Monday, July 28, 2014

Milwaukee Animal Alliance Encourages Residents to "Adopt Local"

Last December I wrote a blog about the practice of out of state transports, importing dogs (and sometimes even cats) from other states while local animals die. It continues to be a hot topic, with opinions on both sides of the aisle.

Milwaukee Animal Alliance, a grassroots organization dedicated to animal welfare,  has created a fun, positive approach to encourage people to "Adopt Local" by supporting those shelters and rescues that source at least 75% of their animals from Wisconsin.

"The "local" movement encourages people to shop and dine at local businesses," said Kelly Herbold, MAA spokesperson.  "Through this campaign, we also want to encourage Wisconsin residents to adopt local.

Milwaukee Animal Alliance supports Wisconsin shelters and rescues that address the needs of local animals," said Herbold.  "Wisconsin has wonderful pets right here that need homes, and we believe the shelters and rescues we highlight are making the best use of time, money and resources to help these amazing, local animals."

The following local personalities pose with Wisconsin rescue pets in a series of ads designed to encourage the public to "Adopt Local".  Check out Milwaukee Animal Alliance on Facebook
 and their website!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Found Dog A281263 - Killed at MADACC

I presented the following information on Tuesday, July 15 at the MADACC Operations Committee meeting. 

My name is Kathy Pobloskie and I am the Director of Lost Dogs of Wisconsin. We are an all-volunteer organization committed to reuniting lost dogs with their owners.  We receive lost and found reports from around the state and from January through June 30, 2014, we have helped reunite 1004 Wisconsin dogs with their owners.   Our 70 plus volunteers personally contact every person that files a lost or found dog report to give them advice and support based on what we have learned from the successful reunions of several thousand dogs since we started in 2010. At Lost Dogs of Wisconsin, we strive to maintain good working relationships with shelters and believe that through teamwork we can help more lost dogs get home. 

Recently,  we have received several troubling stories from Milwaukee county, and today I want to tell you about this one – an unnamed dog  (No A281263) that was found by a Good Samaritan. I also want to mention that I did email Ms. Sparapani  with our concerns about this dog, but did not receive a reply.

On June 4, a Glendale resident was walking his two dogs in Lincoln Park.  This black and white dog approached his dogs in a very friendly manner and began to follow them.  When I spoke with the finder,  he described the dog as very friendly, obviously well cared for – of good weight, and wearing a black nylon collar but no tags.  He proceeded home with the dog following behind. When he got home this dog was initiating play with his two dogs, and was even friendly with his cats.  He filed a report with us on the evening of June 4 which we posted.  

He also sent a picture to MADACC ‘s Facebook page in the hopes that an owner would be found quickly which was shared  on the Stray Animals of Milwaukee County’s Facebook page on June 5th. 

Since the finder already has two dogs and two cats and couldn't keep this dog himself, he wanted to find the owner quickly or help facilitate a new home for the dog.  He felt bad keeping the dog in his garage, and since he knew that MADACC was the official stray holding facility (information that we provide) he brought the dog to MADACC after work on June 5th.  I sent in an Open Records Request for the information on this dog and it shows that the dog was impounded at 5:32 p.m. on June 5th.   The finder mentioned that he had a friend that might be interested in adopting the dog if nobody reclaimed him and he was told to check back after the 7 day stray hold was up. 

On  June 5th the dog received an intake exam and was found to be normal.  It was estimated he was 2 years old and his weight was 68.5 pounds.  It was noted that he had a black nylon collar on.

Twice during the week the finder called to check on the status of the dog and to inform MADACC that a friend would like to see the dog and possibly adopt.  He was told to call back after the seven day stray hold was up.

On June 10th the dog apparently showed signs of kennel cough and was put on a 10 day treatment of antibiotics.

On June 11th, Lorraine Sweeney evaluated the dog and said he failed dog to dog.  That is all it says – there is no written behavior evaluation or any other details. 

On June 11th the dog’s paperwork was also stamped as being MADACC’s property.

On June 12th the dog was put down at 9:41 a.m.  The reason listed is  BO “behavior observed”. (see above)

On June 12th the finder called to check on the status of the dog because he knew that the 7 day stray hold should expire at 5:30 that afternoon and he wanted to make arrangements for his friend to come in and see the dog.

But it was too late. He was told the dog was already dead.

In closing I want to read the following quotes from Ms. Sparapani from the Listening sessions:
 "Decisions to end the life of an animal are not taken lightly here, and we are working very hard to reduce the number of animals that are euthanized."

"Our behavior assessments are some of the most liberal around because of the fact that we know the dogs are likely showing their worst behavior because of fear and stress while at MADACC."

In closing, I would like to point out that there are some very troubling aspects to this story.

