Monday, May 31, 2010

The start of the Pawprints/DAS saga?

(If you're a new reader, you may want to back up to the first posts of this blog - especially those published in March. They have more details of the near-obsessive interest that the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission has taken with the rescue group Tx Pawprints.)

All vendettas begin with an incident that puts someone's nose out of joint - someone who can't let the matter drop. I suspect this note from the 2004 Texas Pawprints shelter logbook is the key (or one of several keys) to the whole sorry mess.

The author of this resignation note is a member of the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission. She also attended every single minute of Laniq Adams' 2008 trial for misdemeanor animal cruelty. And she looked absolutely sucker-punched when Laniq was acquitted in less than 10 minutes.

Also, Rebecca also did NOT remove all of her cats from the Pawprints shelter during her "resignation", although she removed the eight kittens after Pawprints' shelter manager Laniq Adams told her that there was no room for them. (Rebecca had brought them to the shelter and left them without enquiring if there was space available.) Neither did Rebecca make any provision for the other cats she left behind, or even make a single enquiry as to their wellbeing.

After this note was left in the Pawprints shelter logbook in 2004, the anonymous complaints started rolling in. (BTW, no complaints were received until this resignation note appeared.) The local SPCA stopped taking the complaints seriously after their third visit to the shelter; their inspector actually apologized during her final visit/inspection. The Humane Society of Greater Dallas' Marti McManus came by to check out the shelter, and almost adopted a kitten during her visit.

But Dallas Animal Services visited again, and again, and again. Even after the 2008 trial and acquittal, they kept visiting. And the shelter's manager, Laniq Adams was still on the Shelter Commission's meeting agendas during 2008 and 2009 - AFTER she was acquitted of misdemeanor cruelty charges.

Here's the real kicker: Even though Dallas Animal Services visited the Pawprints shelter at least seven times, they NEVER issued a single citation. Instead, they finally gave up and passed the buck to Code Compliance. Earlier this year, Code Compliance claimed the shelter was in a residence although the county's Appraisal District records clearly show it zoned Commercial like other county shelters.

This 2004 note, and the ongoing saga that followed, leaves a few unanswered questions:

1. Why did DAS single out Pawprints for continued inspections, especially after never issuing a single citation? Sure, they hassled the Companion Animal Network (CAN) for a while, but the visits to CAN have stopped during the last months.

2. Why was Laniq Adams singled out for cruelty charges? Why not charge other volunteers, or the shelter as an entity? (Hint: If you look through the affidavits filed with the District Attorney by other ex-volunteers, you'll see that the persecution had little to do with cats, or cruelty.)

3. Why did the Animal Services Commission continue to waste taxpayer money in 2009 and 2010 by persecuting someone who was acquitted of animal cruelty in 2008? Couldn't their efforts be directed toward something else more in the public interest - like lowering our city's shamefully high euthanasia rates?

4. Can anyone who dares rescue animals in Dallas County feel safe against this sort of expensive and ridiculous persecution?

Perhaps Rebecca (no, I'm not going to publish her last name, she'll recognize her own handwriting) can answer these questions for us.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Humane Watch and the 50% solution

In the past few months, I've hesitated to mention HumaneWatch here because some of their Facebook fans are sort of obnoxious. However, they've recently made the HSUS an offer that I cannot refuse to mention:

If the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States will make a commitment to start sending just 50 percent of HSUS's income to hands-on U.S. pet shelters, HumaneWatch will disappear for good.

I didn't turn against the HSUS because HumaneWatch told me so. I turned against them after I read the numbers on their last annual reports. These reports are published at the HSUS' own web site, so I'm reasonably confident that no anti-HSUS group has cooked the books.

Therefore, I'm instantly enraged every time the HSUS runs television ads begging for money that will help shelter animals. Because hardly any of it will.

The last word on the HSUS shelter evaluations

While reviewing this year's Web coverage of the relationship between the HSUS and DAS, I found a link I'd bookmarked in Feb 2010 with details of these.

Here is an excerpt from the link from - click here to read the entire story:

HSUS conducted a similar consultation in 2001 of what was then Dallas Animal Control. That report concluded that the City's two animal shelters were obsolete, unwelcoming, and unsafe - for staff and animals alike, there was a lack of training for officers in the field, the adoption process was "woefully behind the times and in need of a complete overhaul", and the department as a whole was "a ship adrift". While many improvements have been made over the years, including a new state-of-the-art animal shelter and adoption center, increased staff training, and management experienced in animal welfare, concerns still exist within the public and the animal welfare community that there is room for improvement. The hope is that this assessment can shed some light on those issues.

