I continued to follow the SPCA story yesterday. I was amazed by the volume of response on the ABC message board; concerned about what needed to be done if 20/20’s allegations were true; equally concerned about the damage that this could do to the SPCA; and amazed that no local media were publishing anything on the story yet.
It seemed to me that a lot of the question hinged on the opinion of the undercover veterinarian, Dr. Gaylon TeSlaa. He’s a practicing vet in Chatsworth, CA and was easily findable via a Google Search.
I emailed him yesterday afternoon to ask him to respond to the pictures posted on the SPCA site yesterday and asked how he came to be on the show. He responded last night (unedited; ellipses are his):
I would be happy to respond. First, my name was given to ABC
(apparently) because I have been a real sucker for helping out a host of rescue organizations in the Los Angeles area since early in the 90’s. It would be no exaggeration to state I have allowed myself to donate my services (and goods) to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. I have been sympathetic to the cause of animal welfare, and the health and well being of animals in need. What happens to people who show themselves to be charitable toward worthy causes? Everyone comes knocking on their door, that’s what! If someone objectively looked at my history, I doubt that they could really question either my motives or credibility.
But then, objectivity is often lost where it comes to "hot button" issues! What has been happening over the past decade or so in California is that increasingly there has been war waged between municipal departments of animal control (and affiliated humane societies and SPCA’s) and private rescue groups. Lines get blurred quickly when private rescuers start to resemble (or become) "collectors", etc. To make a long story short, more and more there have been municipal DAR’s (Departments of Animal Control) usurping police power and weilding this power aggressively. I have seen some pretty disturbing stuff.
I have also seen some pretty disturbing treatment and care of animals, and I cannot stress enough that DAR’s, Humane societies, and SPCA’s serve a vital and necessary function. My view is that however many well intentioned and well meaning people are involved in this aspect of our society, the ladder to successful advancement is still connected with production numbers and impressive statistics…therefore driving some of the people with dreams of advancement and acclaim to step on as many bodies as it takes to achieve their objectives.
I looked at the photos posted on the SPCA website you mentioned. My part in this venture did not take me to the locations shown there…I only went on the one raid and visited one other home (which was that woman’s – Pamela’s – mother). The photos from these other sites are clearly NOT representative of what I saw on the raid I went on. I believe my comments in the piece speak for themselves. However, I can say that having been present when Mr. Garcia was getting the judge’s signature for the raid, I can tell you that the general strategy is to depict everything in the worst possible light. Get a picture of an animal behind a chain link fence with a pathetic expression and a few close-ups on some unscooped poop (which I got plenty of AT the SPCA as well), and you can pull at anyone’s heart strings!
I was MOST shocked and appalled at their not being a veterinarian involved at any point in the process. I believe (because I could find no evidence to the contrary) that this SPCA is actually having technicians or unlicensed veterinarians performing spays and neuters. I asked an awful lot of questions before coming to that conclusion. On the other hand, the facility is absolutley beauuuuuutiful! It was a close second (on the shock and appalling scale) that there is such a lack of due process…minimal to no warnings, pre-emptive inspections, no coaching or advice on how to meet standards…it was just a really sad and depressing experience which I was only willing to be involved with to debunk the notion that anyone involved in that business/industry is immune from criticism, questioning of motives, or errors in judgement.
I hope that helps.
The SPCA site posted photos from the Pam Chenault case, the raid that Dr. TeSlaa was on, on Monday afternoon.
April and I have done a little bit of volunteer rescue work,helping to transport dogs that had been surrendered to foster or permanent homes. I’ve seen that there are stark philosophical divides between many SPCA’s, rescue groups, and breeders. These are very emotionally charged issues among folks who care about animals.
I fear that means that there won’t be any easy answers here — someone should certainly do a more thorough investigation of what’s going on with the SPCA. And Stossel has some questions to answer about the errors and inconsistencies claimed by the SPCA.
I’ll confess that I thought I would "get to the bottom of this." But that will take a lot of reporting by someone, whether that’s a paid professional or a lot of citizens who care enough about the animals involved to take a reasonably objective look at it. I’d love to do it myself, but we’re not in a phase where I have the time to devote. In the meantime, if someone looks into it, there are the two key issues I see:
- Stossel says, "Garcia led an effort to get Texas politicians to pass a law saying once
a Justice of the Peace approves one of the SPCA’s confiscations, an
owner can’t do anything about it."
That leaves it unclear as to whether or not a bill actually passed. It looks like HB 1963 is the bill in question. It includes language stipulating that in an animal neglect case "The decision of the county court or county court at
law may not be further appealed." It died in committee. Unless similar language was buried in another bill I couldn’t find, it’s a non-issue until the next legislative session.
The bill sounds like a horrible idea (if not unconstitutional) to me, but I’d be interested in hearing the arguments of its supporters.(See update below)
- I don’t know what standard procedures are at spay-neuter clinic, but Dr. TeSlaa’s allegations about local procedures bear further investigation. Are they true? Is that SOP in other jurisdictions? Is it a financial issue?
This is a clear example of a local issue that needs to be investigated locally. That’s not John Stossel’s responsibility — it’s ours.
UPDATE 10 AM 6/6/05: Proving Dan Gillmor’s adage that your readers always know more than you do, I received an email from Ben Nise, a rescue volunteer and SPCA donor clarifying the state of law on appeal of seizure of an animal. Further proving it, and the fact that a "half-baked" post written at 7:00 in the AM sometimes misses the point, he re-emailed me with some clarifications that I missed in the original thread. Here’s the state of things:
The original law allowing these SPCA seizures was passed in 2003, and allows appeal in general situations, but only to the county court of law in which the justice or municipal court that made the initial ruling is located. However, it prohibits any appeal in certain cases:
§ 821.025. APPEAL. (a) An owner of an animal ordered
sold at public
auction as provided in this subchapter may appeal the
order to a county
court or county court at law in the county in which
the justice or municipal
court is located. As a condition of
perfecting an appeal, the owner must
file an appeal bond in an
amount determined by the justice or municipal
court to be adequate
to cover the estimated expenses incurred in housing and
the impounded animal during the appeal process. The decision of
county court or county court at law may not be further appealed.
owner may not appeal an
(1) to give the animal to a nonprofit animal
pound, or society for the protection of animals;
(2) to humanely destroy the
an appeal under this section is pending, the
animal may not
(1) sold or given away as provided by Sections 821.023
and 821.024; or
(2) destroyed, except under circumstances which
require the humane destruction of the animal to prevent undue pain
to or suffering of the animal.
This strikes me as patently wrong. But it’s the state of the law, meaning that it is a legislative problem, not an SPCA problem. They’re not depriving an animal owner of due process — the law is doing that. (Garcia did speak in favor of the bill.)
The new HB 1963 that failed actually would have undone this situation, allowing appeals, but capping them at the county court level.
Nise also provided the Committee Report on the 2003 bill that outlines the pro and con positions.I’ve copied it in the continuation. HB 1963 never got far enough to publish a report.
UPDATE 6/9/05: The SPCA responds.