Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ban on selling dogs, cats in Dallas is easier said than done | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Columnist James Ragland | Dallas-Fort Worth News

Instead of pursuing uglier issues - like the Dallas Animal Services employees who let a cat die slowly within the shelter walls - the Animal Shelter Commission folks have decided to chase another windmill. Anything to stay in the media limelight...

Ban on selling dogs, cats in Dallas is easier said than done | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Columnist James Ragland | Dallas-Fort Worth News

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A primer for Texas pet owners

Last week, a blogger named P J Boosinger published two important posts after doing a LOT of research and homework into our fair state's current search and seizure laws.

I strongly urge anyone who owns more than one or two animals to read the blog entry Sniffing for Due Process. It explains how frighteningly easy it is for someone with ties to the local branch of the HSUS or SPCA, or city's animal control department -- in other words, anyone with some power to abuse -- to come into your home or kennel, seize your animals, and accuse you of animal cruelty.

We've all seen media coverage of accused hoarders' and abusers' homes. But all we see is what the media chooses to show us. You can bet that they're going to go for what will pull in the most viewers.

Furthermore, your local anchor person may or may not be accurate with numbers of animals, their conditions -- the catchphrase here is always "deplorable" -- or if the animals' owner is even charged with a crime. But once your face is on the 6:00 news with the phrase "animal cruelty" next to it, you might as well emigrate to Greenland unless you can afford a good attorney.

There are plenty of cases of unjust animal seizures. The motives are often greed, especially in the cases of purebred or rare animals. Details of two of these follow:

A licensed bird breeder is raided by a local chapter of the SPCA.
During the seizure, the SPCA manages to kill some of the birds they were "saving" by improperly transporting them. The breeder's surviving birds are eventually returned and no charges are filed.

A dog breeder in South Dakota is illegally raided by the HSUS and a local rescue center.
Before the charges are dropped, at least 28 of the dogs die while under the care of the local "rescue" group. After the raid, the HSUS issued some self-congratulatory PR then promptly decamped, leaving the local rescue group with a six-figure bill for care and feeding of the 170+ dogs. The breeder's legal costs forced him to sell some of his property, and he still does not know the fate of most of his dogs.

Good news for Delaware shelter animals

Not every state is content to live with an unacceptable level of killing of shelter animals. Last week, the Governor of Delaware signed the Delaware Companion Animal Protection act.

Here is a Reader's Digest Condensed version from Nathan Winograd's blog:

... the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act mandates collaboration between shelters and rescue groups. A shelter cannot kill an animal if a rescue group is willing to save that animal’s life. But that is just the beginning. It also makes convenience killing illegal—shelters can no longer kill an animal when there are available cages or the animals can share a cage or kennel with another one.

For Dallas Animal Services (DAS) to turn things around, they would have to make some major changes. In addition to actively recruiting more volunteers, DAS would have to work with ALL rescue groups, not just a few select ones. It would be a 180-degree turnaround from their current modus operandi. But it's way past due. And the legislators in Delaware couldn't find any reason to oppose it.

From Nathan Winograd's blog, again:

To legislators, to the Delaware animal loving public, to the shelters and rescue groups who participated in the passing of this bill, there was nothing controversial about it. No fear mongering about hoarders, no fear mongering about dog fighting, no fear mongering about overcrowding, no fear mongering about costs, no fear mongering about notice requirements being unfair to small rural shelters, no fear mongering about anything. The bill mandates that animals be given every opportunity for life, and no one thought that would be a bad or controversial idea. In other words, there was no HSUS, no ASPCA, and no Best Friends. It seems that in order for shelter reform legislation to be allowed to pass, the supposed leaders of the animal protection movement itself can’t be involved.

Given that our current DAS management:

  • Seems unbothered by an euthanasia rate that's stuck at 78-80%;
  • Needs a grand jury to investigate why staff allowed a cat to die in agony within the shelter's very walls;
  • Enables members of the Animal Shelter Commission to violate the very laws they helped bring in two years ago; and
  • Doesn't seem to care what the taxpayers think of their performance ...
isn't it time these people found other jobs - hopefully in an industry that doesn't involve animals?

Friday, July 16, 2010

PETA gets the Penn and Teller treatment

I have hated PETA ever since I found out that they don't support feral cat management or Trap/Neuter/Release. Here's what they say:

Please do not allow the prospect of euthanasia to deter you from trapping cats. If you leave them where they are, they will almost certainly die a painful death.

Will someone please tell that to my neighbor's feral colony? Her oldest feral is 13. Yes, she's built a special shelter for them, but plenty of other feral caretakers have done the same thing. Even a doghouse works great.

I hated PETA a bit more when they tried to whitewash their Kill The Ferals attitude by setting up another Web site named - get this - Helping Animals.

Here's their nice page about ferals.
Surprise, surprise - the links to their free feral cat brochure don't work.

Thankfully, Penn and Teller zeroed in on PETA a while back and did a bang-up job in handing their leaders their respective asses.

For anyone who missed the Penn and Teller Bullshit! episode that skewers PETA, or don't get Showtime, it's here.

But if you're near Premiere Video on East Mockingbird, they have this episode in stock at an extremely reasonable rental charge.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The real definition of hoarder

Something that particularly bothers me is how most people will gladly swallow any story that the media serves up to them. They never pause to think about the possibility of spin, hidden agendas, or the like.

The current spate of raids of suspected animal hoarders are no different. For the majority of the lemmings who consider themselves incapable of cruelty, they also consider anyone labeled a hoarder to be the spawn of Satan.

