Thursday, December 17, 2015

V is for victory or vendetta

The spotlight continues to shine on the town of Shawnee Oklahoma. Tonight kicks off the first of two nights aimed at protesting the Shawnee shelter. The events are no longer being called a protest however, they are now deemed a "victory demonstration " yes, victory. Since the protest and its associated events was first announced we've seen residents of Shawnee finally go to a city council meeting and speak up about the problems at the animal shelter. This is something that should have been happening for a long time now. In my mind that is a victory. 
 A few short days after this city council meeting, three dogs were gassed to death. The circumstances of this gassing clearly spell retaliation, at least in my mind they do. Someone was unhappy with all the negative attention being directed at Shawnee and its animal shelter. So unhappy it seems, that three innocent dogs suffered a horrible death as retribution for the unwanted attention.
 Less than a week after the dogs were gassed to death, we see announcements and headlines proclaiming that the shelter supervisor has been put on administrative leave pending an investigation. Even more attention is on Shawnee! Within hours this man is the object of everything from hatred to death threats. Is this the "victory" that is supposedly being celebrated? If this individual is responsible for a retaliatory gassing of three dogs, then yes, it is somewhat of a victory. My question is, what if it wasn't this individual's decision to kill the dogs? He has a boss, right? He is a city employee, subject to the authority of several others in the Shawnee city government. How do we know he wasn't following someone else's orders?
 With all that being said, lets examine this "victory " that is being celebrated in Shawnee by the group of people initially planning to protest. The gas chamber is stil being used, three dogs died in it on Friday. There is still no clearly defined timeline for the gas chamber to be discontinued and replaced with humane lethal injection. The rumor that has been going around is that gassing will be replaced with heartstick, definitely not something to celebrate. Nothing at the Shawnee shelter has changed. The shelter is still closed on weekends. The hold time for stray animals is still only 48 hours. Animals are still brought in sick and injured with no veterinary care available. The adoption process is still complicated and unappealing. It is still very time consuming and cumbersome for rescues to become approved to pull from the shelter. Volunteers are still not allowed to work with the animals, providing temperament assessment or other information that rescues and adopters need. 
 From what I can see absolutely nothing has changed other than one shelter staff member being placed on administrative leave, and it's uncertain whether or not he is even the one responsible for the decision to gas the dogs. The reality in Shawnee today is that nothing  has improved and three dogs are dead. Where is the victory?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Eyes of the world

