Monday, June 29, 2015

Joni's Story: Another Good Dog Dies

Spot Joni! He's snuggled in a pile of stuffies. 
Joni (left) playing well with another dog.

Joni (right) resting after a fun day's play. 

I haven't blogged in awhile. Not because of a lack of things to blog about though (the stack of potential stories on my desk is high!).  It's mostly due to a lack of time.  I apologize. I apologize to my readers but most of all I apologize to the good animals that are still dying in Wisconsin. Progress is being made - yes. But good animals are still dying. Good dogs are still dying. Dogs like Joni (sometimes spelled Jonnie or Johnni in the paperwork).

I've received information from lots of people with stories to tell about good dogs (and cats) that have died. But Joni caught my attention for a couple of reasons. As you can see by the pictures, he was a good dog whom the system failed.

Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) is a taxpayer funded agency.  Therefore, they are required to provide documentation and information when requested.  This is called different things in different states, but is often referred to as a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), even though this is the term used by the federal government.  In Wisconsin, it is called the Public Records Law (Wis. Stat. 19.31 - 19.39) and is sometimes referred to as an Open Records Request.  The intent of these laws are to provide effective oversight of government offices and employees and they are an important part of a democratic government.  Agencies are allowed to charge a reasonable fee for locating, copying and mailing the records.  The costs of copying and mailing must not exceed the actual cost incurred.  The cost of locating the records must reflect the hourly wage of the lowest paid employee capable of doing the task.

What caught my eye about Joni's story was that the cost for the 38 page record request was $58 (most are between $3 and $5).  The records were picked up in person so no mailing costs were incurred. This exhorbitant price is obviously an attempt by MADACC to thwart attempts by the public to find out what is going on and I would hope that if any of you meet this or any of the other resistant tactics they have tried (ignoring requests for records, requiring that you pick them up in person, etc.) that you file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Justice - Office of the Attorney General, who is responsible for oversight of Wisconsin's Public Records Law.  More information can be found at this link.

Now on to Joni's story.

Joni was a one year old, white and tan mixed breed dog brought to MADACC as a stray on June 25, 2014.

An owner was found but from the notes in the file it sounds like the cost to reclaim him was beyond the means of the owner. Even though MADACC lowered the intial reclaim fees, it must have been too much, because the owner made the decision to not reclaim him.   As a side note, consider how much money and heartache could have been saved, if the reclaim fees had been waived entirely.  As Mitch Schneider (former head of Washoe County Animal Services in Reno, Nevada) says:

But unfortunately Joni didn't get to go home. Instead he was evaluated, given a good evaluation (shown below), neutered, vaccinated, and placed for adoption.

 A very nice family adopted Joni and took him home in late July 2014. They renamed him Odie.  He got along well with the other dog, cat and two small children. (see pictures above).  But their other dog was 10 years old and Joni was a bit much for him. Out of respect for their older dog, they made the difficult decision to return Joni, hoping that he would find a better match with another younger, active dog in the household.

Joni was adopted again in September. The adopter took him home but also felt that he wasn't a good match for her other dog, so he was returned again.

Fast forward to the "Empty the Shelter" event in October. Joni was adopted a third time to a man from West Allis.  It would be hoped that the shelter staff made sure it was a suitable match for Joni and that this third time would be the home he desperately needed - an active loving home that would be just the right fit for such a wonderful, energetic young dog.

Joni was brought in as a "stray" on March 16, 2015.  According to the notes, the owner's phone number attached to the microchip was temporarily out of order so MADACC sent a letter to the residence. He was not reclaimed.

On March 19, 2015 - the note says that Wisconsin Humane Society evaluated him and gave him a poor evaluation.  (see the note in the Comment section on the upper right hand corner of the document below:  3/19/15 Poor eval per WHS. L.S. (Lorraine Sweeney) ) Joni was killed at MADACC on March 24, 2015. Reason given was Behavior Observed.    He was never placed on the transfer list or offered to the rescue groups. He was never given another chance at a home. He was killed one day after his stray hold was up.

Important to note is that there was absolutely no written behavior evaluations included with Joni's documents. In fact, it seems that written behavior evaluations are not being done at all at MADACC which goes against the recommendations of the Association of Shelter Veterinarian's 2010 Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters.  Their recommendations  on page 33 state: "A standardized behvaior examination form should be used and each evaluation should be documented.  Formal behavior evaluation should not necessarily invalidate information provided by the owner or observations made during staff interactions with an animal.  An overall assessment must include all of the information (history, behavior during shelter stay, and formal evaluation) gathered about the animal."

I have not seen documented behavior evaluations attached to any of the Open Records Requests in the last two years.

Rest in peace, Joni. You were a good dog. And as long as good dogs continue to die, I will continue to write about them.

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