OH Shelter Clings to Its Terrible Behavioral Assessments and Its Fatal Plus

SideeyeThat asinine plastic hand is waving more shelter dogs into the kill room – this time at the Franklin Co Dog Shelter in Ohio.  Just how many dogs are being killed because they don’t wag their tails and exclaim, “Thank you sir, may I have another?” when someone jabs them in the face with a fake hand on a stick while they are trying to eat is a matter of dispute.  Volunteers say way too many.  The assistant director says zero. Then there are the numbers:

Last year, [Franklin Co] recorded an 82 percent success rate of adopting, rescuing, or reclaiming dogs.
In March alone, 139 [dogs] were euthanized. Debbie Finelli, Assistant Director Franklin County Dog Shelter says that’s because 52 out of the 140 dogs that came in were terminally ill or terminally injured. “I couldn’t do anything for those,” she explains.

If I’m reading this correctly, 140 dogs came in and 139 were killed in March. Of the 139, 87 were apparently either healthy or possibly had some treatable minor illness/injury. So she “couldn’t do anything” for 52 of the dogs and didn’t do anything, except killing, for the other 87. BUTOFCOURSE:

“I don’t like to euthanize. (I) wish I never had to, but we’re an open shelter (and) have to take every dog that comes in here.”


Several shelter vols who spoke with the local news on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution (stellar indicator of a progressive shelter) say that many dogs are needlessly killed after failing to bow to the Fake Hand of God. Which has mercifully declined in use over the years:

The ASPCA tells 10TV “We have determined that food guarding assessments are not useful tools for shelter dogs because they are not reliable predictors of overall behavior in the home.”

The Franklin County dog shelter uses the ASPCA guidelines to run its shelter, but says it has no plans to remove the assessment.

“Maybe when a new director comes in they’ll have the ability to take that out of the behavioral assessment, but at this point, I don’t have the authority to take it out of the assessment, Finelli explains.

Really?  Is that the hill you want to die on?  I wonder what is supposedly necessary for Franklin Co to bring itself into compliance with the guidelines it claims to follow – Act of Congress? Presidential executive order? Directive from a burning bush?

Soooooo we follow the ASPCA guidelines, except for the one that would prevent us from needlessly killing good dogs, which is mostly who we kill, but we don’t like to kill but we kill as many as we take in but we have an 82% save rate.  I guess.

Franklin Co needs to stop putting healthy, friendly dogs in the dumpster and put its pokey-in-the-face-stick there instead.

(Thanks Clarice.)

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
e-mail: tuckere@charlescountymd.gov

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.)

Cruelty Allegations against Franklin Co Dog Pound

The Franklin Co dog pound in Ohio killed more than 40% of the dogs in its care in 2012.  Among the thousands killed by the pound each year are dogs who don’t pass a behavioral test administered by the staff.  The pound’s assistant director, Deborah Finelli, e-mailed a local reporter regarding the process:

“To be selected for adoption, all dogs 6 months and older must pass a behavior assessment, which evaluates the dog’s ability to be safely handled, reaction to people and other dogs and any situations that might provoke aggressive behavior,” she wrote.

“No dog that is perceived to be a threat to the safety of other dogs or humans will be permitted to be sent to rescue and/or foster, or placed on the adoption floor.”

If this place was truly following this absurd rule, presumably no dogs would be made available for adoption since ALL DOGS BITE. Some bite people, some bite other dogs, some exhibit incredible restraint, some exhibit no restraint – and there are as many variations on these parameters as one would care to contemplate.  But the bottom line is that all dogs represent a potential threat to the safety of people and other dogs, even though that risk is small in the vast majority of cases.

Testing a dog in a pound environment is of very little value since the dog is not behaving normally due to severe stress.  Franklin Co’s statement that they test dogs for “any situations that might provoke aggressive behavior” suggests to me a pokey-in-the-face-with-a-plastic-hand-on-a-stick type deal or a take-food-away-from-a-hungry-stressed-out-dog-while-he’s-eating-it or maybe both monstrosities.  Whatever the tests, they should not be used as a justification to kill dogs.

To make matters worse, there are allegations that Franklin Co pound veterinarian Vincent Morton intentionally mistreats dogs in order to fail them on the behavioral tests and runs needless medical tests for the purpose of failing dogs he couldn’t sufficiently provoke to fail on behavior.

One complaint submitted in August 2013 says Morton would “purposefully be rough with them almost like he was trying to get them to growl or bite.”

