I’ve been working on reform of dog control and shelter standards laws now since October 2011. It has proven to be an enlightening, frustrating and surprisingly long-term endeavor.
For those new to my blogs, this journey began as an effort to reform the Kent County SPCA. It has grown much larger, although I still believe that some of the worst violations of both the various CAPA laws and animal/dog control enforcement are perpetrated by the KCSPCA.
I – and the others I work with – have been described variously by the KCSPCA leadership as:
- Disgruntled former board members
- A vocal minority with personal agendas
- Fringe extremists of the no-kill movement
KCSPCA leadership and supporters both dismiss the complaints we have collated, pretty much saying that of course the pet owners are lying. But we are all supposed to believe the complaints against Safe Haven without question.
Some have said that we don’t give enough detail, but when we offer that detail, no one wants it. Our statements have remained pretty consistent. Our search for clarification on legislation has been ongoing – and sometimes our interpretation of that legislation has had to change. It has been clear that some of the legislation NEEDS to be amended for clarity.
So here are some of my thoughts on what has been said by KCSPCA leadership and supporters, certain agencies and the media – and I tried to keep repetition from my last blog to a minimum (Just because you keep saying it, doesn’t make it true….):
*** Honesty – as in, if you tell the truth, you don’t have to worry about keeping track of your lies – or having other people do it for you. ***
· In the January 2, 2012 News Journal, Secretary Kee (Dept. of Agriculture) said he had received 20 complaints, covering shelter standards and conditions and animal control issues. Yet, at the October 2012 Animal WelfareTask Force meeting, Secretary Kee said he only had 5 complaints since CAPA was implemented.
· On January 13, 2012, Secretary Kee met with several of us in his office to discuss the documents we had sent him. He told us he would arrange another meeting with us in one month. We never heard from him again, even when we e-mailed him asking about the meeting and then, in June, sending him another report concerning conditions at the KCSPCA shelter.
· On June 6, 2012, Mr. Usilton and Board president Alex Moore walked out of a meeting with Kent County Levy Court Commissioners. On June 11, the KCSPCA Board voted to withdraw its bids to Kent County for the dog control contract. Subsequently, in news articles and on the KCSPCA website, Mr. Usilton claimed that Kent County refused to negotiate.
· In the June 27 Dover Post, Mr. Usilton said that the KCSPCA handles 15,000 animals a year. At the November 2012 AWTF meeting, he said that the KCSPCA killed 16,000 animals in 2004. That is about 44 animals per day. So – how many did the KCSPCA actually handle in 2004? And why so many more than now? Or is that just a number Mr. Usilton pulled out of the air?
· At the November 12th KCSPCA Board meeting, Mr. Usilton said that they would be reimbursed for their efforts during “Sandy.” The Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) would reimburse them for the Delaware shelters and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) would pay them for the recovery work in New Jersey. In the November 13th Delaware State News, in a letter to the editor, he stated that there was no funding for these endeavors and asked for donations to cover the costs. Well, maybe this wasn’t in the KCSPCA budget, but why not tell the truth, that they were getting paid for it? This would appear to be soliciting money with a false or misleading statement. At best, a sin of omission; at worst, fraud.
· In a June Dover Post article, Mr. Usilton said that they handle 15,000 animals a year. But if you look at the quarterly statistics, you will see that they inflate their “intake” numbers with pets that have come through their clinic for rabies vaccinations or spay/neuter. They remove those number for their “adjusted intake.” I don’t believe that animals brought to the clinic can actually be claimed as shelter intake. So, using only their adjusted intake figures from the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2012, and extrapolating a similar number for the remainder of the year, I get less than 8,000 animals per year. Even a 25% increase brings it to less than 10,000. So where are the 15,000 animals?
(See my previous blog concerning the number of animals Mr. Usilton claims were euthanized by the KCSPCA several years ago – an even higher figure than the 15,000 he claims they handle each year.)
The intake numbers are not broken down by Dog Control and county, Cruelty cases or owner relinquished. It is not required by law, but I would think they would do so to support their arguments for more money. They also have a line that says “died in shelter or lost.” It is not broken down by category. In the first 6 months of the year, there are over 200 animals in this category. One pet owner whose dog was “lost” in their care for quarantine (2011) has been told it was her fault for not telling them the dog could climb fences (hello? Quarantine?). 200 animals is a lot, whether they died (how?) or were “lost.” Enough so that “losing” an animal cannot be attributed to some sort of one-time glitch.
· Mr. Usilton stated at the November AWTF meeting that the animal control agency in Philadelphia only holds animals for 24 hours. I contacted the Animal Care and Control Team via e-mail. Their hold time is 48 hours, NOT 24.
*** “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” As in, you can’t demand that one shelter be held accountable, and not the others. ***
· The board of directors of the KCSPCA want Safe Haven investigated and made to comply with the laws, but refuse to provide accountability for their own organization, stating that they are a private non-profit organization. (KCSPCA Board meeting of July 2012 and e-mails to the Attorney General’s office arguing that they are not subject to FOIA)
· The director of the KCSPCA takes it on himself to e-mail the directors of the No-Kill shelters stating they are violating state law, but ignores the complaints against his own shelter, dismissing the complainants as a vocal minority of the no-kill movement. (I or those in our group have seen these e-mails, and KCSPCA leadership has made it clear in their board meetings that they do not consider any complaints made against them to be true.)
