Over Memorial Day Weekend, the staff at the animal 'shelter' in Forrest City, AR left 14 dogs out in a run together for the entire weekend while they went on vacation. The dogs included both males and females, and two female dogs that were unaltered and in heat. The dogs were left there for at least 10 hours unsupervised and without water on a 91 degree day.
A volunteer that was near the shelter stopped by to check that the ACOs had put the dogs up for the night only to find multiple injured dogs. Because it was a holiday weekend, there was no veterinarian available and a Labrador retriever, named Bozo, went into shock and tragically died from his injuries.
You can view the shocking (and disturbing) video footage of some of the injured dogs here.
Unfortunately this type of neglect isn't an isolated incident - -as other videos exist that show similar signs of neglect and poor conditions for the animals (again, it's a bit painful to watch). The Fox station in Memphis confirmed many of the findings of abuse, presence of mice, and unfilled water bowls from the video. At the time, the mayor, Gordon McCoy, stood by his animal control department and blamed the contentious relationship between the shelter and the volunteers for the problem.
Following the Memorial Day Weekend, incident, the mayor of the community instantly had the city's police chief take over their animal control. Mayor Gordon McCoy said:
"We did wrong here, our guys. There was an oversight on our part and now we have to insure it doesn't happen again."
The volunteers at the shelter - who operate under the name of the Forrest City Humane Society - have been vocally against the city shelter -- especially following this recent incident. It would seem that almost any humane organization would be....except apparently the Humane Society of the United States.
Last night, at 9:59 pm, HSUS Field Representative Desiree Bender posted this note on her Facebook profile:
"Traveled to Forrest City today to meet with the mayor and Chief of Police. Discussed all the issues and visited the shelter. What continues to harm the animals in this city is the lack of cooperative collaboration. Animal welfare organizations should strive to partner with municipal agencies to create proactive programs to curb the overall issues facing animals." (I've posted a picture to the left of it, Ms. Bender has since made her profile private)
That's right. The Arkansas State Director for the HSUS went to a shelter that has a history of bad conditions for dogs, a mayor who stood by the conditions in the past, and allowed multiple dogs to get into a fight leading to the death of one dog because of negligence and BLAMED THE VOLUNTEERS for the problem. Now, Ms Bender did not meet with any of the volunteers -- she only met with the mayor and the police chief (who now runs animal control because the other guy was pushed aside) and said the VOLUNTEERS were the problem.
Apparently we know who's side HSUS is on - -and it's not apparently the animals.
While I tend to agree that it is better for animal welfare advocates to work with cities whenever possible - at some point, if cities show they are unwilling to fix problems, it is understandable how contentious relationships can (and should) arise. And in this case, it seems like the Forrest City Humane Society volunteers have more than enough reason to be frustrated and don't seem to be at all to blame for the problems. In fact, it seems many of the problems could have been solved at least 9 months ago had changes at the shelter been made when they complained before.
Now, I realize that there are always two sides to a story, but even the city leaders are admitting that they are in the wrong -- and Bender's history doesn't give me a lot of trust in her judgment on this issue. Apparently, Bender showed up in Forrest city with Tracy Roark. Roark is the head of animal control in Little Rock who worked with Bender to pass the city's mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for pit bulls back in 2008 that declared all 'pit bulls' as potentially dangerous. The dogs in the news videos greeted animal control officers excitedly while they confiscated the unlicensed dogs to haul them in to their eventual deaths. In 2008, with only 6 months of the ordinance in affect, Little Rock killed 44% more 'pit bulls' in their shelter than they had in 2007.
Bender has showed up at the Jacksonville, AR city council meeting pushing for a similar ordinance in Jacksonville in 2005, and also tried to work with a city council member in Indianapolis, IN on a similar ordinance -- even though such a law that has led to the killing of nearly 4,000 'pit bulls' in Kansas City. And there is more I won't get into in this post.
So there you have it, Desiree Bender and her employer HSUS, are DEFENDING an unclean, abusive city shelter that's negligence led to a dog being killed and then BLAMING the volunteer organization that is trying to make things better -- and actually saying the reason animals are dying at the shelter is because of the volunteers.
For more on the Memorial Day incident at the shelter, read YesBiscuit!'s notes on it.