Sunday, October 1, 2017

Problems at Caddo Animal Control Continue

Elsie: broken leg. January 2017. CPAS
The top part of this post is an addendum to a growing list of grievances against Caddo Parish Animal Services.  

October 1, 2017:  Here we are again.  We have apparently made zero progress in all this time with the problems that plague Caddo Animal Services.

Making the social media rounds this weekend is this video recorded at CPAS as a young woman went to pick up her cat after a 10-day hold only to discover that "somebody made a mistake" and euthanized her cat, Skittles.

The woman recording says on her Facebook page that she has videos of the first part of this conversation in which the CPAS employee says that "this has never happened to a cat before." She switched over to Facebook live because her phone couldn't hold any more video.

As this video streamed out over Facebook, comments and outrage exploded, most with advice for the owner of the cat to get an attorney.

In the video you can clearly see the cat, Skittles, in a plastic box as his owner sobs and strokes his fur.  It is truly heartbreaking.

Skittles was on ten-day hold, brought in by the owner at CPAS request, after biting someone.  He was under observation for rabies.  She visited her cat twice during his brief stay at CPAS, the cat was due to get out Monday, October 2, but then CPAS accidentally euthanized it.

The two cats are not even the same color which makes it even more difficult to understand how this could happen.
Skittles: September 29, 2017

CPAS volunteered to have the cat cremated, at their expense, and return the ashes to her.  He has to be tested for rabies which is why he was on 10-day hold, but he didn't survive the shelter to make it to his tenth day so he has to be tested.  He never showed any sign of illness and was only checked by a vet two times during his stay.

Here are some salient quotes from the video in case you can't make yourself watch:

Owner:  "I don't understand how horribly wrong this went!

CPAS:  "I admit, ma'am, it went horribly wrong.

a few minutes later:

Owner: What is ya'll's procedure for putting a cat down...?

CPAS  We have a process ma'am and like I already said, the process wasn't followed correctly... she didn't pay attention to what she was doing and she accidentally put the wrong cat..."

A few seconds later another worker speaks up:

CPAS: Me and Elijah are the ones that do the cat side and there's a hard copy that this is supposed to have when an animal is put down...this is what the vet signs off Elijah and me are gonna be back there ...I left, I should have stayed, if I had stayed in the room this never would have happened so now me and Elijah is gonna have to have to sign off plus the now me and him are just gonna be when they're doing it, we're gonna be  there when they do it...they're gonna look at the paper they're gonna look at the number they're gonna look at the description ...we're gonna have me and Elijah say yes, this is the right cat...we know every cat on the cat side.

Owner: You don't have to KNOW a cat if you just pay attention to your job!

CPAS:  Ma'am the person that did this wasn't paying attention...they're going to be disciplined...

A few minutes later the owner is audibly sobbing, stroking the cat in the box.  Dogs are barking in the background.  Sobs.

She then asks when she can pick up the cremated remains. The woman and her friend are then led back out of the building (it's a rare video glimpse of the back inner sanctum of CPAS - the institutional cinder block walls, cold and sterile.)

This is simply yet another example of the ineptitude of CPAS and when in the world will people have enough of this and demand change?

My question is why is a cat that is being held for rabies watch being held with the stray cats that will be put down?  Why wasn't Skittles held in isolation with a warning tag on the kennel which would prevent such a thing from happening?

The questions abound.  The room for error here is epic.

There's more:

On September 21, 2017, Caddo Commissioner Mike Middleton spoke with a local radio station about the discovery that dogs brought to the pound have been sold on Craigslist:

Middleton tells KEEL listeners that he can confirm that the sale took place and the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s office is currently investigating. Middleton also says he has seen “incriminating evidence” and has been told that the employee being investigated works at the shelter part time. When asked if he suspected that other dogs brought to the shelter had been illegally sold, Middleton said, “I feel like it’s been going on…there’s more than one dog involved, but I don’t know the length of time.”

I have heard this before from friends who previously worked at CPAS years ago.

When will this change?

What happened to this young woman's pet is not an isolated incident.  We simply can't keep pretending like it is.

Added:  Shreveport Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch's response:

January 2017: UPDATE: This post is apparently becoming fluid as I am hearing about more and more examples of abuse and neglect. If you have a story to share please email me. If you know someone that has a story or experience to share, please encourage them to email me. 

In early December, a stray dog wandered into a man's yard in Shreveport. She was not leashed, had no known owner, and was just looking for something to eat or a pat on the head. The property owner went inside his house, got his own dog, and rather than just chase the stray away or call animal control, he instigated an attack on the stray dog who would then die from the injuries she sustained in the attack.

