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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lies.. the truth.. and that line between

It has been over a year since I last wrote in this blog. In the last year, I have spent a lot of time researching issues in shelters and rescues.. and working on art and writings related to those issues. When I first started this art project, I thought it would be images of animals that had died in the sheltering system. But, it did not take me long to realize that isn't the full story... far from it. What I have fallen into is a huge mess.. the truth is sticky and messy and not always hard to see. Many think dogs and cats are dying at the hands of the shelters because the shelters just are not trying hard enough.. but, the reality is.. things are so much more complex and twisted than most people realize. Politics, ego, mental issues, greed, a throw away society, lack of empathy/sympathy, control issues, ignorance and for some to play out the fantasy online as a hero are all leading to the suffering and deaths of so many animals. Lately, the news has exploded with various issues in the rescue and shelter community and I just want to take a moment to discuss the situations of three very different news stories that all relate to problems within the rescue/shelter communities.

A few weeks ago, a young woman volunteered with a rescue called the 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida (although they are registered as 100 Plus Animal Rescue, Inc) to help pick up a dog from a home near Tampa and bring him into the rescue. It appears that it was a situation where the dog owner was in hospice and the family had reached out for help placing the many dogs that had been in his care. This is always a very sad and difficult time for a family in this situation and it looks like the rescue had looked at the many dogs they had and decided to take in a small one. The volunteer went to the property as directed to get the dog and there was an incident. While on the property to take in the dog, she was attacked by the many other - larger dogs  and she was left with many wounds on her leg which required not only a trip to the ER, but a hospital stay as well. (some argue that this was a case of trespassing and others that she was invited- but, that is not the part of the story that I am most interested in) As if that situation was not bad enough, the actions of others afterward led to a complete uproar and left many speaking out and questioning the rescue on a variety of issues beyond the safety and care of volunteers.

Although the story has been removed from the news site that aired it- the Facebook post about it is still available here . (*** It has been brought to my attention that the story was saved on Youtube and can be seen by clicking here.) Basically, the story seems to go.. that the volunteer was told off by the rescue for not lying about the mauling and what dogs did the damage. What I have found in some cases when it comes to rescue in general is that some are more interested in the lives of the animals over the well being of the community in which those animals are placed. Now.. this is FAR from a majority that believe this.. but, it simply takes one to place a known dangerous dog into the community.. to have another incident with that dog would simply destroy the fact that rescue animals are worthy in the eyes of the general public- it is this that upsets me for all rescues. It is not the first time (trust me.. I have much more to say on the issue in regards to unrelated rescue situations) that people have behaved in a truly irresponsible manner. Now there are bites that are not due to true aggression- each case is different, but when a volunteer is mauled by a group of dogs- it is truly upsetting to see the rescue involved mad that she did not shut her mouth and lie to say that the dogs that did it where not involved and that the damage was caused by strays. This is not how rescue should run - and, in the long run.. protecting dangerous animals puts ALL rescue animals in danger... people do not want to adopt dangerous animals and if rescue puts even one out there- it allows those who work to destroy the reputation of rescue animals (usually those who want people to believe rescue animals are damaged are those that profit on their sales of pure bred animals) to win... less people wanting to adopt due to fear of bites = more dead animals in the shelters.

