DOGCATCHERS GET THE BOOT; EXECS LEARN NEW PRIORITIES OR ELSE
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2000:
A L B U Q U E R Q U E––Responding to
Humane Society of the U.S. affirmation of
two years of allegations by activist Marcy
Britton that dogs and cats were roughly handled
and often endured difficult deaths in the
two city shelters, Albuquerque mayor Jim
Baca in late June fired 15-year shelter vet Jan
Thompson, and shifted four other senior
staffers to other city departments.
Baca also suspended Albuquerque
Animal Services general manager Robert
Hillman for two weeks. Hillman, as ANIMAL
PEOPLE reported in July/August 2000,
was hired after the incidents that prompted
Britton’s complaints, and had emphasized
retraining a veteran staff mostly inherited from
predecessors. He had also entirely revised the
15-year-old AAS operating manual, but had
defended the AAS staff in public statements.
At the same time, Hillman had
repeatedly told ANIMAL PEOPLE since
December 1998 that the Albuquerque senority
system and union contracts precluded him
from making personnel changes which were
apparently mostly those that Baca did make.
Britton dropped a two-year-old lawsuit
against AAS and Hillman over shelter procedures,
and filed notice of intent to serve
another, the chief purpose of which would
apparently be to recover legal expenses in connection
with the first case.
“Many of HSUS’ ideas [about
euthanasia methods], which are based on emotion,
are unreasonable and impractical when
implemented in shelters that handle large numbers
of animals,” Thompson wrote in an
intended defense of herself published on July
13 by the Albuquerque Journal.
A day later, in a call to A N I M A L
PEOPLE, Thompson defended handling cats
only with an animal control pole.
Her discussion of how procedures
should be done was all “by the book”––as the
“book” stood 20 years ago.
Similar culture shock was evident in
the February 23 response of Carlton Person,
animal control director for Cumberland
County, North Carolina, to a shelter evaluation
by National Animal Control Association
executive director Johnny Mays. Mays found
fault with virtually every aspect of animal care
and public service. He emphasized that the
public now expects much more attention to
Replied Person, without a word
about animals: “By operating in a responsible
and cost-effective manner, I feel I have saved
the taxpayers of Cumberland County money
over the past 23 years.”
But if the taxpayers of Cumberland
County were still buying nickel-and-dime
thinking, the county supervisors wouldn’t
have paid Mays $4,100 to tell them how to run
the animal control department properly.
In Sacramento, California, activist
Dia Goode touched off an uproar on July 25 by
revealing that for three years city shelter director
Dennis Kubo misdirected almost $100,000
in neutering deposits into a general fund,
instead of fixing animals, as required by law.
At least one dog meanwhile was impregnated
while in custody and gave birth at the shelter.
In Arlington, Washington, the city
council closed the animal control shelter in
January rather than spend $10,000-$15,000 on
repairs. Sheltering Arms president Bob
Heavy, however, rallied volunteers who
raised $2,000 and donated enough labor and
materials to reopen the shelter on July 15.
Increased public expectations and
attention to animal control are forcing changes
at shelters all over the U.S.
Atlanta resident Kathy Hawkins on
June 29 sued Fulton County and the Atlanta
Humane Society, operator of the county shelter,
for allegedly forging her signature on a
document which allowed the shelter to kill her
three dogs before a three-day holding period
expired. The dogs were seized for alleged running
at large in February.
Would-be Rottweiler breeders Don
and Madlon Parker of Huntsville, Alabama,
in June filed a similar suit against that city’s
shelter, for killing a Rottweiler named Bear
two hours before his holding period expired,
four days before Christmas, as the Parkers
were en route to fetch him.
The Rhode Island group Defenders
of Animals in July sued the Town of Coventry
and state regulators for alleged improper
record keeping, neglect of animals, and
gassing multiple animals at a time.
Gassing animals ended immediately
and the Humane Educational Society of
Chattanooga was fined $22,800 in July by the
Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, after the March 28 death of
shelter staffer Vernon W. Dove Jr., who inadvertantly
entered the HESC walk-in gas chamber
before it was ventilated.
In Augusta, Georgia, Richmond
County animal control director Jim Larmer,
65, was ushered into retirement after trying to
reinstate use of a gas chamber to kill animals,
and after an audit found that 261 animals
logged into the shelter could not be accounted
for. The shelter’s own annual report indicated
a discrepancy of 1,374. Larmer told Augusta
C h r o n i c l e staff writer Sylvia Cooper that his
troubles were caused by “do-gooders that don’t
know what they are talking about.”
In Jersey City, New Jersey, Hudson
County SPCA board members Jack Shaw and
Ed Pulver pleaded not guilty on July 20 to not
having a veterinarian on the premises and not
quarantining a dog who bit ex-volunteer Carlos
Tan. They were given time to clean up 13
alleged violations of health and safety codes.
The alleged violations came to light after Tan
was charged with cruelty when witnesses saw
him strike with a shovel the dog he said had
bitten him. Former Jersey City council member
Tom Hart was to replace Shaw as Hudson
County SPCA supervisor on August 1. The
SPCA holds six local animal control contracts.
On July 5 fomer Columbia-Green
Humane Society worker Susanne Pesano, 43,
of Ghent, New York, was charged with abusing
animals in her care for seven months preceding
her resignation in October 1999.
Little Rock, Arkanas, suspended
Animal Services manager Rita Cavenaugh on
April 12 for undisclosed cause, leaving the
staff short seven of 17 positions. In Cavenaugh’s
absence, alleged Kim James of the
Helping Hands rescue group, someone at the
shelter severely abused and neglected a dog
named Tippy. The city transferred Housing
and Neighborhood Programs code enforcement
staffer Ed Davis to supervise Animal Services,
and hired four new animal control officers.
Alleged animal abuse at the Lee
County Humane Society in Florida led to the
January 2000 resignation of director Mary
Widemer, the firing of four other staffers, and
the resignations of three others.
Significantly disputed staff changes
came to light recently in Houston, Greensburg,
Pennsylvania, and Lihue, Hawai.
Ex-Houston animal control officer
Rafael Licon, 43, in February 2000 won a
$106,000 jury award for “malicious” dismissal
in 1994. Licon, who has multiple sclerosis,
sought transfer to light duties in 1993 after
recovering from a 1992 back injury. His
supervisor, Earl Travis, an Afro-American,
allegedly told Licon that policy precluded
light-duty assignments. Licon was fired after
complaining to the Houston Bureau of Animal
Regulation and Care that eight Afro-American
staffers had been given light duties, and that
overwork of Hispanic staff was resulting in
harm to animals.
In Greensburg, former Animal
Rescue League workers Heather Lawson and
Melanie Taylor were fired on May 16 and
supervisor Sharon Goldstein resigned on May
19, after complaining to executive director
Peter Casella that other staff were neglecting
animals. Twenty Animal Rescue League cosigned
a letter denying the allegations.
In Lihue, all 10 paid Kauai Humane
Society staffers joined a wildcat strike on May
31 to protest the firing two weeks earlier of
former executive director Sherre Hoe.
Humane Society board president Laura Wiley
said Hoe was dismissed for allegedly overcharging
the county for animal housing.