But let's look at a few recent cases, like this one in Providence, Rhode Island.

Although the news presenter on the video chews the scenery up one side and down the other, I don't think we can assume with absolute certainty that there's a hoarding situation going on. Certainly, there are few of us who want 60 dogs, but take a look at the house they came from. It's a three-story house.

And look at the dogs themselves. I didn't see a single one that was underweight. Even an Animal Control officer (with an unfortunate name) said this on camera:

"They appear to all be in fairly good condition," said Pawtucket Animal Control officer John Holmes, who brought about 30 of the dogs to his city's shelter. "I didn't see anything that raised a red flag other than the large number of dogs."

But the obnoxious news presenter ended his spiel by muttering on about how hoarders are sickos and hoarding is a crime.

So... who wants to bet the rent that:

In less than two weeks, most of the dogs will be up for adoption?
The owners will never see any of their animals again?
The charges will be eventually dropped for lack of evidence?

I can't help but wonder if these people, and others like them, are turned in by self-righteous animal rescuers with plenty of animals in their own homes.

Want to know how one of these rescuers might define a hoarder?
Someone with one more animal in her home than she has.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

DAS employees allow trapped cat to die - IN the shelter

This story made me feel physically ill.

There is a video here (the URL will probably only work for a day or two):

Grand Jury Sniffing Out Shelter Cruelty Allegation

Some longtime supporters of the Dallas Animal Shelter are demanding firings and criminal charges after an allegation that a cat was tortured at the facility.

The allegations have led a Dallas County grand jury to convene and consider cruelty charges against several employees.

Sources tell CBS 11 a cat escaped from a cage at the facility and became trapped in a wall, and that employees continued working for days while the animal could be heard trying to free itself.

It's also alleged that some employees reported the problem to managers, but nothing was done and it wasn't until the cat died and created a stench in the building that someone had it removed.

Elaine Munch, a longtime supporter and donor to the shelter, is outraged over the incident. "I know the cat had to have cried, cried and cried it just breaks my heart, instead they let a cat die a horrible death. It's despicable."

Munch and others want a housecleaning by the city of employees who knew about the incident and failed to take action.

"The people that knew and didn't do anything need to spend time in jail or prison, This is the fault of a lack of leadership and it goes to the top."

The city says that it is aware of the investigation and is cooperating. The Dallas County District Attorney's office declined comment, but some shelter employees have been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury over the allegations.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How not to treat your rescue group volunteers

One well-documented tale that I am still hesitating to publish contains details of a particularly nasty course of events between a volunteer of a local rescue group and those who managed it.

The reasons I hesitate to publish the scanned documents are because: a) it happened to my ex-girlfriend, and b) it happened about 10 years ago. (My ex has given me the green light.)

But the guilty parties are still parading about at the occasional DFW-area fund raiser or rescue-related event, acting as if they're the best things since sliced bread or the iPhone. Still not getting their hands dirty, of course.

And, even though most rescue groups treat their volunteers well, some tend to go through them pretty quickly because of treating them like serfs or worse. Thus the pervading jokes about starting new groups called "Rescue Group X Rejects". So an outing might actually have some positive results.

Here's a condensed version of the chain of events. You can be the judge as to whether I should re-scan the evidence for publication.

1. A newish volunteer with Web knowledge (my ex) offered to provide a basic Web site for a local rescue group she'd recently begun volunteering for.

2. The site was published after the volunteer built it and paid for the .org URL with her own funds. This was before the days of cheap domains.

3. The site's passwords were freely distributed within the group, so any of the group's volunteers could upload, post and edit information about animals available for adoption.

4. About a year later, a new volunteer decided that she wanted to be the sole Web manager. So she logged in and changed the password, effectively kicking everyone else off.

5. When the original provider of the site (my ex) objected, she was basically told to fuck off and go clean litter boxes at Petsmart as this was "better use of her skills". This did not sit well with her, and she made no secret of it.

6. The new volunteer who changed the passwords got wind of the situation and felt threatened. So she called my ex's office and said that she was "using company computers to steal her Web site." This was impossible, as the ex created it on a Mac platform and software, and her office was/is a 100% Windows PC environment. But she was still dragged into HR and questioned about the anonymous phone call.

7. One of the group's Board -- an attorney -- actually wrote a lengthy letter to the ex, telling her to fuck off on corporate letterhead.

8. My ex called the attorney's boss and said WTF? The harassment stopped.

More later... probably.

Sorry for the hiatus...

But I recently fell victim to the Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times".

Not only did my company send me out of state to manage a commercial project, my PC's hard drive suddenly and totally crashed. Most, but not all of my information was backed up.

Last but not least, the news we've all been waiting for - the HSUS' 2010 shelter evaluation for Dallas Animal Services - hasn't been made public. Instead, there's a deafening silence. Not even the usual team of HSUS Kool-aid bathers have said anything on their various blogs, or within their news articles.

However, I did find a PDF of the 2001 HSUS report presented to Dallas Animal Services. I stumbled on it purely by mistake, as the Animal Connection of Texas - who had originally published it online - now has no live link to the PDF.

Click here for a link to the 2001 HSUS/DAS report.

Although I haven't read it verbatim, it made a few valid points. But it had its usual share of "We're the HSUS, so we're infallible" bs too.

And the biggest omission of all, in my opinion, is that it contained NO discussion of the value of volunteers. Nor did it suggest how DAS might attract and keep good volunteer staff. Shelters who have successfully lowered their euthanasia rates almost universally credit their volunteer staff as playing a vital part in their success.