Friday, March 20, 2015

Justice Delivered for Braveheart: The Sentencing

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but after 18 months, Braveheart got justice today.

Gabriel Sinclair Lee received his sentence today from Judge Mosley in Caddo District Court. It's been a long journey. Before sentencing, Braveheart's family was allowed to address the court.

Brave's owner, Bo Spataro, asked Judge Mosley to recall the testimony of Dr. Conduff during the January trial.  Dr. Conduff testified that the dog was extremely emaciated but she was surprised at how alert he was.  In trial, the defense suggested that Brave was so alert because of Mr. Lee's Gatorade cure.  Science tells us differently, Bo explained:

Starvation is torture.  It is the worst kind of torture.  Soon after the absence of food your body begins to use itself to keep the brain alive.  So you stay alert and know what is going on till the end.  Your organs shut down and you dwindle to nothing and die.  Starvation is when the body cannibalized itself.  It is long and painful and merciless, making it the true definition of torture.

He also asked the judge to deny Mr. Lee the privilege from ever owning another animal.

Loraine Guerrero was also prepared to address the court.  Loraine runs the Voice for Braveheart Facebook page and has been on this journey from day one.  The defense tried to disallow her statement, but the judge
overruled and Loraine was allowed to address Mr. Lee.

In her statement, Loraine thanked Gabriel Lee for his "uncaring and inhumane actions to Braveheart" because now he is a "worldwide sensation" and known in almost every country around the world.  She explained that there are over 85,000 signatures on a petition for his justice and that almost 19,000 people get up every morning and visit the Voice for Braveheart page.  She went on:

Herein lies the problem:  Do I plead for the harshest sentence or do I show compassion, which you have proven you have none.  While I want you to pay the ultimate price for what you did to Braveheart, I don't want your family to suffer.  Did that thought ever cross your mind as you watched a starving, sick puppy, chained and dying on the floor of the storage building you didn't pay rent on and were told not to come back to, and yet, because of your love for dogs, you neglected to tell the owner, who is a Vet Tech, that there was a puppy locked in the unit!
As she closed, Loraine told Lee she thought about bringing pictures of Brave today, happy, healthy and loved, but did not because "you haven't earned the right to see those."

The defense moved to have Loraine's statement thrown out; the judge overruled.

Lee was sentenced to six months jail time which was suspended; eight months supervised probation, one year unsupervised probation.  He must pay $100 fine plus court costs.  He must pay $60 monthly probation fees. In addition, he can't own animals for the entire probation period -- if he does, he goes to jail.

So.  While the sentence is the best the judge could do given the misdemeanor verdict found by the jury in January, I still felt anger and sadness when I heard the verdict.

Prosecutor Holly McGinniss said it was actually one of the toughest sentences she had seen handed down on a misdemeanor.

But it doesn't feel good enough, does it?

As best I can calculate, Gabriel Lee is going to be out about no more than $2500 on this deal.  The taxpayers paid for his attorney.

As civilized citizens we must work to get the animal cruelty laws strengthened.  They simply aren't tough enough.  There's no real deterrent to people who have no conscience.  Dog fighting, for example, is still a huge problem.  There must be real penalties for abuse.  The statute needs to be rewritten.  The difference between aggravated animal cruelty and simple animal cruelty came down to one word - intent.  The jury simply could not figure out the difference, and apparently, decided to err in favor of the human rather than the dog.

I will never understand how failing to get adequate care for a starving dog is simple animal cruelty.

But.  Here we are.  Braveheart is still a winner, but there are so many other Bravehearts out there.  We fight on.  We fight for Lucky, for T-Bone, for every other abused and neglected animal who suffers at the hands of the humans who are supposed to take care of them.  We are advocates and we will rally for stronger laws and tougher penalties.

Thank God for Bo and Ronda Spataro for seeing this case through to the end, and for all the other members of the Braveheart family (there are many!) who have fought for justice.

Today, justice did the best she could do.

See Braveheart's journey here.  And please follow A Voice For Braveheart page on Facebook.

Added:  I corrected a typo in Mr. Lee's sentence - it is 8 months supervised; one year unsupervised.

(Photos courtesy of A Voice for Braveheart).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Lucky and T-Bone Story Gets Personal and Nasty

BREAKING: Lucky and T-Bone are out of CPAS; preliminary word is that they are at a veterinarian's office; their heart worms are worse than initially indicated and the dogs are not in as good condition as initially indicated.  Please go to the Go Fund Me page for them and donate what you can.  It's safe.  Anything that is left over will go to Robinson's Rescue.  More details as they come.

