How amateur rescue transport failed
CLINTON, Iowa––The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the 15-hour drive straight north from the New Iberia Parish Animal Shelter in Louisiana to the Clinton Humane Society in Iowa appears to consist only of asphalt.
Linked by NOLA Freedom Transport, founded in 2014 by SugarDeaux Cookies & Cakes owner Karen Anderson of Destrehan, Louisiana, the New Iberia Parish Animal Shelter and Clinton Humane Society––with Anderson’s help––found their own recipe for making 15-month-old Lucas Harrison’s life hellacious, combining pit bull rescue and transport with generous portions of hubris, denial, inexperience, shaky oversight and lack of accountability.
Six-hour emergency surgery
On March 15, 2017, “While playing with a friend’s newly adopted dog, Lucas was suddenly attacked, with the dog biting off a large portion of Lucas’ face,” opened relative Amber Barkdoll Harrison in a GoFundMe appeal which within five days raised $155,200––but that is likely to be just a fraction of the cost of Lucas Harrison’s care and extensive surgeries during the years ahead.
Lucas Harrison “was airlifted to the University [of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City] where he had a six-hour surgery involving at least three surgeons,” continued Amber Barkdoll Harrison. “A large part of his gum/bone including permanent teeth were ripped out, most of his nose cartiledge was destroyed, and he will have lifelong damage. He will not have any upper front teeth, will need dental reconstruction to hopefully support false teeth when he is an adult, and have more facial surgeries in the future.
Lucas Harrison will also have to re-learn how to walk.
Sedated for days, hospitalized for weeks
“Lucas will stay sedated for the coming days,” Amber Barkdoll Harrison added, “and remain in the hospital for weeks to come. Holly and Tyler,” the victim’s parents, “remain at his side while their other two boys stay with family.”
No further details about the dog, the attack, or the adopter have been released by either the Harrison family, the New Iberia Parish Animal Shelter, NOLA Freedom Transport, Karen Anderson, or the Clinton Humane Society, and none appear to have been released by emergency service agencies or published by local media, at least through March 19, 2017.
Likely parties to litigation over the attack appear to have taken down many social media postings and other information previously accessible on web sites––but not before a small army of concerned individuals located and saved considerable circumstantial evidence about the events preceding the adoption that led to the mauling.
“Death row dog” from Louisiana
“Through the online victims’ advocacy network, we were able to reach a reliable source and verify the attacking dog and the shelter that adopted it out,” claimed DogsBite.org on March 18, 2017, providing many supporting links.
“On March 15, the day of the attack,” DogsBite.org alleged, “the Clinton Humane Society adopted out a pit bull-mix named Emmet. Less than two hours later, the dog violently attacked Lucas. Through public Facebook pages, we learned that Emmet was formerly a death row dog, shipped in from Louisiana at the end of February.
“In mid-October 2016,” DogsBite.org said, “Emmet, a male unneutered black and white pit bull-mix, came into the New Iberia Parish Animal Shelter,” where he “lingered in the shelter unwanted for 5.5 months.”
Where did Emmet come from?
As the timespan from mid-October 2016 to mid-March 2017 is actually only five months, calculating an actual 5.5-month “hold” suggests that Emmet might have been taken in at about the same time, in late September 2016, that Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputies impounded at least three pit bulls and three other dogs not identified by breed from Robin Menard of New Iberia and from a neighboring property.
Menard, herself a New Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Deputy in 2009-2010, was self-identified on Facebook “as president of a chapter of SNARR, the national Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation group,” according to www.KATC.com. She reportedly claimed only the dogs found on her own property.
A fawn-coated pit bull, who was not Emmet, and had allegedly been “rescued” by Menard three years earlier, reportedly required “treatment for inflammation, swelling and hair loss on his paws, as well as an open sore, ringworms and pododermatitis. He also had a strong positive heartworm test. Deputies said he had not been socialized and was “dangerously aggressive,” KATC.com said.
Already a multi-time rescue?