Another complaint says Morton made fun of one employee for being gay and another for being Mexican. “Dr. Morton is very rough on the dogs and is rude to the employees and belittles them,” the complaint states.

But wait, there’s more!  There are allegations of oops-killings of dogs who had adopters waiting, dogs left to suffer without vet care for days, and dogs killed for behavior who had never been touched or let out of the cage.  And, despite employing a full time volunteer coordinator, Franklin Co has allegedly been shutting out volunteers.  Because volunteers, so complainy.

Local advocates voiced their concerns to the county commissioners this week and were told basically that their complaints weren’t going to be addressed as the county was already conducting its own investigation.  So tattle your tales elsewhere because we already know everything and you didn’t even know about our ultra secret investigation that is totally happening as we speak so sit back down, I guess.  Neither the vet nor the director have responded to the allegations at this time.

(Thanks Jan and Clarice for the links.)

Nobody WANTS to Kill Animals: Fox Valley Humane Edition

This friendly dog was killed by Fox Valley Humane Association even though an adopter was waiting.

This friendly dog was killed by Fox Valley Humane Association even though an adopter was waiting.

Appleton, WI – Betsy Quaintance and her daughter Allie found a very scared female Beagle wearing a collar but no tags on October 20, 2013. Once they gained the dog’s trust, she was very affectionate and appreciative of the food and love they gave her. The women suspected she was a lost pet and took her to the Fox Valley Humane Association in order to give the possible owner a chance to find her. There, the story took a tragic turn. Betsy writes:

We asked what the process was, and we were very clear that if the no one claimed her, or if they would want to put her to sleep, to please contact us, as we would be willing to adopt her if that happened. They instructed us to call back in a week. We called and stopped in at the end of the next week (as instructed). They said that she had not been claimed and gave us the adoption application. They then told us to go home and watch for her to show up on their website as an adoptable dog. Once that happened, we could bring the application back and pursue the adoption. We watched the site daily and did not see her, so on Monday 11/4, Allie called them to find out what was going on. She was told that the dog was food aggressive and had been put down.

I went to the FVHA the next afternoon and asked to meet with Liz, their new Executive Director. Liz did not have personal first hand knowledge, so she had to rely on what her staff have shared with her. The 7 days stray hold was up on Sunday 10/27. They completed her temperament test on Wed 10/30. They determined that she was “food aggressive to humans and dogs”. I was unsure what criteria is used to make that determination, so Liz shared that this would include bearing her teeth, growling, posturing or a combination of these actions. Once this determination was made, she was put to sleep that same day.


I reviewed our actions in pursuing her – and Liz did state that the staff that received her when we brought her in reported that we expressed an interest in adopting her if she was not claimed, or if she would be put down. I clarified that we also followed up when we directed to by the staff[.]

I’m guessing that Fox Valley Humane Association poked this dog in the face with a plastic hand on the end of a stick while she was eating and the dog got scared by such an absurd action. She showed her teeth or adopted a posture out of fright. And then they whisked her off to the kill room.

There has been a massive public outcry over the killing of this dog, who was never accused of biting or even nipping anyone and who had an adopter waiting. In response to the backlash from compassionate pet lovers, Fox Valley Humane Association posted a statement on its Facebook page this morning. It reads, in part:

During testing, after numerous attempts to acclimate Peanut to a typical meal-time routine, she continually demonstrated severe food aggression. In cases of manageable food aggression, FVHA seeks to correct any negative behaviors through multiple training techniques. Unfortunately Peanut’s aggression elevated to a dangerous level.

FVHA is extremely sensitive to cases in which humane euthanasia is deemed necessary for the best interest of the animal and the community. For the safety of Peanut and those who would provide care for her in the future, FVHA was faced with making the responsible decision to humanely euthanize her for all those involved.

Humane. They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.

My takeaway from their statement is, when the dog reacted normally to being poked in the face with the stupid plastic hand while eating, they kept poking and watched her fear escalate to the point where they felt satisfied that killing was the super right thing to do. They didn’t feel any obligation to inform the adopters they knew were waiting on the dog. Because posture. In one part of one test given once on one day. They didn’t feel any need to contact local rescue groups. Because humane.

Betsy tells me that several local TV stations will be telling this dog’s story tonight. I hope Fox Valley Humane Association has topped off its Bag o’ Lame Excuses for the media.

