State Finds Evidence of Neglect at Robeson Co Animal Shelter

This note, posted on Facebook, is purportedly from the Robeson Co Animal Shelter (RCAS) director, April Lowry:

I am not writing this to you in defense i am writing this to you stating the facts…I do not need a defense…

What an opener.

First I will state that we have failed 2 inspections due To being over capacity.

I checked on the last 2 inspections for RCAS.  Indeed they are both fails but multiple issues are cited.  On July 29, there was an animal welfare inspection and a euthanasia inspection (both are pdfs).  Failed items include:

  • 4 cats crammed in one cage
  • Broken air conditioning units in the cat room so the temperature was too high.  A fan was brought in and the manager advised new AC units were ordered and scheduled for installation next week.
  • Cracks in the concrete floor need to be sealed
  • Food and water bowls have been chewed up and need to be replaced
  • Rodent droppings in restroom, bugs in pet food
  • Inadequate staff – by 3:30pm, the quarantine section of the shelter still hadn’t been cleaned for the day.
  • Sick cat had been at the shelter for 2 weeks without veterinary care
  • Cleaning is being done with dish soap and bleach.  Shelter needs to check with the vet for which disinfectants are appropriate for disease control.
  • Re-inspection to be conducted in 2 weeks.

August 12 (Follow up inspection to make sure items noted from last visit have been addressed):

  • Materials to fix some of the issues are on site but the work hasn’t been done.
  • 5 dogs had no resting platforms
  • Cat overcrowding issue unchanged
  • Chewed food/water receptacles still not replaced
  • Kill room has evidence of rodents
  • Open bag of pet food
  • Cleaning not complete by 3pm
  • Dogs were too hot.
  • Sick kittens had been at the shelter for 2 weeks without vet care.  Sick puppies had been at the shelter for more than 1 week without vet care.  A dog with multiple bite wounds has not been seen by the vet.
  • The shelter’s power goes out for extended periods of time.  Shelter needs to be checked on by staff more frequently on weekends.
  • Re-inspect in 30 days.

To my mind, the shelter failed these inspections due to far more than being “over capacity”.  I’m not sure how anyone could characterize these failures in that way.  The conditions described are inhumane and lacking the basics of appropriate shelter pet care and prevention of  disease.  Perhaps RCAS is “over capacity” for neglect, but that’s not one of the categories on the inspection form.

The Facebook note also refers to the recent killing of all dogs under one year of age at the shelter due to 2 puppies testing positive for parvo:

This is merely disease control…

Uh, no.  Make that – NO WAY.  Disease control is checking with the vet, like you were told, and finding out what cleaners to use to control disease at the shelter.  Disease control is getting your quarantine areas and the rest of your shelter cleaned every day in a timely manner.  Disease control is getting vet care and treatment for sick shelter pets.  What you did is not “merely disease control”.  It’s unnecessary killing in lieu of doing your job.

We will never get the problem here at the shelter rectified because people in our community fail to spay and neuter and also fail to vaccinate. Vaccination is a good prevention for this disease, but unfortuneatly these animals have not been vaccinated due to them being unwanted and dumped here.

Oh good.  Let’s blame the public.  Always a good fallback position for a shelter director trying to shirk responsibility.  By the way, is RCAS leading by example and getting a vet to examine all pets upon intake and vaccinating those deemed healthy enough to be vaccinated?

I have all been told “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” and this is so true.

I agree.  If only you’d done your job and followed the specific directions given to you at your failed inspection from July 29, that would have been worth at least an ounce of prevention.  But instead of using standard, established shelter protocols to control the spread of disease and instead of addressing the issues from your failed inspections, you chose to needlessly kill pets and then blame the public.

If this note was in fact written by the RCAS shelter director, I am appalled.  If not, the facts remain that RCAS is not working to prevent the spread of disease at the shelter but instead killing pets arbitrarily as a means of disease control.  That too, is appalling.

More Needless Killing at Robeson Co Animal Shelter

Pop quiz:  2 pups at your shelter test positive for parvo.  What do you do with the rest of your dogs?

A. Isolate them from the dogs who tested positive and test them each for parvo.

B. Have a vet examine them for possible symptoms of parvo and isolate/treat as appropriate.

C. Foster/adopt them out to rescues who are willing to take them.

D. Arbitrarily kill every dog under 1 year of age.

If you answered some combination of A, B and C, congratulations – you are a normal person.  If you answered D, you must be Robeson Co Health Director Bill Smith:

Staff at the Robeson County Animal Shelter euthanized more than 50 dogs Wednesday after two puppies tested positive for parvo.