1.      The dog was killed before the state-mandated seven day stray hold expired.
2.      The dog was killed for dog aggression which he clearly did not have. If he showed any signs of aggression it was probably due to kennel stress, 
3.      The dog was killed when there was a potential home available for him. An obvious breakdown in communication must have occurred between the front desk fielding the calls and whoever should have made a notation in the file that there was an interested party.

I am hoping that  dog A281263 did not die in vain. Please ensure that changes will be made to MADACC procedures to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

Thank you,
Kathy Pobloskie

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Grasping at Straws

As America steadily makes strides towards a No Kill Nation, the defenders of shelter killing are making last-ditch attempts to maintain their positions. But it is a death roll for the dinosaurs. They will soon all be gone, and this last attempt to appear relevant is ludicrous.

Recently we had a  hoarding situation in Caledonia, Racine County.  Orphaned Kanines was housing dozens of animals in horrendous conditions.  The animals have since been seized and most have been adopted to new homes thanks to the Wisconsin Humane Society and the local officials that reported the situation.  There were many cracks in the system that led to these conditions.  More on that later.  You can read the whole story at this link.

The business model used by Orphaned Kanines was NOT No Kill sheltering. But the dinosaurs would like the public to believe it is. Then they can point their fingers and say "look at how awful No Kill shelters are. They hoard and warehouse animals."

So just as a quick refresher: Here are two resources for you to read and share when you see the dinosaurs and internet trolls attempt to discredit No Kill sheltering.

A short video from the KC Pet Project in Kansas City,  Missouri that shows a large municipal No Kill shelter in action.

And a really good article from Christie Keith on the subject:
"Hoarding" and "warehousing arise from traditional, not no-kill, shelter models.

He who refuses to learn deserves extinction.  -Rabbi Hillel

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Fox Guarding the Hen House?

It is not new news that the former Executive Director of the Sheboygan County Humane Society, Eilene Ribbens,  was found guilty by a no contest plea to charges of possessing illegally obtained prescription drugs and possessing with intent to deliver prescription drugs (the latter is a felony). She apparently used the shelter veterinarian's license to obtain prescription drugs for her family.  The story was covered extensively in the local and national press.  Here is one account from WISN 12 News and you can easily google other ones as well as the entire criminal complaint and the outcome of the case.

The thing that you might be surprised to know is that Eilene Ribbens remains the treasurer of the Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, Inc., a  non-profit organization that solicits donations and claims to represent humane societies in the state of Wisconsin.

I'm not sure if it wise to having a criminal handling your finances. But the "good ole' boys network" that has been the core of Wisconsin animal sheltering for decades, seem to have no problem with it.  There is actually a Code of Ethics (see below) that the board members have to sign in order to be able to hold a board seat.  I guess "obeying the law" isn't a requirement.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

If You See Something, Say Something

One of the things that I find most disturbing about animal welfare is the reluctance of volunteers, donors, staff, and the general public to say something when they see something wrong. Shelter directors will also "circle the wagons" to protect their colleagues. 

A reluctance to speak up about needless shelter killing probably stems from a fear of confrontation, or backlash, or who might "unfriend" you. I'm going to give you a really simple way to decide when to say something.

You don't need to be loyal to a shelter, or a rescue, or a Facebook friend.  Be loyal to the animals. Give credit where credit is due, but don't be silent when you see something wrong. If an animal has been needlessly killed, or is in harm's way,  say something. They are depending on you.

Thank you to all of you who are speaking out. You are saving lives. 

Related Reading: The Litmus Test

"Nothing will "change" if people remain silent when animals are being needlessly killed in shelters. History has proven that!" - Brian Munro

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Milwaukee Court Case Dogs Held Three Years in Captivity

Sally, seized on 6-10-2011 by the Milwaukee Police Department. She has been housed at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Commission (MADACC) ever since.

June 11, 2014 marks the third year "anniversary" of the impoundment of many of  Milwaukee's Court Case dogs. These six dogs were seized from an alleged dog fighter in June 2011. This particular case will go before the courts in October 2014.

This Youtube video posted by WISN 12 News from March 2013, is a sad reminder of how little progress has been made in the last year. Court Case dogs are double victims of cruelty. Once at the hands of their owners, and then once at the hands of the system, a system who has locked them up and thrown away the key.

David Mangold, a Milwaukee citizen and creator of  the Save Milwaukee's Court Case Dogs Facebook page,   has advocated tirelessly for these dogs for the past three years. When I asked him his thoughts on the situation, these were his comments:

What role do you think that media and politics has played in the plight of the Court Case Dogs?
Milwaukee itself has a unique problem with the Court Case Dogs.  The media in this city is absolutely ignoring this situation.  To me they are a big part of the problem.  If the media won't report on this situation, then the politicians have no political will to do anything about it.  In fact, they are complicit together.  I've been to several meetings over the years where the City Attorney is extremely reluctant to change the status quo (that is, to hold a seizure hearing).  Combine this with a do-nothing Mayor, and the situation is grave.  Until something changes (ie. a new Mayor or leadership upheaval at the Journal-Sentinel), the situation will continue to be as we see it now.