The main reason I'm posting this is not because the HSUS got it 100% wrong back in 2001 - it's because Dallas Animal Services didn't take their advice. I don't know why DAS didn't respond to the results of the 2001 assessment. But eight years down the line, we have a new shelter but little else to show for it. (And wasn't that new shelter supposed to have an in-house spay/neuter clinic?)

For a few examples of DAS' rejection of the HSUS' 2001 findings, take a look at these topics discussed during recent Animal Shelter Commission meetings:

1. Lack of trained staff and officers, or what Kent Robertson describes as "training issues".
2. Public comments that described the current shelter's unwelcoming attitude and limited opening hours.
3. Animals at DAS being neglected to the point of death (see Gloria Blum's comments).

But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the entire saga is that neither the HSUS nor DAS even mention lowering the euthanasia rate, which seems stuck at a depressingly high 78 to 80%. Why is killing adoptable animals still viewed as a fact of life when, over the past few years, other shelters have introduced some extremely successful initiatives that lowered their euthanasia rates by 30 to 80%?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Strange goings-on with an ASC member's Facebook page

First of all, I need to apologize for not explaining my lack of postings. My father went into the hospital after a bad fall so I have been in AZ the last few days. Thankfully my father is much better and back at home.

While catching up at Facebook earlier today, I visited the various pro- and anti-HSUS pages. I noticed that a member of the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission, Rebecca Poling, is suddenly unhappy with the HSUS.

Since she's the same ASC member who claims to be responsible for chasing down $25K so Dallas Animal Services could pay HSUS to tell them what they were doing wrong, I thought it strange that Rebecca's suddenly ready to take out a hit on Pacelle and Co.

Here's a screen grab from her Facebook page - for the uninitiated, I'm fairly sure she is referring to Companions for Life, another of her many surplus PR exercises, when she mentions CFL:

It's a complete turnaround from her comment posted at the Stop Humanewatch Wall Photos section:

However, although she seems to have confused plenty of her Facebook blingfriends, no one's the wiser. So I am clueless as to why the Pacelle/Poling honeymoon is over. Any readers care to guess what's going on?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

Earlier this week, 13 chihuahuas were seized from an owner who was allegedly not taking proper care of them. Here's a link to the story:

After I surfed over to the KXAN link and looked at the three photos of the "abused, neglected" chihuahuas, I came away thinking WTF? Not a single one of them had any signs of abuse or neglect. No runny eyes or noses, no bald spots, nothing.

However, the Director of Development and Marketing lady over at Austin Humane Society, Amanda Ryan-Smith, is convinced that the chihuahuas' owner was underfeeding them. (Did anyone besides me notice her job title? Why is she running this show, instead of a cruelty investigator?) But the dog she's holding looks fine, if not slightly disgusted with the attention.

Certainly Amanda isn't underfeeding herself, but that's another matter. But she's latched on to a nearly fool-proof formula for getting some good cheap PR. Job security at its finest.

This is an excerpt from the PJ Boosinger blog. She's described it better than I could:

"Princess, for example, is very thin and underweight,” said Amanda Ryan-Smith, director of development and marketing at AHS [Austin Humane Society]. “She hasn't really gotten the nutrition that she needed when she was with her previous owners." Are you sure she's underweight? Are you really, really sure? I watched the video several times and looked at the 3 pictures on the photo tab. If those are the most underweight ones, them I'm thinking you might be wrong. They look just about right to me. Seems to be a new trend of accusing owners of underfeeding their animals and I think it's a bit suspect.

I'd bet the rent that the majority of these dogs will be up for adoption in a very short time. Certainly not time enough to recover from all of their alleged neglect. Any rescuer who takes in a genuinely neglected, underweight animal will tell you that the animal will need at least a month's care before being ready for adoption. Probably longer.

Certainly I'm not the only person who's noticed an increasing number of animal "rescues" hitting the 6:00 news. While I'm not saying that 100% of these seizures were unnecessary, I have no problems pointing out that a fair percentage were carried out for other reasons. Here are a few:

A city's animal control facility is under pressure for not preventing cruelty, so they choose a convenient victim.
The HSUS needs a new reason for a new donation drive (esp. since Charity Navigator just lowered their rating).
Personal vendettas. I never cease to be amazed at the hatred displayed between different rescue group volunteers.
An obsessive need for power, prestige and public recognition. Some members of the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission are a textbook example, but they're not the only ones.
Ignorance of the Fourth Amendment.

