Thursday, January 31, 2013

Does No-Kill Believe in Prosecuting Animal Cruelty?

Substandard or Animal Cruelty??

When No-Kill Delaware wrote one of the first posts showing the condition of dogs under the care of Safe Haven during the tenure of their previous Executive Director Anne Gryczon, the blog described the situation merely as substandard.
This substandard level of care is entirely Safe Haven’s fault - No-Kill Delaware, Care of 100+ Safe Haven Dogs Fails to Meets Minimal Standard for No Kill Shelters

I'm personally at a loss as to how the situation described below can be considered just substandard by the no-kill movement, especially if the details below from their page are true and accurate.  Animals dying a slow painful death, losing half their body weight, not treating an animal vomiting blood, yet the No-Kill community in Delaware makes no mention of taking the case to the state Attorney General office to assist in prosecuting those responsible.  They merely mention taking their "whistleblower" report to a foundation representative and the Safe Haven Board of Directors with an ultimatum to fire the Executive Director.

And if the No-Kill movement is willing to allow these conditions to occur in one of their own shelters without prosecution, it seems entirely unlikely that they even believe in prosecuting animal cruelty anywhere else.  Maybe that's why Safe Haven and the Kent County Levy Court have so readily abandoned their duty to enforce humane care standards under Title 9.  Aren't animal shelters supposed to be the example to the community of how to treat animals humanely?

"Medical attention is often not given to those that need it or it’s delayed far too long.
  • Most of the dogs at ________ (name of private kennel where dogs are boarded)  have the runs.
  • When we boarded our dogs there before the shelter opened many of them ended up with Giardia of other internal parasites from the water there. It often pools in the yard and they had problems with the sewer backing up into the yard.
  • Many of the dogs at the off-site kennels are under weight. A few of them have drastically lost weight (some as much as half of their body weight). Staff at All Aboard called Anne about it on several occasions but she dismissed it. (Dogs that we know have lost the most are Cami, Moose, Louise, Hal, Spice, Latte and Zeus.)
  • Babe was sick for some time and nothing was done. She wasn’t vetted until a staff member took it upon himself to rush her to __________ (name of animal hospital). There they had to revive her but they were able to stabilize her to the point where they believed she had a chance. Once Anne found out Babe was at _______ she made the staff member take her to _________ (another vet) even though the vets at ________ advised against it. She died on the way there.
  • Jedidiah was diagnosed with a blood disorder and had open tumors all over his body. Multiple vets told Anne that it would be in the best interest of the animal to be put down. She refused and brought him back to the shelter where for 30 days he laid in a room dying a slow painful death
  • Jacob has been at the shelter for approximately 2 months (they conveniently left his intake date off the master list) with several huge tumors all over his body. He is finally scheduled to have them removed at the end of January.
  • When Challenger was vomiting blood, Gryczon refused to allow a vet appointment to be made. 
No-Kill Delaware - Safe Haven Whistleblower Report
We already know that Henderson Kentucky contributed to the situation in Delaware when they allowed the conditions that occurred in their shelter to go unprosecuted.  Will Delaware do the same?

Delaware Attorney General Office - Will it be complicit in the cruelty?

We've watched Delaware politics at it's worse throughout the last couple years.  From the typical Delaware style last minute passage of CAPA, to multiple FOIA requests against one shelter while shielding the No-Kill shelters based on the FOIA requests of the CAPA sponsoring senator.  So the question will be whether Beau Biden, our state Attorney General, has the leadership capacity to stand on his own and make sure this does not happen again, here or elsewhere?  Or whether he will succumb to politics as usual and subsequently allowed the animals referenced above to have suffered in vain?  More importantly, if Mr. Biden chooses to ignore what has happened, then he will also contribute to setting the example that this kind of treatment of animals is acceptable in Delaware?  That would be a sad legacy for his political career, and more importantly a sad precedent for future cases of animal cruelty.

Hopefully the changes being made at Safe Haven will be sufficient to change their course and provide a better outcome for the animals.  But that doesn't justify looking the other way to what has occurred.  Shelters need to be an example to the public, and unless we hold the shelters accountable when cruelty occurs, what chance do we have of prosecuting residents that do the same thing?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Three Shelter Directors Gone Under CAPA

Safe Haven Director Ousted

In the past week, we've entered yet another chapter in our post CAPA world in Delaware.  It was announced this week that the board of Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary has removed Anne Gryczon as the Executive Director.  
"The board's statement, released late Jan. 10, says Safe Haven will continue to focus on its no-kill philosophy, but the sanctuary will take action to increase adoptions and boost its spay/neuter program." - Gryczon out as director of Safe Haven - Cape Gazette 1/11/13
This action came as no surprise as employees and volunteers began to release photos that showed the poor condition of animals in the shelters care.  

