By:  Pat Austin

Added:  Thank you The Dead Pelican for the link!

SHREVEPORT – Bear with me, readers, for this week I’m bringing you a local problem but it is one that needs national attention in order for it to be rectified. Your help is needed.

Our local animal shelter is deplorable.  The city of Shreveport has a population of just over 200,000 people, and we are the third largest city in the state of Louisiana, yet we can’t seem to figure out how to run a humane animal shelter. The problems at Caddo Parish Animal Services are epic and have been going on for years. Any attempt to solve the problem has only been a token one.

Consider the following:

July 2007: CPAS director fired for failing to properly perform his duties, for example: failing to do rabies tests on a racoon that had scratched a man, among other offenses.

September 2007: CPAS adoption coordinator Raymond Abney resigns his position, citing multiple, horrific cases of torture, neglect, and abuse at the shelter.

2010: CPAS has a 78% euthanasia rate.

2011: CPAS has 80% euthanasia rate.

2012: CPAS has 83% euthanasia rate.

2013: CPAS has 81% euthanasia rate.

October 2013: Karen Dent’s Golden Retriever escaped her backyard when a tree fell on a fence; CPAS picked up the dog. Dent called the shelter and was told she could claim her dog, but when she arrived the dog had been euthanized.

October 2013: A puppy was found in September in a Shreveport storage locker, abandoned and left to die. Literally at death’s door, he was rescued and taken to the emergency vet clinic and then transferred to Benton Animal Hospital. By October he was in foster care with a vet tech and making a nice recovery at which time CPAS comes to their home and seizes the emaciated, still very fragile dog, as evidence of the animal abandonment crime. “Braveheart” was heartlessly placed in a kennel at CPAS rather than allowed to stay in foster care under the attention of a vet tech. Massive public outcry resulted in animal cruelty charges against the owner of the storage locker. (Braveheart’s story has a happy ending.)

2014: CPAS has 79% euthanasia rate.

August 2014: Adoptions volunteer Reed Ebarb resigned his position at CPAS after director Everett Harris verbally attacked Ebarb and his attempts to move more dogs into rescue and off the euthanasia list. Ebarb was vigilant in compiling and reporting monthly euthanasia rates to the public which was often well over 70%.

2015: CPAS has a 78% euthanasia rate.

March 2015: Two malnourished dogs, dubbed Lucky and T-Bone, were picked up by CPAS after a citizen complaint of neglect, found to be full of parasites, yet when PetSavers Rescue offered to take the dogs and vet them, director Everett Harris denied the request, igniting yet another firestorm of public outcry.

August 2015: Amanda Middleton was travelling through Shreveport, blew a tire, and her dog, Libby ran off and got lost. Libby was lost for two days before being found and taken to CPAS where a microchip was scanned and her family identified. A Humane Society volunteer had permission from the eight-months pregnant Middleton to retrieve the dog and meet Middleton halfway to return the pup, but director Everett Harris refused to release the dog to anyone but Middleton, despite written permission from Middleton to do so. Middleton drove all the way back to Shreveport from Houston to get her dog.

August 2015: CPAS director Everett Harris was placed on administrative leave, and then resigned, after posting an offensive photo on Facebook of dogs with a Star of David and Nazi symbols drawn on their heads and the caption “How to deal with the difficulties of life.” He said he meant to post the picture to a private account rather than the public CPAS page. Harris was on paid leave for several months, then terminated.

June 2016: Chuck Wilson, former assistant director of CPAS, is appointed new director of CPAS.

October 2016: Amber McMillan’s two dog were euthanized despite her multiple visits to CPAS searching for them.  McMillan contends that her dogs were not in any of the stray hold kennels she was shown when she went to the shelter. She showed photos of her dogs to the employees at the shelter and filed paperwork. The dogs were killed nine days after intake.

November 2016: DeAnna Robinson adopted a large breed dog from CPAS; he weighed only 30 pounds when she brought him home. He was emaciated and could barely walk. He had been housed in a kennel at the shelter with five other dogs.