No details were given about the other dogs, including the other two pit bulls. Certainly the New Iberia Parish Animal Shelter might have received pit bulls from many other sources within the time frame that Emmet arrived. In August 2016 the New Iberia Parish Animal Shelter reportedly received more admissions than usual, due to nearby flooding.
But the possibility appears to exist that Emmet might already have been a multi-time rescue even before NOLA Freedom Transport and the Clinton Humane Society became involved.
Emmet by then was running out of time despite an auxiliary organization called Animals of IPAC advertising him as a “great dog with a great temperament.”
On January 30, 2017, narrated DogsBite.org, “Animals of IPAC announced that Emmet ‘will be euthanized tomorrow morning, no exceptions. The shelter is FULL.’ Then rallying started to ‘save Emmet.’ By February 14, $300 in pledges had been raised to ‘save Emmet.’ On February 22, Animals of IPAC stated in a post, ‘Emmet got approved for transport. Please call in your $50 pledge’ now.”
Karen Anderson of NOLA Freedom Transport on February 25, 2017 posted to her personal Facebook page that she was ready to transport 45 dogs from Louisiana to shelters in Missouri and Iowa that had promised to find them homes.
“Emmet is seen in the second row, fifth dog,” DogsBite.org said. “One can also see a zoomed-in photo left in a comment on the same post,” or could until the page was removed.
“The next day,” DogsBite.org continued, “a similar post appeared on the NOLA Freedom Transport Facebook page that encouraged donations to make the out-of-state transport possible.
“After reaching the fundraising goal on February 26, 2017,” having collected $1,037, “Anderson announced on her personal page, “We leave TOMORROW,” DogsBite.org recounted.
Of the 45 dogs transported on February 27, 2017, 23 were apparently left at a shelter in Missouri. The remaining 22, including Emmet, traveled on to the Clinton Humane Society.
“Thank you to our great friends at New Orleans Freedom Transport,” the Clinton Humane Society posted on March 1, 2017 “for driving across the states, through the rain, hail, and tornado warning to get these dogs to us safe and sound.”
The post evidenced a certain admiration for risk-taking behavior, further illustrated when the Clinton Humane Society adoption listing declared Emmet to be “five years, 16 days” old, implying certain knowledge of his birthday, whereas the New Iberia Parish Animal Shelter had judged Emmet to be just “three years” old.
More significantly, the Clinton Humane Society described Emmet, whose dominant ancestry is pit bull, as a “Boxer/Mix.”
Commented DogsBite.org, “This is how the transport system works. Our only surprise is that CHS did not rename the dog.”
DogsBite.org noted that “The Clinton Humane Society web site states multiple times that they administer a ‘nationally recognized temperament test’ before dogs are considered for adoption. The ‘nationally recognized temperament test’ is called the Behavior Assessment and Reactivity Checklist (BARC Checklist). There is no mention of testing for [safety around] children or cats in the checklist. No temperament assessment test––’nationally recognized’ or otherwise — measures unpredictable aggression.”
“No pass or fail”
Further, the BARC test designers acknowledge that “There is no pass or fail for BARC. It is designed to be used as an assessment tool to best determine suitable homes,” as opposed to determining when a dog might be too dangerous to be safely placed in any home.
On March 17, 2017, two days after Emmet nearly killed 15-month-old Lucas Harrison, disfiguring him for life, a web poster identifying herself as Theo Phanie asked Animals of IPAC, which had promoted Emmet for adoption or transport, “Do you have the complete history of these dogs and are you sharing this with potential adopters? Are you also recording the dog’s behavior with shelter workers and also sharing that info with potential adopters? You have a grave responsibility to those who adopt and that responsibility must take precedence over your desire to rehome dogs.”