No charges were filed on this man for this inhumane and cruel action.

This is the event that prompted me to write a letter on December 21 to the Caddo Parish Commission who oversees the Caddo Parish animal shelter. The purpose of my letter was to draw attention to the problems at the shelter and in our perception of animals in general. I made four very basic suggestions although there are many, many more things that need to happen as well. I realize the changes that need to be made can not happen overnight.

I mailed a copy of my letter to twenty-seven city and parish officials and leaders. Only one city leader, Caddo Commission President Matthew Linn, bothered to respond. He offered no answers, but he was gracious and I appreciate that he took time to answer me.

I received one other response: Lex Talamo from The Shreveport Times. Her report is here.

I also verbally shared concern with Amanda Atwell at KTBS when we were discussing another issue, and she has now run two stories on the shelter.

After the attack on Ellie, the stray dog, many advocates became outraged primarily because no charges were filed against the property owner. This is infuriating because it reflects the "animals as property" mentality that exists in this city. "It's just a dog," right?

I refer back to the Ellie story because that was the spark that ignited animal advocates to once again seek change at CPAS.

Consider the revelations that have come out in just the weeks since the Ellie attack in December:

Rascal: tagged for rescue. Euthanized.Jan. 9

No reason was ever given for the decision to euthanize Rascal who was a young dog in perfect health:
"I get a message that the dog had been euthanized. And um, they didn't know why," said Mandy, who preferred to remain anonymous. She volunteers for a local rescue, and regularly picks up dogs from CPAS, and fosters them until transporting them to other dog rescues in North Texas. She was supposed to pick up Rascal, a small Boston Terrier mix on January 9. Instead, she received a message saying the shelter opted to euthanize him, with no immediate explanation given.

The same thing happened with Roxie, a four-year old dog

Roxie:headed to rescue. Euthanized Dec. 21

CPAS said in a statement to KTBS that Rascal was not tagged for rescue and that Roxie was aggressive.  She doesn't look very aggressive to me in that picture.

Along with the accidental or inadvertently euthanized dogs, there is growing concern over feeding protocol at CPAS.

Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, located in Nashville, came to CPAS in January to pull two dogs. They left with seventeen:

January 4, 2017

So now we're getting national attention. This rescue has over 720,000 followers on their Facebook page. The rescue posted a follow-up a couple of days later:

January 6, 2017

One of the dogs they pulled on a previous visit in December is a St. Bernard named Barton Fink.  This picture on the left is what he looked like when they pulled him: wet from being hosed down in his kennel at CPAS, pneumonia, miserable. On the right is the same dog in a photo posted by BFDR on January 6:
Barton Fink: December to January

Yes, it's the same dog.  Now, why would CPAS leave that dog in that kennel without medical attention?  If a citizen treated a dog this way, it would be animal cruelty.  Not, of course, that anyone would prosecute that charge -- we don't seem able to prosecute the animal cruelty laws in this city very often.

Another out of state rescue, American Boston Terrier Rescue and Rehabilitation, in Texas, is also shocked at the conditions in our shelter:

Posted January 9, 2017

And a few days later:

Posted January 13, 2017
This is Marley, the dog they pulled:


To be fair, this dog was emaciated on intake - CPAS did not cause this, however, to feed this dog in the same way as you would dominant, healthy dogs, is inadvisable. This dog needed immediate medical care.  This dog, and many of the emaciated dogs you see on social media right now at CPAS, likely have Refeeding Syndrome and simply can't be cared for in the same way as healthy dogs.  To do so is tantamount to abuse.

Lex Talamo's story in The Shreveport Times documents the following euthanasia numbers at CPAS:

From The Shreveport Times: January 14, 2017

The improvement is due primarily to the new director, Chuck Wilson, working with rescues and allowing more dogs to be pulled than the previous director, however there still remains a fear among rescues and volunteers that speaking out about abuses they see will hurt their ability to pull more animals. This is a justifiable concern but isn't something wrong with that?  Doesn't that sound punitive?  

I will allow that Mr. Wilson inherited a terrible situation. I'm thankful he is working with rescues and allowing more animals to be saved. And to be fair, he can't do one thing about the people in this town who won't spay/neuter their animals. They just keep pouring into the shelter and there is literally no end to it.  

Section 8-63.(h) of the animal control ordinances under which Mr. Wilson must run this shelter states:

"Any person adopting an unspayed or unneutered animal from the department must sign an agreement to have the animal spayed or neutered within 30 days or by six months of age for a female or nine months of age for a male, and must leave a deposit in an amount established by the director with the department to be applied toward such veterinary services...The department shall perform follow-up investigations to confirm compliance with this section, and failure to comply shall constitute a waiver of all rights of the adopting party and in and to the animal, returning full custody of the animal to the department ..."

