Animal Lovers Need Not Apply

Posted: 11/20/2013 4:52 pm

Director, No Kill Advocacy Center

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Shelters are supposed to rescue animals from cruelty and neglect. They are supposed to be a sanctuary for lost dogs and stray cats. They are supposed to be a refuge, a safe haven for animals whose people can no longer keep them or no longer want them. Unfortunately, for too many animals, they are not.

Meet a little cat who was stuck inside a wall of a U.S. animal shelter, a cat who was stuck near the employee break room, where every employee could hear his cries while they sat and drank coffee, and ate lunch and socialized. They later told a newspaper reporter that they “pleaded” with shelter supervisors to do something about the cat. But neither they nor those supervisors did what compassion dictates. Not a single one of them took action. And because of that, the cat paid the ultimate price. This is how a local newspaper, the Dallas Observer, described it:

Before it starved to death last May, the cat could be heard by shelter workers, crying and clawing, trying to escape the confines of the break room wall behind which it had become trapped at Dallas Animal Services. Cats do especially badly in animal shelters, naturally preferring dark, quiet repose to loud, boisterous interaction. This cat, terrified, had jumped away from staffers who were trying to clean cages, going straight for a loose ceiling tile and bolting into darkness.
But somewhere in its search for safety, the cat fell between shelter walls and landed between the walls of the employee break room and the ladies’ restroom. It couldn’t move. It could only yowl and scratch. For more than a week.

Imagine it. Really try to imagine it. A shelter filled with employees whose job it is to care for animals. Imagine a cat calling out in panic and fear, stuck in a wall, where the employees are eating and talking and not a single one rescues the cat. Sure, one of them calls a cruelty investigator and he comes and determines that the cat is indeed stuck in the wall. But he doesn’t rescue the cat either. Others ask managers, each other, “Will someone rescue the cat?” But no one does. And they keep right on eating their lunches; they keep right on talking and doing those things that people do in break rooms. And meanwhile, the cats’ cries are getting more desperate, then weaker and then they finally stop. A short time later, the smell comes: the smell of a decomposing body.

And only then do they complain in earnest. How can we eat lunch in here, how can we socialize with that smell? And because it now affects them, they do something about it. They cut open a hole in the wall to remove the dead body, while every single one of us wants to scream: Why didn’t any of them tear open the wall when the cat was still alive? Don’t think for a second that this story is unique. There are many more. Moreover, these incidents are not just tragic in and of themselves, but they are set against the backdrop of the killing of roughly four million animals in shelters across the country every year.

Taken as a whole, these facts reveal a distinct pattern, an unpleasant but undeniable truth: willful abuse, careless neglect and even sadistic pleasure in causing animals to suffer and die are the status quo at many of our nation’s shelters. The question, of course, is why? How is it that agencies filled with people who are supposed to protect animals from harm and rescue them when they are in trouble, people who are paid to care for animals in need, are often abusive?

 

Read More Here

 

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Dallas taxpayers have every right to be pissed about the goings on at the city’s animal shelter.

By Andrea Grimes Thursday, Jan 20 2011

Before it starved to death last May, the cat could be heard by shelter workers, crying and clawing, trying to escape the confines of the break room wall behind which it had become trapped at Dallas Animal Services. Cats do especially badly in animal shelters, naturally preferring dark, quite repose to loud, boisterous interaction. This cat, terrified, had jumped away from staffers who were trying to clean cages, going straight for a loose ceiling tile and bolting into darkness.

But somewhere in its search for safety, the cat fell between shelter walls and landed between the walls of the employee break room and the ladies’ restroom. It couldn’t move. It could only yowl and scratch. For more than a week.

On May 3, according to court records, at least two shelter workers, after hearing the animal’s cries, notified animal cruelty investigator Domanick Munoz about the cat’s attempts to free itself. He e-mailed his bosses, including Tyrone McGill, a shelter manager. He explained that a cat was trapped in the wall, and where. Shelter workers could hear it clearly. And they had to get it out. Fast.

Lieutenant Scott Walton, interim division manager at Dallas Animal Services, has
demonstrated his “compassion” charge to shelter workers by fostering shelter
 kittens at home. He believes “responsible pet ownership,” including strict adherence to spay and neuter laws, will be the best
long-term solution for the shelter.

