Sunday, May 31, 2009

Washington Co/Johnson City Animal Shelter in TN Kills a Pitbull

Earlier this month, I mentioned this TN shelter which had a Pitbull stolen from it. The perpetrators were caught on surveillance video. Prosecuting that crime went nowhere (shocking, I know) but oddly enough, someone actually turned the dog back in to the shelter on May 15. The man relinquishing the dog said he wasn't the one who stole him but had obtained him from another man, whose name he did not know. Stay with me now, as we get sucked deeper into the WTF Vortex:
The stocky Joker had lost some weight, and during his 13-day absence, Joker’s demeanor had changed, [Shelter Director Debbie] Dobbs said. While he still exhibited the same friendly attitude toward animal shelter employees and adults he did before he was taken, he returned with an aggressive attitude toward other animals and young children.

OK so in 13 days, the dog had become aggressive toward other pets and kids. If we take that at face value, I guess we could look at it as a rehab challenge. The dog's needs have now shifted to include behavioral modification with other pets and kids. Obviously this isn't a lifelong pattern of behavior, just something the dog supposedly picked up at some point over the last 13 days. Doesn't sound too daunting to attempt to rehab. So what efforts did the shelter make toward this end?

While she noticed no wounds on him or evidence of fighting, Dobbs said Joker’s personality change was likely caused by the breeding of the un-neutered animal. Dobbs said such activity in any breed of dog causes the animal’s testosterone levels to elevate and leads to them becoming much more territorial.

“He definitely wasn’t the calm, happy dog he was when he left,” she said.

Oh dear. Attention male mammals: breeding turns you into a territorial, aggressive beast. There goes all those Father of the Year awards. How did we ever manage to domesticate Man's Best Friend if the males all turn into aggressive a-holes after breeding?

So what about the rehab for Joker?

Dobbs said Joker was given a couple of days to settle down upon his return, and another temperament evaluation was performed.

This is the rehab? Sitting in a shelter run for a couple days before conducting another eval? And we would expect to see different results why exactly?

This time, however, Joker failed the evaluation.

Joker displayed his new aggressiveness toward children and other dogs, Dobbs said.

Well blow me down. Couldn't have seen those test results coming a mile away. And by the way, what qualifications did the person conducting the evaluations have? It wasn't the same person who thinks breeding turns a dog into an aggressive animal I hope.

“I had people who came in here with their children and said he was barking and lunging at the cage with the children, so I said ‘that’s it,’” Dobbs said.

And by "that's it" of course, she means she killed the dog. On May 20. Five days after he'd been returned.

To recap, for those of you who didn't have your Stupidity Seatbelts fastened:

Joker was out of the shelter for 13 days. The Director guesses that he was bred during that time which changed him from a friendly dog into an aggressive dog. He was returned to the shelter, evaluated apparently twice (by someone of unspecified qualifications), given no training (at least none mentioned in the article), and killed within 5 days of his return.

Regarding the thieves who stole Joker from the shelter, the Director says:
“Sure, we’d love to prosecute them for stealing, because that is theft,” she said.
Yeah and I'd love to prosecute you for failing to provide shelter for this dog and for using an "evaluation" as an excuse for killing him. Because that is theft. Theft of trust from your community and from this poor dog who had no choice but to trust and rely upon you for care.

Every dog deserves a fair evaluation by a qualified individual as a means to help determine what type of training and home environment is best suited to the dog. A fair evaluation is not a "pass/fail" and is not an excuse for killing. Shelter Fail.

Maybe the Director figured that since Joker had no owner and no one to speak for him, she could just kill him without consequence. The tragic irony being that the Shelter Director herself is supposed to be Joker's advocate. It is she who is paid to be his voice and protect him from cruelty. And it's all of us in the community who must hold our fellow citizens accountable for their actions.

Goodbye Joker. I'm sorry we failed you.


jayjenjo said...

Wow, thank you Debbie Dobbs, you have opened my eyes!

22 years of keeping INTACT dogs (who OMG, BREED once in a while) 10 years of them around around my own 3 kids and "Oh, Yeah," I grew up with INTACT dogs and wow, I guess I'm lucky they never went postal from being naturally intact.

Maybe it was the training and socialization that made a difference? BTW the three bites I've had were all from sterilized, never bred animals.

Ever consider that Joker may have been exposed to an aggressive dog while missing? That he might have been teased? That he might be freaked out and defensive? That being in a run, surrounded by barking strange dogs and feeling TRAPPED when families walk up and stare at the confined dog might be a part of the issue?

Ever hear of neuter and foster care, exercise and training. Apparently not. Poor dog.

jayjenjo said...

Sorry, had to vent. I have a new rescue who AC dropped the ball on royally.

His "dog aggression" is fear. he is 5 and I doubt he has seen a dog since he left his litter.

3 days of tutoring by my very calm, social dogs and he is rapidly going from "extremely dog aggressive" per the shelter to "social butterfly" at warp speed.

People like Ms Dobbs drive me around the bend...