[…]

“This was our best option,” Smith said. “We haven’t killed the older dogs. They’re being quarantined while they clean and disinfect the shelter.”

See?  They haven’t killed the older dogs. (I hope all the dogs remembered their birth certificates at admission.)  And you thought Robeson didn’t care!

Lawsuit Against Robeson Co Animal Shelter Dropped

There was a 3 hour public hearing on Thursday regarding alleged abuse at the Robeson County Animal Shelter in NC:

The board heard testimony and affidavits from more than a half dozen witnesses who accused staff at the county animal shelter of mistreating dogs and cats and making it difficult for rescue groups to adopt animals.

A few witnesses said they had seen shelter staff dangle puppies by their necks. One rescue worker told the board shelter workers threatened her physically.

[…]

[Attorney Calley] Gerber showed the board photos taken by shelter volunteers of filthy kennels, a dead kitten, empty water and food bowls and emaciated dogs and cats.

Other witnesses said they were often turned away by staff workers who didn’t feel like filling out adoption paperwork.

Response from the man in charge:

Health Director Bill Smith defended his employees against some of the charges, but acknowledged mistakes had been made.

Shorter:

Puppies dangled by the neck, rescue worker threatened by staff, starving pets, filthy kennels, pets killed because staff too lazy to do the adoption paperwork…

Mistakes.

The meeting came less than a month after the health board voted to adopt a policy giving rescue groups an additional 48 hours to claim stray dogs or cats. The shelter has seen its kill-rate drop from more than 90 percent this time last year to below 25 percent since the policy was implemented, Smith said.

Well I can certainly understand why they waited so long to implement these changes.  Think of all the extra years of puppy dangling they got in under that 90% kill rate.

At any rate, the lawsuit has now been dropped:

Gerber said she believes the lawsuit was responsible for at least some of the changes at the shelter. She also acknowledged the work of local animal rights advocates who have complained of abuses at the shelter for the better part of the past decade.

But Smith said the majority of the changes had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

“If they want to take credit, that’s fine,” Smith said Friday after learning that the litigation would be dropped. “Most of these changes were already in the works before the lawsuit was filed. I think most of their concerns have been addressed.”

Shorter, via Pee Wee Herman:

I meant to do that.

Is Robeson Co Animal Shelter Retaliating Against Pets Over Lawsuit?

This is a screenshot of part of what’s currently posted on Robeson County Animal Shelter’s Facebook page.  I have no knowledge of who does the posting for this page or if the information is correct.  If the information is wrong, I would think the shelter would want to get it corrected ASAP.

The text of the comments made by whoever posts for the shelter’s page:

The shelter is overloaded with puppies and some of them are starting to show signs of illness. They have not been euthanising because they were instructed to only euth. for space and nothing else. There are some young pups starting with vomiting and diarrhea. Please, if you are interested in these puppies, please contact the shelter today.

These babies do not need to stay there and risk infecting other animals. If they are not picked up today, they really need to be pts by tomorrow for their own sake and for others.

The county does not cover veterinary expenses. If someone wants to rescue them, a volunteer can transport them to the vet for them. I was told that another volunteer has already wormed these puppies, so a decent chance they could be dealing with a virus.

If this information is accurate, and the shelter is only killing pets “for space and nothing else”, I can not understand this.  This shelter keeps its kennels half-empty so they can rotate pets during cleaning.  They fought in court to keep doing this.  So to say they have to kill any pets “for space” makes no sense to me.

As far as the sick puppies mentioned in the posting (note the wording – “the shelter is overloaded with puppies” – overloaded when half the facility remains empty?), it’s obvious they should receive veterinary care.  If the shelter refuses to provide vet care, are they simply allowing sick pups to deteriorate, suffer and die?  How does this qualify in any way as sheltering?  I truly wonder what Robeson thinks euthanasia is for.

You know how I read this?  The toddlers that run the Robeson shelter got pouty lipped and huffy when the court ordered them to stop killing pets who have had a rescue hold placed on them.  As such, they muttered under their breath while stomping their feet, “Fine then.  We won’t even euthanize suffering pets.  And we won’t get them vet care either.  That will teach those meddling animal activists!”

I hope I’m wrong.  I hope this Facebook posting is wrong.  But seeing as it’s been up for a month already, I have my doubts.

Added, 6-17-10:  Unless it’s a temporary glitch, the Robeson Co Animal Shelter page on FB (linked above) appears to have been removed.  I’m going to try accessing it again later just in case.