Based on the condition of these dogs in the pictures, and the description of the weight lost, there apparently was a serious lack attention for the dogs being housed at various commercial kennels and a lack of proper veterinary care. 
"Cami was 52 pounds at  when she came to Safe Haven but now she weighs 31 pounds. Louise was 40 pounds at the time of intake, but now she weighs 21 pounds. (photo below). A couple of other dogs have had dramatic weight losses, also. This information was given to me two days ago by employees/volunteers who are devastated by what has happened to these dogs." - No-Kill Delaware 1/2/13
Of course the excuses from our Kent County commission began almost immediately after the pictures came to light.
The Director of Safe Haven has acknowledged that there has been an outbreak of whipworm and all dogs are being treated on a daily basis, at the main building and at their satellite kennels. - Jody Sweeney, Newszap 1/9/13
While most have attributed the weight loss to the dogs being warehoused in various commercial kennels without any appropriate interaction, this was the first we had heard about whipworms, and this was the only reference I saw regarding this alleged outbreak.  So I have to wonder why our commissioner would believe that there was apparently a super outbreak occurring (since he referenced the outbreak was happening "at the main building and their satellite kennels").  But guess what also treats whipworms - heartworm preventatives.  So it's no surprise that past reports about the shelter not providing preventatives to the long term occupants may also be true based on Mr. Sweeney's statement.

Not surprisingly, alot of the issues that have been discussed by critics for months, were confirmed.  The fact that Safe Haven was violating the law regarding spaying and neutering of animals before adoption.  120+ dogs warehoused in commercial kennels with little or no interaction, and lack of veterinary care.

In November, a former employee and a Safe Haven volunteer attended the state animal welfare task force public hearing to report concerns with the Safe Haven organization. According to the reports, animals were not being spayed or neutered, and adoptions were not keeping up with the large number of animals being brought to the shelter. Among other criticisms raised during the task force meeting was a report that Safe Haven had spent more than $20,000 caring for a kitten suffering from feline leukemia. The kitten later died. - Cape Gazette 1/11/13

Sadly, the fact that Safe Haven was willing to spend tens of thousands treating a kitten suffering from feline leukemia, while at the same time disregarding the spay neuter mandate, goes to the heart of why many of us disagree with the short sighted values of the movement.  Per their national leadership "spay neuter actually takes a backseat to all those other programs".

In this case, the issue isn't that the one kitten died after the shelter spent $20,000 on it's care, but the more important part of the equation is that the same $20,000 could have been spent to spay and neuter nearly 200 animals adopted or fostered out that may, and in some cases have reproduced under the shelter's care.  As a result we have more overpopulation rather than less.  Who in their right mind could ever see that as a logical choice?

While I admire the employees and volunteers that brought light on the real conditions occurring, I hope they have seen and understand that any shelter has to work within it's budget, and make choices that are beneficial to the animals overall.  When one animals life is comes at the cost of countless others, just because those lives may not be on the shelters books, it doesn't mean they are absolved from responsibility.  I hope the changes under new leadership will be a good thing for the animals.  Only time will tell.

Oversight - Where was it?

Let's hope that there will be better oversight going forward.  Whether it be our state leaders who have stuck their heads in the sand and won't legislate real standards that include inspections and care standards. Or the county commission who kept claiming they had checked on conditions and complaints which we just found to be true. Or the Safe Haven board of directors who denied various issues were occurring when they in fact were happening on a regular basis.  All levels failed the animals in this case, and until we have real standards of care, our state will continue to be an animal welfare failure.

CAPA Recap

I just wanted to do a quick overview of what CAPA has accomplished in Delaware to date.

---  3 of 5 Shelter Directors gone (2 currently have interim directors)

---  2 of our 3 counties no long have an open low cost spay neuter option, where we previously did

---  Residents inundated with cats now that we no longer have an open intake shelter for cats

---  Cats left to die on our streets

---  Almost all our animal shelters show operational financial losses

---  Complaints which cost taxpayers and lawsuits that cost shelters continue.
"Regarding KCSPCA, there is one ongoing law suit on CAPA violations and another coming. I am in contact with the parties involved with both lawsuits. So perhaps the courts will take the action that should have been take by the AG." 