The above image was taken from the initial news story - which was taken from a screen shot showing the reaction by one of the people who runs the rescue. Not cool. Now.. when this story broke.. people came to the defense of the rescue.. some attacked the rescue.. but, the issue of their intake of money and salary was a big topic. 2013 was their last posted 990 that had been filed. It showed that they had taken in over $700k. According to the 990, over 20k went to salaries while close to 30k went to advertising, about 5k to office expenses, about 9k to travel expenses, about 20k for conferences/conventions/meetings, close to 340k to vet expenses, about 10k for a vehicle allowance, about 2k on phone expenses and around 180k in 'other' expenses. Now... I know there is a whole issue about whether or not the rescue paid for a BMW or paid for drinks at the bar during events and etc. etc. .. but, I don't personally know about any of that so I won't comment on it. What I can see is that on their Petfinder page it states "We are a volunteer-only, 501(c)3 organization, fully dependent on our support community to fund our rescues and vet bills for these desperate pups." ' so this does leave me with the question- why then is anyone taking a salary? If they claim to be 100% volunteer then should there be a salary at all? You are welcome to see for yourself here where I pulled the above quote and below screenshot from. You can also see the publicly accessible 990  here .. I just think it seems a bit misleading if you tell donors and adopters and the public in general that the group is 100% volunteer when the 990 clearly shows at least one person with a salary- don't you?
 While I was visiting their petfinder page, I noticed that they had about 50 animals for adoption and about 400 or so happy tails.(this is great.. I love see adopted animals! I hope that everyone who has adopted has had a good experience) One thing that I have been asking is how many animals have they taken in to their rescue each year.. I mean.. with over 300k in vet bills and about 180k in 'other' it seems like it should be massive numbers per year or at least in 2013. But, no one has yet answered me. According to their own page they have saved over 2000 animals in the years that they have been rescuing.. I wonder why there are less than 500 total posted on petfinder and I wonder how many of those they took in during 2013 were either from the 2000 plus (their website) or 400 plus (their petfinder page) that year.. and why their vet bills and other expenses were so high? (especially since the year prior - the vet expenses were about 60k which is like 5 times less than than 2013 or 2013 was about 5x more.. depending on how you look at it) I don't know.. maybe they just haven't updated their listings on petfinder and really have hundreds available..maybe they had exceptionally ill dogs in 2013 -- maybe there was some outbreak of some expensive disease in the Everglades that I am unaware of. who knows.. but, I don't like people to lie about bites and those bites led me to a lot more questions than I had ever imagined that I would have.

But.. I have to move on.. I have two more news stories that I want to discuss.. this next one might make you ill.. so grab a barf bag before you continue.

So one thing that I have come to learn in all of this is that there really is no regulation on the business of animal rescue. Shelters must provide numbers of intake, adoption and euthanasia etc. But, rescues really have no one to answer to. They may pull from a shelter that requires some data, but there really is no office of rescue oversight or organization of rescue safety that looks over the well being of the animals. Truly, anyone can open a rescue- there is no test of the ability of a person to care for an animal- no test to make sure that they are mentally stable - no background test to make sure that they have not done horrendous things in their past.. there really is nothing. Depending on the state, most people just can register as a non profit very easily-- and some require some more paperwork in order to be able to collect funds. Very few places do any inspections of any kind unless there is a call from whistleblowers or the public to do so. Since it pretty much is as easy to open a rescue as it is to open a Facebook account.. it draws in some pretty unsavory characters.. like a fella named Jonathan Ford from Arkansas.

Ford opened a facebook page and started a rescue to take in unwanted animals like those poor animals that are waiting for safety in those high kill shelters. Of course, there are always people willing to jump onto any new rescue and start handing animals over to that rescue with little to no research on their part. The 'Anything is better than a kill shelter' mentality runs rampant - especially on social media. Ford knew this.. and used it to his advantage to gain animals for his .. umm... lord I don't even like to write about this.. it makes me so sick.. basically - he made himself a rescue so that he could gain animals .. and he raped animals in his care... they call it bestiality and sadly,, in some places it is just a misdemeanor. From the news reports it seems that he not only raped the animals in his care, but he took photos and shared them with women or a woman in an attempt to impress her. Luckily, someone turned him in -- with the evidence. He was arrested, but was soon out free to walk the streets.
there are fates worse than death for homeless animals.. like being sent to this guy .. who likes to rape animals. 

Due to the lack of laws that truly protect the animals in cases such as this,  he was able to be free in a short time- and in his freedom he raped again and broke into the shelter where his previous victim(s) were and assaulted at least one dog again and was planning to steal her when he was caught. You can read about that right here. (Of course he is innocent until proven guilty.. but, I don't want to have to show the pictures on here of why he was arrested in the first place.. and .. it does appear he confessed according to the linked article).

What concerns me greatly is that there are others like him- others that will use the lax state of things with how rescues can be created and run to pretend to be a hero ...while simply using the willingness of others to hand over animals to save them that they can gain victims. I am so sick about this that I don't even want to type more about what he has done.. so I'm moving on to the next big story ..

