Samantha Mullen fought animal hoarding done in the name of no-kill sheltering

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2013:

Samantha Mullen, 73, of Glenmont, New York, died on December 21, 2012 at the Hospice Inn at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. Born in Evansville, Indiana, Mullen earned a Ph.D. in French and taught French at the State University of New York’s New Paltz campus before becoming executive director of the New York State Humane Association circa 1982. In that capacity Mullen led a series of raids that eventually closed the Animals Farm Home, at Ellenville, New York.

Founder Justin McCarthy had been described by Newsweek in 1984 as “St. Francis of the Catskills,” and by Reader’s Digest in 1986 as “a real-life Dr. Doolittle.” But as The New York Times eventually revealed, McCarthy had been convicted of six armed robberies. Purporting to operate a no-kill care-for-life sanctuary, McCarthy at the Animals Farm Home allegedly took in more than 1,000 dogs, 70 cats, and various other animals between 1981 and 1987, plus $500,000 in donations. The money vanished while most of the animals starved. Mullen and fellow investigators in November 1987 found 475 animals alive at the Animals Farm Home, of whom 175 were so severely debilitated that they were euthanized at the scene, and found the remains of about 200 more animals.

Mullen went on to raid and prosecute many other alleged animal hoarders who claimed to operate no-kill shelters––and to point out at every opportunity the weakness of New York state laws governing shelter management. As an example, Mullen mentioned Edna Senecal, who founded the Esthersville Animal Shelter in Greenfield, New York, in 1952. Cited repeatedly for alleged neglect after 1973, Senecal was in 1991 convicted of 100 counts of cruelty, but continued to direct the shelter until her death in 2007. Mullen in 1994 became director of animal care and sheltering for the Humane Society of the U.S., in which capacity she attended the first No Kill Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1995.

Mostly, however, Mullen represented the policies and perspectives of her mentor Phyllis Wright, the first HSUS companion animal program director. Wright, who died in October 1992, authored the 1967 essay “Why we must euthanize,” which was canon for shelter workers trained before the advent of high-volume, low-cost dog and cat sterilization, when the volume of shelter killing was about eight times higher than today. Wright ––and Mullen––argued that while a few very affluent and well-managed adoption shelters can operate on a no-kill basis, attempting to operate a shelter without killing unadoptable animals will usually lead to hoarding, as indeed often occurs.

Mullen also echoed Wright’s criticism of neuter/return feral cat control as “neuter/abandonment,” doubting the quality of life of most feral cats. HSUS nonetheless became markedly more accepting of no-kill sheltering and neuter/return during Mullen’s tenure. Mullen also led investigations of dogfighting, lobbied for stronger animal protection laws on a variety of topics, and in 2005 helped to lead the post-Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Upon retirement from HSUS, Mullen returned to the New York State Humane Association. Mullen’s last investigation helped to close the Angel’s Gate “animal hospice” in Delhi, New York. Facing 22 cruelty charges and a lawsuit brought by the New York State attorney general’s office for falling four years behind in filing financial reports, founder Susan Marino disbanded Angel’s Gate at the end of October 2012 as a judicially recommended condition of possibly having the cruelty cases dismissed.

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