December 2016: A stray dog, “Ellie,” wanders into a man’s yard; the man brings his own dog outside and orders it to attack Ellie who subsequently dies from her injuries. The event is captured on video which creates a social media firestorm. CPAS fails to press charges, thereby sanctioning the inhumane attack.

December 2016: “Tini” was picked up by CPAS on December 30 after being hit by a car; her owners determined that Tini was at the shelter but they were not allowed to pick her up for four days, despite that fact that the dog had a broken jaw and other injuries and needed immediate medical care. Because of the New Year’s Eve holiday, Tini had to stay in the shelter rather than be reunited with her family.

January 2017: In two separate events, two dogs tagged for rescue were accidentally euthanized.

January 2017: American Boston Terrier dog rescue attempted to pull several dogs but the dogs either starved to death or were euthanized before the rescue arrived.

January 2017: Big Fluffy Dog Rescue out of Nashville TN, came to CPAS to pull two dogs but left with 17, and later came back for more, because of the deplorable conditions in which they found the dogs in the CPAS shelter, which included inadequate medical care for broken bones, malnourished dogs, and overcrowded kennels. BFDR is urging public outcry against the abuses at the Caddo Parish shelter.

January 2017: A citizens meeting to discuss continued problems at CPAS is attended by two Caddo Parish Commissioners who cite lack of first-hand accounts as one reason why no change has been made at CPAS.

February 2017: CPAS kennel worker placed on leave, and then fired, for having sex with a dog. The act was filmed by another CPAS worker. Where this act actually took place has not been revealed; reports are that it was not at the shelter, but does it matter?

Obviously, the problems at the shelter are ongoing and it doesn’t seem to matter who the director is.  Meanwhile, literally hundreds of dogs (and cats) are euthanized each month. The shelter’s euthanasia rate is right around 50 to 60% right now, down from previous years where there was a 77% or more euthanasia rate. This decline is due to the help of some tireless rescue groups and an improved willingness by the current director to work with rescues.

Euthanasia rate: Caddo Parish Animal Services

There are volunteer rescue groups that work to pull dogs from the shelter and take them to states “up north” where stricter spay/neuter laws have resulted in lower numbers of available pets. Our dogs have a much better chance at adoption there.

That being said, this shelter still needs major change. State inspections have taken place but they are announced at least ten days in advance which gives the shelter time to clean up their act. After the public meeting in January, two Caddo Commissioners toured the shelter, but again, it was announced.

The Parish Administrator, Dr. Woody Wilson, has control over this situation. He works for the Caddo Parish Commission, but his oversight of CPAS operates is completely independent. There is no system of checks and balances and Wilson has the final, and only, voice.

Granted, we have a huge problem here in unwanted animals; too many people in this area see animals as property and all too often refuse to get their animals spayed or neutered. The director’s job at the shelter is a huge one. But it’s clear to me that this director has lost the faith of the public by this most recent string of allegations, and something must be done.

For years, and years, we’ve been told by the Parish Administrator that they are revisiting and reviewing laws, policies, and procedures yet we are still battling this issue. The public outcry rises, we get lip service, public outcry dies down, and the cycle continues. When public outcry rises, we are dismissed as crazy animal people who get their information from social media. When citizens go to shelter board meetings to voice concern, they are quickly shut down if their experience is not first-hand.

It appears that the only thing that might work is a national outcry. This shelter administration needs to be completely rebooted. They all need to go. If qualified, they can be rehired; if not, more the better.

This shelter needs to be cleaned up, literally; all policies need to be examined, updated, revised.  Dogs in stray/hold, for example, are kept in outdoor pens regardless of the weather. Too many dogs are crowded into pens thus creating feeding issues and fights. When Big Fluffy Dog Rescue pulled their thirty dogs, they wrote:

Caddo Parish Animal Shelter in Louisiana has been the subject of serious complaints for years. In January, Big Fluffy Dog Rescue took in more than 30 dogs from this shelter. Most of the dogs were emaciated, many had serious health issues and most had bite wounds consistent with fighting for resources. Big Fluffy Dog Rescue attempted without success to determine whether the cause of the animals’ suffering was the shelter itself or if the dogs came in to the shelter in that condition. Caddo Parish did not appropriately investigate the issue and the concerns of animal rescuers were largely swept under the carpet and derided by the local government as unfounded. Local media covered the story.