Mark Graham
Lieutenant Scott Walton, interim division manager at Dallas Animal Services, has demonstrated his “compassion” charge to shelter workers by fostering shelter kittens at home. He believes “responsible pet ownership,” including strict adherence to spay and neuter laws, will be the best long-term solution for the shelter.
The 2010 Humane Society audit of DAS found that cat keepers were "overwhelmed" by minimum daily responsibilities. Here, veterinary assistant Ameha Gebremichael checks on a kitten after an exam.

Mark Graham
The 2010 Humane Society audit of DAS found that cat keepers were “overwhelmed” by minimum daily responsibilities. Here, veterinary assistant Ameha Gebremichael checks on a kitten after an exam.

Details


Behind the Scenes at Dallas Animal Services

But the cat’s cries continued throughout the next day. Another worker, Kimberly Killebrew, told McGill about the trapped cat. McGill told her he’d “handle it,” according to an affidavit in the case. But the crying wore on. McGill just kept telling employees he’d take care of it.

Munoz was torn. He loved animals, and his job as a cruelty investigator allowed him to be on the front lines, saving them from horrible situations. But he also loved his family and couldn’t risk his job by going over his bosses’ heads and cutting the cat out of the wall. That just wasn’t the way things were done at Animal Services.

“If he had kicked that wall in, he’d have been fired,” says Arlington animal rights attorney Don Feare, whom Munoz retained. “[Munoz] had three small children to feed. He just had to deal with it.”

As the days went on, and the cat continued to claw at the wall, the shelter workers wondered when their supervisors were going to take action. According to the affidavit, the workers reported pleading with McGill: Couldn’t he do something?

Court records claim that McGill lifted a few ceiling tiles up, but did nothing more to save the cat. Calls were made to McGill’s supervisor, Kent Robertson, the shelter division manager and a former SPCA director who had been lauded by animal rights activists in the city for his dedication. But he was out of town, dealing with a family emergency.

More days elapsed and the cat stopped crying. That’s when the stink began. Not the stink made by shelter workers furious with supervisors, but the literal stink from the cat’s decomposing body. It was so bad that workers couldn’t eat their lunches in the break room.

On May 18—more than two weeks after the cat’s cries were first heard, McGill cut a square hole in the wall—about a foot across, in precisely the location Munoz had identified. After the day shift ended, McGill and a few other workers pulled the cat’s decomposed body out of the wall.

Animal deaths are nothing unusual at the shelter, which receives $6.6 million annually from the city’s general fund. Up to 26,000 dogs, eight or nine thousand cats and several hundred exotic animals, livestock and wildlife come through DAS each year. The smallest percentage of those—for example, 1,510 cats and 5,308 dogs for the last fiscal year—will be adopted, rescued or returned to their owners. The vast majority will be euthanized.

But imagine: animal services workers terrified of getting fired for attempting to save an animal’s life. Yet at Dallas Animal Services, that’s how things worked, say animal rights activists like Jonnie England and shelter employees such as Domanick Munoz, for whom the culture of intimidation at DAS became so bad he had to hire a lawyer after he blew the whistle on McGill. Even Humane Society of the United States auditors found that toeing the party line and maintaining the favor of supervisors often has taken precedence over animal care and safety.

According to a HSUS report released in November, DAS has been suffering from a “morale crisis.” Auditors reported that “staff repeatedly expressed alienation from managers and supervisors who used retaliatory disciplinary actions.” This, they surmised, was “reflective of ineffective leadership in the management ranks.”

Clock in, obey orders, keep your head down. Don’t question the bosses. Clock out. If a cat dies in the wall? Hope the press doesn’t get wind of it. And in the end, of course, it’s the animals who suffer most.

The past year has been disastrous for DAS: Once-lauded animal shelter division manager Kent Robertson resigned and shelter manager Tyrone McGill was indicted on felony animal cruelty charges, though his attorney, Anthony Lyons, adamantly denies his client did anything wrong. Two other employees were put on paid leave pending internal investigations into mistreatment of animals, and a cop—a cop!—was brought in to manage the department in anticipation of a damning audit by the Humane Society that was strikingly similar to the one it issued a decade earlier. Over the last 10 years, seemingly endless shake-ups in upper management and a new state-of-the-art animal shelter costing taxpayers millions can’t seem to set DAS straight.

 

Read More Here

 

Read further: A Liveblog During The Animal Shelter Commission Meeting

Paid Leave for Being Indicted on Animal Cruelty Charges

Maybe With Their Powers Combined, Dallas Animal Services Can Be Compassionate

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