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Do CA Animal Shelters and Rescues have a Right to Release Dangerous Dogs?

ANIMAL WATCH--In a geographic area where media reports of Pit Bull and other dangerous dog attacks on humans and pets have become common, the chilling public mauling of a 7-year-old girl at A Passion for Paws Akita Ranch, a rescue kennel in Romoland--75 miles southeast of Los Angeles--sent shockwaves through Southern California.

The victim required three hours of surgery and over 1,000 stitches to close the gaping wounds to her face left by a large Akita--a Japanese fighting-dog- breed, also historically used to kill bears and hunt wild boars--which her parents were considering as a family pet.

They were lured to the 'rescue' in Riverside County by the Facebook photo of the 2-year-old dog, captioned, "Tux wants to know if you have a kid he can play with? Or, are you a big kid?"

 According to the Desert Sun, Riverside Animal Services spokesman John Welsh stated Tux had been "rescued" from a Los Angeles-area animal shelter.

 Welsh stated that A Passion for Paws representative testified at the hearing on Thursday to obtain a destruction order allowing euthanasia of the dog due to the severity of the injuries. She stated that Tux had "not exhibited any aggression in our shelter," and added that the little girl reportedly put her face close to the dog, something which her parents had been advised to avoid."

 This makes the incident even more disturbing. The dog was deliberately advertised by the shelter as wanting "a kid to play with."  How does a child play with a large dog without being close to its face?

 ISOLATED INCIDENT OR ROUTINE LACK OF JUDGMENT?  

 Riverside Animal Services' officers found at least five other serious bites involving dogs at or from this kennel since 2013, with two occurring last year, according to a media release which also stated, "The investigation includes looking in to a handful of other serious bites [that] involved dogs from the kennel."

Were these concerns affirmed when the following appeared on the organization's Twitter feed, since the attack?  "Miracles can happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do to your fears.  Meet Oakley #AkitaRanch..."

And, "I'm not asking for a happy ending...just a happy MIDDLE.  Meet Saxon who needs a breed savvy home #Akita Ranch..."

 Welsh said Riverside Animal Services Director Allan Drusys wants public safety to be the top priority for the agency and "His belief is we have to do everything in our power to protect the public."

 WHO RUNS 'A PASSION FOR PAWS AKITA 'RESCUE'?

 Mission Statement: “Our mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome Akitas and large breed dogs. Our efforts are focused on dogs most likely to be euthanized in shelters, those dogs unfairly labeled "aggressive" or "unadoptable."  We give them a second chance at life.  

The Google description is: Akita Rescue Southern California -- A Passion for Paws -  "The only active Akita rescue in Southern California, Non-profit charity dedicated to saving the lives of Akitas."

 And, it states,"100% NO-KILL breed specific rescue." This would imply that none of the "aggressive" or "unadoptable" animals described in its Mission Statement would be euthanized.  What is the alternative--other than to adopt them to homes?

 Notably lacking is the mention of how the dogs are assessed for safety, which professional services are used to "rehabilitate," and/or on what basis they were assessed to be aggressive and/or unadoptable.

The President of a Passion for Paws on its Articles of Incorporation as Cheryl Weatherford.

Its Cause Area is:  "Animal Protection and Welfare (includes Humane Societies and SPCA's) (D20); and Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (D01.)

 The organization "industry" is registered as "Animal Services."

The address of record is 6353 Camino De La Costa, La Jolla, CA 92037, a 4-bedroom, 5-bath ocean-front home, described by Realtor.com (with photos) as "steps to the beach," with a guest house w/full kitchen," an approximately 10,297 sq. ft. lot, and estimated value of  $7,335,800.

  REALITIES OF "NO KILL

 In addition to the thousands of injuries and deaths that have occurred as a result of "rescues" adopting out animals which have deemed "unsafe" by animal-control agencies, the horrendous and indisputable suffering and deaths at many more kept in small pens or hoarded by some "rescues" is unconscionable. 

  PETA speaks for them here with real crime-scene photos obtained through public records requests. 

 Police Photos from Raids on 'No-Kill Animal Rescues' | PETA

5 days ago - As these crime scene photos taken at "no-killanimal "rescues" prove, there are fates far worse than peaceful euthanasia.

