Archive for April, 2014|Monthly archive page

Spencer Moore’s return to IACC

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Within days of being assigned as interim administrator of Indianapolis Animal Care & Control, Spencer Moore is already being disparaged by representatives of the Indianapolis animal welfare alliance.

“I feel like he represents the absolute, worst, darkest period in Indianapolis animal welfare,” says Sue Hobbs, Chair of the Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Board and the Humane Society of Indianapolis representative to the Board.

“We’re just hearing a lot of concerning reports from a variety of people, people on the City-County Council, former administrators, a variety of staff people,” said Darcie Kurtz, director of outreach and medical services for FACE low-cost spay and neuter clinic. “The concerns are that the progress that is being made might be shifting in the opposite direction.”

Moore was the administrator at Animal Control in the ’90s and is not new to the division. This assignment gives him the opportunity to see what progress has been made since then. A darker period at IACC actually preceded Spencer Moore’s tenure, and it may be that he actually helped to improve the situation at IACC.

Karen Patitz, who used to work at HSI, reports:

I was involved with HSI and IACC back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

If I remember correctly, IACC never allowed the public to enter unless they were looking for a lost animal. Until Spencer Moore came along, every animal that entered IACC DIED unless it was returned to its owner. No animals were ever transferred from IACC to the Humane Society, no matter how adoptable.

Spencer is the one who started vaccinating puppies and placing them up for adoption instead of killing them. He started from the ground up to what we have today as far as animals leaving IACC alive.

He also started a television program designed to help pet owners with training tips and animal care. It was the predecessor of the Pet Pals TV that we enjoy today.

The bigger picture

Critics are missing the mark by blaming Moore for changes that are making it harder for animals to get out of IACC alive and into the hands of rescue organizations.

In an April 16 video, “Animal Care and Control head suspended again, two investigators let go” Fox 59’s Yvonne Man noted:

The director of Indianapolis Animal Care and Control is suspended and it’s the second time in two months. Now, there are questions about a bigger problem regarding possible mismanagement at a higher level.

On April 21, Man reported Shackle’s resignation. A photo accompanying the story on Fox 59’s website shows Shackle and Moore with Public Safety Director Troy Riggs (far right) and AFSCME union leader Steve Quick (far left) whose members staff IACC.

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Riggs certainly represents higher-level management. Quick has an arrest record and an interesting history with local law enforcement and political influence.

After leaving Indianapolis, fired IACC administrator Doug Rae told blogger Gary Welsh that the Mayor’s office, Department of Public Safety, City Legal and Human Resources were all about “bowing” to the union’s “every wish.”

There has been no administration at IACC whose actions have not been constrained by influence coming from a “higher level.”

At the time of Shackle’s first suspension, field agent Tony Laucevicius was terminated when employees filed a complaint over an incident in which he threw a coffee mug.

“[It was] just an argument or disagreement with an employee and [he] maybe threw a coffee cup,” said Valerie Washington, Indianapolis public safety deputy director. “[The incident] was what we would have considered an aggravated assault. It was behavior that was not tolerated.”

Laucevicius told FOX59 that was not the case at all. He blames other employees for creating a hostile work environment. It’s a culture, he said, that needs to change.

Spencer Moore doesn’t deserve the blame for the cultural issues at IACC that hamper efforts to save the animals. “I’m doing this as a favor to somebody who needed someone to come out and try to handle this,” he told WISH TV.

One wonders if “this” refers to possible mismanagement at a higher level.

How the policies are working at SPCA Tampa Bay

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Martha Boden, CEO of SPCA Tampa Bay and former CEO of the Humane Society of Indianapolis, told a television reporter earlier this year that her new approach and policies at SPCA/TB “are working”, and that the proof is in lower intake and euthanasia numbers.

Well, when you refuse to accept homeless stray animals at a shelter and require an appointment to surrender a pet, intake numbers certainly DO go down. And when you send less-desirable dogs – those who are not young, not small, or not in perfect health – to county animal services to be killed there instead, the number of animals killed at your facility may indeed appear smaller.

But animals are still dying.

