Imagine your cat darting out of your house while you are away for a few days taking care of a sick relative. Your neighbor, who is watching your cat while you are away, calls you in a panic because they can’t find your baby. You come home as soon as you can, two days later, and go to the Wexford County Animal Shelter in person to look for your cat. It’s not there. You visit every day for two weeks but you never find your kitty. After a few months of looking, you sadly decide that someone must have kept your best friend and you hope that he or she is doing okay in their new home. Your heart is broken but there isn’t anything else you can do. What you don’t know is that someone found your cat, turned it into the shelter and it was killed the next day.
If the Wexford County Animal Shelter would have abided by the state’s mandated hold times for stray pets, you would have found your cat safe and sound at the shelter. But according to their own records in the animal shelter’s adopt-a-friend computer system, they DON’T always abide by the state’s mandated hold times for pets.
The state of Michigan requires animal shelters to hold onto pets for at least four days if they are strays. These days do not include the day the animal was brought in, any weekends or holidays. In fact, the way the law is written, the state of Michigan documents state “a day should be interpreted to mean a 24 hour period.” If an animal has a form of identification such as a name tag, rabies tag, microchip, tattoo or other ID, that animal is supposed to be held a minimum of seven days before it is euthanized or adopted. Animals that are surrendered by their owners unfortunately do not have any stray holds – they can be killed within minutes of being turned into an animal shelter.
Pet Friends Magazine did an audit on the Wexford County Animal Control records after doing three FOIA requests. Although all of the requested records were not obtained, the audit still found at least 55 cases where stray animals were killed before their state mandated hold time was expired. 10 animals were killed the same day they were brought in, 16 were killed within one day, 16 were killed within two days and 13 were killed within three days of the animal being brought in to the shelter.
Only three of these animals were listed as being sick in the notes that the shelter had in their system. One cat was attacked by a dog and had a possible spinal cord injury; another cat was wheezing and another one might have had distemper. This brings the number to 52 for healthy animals who were killed before their stray hold was up. None of these animals were listed as aggressive in the shelter’s notes either. In fact, the Chow/Shepherd mix that was brought in from animal control and killed the same day (which happened to be Memorial Day when an owner couldn’t even show up at the shelter) actually was noted as “friendly” on the ACO’s dispatch log.
Pet Friends Magazine would have liked to post photos of these animals for owner identification but the county could not provide any photos even though their policy states that every animal taken in must be photographed.
If you are concerned that one of the pets that was killed too soon might be yours, you can click here for the complete list, including the date taken into the shelter, the type of pet, the color, sex, approximate age and sometimes an indication of the area the pet was found. Don’t be concerned about the date-of-birth listed as those are just guesses that were made by the shelter staff.
The mystery of the Manchester Terrier has also been solved after looking at the Wexford County Animal Shelter Records. One of the dogs who was killed the same day it was taken into the shelter was the Manchester Terrier (dog #6681), whose story was brought up at the Wexford County Commissioner’s meeting on January 31st. In October of 2012, the dog had been running loose near McDonalds and Goodwill. Several people had called Animal Control about the dog, worried that it might get hit by traffic.
Donna Weaver was one of these callers and even tried to catch the dog herself. After pulling into McDonalds, see saw a little brown and black dog running around. Weaver was afraid it would get hit by a car. She went to her office and called dispatch over and over again. She could see that the dog was traumatized and frightened to death. She tried three times to catch the dog but could not catch the dog. She continued to call dispatch after watching more cars go by and barely miss hitting the dog.
While Weaver was downstate at a meeting, Animal Control finally went to find the dog – and it was caught by using a tranquilizer gun. After that, it was taken in to the shelter. What we know now is that the claim by former animal shelter attendant Kathy Dennis that the dog (who had a collar on) was taken immediately to the kill room and euthanized is true. Documents obtained from the animal shelter’s software program show that the date of intake and the date of euthanasia is October 15th. It was killed the same day it arrived at the shelter, a clear violation of the mandated hold periods required by the State of Michigan.
The first thing the next morning, Weaver called the shelter to inquire about the stray dog to see about adopting him. She had a long conversation with ACO Officer Michelle Smith who told her that the dog was given to a Manchester Terrier rescue group downstate – and others who worked in the shelter were also instructed by Smith to tell the same story. These stories were obviously lies to cover up what really happened to the dog. Not only was the dog not given sufficient time to be reclaimed by its owner, a person who would have adopted him was also not allowed to save his life.
No attempt to find the owner was made. No attempt to allow someone to adopt the dog was made. The evidence of this heartless act is in black and white in the county’s own paperwork. What kind of “shelter” is Wexford County running?
When Donna Weaver found out that the dog had been killed, she was devastated. She said, “my heart breaks as the community I know and love and live in is so broken…I will continue to share my story of Mani over and over again – I call him Mani as that would have been his name in our little family. Lily (daughter) was excited to meet him even if he was so scared of her as we tried several times to rescue him ourselves. Perhaps, as the tears roll down my cheeks, now that I can hardly see, we should have tried harder. So sorry little Mani.”
Dee Anna Lorett-Robinson also recognized one of the animals on the shelter’s kill list – a white and grey Siamese cat (#6388) who was taken in on July 16th and killed within a day. Dee Anna had originally taken the cat to Meyer Veterinary Clinic because the cat was so thin. They told her to take it to the shelter. Had Dee Anna known this little cat was going to be killed, she never would have dropped it off at the shelter. Although it was very thin, it had a happy purr and was beautiful and friendly. Siamese cats are also usually very adoptable cats because animal shelters don’t receive a lot of them. The person at the animal shelter assured Dee Anna that the cat would be adopted out easily but once again, that was not the case. Once again, another animal was not given the chance to be reclaimed by the owner or adopted out.
How many more pet owners are out there who were not given a chance to reclaim their family members? How many more people are out there who thought they were helping an animal by taking it to the shelter only to be betrayed by the shelter killing that animal before it had time to be found or be adopted?
There seems to be a general incompetence in the whole animal control accounting system as to what the actual numbers are regarding intake, adoptions and euthanasias. The information provided does NOT match up between the different reports. The information that the Sheriff provides in his monthly reports does not match up to most of the information provided in the shelter software system that is done at the shelter. Click here for the comparison report. Of 48 categories that I did an audit on, only 5 numbers matched up between these two sources. When taking a look at the number of adoptions that the treasurer had money for, that number was only 114 even though the shelter software system reports 482 animals being adopted and the Sheriff reports shows 419 animals being adopted. Whose numbers are right? Why are there discrepancies? Additionally, there are five animals that are listed as being killed twice. There are also no “transfers” listed in their records over the years but the shelter DOES release animals to rescue groups. Are these animals being documented as euthanized or adopted instead of under the “transfer” category as the state requires?
There was also very unsettling information uncovered pertaining to the euthanasia documentation. While auditing the drug logs where information is required to be kept for the state because controlled substances are used, it was found that there were 12 dates listed that notes ACO Michelle Smith as euthanizing animals on dates that she did not work because of vacation, sickness or a personal day off. There is only one ACO on record who is certified to do euthanasias and that is ACO Michelle Smith. Who euthanized these animals?
When I asked Sheriff for a comment about the hold times not being followed, the discrepancies between the different animal reports and the information on the drug reports listing ACO Michelle Smith as euthanizing animals when she was not presently at work, I received no comment from him.