The news has been a buzz today with the story of the raid on a property in Alabama owned by a woman named Bobbie Taylor. Miz Taylor had been granted the right-- given a contract by the county to run the shelter... instead of the county running its own where they would be required to make stats available to the public regarding intake, adoption and euthanasia etc. as well a having a building where lost animals could be seen by the public. . they contracted with Bobbie to have her run the shelter and it seems there was no oversight at all to what she was truly doing. The contract was for 80k for her to run a no kill shelter.. I mean really-- who doesn't love a no kill shelter? Well, I bet the up to 300 animals being removed from her property today do not.

There are fates worse than death.. fates like being made to sit in your own feces.. to sleep in your own urine.. to be starved and beaten.. those .. so far.. it seems are the fates of some in her care-- at least according to the photos and video that have surfaced. Back in March a load of photos were released showing animals in very bad conditions.. yet, it took the county until the end of JUNE to do anything - and this only seems to be the case due to a volunteer whistle blower who was smart enough to send the video of the conditions to the local news.. and thank God that local news ran the story. You can read/see that story here. With the pressure from the world now knowing about the situation - the local authorities served a search warrant to the property and found the animals in deplorable conditions.
taken from the webpage of fox 6 WBRC

It seems that Bobbie had told the news crew and the authorities that she only had about 80 something animals. However, once the search warrant was issued and the raid happened .. it seems she must be very bad at math.. since.. from the last article, it seems there were actually 250-300 animals on the property. Some of the animals were in such bad shape that they did not even survive the rescue.

Now... if this wasn't bad enough.. Bobbie.. who was acting in the position of the county shelter, appears to have not only left animals in horrendous conditions- but, also dissallowed owners from finding their lost pets! A county run shelter must hold an animal for a certain number of days once found so that the owner has a chance to find them. It seems Bobbie just hid the animals.. well.. at least one. In amongst the stories of the lies and bad conditions there was one about a person who had lost their dog about a year ago- saw the dog on the news in horrible condition- she went to get the dog- was told the dog was not there- and later was able to find the dog hidden in the back in a hard to see in crate-- it just so happens that the same dog had been photo'd earlier in much better condition months prior. You can read about that here. (the dog has been saved and is currently getting the needed vet care that was seemingly withheld)

screen shot taken from WHNT 19 News
I wish that I could say that these stories were isolated incidents, but.. the fact is.. there are stories all the time about bad behavior and danger to animals by the very people that purport to love them and want what is best for them. It is like the Wild West when it comes to rescue .. anyone can open a rescue.. those that sometimes are doing things that are wrong or at least questionable are often times very well protected by those close to them. Once a person has adopted a dog or been helped in any way by an individual or organization- they do tend to look at those that they worked with in a good light and are sometimes unable to see the truths no matter how vivid they are. No one wants to be told that the rescue that they adopted Fluffy from (who is just the best dog in the world) and who they have spent time raising money for and who they have handed over animals too because they trusted .. is bad. No one wants to hear that- I know I don't.

Social media is both a blessing and a curse to homeless animals. I can say that two of my dogs are with me today because I saw them posted online-- it works. But, people are too trusting of those who have created an online presence and do not ask enough questions and ignore questionable behavior- this causes issues in the long run for the animals. Just because a person says that they are a rescue and doing right by the animals- does not make it so. Just because a rescue is attacked online does not make that rescue bad.. too many times I see things go on online that make rescue look like The Game of Thrones (sans beheadings) .. but, the truth is.. there are some truly excellent rescues out there and they mostly are not in the news at all.. they are not sensational and are too busy savng animals to work social media and the media as a whole.. and because some never question the true motives of some people who are more prevelant they believe and donate to those who may do less and may not truly be saving the animals like they say they are. (like those who keep hundreds in small and/or muddy run down runs and cages)

But,, like I said.. I am an artist.. this all interests me. I hate so much of what goes on.. but, art is not all about flowers, sunshine, unicorns and what we love.. sometimes it is about what frustrates us and disgusts us and upsets us.. and that is where I am with my work right now. But, I just cannot make art about these issues without talking about the issues as they are.. so.. here they are. You decide what you want .. but, I think we can do better.. on much of this. Never be afraid to question things and if anyone tries to make you afraid when you do- you know there is something wrong.

..I will load some work on here when I have more completed and get better photos...but, for now.. just keep an eye out for red flags because the animals do not have the ability to speak up so they need you to do that for them.