The many volunteers and staff members – more than 100 – who have either been fired or have left SPCA/TB because they refuse to support these policies have reported other ways in which they see the policies working.

The “proof” is in the incidences of neglect, intimidation and abuse.

The “proof” is in a 75-90% kennel vacancy rate while dogs are being killed at Pinellas County Animal Services.

The “proof” is assuring that animals are quickly killed and/or allowed to suffer.

The “proof” is not recording animals who come into the facility.

The “proof” is that the city of Largo has asked the SPCA/TB not to include them as a current supporter.

The “proof” is that fewer rescue groups than ever before are engaged with the SPCA.

The “proof” is the callous dismissal of caring community members from an agency to which they have given years of service and which they are committed to saving.

The “proof” is the growing momentum to educate the community as to what is really going on behind the kennel doors at SPCA Tampa Bay.

The “proof” is that the SPCA now appears to stand for Society for the Perpetuation of Cruelty to Animals.

The “proof” is that the city of Largo says it has never received an acknowledgement or thanks for a $5K per year allocation of tax dollars to SPCA/TB. Consequently, that subsidy will end.

The “proof” is in the fact that SPCA/TB is not the same organization it was before 2011.

In the words of those who continue to fight the approach and policies that “are working”:

We ARE NOT disgruntled volunteers. We are caring and compassionate people who care deeply about the animals that enter that “shelter”. While some of the former volunteers recently left and some have been gone more than a year, we still care. I think that in itself proves our point that we are not disgruntled, as others would have given up by now. We will continue to fight until we get back our SPCA from the demons who have driven it into the ground and for the future of the animals that unfortunately find themselves at this horrible place.

That’s not “disgruntled”. That’s courageous.

SPCA Tampa Bay efforts to silence protesters fail

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

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Former SPCA Tampa Bay volunteers showed up at an SPCA adoption reunion to protest the agency’s practices and educate the public about what goes on behind the kennel doors at the SPCA.

Staff got busy on their cell phones and CEO Martha Boden appeared at the event within an hour.

An attempt to intimidate the ex volunteers with a threat to call the sheriff did nothing to weaken their resolve. SPCA staff tried to block the attendees’ view of the protesters by parking their vehicles in front of their table.

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The protesters simply moved closer to the action. Boden and staff’s effort to block the protesters by standing with their backs to them was to no avail.

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Many of the attendees were familiar with the ex volunteers and mingled cordially while learning about the SPCA’s neglect, pro kill practices and administrative self-allocation of resources. Their dogs were greeted with treats and fresh water.

Who’s pulling the strings in Florida?

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Boden

The Urban Dictionary defines a puppet master as:
“A person who uses their actions or words to control someone or something of a lesser will, also known as “pulling the strings” of someone or something…. A puppet master’s interactions with their victims are almost always beneficial for the one pulling the strings.”

Is there a puppet master at SPCA Tampa Bay?

Those who remember Martha Boden’s reign as CEO of the Humane Society of Indianapolis have remarked on how much statements signed by SPCA/TB Board president Marilyn Hulsey sound as if they were written by Boden.

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As the former Vice President of Human Resources for Catalina Marketing, Hulsey surely recognizes the importance of community involvement and support for a not-for-profit organization. So one has to wonder whether the response to the letter below actually came from her, or from Boden.


On February 20, 2014, Deborah Johnson sent this email
:

To The Board of Directors:

I am a 60-year Pinellas County resident who became an SPCA Tampa Bay Volunteer in October 2013. I had known others who had volunteered there and felt it would be a good way to give back.

I was familiar with the SPCA shelter, as I adopted my dog there in June 2012. I had always thought the SPCA mission was to provide a safe haven for unwanted, abandoned and lost animals in need. I was wrong. My introduction to being a volunteer was a disappointment. The first Saturday I was scheduled to report, they did not know I was coming. I was not expected; not very welcoming!

I was interviewed by Haley McManus and she was nice enough, but I was taken aback when asked “how I felt about euthanasia”? I answered that I understood it had its place in caring for dogs that were severely injured or had illnesses that could not be treated, but not for cases where dogs barked when being confined in a crate or kennel.

