Gainesville Florida

A few days ago, I wrote about an incident dealing with a pedophile employee.  Given our profession of dealing with children, we need to keep a constant vigilence.

While working in Gainesville Florida one of my volunteers began sending  scathing letters to the City Council about an incident involving the adoption of a puppy.  You know the type of incident in which all of your employees and volunteers begin fighting over a new puppy that has come in the shelter.  Many shelters opt to deny first adoption rights to staff and volunteers for such scenes that they make.  Anyway, the guy thought that he could force the adoption if he took his case to the City Council.  The guy wasn’t smart enough to realize that we were a county operation and he should have been sending his letters to the County Commission.

The guy was saying such horrible things about me that I decided to check him out.  It didn’t take long for me to discover that the guy was on the State’s sexual preditor website.  I found it funny that given such a designation, that I would want to keep a very low profile.  It is amazing as to how you can destroy a person’s credibility by mentioning that fact.

He turned his energy towards creating a website.  He did an effective job of superimposing my image into a natzy uniform.  Clearly he had spent a lot of time on the website.  Maybe it was therapy for him.  I could accept the anger that he had directed at me, but I got upset over him going after my staff.  I contacted the company that was providing him the free web-space and asked them how much they vetted the folks using their site.  I explained that his triage was unfairly directed to my staff.  My mind is a little fuzzy at this point, it may have slipped out that they may not want to be known as having a sex offender using their website.  The website was shutdown within days.

I’m not a vindictive person and I have often wondered if I was righteous in approaching the volunteer that he started dating.  She was young and had a couple of young children; I have a strong protective streak.  Clearly, he had not shared that part of his life with her.  As with most sex offenders, she would have seen the large sign in his front yard.  She directed her anger at me, but I think that she was embarrassed that she had exposed her children to this guy without properly vetting him.

In our business we are not just dealing with animals, we are dealing with people.  Animal people are very caring and that makes them vulnerable in today’s world.  You have to ask yourself as to how you would handle the situation; just as I have to keep asking myself if I did the right thing.

To give you a clearer picture of the world that we live in, Google the sex offender registry of your city.  You will be amazed as to the seriousness of our plight to protect our community’s children.  Whatever the reason that earns a person’s profile on the registry, it is clear that they’ll be on that list for life.  That speaks to the concern of our judicial system to keep us safe.

But, the highlight of the Gainesville experience was a long running grant that had been awarded to the animal rescues in our community from Maddie’s Fund.  For the most part, Maddie’s Fund had given up on funding community projects because animal groups just can’t seem to work together.  They were experiencing failure after failure because animal welfare groups could not comply with the first rule of the grant: to play well together.

In Gainesville, the rescue community stepped over our large egos and joined together to form a coalition to save as many animals as possible.  Due to our success, Maddie’s Fund extended our grand several times.  We became a poster project that they could wave as a success, when they were facing so many failures with working with animal shelters.

Due to their unsuccessful experience working with animal shelters, Maddie’s Fund went off in wild directions providing grants that less impacted on community populations.  As a profession, we fail them and our communities.

Gainesville was one of the few communities that could enjoy the presence of a local veterinary college.  Veterinary colleges became a solid source of grant funding when Maddie’s fund gave up hope working with animal shelters.  One of the interesting thing about college projects, there is always a bias toward a specific area of interest; for the University of Florida, the interest was in cats.  If you every ask for a shelter assessment from a national organization or a college, look for the bias of their investigators.  Understanding their bias will help you make better sense of their assessment.

The University had developed a Shelter Medicine tract, thanks to Maddie’s Fund and we had weekly visits by veterinary students walking the halls of our shelter.  As with all of our rescue partners, we had a good relationship with the University.

Gainesville also set the stage for one of the largest hoarding cases in the United States in which we were force to seize nearly 700 cats from a local sanctuary.  As with most hoarding cases, it was a good idea that ended horribly bad.  As with all hoarding cases, the caretakes couldn’t turn off the “off button” on animal intakes.  The Humane Society of the United States was our key partner, but we were assisted by the ASPCA with veterinarians and American Humane with volunteers.  One of the key problems that we faced in handing this case, we discovered that working with a single veterinarian allows the veterinarian to make tough decisions; when you add one or two more, the committee approach to veterinary care becomes extremely expensive.  Fortunately the Humane Society of the United States help defray those costs.

We spend a lot of time matching up feral cats that had been brought into the sanctuary when a nearby jurisdiction thought they had found a solution to their feral cat problem by dumping the animals into another community.  In the animal welfare business, we are good at dumping our problems in other communities; especially when it come to dangerous dogs.  How many times have you heard a judge using old west justice by ordering an animal to get out of town?  No thought given to the new town that just gained a dangerous problem.