The story about Lucky and T-Bone is changing so quickly I almost need to live-blog it rather than try to do a finished post.

While the advocates for these dogs really just want to focus on the dogs, Caddo Animal Services and Councilman Stephanie Lynch have turned this into a racial story and a personal story.

The backstory:  A concerned citizen saw two neglected, starved dogs living in inhumane conditions, reported it on March 6, and followed up until his complaint was addressed.  Caddo Animal Control went to the house and seized the dogs on March 8.

The dogs were vetted at the shelter and found to have heart worms, hook worms, and whip worms and were malnourished.

PetSavers is one of the rescue groups that stepped up and offered to take the dogs from the shelter, place them with reputable fosters and pay for their treatment.  They were declined.

Shelter director Everett Harris called a press conference on Wednesday, March 11,  and attempted to make the case that the shelter can take care of the dogs just as well as a rescue or foster situation.

On Monday, March 16, the Caddo Parish Commission met in their regular work session and various rescue groups were in attendance to have their three minutes to address the Commission regarding the care of the dogs.

Harris also shared this puffy propaganda video of the dogs living in an apparent idyllic paradise at the shelter.  (I can't embed the video but it's on the Caddo Animal Services Facebook page.)  Of course, Harris complained that the rescue groups were exploiting the two neglected dogs and sure don't come out like this for all the other dogs at the shelter, but I'm sure that's not what he was doing here.

The current story:  I didn't go to the Parish Commission meeting because I had work obligations Monday afternoon (a conference with a parent); up until noon today the video of that meeting was on the Caddo Commission website.  I watched parts of it this morning, before noon.  That video has been taken down:

Parish Commission site, Media Link as of 3/18/15 

Now why in the world would that video be taken down?  The Caddo Commission always records their meetings and posts them to their website.

My guess is that the video was taken down because at about 22:26 - 26:10 Shreveport Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch stepped to the microphone for her three minutes of time.  Ms. Lynch represents
District F, Mooretown, where the dogs were seized.

It's not really clear why Ms. Lynch chose to involve herself in an Animal Services issue except that this occurred in her district and she felt like she should have been notified at some point.  Since you can't see the video anymore, thankfully she was quoted at KTBS:

If there's a problem there, we can take care of it.  If there's an issue concerning any of our constituents, we can take care of it.  I don't need anybody from Bossier or any other part of Caddo parish, Shreveport coming into Mooretown to handle a situation without allowing the elected deal with the situation."  She also suggested that rescues work with the original owners who signed over ownership to CPAS, so that the dogs could be returned to them.  "They want the dogs back," she said.

Here is a screencap of the KTBS story:

(Just in case it disappears, too).  For now, there is video of Lynch saying the above remarks.

Even further, and not on the KTBS video, Lynch opened her remarks saying that she, too wanted the dogs; everybody wants the dogs, she said.  "I'll throw my name in there too, I want the dogs."  She went on to say that "There may be two white people that live in Mooretown -- maybe two.  It's a predominately black community and a community that takes care of its own."

Now why in the world would she interject race into a welfare concern about two dogs?

Councilwoman Lynch's remarks were making the rounds on social media and local news yesterday, March 17, when former news reporter Chris Redford posted this query on his Facebook page:

Facebook:  3/17/15

Good question.

It wasn't too long before Councilwoman Lynch jumped into the conversation:

Facebook 3/17/15

To be fair, I can't find where Ms. Lynch said anything about white people not understanding hard times.  Not saying it isn't there, just that I haven't been able to find it.  It's possible someone at the meeting heard her say it, but I don't know that.

The source of her outrageous comments was the Caddo Commission video that isn't available any longer -- the comments where she said Mooretown is a black community that takes care of its own.

The Shreveport City Councilwoman spent the rest of her evening engaging the people commenting on Mr. Redford's post:

Facebook 3/17/15

And later:

Facebook 3/17/15

And later:

Facebook 3/17/15

Get that:  "In no way" does she "care about what most of you have expressed in your comments...".  And ""no one person can say they pay my salary," she said; true enough.  Only the taxpayers, but she doesn't care what you think, so there you go.