Does that happen? Is any follow-up EVER done?  Does he have the manpower for that? Does anyone really want CPAS to go out and "reclaim" adopted animals?!  We need a spay/neuter program. Mandatory spay/neuter.

The list of things we need is long: a feral cat program, mandatory heartworm prevention, an active social media presence from CPAS to network adoptable dogs. The shelter apparently needs more space because kennels with five and six dogs in them who must then fight for food is unacceptable. We need a public education program. CPAS needs a veterinarian on site at all times. One of my suggestions in my December letter was to install a tag making machine in the lobby at CPAS; no dog should leave the shelter without an ID tag. Many of the strays could be reunited with owners if they only had identification.

Although many things need to be done, the most critical needs right now is to ensure these animals are properly fed, that they aren't sitting in kennels with broken limbs or in pain, that they receive veterinary care, that kennels aren't hosed out with dogs in them (bleach or other chemicals must be used to combat disease - simple compassion would suggest taking the dogs out during this process). 

It just seems to me that with a budget like this...

Caddo Animal Services Budget 2016

....that we can do better.  Any rescue in town would love to have a budget like this.

While I strongly disagree with any social media voices that come across as unhinged ranting, I agree with their intent. Our quest to effect change at CPAS should not be a witch hunt. Calm, rational communication is needed and specific facts and documentation. 

That being said, I think it is clear that Mr. Wilson has lost the trust of the public and should perhaps step down and the Caddo Commission should recruit a new leader with bonafide credentials in humane and compassionate animal shelter management who will then employ compassionate kennel directors and other staff members who will clean this shelter up and foster a reputation as a low-kill, humane shelter for our animal population.

As long as this post is documenting neglect and abuse, I was remiss in failing to record Tini, the dog who was hit by a car and picked up by CPAS on December 30:


The owners were told they could not reclaim their own dog until January 3, five days later.  After picking Tini up, the owners discovered she had been housed in a filthy outside kennel with a broken jaw, untreated:

Posted January 3, 2017

Tini's owner rightfully wants to know why if someone was answering phones at the shelter on Friday and Saturday that she could not pick up her own dog. They told her she could not get the dog until January 3. Simply unacceptable.

Added 4/24/17:

Outside Reading:
Caddo Commissioner on Animal Shelter: "I Need First-Hand Facts" (The Times: 1/18/17)
Local Animal Advocates in Uproar... (KTBS 1/9/17)
Two Pets are Dead...(KTBS 1/13/17)
Animal Rescue Groups: There is Something Not Right at this Shelter (The Times: 1/14/17)
Animal Activists Still Looking for Answers... (KTBS: 12/9/16)
Facebook Post About Dog Attack Triggers Social Media Storm (KTBS 12/5/16)

An Open Letter to Every City and Parish Public Official (12/21/16)
A Call for Change: Animals are Not Property (12/20/16)
Save Spot the Stunning Super Dog (8/14/16)
The Lucky and T-Bone Story Gets Personal and Nasty (3/18/15)
Change is Needed at Caddo Animal Services (3/15/15)
Snapshots from the Braveheart Trial (1/29/15)


K E said...

On behalf of OUR Parish 4-legged friends, thank you, Pat.

As an animal advocate since as far back as I can remember, I also thank you.

Your succinct account of the situation is extremely helpful as I continue to reach out for support to this community and across the country to END the abuses and the neglect at CPAS.

I believe there IS concern growing exponentially. I have just read the FB post of Feb. 28t by Big Fluffy Dog Rescue. That post has more than 850 responses and at least 3,000 shares in just a few days. We are continuing to share the post and solicit additional eyewitness accounts, photos, vet records, that can be used as evidence.

I believe that THIS wave of outcry WILL achieve the goal of massive changes to ensure the humane and compassionate care of OUR Parish animals, IF we get more help, nationwide, with both animal rights groups and employing the national media.

Again, your story will help us to create the awareness needed, and engage the support needed, and, ultimately, provide a true shelter for our animals in need.

Gine Oquendo said...

In my opinion, we must just euthanize the pet if needed. And in my experience, I really love my Max (my dog) and he got cancer and I want to minimize his pain that's why I decided to undergo Max in pet hospice to give him a peaceful sleep and no more pain.

Ultimate Bark Control said...

I really wish that people start to feel the pain of the animals. It is sad to see people even in the 21st century being cruel to animals.