message from TX-RPOA~”Inhumane society (NJ): Armed SPCA agents handcuff 84-year-old animal lover”

RPOA is the “reasonable” voice regarding Texas animal issues.

RPOA’s concerns are for all animal owners in Texas, not only dog and cat
breeders. We’re receiving reports of “investigations” and intimidation of
animal owners by SPCA of Texas (Dallas) and SPCA of Houston. Be advised
humane societies and SPCAs in Texas have no police powers nor legal
authority to enter your property without a Search Warrant or permission.
Their actions reflect badly on the state of Texas and word travels quickly
via the Internet.

Furthermore, unless dog and cat breeders are licensed, Texas Department of
Licensing & Regulation can NOT enter private property without a Search
Warrant or permission. Nor can any city or animal control officers.

Read the link below for the entire article about a New Jersey incident:
http://tinyurl.com/kq6e4yr
“Inhumane Society: Armed SPCA agents handcuff 84-year-old animal lover”
By Paul Mulshine/The Star Ledger,
updated April 19, 2014

When actor Jim Carrey played the title role in the movie “Ace Ventura:
Pet Detective,” people all over America yukked it up at the idea of a
wannabe cop running around investigating animals.

That’s a joke in most of America. Here in New Jersey, it’s not so funny.
Theresa “Tee” Carlson found that out in January when two armed officers of
the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arrived at
the humane shelter she was running in Hunterdon County.

“They put me in handcuffs and they took me to a police station where I
sat in a cell for several hours,” the 84-year-old Carlson told me last
week when I met her at the office of her attorney. “I was treated like
acommon criminal.”
(SNIP)
That’s not my language. Those terms come from a 2000 report by the State
Commission of Investigation on what were then 17 SPCA chapters around the
state. The SPCAs are private groups that “are accountable to no
governmental authority” the report stated.

Worse, said attorney Victor Rotolo, the male officers didn’t bother to bring along a female officer to do the pat-down.

“The male patted her down over her privates,” Rotolo said. “It was over her clothes but it was very humiliating.”

It was also a violation of normal police procedure, he said. Rotolo should know. Prior to becoming a lawyer he was a real cop, working on the Elizabeth police force. Like most real cops, he has little respect for the “wannabe cops” with a “gun-club mentality” in the SPCA.

That’s not my language. Those terms come from a 2000 report by the State Commission of Investigation on what were then 17 SPCA chapters around the state. The SPCAs are private groups that “are accountable to no governmental authority” the report stated. It concluded, “The time has come to repeal the government authority vested in the SPCAs.”

It cited many examples of abuse of that authority, including an incident involving the Warren County chapter “when its reckless actions resulted in the 17-hour siege of the home of an elderly man, who died of a heart attack within two weeks.”

A shining exception was the Hunterdon County SPCA, of which Carlson was then a leading member. That chapter got a glowing review from the SCI.

“The society emphasizes the volunteer nature and interest in animals that initially gave rise to the SPCAs,” it said.

The report (read a summary here) also noted that “uniforms are not worn and guns are not carried” by the chapter’s agents. That set it apart from what the report termed the “gun-club mentality” of other chapters.

Carlson is perhaps the leading critic of the arming of SPCA agents. She even got her local assemblyman to introduce bills reforming the practice.

“I don’t feel guns and the word ‘police’ on the back of uniforms are appropriate,” she told me. “They have generals. They have colonels. These are people who couldn’t get into a police force.”

That 2000 report echoed those views. And it also noted that some county chapters were accusing the state chapter of “employing tactics of intimidation and threats to revoke their charters and seize their assets.”

Events in the interim certainly seem to confirm those accusations. In 2002, the Hunterdon chapter joined a coalition of other chapters fighting the NJSPCA’s efforts to seize the assets of the county units.

Then in 2004 Hunterdon’s conflict with the state chapter came to a head. At issue was the trial of former basketball star Jayson Williams on charges he shot his chauffeur two years earlier. A witness said Williams, who lived in Hunterdon, also shot his dog. The state chapter wanted the county chapter to file animal-cruelty charges against Williams.

Carlson argued the matter was better left to the county prosecutor. That prompted the NJSPCA to demand the chapter turn over “vehicles, funds and any and all property” to the state chapter, according to a letter the NJSPCA sent to the Hunterdon chapter. The chapter responded by moving its assets to a separate nonprofit corporation out of the reach of the grasping hands of the NJSPCA.

Or so it seemed.

Then on Aug. 22 of last year NJSPCA agents showed up at the Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter to find evidence of animal cruelty. They charged the shelter was above its capacity for cats.

“They put me in handcuffs and they took me to a police station where I sat in a cell for several hours. I was treated like a common criminal.”

“But this was a no-kill shelter,” Carlson said. “We’re not going to put animals to sleep just because we have a few extra cats.”

Nine of the cats in question did indeed end up dead — but only after the NJSPCA removed them. Nonetheless, the condition of the cats was used as the basis of an arrest warrant issued for Carlson in January.

Normally anyone involved in such a legal proceeding would be issued a summons, said Rotolo. But the NJSPCA agents told a judge they needed to arrest her because they didn’t know her home address. They never asked for it, Rotolo said. And in any case, “They knew she was at the shelter every day.”

In his court filings, (SPCA.pdf ) Rotolo argues the NJSPCA needed the arrest to invoke an obscure law intended to protect animals in the absence of the owner. In 2005, the NJSPCA lost a long court fight to be named receiver of the chapter’s assets. This time the arrest and the removal of Carlson permitted them to gain that status — and access to the chapter’s $5 million in assets — without lengthy litigation, said Rotolo.

Whether they’ll be able to keep those assets will be decided in court. But unlike the many other people I’ve spoken to who’ve been bullied by SPCA agents, Carlson has the resources to fight back. In addition to fighting the arrest, Rotolo said he is also preparing a civil suit against the state chapter and the individuals involved.

When I called SPCA spokesman Matt Stanton, he said he could not discuss the case because of the litigation. But he did discuss Rotolo’s allegation in the filings that the NJSPCA had withdrawn more than $200,000 from the shelter’s bank account. Stanton denied that.

“I believe they’re withdrawing some little funds now,” Stanton said. He said the NJSPCA is now running the shelter.

“This is our first time in the shelter world,” said Stanton. “A lot of people think we operate shelters. We don’t. We enforce animal cruelty statutes.”

I ran that by David Favre, an expert on animal law at Michigan State University.

“That’s weird,” Favre said. “Every humane society I know has a shelter as its main facility.”

Even weirder is the granting of police powers to a group of private citizens, Favre said. That’s a relic of the 1800s long abandoned elsewhere.

“Around the 1900s, those laws were revoked in most states,” Favre said.

I then told him the sad story of the 84-year-old lady clapped in cuffs.

“Wow. That’s amazing,” he said. “Sounds like it’s time to clean the slate and start over again.”

It does indeed.

ALSO, here’s an excerpt from that 2000 report:

“The issue is no longer whether or how to fix this errant group of self-appointed, self-directed and uncontrolled entities, but whether to eliminate the archaic system entirely,” the report states. “The Commission concludes that the time has come to repeal the government authority vested in the SPCAs and place the function of enforcing the cruelty laws within the government’s stratified hierarchy of law enforcement.”

Read the whole thing. And then ask your local legislator why it was ignored.

 

 

 

 

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~ by topcatsroar on April 22, 2014.

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