiny thing.

Ironically, the “Barbie incident” comes on the heels of good news regarding the agency’s increasing live release rates. As of May 2016, around 80 percent of animals that were brought to the county shelter made it out alive, up from around 45 percent in 2011, CCAS spokesman Steve Burdo said.

“Not to take away from the incident with Barbie, but the situation with Barbie, if you’re asking me, seems more like the exception than the rule,” he said.

Breaking the law and killing dogs rescue groups are willing to save is not the rule at Contra Costa Co, it’s just the exception.  Gee, I’m glad it’s not the rule.  That would be bad.  Seeing as it’s just the exception, I guess we can let it slide.

Barbie’s death was not an incident or a situation, by the way.  It was a tragedy which a state law was enacted in order to prevent.  Barbie is irreplaceable.

2.  Investigate yourself!

“We’re going to take this opportunity to learn and improve our process so this never happens again.”
[…]
Burdo said the department is investigating the incident internally.

I can’t think of anything that would give me more confidence.  Except possibly an investigation by a specially appointed piece of cardboard with aspirations of higher office.

Anyway, if you feel like bawling your eyes out, watch this video of Barbie, apparently posted to social media by rescuers the day she was oops-killed, playing, being social and generally loving life.

Barbie had the right to live and to love.  So did Tommy, despite what recordkeeping, or lack thereof, may exist at Contra Costa Co.  Barbie’s needless and apparently unlawful killing is not “an opportunity” nor should it be waved off as merely “an exception.”  Barbie, like Tommy, and like every other shelter pet, was exceptional.  That’s the part too many shelters don’t get.  There are and will be other friendly, happy dogs in our broken shelter system.  But there will never be another Barbie.  Or Tommy.  Or any of the millions of others whose lives are snuffed out each year in the name of “animal services.”  Taxpayers of Contra Costa Co, this is your animal shelter.  Let your elected officials know exactly what services you want.  Demand that compassionate people are immediately put into place who are committed to treating every animal as exceptional.  Accept nothing less.

(Thanks Clarice.)

Stokes Co Officials Decide Sheltering Animals is Too Much Like Work

In 2015, the troubled Stokes Co pound in North Carolina took in 1029 dogs and cats, killing 473 of them.  The county’s adoption rate was 36%, return to owner rate was 7% and kill rate was 46%.  Dogs and cats coming in the front door of the Stokes Co pound had a better chance of going out the back door in a garbage bag than anything else.

This month, county manager Rick Morris says Stokes is “overwhelmed with strays and surrenders”, there are funding issues and staff turnover as well.  To address these issues, county leaders voted to not address them at all:

“We will no longer […] take in animal surrenders by the owners or stray animals,” said county manager, Rick Morris.

Morris added that he expects his county’s failure to do their jobs with regard to community pets will leak onto surrounding counties actually trying to do their jobs. And he’s fine with that.  Let other shelters take care of Stokes Co animals because we’re not going to do it.  I guess sucks being you, other counties.

Then there’s this:

“It’s just unbelievable the number of animals people just want to give up,” said County Manager Rick Morris.

[Refusing to shelter strays and surrenders in need is] a change Morris says will cut costs for cleaning supplies and spay and neutering.

Right. Reduced spay-neuter should certainly help reduce your county’s animal population.  I have no idea how that would work but hey, less paper towels!

They are changes Morris hopes will save many animals from having to be euthanized.

“It’s doing a favor to the animals by not putting them in there,” he said.

tanya tucker

Critical cat photo by Casey Post

The most likely outcome for animals at the Stokes Co pound is killing. Because the staff kills them instead of doing their jobs to shelter them. So it’s a favor to the animals to not put them in a place where people kill them. I see what you did there.

Stokes County manager Rick Morris hopes by changing the way the shelter operates, it will make people around the area more responsible with their pets.

Yeah I’m pretty sure that’s how that works. Lead by example. By taking no responsibility for the challenges involved in sheltering animals, the job taxpayers are paying you to do, the public will learn – wait.

What the public actually did:

Several Stokes County residents stood before county commissioners Monday night, demanding to pay higher taxes to help offset costs for much-needed services like EMS, funding for schools and the county animal shelter.

Oh snap.  For some reason, the public seems to find the whole non-solution solution to be less desirable than paying higher taxes.  Let that sink in for a sec.

Nice try Stokes Co but it seems like taxpayers still want you to do your jobs.  And they are paying attention.  Quick – look busy while you try to think up another stellar plan to avoid work.

 

Texas Shelter Oops-Kills Agility Dog

peppy

Peppy, as pictured on the CBSDFW website.