Anything I left out? Besides the fact that animal welfare is NOT a major factor in any of them?

For example, look at all those caring, dedicated souls raiding that Ft Worth Avenue address earlier this year. Their dedication - combined with a dimwit judge's decision to have every cat killed - ended up in 118 dead cats, even though many were obviously tame, healthy and adoptable. And not a single DFW-area rescue group* has admitted to being contacted by DAS and asked to help rehome these cats. Why not?

* I've asked around, but come up with no names. Please correct me if you know of a group who was contacted and asked to help rehome the Ft Worth Avenue cats.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Nathan Winograd takes on Pacelle

Although I have not read either of Nathan Winograd's books, the fact that he has assisted shelters with lowering their no-kill rates (without charging HSUS consulting fees) earns him credibility.

I particularly enjoyed his entry Going Rogue, in which he takes on Wayne Pacelle. Winograd is not a mealy-mouthed person and lets the chips fall where they may. Herewith an excerpt - if you click over to the page, there are links that substantiate Winograd's accusations:

Wayne Pacelle’s rewriting of history adds another to his growing list of disturbing titles

Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is many things: a dog killer such as when he lobbied the court to kill puppies and other dogs in Wilkes County, NC. He is an embracer of dog killers such as when he made the most notorious animal abuser of our generation a spokesman for HSUS, without asking for anything substantive in return such as the names and locations of other dog fighters. He is an apologist for killing who has referred to No Kill as hoarding in Newsweek, attacked No Kill on the pages of USA Today, and steadfastly defended shelters that kill against reformers trying to save lives, as he did in King County (WA). He is a thief, stealing the money that belongs to other groups by fundraising off of their work and success and trying to pass it off as his own as he recently did with the “Faye Fundraising Debacle.” Thanks to his latest blog, add “revisionist historian” to his growing list of disturbing titles. For those who prefer plain speaking, it means Wayne Pacelle is also a liar.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kittens on a Slide

This was too funny not to share.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A fiction masterpiece ... the HSUS 2009 Annual Report

Is it just me, or do others get pissed off by the spin galore in this report?

You'll have to plow through to the next to the last page to see the actual numbers.

Congrats to Cowtown

Here's a link to the article about the City of Fort Worth's getting with Petsmart Charities to increase adoptions:

Unique Collaboration Saves Pets in Fort Worth

Considering that the City of Dallas managed a grand total of 12 off-site adoptions during the last quarter of 2009 - see Page 2 of the minutes of the Feb 2010 Animal Shelter Commission meeting - perhaps they should wander over to Cowtown and ask for help. Or go directly to Petsmart Charities, a group who appears to reasonably respected within the rescuer community.

In the meantime, the good citizens of Dallas County wait to hear about the $25K worth of advice the HSUS provided Dallas Animal Services last month. I haven't heard or read a peep from anyone, not even the Shelter Commission members who worship at the feet of Wayne Pacelle. Has anyone else?

Considering that the HSUS was demanding confidentiality during this meeting, I don't think a phone call to HSUS will get me anywhere but put on indefinite hold. But I may attempt to call the HSUS Shelter Evaluation department this week and see if I can get an update without having to pay for it. I'm kind of curious as to what sort of reception I'll get.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

February 2010 Commission minutes

Here is the link to the PDF of the Feb 2010 Animal Shelter Commission minutes.

I am using a new storage system - I was using but had upload problems, so I'm trying Google Docs for the first time. So please let me know if you have problems with viewing.

Here is a partial list of conveniently omitted facts, provided by several sources:

On Page 4 of the minutes, there was a discussion about using catchpoles during seizures, such as the Jan 2010 seizure of cats from a motel room on Ft Worth Avenue (second bullet).

The part of the discussion that was omitted here – and moved to Page 7 of the minutes - was that ALL 118 cats seized were euthanized. One Commission member was obviously upset about this, as she pointed out that the video coverage made it obvious that many of the cats were adoptable and did not need to be caught by catchpole, nor killed. (No local rescue groups were contacted and asked to help, either.) But the judge in charge of the case ordered all 118 cats to be killed. When questioned, the veterinarian present could not give an explanation why this decision had been made.

Here is a link to the news coverage of the Ft Worth Avenue seizure.