---  One county (Kent) no longer has enforcement for humane handling and care of dogs.

If our governor and state legislature's intent was to harm our animal shelters financially and harm their reputation in the eyes of the public, then CAPA has been a great success.  I recently saw a post by someone who was not happy with one of the Sussex shelters because the shelter would not deal with an injured cat on their property. So it's no surprise that all our shelters are struggling financially with the divisive atmosphere that the legislation has created.

On the other hand, if the intent of the legislation was to help animals and encourage collaboration among animal welfare in the state, then CAPA really has been an abysmal failure, and the governor and legislature should receive a big fat F.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

No-Kill Is Waggin' The Dog

This week people had an opportunity to see the true arrogance and lack of logic of the national "No-Kill" movement.  A number of the movement's leaders spent a good part of this week trying to destroy a New York dog rescue called Waggin Train Rescue.  This small rescue saved 263 animals in 2011 (243 dogs and 20 cats), which is a significant accomplishment for a small rescue. And it should be noted that this organization handles a significant number of large and powerful breeds that are so difficult for many shelters and rescues to place.

Recently,Waggin Train Rescue had to make the tough choice to euthanize a dog named Nikki, who despite almost 3 months of effort on their part, the dog continued to fearful, aggressive, and a bite risk. Below, you can see from the documentation that was provided, that the rescue and their partners worked with the GSD for several months despite the risk to themselves.

"Baby steps are imperative because Nike has learned to respond with lunging and snarling when she is frightened, so we want to keep building on the positive experiences." - Email from rescue 11/5/12 
"L reassured her, but is still unable to touch her (even with a finger touch to the back) without Nikki whipping her head and barring her teeth. L knows her limits, and doesn't push her. I have no doubt that she would bite if someone ignored or didn't read her fear posture...She is a danger due to her fear and lack of socialization. If L didn't have 8 foot high stockade fences, I have no doubt that Nikki would have scaled them, and bolted. I've attached some pictures I took of her, you can see in many of them, the "frantic energy" she has...of just not wanting to be interacted with...One of L's SAR folks is going to attempt to work with her...and I'm praying for some progress."  - Email from rescue 11/19/12

 "as I mentioned one of L's experienced SAR folks is now trying to work with her.That is not at L's, but in her own home setting (we needed to see if her behavior would alliviate at all out of the kennel atmosphere.) It's quiet, and S is very experienced with GSDs. I'm going to wait to hear what S has to say before making any decision. I cannot, and will not place a dog that is dangerous...even if it is fear based. The liability is just too high." - Email from rescue 11/21/12
"Sadly, there has been little improvement with Nikki, and I've made the decision (after
she really lunged at S when out in the yard, while S was trying to "tempt" her with treats
in neutral territory
) to euthanize her." - Email from rescue 12/22/12
The rescue informed their supporter on 12/22/12 that Nikki would be euthanized on 12/27, based on the email thread provided by John Sibley.  It's worth noting that Mr. Sibley also felt the need to include with his own comments and conjecture, despite the face that he never saw or dealt with this dog in any way.

The Eleventh Hour - Threats And Ultimatums

In the early morning hours of 12/27, No-Kill activist John Sibley began a campaign of threats, ultimatums, and cyber warfare against Waggin Train Rescue.  Make no mistake, this was not just a request to assist, as some have inferred.  You can see from his 12/27 blog post that he not only wrote the email shown below and blogged about it, but he also created an online petition that was posted on various Facebook pages, and encouraged his readers to post comments on Waggin Trains Facebook page.  In the email below, also note the the reference to the rescue's need for donations and the subsequent statement that "I can make sure that Nikki's story is prominently featured in web searches for Waggin' Train in perpetuity".   Would you take that as a threat if it were sent to you??

I can't imagine any responsible rescue dealing with someone who uses this kind of street thug tactic to gain access to a dangerous dog, and I wonder whether he was just buying time for an even worse hate campaign to force the rescue into keeping the dog if it wasn't accepted to the sanctuary.  Delaying euthanasia for animals that have no options is a regular tactic I've seen on a number of the No-Kill facebook pages.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen posts that say a rescue has tagged an animal in a shelter, and then after the fact begs on their pages for a foster, and then can't take the dog.  While that may sound acceptable to some, the reality is that a dog with little hope of a home will continue to take up precious cage space, while another more adoptable dog loses it's life.