It came to be seen that dogs were euthanized for being “aggressive” when behavior modification training and proper evaluation and time out of their kennels could have saved them. I also saw in my short time there that 4 dogs had limbs amputated. My feeling is that it was easier and more cost-effective to do this rather than properly treat and rehab these animals.

I saw puppies whose cages where full of feces which they were walking in, as well as urine-soaked bedding and toys.

I then met Santana, the beautiful hound who had been spayed on a Friday. She was pregnant; her puppies were aborted, and she was put into a kennel “ready” for adoption the same day. She was filled with milk, so sad and clearly miserable with no pain medication or antibiotics given. I thought the vision of the SPCA was to provide comfort and care to these animals; she did not even have a few days to rest and recuperate.

Another volunteer had offered to take this poor creature home to foster her and was told “no, it wasn’t necessary”. She was adopted out on Sunday and died three weeks later. Most likely due to an infection that could have been prevented if she had been given but minimal “care”!

My hope in joining the Volunteer team was to make a difference in these dogs’ lives, maybe show them some love and compassion for a few hours, get them out of their prison for a walk to smell the fresh air and have a bit of freedom and be able to relieve themselves, as many were housebroken and forced to “hold it”.

I am aware of several volunteers who were recently fired for trying to get these dogs basic care and humane treatment. I cannot accept those firings. I, therefore, am resigning as a volunteer and will work with those who were forced out to bring the SPCA up to basic code and lawfulness related to the treatment of the animals in your possession. I will not use the word “care” because I do not believe these dogs are cared for…those who truly cared were “fired” by your current CEO Martha Boden.

I am saddened, disappointed and appalled at how the SPCA is being run and will do all I can to give a voice to these poor animals who are forced to suffer in silence.

I do not expect a reply to this e-mail, but I wanted you to know what is taking place at your facility.

The response

The response that bears Hulsey’s electronic signature is peppered with sentences lifted verbatim from the president’s answer to other complaints by “a small group” of former volunteers. That “small group” in fact numbers more than 100 concerned Pinellas County citizens (ex-volunteers, workers and donors) with decades of commitment in time and treasury to SPCA/TB for the welfare of the Pinellas County animals.

From: SPCA Tampa Bay Board
Date: Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 10:49 AM
Subject: Re: Concerns
To: Deborah Johnson

Deborah,
Thank you for contacting the Board of the SPCA Tampa Bay, and for your past support as an adopter and volunteer. I’m sorry to hear that you have decided not to continue as a volunteer with us, and I have notified volunteer program director Nicole Bardell that you are discontinuing your volunteer service.

The question you were asked about euthanasia is a normal part of the orientation process. We ask our staff members who supervise volunteers to discuss the SPCA Tampa Bay’s policies on euthanasia during orientation to communicate the realities faced by open admission animal shelters. During your volunteer orientation, I hope that you took the opportunity to view the behavior assessment process, which is based on methodologies developed by nationally recognized shelter behaviorists who have worked with thousands of dogs across the country. The behavior assessments give us more information about a dog’s personality, and our adoption counselors say it’s helping them to better match dogs with potential families. It also helps ensure that only safe and healthy animals are adopted into the community.

I’d like to clarify a few points of misunderstanding in your email:

• Our vets and medical staff make decisions based on what is best for the animal, not based on cost. Amputation can be the best option for an animal in certain situations. As you may have seen from the animals in our care, they adjust quickly and often have little loss of mobility as a result of an amputation.

• Every kennel is cleaned thoroughly each day and spot cleaned in between the daily deep cleanings. While there may be feces or urine from time to time, the overall cleanliness of our facility can be measured by the rate of infection among animals in our care. The incidence of upper respiratory infections at our facility, which can be lethal in cats, is lower than it has ever been.

To address your comments about Santana, our policy outlines that we discuss specific animals with current volunteers and staff in person, as it is emotional for everyone involved. Though I can’t go into detail by email, I’d like you to know that the Board reviews certain cases with staff to carefully weigh past decisions to see if the right decisions were made. In this case, the Board found that the staff made the appropriate decisions for Santana’s health while she was in our care. Her adopters also consulted an independent vet who gave her a clean bill of health after her adoption.