(Please refer to my last blog for details regarding complaints against Safe Haven that have ALSO been made about the KCSPCA.)
*** News media – as in, Why will they print anything the KCSPCA supporters or Safe Haven detractors say, but won’t print any of the detailed and documented complaints we have brought to them? ***
Complaints against the KCSPCA that are documented, with details such as names and dates, are ignored by the press; KCSPCA supporters make claims about what goes on at Safe Haven, and are given play in the news media.
Particularly interesting is that we have been told by various reporters that A) they can’t print a one-sided story and B) they can’t print a story without proof. Yet they print Mr. Usilton’s descriptions of us without checking, and they ignored documents that included photographs. Hmmmmmm…….I guess actually investigating or checking your sources isn’t required of Delaware journalists.
When you actually look into some of those claims (about Safe Haven) that the news media WILL print (without input from Safe Haven, making it a one-sided story) you run into people using fake names to make statements on FaceBook, people who admit they just “heard it was like that” and people who are so illiterate that it is a challenge to try to read what they have to say. And the supporters who cross the line at Safe Haven events, requiring police involvement, say those events never happened - because Safe Haven did not press charges. Those reaping the benefit of Safe Haven’s clemency seem to believe that no formal police report, means nothing happened. According to them, the notation in a police officer’s day book isn’t a report. Interesting, because I was always told those reports can be used in court.
What’s even more amazing is that some of the Cape Gazette’s articles containing these stories about Safe Haven have been picked up by writers outside of Delaware. Either they assumed the CG checked its sources, or they don’t care, either.
*** Drinking the Koolaid – as in, believing everything you are told…..***
The supporters of the KCSPCA, certain Sussex County officials and a lot of journalists take everything said by either Kevin Usilton or “Jake” as truth but dismiss documented statements as “stories.” I don’t know how they manage to justify the discrepancies and contradictory statements. Do you all remember the followers of Jim Jones and the Koolaid they drank?
*** Related to this is, “whatever the KCSPCA says is right, and it doesn’t matter who else yOu spoke to… ***
For example: We posted on FB that Milford had a cat-leash law and a cat colony program administered through the KCSPCA. We contacted Milford for clarification when a KCSPCA employee told us there was no cat program. We were told that the leash law was not enforced and was going to be removed from the City Code at an upcoming meeting. We were also told there WAS a KCSPCA program and the KCSPCA employee who told us otherwise had been reprimanded.
Well, not only did that employee contact us again, saying they were too busy to do this program, an animal control officer contacted us stating we were wrong, that the leash law WAS enforced and anyone who told us otherwise was wrong – and who were we going to believe – him or some clerk? This went around and around – with the City Clerk telling us one thing, and the animal control officer insisting he was the final authority. He also told us that Milford’s Mayor was a neighbor of his and “his door is always open.” Not sure what that meant, although it seemed to imply he had influence with the Mayor. Our advice to Milford residents? Keep your cats indoors.
Oh, you want proof? I have the e-mails and the statements posted on FB.
*** Social media - do you all remember that game we played as kids? The one where you whisper a story to someone and see how it gets changed around the circle? ***
We understand that the law allows for freedom of speech, and employers cannot dictate what their employees say or do on social media on their own time. Although the KCSPCA employees make statements purporting to represent that organization, which would seem to be a gray area….. But Mr. Usilton is not content with managing his employees: he messages other people with “I don’t like that post. Please remove it.” He threatens people with civil and criminal action for contacting him. People who are not subject to his authority at all, on FB pages that are independent of the KCSPCA. (umm, public figure as executive director of a non-profit agency with state authority for enforcement and receiving state monies?)
Mr. Usilton often makes remarks WE don’t like – but we don’t presume to tell him he can’t make them. He made a sarcastic remark concerning Carol Furr, a member of our group who spoke against him at the November AWTF meeting. On FB on November 16, he posted that she “must have had a liquid lunch.” That was picked up by his employees on December 8, 2012 on the “No-Kill Delaware Blocked Elite” FaceBook page. Here are the comments. I have not edited them except to identify the poster’s relationship to the KCSPCA.
(KCSPCA Animal Control Officer) Ken Vaughn i know she had 320 votes , maybe if she didnt have her head up sweeneys a$$, she could see things on both sides of the fence. Glad to see that her and her (groups) life is worth waisting on a cause with 53 followers. Maybe her followers are met at her AA meeting . . . hahahahaha , Haters are the fuel that makes you work that much harder!
(KCSPCA Kennel Tech Supervisor) Sharon Ritter Geyer Wait, I thought the other one was the drunk. ??? Both of them are? Don't tell me!!! I'm trying to take a vacation from the drama.
Ken Vaughn i think they all met at AA
Sharon Ritter Geyer OMG, you're hilarious! Thanks for making me giggle after a hard day.
They were careful. They didn’t name anyone except KCLC Commissioner Sweeney. But most people knew who they were posting about. So now, in the world of the KCSPCA supporters, Carol Furr and I are drunks who met at an AA meeting.
Well, IF it were true, it would just prove that you meet a better class of people at AA than you do at the KCSPCA.