What role does MADACC play and how can they prevent this from happening again?
I've been inquiring with MADACC about their contract with the city.  I've asked them to either eliminate the part of their contract with Milwaukee requiring them to take in fight case dogs, or to go big and get a separate facility to house and care for these victims of cruelty properly.  Now they're holding over 40 fight case dogs and we're going into the busy season of summer.  Forty dogs fills 30% of MADACC's capacity right off the bat.  So they will surely be having problems with space, leading to potentially more shelter deaths in their 140 dog facility.

How do you feel on this third anniversary?
After three years of captivity, the question of whether any of these dogs can be saved is growing. As so much time in captivity goes by, they can become very stressed and rightly so.  The time it has taken to carry these dogs through to trial is a big part of the problem.  Pennsylvania has solved this problem with their Act 50, the Cost of Care of Seized Animals Act.  Wisconsin should do the same.

So as the third year comes and goes, you have to wonder. Where will be next year at this time? And more importantly, where will the Court Case dogs be?

You can help.  Please call or write to your City of Milwaukee alderman, or your elected officials in any of the other municipalities of  Milwaukee County.  Please contact any connections that you have in the local media and ask them to cover the story. Your tax dollars fund MADACC. And your tax dollars also fund the drugs that will be used to kill dogs at MADACC who need the space occupied by the Court Case dogs.

Like and share the Facebook page: Save Milwaukee's Court Case Dogs

Additional reading:  

American Bar Association Supports Justice for Victims of Animal Cruelty by Ledy VanKavage

National Animal Control Association guidelines for seized dogs

Link to KISS-FM Radio Interview: 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kevin Wilken Fired From Saginaw Animal Services

A chapter in Wisconsin (and Michigan) animal welfare history has finally ended. Kevin Wilken was fired from his position at Saginaw Animal Services in Michigan after being suspended and put on paid administrative leave since December 2013.  The county board voted unanimously (9-0) to fire him on May 28, 2014.

Violations included: improper adoption practices, issues with an animal's cage which led to its death, and 83 instances where the shelter killed an animal before the stray holding period was up. You can read the whole story at this link.

Kevin Wilken was employed at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) until October 2012.  His performance was under review for several months and both he and David Flagler were escorted out of the building.  They were apparently "asked to resign".  No reasons for the terminations of their employment were ever given and both quickly went on to new positions in animal shelters in other states. 

Many of the problems that I wrote about in a series of blogs in late 2012 were things that would have been under Kevin's control in his position as Kennel Manager.  To know that he went on to a new shelter to continue the cruelty for over another year is a travesty. MADACC's operating committee had the opportunity to see that his career in animal sheltering ended at MADACC but they didn't. 

Fortunately, Mr. Google will ensure that Wilken's reputation will now precede him whenever he applies for a job.  Thank you to the Michigan newspapers and other media that followed the story of his suspension, the investigation and his dismissal. Thank you also to the Saginaw County Board who had the courage to fire Wilken and make the findings public. You have done a service to the animals and the taxpayers. I wish the MADACC board would have done the same. Many animals and tax dollars could have been saved.   

Just a heads up:  Kevin Wilken's name is associated with two other organizations:

Humane Consultations: The mission of Humane Consultations is to provide animal shelters, animal control agencies, and rescue organizations comprehensive consulting services and trainings at an affordable price. Humane Consultations will focus on providing personal and specialized services to meet each client’s specific needs.

I would suggest that if you or your shelter are approached to host or attend a webinar by Humane Consultations you run, not walk in the other direction.

Wisconsin Animal Control Association:  Although Wilken's name has been removed from this website, the Humane Consultations website makes this statement: "He has also served as the Vice President for the Wisconsin Animal Control Association.  Over the years, he has overseen large impoundments that has included dogs, cats, rabbits, farm animals, birds, alligators, anacondas, venomous reptiles, and rodents.  Mr. Wilken has been published numerous times in the animal welfare field and has conducted training  for the National Animal Control Association and the Wisconsin Animal Control Association."

I sleep better at night knowing the Kevin Wilken is gone.  I hope his dismissal serves as a reminder to others employed in the animal welfare field that people are sitting up and taking notice of what they do. Taking notice of how many animals go out the front door alive, and how many go out the back door to the incinerator or the dumpster.  Taking notice of the conditions the animals live in, and the way the shelter interacts with volunteers, adopters, donors and the community. If you see something that isn't right, say something.  The animals are depending on you.

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” 
― Thomas Paine