There is a veterinarian “on call” but not on site. Dogs with broken bones or other injuries languish. There is no feral cat or TNR program; there are no online records – everything is still done on paper.  If a volunteer speaks out or complains about conditions or abuse, they are banned from the shelter. Quite often they choose to remain silent so they can continue to help the animals in the shelter. Any online presence is due to the work of volunteers. If you go to the shelter’s page and click on animals for adoption, you might find a few, but these are out of date and do not nearly reflect the number of available animals.

The issues are epic. But at the very least, the neglect, abuse, and miscommunication must be stopped. And sex with animals? Please. Is this the best we can do with vetting our employees (this woman was a paid employee – not a volunteer!).

To be clear, I’m not calling for the firing of current director Chuck Wilson; while he may not be perfect, many of the volunteers appreciate his efforts yet Wilson is hogtied by the current structure of oversight. The source of the problem lies in the fact that the control is all with the Parish Administrator Woody Wilson who has shown very little interest in making this shelter a safe and humane shelter for animals.

Please share this with any animal rights advocates or organizations you know that might be able to help the citizens of Caddo Parish clean up this shelter and turn this situation around.  Ideally the shelter should be privatized or turned over to a competent, established rescue with a humanitarian mission. Please email or write letters, polite and respectful letters, to Parish Administrator Woody Wilson, and the Assistant Parish Administrator who is reportedly working Woody Wilson’s job while he is being investigated on a residency issue.

A national outcry is the only thing we haven’t tried. There are plenty of citizens here who want to make a difference; the problem is in the politics. We need help and you can contribute by helping to shine light on this issue.

Points of Contact:

Randy Lucky, Parish Administration – rlucky@caddo.org

Dr. Woody Wilson – wwilson@caddo.org

Louisana SPCA. Humane Law Enforcement: dispatch@la-spca.org

Louisiana Animal Welfare Commission:  http://lawc.la.gov/report-cruelty/

Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler: mayor@shreveportla.gov

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

(P.S.: Thank you Chris Muir for the cool artwork!)

 

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – We lost our eighteen year old Boston Terrier last week.  She was a rescue and was about three years old when we got her.  Checkers has been the sweetest, most loyal little dog I’ve ever had and she gave me hours of laughs with her comical antics.  She was very much an alpha dog and wouldn’t tolerate any other dogs in the house, but that changed one day five years ago when my son brought home an abandoned Lab-mix puppy that was about six weeks old and near death.  Checkers mothered him and nurtured him and they became fast friends.  She was incredibly smart and we even taught her the sign language motion for “cat” which would send her dashing to the huge living room window, barking at a non-existent cat she thought was walking by.

petey
Petey, a Pit puppy with a cleft palate.

In her last few years she lost most of her eyesight but she still did fine here at home because she knew where everything was.  We didn’t move furniture or do anything to upset her sense of security.  In the last few weeks however, she ate less and less and slept more.  We knew her time was close. By Friday last week she was in organ failure – her kidneys just couldn’t keep up anymore and we had to make that miserable decision to let her go.  It’s a harrowing experience and even though you think you are sort of braced for it and you know there is no possible other choice, it all starts moving too fast and before you know it you just have a hole in your heart and an empty leash.

I volunteer with a couple of animal rescue groups here in Shreveport and have made some very wonderful friends who understand the gaping loss of losing a companion of so many years.  Bo and Ronda Spataro work with local rescue TSR La Baby Mommas, a group which takes puppies who have lost their mothers for one reason or another. (I’ve blogged about them in this space here). Most of their puppies are bottle babies which have to grow and spend some time with a foster family before they can be adopted out.  This rescue takes puppies that many people would have given up on.  They have had great success with rescuing cleft palate puppies. Ronda is a vet tech and she takes these cleft palate puppies and basically keeps them alive through tube feeding until they are able to undergo what is often multiple surgeries to repair the mouth.

