Help Asheville Bears founder stands up for human victim; Maddie’s Fund program director urges concealing dog attack risk to humans & other animals
ASHEVILLE, N.C.; AUSTIN, Texas––Somewhere along the line, Help Asheville Bears founder Jody Williams learned the ethical principle of not causing harm to other living things, called ahimsa by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains.
Kristen Hassen, director of American Pets Alive and the Human Animal Support Services project for Maddie’s Fund, evidently did not.
Acting in the spirit and tradition of the 19th century humane movement, whose motto was the Biblical Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” Williams on October 28, 2021 posted a $5,000 reward for information leading to arrest of “the cowardly punks,” in his words, “who targeted a struggling homeless woman who was sitting against the outside wall of the Champion Credit Union on Patton Ave in Asheville.”
The reward offer worked. Soon after the reward was publicized on WLOS television news, an anonymous informant came forward with information leading to the arrest of two 17-year-old high school seniors. Williams said the reward would be paid immediately, and posted a petition asking that the suspects be charged and tried as adults.
The “cowardly punks” shot the woman multiple times in the face with a paintball gun , from the safety of “a dark colored, four-door sedan with a front headlight missing.”
Reported to police at 1:41 a.m., captured on video, the drive-by paintball shooting appeared to have been committed by at least three individuals: the driver of the vehicle, who apparently slowed down as the shooter targeted the victim; a front seat passenger, who may have been a “spotter” for the shooter; and the shooter, firing out the window from behind the front seat passenger.
A fourth person might also have been in the back seat, behind the driver.
Over 50 pellets were recovered from the scene, Williams said.
Jody Williams founded Help Asheville Bears in 2019, after seeing media reports about at least 15 three-legged North American black bears who were, and are still, struggling for survival in the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains, many of them in Great Smokies National Park.
The bears appeared to have been trapped by poachers specifically to cause them to wring off a paw to escape from a cable snare or leghold trap, or to enable the trapper to cut a paw off, leaving the rest of the bear to poach later––a practice of poachers serving bear paw soup sellers, previously known only in parts of Southeast Asia.
Brought perps to justice
Bear paw soup is known to be consumed exclusively among ostentatious multi-millionaires and billionaires, mostly of Chinese ancestry if not nationality, whose consumptive habits are comparable to those of American and Canadian trophy hunters.
U.S. and Canadian ear poachers connected with the high-end Asian market more than 40 years ago, selling gall bladders and claws for medicinal use.
As word of the money to be made selling fresh bear paws spread, U.S. and Canadian poachers jumped into that racket, too.
Offering cash rewards for information leading to the arrest of bear poachers, Help Asheville Bears has brought several to justice.
“Random act of violence”
Said Williams of the drive-by paintball shooting, “Much like how evil people are hurting our bears senselessly, it feels like this type of random act of violence should be an obvious cruelty and great evil and never happen!
“Before Help Asheville Bears was founded,” Williams posted to Facebook, “the people behind this great cause were helping feed and clothe the homeless and less fortunate in Asheville. Like the bears missing limbs, our homeless are too many times also trapped, but by abuse, great loss, or addiction.
“In keeping with our tradition of helping the downtrodden,” Williams continued, “we are asking local citizens and media to help bring these cowards to justice, and bring peace to the woman who has endured the physical and mental pain of being a random victim.
“Do the right thing”
“Could you imagine the added stress and anxiety,” Williams asked, “of having your assailant still on the streets where you live, not knowing if they will strike again? The nervousness and anxieties faced by the homeless and poor are enough pain from the world! On top of that, could you imagine not having the comfort of a locked door that provides a level of security to most each night, leaving you a potentially open target?
“All Help Asheville Bears has ever asked,” Williams finished, “is for people to do the right thing, be it for the bears or otherwise. Be a hero for the community,” Williams urged, “and help get the trash off of our streets who indiscriminately cause hurt and suffering.”
Williams further pledged that, “Help Asheville Bears members will reach out to this beautiful homeless lady who was hurt, and see if we can help her in any way.”
Hassen equates rehoming pit bulls & child welfare
Kristen Hassen, meanwhile, previously known as Kristen Auerbach, posted to Facebook a promotion for a Maddie’s Fund webinar entitled Enduring Transparency While Keeping Marketing & Adoption Counseling Separate.
The webinar features Hassen herself and Maddie’s Fund foster care specialist Kelly Kuel Duer.
“In child welfare,” Hassen alleged, “children have a universal right to privacy, which means public-facing adoption and foster marketing materials focus only on positive qualities of the child, whereas challenges and potentially negative qualities are considered private and discussed one-on-one with potential caregivers. In this Maddie’s Fund webinar, Kelly Kuel Duer and I advocate the same approach be taken with shelter pets, in order to protect pets’ dignity and safety, and to give every pet a fair chance to find a new home.”
Flunks tests of accuracy & ahimsa
Invoking recollections of the era from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, when humane societies commonly operated orphanages as well as animal shelters, Hassen might imagine herself to be extending the Golden Rule toward animals, much as Williams has extended his concern for bears victimized by random violence to a homeless woman who was shot, injured, and abandoned for “sport.”
But Hassen’s first premise flunks the tests of accuracy and ahimsa, as her own history of rehoming pit bulls and Rottweilers with attack history who go on to kill and maim both other animals and humans, again and again, makes gruesomely clear.
If child welfare agency practice is to be equated with rehoming dangerous dogs, framing the matter in terms of “dog years” is no more than extending equal consideration to humans and dogs.
The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests that “15 human years equals the first year of a medium-sized dog’s life. Year two for a dog equals about nine years for a human. After that, each human year would be approximately five years for a dog.”