Robeson Co Shelter Manager Out

Jeff Bass, the manager of the Robeson Co Animal Shelter in NC, is transferring to a new position within the county.  The transfer is apparently unrelated to any performance issues at the shelter or the pending lawsuit against the shelter in which Mr. Bass is named:

Bill Smith, the director of the county Health Department, said in a voice mail left with The Robesonian that Bass asked for a transfer in April, saying that he worried about his and his family’s safety because of frequent death threats.

[…]

Albert Locklear, director of Environmental Services for the Health Department, will manage the pound on an interim basis, according to Smith.

[…]

Then he added: “If Mr. Locklear receives similar treatment as Mr. Bass did, we may move to just do what is required — rabies control and dog bites and look at closing the shelter.”

I think most normal people are in agreement that death threats against anyone for any reason are out of bounds.  No one is going to help any shelter pets by making death threats against a shelter manager.  I have no independent confirmation of the alleged death threats but suffice to say, the idea of it is nauseating.

As far as the posturing by Mr. Smith, that really rubs me the wrong way.  It’s not clear to me what he means by “similar treatment”.  Is he referring solely to the alleged death threats?  If so, perhaps he intended the remark as a proactive measure to put the kibash on future threats against the new director, I don’t know.

Or is he referring to the “treatment” Mr. Bass received as being called out by animal advocates over shelter abuse and killing as well as being named in a lawsuit – along with Mr. Locklear and Mr. Smith himself – against the shelter?  How the comment comes across to me is – If you animal advocates don’t stop pestering us about killing the community’s pets, we’ll just shut down the whole operation.  Or, the shorter version – It’s our ball and we’re going home!

Latest Hearing in Robeson Shelter Lawsuit

The judge’s rulings in yesterday’s hearing:

  • The restraining order which prevents the Robeson Co Animal Shelter from killing pets who have a rescue hold on them will remain in place until the case goes to trial.  Rescue holds must be faxed in (so there’s a paper trail) and pets must be picked up within 24 hours of the county’s mandatory hold period expiring.
  • The shelter is not following a law regarding fostering pets but that law is not mandatory (There are laws that aren’t mandatory?  I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer.) therefore the shelter isn’t in violation.
  • The shelter kills pets for space, even when they have space.  That is, they only keep the shelter at half-capacity so workers can use the other half to rotate shelter pets during cleaning.  That is not a violation of state law either so the judge ruled against that item.

I wonder why the complainant brought items to the judge that were not in violation of state laws?

Burn on You Robeson

In case you haven’t been following the soap opera of the Robeson Co Animal Shelter in NC, the latest is a lawsuit filed against the shelter to get them to stop killing pets that have had a hold placed on them by a rescue group.  In conjunction with the filing of the lawsuit, the plaintiff was granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the shelter from killing “hold” pets.

The first hearing took place yesterday and the plaintiff requested the restraining order be extended until the case plays out (scheduled for trial May 24).  The county’s attorney advocated for swift death for the community’s pets, even those with homes waiting:

County Attorney Hal Kinlaw argued against the restraining order. Kinlaw said there is no law or policy requiring the shelter to keep an animal alive after a state-mandated 120-hour hold period.

[…]

As enforced, the animal shelter’s policy doesn’t require a window for pet adoptions. After giving owners 120 hours to claim a lost pet, the animals can be put down without ever being up for adoption.

The judge extended the restraining order which means shelter staff at Robeson are going to have to get their jollies some other way besides killing pets who are slated for adoption – at least for the next few weeks.

Treats on the Internets

The Monthly National Legislation Report posted a list of “119 incriminating examples of excessive, prohibited and under-reported lobbying by The Humane Society of the United States…”

***

A pet advocate has filed a lawsuit against the Robeson Co Animal Shelter in NC in an effort to legally prevent the shelter from killing dogs when a rescue has placed a “hold” on the dog:

Health Director Bill Smith tells The Robesonian of Lumberton he worries rescue groups will call and ask for adoptions to begin on all dogs, even if they won’t follow through.

If rescues placed holds on dogs they didn’t actually pull, that would mean, in effect, that the shelter would have to delay killing dogs by a few days. *sniff* I haz a sad.  Want keel NAO!

***

Editorial in NC paper in support of HSUS’ puppy mill legislation in the state.  I am opposed to this bill for several reasons but mainly because it puts a number on how many intact bitches one can own before crossing the line into “puppy mill”.  I have never supported this idea.  If you and your staff can provide good care for 100 intact dogs, who am I to tell you you’re a puppy mill?  Likewise, if you can’t provide good care for two intact dogs, I don’t see why you should be exempt from legislation supposedly designed to protect dogs used for breeding.