I saw this process first hand over the weekend; I’d seen her do this before and it’s amazing to watch.  Right now Ronda and her husband Bo are fostering a Pit puppy that the rescue got when he was about sixteen hours old. This puppy has one of the more profound cleft palates they have seen, but before she committed to take him in, she asked the veterinarian – “Does he have a chance?  Can you fix this?”  Ronda will do whatever it takes to save a dog, but she is made up of “mush and steel,” she told me. You have to keep your reason and objectivity in this business or it will kill you.

“I can keep him alive,” she said, “but I have to know there is a chance for him first.”   And then she pulled Petey out of his carrier, warmed up his puppy formula, and pulled it up into a large syringe.  She measured it carefully, and while Petey nestled in my arms she slipped a thin red tube deftly down his throat and pushed the formula through. Then she gently pulled the tube back out. The entire process took less than three minutes: the feeding itself was probably 30 seconds.  I’ve never seen anything like that.

When they first got Petey, Bo and Ronda did this process every three hours.  Now that Petey is two weeks old, he can go a little longer.

With his little belly full, Petey snuggled deeper into my arms and went to sleep.  “He knows you need some extra loving tonight,” Ronda said as the puppy tried to nurse my little finger.  Somehow this little puppy was trying to repair the hole in my heart.

And of course it hit me: life ends, but it also begins.  I had a Lion King moment and the cycle of life hit home.  Checkers lived a long, happy life with as much love and care as any dog could ever have.  I’ll never forget her; I know I did the right thing by her all the way until the end.  Now it’s Petey’s turn. I’m not adopting Petey: I’m far from ready for that right now, and I still have this adorable goofy Lab mix dog.  But I’m pulling for Petey to survive so that he can have a life with the right family for him.

This puppy is going to need several surgeries so that he will be able to eat on his own. Bo and Ronda did this with a white Lab puppy last year, named Summit, and today he is perfectly healthy and weighs 80 pounds. I think it’s safe to say that Petey has the right team pulling for him.

Life is a miracle, be it a person, a dog, or whatever creature you want to name.  Life is fragile, and it is precious.  I know that sounds trite and cliché, but I’ve seen it myself this past week and sometimes we just need to be reminded.

If you’d like to donate to Petey’s upcoming surgeries, go here, and click on the “Donate” button.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

 

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – When Pete invited me to join his writing team he said, “You can write about whatever you want to…” within reason, of course, and most of the time I write about politics because that’s just what I do.  But something else has been on my mind this week so I hope you’ll indulge me this brief deviation from politics.

April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month so I want to take a moment to acquaint you with a local case that has captured the hearts of my local community.  Meet Braveheart (there is a happy ending, so keep reading):

September 11, 2013 a dog was found in an abandoned storage locker in Shreveport, chained to a car and likely moments away from death.  The hottest day of the year in September in Shreveport was on September 3 with 103 degrees; typically we have many days over 100 degrees around that time of year.  Can you braveimagine what the temperature must have been in that storage locker?  There was no ventilation, no food, and no water for the dog;  he was just waiting to die.

The owner of the storage property went into the unit because the renter had lapsed on his payments.  When he went in he saw what he thought was a dead dog.  It was only when he went to remove the body that he realized this dog was alive.

The following narrative of what happened next is from A Voice for Braveheart:

“He was only hours if not minutes from death as he could only move his eyes. He was rushed to the vet and somehow survived. Someone that played a critical role in his recovery stated ‘human hands did this, human hands should fix it’. He was given life saving medical care immediately and a miracle happened, he began healing. He was named…….Braveheart.

After a 2 week stay at the ER clinic he came to stay with our family. He only weighed 8 pounds when he was found.”