Responded Animals of IPAC, “Keep in mind this particular shelter is a government animal control facility and NOT a rescue facility. As with all shelters of this kind and all types of dogs, prior history is usually unknown, which does not mean a dog can not be adopted out. The shelter can only vouch for the temperament of any dog while it’s in that particular environment. It is most definitely the shelter’s responsibility to place dogs with suitable owners and stress the importance of proper acclimation into their home. It is the adopters’ responsibility to know what responsibilities and risks are involved when adopting a dog with an unknown past.”
Animals of IPAC did not acknowledge that an adopter cannot “know what responsibilities and risks are involved” when a shelter offering a dog for adoption conceals even information as basic as the actual breed and age of the dog.
“Speaking of pit bull type dogs”
“I must assume that you are only speaking of pit bull type dogs,” Animals of IPAC continued. “I will say that everyone that WANTS a pit bull is not suitable to own one. This is where screening adopters and attempting to match dogs to owners becomes important by the shelter OR the rescue that receives the dog.
“The shelter can do every test in the book,” Animals of IPAC admitted, “but it can never be guaranteed how ANY dog will behave in a new environment when stressed out and with unfamiliar people. (And any scared/fearful dog is a dangerous dog.) This is where the adopters are supposed to take over and sometimes that isn’t always the case and the dog senses this and instinct kicks in.
“Again––no way of knowing if ANY dog has a trigger. Just so you understand how this particular shelter operates, any dog that shows any signs of aggression towards humans is never adopted out or sent to rescue,” Animals of IPAC finished.
Likely to go before a judge
If and when the Lucas Harrison case goes to court, as it likely will, in view of the extent of the damage and the numbers of potentially culpable individuals and entities, Animals of IPAC may get the opportunity to demonstrate the veracity of that claim before a judge.
Meanwhile, neither Animals of IPAC nor NOLA Freedom Transport appears to have IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit incorporation to shield the involved individuals from personal liability. Neither entity, both claiming to have formed in 2014, appears to hold any incorporated status at all. Whether either entity or the involved individuals have liability insurance is unclear.
$8,239 for insurance
The Clinton Humane Society, founded in 1941, incorporated nonprofit in 1949, paid $8,239 for insurance in the fiscal year ending in April 2016, according to IRS Form 990, covering net assets at year’s end of $666,703, including land, buildings, and equipment valued at $348,824.
The Clinton Humane Society formerly housed animals under contract with the city of Clinton, but that relationship ended at the beginning of 2013. Since 2016 the city of Clinton has also lacked an animal control officer.
The Clinton Humane Society leadership meanwhile appears to have been a revolving door for decades. Jean Regenwether, who served three separate terms as executive director, beginning in 1999, departed for the last time in July 2010. Her exit and the board composition and structure during the first decade of the 21st century were contested in at least two lawsuits.
Another executive director, Sandi Bartels, resigned in May 2014, along with three staff members.
Wisely & Quick
Hired as executive director in December 2015, Lily Wisely brought to the job a prison record for having killed her boyfriend in a Christmas Day 2005 drunk driving incident, and had studied to become a funeral director. She resigned in September 2016.
In January 2016, meanwhile, the Clinton Humane Society hired Sheena Quick as office coordinator, whose resumé included a stint with the Fulton Fire Protection District following two jobs as a restaurant server. Quick appears to have served as the visible face of Clinton Humane Society operations since Wisely’s departure, chiefly promoting pit bull adoptions.
Rhetorically asks the Clinton Humane Society web site, “Are any animals considered unadoptable pets? There are some circumstances,” the Clinton Humane Society admits, “where animals cannot be placed up for adoption…Clinton Humane Society euthanizes pets who are too dangerous or ill to be re-homed.”
Who makes the call?
But who makes the call? Leadership with barely a year of experience, if that, employed in the humane field?
The same person or persons who decided to change Emmet’s age and breed type in promoting him for adoption?
The Clinton Humane Society spent just $6,390 on veterinary care in fiscal year 2016––about enough to hire an experienced shelter vet for two or three days per month. No mention is made of any expenditure for behavioral consulting, or diagnostic and remedial training, and all non-itemized expenses combined added up to just $6,300.