SPCA Tampa Bay is committed to finding the best possible outcome for every animal that comes to us. The Board tracks nearly 30 performance indicators each month, and we are seeing a positive impact from the changes made to more efficiently and effectively run the organization.

One of the most important indicators is our success in placing animals back into the community. In 2013, we were able to find a home for 66% of all animals in our care, which was a significant improvement over 59% in 2012. We are excited about this improvement, and look forward to continue this positive momentum to improve the quality of our care and our impact in the community.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

Sincerely,
Marilyn Hulsey
President, Board of Directors
SPCA Tampa Bay

Click where?

When Boden ran HSI, the website link to send a message to the Board went directly to her email box. If Hulsey is allowing her name to be used on letters written by Boden, she is compromising her own reputation and professional integrity. If she doesn’t know this is happening, it would benefit her to investigate and stop allowing herself to be used.

And if she has authored this letter, we hope she will revisit the situation and learn what is actually going on at SPCA/TB.

They made it out alive

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

The sobering tales coming out of SPCA Tampa Bay also include some narrow escapes for dogs who were fortunate enough to be rescued from this house of horrors. Volunteers and staff members, many of whom have been fired or have left because they could no longer be part of the dysfunctional system, shared these stories in their own words.

Susie and Grasshopper, a small breed mother and her 2-week-old puppy, were surrendered in a crate. When the medical staff tried to get the mother out of the crate, she snapped at them because she was protecting her puppy (a normal maternal response). The inexperienced trainer/evaluator said the mother must be killed because she’s aggressive, which would have left the puppy an orphan.

Donna, the veteran trainer who was later forced to leave for trying to save lives, intervened and suggested they give the mother some space. Mom came out and gave everyone kisses. Both have been adopted.

Rocket, a 3-year-old shepherd mix, was adopted from SPCA as a puppy and surrendered because the family was moving. He was dog-selective and showed poorly in his kennel, so he was kept in the real life room and everyone loved him. Thankfully he was adopted on a Saturday, because on Monday, Boden’s evaluator came down the hall looking for him. When a kennel worker asked why, she ran her finger across her throat, indicating that she was there to kill the dog.

Is that professional? The kennel worker was shocked. The volunteer who reported this is a friend of the family that adopted Rocket. They said he is one of the best dogs they’ve ever owned. When the volunteer told them what really happened, they were incredulous.

Elsa, a 5-year-old pit bull, was a stray who ended up at the shelter after being found wandering with a gunshot wound. The SPCA veterinarian refused to treat her until the volunteers did a complete evaluation on her. The dog was bleeding and surely in pain, but he wouldn’t treat her until he knew she was “worth it”.

In-D, a/k/a Luka, is a 4-month-old pit bull puppy that the novice evaluator said failed the food bowl test and was anti-social. The vet techs had written on his intake sheet to wait a few days before evaluating him because the dog was a little fearful.

The evaluator ignored the note and evaluated the dog anyway. During the food bowl test, a reliable source reported she struck the puppy in the nose with the assess-a-hand. When she didn’t get the reaction she hoped for, she struck him again, harder, until he snapped at the hand. She failed him.

The former kennel worker who ended up adopting In-D said the evaluator carried the dog out of her office like he was a piece of trash. In-D is neither food bowl aggressive nor anti-social, and now lives with other bully breed dogs.

A former volunteer who has been helping the ASPCA care for 367 pit bulls seized from a multi-state dog fighting ring, asked the ASPCA’s behaviorist if she ever heard of this type of food bowl test. The behaviorist was mortified. She couldn’t believe someone would actually do that.

Tank, a Labradoodle, was failed by the evaluator for dog aggression. Donna found him waiting to be killed, reevaluated him, and found him to be anything but dog aggressive. Four volunteers witnessed Tank being playful with four dogs he was introduced to, big and small.

