Here is yet another case of Human Societies stealing animals. Of course it is a conflict of interest to allow shelters to enforce animal cruelty cases- they are the ones who BENEFIT from such cases. Yes- benefit is the right word. Shelters get donations when they cry, "help stop abuse" and they get to SELL (yes, that's right- it is a sale- you don't have the option of NOT donating if you want an animal) the pets they take in. Cover their costs? Maybe, but their costs include staff and a building. Not everyone is a VOLUNTEER. Of course they want to stay in business. They have almost make theft legal- expect that sometimes it smells like a Rat!
A Case of Pet Care and Politics
By PETER APPLEBOME
Published: October 7, 2009
Two things struck many people as odd three years ago when sheriff’s deputies came to Sandy Saunders’s 150-acre farm, said they had found “shocking” conditions, arrested him on nine counts of animal cruelty, and seized five horses, three sheep and a goat that have never been returned.
The first was that the barn owned by Mr. Saunders, a well-known local environmentalist and gadfly, was a popular and quite public gathering place. In the five weeks before the animals were seized, an annual barn dance there brought out perhaps 200 people, and a political fund-raiser drew 150. A woman who had visited with her children said that she had seen dozens of farms and that Mr. Saunders’s was “one of the cleanest and well-maintained I have come across.”
The second was that Barbara Dunn, the deputy who seized the animals and participated in a separate raid and arrest involving the care of purebred Maltese dogs that same month, was also the president of the Putnam Humane Society, where the animals were taken, which struck many people as an unfortunate mixing of responsibilities.
The two arrests set in motion a series of legal proceedings that culminated in the indictment of Deputy Dunn this week on 28 counts, including grand larceny, perjury and official misconduct, some stemming from her testimony in the investigation involving the dogs.
It would be nice if the indictment suggested a clear motivation. Instead, it’s more of a reminder that while politics involving humans can be pretty complicated, they’re nothing compared to the politics of people and critters.
Mr. Saunders’s case had no direct bearing on the indictment, a result of an 18-month investigation. Deputy Dunn was accused of larceny, insurance fraud and official misconduct for claiming workplace injuries when, in fact, she had fallen off a horse, prosecutors say. And she was accused of perjury and official misconduct in connection with her testimony about the seizure of the dogs from Linda Nelson, a breeder in Kent.
Deputy Dunn pleaded not guilty to all of the charges on Monday. William Aronwald, her lawyer, said the notion that she was improperly acting in the interests of the Humane Society ignored the evidence. “She took six Maltese dogs that hadn’t been fed, had no water, were sitting in their own excrement from a sweltering, hot room and took them to the Humane Society,” he said. “What other recourse did she have? Just leave them there? I don’t think there’s any evidence at all that the Humane Society benefited from this.”
The problem is that a State Supreme Court judge, Justice Andrew P. O’Rourke, in dismissing charges against Ms. Nelson, ruled otherwise, saying: “Deputy Dunn, in her position as president of the Humane Society, engaged in a public campaign to garner support for the renewal of the society’s contract with the county. She increased the number of seizures of animals and sought increased fines for animal-related violations in order to increase the coffers of the Humane Society.”
It’s small potatoes, unless you’re the one accused. In addition to the worthy work that animal protection groups do, there have been allegations elsewhere of animals improperly seized and reputations ruined out of excess zeal. An investigation by “20/20” in 2005 included numerous claims from people who said that instead of helping them care for wanted pets, the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals confiscated their animals, sold them within days and kept the money.
BUT if that kind of conflict was at work, it didn’t show up in the indictment. Christopher York, the chief assistant district attorney in Putnam County, said he had no way of knowing if any improprieties in Deputy Dunn’s conduct were affected by excess zeal for animal rights, the interests of the Humane Society or a belief that she was acting properly. “We don’t have to prove motivation,” he said.
Still, regardless of whether she’s found guilty, you could deduce three things. The first is that an accusation of animal abuse can be as damaging as one of child abuse. Mr. Saunders found himself reported on animal abuse Web sites. (He agreed to give up the animals in return for the dismissal of the charges against him.) The second is that being on the side of the animals doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the side of the angels. And the third is that giving the president of the local Humane Society a badge and a license to investigate animal abuse isn’t the smartest move.