Progress in Texas but Further to Go

Progress in Texas but Further to Go

by Pearl Boosinger on Saturday, April 28, 2012

Progress in Texas: The number of seizures/forfeitures of animals seems to have decreased; certainly aren’t getting the media coverage they used to get. Whiskerville is seriously costing Galveston County and the NPOs and that’s important because these seizures are about power/control/kudos for prosecutors and free/fast inventory for the NPOs. Taking away the “profit” (whether cash or other) will take away the incentive to seize the animals.  The Gracia case which is still on appeal and doing the same as Whiskerville.  According to Dolcefino’s report that I posted earlier today, Harris County is no longer showing up for civil forfeiture cases and may have closed their Special Prosecutions Unit altogether. I hope both cases are eventually won but every one of us has benefited even if they aren’t. AlphaTex won in West Texas and that case continues and small counties/NPOs will think more than twice before incurring the costs, let alone the liability that may yet be assessed, before they snatch up animals. We still have a long way to go with Northeast Texas!

Every little bit that we do counts! Every time we post comments to media reports questioning allegations COUNTS. Every email to a reporter COUNTS. I hope everyone will try to do more than that but please do that much as often as you can. Take the fun and profit out of this for prosecutors and NPOs!

I know many of you are watching the Justice for Cisco situation and I’d like to point out that our cause is much the same. It’s about an owner’s right to have and hold their property, their dogs and cats and rabbits and snakes and tigers and… all free of excessive government interference and destruction. We know that when they seize animals they kill; some instantly, others later and quietly. Often owner’s from whom they were seized will never know what happened to their animals at all. As horrific as it is to see your dog shot by an officer, we need to make it clear that it is equally horrific to have them seized and killed or simply disappeared. For the owner, the result is the same trauma as if they’d shot them before their owners’ eyes. In some cases, it’s worse because the owners must live with the never knowing.

When you post those comments and write those emails, remember to demand accountability for each and every animal seized. ONLY the government can seize property and they are accountable to us for their own acts and those of any agents they use (and that includes NPOs). Demand to know why EACH was seized and demand to know the final outcome for EACH and EVERY animal. Demand to know who paid for the case and who profited from sale of the animals. Take the fun and profit out of this for prosecutors and NPOs!

Obtaining ownership through forfeiture should not be the end to the NPOs accountability. If they are going to act with government during the seizure, we should have the same right to know what happens to the animal as if it had gone to a government shelter where we could demand that information with record requests. If NPOs are asking for donations to support seized animals, we should have a right to know how much they got and how it was spent. If they take in strays, owned property, they should be accountable just like a public shelter. If they want to have privacy, then they need to transact merely private business; if they want to be public, then they should be transparent. Demand that!

We especially need the fanciers/breeders (choose your favorite or appropriate term) to understand and to understand that they are “on the list”. Pet limit laws, breeding licenses, registration… All of these laws and ordinances are designed to obtain information that can then be used in allegations for seizure/forfeiture of animals.

More especially we need the rescuers to understand they are “on the list”. Those same laws will be used against them as well. Any law that goes beyond requiring the minimum necessary rabies vaccination should be suspect and viewed with a critical eye.

Got 3 pets? YOU are “on the list” too. Those laws will be amended until you are in their grasp too and many of you already are through ordinances limited ownership and possession to a mere 2 pets.

Going after REAL bad guys is dangerous and scary. Why should prosecutors go after those who have trained fighting dogs when they can get the same “feel good” from taking your pets? Why go after the fighting dogs they will likely have to kill because the NPO doesn’t really want to rehab dogs instead of your pets/livestock for whom the NPOs are drooling? Why go after the dog severely beaten by the guy who also beats his wife and kids and might shoot them when they can come for your pet with the long toenails and whisk it away while you stand aside and let them because you’re a civilized being?

13 Undercover has bone to pick with county attorney

Wayne Dolcefino

HOUSTON (KTRK) — Under fire for spending $100,000 of your money on a dogfighting movie, the county attorney may be making a bad situation even worse.

Politicians love to brag about what they’ve done for us, and Vince Ryan promised you a crackdown on dogfighting. But is he now claiming credit for something he has not done?

It’s illegal, downright cruel. And what politician in their right mind wouldn’t want dogfighting stopped?