There's more:

Facebook 3/17/15

Again, to be fair to Ms. Lynch, there was trash talk on all sides, but shouldn't a city official refrain from such behavior on social media?  Not according to Ms. Lynch; even the pros do it:

Facebook 3/17/15

This sort of thing went on for hours last night.  I finally got bored with her and went to bed.

March 18, 2016:  Today the plot thickened.  And got nasty.  The photographer that volunteers her time to Companions of Caddo Animal Services and who has been taking beautiful photographs of the shelter dogs (109 dogs and 67 cats - many of whom were adopted because of her) was refused admittance today to the shelter to take her photographs.

Not only that, Everett Harris said he was in fear for his life from her and called the police.

The photographer spoke at the Parish Commission meeting Monday.


Fear for his life?

That photographer is devastated.

Let me remind you that the Caddo Parish Animal shelter has a 72% euthanasia rate for dogs and over 80% for cats.  They need all the help they can get.

All of this because some people wanted to help two starved, neglected dogs.  People are getting personal, getting attacked, and reputations are being damaged.

There is no reason this should have gotten this nasty.  None whatsoever.

There's no reason Mr. Harris should not release the two dogs to a rescue and save the taxpayers the money.  Apparently, the Caddo Animal shelter will treat heart worms in your neglected dogs and give them back to you.  I wonder if all the dogs in the shelter are being treated for their parasites?

Why make this so personal?  What is the motive for Caddo Animal Services and why does Councilwoman Lynch feel the need to take to Facebook to insult people, call them names, and make this a racial issue?

What in the world is going on in our parish and city government?

The Caddo Parish Commission will have their regular meeting tomorrow afternoon, should you decide you want to go watch this circus.

UPDATE:  Remember, once you put something on the internet, it's never really gone.  Here's the video of the Caddo Commission that they don't want you to see) (thanks to some folks with techie skills!:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Change is Needed at Caddo Animal Services

Citizens concerned about the welfare of two starved and neglected dogs have united to enact change at the administration at Caddo Animal Services who, once again, do not seem to have the actual welfare of animals at heart.

On March 6, 2015, two starved Pitbull dogs were reported to Caddo Animal Services by a concerned citizen. The dogs were severely malnourished and had no shelter; nothing but a small piece of foam to sleep on.  CPAS responded, gave the owners 24 hours to improve the living conditions for the dogs and that was it.  The original complainant followed up with the Shreveport police department when conditions were not improved as ordered, and Caddo Animal Control did not follow up.  After SPD was contacted, CPAS again returned to the home and seized the two dogs.  No charges were filed against the owners; the owners signed a release of ownership of the dogs to CPAS.

The dogs were evaluated and found to have heart worms, whip worms and hook worms.

The mission statement of Caddo Animal Services:
The Caddo Parish Animal Services mission is to protect the citizens of Caddo Parish from dangerous, nuisance, and uncontrollable animals and ensure the protection and welfare of domestic animals.  The Caddo Parish Animal Services Section responds to approximately 13,000 citizen requests each year.  We also provide pet adoptions and help rescue injured animals.
Local rescue groups have attempted to pull the two dogs from Caddo Animal Services but have been refused.

Of course this is all reminiscent of the Braveheart story; you will remember the puppy found in a storage locker in September 2013.  He was very near death and through miraculous efforts he survived, recovered, and is now a symbol of the fight against animal abuse and neglect. When Braveheart was seized by Caddo Animal Services he was declared "evidence" until public outcry forced the agency to release him to the care of a veterinarian.

This situation is alarmingly similar.  The two dogs rescued last week have been named Lucky and T-Bone.  There is a Facebook group where supporters have now garnered help from animal rescue workers all over the country who want to help and who have the know-how to get it done.  They have posted a petition calling for the release of Lucky and T-Bone to a rescue group. At this time the petition has over 2,800 signatures garnered in just about 24 hours.  There is also a GoFundMe page to raise money for vetting which has raised over $1300.00.

Rosheen Rayburn works in animal rescue in Arizona and runs the highly visible Rally Against Animal Abuse page and website.  She put together this video that succinctly states the situation:

After this story hit social media last week, Caddo Animal Services director Everett Harris was hit with a barrage of emails and phone calls asking that the dogs be released to a rescue.  Harris refused and also refused to let concerned animal groups see the dogs.  A shelter volunteer reported that the two dogs were being held outside in the stray/hold pen; the weather last week in Caddo was cold with a constant rain.

Harris held a hastily called press conference to reassure the public that the shelter can care for the animals "just like they can," referring to the rescue groups asking for the dogs; he took no questions during the conference.