“Dog years” & accountable behavior
Applying that yardstick, a one-year-old shelter dog might be expected to have approximately the same understanding of right and wrong and emotional control as a high school student.
A one-and-a-half-year-old shelter dog should behave no worse, in relative terms, than a human being at the age of majority, who would have “aged out” of the child welfare system years earlier.
A two-year-old dog, according to “dog years,” should be as self-disciplined and responsible for his or her own actions as a human adult.
If a 15-year-old child stabs someone at random, or dismembers a pet alive, that child is usually, if not always, tried and sentenced as an adult, not offered to anyone for adoption.
If an 18-year-old or a 21-year-old commits the level of mayhem that often precedes the arrival of a pit bull, Rottweiler, or other dangerous dog at an animal shelter, that individual is frequently jailed for at least the equivalent, in “dog years,” of the average dog’s lifespan.
If the individual offender repeats the offense, he or she often spends a significant portion of the remainder of his or her life in prison, primarily to protect the rest of society from further sudden, random, unprovoked violence.
Paw Protectors Rescue
Observed Sharon Logan, who in 2011 founded Paw Protectors Rescue, rehoming shelter dogs throughout southern California, “Maybe one day, instead of Kristen Hassen just facing civil lawsuits as a shelter director, and the shelter having to write a check that doesn’t affect her, Hassen will be charged as criminally responsible for willful endangerment.
“Kristen Hassen has already [been a principal in] two different lawsuits,” Logan mentioned, one from Hassen’s tenure as director of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Virginia, the other from her subsequent tenure heading the Pima County Animal Care Department in Tucson, Arizona.
“We at Paw Protectors Rescue ” Logan continued, “support that in California the law says that you must disclose as a rescue or shelter, in writing, if a dog over the age of four months has a bite history.”
The California law took effect on January 1, 2021.
Maddie’s Fund needs radical change in leadership
“More pertinent to Kristen Hassen’s agenda,” Logan suggested, “is that if people know they cannot get the true story and history of a dog, then most people and most rescues will just blanket refuse to take any dog physically capable of injuring people, i.e. any larger dog.”
The Maddie’s Fund programs American Pets Alive and Human Animal Support Services “need a radical change in their leadership!” Logan finished.
That is unlikely. Computer software magnates David and Cheryl Duffield endowed Maddie’s Fund, and hired former San Francisco SPCA president Richard Avanzino to direct it from 1998 until his retirement in 2015.
Avanzino, under the Duffields, who still head Maddie’s Fund, established the direction the foundation has pursued ever since, including relentless promotion of rehoming pit bulls and other dogs with bite history.
“St. Francis terriers”
The most spectacular failure of Avanzino’s 39 years in animal advocacy, presaging Hassen’s advice, may have been his 1996 attempt to rehome pit bulls by renaming them “St. Francis terriers.”
Advised by then-San Francisco SPCA Law & Advocacy department chief Nathan Winograd, who founded the No Kill Advocacy Center in 2007, and by then-San Francisco SPCA chief dog trainer Jean Donaldson, Avanzino argued that pit bulls might be dangerous chiefly in response to human expectations.
Changing the name, Avanzino, Winograd, and Donaldson contended, might change the expectations and the dogs’ behavior.
About 60 so-called St. Francis terriers were placed, after extensive screening and training, but within weeks Avanzino reluctantly suspended the program after several of the re-dubbed dogs killed cats.
Rehomed killer pit bulls in Virginia
Hassen at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter rehomed several pit bulls with dangerous history, some of them repeatedly after they were returned by adopters, allegedly without disclosing that history to the next adopters.
Partially responding to those cases, some of which resulted in dog deaths and injuries to humans, but mostly to the June 1, 2017 fatal mauling of Virginia Beach resident Margaret M. Colvin, the Virginia state assembly on March 30, 2018 enacted a law requiring that the bite histories of impounded or owner-surrendered dogs must be investigated, and must be disclosed to prospective adopters.
Colvin was killed by a pit bull named Blue, just six hours after Forever Home Rescue & Rehabilitation delivered him to her daughter Linda Colvin Patterson, without disclosing that Blue had attacked a child in December 2016, had been passed along through five other rescue organizations during the next six months, and had been returned to Forever Home Rescue & Rehabilitation after a previous adoption failed due to dangerous behavior.
Argued in 2016 that shelters should withhold bite history
Moving on to the Austin Animal Shelter in Texas, Hassen replaced traditional temperament testing with the “playgroup” approach advocated by Dogs Playing for Life founder Aimee Sadler, whose work was sponsored by the pit bull advocacy organization Animal Farm Foundation, specifically to promote pit bull adoptions.
Hassen had on February 18, 2016 published an article on the Animal Farm Foundation web site arguing, as she now does for Maddie’s Fund, that animal shelters should withhold information about potentially dangerous dogs from prospective adopters until after they become seriously interested in a dog.
Rehoming serial killers
Hassen next headed the Pima County Animal Care Department in Tucson, Arizona for three years, before joining Maddie’s Fund in September 2020.
Hassen in Pima County was named as a defendant in at least one lawsuit involving injuries inflicted on two plaintiffs by a recently rehomed Rottweiler.
If, as Hassan appears to argue, a shelter dog is the moral equivalent of a human child, a child welfare services director who repeatedly and knowingly placed killers and even serial killers in adoptive homes, who went on to kill again, would very likely come under court jurisdiction herself––probably for a very long time.
Certainly her conduct would not be regarded as exemplifying either ahimsa or the Golden Rule.