 Bully Breed Miracle Network and Rescue--Police found the bodies of three dead dogs in various stages of decomposition in and around cages covered with feces at this purported “no-kill animal rescue” group in Sandyville, Iowa. They seized another 19 who were suffering from urine burns and severe malnourishment, including...

 Animal Advocates of Carroll County --Authorities seized 11 dogs and one cat from the president and founder of alleged “rescue” Animal Advocates of Carroll County in Maryland after they were contacted by a veterinarian who had examined a cat in the group’s custody. A responding officer found the animal confined to a dirty carrier, cold to the touch, laboring to breathe, and suffering from open wounds  

Tails of Courage ‘No-Kill Rescue--’Officials in Danbury, Connecticut, filed a lawsuit against the Tails of Courage Animal Rescue, a “no-kill” group, after police found dogs forced to stand in their own urine and feces for so long they had developed...Many dogs had been crammed into wire kennels in a cold garage. Others had been shoved...      See more here

 ASPCA launches investigation after 20 dogs die in its care

 May 16, 2019 - The ASPCA is investigating its safety protocols after 20 dogs died while the nonprofit was transporting them from a site in Mississippi to one in Wisconsin...."

 Another part of "No Kill" is transporting animals from state to state, with changes of identification numbers. This makes an inaccurate assessment of "live save" and "no kill" and unnecessarily exposes animals and humans to risk because of a lack of history or observed conduct of the pet or stray animal.   

 CAN WE EVER FORGET SPINDLETOP?

Meant to be a 'sanctuary' for unadoptable Pit Bulls, including those confiscated from dog fighting, "in response to allegations of inhumane living conditions, authorities in Montgomery County, Texas, raided Spindletop and discovered carnage. Katie Jarl, HSUS Texas State Director, described the scene:

 "Dogs in kennels so small they could not even stand up or turn around," stacked one upon the other. Dogs "living in their own waste ... [many without] access to food bowls, and many of them, their cages ... wired shut so tightly, they aren't able to get out regularly." In all, 298 dogs were confiscated from the property.

A reported $861,000 had been received in donations to the "rescue." Regardless of whether that is considered enough to continue care of the animals, there is no excuse for the conditions described.

According to Red Rover, there was a "mass grave behind the owner's home." 

 IT IS TIME TO REASSESS THE "RESCUE" INDUSTRY

 Notwithstanding the value or deficits of "rescues," questions arise from the Hayden Bill:

 Many (if not all) shelters require a "rescuer" to sign a waiver of liability when taking a dangerous dog. Does that actually provide legal protection?

HAYDEN LAW  BESTOWED A LEGAL STATUS TO AN UNDEFINED-AND- UNREGULATED-CHARITABLE DESIGNATION (WITH NO REQUIREMENTS)?

Section 31108 (b) of the California Food and Agriculture Code was changed, as follows: 

“(b) Except as provided in Section 17006 (irremediably suffering from a serious illness or severe injury), any stray dog that is impounded pursuant to this division SHALL, prior to euthanasia of that animal, be released to a nonprofit, as defined in Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, animal rescue or adoption organization if requested by the organization prior to the scheduled euthanasia of that animal.  (Emph. added.)

  1. The Hayden Law changed State law to REQUIRE shelters to release even dangerous dogs to ANY ”animal rescue or adoption organization if requested by the organization prior to the scheduled euthanasia of that animal."
  2. A "rescue" is merely any corporation "as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code."  There is NO designation or definition of an "animal rescue or adoption organization" attached to this Code section.
  3. In California, "Animal rescues" are NOT certified, licensed, permitted, officially supervised nor do they need or have any other professional status (as a "rescuer.").
  4. Animal rescuers are NOT monitored--with the exception of (purportedly) being required to provide proof of spay/neuter of dogs/cats they have "pulled."  (This is not possible to monitor in every jurisdiction in the state, due to lack of shelter staffing.)
  5. Animal rescuers are not required to maintain (multiple or single) animals in the manner of an animal shelter--they do not have to provide the same space and confinement area (some "rescued" animals are kept in cages, as indicated by the foregoing examples in this article.)
  6. Animal shelters have authorized "rescuers" to release animals to "fosters."  There is NO legal fostering definition in State law regarding animals.  Thus, this does not follow the provisions/oversight of fostering children.  The fosters are unknown entities who may merely come into the shelteror contact the “rescue “and may or may not fill out an application before taking an animal."
  7. "Animal rescuers" are not required to have insurance, observe Workers' Compensation, Public Health laws, etc.