A number of local organizations and people worked hard to save Braveheart’s life, among them Bo and Ronda Spataro who agreed to foster Brave during his recovery.  Ronda works as a vet tech at the clinic where Brave was ultimately treated and she fell in love with him, as did her husband.  Ronda was able to take Brave to work with her and he was given aggressive, around the clock care.  But the story did not end there.

Braveheart’s condition when he was found was thoroughly documented through medical records and photographs.  The photographs are very difficult to look at.  Even with all that evidence, however, the city decided they needed to take Braveheart from his foster family and place him in the animal shelter as evidence.  The Spataros were devastated.  Braveheart had already become a part of their family.  Local news station KTAL was there when Braveheart was seized and captured incredibly emotional video as the puppy is taken from the Spataros and placed in the back of an animal control truck.  Through her sobs, Ronda gave Braveheart a kiss and told him, “I promise I’ll get you back…I promise.”   It was a promise she was later able to keep.

ronda

It was all one step too much for the community who reacted in outrage and planned a protest at the shelter.  Bo Spataro writes:

“There was an unnecessary custody battle with animal control when they were asked to start an investigation into the abuse/neglect of Braveheart by public outcry. It was quickly won, again by public outcry. [Brave’s abuser was identified and] charged with felony cruelty to an animal. We formally adopted Braveheart from Caddo Parish Animal Shelter after his abuser surrendered ownership. He has been assigned legal counsel and we have been attending his court dates. He has plead not guilty and the ADA has informed both the judge and defense there will be NO plea deals. The judge has also agreed to a sentencing hearing if he pleads guilty. This type of abuse to any animal with no meaningful penalty needs to be stopped.”

The picture taken at that joyful reunion between Braveheart and his new family still brings a tear to my eye when I look at it.

brave1

Bo tells me that the original ADA has been transferred and there will be someone else prosecuting the case; we can only hope the new prosecutor is also tough against animal abuse.  We may find out this week.

For Braveheart, there is a happy ending; Bo again:

“Braveheart is now doing great and has made nearly a full recovery. He still has some emotional scars that may never go away, but overall, he knows he is safe now. He knows he is loved now. You can see his whole story at A Voice For Braveheart. He is still supported by TSR La Baby Mommas rescue in Shreveport, La and attends events to promote “Adopt, don’t shop”, spay/neuter programs, pet education and animal abuse awareness. Although Brave was originally intended to be a foster, we knew differently after he was suddenly taken from us during the custody battle. We knew immediately when we got him back, we would never let him leave our home. He is a part of our family and he has found his forever home.”

As I said, there is a happy ending.

Look at Brave now:

brave4

The next court date for Brave’s abuser comes up this week and the community will be supporting Braveheart and the Spataro family in a quiet, respectful presence in the courtroom.   A while back someone asked Bo if it wouldn’t be an important statement if he took Brave into the courtroom with him and Bo had a wonderful answer that could not have been more perfect.  He said he would never consider doing such a thing because he does not ever want Brave to have to look into the eyes or ever see his abuser again.  All he should know from now on is love and security.

Again, as April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month, I ask you to take a moment and read Brave’s story.  This isn’t just a local news story; there are stories like Brave’s all over the country.  Please donate to your local animal rescue organizations and always adopt, don’t shop, when you’re ready for a pet.  Work in your communities to strengthen laws against animal abuse.

To me, the story of Braveheart shows the best and the worst of human nature.  I can’t imagine leaving a puppy chained to a car in a hot storage building in over 100 degree heat with no water just to die.  That is an abominable act.  But I also think that there are more of us on the other side – on the side of love and compassion.  Thank goodness for people like the Spataros who will not only fight to save a dog from a situation like that and then go on to share their story and work as ambassadors for good.  Braveheart now attends many adoption events in the community and goes to local schools to help educate kids about caring for pets.

Thanks for indulging me on this non-political post, but I really wanted to share this story with you.  If we don’t give a voice to abused and mistreated animals, who will?

You can follow Braveheart’s continuing journey here.

 

(Note:  I redacted the name of Braveheart’s alleged abuser in the post above because although he is formally charged he is not yet convicted.)

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and has three rescue dogs.