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article imageOp-Ed: Victoria SPCA forgets how to care for animals by killing 2 dogs Special

By Marcus Hondro     Dec 7, 2013 in World
The Victoria SPCA claim two dogs they killed last month, Bear and Dozzer, were put down due to behavior. But while they call it euthanizing, and necessary, that's not how it looks from the outside. From the outside it looks unwarranted and uncaring.
Digital Journal learned that many who knew Bear and Dozzer, and knew them well, say they were good-tempered and insist teach was provoked into a single aggressive act, an act they paid for with their lives.
Sources say the former owners of Dozzer tried on at least three occasions to get their dog back and that there could have been a home waiting for Bear. The Victoria SPCA, however, chose instead to put the dogs down. And here's the irony: Craig Daniell, the CEO for the BCSPCA sent out Christmas cards to all SPCA donors in the province asking for a donation so that animals can enjoy "the gift of a second chance."
Bear and Dozzer: no second chance
Annie Prittie Bell, branch manager at the Victoria SPCA, declined to respond to questions via email on Bear and Dozzer. She only recently came to head the branch after the controversial firing of Penny Stone, branch manager there for 10 years. Already a rift has developed between Bell and many of her volunteers and reports have it there are staff along with donors equally unhappy with the direction the branch has taken.
Bear's crime is biting a staff during feeding. But there is a story behind it: He bit this staff when a food dish was taken from him. That he may have had issues around food protection is not grounds for a death sentence, many dogs do. But it's not a certainty he did have such issues. It was the first time he'd ever bitten anyone. Ever.
That one incident appears to be the primary reason for putting him down. Yet volunteers and others who knew him say they feel comfortable cuddling and hand-feeding Bear. Further, during frequent walks Bear did not behave in a threatening manner toward dogs, children or adults. There are reports that at least one person who knew him well was prepared to adopt him in order to save his life.
Dozzer's crime was to bite another dog at a park. The other dog initiated the incident, that doesn't seem up for argument, by attacking Dozzer; the other dog was described as an "off-lease aggressor" in the incident. Sources familiar with Dozzer say that when he bit the off-leash dog the dog was badly hurt and its owners became angry.
The injured dogs owners reported the incident and Dozzer was taken from his family and, ultimately, killed for defending himself. Here again, however, DJ has had multiple testimonies from those who knew Dozzer saying they cuddled him, hand-fed him, walked him, without ever feeling fearful of their own safety or for the safety of the animals or persons they encountered.
It should be noted other dogs have bitten staff at the Victoria SPCA - it's not an uncommon event at any SPCA - and other dogs have come there with a record of having bitten another dog. Yet such dogs have still been adopted out. Further, sources say there is at least one dog under the care of the SPCA right now that has bitten staff and yet is still in line to be adopted out.
The real crime of these dogs appears to be, some insist, that they are 'pitti crosses,' each a pit bull crossed with another breed, though exactly what they are crossed with either isn't known or hasn't been shared by the Victoria SPCA. Whatever their breed, given the above circumstances of their single act of aggression and their history of positive behavior, do you think they deserved a death sentence?
Victoria SPCA defends decision
In an email sent to volunteers, Bell insisted the dogs were unsafe and that her decision, likely made in collaboration with Graeme Wright, the SPCA rep for Vancouver Island, was the correct one. She wrote in part that:
"While in our care Bear severely bit a person requiring medical attention. Dozzer attacked another dog who survived but was severely injured and currently requires assistance to walk. With their history of biting and aggression....The BC SPCA has a moral, legal and ethical responsibility to only adopt out animals that do not pose a danger to other companion animals and people in the community."
Bell claims they had each dog examined by independent experts before the decision to put them down, and that their independent experts - unnamed - could not guarantee that they would be safe dogs in the community. But that, again, is not the story told by those who were in contact with the dogs daily.
In support of Bear and Dozzer
Here are some comments from volunteers and donors in response to the death of Bear and Dozzer and the insistence by Bell that they were dangerous:
I sit here and cry as I think of our beautiful boy Bear. He was such a bundle of fun and adventure! He enjoyed every walk as if it were his first; smelling & sniffing and looking at every thing he came across. I tried running with him but to no avail, as he wasn't interest in going fast but rather enjoyed the journey. And his journey was far too short - I will miss this lovely, sweet soul. - Person familiar with Bear.
I personally went to the Victoria spca to save one of the dogs when I was told that they were considering euthanizing one of them. I went multiple times, for over 2 months. Annie, the manager of the spca promised me that she would let me know what was going on before anything happened. I spoke to her in her office just days before she killed those dogs and she gave me her word. Instead I was told by another volunteer that they had been killed on Tuesday(Nov. 12). - Comment on Victoria SPCA Facebook page.
I am greatly saddened and disturbed by recent killing of two dogs at the Victoria SPCA. The public has been wary since the dismissal of the previous manager and the hiring of a new manager and regional manager. The decision to end the lives of these dogs was made without consulting the staff and volunteers that spent time with them...Many of the staff and volunteers are heartbroken by these unnecessary deaths. Honestly, would this be the case if these dogs were so aggressive?....Is this is an indication of things to come? Is the disposal of animals a directive of BCSPCA or is this just an independent decision made by the Victoria branch and Regional managers? The Shelter runs on donations. This is no longer an organization I wish to support. - Marilyn Beckett letter to newspaper editor.
Bear loved people. I would take Bear anywhere without any concerns. He was a very smart boy that loved his treats, this wonderful dog never reacted to humans, dogs or bikes. It always made me laugh when we were walking he would try to take the treats from my pocket when I would ignore him. Dozzer - what a sweet sweet gentle boy. The happiness for Dozzer was playing ball in the gym. Going for long walks, trying to make a friend that he could walk with. He loved walking with Finnley and Issa. I am so sad and heartbroken by the action taken against my wonderful boys. I will always love them. This was totally undeserved. - Person familiar with Bear and Dozzer.
There were 2 dogs at the shelter who came in as ferrel and were very afraid of people. The shelter’s trainer spent a significant amount of time and resources working with both dogs for over a year – asking volunteers to help with this process along the way. And both dogs were recently adopted! My point: I have watched the staff and trainers spend a significant amount of time with other dogs with the same and different issues with success. However, for some reason the management didn’t put equal effort into Bear & Dozzer – thus I do not feel they exhausted all other options prior to euthanizing both dogs. - Sandi Piano, volunteer at Victoria SPCA (note: Sandi has adopted 3 pets from the SPCA).
Protesting the Victoria SPCA
Sources claim there is now a less-than healthy atmosphere at the Victoria SPCA, and that it existed before the killing of Bear and Dozzer, as many took issue with a management style they say isn't in line with the transparent and consultative style of Ms. Stone. To take the lives of these dogs without taking into account the experience of those who knew and cared for them on a daily basis is arrogance at the least and at most it borders on something much more serious.
After Ms. Stone was fired, and the reasons have not been made clear, kennel master Marty Meszeros resigned in protest. In August, after all of this had gone down, a protest was held in favor of Stone and Meszeros, attended by 250 concerned animal lovers, volunteers and SPCA supporters. They questioned the direction the Victoria SPCA was going in and many said they feared for the future of animals in Victoria and surrounding areas who need a second chance.
It turns out they feared with good reason.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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