Donna got in trouble for taking him to the groomer and putting him up for adoption. He was adopted, and his new family posted pictures on SPCA’s Facebook page saying what a wonderful dog he is. I wonder what they would think if they knew he was hours from being killed for no reason.

Olive Oil, a sweet little hound mix transferred from another shelter, was terrified at the shelter and was scheduled to be sent back. That’s the thing about transfers. If they fail, they are sent back so it does not reflect on SPCA’s stats.

It took so long to get her transferred back that she actually started coming out of her shell. She became a wonderfully sweet dog, yet they still wanted to send her back. Donna and volunteers advocated for her, and she did get adopted and lives happily with another dog.

Annie is a sweet little spaniel mix who was also transferred in and scared. Donna brought her into her office to see how she was, and by the end of the day Annie was sitting in Donna’s lap and looking for attention. She was also very housetrained!

Boden’s evaluator had marked this dog as anti-social. Donna had to convince the evaluator to put the dog into foster care. She reluctantly agreed and Annie was not anti-social at all, just frightened. She has since been adopted into a loving home.

Trixy is a 7-year-old toy poodle that the evaluator failed. When Boden learned of this, she pulled the desirable-breed dog from euthanasia and took her home.

Bainter’s courageous intervention in some of these situations cost her her job and the animals a desperately needed advocate.

How long will the SPCA/TB board look the other way?

In memoriam — the dogs of Pinellas County

Monday, April 7th, 2014

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We’ve been closely following events at SPCA Tampa Bay in Pinellas County, Florida, where former Humane Society of Indianapolis CEO Martha Boden now holds life-and-death control over the shelter’s unfortunate residents. Current and former volunteers and staff members have shared these stories of dogs who fell victim to the new CEO’s policies.

These stories are only a tip of the iceberg.

Elvira, a 6-month-old puppy who was killed because she ate her food too fast.

Oscar. Oscar was being fostered in a home with one of the first volunteers to leave shortly after the current CEO, Martha Boden, arrived and instituted the killing policy. Oscar showed signs of ringworm and was brought back to the SPCA for evaluation and medication for treatment. Instead of receiving treatment that the volunteer was told Oscar would receive (and the volunteer was willing to pay for this at his own DVM at no cost to the SPCA/TB), Oscar was killed.

It took three days for the volunteer to learn what happened to Oscar. Why? “Nobody cared”.

Charles and Trick, 5-month-old brother and sister hound mixes transferred from another shelter. Trick was terrified, and Charles protected her. Boden’s inexperienced trainer/evaluator decided she would be a fear biter, even though she never attempted to bite volunteers despite all the handling given her. A foster parent offered to foster Trick, but the request was denied and Trick was killed.

A volunteer was allowed to foster Charles, who turned out to be a wonderful dog and has been adopted. Little doubt his sister would have been a wonderful dog too if given the chance.

Silk and the pug. Silk, a purebred Weimaraner, failed her food bowl test miserably but was sent to rescue. A purebred pug failed same food bowl test. Although Pug Rescue was willing to take him, the pug was killed.

A 6-month-old boxer puppy passed his evaluation, but was returned due to a possible bite. The evaluator admitted that it was probably just puppy mouthing, but killed the puppy anyway.

Red had a card on his kennel marked “aggressive dog, do not walk!” A volunteer went to the kennel and spent about 15 minutes with Red, giving him treats and talking to him. By the end of that time, Red was resting his head on her shoulder. He wasn’t aggressive; he was scared.

The volunteer emailed the foster coordinator about fostering Red, but it was too late. He was already dead.

Two 8-week-old Chihuahua puppies, killed over resource-guarding.

Chocolate and Whitey, two purebred Mastiffs who were surrendered because their owner could no longer afford to care for them. They failed their evaluations, but the staff was trying to get them into rescue. Rescue was full, so they were killed.

Santana. Amy Ulrich provides a deeply disturbing description of the callous treatment of pregnant Santana, who was spayed, her puppies aborted, and subsequently died after receiving no followup care:

Tomorrow, we’ll share some first-hand accounts of narrow escapes from SPCA Tampa Bay policies.