“I’ve had dogs and loved dogs my whole life,” Ryan said.

But on Thursday night, we questioned why the county attorney’s office hired an out-of-town buddy of his top aide to make a movie about dogfighting, complete with scenes of the county attorney playing with his dog on the beach.

“It sort of looks like a campaign commercial,” we told Ryan.

“Well Wayne, I’ve said for years and years, and you probably should use it, the best government is also good politics, the best government,” Ryan said.

Animal abuse is one of the reasons Ryan likes to boast about his special prosecutions unit.

“Is the SPU (special prosecutions unit) meant to gain votes?” we asked Ryan.

“No, it’s meant to enforce the law and make sure that the property owners are complying with the law,” he said.

Maybe Ryan should tell his office. In this 2011 memo, the lawyer in charge talks about more than helping neighborhoods: “Without a dedicate SP Unit, there will be loss of name recognition for Vince. It could cost votes.”

Your county attorney does has power to seize real estate and money from dogfighters when they are caught. But does he use it? Last week, he was boasting big results.

“Can you tell us how many dogfighting rings your office has broken up?” we asked Ryan.

“Not off the top of my head, but more than probably any other law enforcement agency in Harris County,” he said.

Impressive. But we found no evidence it’s true.

The last big dogfighting ring in Harris County was actually busted in 2008. Vince Ryan wasn’t even in office yet. And since 2010, only 12 people have actually been arrested and charged with dogfighting, and none of the cases originated in the county attorney’s office.

“We’ve stopped dogfighting, yes, in various locations,” Ryan told us.

“In Harris County?” we asked.

“In Harris County,” he said.

“Your office has?” we asked.


But again, the county attorney’s office didn’t produce a single case.

“Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has seized more animals than any prosecutor in the history of the United States,” First Assistant Harris County Attorney Terry O’Rourke said.

In U.S. history?

“It is silly,” KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy said.

The county attorney’s office first pointed to the seizure of 1,100 animals in 2010, but that was mostly birds. They county attorney’s office now is trying to take credit for 4,000 animals actually seized by other agencies since 2009. Their involvement was solely legal work done after the seizure, not before.

“Seizing someone’s statistics for political gain, which is inappropriate,” Androphy said.

E-mails show the SPCA even complained Ryan’s office wasn’t coming to court anymore on animal cruelty cases. A county lawyer admitted in an e-mail on “extraordinary cases we would try to find someone.”

Big seizures of mistreated animals do get on TV.

Vince Ryan could have used campaign money to pay for his dog movie. He’s been given $350,000, but he chose to use your money. And guess where he got it? From that special toll road fund we’ve exposed before.

You get a huge fine get when you don’t pay a toll and a dollar of it goes to the Harris County Attorney’s Office.

“This is pure and simple a county attorney’s office slush fund,” said taxpayer advocate Bob Lemer.

They used it for parties four years ago, but Mike Stafford got voted out.

Vince Ryan has used the fund to pay some catering bills and still pays parking for many of his employees. Remember that when you have to pay to park for jury duty.

“This fund is set up so that it’s under the sole discretion of the county attorney,” said Assistant Harris County Auditor Mike Post.

So Ryan can spend your money any way he likes. He could have used the money to pay the salaries of the county lawyers who work on the toll road; but instead, they hired that movie director to make the dog video without providing any evidence they bothered to shop for the best deal.

“Obviously there is more exposure there if you have fewer controls,” Post said.

“I will go back and look at and talk to legislative delegation to see what we can do about that,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.

And Vince Ryan is supposed to be your watchdog.

“Wrong title Wayne. This should be titled the lap dogs,” Texas Watchdog Editor Trent Siebert said.

In the last election, Vince Ryan campaigned as the guy who’d crackdown on ethics violations in county government, be your watchdog. But who is he really protecting?

~ by topcatsroar on April 28, 2012.

One Response to “Progress in Texas but Further to Go”

  1. Cop Shoots Dog: Untrained Officers Commit ‘Puppycide’ (PHOTOS)


    Last week, Austin, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo publicly apologized to Michael Paxton over the death of his dog Cisco. Paxton was playing fetch with the Australian cattle dog in his backyard when a police officer pulled into the driveway in response to a 911 call. The officer had the wrong house. When Paxton left the yard to get something from his truck, he said the officer confronted him. Cisco ran around from the back, toward the officer. The officer simultaneously ordered Paxton to put his hands in the air and to restrain his dog. The officer then shot the dog.