Thank you Betsy for trying to do right by this dog. I’m sorry for your loss. It seems like the so-called irresponsible public is getting burned by these so-called shelters all too often.

Instead of trying to find an excuse to kill pets people want to adopt, maybe Fox Valley Humane Association needs to put away its plastic hand on a stick and start doing its job to shelter animals. At the very least, couldn’t they stop killing pets they know have adopters waiting to take them home?

If anyone comes across any local news pieces on this dog, please post links in the comments.

Harford Co Humane Society Harasses Then Kills 18 Year Old Lost Pet

The Harford County Humane Society in MD kills a lot of the cats in its care – most of them actually:

[Humane Society’s board president, David] Fang said the shelter took in just over 3,000 cats in 2012. Of those, 581 were euthanized because they were feral, 637 were euthanized for medical reasons, 222 were put down because of their temperament, 65 were returned to owners and 876 were adopted. The remaining cats were either dead on arrival, given to rescue groups or put down because of lack of space or at the owners’ request.

On June 28 the Harford Co HS impounded a frightened elderly cat.  She had been found by an area resident who described her as friendly and assumed she was a lost pet.  He was right.  The cat, named Mistoffelees, had been an indoor pet for 18 years and lived in the neighborhood, unbeknownst to the man who found her.  She had been spayed and declawed.   Mistoffelees accidentally got outside when her owner, Robert Brooks, was out of town.

At the Harford Co HS, Mistoffelees was understandably scared.  She had spent 18 years living indoors and now found herself in a cage at an animal shelter.  Rather than leave her alone and give her some quiet time while searching lost pet reports and posting her information online so she could be reunited with her owner,  the staff immediately and repeatedly approached her in the cage.

Astonishingly, workers did not take a cue from the cat’s initial hisses and swats but instead began poking her with a fake hand on a stick.  In what will come as a surprise to no one with a brain, Mistoffelees didn’t respond well to that either.  So the Harford Co HS sedated her, scanned her for a microchip (which she did not have), failed to find her spay scar or note that she was declawed, deemed her feral and killed her.  All within one hour of impound.

For its part, the HS board blames the owner for not microchipping his cat and defends the staff as dedicated, hard working and blah.  There is a plan to discuss the facility’s holding policies.  The article states:

Harford County code does allow for immediate euthanasia when an animal is deemed violent or dangerous.

But the Harford Co HS website gives a rather different impression about how long owners have to find their lost pets:

Q: For how long do you keep animals?
A: HSHC meets State and County mandated holding periods for stray dogs and cats. These holding periods are designed so that pet owners have a reasonable amount of time to find lost pets. The stray hold periods are:10 days for dogs wearing a license, 4 days for dogs with no identification and 3 days for cats, excluding Sundays and holidays, Once the holding period is up the pet becomes the property of HSHC. HSHC then determines the best course of action, which often means making that pet available for adoption as soon as we have completed some basic medical screening, vaccinations, and whatever else the animal might need to fit this criteria.

Depending on the situation, HSHC might hold an animal longer than even our stray hold period or place them into foster care.

I don’t see anything about one hour in there.

Mr. Brooks is heartbroken.  Mistoffelees was a family member.  He has retained an attorney.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Court Orders Killing of Michigan Shelter Dog

I just read about a shelter dog named Dusty over on KC Dog Blog.  Please read Brent’s post and click the link he has to an online petition aimed at saving Dusty’s life.  Based on a bogus “temperament test” – and I use the words loosely – Dusty is marked for killing.  The first video is of the fake-hand-poking, food-taking-away, scaring-with-stupid-doll and witchy-poo-stranger portions of Dusty’s temperament test. The second and third videos are of Dusty meeting another dog. Beneath the vids are the evaluator’s comments which were presented in court in order to have Dusty killed.  I have my thoughts, starting with the ridiculous idea that a fair temperament test could be given in this environment, but I’ll hold off on additional comments for now. What do you think?

Dog  206 in cage 33 brown female with white markings Dusty

Wiggled at approach, stare and squat. Bit hand when petted and when eating.

avoided witch

Snarled at doll

jumped but no aggression to male or female dogs

The results of the testing indicates that […] one female  Dusty 206  who snarled at the doll should be humanely euthanized because of their lack of any useful purpose and the public safety threat they  pose.

Katherine Albro Houpt VMD PhD

Professor emeritus
Cornell University

Added:  The efforts to save Dusty and her fellow bust dogs are well organized and documented here.  Please visit the site for additional info and ways to help.