Harris's reluctance to release the dogs to a certified rescue is a concern.  Bo Spataro, owner of Braveheart and a warrior for animal rights posted this comment on Facebook last week:

Let's do the right thing. And Caddo doesn't have to go very far to learn how to work with rescue. JUST WALK ACROSS THE RIVER DUDE. What government agency wouldn't let the private sector help them. We have the money. He have the resources. We have the heart. Don't tell us how to spend our money... just take it. Get out of the way and let "good people" help. Hey new mayor. You gonna keep being so animal UNFRIENDLY over there across the river. Dig in on how your commisioners keep thinking this 100k plus year employee is doing a good job. More to it than fresh paint on the walls. YOU HAVE A PUBLIC OPINION PROBLEM. And this problem has merit. Read your email. ~ Bo

Valid points.

Caddo Animal Services has a 72% euthanasia rate because they refuse to work with rescue groups; Bossier Parish has a significantly lower rate because they do work with rescues.  Look at the numbers:



72% of the dogs and 87% of the cats that go to Caddo Animal Services are euthanized.  That's a problem.

The problem in this case is leadership; Everett Harris's refusal to do the best thing for the animals in his facility has been documented; he has been rude and abrasive to the public on numerous occasions.  During the Braveheart crisis when his agency refused to release Braveheart, Harris was verbally abusive to rescuers who offered help.

I get that his is a high stress position, but he could alleviate that stress by accepting help.

As citizens of Caddo Parish we need to demand a change.  Caddo Animal Services must reevaluate their position with rescue organizations.  All you have to do is look at those numbers for Bossier Parish to see that there is room for improvement in Caddo.  There must be a change of leadership at Caddo Animal Control.

To initiate this change, please contact the Caddo Commission:,,,,,,,,,,,

The email address for Everett Harris, Director of Caddo Animal Services is

Write to them all and demand that they first release these dogs to PetSavers who has volunteered to pull them, and then demand that Everett Harris resign in favor of a director that truly cares about the high kill rate at our shelter.

If you can, please attend the Caddo Commission meeting Monday, 3/16/15 and step up for your three minutes to speak to the commission about this problem.  The meeting is at Government Plaza at 3:30.  Even if you don't want to speak, come show your support.

Caddo Animal Services is an embarrassment to our community; we have got to do better.

An Important Petition

I'm working on a post for later this evening about the latest crisis at the Caddo Animal Shelter but for now, please visit this page and sign this petition if you can.

The latest concern is about two malnourished and neglected dogs that were picked up by Caddo Animal Services after a concerned citizen reported the situation.  The dogs are sick with parasites, starved, and need specialized care.  In a flashback to the Braveheart story, Caddo refuses to release these dogs to rescue groups who are volunteering to care and to pay for treatment for these dogs.

Part of Caddo Parish Animal Control's responsibility is working "closely with rescue organizations and humane societies to save as many pets as possible."  It is time for animal officials to care more about the animals, their relations with the public who pays their salaries, than power and money.  There is absolutely no reason T-Bone & Lucky shouldn't be put in the care of a rescue organization, and there is no reason for our public officials to ignore public outcry. 

In all likelihood these dogs will needlessly die at the shelter.

There is a Facebook group working hard to ensure that doesn't happen.  For now, you can help by signing the petition.

It's time for a change.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Michael Grady and a Sort of Cotton Kings Shreveport Reunion

Michael Grady
Wednesday I got an email from Mike Grady:


Michael has been in Playa del Carmen for the past few years, popping in and out of Monroe now and then to see his mother. The Carribean suits him; he looks strong and well.  He's not drinking and I'm told he quit smoking.  I've tried to keep up with him through the years and a while back I found a video of him playing in a beach bar in Playa del Carmen, did a blog post  or two about him, and still get emails and comments about where Michael is and what he's up to, and I get the occasional request for his email address. The post has become sort of a portal for people who want to keep up with Grady.  

I've not known Mike as long as a lot of people, only 38 years (damn, I'm getting old...), but he's the kind of fellow that makes an impression.  His distinctive music style has been the genus of several permutations of his original band and the music business is a brotherhood. Musicians that last and that people remember are the ones that take care of their brothers and mentor the up and comers in the business.  Back in the 1970s and '80s there weren't many people in the Shreveport music scene who didn't know who Michael Grady was. 