 Once again the eyes of the world are focused on the town of Shawnee Oklahoma. This time however, they are not viewing it in a favorable light.
 On Friday morning, four short days after the long awaited announcement that a date for the removal of the gas chamber would finally be announced in early 2016, animal control gassed to death three dogs. Three young, healthy, friendly and highly adoptable dogs were cruelly pushed into a small metal box. After a few minutes of confusion and fear, those dogs began to realize they couldn't breathe. Once they began the slow process of suffocation, the fear and the cries became overwhelming, scratching frantically at the door they were just pushed through, they cried pitifully with the last breath in their lungs as their organs began to shut down and death finally came. This process can take up to 40 minutes.
 The world is now wondering why this happened. The shelter was not full, the dogs weren't killed for space. These three dogs were in the shelter since December 3rd and 4th, for at least three of the days between December 3rd and December 11th the Shawnee animal control website was down, giving the animals in the shelter  no exposure. One of the dogs had a definite rescue commitment, he was to be pulled Friday morning and put in boarding until transportation to his wonderful new life in Colorado was arranged. Animal control was aware of this . They were informed by the small group of local rescuers who are in that shelter daily. This is the same group of rescuers who have been clearing the shelter of animals in immediate danger EVERY FRIDAY for the last six months. Animal control was also very aware of this fact, the other dogs would have been pulled that same day. Typically if any animals are to be gassed it happens at the end of the day on Friday, this frees up space for animals coming in over the weekend. Last Friday, for some reason was different, very different.
The question now being asked around the world is why? A lot has been happening around the community of Shawnee lately, the animal lovers of the world have been paying attention to the small city for a while now. The fight to get rid of the gas chamber has been going on for years, in Shawnee and the rest of the state. Last February's announcement that Shawnee would remove the gas chamber was met with cheers from animal lovers everywhere! Nothing else has been mentioned since then.
 Recently it was announced that a protest would be held at the Shawnee shelter, freedom of assembly and the right to protest is a fundamental right of all Americans and a great way to draw attention to the plight of Shawnee's animals. The animal lovers of Shawnee were united and inspired to go to last weeks city commissioners meeting where they spoke about the issues at the Shawnee shelter. Of course the removal of the gas chamber was brought up, prompting a response from the city manager, he stated that they were working on it and expected to announce a date for its removal by early 2016. The animal lovers of the world celebrated this announcement! 
The animal control officers of Shawnee Oklahoma are NOT animal lovers however. It seems that they were not happy with any of the recent attention directed at the Shawnee shelter. Apparently they chose to express their displeasure by gassing the three innocent dogs on Friday. This act of retaliation has not gone unnoticed, more attention than ever is directed at Shawnee. This attention, of course, is not positive, inspiring everything from death threats to claims of evidence that will show the animal control officers are guilty of animal cruelty. Animal cruelty is now a federal offense, the FBI plans to track animal cruelty cases starting in 2016. Anyone making such claims better have irrefutable evidence.
 What started out as such a positive week in Shawnee has ended on a miserable note. Three innocent dogs are dead. Hatred and threats directed towards the city of Shawnee and its animal control officers are everywhere, and this is just the beginning. A rally and protest are slated for the end of the week, with all the negative attention focused on Shawnee we know the world will be watching. My question is what happens next? Will we be witnessing the unnecessary deaths of animals weekly ? Daily? Will this war escalate with the animals paying the ultimate price, or will the city of Shawnee and its animal control officers give up the power trip and work with the world to make Shawnee better for everyone, especially the animals?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rumor has it, change is on the way

 Last night was an important night in Shawnee Oklahoma, at least for animals and animal lovers it was. 
 Last night saw the monthly city commissioners meeting in the town of Shawnee. What made this meeting different was the four residents of Shawnee who came up to the podium and expressed their dissatisfaction with the animal shelter and its use of a gas chamber. The maximum number of people allowed to speak on a subject is four, although I saw a number of other Shawnee residents who may have spoken as well if they had the opportunity.
 The usual rhetoric put out about the issues at the Shawnee shelter tells us that it's "only people from outside of Shawnee that are bothered by the gassing shelter. The people of Shawnee don't have a problem with it." Well, last night's meeting proved that this statement is false!
 The sentiments expressed by the Shawnee residents prompted the city manager to address the issue as well. According to the city manager people should expect a date for the cessation of euthanasia by gas sometime in January or February of 2016. It was announced in February of this year that the city of Shawnee was planning to transition from the gas chamber to lethal injection. Until last night no other information has been reported on the issue. The city manager again stated that lethal injection would be the new euthanasia method.
 Unfortunately there seems to be conflicting information about what exactly is meant by "lethal injection ". After the initial announcement about the change, rumors began to fly about the lethal injection actually meaning heartstick, a particularly brutal method of "euthanasia". Apparently those rumors have resurfaced in full force after last night's meeting. Heartstick is completely unacceptable and no one should be willing to accept this.
 Something else of note has happened today, the Shawnee animal control website is down. This is the website where all the animals currently in the shelter can be viewed. The website hasn't been properly updated since last week and none of the animals recently brought in to the shelter can be seen.
The fear of animal control retaliating against any unfavorable publicity or situations they dislike, by gassing animals, has been expressed by numerous people over the course of many years. I don't know if there have been incidents in the past that created this attitude or if it's just another product of the rumor mill. Either way, I'm hearing a definite current of fear with today's situation.
 Now more than ever the animals of Shawnee need us. As of right now they, and the shelter, are receiving more attention than ever. Over 1,000 people are talking about this subject on Facebook and there is an article from the Examiner about last night's meeting. The people of Shawnee need to stick together and see this through to a positive outcome for the animals. Those willing to speak up should continue to attend city meetings, ask questions and keep pushing the issue until the correct changes occur. Those of us outside of Shawnee shouldn't forget that nothing is resolved yet, there is much work to be done and Shawnee and its animals can't be forgotten.