It isn’t “play” when a dog is terrorized or hurt
Seasoned humane volunteer Delwin Goss on September 28, 2015 reported witnessing “playgroup” behavioral assessment at the Austin Animal Center using methods which repeatedly subjected one dog to the threat of attack and sometimes actual attack. This activity, in his view and that of ANIMALS 24-7, should be considered prosecutable animal cruelty under existing laws which prohibit inciting dogs to fight.
Goss, 64, is not just any critic. He is a 13-year volunteer for the nonprofit spay/neuter clinic Emancipet in Austin, Texas, with a longtime record of distinguished community service in a variety of fields, after turning his life around following several long-ago convictions for substance abuse.
Goss promptly reported the incident through the appropriate City of Austin channels:
Sent: Monday, September 28, 2015 2:51 PM
Subject: Animal Cruelty At Austin Animal Services
This morning I witnessed an incident at the Austin Animal Center that still has me upset. Apparently someone at the Animal Center thinks the way to test dogs for behavioral issues is to expose a very submissive dog to a dog with unknown tendencies.
This morning dog after dog was brought into a new large play area to see how they interacted with a big but very submissive dog. One dog went after the submissive dog trying to tear his throat out. It took a minute or two before the two animal services employees could separate them. It was absolutely brutal.
I asked one of the employees if that very aggressive dog would still be put up for adoption and he nonchalantly said, “This is no reason not to adopt out a dog.”
Later it hit me. This is the way they test every dog that comes into the animal center. They get a very submissive “bait dog” and that “bait dog’ is continuously confronted by dog after dog after dog in an enclosed area.
And something else hit me: to subject that bait dog to potential attack after potential attack after potential attack is animal cruelty.
I cannot believe this is the best way the city has to determine whether an animal is aggressive and I’m even more shocked that some unsuspecting family will adopt the aggressive dog.
I have filed an animal cruelty complaint with the City of Austin.
Austin Animal Center director Kristen Auerbach replied to Goss:
In a message dated 9/29/2015 12:14:28 P.M. Central Daylight Time, Kristen.Auerbach@austintexas.gov writes:
I received information through 311 that you were concerned about something you witnessed in playgroups at Austin Animal Center.
In July, Aimee Sadler of Dogs Playing for Life (http://dogsplayingforlife.com/) conducted a weeklong training at Austin Animal Center and the community was invited to attend. Were you able to attend any of these training opportunities?
I understand you were frightened by the incident you witnessed yesterday. No dogs were injured in this incident and neither dog required any medical care.
It is important for staff to evaluate dogs off leash so that we can find them appropriate homes by learning their play styles and tolerance for other dogs, ensuring that we find the dogs the best homes possible.
Deputy Chief Animal Services Officer
Austin Animal Services
7201 Levander Loop, Building A
Austin, TX 78702
ANIMALS 24-7 notes:
Auerbach failed to mention that Sadler is sponsored by the pit bull advocacy organization Animal Farm Foundation, specifically to promote adoptions of pit bulls––not to promote animal welfare, humane values, public safety, or community service, as these are generally perceived by others than pit bull advocates.
Auerbach also offered no indication that she had investigated whether the procedures Goss witnessed did in fact follow whatever instructions Sadler gave.
Goss responded to Auerbach:
Sent: 9/29/2015 6:13:13 P.M. Central Daylight Time
Subject: Playgroups at Austin Animal Center and City Instituted Animal Cruelty
What I saw was horrifying. And yes, I did file a complaint. How would you like to be confronted, knocked down, have someone going after your throat, be bitten a number of times, and even though you suffered no permanent damage, have to go through it over and over again? If this is the way the City of Austin tests for dog aggression, we need to find another way.
This is animal cruelty. I don’t know how anyone could see it as anything but animal cruelty for the “bait dog.”
Would we test dogs for human aggression in the same way?
How you answer that question should give you some pause for thought.
And what concerns me just as much is that according to your staff, the aggressive dog will probably go up for adoption, putting many more dogs, cats, children, and senior citizens at risk.
I am very concerned, not only for the safety of other animals but for the children and senior citizens of Austin.
President, Montopolis Community Alliance
Vice President, Citizen Led Austin Safety Partnership
Florence’s Comfort House Board of Directors
Austin Animal Services Golden Paw Award 2012
Central Texas Crime Prevention Association Citizen of the year 2011
Texas Habitat for Humanity Exceptional Service Award 2010
Austin Habitat for Humanity Extra Mile Award 2005
President’s Award for Community Service: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
Graduate, Inaugural Class, Austin City Works Academy 2009