Robert McLane, Pat Austin-Becker, Michael Grady
Mike played his gig solo sometimes, he played with "Howdy" and "The Cotton Kings."  Around here they played The Royal Room and the infamous Lakecliff Club on Cross Lake, among others.  The Royal Room was a real dive, but that was part of its charm. The dingy beige walls, the red glass candle holders on the laminate tables, the metal & upholstery chairs you see in every dive bar....  There was a window unit in the wall behind the stage, mounted up high, pumping stale air and dripping water.  But nobody cared about the decor; that's not why you went there.  

The Lakecliff (or is it Lake Cliff?)  was on Cross Lake by the water plant; it's hard to find any remnants of it at all now.  But oh man, that place...; it was just a sort of road house, a big, barn looking place with a stage and a bar.  Elvis played there.  It was just a nowhere place that kind of sprung up and took off, but the musicians that played on that stage....

Anyway, so when I got Michael's email Wednesday, of course I'm "along this trail."  Let's get together for coffee, I said.  Then I decided maybe I'd invite David Shelton to come, Michael's drummer back in the day, and a fabulous musician and all around good guy today.  David was all in for a coffee date and suggested we call John Bicknell. Before you know it, we have a reunion on our hands.

David called me Thursday morning and said, "Hey, you know of any place we could get together and play a little while Mike is here?"  

No.  But my brother might.

Michael Grady, Bruce Flett, David T. Shelton, Robert McLane
So my brother gets to working the phones and gets Stan Hoffman in on it who eventually hooks us up with Gary Graves who was booked to play at Lee's Friday night with his new band Funhouse.  Gary is a class act and (see paragraph above) a longtime, well respected Shreveport musician who takes care of his brothers.  I sent Gary a text, told him Mike was in town, and asked if it would be okay if Michael played a bit? 

"Yes," he said.  No hesitation.  


"That's what its all about," Gary said.

So Friday we take over Strawns on Kings Highway. I'm sitting there looking at David Shelton, John Bicknell, and Michael Grady, wondering how long it has been since these three guys were in the same room together when in walks Bruce Flett.  There are cheers and hugs all around and I spent the next hour and a half listening to them all reminisce and tell stories. 

"Remember that time we played in...."

"I was on the bus with...."

"Havana is the place to go now, man!  You'll forget all about Mexico once you go to Cuba."

"I went to visit that sonofabitch ...he's laying in a hammock listening to all the Cotton Kings tapes...."
Micahel Grady and Bruce Flett

(I WANT those tapes!)

"I was sitting there with Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff and...."

I pulled out some old pictures from the 1986 reunion gig they played at The Royal Room and those were passed all around and we all marveled at our youth.  Looking at those guys, and listening to their stories, I remain flabbergasted at how much musical talent this town has produced.

"Oh hell, he probably has half of the remnants of the Lakecliff at his house...."

"What ever happened to Mike Coker?  Where is he?"

"Last I heard he went to Acapulco."

Looking at the pictures..."Damn, my beard used to be black!"  Mike said.  "I got my cataracts done a few years ago and looked in the mirror one day and said 'oh shit!'"  

David Shelton has a memory like an elephant and remembered every gig, every date, every place, every detail.  I'm going to get David and a tape recorder and we're going to write a book.  I'm not sure who our market audience will be, but we need to record all of it.

Michael Grady
It was a grand reunion.  Really.  

Later, I picked up my brother and we went to pick up Stan Hoffman and head to Lee's.  (Getting Stan's equipment into my Jeep, in the dark in the alley behind his house, along with the three of us is a story unto itself.)  

At the bar, the ever-gracious Gary Graves embraced Mike, they caught up, and after Gary's band finished their first set Mike Grady took the stage in Shreveport one more time.  He plugged in his guitar, settling his lean, lanky frame on a bar stool, and started to sing.  The bar-chatter stopped and everyone was watching the legend on the stage. He did three songs, which wasn't nearly enough but it was everything.  

"Who is that?"  I heard behind me.  

"That's Mike Grady."  

"I've heard of him, but I've never seen him play!"

"He's great!  I like it!"

He opened with his classic "Do Wah Ditty," then "Let Him Roll" and then "a song I wrote," he said which was perfect because the chorus is "this is my town, these are my people...".  And indeed this is, and we are.  

Here's a snip:  (sorry for the poor lighting)

And hey, if you guys every figure out what happened to the sparkly tip jar found under the Lakecliff stage that said "Elvis's tips," let me know!