Arrogant and Hypocritical Movement 

In the week since Nikki was euthanized, there have been some heating discussions on a variety of No-Kill Facebook pages, on both sides of the issue.  The responsible rescue community is finally seeing the danger that laws like CAPA and CAARA will mean for them, not only the shelters.  I think it's become clear to many that the leaders of the No-Kill movement have self appointed themselves as judge and jury for the disposition of animals they've never even seen in person, but that's not surprising to those of us living in the land of their CAPA.

It's ironic how hypocritical this movement is, that on one hand they say that all a shelter needs is a "caring and compassionate director", even if that person doesn't have a tremendous amount of experience.  But in this case No-Kill ignores the fact that this rescue and their partners have years of experience, and cry on their Facebook pages that they have a right to be judge and jury because of the fact that the dog was not seen by an accredited or certified trainer.  Seriously??  It's okay for an inexperienced person to manage the lives of thousands of animals without experience, but unless this rescue uses an accredited trainer of the self appointed leaders' choice, the rescue deserves to be vilified.  Talk about playground bullies.
"Several SAR (Search and Rescue) handlers had now worked with Nikki, and the Waggin’ Train representative seems to feel that they have all the experience that should be needed, even though SAR dogs are typically selected for non-aggression and there is no reason that an SAR handler would have any more experience than any lay person working with issues of fear aggression or socialization. There is no indication that Waggin’ Train sought a consultation with a trainer or behaviorist experienced with these issues." - 12/27/12
Of course we've seen that same kind of arrogance out of the movement here in Delaware.  Case in point is this foster agreement for one of our No-Kill shelters.  It's ridiculous that this shelter believes it's management has more knowledge than a veterinarian who has spent years in school training to ascertain whether an animal is suffering and needs to be humanely euthanized.  In fact, I can't imagine how difficult it must be for a veterinarian to keep an animal alive knowing that the animal is suffering.

Wag The Dog

"To 'wag the dog' means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue." -
I think this definition is especially fitting of the events that transpired this week.  The "No-Kill" movement has used this rescue to further state their case for laws like CAPA, while they divert attention away from more significant issues:
  • Public Safety - No rescue should ever be strong-armed and intimidated into keeping an aggressive dog.  It not only endangers their own personnel, but also the public and their pets.  We've seen the results of that in Delaware, and several family pets paid the price for those choices.  
  • Shelter/Rescue Resources - No shelter or rescue has unlimited space or funds, so it was not unreasonable for this rescue to turn down the request to delay their decision to euthanize a dangerous dog for another week so a sanctuary could send out someone to evaluate whether the dog would be "considered" for placement at the sanctuary, as there was no guarantee that the placement would occur and the continued risk to those caring for the dog would place the rescue at risk.  In addition, keeping a dog that likely will not be adopted or accepted at already filled sanctuaries, will only result in cage space being taken away from another animal that the rescue can actually save and find a home for. 

In conclusion, anyone that isn't sure which side of this issue is correct, ask yourself one question.  Do you really think it's logical to harass a rescue out of business for one dog that the self annointed No-Kill gods have decided might have a space in a sanctuary, or like me, do you find it ridiculous that the arrogance of these No-Kill individuals may sacrifice 250+ animals this year if this rescue does not survive the harm the No-Kill pages have inflicted on them, merely to make a point that isn't conclusive anyway?  

If you're tired of watching good people harmed by the No-Kill movement, consider donating to Waggin Train Rescue to show the movement that you care more about those 250 animals that this rescue will pull and save this year, and the 250 each year thereafter, rather than donating to the national No-Kill organizations who primarily spend their funds on conferences and hate propaganda.  


And if anyone doubts the harm that the No-Kill movement, the ad purchased below shows just how hateful and vindictive this movement is.

Not only would the funds being spent on the ad be better spent on behalf of  animals, but the fact that Mr. Sibley and the No-Kill Movement would do harm to an organization that saves hundreds of animals every year and provide an advertisement opportunity to his own site is a testament to the fact that the leaders within the movement are merely opportunists that place more value on creating names for themselves and branding, then on saving animals.

So I just want to reiterate, if you want to support an organization that saves animals donate to Waggin Train Rescue, but if you just want to hang out and complain about what everyone else does or doesn't do, feel free to go visit Mr. Sibley or Mr. Winograd to see who their next victim is. Hopefully it won't be you.