    Cisco’s death made national news. Paxton’s Facebook page detailing the killing and calling for a reprimand of the officer, has generated more than 100,000 “likes.” But Paxton isn’t the first dog owner whose pet has been shot to death by police. A search of news articles from the past year shows more than 100 separate incidents.

    There are no national records of dogs shot by cops. There isn’t even good national data on the number of people shot by police. As a result, there’s no way to tell if pet killings by police are increasing in frequency. The increased attention may be due to awareness or to news outlets more likely to report them. Pet owners also can publicize the incidents through social media. And with public surveillance, cell phone cameras, and security cameras, there is more likely to be video of a shooting. Sites that include “Dogs That Cops Killed” and the Facebook group “Dogs Shot by Police” track new incidents and allow grieving owners to share stories. The activism site also now includes calls for action in similar cases, with petitions like “Justice for Big Boy,” and “Justice for Bud.”

    When police officers shoot dogs, departments usually deem the shooting justified if the officer felt threatened by the animal. But an officer’s perception doesn’t always mean the animal actually was a threat. In recent years, police officers have shot and killed chihuahuas, miniature dachshunds, Wheaton terriers, and Jack Russell terriers. Last month, a California police officer shot and killed a boxer puppy and pregnant chihuahua, claiming the boxer had threatened him. The chihuahua, he said, got caught in the crossfire. When a San Bernardino, Calif., woman called police to report a burglary in progress behind her house last month, they responded, jumped her fence to confront the burglars, then shot her dalmatian mix, Julio. He survived. Police officers have also recently shot dogs that were chained, tied, or leashed — obviously posing no real threat to officers who killed them.

    Given how often police officers encounter pets, one would think training for handling dogs would be common. An officer untrained in recognizing a dog’s body language, for example, could easily mistake a bounding dog from a charging one, a nervous dog from an angry one, or an aggressive dog from one that’s merely territorial. Groups like the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offer free training to police departments, but both organizations said few departments take them up on the offer. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle are among departments that don’t provide regular training to officers on how to respond to dogs.

    Contrast that to the U.S. Postal Service, another government organization whose employees regularly come into contact with pets. A Postal Service spokesman said in a 2009 interview that serious dog attacks on mail carriers are extremely rare. That’s likely because postal workers are annually shown a two-hour video and given further training on “how to distract dogs with toys, subdue them with voice commands, or, at worst, incapacitate them with Mace.”

    In drug raids, killing any dog in the house has become almost perfunctory. In this video of a 2008 drug raid in Columbia, Mo., you can see police kill two dogs, including one as it retreats. Despite police assurance that the dogs were menacing, the video depicts the officers discussing who will kill the dogs before they even arrive at the house. During a raid in Durham, N.C., last year, police shot and killed a black Lab they claimed “appeared to growl and make aggressive moves.” But in video of the raid taken by a local news station, the dog appears to make no such gestures.

    Many criminals — particularly drug dealers — protect themselves with aggressive dogs trained to attack intruders. But shooting the animals as a matter of procedure can sometimes be dangerous to police. During a 2008 raid in Lima, Ohio, one officer heard his fellow officer shooting dogs in the home and mistook the shots for hostile gunfire. Thinking he was under attack, he opened fire at shadows coming from an upstairs bedroom. In that room, 24-year-old Tarika Wilson was on her knees, as she had been instructed, with one hand in the air and her other arm holding her year-old son. Wilson was killed, and the boy lost a hand. During a 2007 raid in Stockton, Calif., a police officer inadvertently wounded Kari Bailey, 23, and her 5-year-old daughter Hailey while trying to kill the family dog. (The police had shown up at the wrong address.) Last month, one officer firing at pit bulls in Minneapolis accidentally shot a fellow cop.

    Follow the link for pictures…

    Below, HuffPost has assembled a slideshow of cop-shoots-dog incidents from the last several years, as well as the results of our efforts to see if the police departments involved provide training in the handling of dogs.

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