(The City of Los Angeles now does not even require lost animals to be brought to the shelter--deeming that the "finder" can just post information and locate the owner--thus creating a contractual arrangement for "foster/rescue" with no ability to monitor, regulate or enforce it. )

 CAN SHELTERS WAIVE ITS LIABILITY FOR GIVING A KNOWN DANGEROUS DOG TO AN ENTITY WITHOUT LEGAL STATUS WITH THE INTENTION THAT IT BE ADOPTED TO THE PUBLIC?

A 501(C)(3) corporation is merely a charitable entity of any kind.  Animals are NOT "adopted."  There is no legal provision for "adoption" of other than a person/child.  Animals/pets are personal property and therefore may be bought and sold, which is what is done by "rescues."  

The Hayden Law supposes that "rescuers" will pay the basic costs to the shelter for maintaining the animal while impounded, but, in fact, they often receive the animals free of charge to help the shelter statistics appear closer to "No Kill. 

 Since State law nor local law defines an "animal rescuer or adoption agency" according to what legal requirements it must meet in selling (called adoption but any amount above the actual costs of care and fees to the shelter are taxable income, according to CA state code.)

 IS 'PRODUCT LIABILITY' A POSSIBLE CAUSE OF ACTION? 

An Iowa lawsuit in 2017 (Adopted Pit Bull Attacks Toddler - Animal Shelter Sued for 'Product Liability") alleged when a shelter transferred ownership of a known "dangerous dog"--a dog that had injured or bitten a person or animal--it was placing a known-defective product into the stream of commerce and could not avoid liability when the dog bit a baby directly after release.

 The lawsuit was settled within a year but was apparently not rejected by the court. 

 LEGAL PERSPECTIVES

  1. PARTIES TO A PRODUCTS LIABILITY ACTION A ... - Cozen O'Connor

 Plaintiffs. Individuals, corporations, and other business entities may allege strict product liability tort claims.

 Consumers, users and bystanders The Restatement (2d) of Torts §402A, comment 1, recognizes that consumers, users and bystanders may be hurt or damaged by defective products and, therefore, are within a class of plaintiffs foreseeable to product manufacturers and sellers.

 In California, the case of Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal.2d 57 held that the protection of the strict product liability doctrine was applicable to both direct consumers and injured bystanders to further the purpose of shifting the costs of injuries and damages to manufacturers and away from the injured parties. The Greenman court noted that a bystander should be entitled to a level of protection at least as great as that afforded to a user because, unlike a consumer, the bystander did not have the opportunity to inspect the product for defects or to avoid the risk by purchasing another product. (Read more here.

 TRIAL LAWYERS OF AMERICA

 Implied Warranties. a. General Rule. Unless the circumstances indicate otherwise, all implied warranties are excluded by expressions such as "as is", "with all faults" or other language which in common understanding call the buyer's attention to the exclusion of warranties and make plain that there is no implied warranty. California Commercial Code, Section 2316. See CACI 1242. b. Implied warranty of merchantability. Implied warranties...( Read more here.).

 RETHINKING OUR GOALS

There are many sensible, responsible "rescuers," who take animals they truly believe they can place in homes safely (for both the pet and the adopters) and do a magnificent job!

 But, there are also a large number of "rescuers" who suffer from a savior complex--the need to "save" is an attempt to fill the emptiness or losses in their own life through animals. They  may be well intentioned, but society's obligation is the health and welfare of the animals and the public.

 There are also those who see the opportunity to quickly remove the most desirable animals and re-sell them at a hefty profit. 

The goal should be for our animal-control agencies to have the staffing, training, equipment and support from the community to eliminate the causes of animals needing "rescue"--which is addressing instances of neglect and animal cruelty and providing guidance to pet owners in proper care and attention of all animals.

  This includes increased emphasis and funding for spay/neuter and ACTUAL enforcement for failure to obey.  We also need to assure that backyard breeders and professional/hobby breeders obtain tax permits and contribute their share to solving the overpopulation problem.

 This is a statewide issue--but the revisions by the Hayden Law have not worked and may be placing adopters, "rescuers" and government in jeopardy. Let's try again!

  (Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of Los Angeles employee and a contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw

 
 

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