On Page 7, there is the “Status of Laniq Adams investigation”. This was conveniently passed over – although Laniq Adams was right there in the room, ready to find out what the hell was going on (see the guest listing on Page 1). Sources are guessing that this was probably because the Commission had already passed the Laniq Adams harassment buck to Code Compliance, who falsely accused Ms. Adams of operating an animal shelter in a residence the very next Monday (see this March 2010 blog posting).

On Page 9, the Commission member who didn’t understand why DAS staff couldn't enter private property in the same way as utility and city workers was not identified. Seems that Jonnie England has no idea what the Fourth Amendment is – she seemed genuinely surprised that Animal Control staff couldn’t just breeze right into anyone’s back yard without a warrant.

More stuff will be posted as I have time to edit/research.

Coming up: Minutes of the Feb 2010 Shelter Commission meeting

Just got an email from one of my "informants". He has PDFs of the Animal Shelter Commission minutes and will be sending them to me later today, along with his notes.

It seems that the minutes that are made public have been slightly censored. But he attended this meeting and took notes, so we'll all be able to read between the lines.

Don't touch that dial!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Congrats to the Gideons (and their attorney)

From Larry Powell's blog:

THE GIDEON FAMILY'S CASE: We got a note yesterday afternoon from Lynn Gideon – you may recall that Lynn and her husband, Mark, were in a bit of emotional anguish earlier this year when the City of Dallas, after getting repeated complaints from a nearby neighbor, began to threaten the family with the loss of their rescued animals, animals they’d taken in and lovingly cared for when no one else would step up.

Lynn’s note read, “I wanted to let you know that our lawsuit with the city of Dallas has been settled. We are very happy about it. All our pets will remain at home with us. Our oldest cat, Lily, died a few weeks ago, but at least she was at home and not in a strange place. Everybody else is well.

“Mark and I are so grateful for the many people that came forward to help us. We also appreciate so much your continued interest in us and our pets.”

The Gideon’s had engaged attorney Bryon L. Woolley of Simpson Woolley, LLP to represent them in the case.

He got a temporary injunction to keep the city from seizing the animals, there was some lawyer work and a settlement was reached.

If this doesn't prove that the city's 2008 pet limit ordinance is stupid...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Where are the Animal Shelter Commission's Feb 2010 minutes?

According to the Dallas City Secretary's office, minutes and agendas for the city's different committees are available online.

However, the Animal Shelter Commission minutes and agendas seem to have disappeared. I'm especially interested in the minutes for the February 2010 meeting, since I understand that each meeting's minutes are finalized at the following meeting, and the Commission met again in April. So it would seem like the minutes for the February 2010 meeting would be available.

However, I surfed myself blue in the face last night but never found them.

I've sent an email request for the minutes to the City Secretary's office. But if anyone else has found them, please let me know - I'd like to post them here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

An educated guess about DAS' lack of volunteers

Recently I pointed out that Dallas Animal Services (DAS) seems oddly short of volunteers (according to Kent Robertson, DAS only has either 15 or 50 - the public gallery couldn't hear what he said during the recent Animal Shelter Commission meeting).

Since more volunteers + more adoptions = less euthanasia, this area begs improvement. Volunteers would also help to socialize the fearful animals, and could foster the animals in need of special care so they wouldn't be euthanized.

Shelters that have significantly lowered their euthanasia rates in a short period of time mentioned the importance of volunteer assistance and community involvement.

Nathan Winograd describes the importance of volunteers here:

Volunteers are a dedicated “army of compassion” and the backbone of a successful No Kill effort. There is never enough staff, never enough dollars to hire more staff, and always more needs than paid human resources. That is where volunteers make the difference between success and failure and, for the animals, life and death.

One recent comment published here described DAS' volunteer application in negative terms. After taking a look at it - click here for a link - I tend to agree. The only small improvement is that it's down to six pages. It used to be 10 pages.

Why would anyone want to volunteer after being put through this idiot's dialogue of questions and answers? Certainly the legalese has to be there, whether we like it or not. But why interrogate people as if they're criminals? It's yet another depressing example of how Those In Charge view the general public.

Conversely, the few DFW area shelters and rescue groups who welcome community service volunteers have mentioned that they're some of the most reliable volunteers they've ever had. It's simple, really - if they don't do the hours the judge has assigned them, they're in trouble. But DAS is not on the Volunteer Center's list.

Maybe they should climb down off their pedestal and consider it. The animals would appreciate it.