Chris Swain’s competition agility dog Peppy bit someone on May 24. He was seized by the Mesquite Animal Shelter for a mandatory 10 day rabies quarantine, despite proof that he was fully vaccinated. From there, things began careening downhill:

“They told me I had to release the dog to them. I was instructed to put Peppy into this kennel,” Swain explained. “He still had his collar and all of his identification tags on him at that time. There was no documentation, and I was told I could not have any contact with him.”

No documentation was given to her or placed on the kennel as to his status or release date, she added.

What could possibly go wrong?

When the Swain family called to check on their beloved pet 3 days into the quarantine, they learned that Peppy had been mistaken for another dog and killed.  Oops.

Ms. Swain and a number of local animal advocates addressed the city council this week to complain about Peppy’s killing and a generally suckass environment at the shelter:

Among other issues cited by speakers were a lack of professionalism, a laisse-faire attitude by some shelter employees, failure to properly care for baby kittens, lack of cleanliness and improper care of isolated pets.

All this at a place that tosses a loved pet into a cage with no cage card or paper trail then kills him because hey, little yappy dogs, so interchangeable.  I mean, I’m assuming the dog he was mistaken for was another little yappy dog.  For all I know the dog actually on the kill list was a lab or an Irish Setter or a… Siamese.  But yeah, I can imagine how they do orphaned kittens.

The city is investigating itself in the matter of Peppy’s killing and in case you are in need of even more super reassurances, the city is on it:

“We made a mistake, and we apologized for that mistake,” said [City Spokesman Wayne] Larson. “And we are learning from that mistake.”

Just to clarify, “that mistake” was the needless killing of someone’s healthy, trained pet who was wearing ID tags that the shelter was supposedly holding in order to protect the public health. Since the dog was oops-killed before the quarantine expired, the bite victim probably had to choose whether to undergo treatment for rabies exposure or risk getting the disease. And the dog’s family is now saddled with a heartbreak that will last a lifetime. That’s what “that mistake” was.

Super-er:

“We are going to make some efforts to beef up our training and do what needs to be done to provide a quality service,” [City Manager Cliff Keheley] said.

Beef up our training.  I guess I’ll just go with lol there.  And doing what needs to be done is so ambiguous, it makes the “that mistake” guy seem slightly competent.

Keep raising hell, Mesquite animal advocates.  These people are not going to change one damn thing or do one damn thing or care one damn bit.  Get them out of the shelter and away from your animals.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me this story.)

KY Shelter Director Charged with Cruelty

Cheryl Bartlett, an area rescuer, took her kids to the Edmonson County Animal Shelter in KY last week to pick up some dogs. One of her children noticed a dead dog in an outdoor pen with other dogs. Overall conditions at the facility were so awful, she called the police.

When state troopers arrived, they found 48 dogs, 1 dead, and 20 cats, 3 dead, suffering at the pound. Many of the animals had no water.  Cats were stacked in wire cages.  Three “feral” cats, covered in feces and flies, were crammed into a single cage.  One had visible urine burns.  Dogs appeared to have been starved, had feces matted in their fur and suffered from urine scalding and open sores.  Several animals were immediately killed, due to behavior or medical reasons.

edmonson co cat

A cat at the Edmonson Co pound, as pictured on Facebook.  Someday I am going to write a big, heavy book called Do Not House Cats on Wire Floors Ever Ever Ever You Assface.  It’s going to be big and heavy enough that it will make an impression.

State police issued a citation to, but did not arrest, Kim Carroll, the Edmonson Co shelter director, charging her with second degree animal cruelty.  The next day, she sent hubby over to the place to start destroying evidence:

“He got the water hose and started frantically watering the animals … and he removed the dead dog,” Bartlett said.

It’s unclear where that dead animal was taken.

Just having a guess: probably their usual spot, wherever that is.

The Edmonson shelter held 4 county contracts.  And apparently everyone knew it was a hellhole:

In 2015, a Daily News investigative team visited the shelter on multiple occasions, each time noting conditions that appeared to fall short of guidelines for shelters offered by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. Animals were in cages that were too small, were underweight and some were without water.

[…]

At the time of the 2015 Daily News investigation, Edmonson County Judge-Executive Wil Cannon said he stood behind the operation of the shelter. Cannon, when reached Saturday on vacation, said he was not aware enough of the situation to comment.

[…]

Bartlett said she has been getting dogs from the shelter for about two years and said it’s hard to find the words to describe the conditions.

“It is reprehensible … disgusting,” she said.

Margie Patton is a board member of the Barren River Animal Welfare Association, a shelter which took many of the surviving animals from the Edmonson pound:

“It was not a good place at all, and it was kind of hurtful to see animals in that condition, just sitting there,” Patton said, describing what she witnessed when she went to the Edmonson County shelter. “I have been there several times in the past year and a half and it’s always horrendous.”
[…]
“They don’t do adoptions. They just let animals sit there and sit there,” she said, adding they either wait for help from another shelter or from a rescue group.

