Saturday, January 14, 2017

Problems at Caddo Animal Control Gaining National Attention

Elsie: broken leg. January 2017. CPAS
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.

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)