***

In case you missed it:  I’m raffling a goggie cookbook.

and FYI:  I added a poll on shelter pet killing on the right side of the blog.

Robeson Co Animal Shelter – Good News and Bad News

North Carolina:  If you’ve been following the Robeson County Animal Shelter’s fight to keep the “heartstick” as its main method of killing pets, you will probably be as surprised as I was to learn that they have suddenly given it up:

The Health Department last week quietly changed its euthanasia policy at the Robeson County Animal Shelter, conceding to animal rights advocates’ demands to euthanize intravenously rather than with heart stick.

This is good news although the shelter is still threatening to open hours later than its usual time of 10am (yo, that’s already late) to allow for extra killing time needed for IV injections.

Then there’s this troubling bit:

The intravenous method will cost less: The Health Department will no longer have to purchase ketamine, a sedative.

An animal cannot be sedated during intravenous euthanization because sedation reduces blood flow, which collapses veins so they’re more difficult to find. Instead, one worker holds the animal, and another finds a vein to inject a shot sodium pentobarbital.

I’m not a Vet but I thought one of the advantages of ketamine was that “[i]t can block nerve paths without depressing respiratory and circulatory functions” – is this incorrect?  Also, what about all the Vets and shelters who give a sedative prior to the IV injection – are they doing it wrong?

We have been lead to believe that sedation followed by IV injection is the most humane method of relieving suffering via euthanasia.  If the Robeson County Animal Shelter knows different, I wish they’d share with the class.

Party of No, Your Table is Ready

Note:  For background on the Robeson Co Animal Shelter in NC, see posts here, here and here.

On Wednesday, NC State Rep. Pat McElraft and two pet advocates met with shelter manager Jeff Bass and Robeson Co officials to discuss recommendations for changes to improve the shelter:

A pattern arose during the two-hour meeting: Advocates presented an issue they wanted addressed, and county officials explained why it wasn’t feasible.

All major requests were denied by the county on the basis of a wait-and-see-what-the-HSUS-says-in-their-review excuse.  But that HSUS review is by no means a done deal:

The Humane Society shelter review presented another issue: The national organization wants the county to pay for part of the cost, but so far its proposed costs have been too high. [Bill] Smith [director of the Health Department] said he won’t sign a contract until it’s affordable.

McElraft was surprised the organization wanted payment at all; she felt that could compromise the legitimacy of the review, raising questions about impartiality. She emphasized that she trusts the national Humane Society’s ability to conduct a solid review, and said she would call the organization and try to reduce or eliminate the county’s cost.

With all the coins in their coffers, I would think HSUS could work something out so that a poor county like Robeson could improve conditions at their shelter.  We’ll see if the state Rep’s arm twisting squeezes any blood from that stone.

Pet advocates’ main issue was the killing of shelter pets by “heartstick” – overdose of barbituates injected directly into the heart of a sedated pet.  Robeson currently has a system where the killing technicians go down the row of kennels and sedate each pet and then “the technician goes down the row and sticks each animal’s heart”:

Smith said if the shelter switched to intravenous, it would have to open two hours later because the method — inserting an IV of sodium pentobarbital into an animal’s vein, which takes two employees — is time consuming.

I don’t know how Robeson Co taxpayers feel about it but at my job, if my boss tells me I have to take on duties X and Y which will mean more work for me, I don’t have the option of a witty riposte such as, “Fine then – we’ll just have to open the office 2 hours later so I can get this extra work done!”  I  am simply required to figure out how to manage the workload I’ve been given because that’s what I’m being paid for.  What are Robeson Co residents paying these yahoos for exactly?

The pet advocates also asked the shelter to switch from Clorox and Ajax to standard veterinary cleansers.  A year’s supply of free veterinary grade cleansers was offered if the shelter would make the switch.  No dice there either.

All in all, a basically fruitless meeting.  The only concession made by the county was an agreement to put softer beds in with puppies – beds they got for free but were apparently not using.  I guess this about sums it up:

At the end of the meeting, [Susan] Barrett asked Bass if he had a dog that she was supposed to adopt on behalf of a friend. She said Bass showed her the paperwork that said the dog was sick and had been euthanized that morning.

Right.  Because we wouldn’t want to get treatment for a sick dog or let his adopter get treatment for him.  That might besmirch the fine reputation of a classy establishment like Robeson.