I hate to think of how many years animals literally wasted away in that place while the four contracting counties wrote checks, either knowing it was a shitshow or maintaining a willful ignorance of that fact, and the director’s hubby hid the bodies.  The photo of this dog, who needed help but got death, is heartbreaking.  Number of people arrested for any of this:  zero.

(Thanks Clarice.)

Jacked Up Shelter Staff Charged with Cruelty in VT

Warning:  This is some disturbing shit.

In February 2016, the Vermont Department of Agriculture reportedly inspected a 16 year old cat shelter in Chester called Webster’s House and approved the facility for re-licensing.  In April, a local paper reported that Webster’s House was being evicted by its landlord, forcing the shelter to find homes for its 39 cats.  And:

In an unrelated situation, after a monthlong investigation, Chester Police have sent a report to the State’s Attorney’s office following a complaint of animal cruelty at Webster’s House.

At that time, shelter manager Mary Donaldson characterized the complaint as coming from “a disgruntled former volunteer who complained about the cats not getting proper medical care.”

This week, Donaldson and the vice president of the shelter’s board, Jessica “Remi” Fecteau, were charged with animal cruelty and lying to police. Both women are still living at the now-closed shelter and have pleaded innocent.

About that so-called disgruntled vol and lack of medical care:

The investigation started when one volunteer, Crystal Losee, a local nurse, was told not to go into the bathroom at the shelter and found a dead black cat in a bucket of water.

[…]

Crystal was told that they could not take the cat to the vet because of a $4,000 bill they already owed.”

Donaldson and Fecteau had allegedly been drowning sick cats in lieu of getting them veterinary care. And no, you’re not out of the woods yet:

Losee told police Donaldson had told her that “the cat had asked Mary to drown him but she just couldn’t do it so Remi did.”

“Remi told her that after the cat was done fighting, the cat apologized to Remi.

[…]

In addition, people at Webster’s House believed in “soul jumping” between the dying cats and the healthy cats, and that Donaldson told another volunteer that one of the cats was “destined to die to be reborn again.”

Court records reveal what appears to be a boatload of crazy-pants:

There were sworn statements from Donaldson and Fecteau, as well as others associated with the now-closed shelter, and it painted a picture of a deteriorating situation at the shelter and shelter volunteers endorsing “body jumping” to transfer the soul of a sick, dying cat into a healthy one.

At one point in December, there were an estimated 70 to 80 cats at the shelter, many of them sick. When the criminal investigation began in January, the number of cats was about half that number.

A state inspector noted the earlier cat population at 80, as did Ann Eddy of the Springfield Humane Society, who also counted about 80 cats, with sick and healthy cats intermingled.

So Webster’s House was drowning sick cats and kittens in order to transfer their souls into the bodies of healthy cats. At the same time, they were housing the sick cats, of which they reportedly had many, with the healthy cats which would obviously result in the healthy cats becoming sick and thereby guarantee a constant supply of souls for the drowning buckets.  Nice bananas system.

By the way, the Rutland Herald reports that Fecteau now works at a mental health facility.  So there’s that.

The lying to police charges likely stem from the various stories Donaldson and Fecteau allegedly told police when asked about the drownings.  They tried everything from “never happened” to “must have drowned in the water dish”.  And when volunteers from area shelters – at Webster’s House to take some of the cats for rehoming before they were evicted – found a freshly drowned cat, Donaldson tried playing the Bitch Set Me Up card:

But the afternoon’s events took a turn for the worse when humane society volunteers found a dead cat, wrapped in a plastic bag, floating in a bucket of water in back of the building. The bucket was covered by a litter box, weighed down by a large rock.

When volunteers confronted Mary Donaldson, the Webster’s House manager about the dead cat, she started yelling that it was a “plant,” and that it wasn’t one of her cats. She refused to look at the cat.

Aaaaaaaaanyway, the Vermont Department of Agriculture has regulations which shelters are required to meet.  A snippet from those regs:

vtwelfareregs

Portion of Vermont’s animal welfare regulations

I will grant you the state inspector might not have known about the soul jumping wackiness because maybe all the Webster’s House peeps were like Ix-nay on the cray-cray while the inspector was around. And maybe he didn’t think it was weird to see water buckets covered with litter boxes and weighed down with rocks. But the inspector would presumably have noted the missing cats, the sick cats housed with the healthy ones and the lack of veterinary care. The last two are clear violations.  So I guess I’m wondering:  How the fuck did the state wave this crackass horror show through for 16 years?  And what is going on at the other state licensed shelters in Vermont?  Can somebody lose their job now, please?

(Thanks Clarice.)